Advent of Joy

The Archangel Gabriel

It’s now Thursday December 8th, 2022. Kia ora!

I haven’t written for a few days, but they’ve been eventful ones. Last Friday afternoon I rang the motel where we were due to stay in Napier, to check that they had our booking. It was just as well that I rang, since they didn’t have a booking for us!  They did have something left, with a spa bath and a walk-in shower.  It was quite expensive, but there didn’t seem to be anything else available. I was quite upset that I had had quite a run-around in managing this now non-existent booking, through several travel web pages.

Last Saturday we were to go to a party on the old Haywards Road, now State Highway 58. But first I needed to post a parcel to my eldest son and his family, overseas.  The post shop in Khandallah was due to be open until 12:30 pm; there was a Christmas parade in Johnsonville starting at 11 am, and some street closures. I’d been putting off posting the parcel, seeing things needed wrapping, and the detailed customs form to be completed.

We duly made our way, through back streets, to the post shop in Khandallah, where there was a queue.  I tried to address the parcel, and complete the customs form. JD had stayed in the car, but he managed to text me our eldest son’s phone number.  Between my difficulty in writing clearly, and the tiny spaces on the form, and the need for haste, I found all this very difficult. When I was ready to go to the counter, the woman in front of me had a debate whether to send her parcel that day (Saturday) or the following Monday. Eventually I managed to post my parcel, the shop staying open until 1 pm. If I hadn’t posted it then, I don’t know when I would have done so.

The journey to our friends’ lifestyle block near Haywards was interesting. We took the new Transmission Gully highway to the Pauatahanui turn off, but the road layout had changed. It was all quite confusing; we headed down a road that turned out to be closed, and eventually took the highway to Lower Hutt.

The next morning I went to church, where the service was a little unusual. The theme was Peace – highly appropriate. There was a quiz, but I didn’t manage to log in properly on my phone.

Afterwards, JD picked me up and we headed off to Napier. We stopped for lunch at my favourite café in Otaki. Some things were different: I suspect it has changed hands. My favourite croissants weren’t available; instead I had a sausage roll and a Florentine biscuit with my coffee.

We  got to Napier, and I found the way to our motel, where we hadn’t stayed before. We were in a roomy unit away from the others, although there was some road noise from time to time. The unit was very roomy; although there wasn’t a sofa for JD (although there was room for one). There was a luggage rack, a roomy wardrobe, a large bed, and a roomy bathroom with a spa bath and shower over bath. There was a roomy kitchen as well. We were very comfortable there, although I couldn’t get internet access. Fortunately, my mobile phone had some internet access; after it ran out, I bought some more data with the stored credit that I had. This enabled me to listen to podcasts during the nights, since I didn’t sleep that well.

When we got there we watched Country Calendar on television one, since they were featuring Hōhepa Hawkes Bay.  Between the many advertisements, it was a very good programme, with a glimpse of our daughter!

We went to Ahuriri to get something to eat: at the first pub we went to (where we’d had good experiences before), the tired person on the front desk said they weren’t taking any more customers: they’d had a really busy night, and had only one chef on duty. So we went to the Thirsty Whale, where they were really busy, but gladly fitted us in, upstairs. I had the Fish of the Day which was gurnard, and was delicious, with lovely vegetables and a baked potato.

The next day we were due to pick up our daughter for dinner. We bought a newspaper, and had morning tea: a long black coffee, and a mini-doughnut.  Then after doing some shopping we went to Taradale to inspect the new Hōhepa Shop there.  We bought some candles, but they didn’t have any Weleda products yet. Then we had lunch at the Bay Espresso there.

We also saw our daughter the next day.  It wasn’t as hot as when we were last in Napier, at the end of October!  To our relief, our motel was quite cool.  We wrapped and left birthday and Christmas presents for our daughter, and I bought the Weleda products I wanted for Christmas presents at the Hōhepa shop at Clive.

