Lest we Forget

It’s now Anzac Day, Monday April 25th. Kia ora.

Actually it’s now Thursday April 28th. I’ve not been writing lately.  Monday was a quiet day, with shops not opening until midday; accordingly, I walked to the local supermarket at midday to get croissants for lunch. Because Monday was a kind of holiday, I didn’t get my latest Listener delivered, but it did come the next day. I must admit I don’t have huge feelings for Anzac Day; thankfully, nobody close to me died in any war, although JD’s father was in the British Army (and was quite severely affected by his experiences, in my view). From my side of the family anyone who was called up would have been a conscientious objector, bearing in mind the fifth of the Ten Commandments, Thou shalt not kill.  Of course, we now monitor each day the dreadful “progress” of the unprovoked war in Ukraine, and again are thankful that none of our loved ones is directly involved. There are advantages to being here at the bottom of the world, although I would still love to go to Ukraine.

On Monday evening we watched a very affecting film version of Journey’s End, on Māori television.  I was especially moved by the men being so kind to each other. 

On Tuesday I went to town to Unity Books to get a present for my eldest granddaughter.  My loyalty card came due, so I got a copy of Anne Tyler’s latest novel.  I do like her books, and perhaps I can lend it to a friend after I’ve read it.  I was going to have lunch at Smith the Grocer in The Old Bank Arcade, but not only was there nowhere to sit, there was a long queue there.  Instead I went to Sierra Café, a spacious one, where there was a queue too, but there were empty tables.  It’s good to see these places busy again.  I went to Whitcoulls to buy a copy of the Economist and a padded envelope, then walked to Lambton Square and took the escalators up to the Terrace to find a lab to have a blood test.  I walked back down, and then called in to Farmers, to check out their specials on nightwear.  I didn’t buy any nightwear but upstairs they had good specials on woollen jerseys with roll-neck collars. Just then JD rang and offered to pick me up. I gratefully accepted, but he said, Oh, by the way, get me something to eat.  Well, that posed problems. I walked back to Lambton Square where there used to be a Muffin Break, where I’d bought him lunch before. It was no longer there.  I figured sushi wouldn’t cut it for him, and I was really tired by this time, and carrying the books I’d bought too.  I ended up going to a Mr Bun café in Waring Taylor Street. There was a flight of stairs, with no handrail, and then another, this time with a very sticky handrail. I bought him some pre-packaged chicken, avocado and lettuce sandwiches and a blueberry muffin. Then I sat down to wait in Midland Park, where, thankfully, it was mild and sunny, to get picked up.  It was busy-ish on town with perhaps 70-80% of people wearing masks.  Some places still have QR codes to scan, others do not, although I am habituated now to keeping a record of where I’ve been, adding a manual entry to my Covid ap if necessary. At no time did I feel unsafe. In the evening we watched another episode of The First Lady. Gillian Anderson is pretty good as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Michelle Pfeifer is wonderful as Betty Ford, but disposed as I am to admire Viola Davis, I do not like her presentation of Michelle Obama.  It’s still quite an interesting series, though, although it jumps around in time. Sometimes you wish they wouldn’t do that.

On Wednesday I was due to go to hymn singing at 9:15 am, and I wanted to post my parcel afterwards.  Singing was lovely, of course: we sang the Easter Hymn, and When I Behold the wondrous Cross, amongst other things.  I had a friend coming to visit in the afternoon, so I scampered around trying to tidy things up, and feeling quite inadequate.  JD had an appointment but on his way back managed to get a potato-topped pie from Nada in Tawa, so that took care of dinner – we had it with some salad.  In the evening we watched some of The Score on Māori television, starring Robert de Niro and Marlon Brando. He seemed slightly more together than he did in the Godfather, but it was his last movie before his death, and the story goes that he was extremely difficult in the movie.  We watched for a while and returned to videos about US politics.

This morning I went into town again – to check out the Farmers specials. After telling myself I had quite enough clothes already, I decided I wanted to check out this sale.  And it was worthwhile: I got some more corduroy trousers, and a woollen jersey, and got the savings on the two items.  I’m pleased with that. Afterwards I had coffee and a toasted cheese scone (the best!) at Smith the Grocer, and then caught a No 14 bus up Molesworth Street to near the New World supermarket. It was very quiet in the big store, so I shopped at leisure, having arranged that JD would pick me up there. Panic set in when he finally answered my call at 2:10 pm, saying he had a 3 pm appointment, and, by the way, would I get him something to eat?  I gritted my teeth, got him a croissant, and bought raspberries, lettuce, brussels sprouts, salads, tonic water, another potato topped pie, and bread, knowing I would have to pack all this myself – the checkout staff at New World Thorndon don’t do packing.  As it turned out I needn’t have rushed; I ended up waiting for him outside, again sitting outside in the mild, sunny weather.

So, what’s been happening?  On the Covid 19 front, Covid 19 is still very much with us, but not as serious now in Wellington or Hawkes Bay – more serious down south. I did another RAT test yesterday before my friend came to visit, being slightly nervous about our activities last Saturday (the movie, the Borough in Tawa), but thankfully it was negative.  I have messages from Manage My Health about the blood test results, but they are confusing – I’ll have to go and see my doctor for an interpretation.

