The Joy of Singing

Jonathan Berkahn with his piano accordion

It’s now Sunday July 3rd. Kia ora!

I haven’t written anything for a few days.  They haven’t been uneventful, however.

Last Friday someone from Access came to do some housework.  I didn’t feel too bad, and, and I changed the towels and bedlinen and tidied up some.

On Saturday I attended a singing workshop at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay. This was run by Lala Simpson and Jonathan Berkahn.  It ran from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Lala had tried to run it earlier, but had to cancel because of Covid 19; an other time I would have liked to go, but had something else on.  I knew I was taking a whole lot of risks:  being exposed to people I didn’t know; getting to Island Bay so early (a kind friend drove me there and back); the café there was to be closed, so one had to take any food and drink one might need; and this was going to be exhausting for me.  In the event, it was marvellous to sing with strong voices and to learn beautiful new songs. 

It was really cold on Saturday morning. I woke up before 5 am, and couldn’t get back to sleep; eventually I got up and prepared a sandwich, some crackers with cheese, biscuits, fruit, a flask of strong black coffee and a water bottle. I hadn’t done this for years – not since my university days before I became ill. In the event, I used almost all my provisions except the fruit. Singing is hungry work!

We got to the Home of Compassion, and it wasn’t at all obvious where we should go. We walked and walked, and eventually got to a big room where doors and windows were open. It was pretty cold!  It was a fine, sunny day, and unfortunately I had thought I’d be silly if I wore too many warm clothes.  After the first session, we had morning tea, and then the room warmed up. We ate our lunch outside in the sunshine. Masks came off as we relaxed and made new friends and acquaintances. We sang songs in different languages: Maori, Latin, Ukrainian, Korean, and an Afghani language. There were a few songs in English. I thought I knew Dona Nobis Pacem, and Purea Nei, but wished I’d known them better.

Afterwards, I was very tired, and glad to get home again, but marvelled at how much I’d enjoyed the day, and how I’d love to do it again.  During our time there, I got a message on Storypark (Messenger for Hōhepa) and photos of my daughter wearing a mask to go shopping!  That’s wonderful, that she will wear a mask (for some people!) I need to work harder on my singing.

I looked at the 1 pm Covid 19 report, and it was pretty dire.

This morning I got up early to go to church. It’s fine and sunny again, and not as cold as yesterday. It was lovely, and afterwards I caught the bus back to Johnsonville, and then another one home. The sermon was about Jesus sending his disciples off without scrip, or purse, or sandals, (Luke 10),and greeting homes where they received hospitality with a message of peace, asking did they need healing, and telling them that the Kingdom of Heaven was nigh.  How trusting did those guys have to be! To go off without any money is quite an ask, but without sandals? We also had the text from 2 Kings 5 about Naaman’s leprosy, and his healing.  We were seated in the church, and had beautiful organ music playing. I think we’ll be in the Hall for the rest of July (on the theory that it’s warmer there). Actually last winter I did not find it warmer in the hall I seldom find it cold in the church.

It’s really hard to fine today’s Covid 19 report. Eventually I am successful. Today there are 4,924 new community cases, and there’ve been 11 deaths. There were 165 cases at the border. There are 424 people in hospital including 7 in Intensive Care.

Of those who died, three were from Auckland, one was from Taranaki, two were from MidCentral, two were from Canterbury and three were from Southern. Five were women and six were men. Two were in their 60s, two in their 70s, four in their 80s and three aged over 90.

It’s reported that people hospitalised with Covid are in Northland (7), Waitematā (106), Counties Manukau (33), Auckland (41), Waikato (46), Bay of Plenty (4), Lakes (23), Hawke’s Bay (11), MidCentral (11), Whanganui (3), Tairawhiti (2), Wairarapa (5), Capital and Coast (38), Hutt Valley (8), Nelson Marlborough (7), Canterbury (54), South Canterbury (4), West Coast (2) and Southern (19). Nobody is in hospital with Covid in Taranaki. We’re not told where the new community cases are located.

