Palm Sunday

On His way – to the Cross

It’s now Sunday April 10th, 2022. Kia ora!

This morning I continued being brave and went to church. It’s Palm Sunday, and there are services all week up until and including Easter Sunday, although I think gremlins have been at work and some of the dates are wrong and confusing. There aren’t many physically there; there’s no communal exchanging of the peace. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that I went.  The sermon talks about the war in Ukraine, amongst other things, and about religion being used to justify terrible deeds like Jesus’ crucifixion, and Christians killing Christians in Ukraine. The minister noted that the Russian Orthodox church, unlike most others, has not condemned this conflict. The time of Easter reminds us that death is not the end, however we die.  Palm Sunday points up the immense contrast between Jesus’ triumphal procession, and what then happens to him. There is beautiful organ playing today, and we sing All glory, laud and honour, At the Name of Jesus, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

This morning I learnt that Boris Johnson had made a surprise visit to Kyiv and to President Zelensky, in a show of solidarity, promising more armaments. Ursula Von der Leyen of the EU has been there too, promising to fast-track Ukraine’s membership of the European Union. The Kremlin have acknowledged the number of casualties Russian forces have sustained; apparently Putin has appointed a new general to lead the next part of the invasion.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been deposed – the confidence vote went ahead, against him. What does this mean? I gather  the military are again in charge of the nuclear-armed nation.  In France, Macron’s re-election is by no means a certainty, with opposers such as the left-wing Mélenchon and the far-right Zemmour (who is Jewish, but takes some strange positions), as well as his old rival, Marine le Pen.

Today’s Covid 19 report is mixed, with only 6,718 new cases. There are 604 people in hospital but 22 in Intensive Care. Sadly, there have been 12 further deaths.  It’s reported that eight of those who died were from the Auckland region, two from MidCentral, one from the Lakes DHB area, and one from Hawke’s Bay. One was aged in their 40s, one in their 50s, three in their 60s, two in their 70s, two in their 80s, and three over 90. Six were women and six were men. People are still dying from this virus – it certainly ain’t over yet, much as we would like it to be.

This afternoon I play Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I’m reminded of the time  when I took my eldest son to a live performance in Wellington’s Town Hall with its wonderful acoustics.  The Orpheus Choir were performing. It was memorable, and a solemn occasion.

It’s now Monday April 11th.

Last night we met our son and his wife at a Thai restaurant in Porirua. This was a sudden invitation!  There were all food options there, both eat-in and takeaway, but the large restaurant we went to was very busy, with three birthday groups.  The food was beautiful, but I was a bit disconcerted by a man without a mask who entered with us, and the busyness!  Still, it was lovely to go out, and most unusual for us. The menu was quite complicated, different from other Thai restaurants I’ve been to.

This morning I listen to several podcasts, and among them I hear Fiona Hill speaking to Ezra Klein. She speaks about the image of Putin riding a horse, shirtless; and then she talks about the Four Horses of the Apocalypse:  War (conflict in Ukraine), Sickness (the coronavirus pandemic), Famine (Ukraine was a prime grain-growing area), and Death, (present and yet to come).  It’s a scary image.  There is a general air of fear of the coming battle in Donbas, where Russian troops are massing, there’s (another) huge tank convoy, Putin has appointed a new General Dvornikov, who commanded the brutal Russian operation in Syria, and Ukrainian citizens have been advised to evacuate. It feels as though we’re (they’re) gearing up for a major battle between good and evil; and meanwhile, in the French election, a run off between Macron and Le Pen is envisaged. The consequences of a Le Pen win are greatly feared: she is known to have been a friend of Putin, although she hasn’t supported his current military exercise; and perhaps France will leave NATO.  Will Macron be re-elected? His valiant efforts to prevent the invasion of Ukraine by speaking directly to Putin failed. On Ukraine’s side, Slovakia is providing an Air-defence system to Ukraine, and the UK and the US are promising more arms. I guess it’s frustrating for anyone who wants to do things in secret when every move on any side is photographed and analysed on multiple news and social media sites. It’s very powerful to have such images shown almost contemporaneously with the events being filmed and recorded.  It’s been pointed out, too, that whatever Dvornikov’s strengths, the troops he will command are demoralised and have demonstrated very poor form thus far, showing degrees of ignorance and brutality that remind one of the terrible stories of the Soviet army entering Berlin in 1945. It feels apocalyptic, and let’s hope the brave Ukrainians keep up their spirit and determination not to be dominated by Russia.