Today’s numbers are as follows: 9.047 new community cases, and another 13 deaths. There are 484 people in hospital, and 15 of them are in Intensive Care.

Two of those who died were from the Auckland region, three from Bay of Plenty, two from Waikato, one from Taranaki, one from MidCentral, one from Hawke’s Bay, and three from Canterbury. Two were in their 50s, two in their 60s, one in their 70s, three in their 80s, and five were over 90. Five were women and eight were men.

There were new community cases in Northland (276), Auckland (2519), Waikato (550), Bay of Plenty (335), Lakes (129), Hawke’s Bay (281), MidCentral (344), Whanganui (108), Taranaki (215), Tairāwhiti (137), Wairarapa (95), Capital and Coast (589), Hutt Valley (236), Nelson Marlborough (358), Canterbury (1505), South Canterbury (185), Southern (1,065), West Coast (113), and seven in unknown locations. Officials also reported an additional 80 cases at the border.

There were 9830 new community cases reported on Wednesday – an increase of 3450 cases on the day prior.

It seems that Covid 19 is always a step ahead of us. We obediently get used to scanning, vaccine passes, and mask-wearing, when now most restrictions have bee lifted.  There’s a new drug to treat Covid 19; mask-wearing is still pretty common here, but sometimes you’ll search to find a QR code.  We put huge effort into getting vaccinated, and then it’s not a sure thing that you won’t get the virus – but you probably won’t be hospitalised or die of it. That said, there’s still an alarming number of deaths here. 

In the US, Dr Fauci claims that probably half of all Americans have had the virus. Almost 1,000,000 people have died from Covid 19 thus far.  Some have had a second booster. Here, there’s no medical recommendation to have a second booster shot.  In the US, many well-known Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Adam Schiff, and Attorney General Merrick Garland have caught Covid 19; there was a Gridiron dinner where many people supposedly caught the virus. One has to wonder if this was some dastardly plan. President Biden has had his second booster jab, although his press secretary Jen Psaki and her deputy, Karine Jean-Pierre, have it too.

China is pursuing it’s Covid-zero policy, despite protests in Shanghai; now there are community cases in Beijing, and everyone here is to be tested for the coronavirus.  There are reports that officials can’t tell President Xi news that he doesn’t want to hear; that with omicron, lockdowns don’t work in limiting the spread of the disease. China’s economy is in a bad state, with the Shanghai lockdown further worsening it.

In the US, Kevin McCarthy is in a whole world of pain, as more and more recordings are released, and text messages to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former Chief of Staff, showing how scarily close Americans came to losing their so-called democracy during the riot on January 6, and the period before and afterwards.  Fox News’s Tucker Carlson has come out against McCarthy, for being a closet Democrat (PS I don’t think they’d have him!); meanwhile, at a rally, republicans cheered for him.  It’s kind of strange to see republicans in disarray. I wonder if the Democrats can capitalise on this.

The war in Ukraine drags on, US Secretary od State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin having visited Kyiv; Austin spoke very well, and they’ve achieved major success in unifying opposition to Putin’s invasion of Russia.  Russia has announced a boycott of oil supplies to Poland and Bulgaria;  he’s also threated “immediate retaliation” to any nation that supplies arms to Ukraine, in an even scarier threat. What does it mean? Who can say? Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov is calling this a real threat, but the Russians have lied so many times, who can tell what Putin intends?  We’re all scared, but down here, perhaps not quite so scared. We have other things to be afraid of.  There have been disasters for the Russians, too – not just inside Ukraine, where sabotage of their equipment continues, but some events in Russia that no one’s yet claimed responsibility for, like a fire at a defence depot.  Putin is not seen awarding medals for bravery, or even visiting the wounded, or bereaved parents.  There are concerns that he’s making inroads to Moldova, too, and there’s the strange and complicated case of Transnistria. Thousands of people have been killed on both sides. President Zelensky continues to amaze the rest of the world with his strong, proud demeanour. He looks exhausted, but we don’t see him wearing some amazing uniform with lots of medals, he’s simply dressed, usually in fleece, sometimes in a bullet-proof vest. More and more the rest of us realise that the brave Ukrainians are fighting on all of our behalf.  We salute them, and unite behind them.

Here in Invercargill, four young men were killed in a dreadful car crash. Elon Musk us going to buy Twitter, a move which causes despair in most people. Some wit thinks people on the Right will buy Tesla electric cars, in response. Will Trump be allowed back on Twitter? He’s set up Truth Social, which is apparently not a success.  I think Musk should use his undoubted intelligence to do something far more useful. JD pointed out that there’s a waiting list for Tesla cars.  Oh, and Madison Cawthorn was nabbed for trying to take a loaded gun on a plane in North Carolina.

In Australia, there’s an election coming up soon, and predictably, there’s anger about a proposed deal between China and the Solomon Islands. There’s some very scary war-mongering statements from Australians, including from Peter Dutton, their Defence Minister. In my view, they should have done more to help the Solomons.  Although we’re four hours’ flying time away from Australia, I don’t doubt that we’ll be lumped in with them, regardless of how much we/I disagree with many of their statements and policies.

This morning the mail came really  early. It included a new issue of the LLRB dated 7 April. It has a very moving article written by a British reporter who went to Ukraine.

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

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