Maundy Thursday

Cenacolo Vinciano

It’s now Wednesday April 13th 2022. Kia ora!

This morning I learn that the mayor of Mariupol claims there are 20,000 dead in his city; somewhere else I read it’s 21,000. There are fears that Russian troops have used chemical weapons in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians have damaged a rail bridge; and Putin insists his aims are in Ukraine are noble; that there is really no alternative. Well, Russian troops retreated from Kyiv, didn’t they?  Remember the miles long convoy of tanks that was headed for Kyiv?

There’s also been a horrible mass shooting in the New York subway. I’ve been on that subway, several times. The culprit evidently flooded a carriage with gas, before letting loose with ammunition.  Over 20 people have been injured, and 10 have been shot (but not dead).  How is it that really bad shootings happen under democratic presidents? And that many think that violence at the end of a gun is the answer to any disagreement?

I also listened to a podcast explaining that a significant branch of conservatism was against President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which helped America through and out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  For a nation that is supposedly a godly one, there are some very unchristian attitudes there towards anyone less advantaged than yourself.

This morning I get up early to go to hymn singing.  One normal attendee has a sore throat, so there are very few of us. I sing quite well to start with, then get a frog in my throat that I can’t get rid of. Afterwards, the organist and I clarify when the services will be held over Easter. There is a service on Good Friday in the evening, not at 10 am, so I may be able to go. I have a family gathering on Friday morning. Then I go shopping at the supermarket, and there is hardly anyone there. But they do have cheese scones, after a long absence. It’s always tricky finding what I want at a store that’s not so familiar to me. JD doesn’t always get my texts, so I need to ring him if I don’t get a text reply.

The Hon. Chris Hipkins gives the Covid 19 update today. The entire country is to move to the Orange setting at midnight tonight, meaning there are no limits on numbers at gatherings. There is confusion about masks – they’re still recommended, I gather, but not compulsory.

Today’s the statistics are reported as follows: ​9495 community cases; 551 hospitalisations; 27 in ICU; 15 deaths. The OCR has risen by 50 basis points to 1.5%.   There seems to be no further information.

It’s now Thursday April 14th.

This morning I went to a committee meeting for our Thursday singing group at a café in Khandallah. It’s not too busy there, and it’s wonderful to see everyone again. It’s another lovely fine day in Wellington.

I listened to two alarming podcasts this morning. One had Ruth Ben-Ghiat being interviewed by Charlie Sykes, talking about “Gambling for Resurrection”; well, Putin will certainly be remembered as a tyrant, given that he’s more and more resembling his predecessor, Stalin, in his disrespect for human life, his cruelty to Ukraine (which has no right to exist, by the way), and his paranoia. It’s reported that not only is his spy chief now in prison (he was formerly under house arrest), but Putin has had 150 FSB agents arrested. Another dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, has been arrested in Moscow (after being interviewed by Ali Velshi on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC). Meanwhile in Ukraine a pro-Putin person Viktor Medvedchuk has been arrested, and may be used as a bargaining chip (the Kremlin says No to that). Evidently more bodies are being discovered in Bucha, and 9 Ukrainian women are pregnant as a result of being raped by Russian soldiers. It’s reported that 765 civilian bodies have been found in Kyiv. It’s also reported that the Russians are claiming that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in Mariupol. This claim has not been verified and is being treated with a degree of suspicion.

But I also listened to Samantha Power being interviewed by Rachel Maddow; she’s been to Ukraine three times recently, and she’s helping them to document the war crimes being committed there. She looks weary, and much older than how I remembered her. President Biden has accused Putin of genocide.  Although for some reason the US does not belong to the ICC (are they scared of being prosecuted themselves?), it’s hoped and expected that Putin will face justice for these terrible acts, just as after the conflict in the Balkans ended, some of the crimes of ethnic cleansing were prosecuted.  It’s hoped that this acts as a deterrent. 

