Keeping On

 Today is Friday March 11th, 2022. Kia ora.

Last night I learnt that Prime Minister Johnson in the UK has frozen assets of 7 Russian oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich (the owner of the Chelsea football club). This sounds very impressive; but I fear there are strings attached.  And there are: Abramovich has taken his luxury yacht for a holiday.

This morning I hear that Ukraine claims a regiment of Russian tanks has been destroyed outside Kiev, and its commander killed. I have tried unsuccessfully to find out how many tanks that would be. (JD says 31). Photos show some destroyed, and claim the others retreated. In a nod to George Orwell, Russian people are now reading the classic Russian novel by Tolstoy:  Special Operation and Peace. Foreign Minister Lavrov seems to deny there’s a war on.

I am expecting someone from Access to come and do some housework, so I change the towels and bed linen. Eventually I get a call to say no one is coming today.  The government has relaxed leading rules for first home buyers.

I walk up to the local supermarket. It’s as though most precautions are no longer being followed!  The hand sanitiser container is empty, for the second day running; there are no trolley wipes here, and no one is sanitising the trolleys.  There don’t seem to be any shortages, except for the Havarti cheese slices that I like to buy; there are, of course, plenty of Easter eggs. I buy some to send to my daughter, trying to remember what I sent her last time.  There are two check out operators on today – I haven’t seen either of them before, although the one who serves me wishes me a good day. I always wash my hands when I get home, and wipe my phone with Dettol. If I can still smell the Dettol, I figure I’m good to go. I haven’t resorted to shopping in rubber gloves yet.

Today’s Covid 19 report is not good. There are 20,989 new cases today, and 7 deaths. Five of the deaths are in Auckland, one is in Waikato and one is in the Southern region. A new record number are in hospital 856, and 20 in Intensive Care, 10 of them in Auckland. Metlink advises that there are a number of cancellations or changes due to staff sickness; some train services may be replaced by buses.

The war in Ukraine is just desperately sad, with the bombing in some cities so intense that some dead civilians cannot be buried properly. All this is just so needless.  It seems a “no fly” zone in Ukraine is potentially very dangerous, and like the Soviet MIG fighter planes, carries many loopholes. I still don’t really understand how the Ukrainians can be supplied with so many weapons, and yet no NATO or US troops can actually be on Ukrainian soil, or fly over this vast territory – there seem to be some very fine lines being drawn here.  There’s a lot of military analysis, which is quite useful. Retired generals have some very worthwhile things to say. Admiral (Retd) Stavridis, himself of Greek origin, former Supreme Commander of NATO, talked about the handful of Greeks holding off the vastly superior (in size) Persian army at Thermopylae. There’s a lot of talk about von Clausewitz.

I am a bit behind with listening to all my good podcasts, but this afternoon the good folk at The Bulwark opened up their Thursday night Livestream (this is the third time they’ve done it), and I listened with great interest to Professor Eliot Cohen talking about the war in Ukraine. This is appreciated. Cohen pointed out that the Russians have yet to take control of a major city, or establish air control. Lawfare, normally quick to pontificate, are strangely silent on this issue, except for a podcast about Putin’s imperial dream, and an interview with a refugee. Could it be, I wonder, that several of them are Russian Jews? Others such as Skullduggery, Stay Tuned with Preet, and the Bulwark have not skirted this issue. English pods have been interesting too: The Rest is History, and We Have Ways of Making You Talk. I’m sure there’ll be many others.

It’s now Saturday March 12th.

This afternoon we were supposed to go out for afternoon tea, but it was cancelled.  The country is deeply affected by Covid 19.In the city, some entertainment venues have closed, like the Victoria St Café, which I used to patronise and rather liked. They had nice Louise Slice there, and did a great omelette. Floriditas in Cuba St is also crying foul, although I don’t like their food as much. Covid 19 has hit the Gloriavale community on the West Coast of New Zealand. There is a “significant cluster” there, apparently. They are under the spotlight at the moment over several folk leaving, over whether workers are contractors – all income has to be given to the community, which is a charitable trust; alleged child abuse, and punishments which would now be regarded as inhuman. 

Today’s Covid 19 report again breaks records, not with new case numbers at 18,699, but with 853 patients in hospital, 17 in Intensive Care, and 7 deaths, bringing total deaths to 105. The deaths were three in Auckland, and one each in Bay of Plenty, Mid-central, Wellington and Canterbury, four males ad three females, and mostly elderly folk.

In Ukraine, things are complex. It’s reported that another Russian general has been killed (making three so far); and a large plane was shot down; evidently the Ukrainians sank a Russian ship (the one that was at Snake Island); but Russian forces have regrouped outside Kyiv. In Mariupol, a maternity hospital was bombed: Russians accused women who escaped of being “crisis actors”.  It seems that somehow Putin has claimed ownership of the sky, not allowing other airlines to fly over it; the city of Kherson is under Russian control, and although brave residents have protested, they are being very harshly dealt with by their Russian occupiers. One commentator pointed out it would take a great many Russian troops to occupy the country of Ukraine. Putin is doing nothing to endear himself or his regime to those inhabitants of Ukraine whom he would conquer.  There have been more references to the treaty of Budapest, including a letter in this morning’s Dompost, pointing out that Russia, the US and the UK guaranteed Ukraine’s sovereignty, including Crimea, providing they gave up their nuclear weapons. I guess it seemed a good idea at the time.

The mayor of the city of Melitopol has been captured by Russians. Fierce bombardment of cities continues.

