Next Year in – Wellington

The Peak Peka to Otaki Expressway is now open

Today is Monday December 19, 2022. Kia ora!

What a strange time this is.  My son is not going to come from the UK for Christmas, and a granddaughter has Covid 19 (again! She just had it barely 6 weeks ago!). Plans, travel arrangements  and family gatherings are thrown into chaos and restructured, yet again. Actually it doesn’t really matter for JD and myself, but of course we’re hugely disappointed that our son and his wife won’t be coming for Christmas, and I do feel sorry for the children at this time.  For a number of my friends, family members have already arrived.  Sadly, not for us this time. Perhaps later. We don’t have the dreaded MIQ lottery any more, but things are by no means back to normal.  Travelers tell horrific tales of travel delays and cancellations, expenses and problems, to say nothing of missing luggage.  And then there are the local Covid 19 figures, still terrible here, and in Australia.  JD and I are due to fly to Australia mid January, and we’re wondering about risking our checked luggage. Travel was certainly not problem-free in pre-covid times, and one certainly expected to stand in queues, but it seems to have grown exponentially worse, with flight cancellations, missed connections, and missing luggage now regular events. And then there’s Covid 19!

Today’s report from the Ministry of Health was worse than last Monday’s. It goes as follows: there have (officially) been 42,740 new cases of Covid-19 and 64 deaths of people with the virus over the past week, the Ministry of Health has announced. There were also a total of 581 people in hospital with the virus, including 15 in ICU.

Of the 64 people whose deaths were reporting today, three were from Northland, 19 were from the Auckland region, seven were from Waikato, two were from Bay of Plenty, four were from Lakes, four were from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, five were from MidCentral, three were from Whanganui, two were from Wellington region, one was from Nelson Marlborough, 10 were from Canterbury and three were from Southern.

One was in their 30s, two were in their 40s, one was in their 50s, five were in their 60s, 12 were in their 70s, 28 were in their 80s and 15 were aged over 90. Of these people, 33 were women and 30 were men.

So it’s still a torrid time, especially for those with Covid 19, or with someone close to them infected. Still many transport services are cancelled.

This morning I was to catch up with a good friend at a café in Johnsonville. I caught the bus, and met her. We were able to sit outside; fortunately it wasn’t cold, despite the sliding doors and a hammer outside. It was so good to see her again! Afterwards I went home where JD made an omelette for lunch.

On Tuesday morning I wrapped up most of the Christmas presents for our son in the UK and his wife, and posted them to the UK – which is quite a mission!  Afterwards JD and I went shopping. I had been thinking we didn’t need much food, but now that our plans have been thrown into disarray, I bought lot more food, including fresh croissants for lunch – they were delicious, too! And now there’s a postal (The Royal Mail) strike in the UK, so goodness knows when my son and his wife will get their package.

It’s now Friday December 23rd, we’re  getting very close to Christmas.

JD and I briefly visited our daughter in Napier again. We drove north on Wednesday: a rather difficult trip. We had lunch in Shannon, where it was awful: most of the food had gone, and it wasn’t particularly clean or friendly, although busy. I would have liked to stop at Otaki, but we queued there and hoped the traffic wouldn’t be too heavy for the rest of our journey. When we got to Napier we had a brief rest, then went to have dinner at Portofino. It seemed very quiet there but we enjoyed our meal.

Our motel was very comfortable. It’s a bit dated, but it was roomy, quiet, and very clean. The spa bath was very comfortable – I could recline and enjoy the gentle waves.

The next morning we bought a newspaper from Whitcoulls and then had coffee and shared a Portuguese custard tart before picking up our daughter from  the Hōhepa workshops at Clive.  We made our way to Birdwood’s Café, with me carefully following the Google Maps directions. We had to drive through Havelock North, which was very busy indeed. Somehow my phone’s directions took us though the carpark for the New World supermarket there! There were several roundabouts to negotiate, always tricky. Eventually we were in Porter Drive, which became Middle Road, which we wanted.

We drove out to the café, which seemed very busy, so much so that we couldn’t park in the carpark, but had to drive into extra parking in a field.  Then we were there! What a lovely venue it is. We walked past four very fine geese, who were walking in parade somewhere else; and to the café. We were seated under an awning, and obviously this area could be closed off and heated should it be required. The day was cloudy, but quite warm, and we were very comfortable.

We had a lovely lunch there. The best part for me was the rhubarb and caramel layer cake, but our daughter’s hazelnut layered sponge with chocolate ganache looked pretty amazing too. Our cakes came out on fine china plates, too.

After lunch we went for a walk.  Birdwood’s is wonderful – like Te Papa, it absorbs a lot of people.  I heard frogs croaking, and as I drew near to the source of the noise, they disappeared into the water. We played outdoor games, too.

