“No worst, there is none”

With apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins

It’s now Wednesday March 9th, 2022. Kia ora!

This morning I learnt that Phil Goff, Mayor of Auckland, has been diagnosed positive for Covid 19; that President Biden says the US will not longer buy oil, gas or coal from Russia; and a second Russian general has been killed in the Ukraine. There is some doubt around this last item, and I don’t have the details yet. Hint for the US: turn the air con down! It doesn’t have to be so cold that you need to put a cardigan on!  Although, in deference, I have wrestled with heat pumps that have an aircon function, trying to get the temperature that’s right for me.  You also want a quiet one.

This morning I got up early and went to hymn singing. It was lovely, as always; there were very few of us there, and we sing in the church now rather than the organ loft so there’s plenty of room.  Afterwards I tried the chemist there for RATs; they said to buy them at the supermarket: a new lot comes in every day. I did that – buying two (the limit per customer) from the checkout operator. I also bought the last package of trumpets! And some more raspberries – I can’t go past them at this price. They’re lovely with jelly and ice cream. Anyway, the RATs cost $32.99 each! That’s rather expensive, but then when I unpack them I find there are 5 tests in each pack, so I bought 10 tests in all. They still require a deep nasal swab.

The news informs me that the isolation time for Covid 19 is being reduced from 10 to 7 days, at midnight on Friday. Presumably that’s if you’re diagnosed positive for Covid 19 (or are a household contact of someone who’s diagnosed positive). Household contacts require two negative RAT tests. It also told me there’d been a death in Tairāwhiti (it’s reported he was a 77 year old man with pre-existing health conditions). Today there are 22,454 community cases, and there have been 4 further deaths.  Today it’s reported that there are 742 people in hospital, and 19 in Intensive Care. Of the four deaths, two were in the Lakes district, one in Tairāwhiti and one in Counties Manukau. It’s reported that there are 715 new community cases in Northland, 2109 in Waikato, 1427 in Bay of Plenty, 633 in Lakes, 707 in Hawke’s Bay, 655 in MidCentral, 202 in Whanganui, 536 in Taranaki, 373 in Tairāwhiti, 166 in Wairarapa, 1879 in Capital and Coast, 1062 in Hutt Valley, 452 in Nelson Marlborough, 2024 in Canterbury, 120 in South Canterbury, 835 in Southern and 20 in West Coast. In Super Rugby news, the Highlanders have Covid 19 cases which they are managing before their game against the Blues in Auckland on Friday.

I am reading Providence Lost, by Paul Lay, about Cromwell’s Protectorate.  But, was religion an issue, back then! I trust we’re a bit more tolerant now. Whoever was in charge – the punishments were terrible, quite violent.  What a time that must have been. There were not only issues between Catholics and Protestants, but with Scottish Presbyterianism and the Quakers!  For crying out loud, they’re all Christian religions.

The situation in Ukraine continues to be awful, and makes me think our present problems are very minor, really. After all, although scared of catching Covid 19, I can still sleep in my own bed, have a warm shower, wear clean clothes and eat hot food, and make myself a hot drink whenever I feel like it. One wonders how long the brave Ukrainians can carry on, without such everyday “luxuries”.  There are accounts of mounting deaths and destruction by the Ukrainians against Russian troops; yet the people are repeatedly fired upon, even when traversing supposed safety areas, where a ceasefire had been declared.  In the cities, they don’t have running water, or power.  One hopes that food parcels can be delivered, as well as medical supplies. There are stories of hospitals being bombed.  Yet this madness continues, as Russians protest at home, at great personal cost.  What will Vladimir Putin do next? How desperate/crazy is he? 

There are reports of 11,000 dead Russian troops (yesterday it was 10,000), including three senior guys: the Russians don’t have women in their forces, evidently. A Major-General Gerasimov is dead, who commanded in Chechnya, in Crimea, and in Syria, so that will be quite a loss.  And the stalled convoy of tanks heading towards Kyiv? They have probably run out of fuel and food, and I wonder how their morale is keeping up?  Perhaps they can’t go backwards or forwards, and are stuck, in what is soon to be very muddy roadways.  At the Chernobyl nuclear plant, captured by the Russians, the staff have been kept on, and can’t leave, fearful as they are of nuclear disaster. It’s a fallacy to think that this plant doesn’t represent potential disaster at the best of times.

It is hot here again, after a few days of welcome fine, but cooler weather. That would be hot as in 23 degrees Celsius, which is not really hot, I know. It just feels hot, and has you seeking out bus stops – they always seem to be in windy spots.

It’s now Thursday March 10th.