Back here, it’s reported that Hawkes Bay hospital in Hastings is really struggling with the coronavirus. Hawkes Bay has been very hard hit, and it still continues for them.  The 1 pm report follows a trend now, of fewer reported cases, but still an alarming number of deaths: back in the first wave, there were only 60-odd deaths in all, and they were all elderly folk. It was a big event when somebody died from Covid 19. Today there are 11 new deaths reported; a total of 7,582 new cases; there are 640 people in hospital, and 23 in Intensive Care.

Of those whose deaths were reported on Monday, three were from Auckland, three were from Waikato, one was from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, one was from Wellington, and two were from Canterbury. It’s reported that vulnerable people have been left without care, given that so many support staff are sick themselves, or isolating.

There were new community cases reported in Northland (312), Auckland (1378), Waikato (667), Bay of Plenty (309), Lakes (150), Hawke’s Bay (284), MidCentral (350), Whanganui (138), Taranaki (248), Tairāwhiti (69), Wairarapa (89), Capital and Coast (549), Hutt Valley (332), Nelson Marlborough (270), Canterbury (1286), South Canterbury (153), Southern (937), West Coast (68), and three in unknown locations. In New York, mayor Eric Adams has tested positive for coronavirus.

This afternoon it’s reported that Prime Minister Ardern is to send 50 Defence Force staff and a C130 Hercules to Europe, to assist with distributing supplies. They will not enter Ukraine.

It’s now Tuesday April 12th.

Today we had lunch with two of our sons at a café in Porirua. It was very busy out there, and we had trouble parking, but the café had plenty of room and we sat at a corner table with a bench. My daughter’s day 7 RAT test was negative, thankfully.  Evidently someone at the craft studio she goes to had tested positive for Covid 19.

Afterwards, I check the 1 pm Covid 19 report. Today there are reportedly 11,063 new community cases of Covid 19, and there have been 16 deaths.  A third person (a teenager) has died as a result of the vaccine. There are 622 people  in hospital, and 23 of them are in Intensive Care. There’ve now been 516 deaths from Covid 19. It’s worth remembering that while we may have passed peak Covid 19, in terms of numbers of new cases, many people and still very sick and some dying from it.  While some get it lightly, most speak of the shock of being very sick and utterly exhausted with it.

It’s reported that six of the deceased were from Auckland, one from Waikato, two from Whanganui, one from MidCentral, three were from Wellington, two from Canterbury and one was from the Southern district health board area. One was aged in their 30s, two were aged in their 50s, three in their 70s, six in their 80s, and four were over 90. Five were female and 11 were male.

There were new community cases in Northland (559), Auckland (1984), Waikato (965), Bay of Plenty (536), Lakes (214), Hawke’s Bay (474), MidCentral (534), Whanganui (225), Taranaki (370), Tairāwhiti (111), Wairarapa (137, Capital & Coast (683), Hutt Valley (355), Nelson Marlborough (404), Canterbury (1813), South Canterbury (250), Southern (1331), West Coast (108), and 10 in unknown locations.  So while the numbers are down, thankfully, from what they were, they’re still alarmingly high, and causing staffing difficulties in many care areas.

It was reported that there were an additional 47 cases at the border. ESR is genome sequencing cases detected at the border, and no cases of the new XE variant had been found so far.

The committee of my singing group are to have a meeting on Thursday morning to consider singing again (we cancelled singing in term one).  My son, over from the UK, suggests taking a RAT test before each event, as they do in the UK (and have been doing for some time). I’m not sure people would buy that, but I think it’s worth suggesting.  I feel that people will come if they feel it’s safe to do so, but for many of them it’s a social get-together as much as a singing session, and they’re unwilling to be very socially distant during morning tea.  The problem, as I see it, is we all have family and friends, and some of us are more immune-compromised than others.

In Shanghai, it was reported that there were 25,000 new cases, but the lockdown was being relaxed. There were reports of desperate folk in their apartments shouting that they had no food.

In Ukraine, the Chancellor of Austria has visited Putin in Moscow, and had a serious talk. He’s opposed to the war. The Ukrainians are still seeking more weapons.

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

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