We eventually made our way to the car, and set out to drive back to Napier, again marvelling that it seems no great distance back to Havelock North, although it seemed quite a way to get there.

We drove through heavy rain, and went back to our motel for a rest, and games.  Rather than going to a busy, understaffed restaurant for dinner, we went to New World in Greenmeadows where we bought salads, rolls and ice cream to take back to eat at our motel.  Our daughter has a wonderful appetite! Then we took her back to her home.

Today we travelled back to Wellington. It was a fine, sunny day in Napier, but we drove through heavy rain between Woodville and Shannon.  Other than that, we had a good run, with little traffic. We stopped for lunch at a café in Woodville. They  had air conditioning running, and the table where we were sitting was really draughty. JD was not prepared to move, but he did get my puffer jacket from the car. That helped! Of course, we’re supposed to have the air circulating, but we wanted to sit inside, rather than outside where it wasn’t that hot. Everywhere is short-staffed, and the cracks show almost everywhere. 

Driving home went smoothly, apart from the rain. When we drove through Ohau, we saw a welcome sign: SH1 Expressway Open!  It was supposed to open today, and so it did. We got onto it just north of Otaki, bypassing Otaki and Te Horo, joining up with the expressway that previously reached to just north of Waikanae.  Once on the new extension, it was truly wonderful.  The expressway/SH 1 has a most interesting and varied vista; it’s far from being boring. We got home a few minutes before 3 pm, having left Ahuriri at 10 am and stopped for a leisurely lunch on the way. I would pick that the new road, including the Transmission Gully highway, has shaved several minutes off the journey time. There was no stopping for re-sealing, or any roadworks.

I have been listening to several podcasts lately, given that I didn’t sleep well in Napier. Thank goodness I wasn’t driving.  JD is a safe driver, although not a smooth one, having a tendency to swing around corners which I find really annoying. However he does drive safely, and I’m thankful for that.

The Rest is History podcast historians, Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland, covered all the countries that were playing in the World Cup held recently in Qatar.  Human rights issues aside, it turned out to be a great tournament, with some fascinating results and upsets. I found the episodes about Germany (The White Rose movement and the execution of Sophie Scholl), and Denmark (where most of the 6,000 Jews were saved from the Nazis in World War II) to be the most interesting.

Now they have turned their very knowledgeable attention to this time of Advent, and done two episodes on the birth and life of Jesus Christ; or, in other words, the “history” and the “mystery”.  There is very little documentary evidence about Jesus apart from the four Gospels, which are thought to have been written well after his death.  The first episode begins with the passage from Luke’s Gospel about the birth of Jesus; the second episode ends with Tim Holland quoting the last verse of John’s Gospel, chapter 21 verse 25: “and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which if they were written one by one, I suppose that not even the world itself would contain the books written”.

I’ve also listened to podcasts from Lawfare and from MSNBC about the unanimous decision of the January 6 Committee to make criminal referrals, and their final public meeting, before their report is released. Predictably, I suppose, MSNBC think all outputs are quite wonderful, and the lawfare crew are much more critical.  It also now appears that Trump’s tax returns can be made public (i.e. a committee of Congress has received them, after a legal decision, and has voted to make them public). The most shocking thing about this is that the IRS never audited Trump’s tax returns while he was president, as they’re legally obliged to do; this despite Trump claiming that his tax returns were under audit, and this claim was never refuted!  Also, in another own goal, Biden apparently received a “shockingly gracious” letter from Trump when he became president; presumably Trump signed it even if he didn’t write it, but it would seem to be an acknowledgment that Joe Biden was the rightful new president and had won the presidential election.

I’ve also listened to The Rest is Politics podcasts, with Alastair Campbell and  Rory Stewart. They’re always interesting, but I tend to go off to sleep and have to listen to them again!

President Zelensky of Ukraine has travelled to the US and addressed the American Congress. Despite his halting English, he received several standing ovations, and his speech is being compared to Churchill’s when he travelled to the US during the Second World War, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.  Churchill was rather desperate to get the US involved in the war, in spite of a strong American trend of isolationism. The attack on Pearl Harbour resulted in some really intense fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific, as well as helping to defeat the Nazis in Europe.

I think the Ukrainians are having a terribly hard time fighting Putin’s quite unnecessary invasion; I feel they’re fighting on our behalf, and all power to them, suffering as they are.  The Russians seem determined to take out utilities in Kyiv, resulting in significant power cuts, as local authorities strive to conserve power. It’s also very, very cold there.

I’m pleased we went to Napier again – the third time in a couple of months. It was sad not to have more of the family there, but Covid continues to wreak havoc here, and we’re by no means back to “normal”, whatever that means.

This Christmas will certainly be different, but we’re alive, and not being bombed or attacked. Slava Ukraini!  Ngā mihi nui.

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