On our last night we had dinner at Portofino, having their delicious bruschetta, and then our mains.  The next day we drove home, but first I had to go to the antique centre in Tennyson Street. We got some pearl earrings there – just what I wanted.  It was a rather long, hot dusty drive back to Wellington. Contrary to the weather forecasts, it was hot.  We had a nice lunch in Dannevirke, but there seemed to be a lot of resealing going on. Nevertheless, eventually we got back to Wellington. We are very thankful for the newish Transmission Gully/State Highway One and expressway.

On Thursday morning the group I sing with were due to sing Christmas carols on the steps of the Town Hall.  It was a bit of a rush to get there, but we got ourselves duly arranged (with me strategically leaning against a concrete wall), and Andrea playing her keyboard.  We were singing with gusto, rather well, I thought, with some locals applauding, and then one of our number had a fall.  Poor thing!  We all felt so sorry for her. Someone rang an ambulance, and several people went to help her. The rest of us had morning tea, and then did some more singing, inside this time. JD came to pick me up, and I had to go early, seeing there had been some confusion about when I needed to be picked up.

The next day was cold and wet. Our art group met for the last time for the year – only 8 of us.  Afterwards I had another appointment in Khandallah, and then there was to be carol singing in the church carpark, followed by a free sausage sizzle.  As it was still raining off and on, sometimes heavily, we sang carols inside the church, with a very professional accompaniment from the Wellington Brass Band.

On Saturday we went shopping – to an antique shop in Tinakori Road, again. There are so many beautiful things there!  Although the traffic was heavy again, we got a carpark almost outside the shop.

Afterwards we went to the New World supermarket in Thorndon. It was pretty busy there, but there were plenty of raspberries!  Cherries are still very expensive. We got the usual things: coffee beans, lettuce, bread, salads, cheese, wine, tonic water etc. In the afternoon I tried to watch “A Spy Among Friends”, an adaptation of the book by Ben Macintyre, on television one on demand.  Unfortunately it was very dark on my computer, so it was hard to watch this series.  I do find Damian Lewis rather annoying to watch, but the guy playing Philby is quite good, in my view.

It’s now Sunday December 11th.

This morning the church service was at 9:30 am, not 10 am, because there was a village fair. Although I’d set my alarm, I was running a bit late; only to find that Ganges Road had been closed! So I had to cross the road, and make my way up to the church, between stalls and the many people who were there already. I got to church during notices; I went to sit down, but the woman reading notices had left her bag on the pew, so I had to find another seat. No worries, there was plenty of room, and many people came in after me.  The Advent theme was Joy.

Afterwards I stayed for a while and met several friends. I missed my bus home, and rang JD, agreeing to meet him at the railway station. That worked well.  I had bought scones to take home for morning tea, sadly from one of the local cafés; there were lots of people at the Village Fair, so I just wanted to buy stuff and get away.

In the afternoon I went to a concert given by the women’s choir Cantate. A friend had asked me to go. I’ll ask her to return the favour when one of my singing groups performs! I enjoyed the concert, although  I felt the oral contribution before each item was a little overdone. Nevertheless, they sang some beautiful numbers, and they sang them well.

On Monday morning I went to my exercise class, it being the last one for the year. For morning tea there were strawberries and ice cream!  I caught the train home.  That evening we watched the final episode of Series 2 of The White Lotus. I feel it’s a kind of porn, but like Succession, I have to watch it. During the evening I learnt that a friend of mine had died. While I knew that she was close to death, and I’d been wondering how she was getting on, it was still a shock to learn of her death. She was a very private person, so I had not visited her at her home, but I had seen and spoken to her at some of our singing and painting sessions. She was a fine water colour artist, and frequently exhibited at water colour exhibitions at the Academy of Fine Arts. We had both enjoyed going to many art films with her: it’s always nice to see a movie together, and talk about it later, over coffee. My friend did not enjoy good health: she was gluten-free, and enjoyed cooking, gardening and painting.  We saw several films together.