So that’s that. Again, the numbers aren’t going down as fast as we’d like. JD and I are due for our second booster shots next Friday, but there don’t seem t be many vaccination centres; I suspect we’ll have to go to the Pharmacy in the Johnsonville Shopping Centre – which I don’t particularly like.  It seems there are no restrictions any more – apart from mask wearing. Wellingtonians are still good at that, thankfully. You do feel more protected, wearing a mask, and I do hope I didn’t catch Covid 19 at yesterday’s workshop. While some people I know have had it quite mildly, others have been very sick indeed.

It’s now Monday July 4th.

This afternoon a friend was supposed to visit, but she has a runny nose and so has deferred her visit. It’s fine and sunny today. I walked up to the local store to get freshly baked croissants for lunch.

Today’s Covid 19 report is as follows: there are 6,498 new community cases, and there have been 8 further deaths. There’s a warning that visitors to hospitals (with Covid 19) are infecting patients. There are 487 people in hospital, including 11 in Intensive Care.

Of today’s deaths three were from Auckland region, two were in Waikato, one was from Taranaki, one was from MidCentral, and one was from Whanganui. All were from the past two days. One person was aged in their 60s, four were in their 80s, and three were aged over 90. Of these people, four were women and four were men.  This brings the total number of deaths in New Zealand to 1567. (Australia has lost over 10,000 people to this virus).

The Covid patients in hospital are in Northland (seven), Waitematā (114), Counties Manukau (44), Auckland (34), Waikato (38), Bay of Plenty (22), Lakes (23), Hawke’s Bay (13), MidCentral: (14), Whanganui (five), Taranaki (12), Tairawhiti (two), Wairarapa (nine), Capital and Coast (40), Hutt Valley (seven), Nelson Marlborough (10), Canterbury (57), South Canterbury (seven), West Coast (two) and the Southern region (27). The average age of patients in hospital is 63. That would be 40 in the Wellington area!

Experts are now warning New Zealand is facing a second wave of coronavirus infections as cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.5 spread around the country. Minister of Health Andrew Little has tested positive for Covid 19 and says he is working from home.  We aren’t told the numbers of new cases in each centre.

In the US, there’s distressing news. The Supreme Court, having struck down Roe, has said that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) cannot dictate for power reduction as it has done and would do under Biden’s climate plan.  The US Supreme Court seems to think it can act with gay abandon, now: these unelected folk are cutting swathes across democratically instituted laws. The cruelty of the ruling to strike down Roe has not escaped others besides me: others, too, have noted the extreme cruelty demonstrated here. Americans are reacting with a mixture of shock, grief and frustration. The Federalist Society has got its way, with the conservative majority on the Supreme Court poised to abolish more hard-earned rights: these folk have not been elected, although many of us are hugely frustrated by the idea(l) of “American democracy”. The traditional separation between church and state is being abolished too.  Access to guns is easier. The current situation, where the republicans are in control of many state legislatures, makes a mockery of their much-vaunted constitution, which many take an oath to defend.  This constitution, in the hands of extreme right-wing fanatics, is not helpful to the majority of the people, some of whom cannot get good health care, are at mercy of polluted air and water, and cannot even get good sewerage in parts of the country. What a sad place this is. One wit said that life begins at conception and ends at birth.  The majority of Americans do not support these draconian right-wing decisions.

One republican from Arizona, Rusty Bowers, who testified against Trump, claimed that he so respected the American Constitution, it’s having been “divinely inspired”. Well, I beg to disagree. To me, the Holy Bible is divinely inspired. I deeply respect many other writings, but they’re not divinely inspired. To my way of thinking, rulings of the US Supreme Court have made a mockery of the US Constitution.

The other matter of enormous concern is Trump’s conduct on July 6.  This is built up from what we knew soon after the day, podcasts like Will be Wild, and then – to trump all this – the overwhelming evidence provided by the public screenings of the January 6 Committee, culminating in Cassidy Hutchinson’s evidence.  It seems that her original testimony was limited, partly because Trump’s legal defence fund was paying for her lawyer.  She exposed the threats, too, and then got her own lawyer, and testified much more fully.