Apparently Putin addressed Russia yesterday, claiming what he called noble aims in Ukraine, but some recorded that he didn’t seem particularly well at the time, unlike previous appearances. Finland and Sweden are on track to join NATO, (after previous reluctance), and it’s recalled how bravely the Finns defended themselves and their country against Russia, their much larger invader towards the end of 1939. A Russian ship is evidently on fire: the UK’s Guardian reports that the ship that was engaged at Snake Island at the beginning of the war is now on fire and seriously damaged after a strike in the Black Sea.

Today’s 1 pm Covid 19 report features 9,563 new community cases, and 16 deaths. There are 528 people in hospital, and 28 of them are in Intensive Care. Again, while numbers of new cases, and numbers hospitalised continue to fall, there are still significant numbers needing Intensive Care, and alarming numbers dying. It’s noted that the latter includes people who died and were found to have Covid 19; presumably in most cases they had pre-existing conditions that compromised their health.  It’s reported that of the deaths two people were in their 60s, six in their 70s, four in their 80s and four were over 90. It’s mainly older people dying with Covid 19.

Of the new community cases, it’s reported that 258 were in the Auckland region. The rest are spread across Northland: 37; Waikato: 43; Bay of Plenty: 17; Lakes: 9; Tairāwhiti: 2; Hawke’s Bay: 11; Taranaki: 7; Whanganui: 4; MidCentral: 22; Wairarapa: 1; Hutt Valley: 25; Capital and Coast: 7; Nelson Marlborough: 6; Canterbury: 42; South Canterbury: 4; West Coast: 1; Southern: 32. That’s definitely far less than the numbers we’ve been seeing for Hawkes Bay and Wellington.  Numbers in Auckland are still quite high, but then Auckland’s a big place.

This evening I went to the Maundy Thursday service at church. I have to admit I had never been to one before, although I had been to a Good Friday Midnight Mass at St Mary’s in Wellington when we were first married. It commemorates Jesus’ betrayal, the commandment to love one another, and the Last Supper.  It was very moving. We washed each others’ hands with (hand sanitiser), sang hymns, celebrated communion, and then went into the main church where there were readings from Matthew’s Gospel, and the candles were extinguished, leaving us to contemplate in darkness the solitude and suffering of our Lord before his crucifixion.

It’s now Good Friday, April 15th.

It’s confirmed that a flagship of the Russian fleet, the Moskva, which was anchored in the Black Sea has now sunk. It was on fire yesterday – evidently armed. It’s thought there were between 500 and 700 sailors on board. The Ukrainians claim to have attacked this ship; the Kremlin has admitted it was sunk. Ironically the ship was built at the (now) Ukrainian port of Mykoliav, in Eastern Ukraine; even more ironically, this ship asked Ukrainians to surrender at the beginning of the war at Snake Island, too be met by the response: “F— you”.  Well, now the ship is well and truly f___ed. 

Back here, the biggest concern is how the new Transmission Gully road will cope with Easter long weekend and school holiday traffic.  I guess there’ll still be a bottleneck somewhere – just further north, maybe, between Otaki and Levin.

There’s no Covid 19 report today.  This morning we had a very nice family gathering, where we spilled outside, drank coffee, and ate very nice vegan gluten-free buns. In the afternoon we had a lovely chat with our daughter. What a beautiful smile she has. Easter is usually a lonely time for me, when most of our family go away to their in-laws, and we avoid going away, i.e. avoid the traffic, the crowds and the high prices.

In the UK, Johnson and Sunak have been fined over what is now known as the Partygate scandal. To distract from this, the UK has a plan to send migrants coming across the Channel trying to come to Great Britain to Rwanda instead. Which is the worse scandal? As with Trump, take your pick. It’s easy to forget the excruciating number of scandals, with new ones piled on. This seems a very cruel solution (maybe they got the idea frim Australia’s treatment of “boat people”.

It’s a strange day, with most shops closed, but there is a service at the church I attend in the evening (which is also on zoom). It’s hard to hear the recordings – zoom has its limitations, but the church is steadily darkened as the service of songs, readings and prayers continues. I get the feeling there aren’t many there, although the minister doesn’t give us on zoom (perhaps 4 of us), a view of the interior of the church. I listen to Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion again.

That’s it for now. The Russians are very displeased at the loss of the Moskva. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

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