This morning we had an engineer coming to our house at 9 am; after that I went to a Bible study.  I really liked the text, which was from Isaiah 7, which echoes in my ears from Handel’s Messiah. I’m not sure about our discussion, though.  It’s a beautiful fine day, which is very nice. Afterwards I made my way home using train and bus – thankfully not cancelled, although many services have been cancelled, mostly due to staff shortage.

The covid report is terrible.  The formal report came out on Monday, but there’ve been interim reports as well. It is as follows: there have been 40,098 new cases of Covid-19 and 35 deaths of people with the virus over the past week, the Ministry of Health says. There were also a total of 514 people in hospital with the virus, including 14 in ICU.

Of the 35 deaths being reported on Monday 12 December, one was from Northland, 12 were from the Auckland region, four were from Waikato, one was from Bay of Plenty, one was from Lakes, one was from MidCentral, three were from Wellington region, one was from Nelson Marlborough, six were from Canterbury and five were from Southern. One was in their 40s, four were in their 50s, three were in their 60s, three were in their 70s, 15 were in their 80s and nine were aged over 90. Of these people, 15 were women and 20 were men.

Of the community cases, 11,142 are reinfections.

The seven day rolling average of cases is 5721. We’re told that there have been 2,257 deaths due to Covid 19.

On Wednesday December 7, reported daily Covid-19 cases topped 7000 for the first time since July. Last week the ministry reported 34,528 new cases of Covid-19 and 40 deaths of people with the virus over the previous week.

Today reported Covid 19 cases topped 8,000 for the first time in what is being called the “third wave”. I’m sure we all thought that three years of this was quite enough, but it hasn’t finished with us yet.  I am increasingly nervous about our planned trip to Adelaide in January 2023. Still, at least we can do stuff, are we certainly are doing things.  It’s busy every day, with several events one could go to, if one had the energy to do so.  Perhaps we’re playing catchup  after all the rain and the lockdowns.

In China, there were quite significant protests against their Zero Covid policy, meaning that huge areas could be locked down in a very strict manner, with people not allowed out even for a walk, or to buy food. While the Chinese have amazing surveillance systems, they’ve now relaxed the zero-covid policy, with its compulsory testing and quarantine.  Now it’s feared that there are many cases of Covid 19 there and that their health system will quickly be overloaded. The Chinese vaccine is not considered to be very effective, and it’s thought that many people, including the elderly, have not been vaccinated.

A brief cover of US politics: Reverend Raphael Warnock retained his seat in the US Senate in the run-off election with Herschel Walker; Walker apparently conceded relatively graciously.  Then there was a shock when Krysten Sinema announced she had left the Democratic Party and would vote as an independent in the future.  It’s predicted that she will vote with Democrats; personally I think it was very unfortunate that Sinema and Manchin chose not to support their Democratic president over some issues.  Now, though, people are saying more and more that Biden is a great president. On the Bulwark podcast former republicans are reveling in Republican disarray, and although they still criticize democrats for not being more like republicans, it is nice to see the Dems getting a bit more credit.  And I repeat, that I never heard a republican seeking to improve people’s lives;  that, however is the mantra of democrats. We in the west can only wonder why the social safety net doesn’t extend further to cover all American citizens.

Oh, and Donald Trump’s business was found guilty of fraud, on several counts, and his Chief Financial Officer Alan Weisselberg is going to jail.  Also, a couple more documents were found in a storage area, while Trump’s lawyers had confirmed that there were no more documents outstanding.  And Attorney General Garland has appointed a Special Counsel Jack Smith who is making strides, so we live in hope that there will be some legal accountability for the dreadful insurrection on January 6 2021, to say nothing of Trump’s presidency.

In Ukraine. Heavy fighting continues. It’s reported that Ukrainian forces have bombed Wagner Group headquarters in Russian-occupied Melitopol; that fierce fighting continues in the city of Bahkmut; and that there is again consternation over the fate of the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia.  We feel so helpless that there is little we can do other than to pray, to be kind to each other, and to help those less fortunate in our local area.  We can also give thanks that we are able to worship freely, to celebrate Advent and Christmas and Jesus’ birth, and to continue to go about our daily lives.

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

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