This morning I went to Tai chi at Mana. Evidently the police put bollards at the entrance of the side street last Wednesday to present campers from camping there.  Anyway, thankfully we were back today, and again, it’s a lovely fine day. In the afternoon I go for a walk up to the shops. There’s not many shortages that I can see, although they have no WCC rubbish bags in stock.  It’s a pleasant walk. The Guardian is shrieking about rising prices here; they’re not bothering me too much; I only buy things if I think they’re reasonably priced. I’m not trying to feed children or teenagers, but they’re not affecting me badly. As for the price of petrol, surely people should be using public transport, or car/ride-sharing?

The Covid 19 news is disturbing: one of Chris Hipkins’ children has Covid 19, so he’s isolating.  This seems to be making children very sick; most have only had one vaccination jab.  Today there are officially 21,015 new cases, with 97% of them diagnosed using RATs.  There are 845 people in hospital, with 16 in Intensive Care. Auckland Hospital is reported as being under pressure. In one hospital 1/3 pregnant mothers have Covid 19. Dr Bloomfield says there’ll be a change in the way deaths from Covid 19 are reported. If a person dies within 28 days of being diagnosed with Covid 19, they’ll be assumed to have died from Covid 19. The death total to date is 81 (91?) – still remarkably low for the population of this country. It’s reported that the new community cases are in Northland (689), Auckland (7234), Waikato (2016), Bay of Plenty (1392), Lakes (632), Hawke’s Bay (700), MidCentral (653), Whanganui (156), Taranaki (524), Tairāwhiti (353), Wairarapa (170), Capital and Coast (1858), Hutt Valley (1103), Nelson Marlborough (449), Canterbury (2021), South Canterbury (109), Southern (918), West Coast (26); and 12 in an unknown location. Dr Bloomfield says that most people in hospital are there because they are ill with Covid 19. The Khandallah Town Hall community group have again cancelled activities for next week, Monday 14 March – Friday 18 March.

My grandchildren who attend school don’t have Covid 19, but some of their friends are quite sick with it. Who says children don’t get it? Try telling that to the schools here.  And let’s be honest: children’s hygiene isn’t great at the best of times. This is not the Best of Times.

It’s certainly not the Best of Times for Ukraine. It’s universally agreed that the invasion is not going as planned from a Russian perspective, (a dead general’s papers attest to that), but the evil and cruel bombing of a hospital in Mariupol, and the difficulty in arranging safe passage for Ukrainian citizens, the seemingly  indiscriminate bombing of civilians, has shocked the world.  The US and NATO are afraid of starting a nuclear conflict; the issue of what actually starts a war is a good question itself. The Russians confirm that they have used thermobaric bombs, and there are fears of chemical weapons being used. It seems Putin is determined to wreck Ukraine, safe in the knowledge that he won’t help rebuild it.  Last night on Youtube I saw a planned press release, that was supposed to be issued after the successful invasion of Ukraine. It was scarily Orwellian in its language and style. It even spoke about Eurasia!

With regard to the stalled, lengthy tank convoy approaching Kyiv, the Independent Newspaper reports that the soldiers in the tanks may freeze to death, as a cold spell is expected. Evidently they’re not being supplied with food and gas. There are now stories of Russian troops robbing Ukrainian villagers, for something to eat.  The Chernobyl nuclear plant is now closed, but there are fears for its safety.  Many cities have no power or water. There are reports of wounded men.  For all that the Ukrainians are “winning”, and defiant though they are, they’re paying a terrible price. Yesterday it was reported that there are 2,000,000 refugees, now going to Hungary rather than Poland. Hungary and Poland are bastions of right-wing rule and authority, but they’re helping these folk rather than Putin, surely an interesting reaction. The UK has increased the number of visas it will authorise from 50 to 300. Well, that’ll make a huge difference, won’t it. Shouldn’t the West do something more to stop this terrible carnage?  If Trump had done what President Zelensky wanted, and freely given the aid approved by the US Congress, and invited him to the White House, all this may have been prevented. 

I heard that the person in charge of Putin’s armed forces has not himself had military experience. The Head of the Defence Force in Belarus has resigned, saying he could not put a battalion together.  It seems the much-vaunted Russian Army looks scary in May Day parades, but in real life is a bunch of scared, ill-trained, ill-equipped youngsters, who’ve been lied to about the real reason for being in Ukraine. Contrary to expectations, they’re being met with swear words rather than apple pie and kisses!  But after two weeks, there is devastation in Ukraine. This country was the bread basket of Europe, known for its ability to grow wheat and grain. What an extraordinary waste, when already so many people are going hungry.  We pray for better things. Ngā mihi.

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