The most damning testimony includes several new things, some of which we may have suspected, others that we didn’t know:  Trump’s temper tantrums; his desire to go to the Capitol, despite the Secret Service asking him not to; his complete disregard for Mike Pence’s safety; his disregard for others’ safety, allowing arms (not allowed in Washington) to be brought into the Ellipse, assuming they wouldn’t be used to hurt him; his concern for crowd size;  Mark  Meadows’ disregard for doing anything useful to address or prevent the violence, because the president didn’t want to do anything; his scrolling through his phone and slamming the door on Miss Hutchinson; attempts to intimidate witnesses; and so on and so on.  Although Tony Ornato has said he would deny the Trump’s physical violence under oath, he is known to be a liar and not a good witness. It’s worth noting that apart from the odd detail. such as Trump’s assault on Tony Ornato, none of her evidence has been denied. It now seems that an acquaintance of Mark Meadows is known to have threatened Cassidy Hutchinson.

So that’s all very scary. What is more terrifying, though, is the reason Trump wanted to go to the Capitol: if you’re doing a coup, and marching on the seat of government with your rag-tag armed army of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, then you need to be actually physically there to stage a coup. That is terrifying, and only a handful of loyal citizens prevented this scheme from being seen through. This coup attempt failed – but at what cost?  And will there be another try?

Although many Americans have tuned in to watch the January 6 Committee hearings, the republican-controlled Texas legislature recently declared they didn’t believe that Joe Biden was the rightfully elected president; many of those running for elected office believe Trump should be president now, i.e. believe what’s known as “the big lie”.

In Ukraine, the war grinds on, with no evidence that it’s likely to stop any time soon. It seems that western-supplied weapons haven’t arrived soon enough, allowing the Russians, seemingly, to take more territory. 

It’s now Tuesday July 5th.

A new drier was delivered this morning!  Our drier had broken down, we confirmed yesterday, after goodness knows how many years. JD rang an appliance store and they agreed to deliver a new drier today. Fortunately I had had a shower, and I’d just made a cup of coffee when the knock on the door came. The new drier is quite wonderful. It just fits in the existing gap, although the power cord doesn’t quite reach and I have to find a power board to enable it to work. But work it does.

This afternoon we had to go to Lower Hutt. We ended up having lunch at Caffiend – one of my favourite cafés, although I didn’t appreciate the music. But their kitchen was still open. I had Eggs Benedict. My new Listener turned up in the mail. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take me long to do the puzzles now.

Last night we watched Wild Mountain Thyme on television (Netflix, I think). It’s frustrating to have an Irish setting, a Scottish song, and Emily Blunt with a strange accent, but great acting – but it was suitably sentimental with nice music (Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake was thrown in, together with the lovely song Wild Mountain Thyme). I have also just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. It started off rather slowly, but soon I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure that I’m quite ready for the movie version. I can see why Kya’s family members had to get away. What a sad story, though!

It’s now Wednesday July 6th.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. JD picked me up afterwards; then I had lunch with a friend, and then we went shopping at New World in Thorndon. They had potato-topped pies, and good salads, although no raspberries. It was nice to go there. I got some rhubarb-flavoured tonic water, but it turned out to be really sweet – probably sweeter than I prefer. I had to try it, though – someone had recommended it in a Sunday paper.

The Covid 19 numbers are getting worse. Yesterday there were 9,629 new community cases, and 24 deaths. There were 495 people in hospital, including 11 in Intensive Care. I took a RAT test yesterday, which was negative, thankfully. I think at least we chose good times to visit our daughter in Hawkes Bay, at the beginning of February, and the end of June this year, before things got much worse, Covid 19 wise.

Today’s numbers are even worse. Today there are 10,290 new community cases of Covid 19. There’ve been 12 further deaths (two in Wellington and one in Hawkes Bay). There are 522 people in hospital, including 10 in Intensive Care.  There are 48 people in hospital in the Hutt Valley/Wellington area. There are 19 in hospital in Hawkes Bay. There are 233 (!) cases of people who’ve recently travelled overseas.

That’s it for now. Interesting things are happening, in the UK and the US. I’ll write about them next time. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

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