It’s now Sunday March 13th.

It’s now 3 years since the mosque shootings in Christchurch.  I went to church this morning, where there was beautiful organ playing, but no minister – until he joined us on screen. He’s a close contact – someone in his family has tested positive for Covid 19. He says he ‘s fine, but he did sound a bit husky. He joked that this is the closest he’s come to being a Televangelist! Afterwards, I buy some scones for morning tea from the café next door, and then go to the supermarket across the road. It’s just as well I did buy morning tea, because there are no bakery goods at the supermarket, due to sickness: no chocolate snails, brioches, muffins, apple turnovers, or bread rolls, or Hot Cross Buns (always tempting, often disappointing).  The verse though is so heartening: many times I would have taken you under my wing, as a mother hen (paraphrased).  That would be God personified as a female animal.

Today’s Covid 19 report is again interesting, in that total new cases are down, at 14,494, and down considerably in Auckland, but numbers of hospitalisations and deaths are up, with 896 people in hospital, (18 in Intensive Care), and 8 deaths.

Numbers of new cases do seem to have peaked in Auckland, but not yet further south. The numbers in hospital, and the deaths, are alarming, and I expect there’ll continue to be a “tale” for a while of severe illness and death. There were 4,509 new cases in Auckland today. Outside Auckland, the new cases were in Northland (440), Waikato (1,420), Bay of Plenty (931), Lakes (394), Hawke’s Bay (597), MidCentral (472), Whanganui (137), Taranaki (355), Tairāwhiti (289), Wairarapa (105), Capital and Coast (1,141), Hutt Valley (845), Nelson Marlborough (376), Canterbury (1,664), South Canterbury (93), Southern (703), and West Coast (18).

I get an update from Hōhepa this afternoon. They have had 5 cases of Covid 19 amongst residents, and there is a staffing problem with some staff needing to support their own families, or being close contacts of other family members.  I feel fairly confident in their ability to manage this situation, but it must be posing all kinds of problems. So far, the houses at Kapiti are all right.

I went to church to be comforted by the oasis of peace there.  I’m confronted by the minister being a close contact!  As he says, we can still worship the Lord our God. I enjoyed the organ playing.

In Russia, it seems that of the fast food outlets (e.g. Starbucks) pulling out, what has really upset folk is McDonalds pulling out – of its 850 outlets!  Deutsch bank is now pulling out too, and it’s believed the Russian economy is in serious trouble.  There are serious concerns about Putin’s health – about his puffy face, for one thing, and his evident isolation – how can this man hold the world to ransom? Apparently the Russians are seeking to attack ships that would offer aid to Ukraine. The Turks have blocked access to the Black Sea though the Bosphorus Straits – but they’ve blocked all ships, not just Russian ones.

It’s now Monday March 14th.

This morning I get a text from my opticians telling me that my new reading glasses are ready, and I should make an appointment to pick them up. I ring, and am asked which day would suit. I explain that I’m pretty free all the time (seeing that almost everything is cancelled); I arrange to go in this afternoon.

In other news, Lydia Ko and former president Barack Obama have diagnosed positive for Covid 19, and actor William Hurt has died at 71. I remember him mainly for his part as C in the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; he looked really old and washed up then. Perhaps it was the makeup.

In Ukraine, the barbarity of Russian troops continues. A Ukrainian defence base was bombed near the Polish border, and 35 people were killed. An American journalist has been killed. Another mayor has been kidnapped. Meanwhile, bombing continues, and refugees flood into first Poland, then Hungary. Yesterday there were thought to be 2 million refugees. I listened to a podcast in Skullduggery, an interview with the US Ambassador to Poland (Meta Brzezinski, brother of Mika and son of Zbigniew, where he said now much Poland’s security was helped by its NATO membership, such that they were willing to accept refugees;  he also said that President Biden’s sharing of US intelligence about the Russian attack had given allies a heads up about the coming invasion, especially seeing that it was in tune with their own intelligence. Notable comparisons are being made between Hitler and the Nazis’ “false flag” attack on Poland in 1939 which started World War II; In Ukraine, there’s a very moving video of a pianist playing Chopin in a seemingly untouched grand piano, in a otherwise bombed out apartment block.

The Covid 19 report here remains confusing: the total of new cases is 15,540, but there are 952 people in hospital, and there have been two more deaths. Of those in hospital, 19 are in Intensive Care. It’s reported that today’s new cases are in Northland (482), Auckland (4,730), Waikato (1,532), Bay of Plenty (1,023), Lakes (457), Hawke’s Bay (680), MidCentral (528), Whanganui (162), Taranaki (343), Tairāwhiti (262), Wairarapa (167), Capital and Coast (1,191), Hutt Valley (749), Nelson Marlborough (373), Canterbury (1,896), South Canterbury (130), Southern (795) and the West Coast (31).

School have been incredibly hard hit, with 46,000 cases from schools or early childhood centres in the last 10 days. It’s reported that there are 952 people in hospital with Covid-19 across North Shore (185), Middlemore (210), Auckland (210), Waikato (78), Bay of Plenty (34), Lakes (13), Tairāwhiti (3), Hawke’s Bay (23), Taranaki (9), MidCentral (20), Whanganui (3), Hutt Valley (23), Capital and Coast (61), Wairarapa (7), Nelson Marlborough (9), Canterbury (29) and the Southern region (12). 61 in Wellington!  I wonder if any are at Kenepuru Hospital.  22 new cases were found at the border.

That’s it for today. Go Ukraine! Ngā mihi.

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