Outside the Russian Embassy in London commemorating one year of military activity in Ukraine

It’s now Friday March 3rd, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning I was to meet a friend at a new café in Khandallah. As JD had an appointment at 10:30 am, I got him to drop me off.  My friend was also there, and she’d invited another friend to join us. The new café is called Bread and Butter, I think, and it occupies the old wooden building that previously housed the restaurant Taste. There were quite a few people there already, including some sitting at outside tables. My  friend and I had delicious cheese scones (Yes, we would like them warmed with butter), and she wanted a half-strength Americano, while I ordered a long black coffee.  The eftpos terminal required a surcharge for using payWave, even if it’s not on a credit card. JD and I had found this on our travels up North. It rather eliminates the convenience of using PayWave, as one has to touch the terminal to accept the charge (less than a credit card charge, but a charge, none the less). We took a number to our table, and sat down with our cheese scones. The coffee eventually arrived, with extra cold milk and hot water, as requested; the coffee turned out to be really strong and rather bitter. We were offered cold water, which we gratefully accepted. Our friend arrived, and went to order tea and a cheese scone, having established that our coffees were really strong and bitter. My friend asked for another cup of coffee. Then things became chaotic, as teething problems became ever more evident. A couple sat next to us, but their service seemed very slow. Our third member was delivered a pot of green tea, and no milk. The waiter apologised and took it away. She caught the attention of a female wait-person, and asked for English Breakfast tea – a normal request at a café, one would have thought. But perhaps we were in Fawlty Towers territory?  The wait-person, very loudly, brought her what she called “English” tea!  Someone had asked for the loud, contemporary music to be turned down.  It was difficult to hear each other – there was lots of loud conversation going on, and there seemed to be no baffles to absorb the sound.  Our second friend saw the barista looking up a Youtube video on How To Make Coffee.  You would think they’d have trained people on using a coffee machine, the till, and clearing dirty dishes – but ours weren’t cleared for ages. The people sitting next to us had ordered cooked meals, and they seemed to take ages to arrive.  Eventually most people left, our dirty dishes were removed, and it was quiet enough to talk again.  Ah well, I guess teething troubles are to be expected, but the coffee definitely has to improve. Also, we had to negotiate a step while walking to our table. There was no “Mind the Step” sign, although there definitely should be.  My friend and I agreed to go to the movies next week, and I went home to be there for my person from Access, who usually comes at 12:30 pm. She did not turn up. Perhaps she came early? Access did not ring me. How very annoying. My early meeting for morning tea was organised around the fact that I expected her to come at her usual time, and had rushed around doing my usual tidying up before her visit.

It’s now Saturday March 4th.

This afternoon we went shopping in Thorndon. It was very busy there, and many things I wanted were missing, hard to find, or had been repackaged and rebranded. Nevertheless, I got most of what I wanted: raspberries, lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, tonic water, Jif cleaner and what used to be Spray’N’Wipe and has now been rebranded as Mr Muscle. That’s a bit annoying as I used to just buy refills, if they were cheaper (not always), and reuse the original containers. We also bought salad, yoghurt, and some apricots and nectarines. We bought some red grapes; there were no Black Doris plums; and avocadoes have gone up to $3.49.  We have to have them, now, they’ve been so good and they were so inexpensive.

It is sad that Ans Westra, the renowned photographer, has died. I’m so pleased that we saw an exhibition of some of her photographs at an art gallery in upper Cuba St, while waiting for Ombra restaurant to open.

It’s now Sunday March 5th.

Last night we watched the final episode of the current Call the Midwife series, featuring Trixie and Matthew’s wedding. There were all kinds of upsets, of course. I must say I find Trixie to be quite hard on the lovely Matthew at times. Still, it all went off rather well, although I didn’t really like Trixie’s dress. And the hen party! I didn’t have a hen party, although JD had a stag night, and, of course, the guys drove home afterwards. Back in the day.  He grazed his nose, but that, I was told, was from rather unwisely trying to climb a cliff (at our romantic but cold seaside location). Also, the pre-wedding luxury seemed far more American than English. Still, it was fun to watch, I guess.  Trixie’s brother was fun, and I loved how he said she’d forgotten her manners when the bridal flowers were delivered. Put it down to pre-wedding nerves, I suppose.

After that we switched to the movie The Heat on Te Whakaata Māori, a very long movie (3 hours) featuring Al Pacino as a detective, and Robert de Niro as a villain. It was highly rated, and a more thoughtful film, although there was a lot of shooting.  I rather enjoyed it, especially seeing Pacino and De Niro; there’s one amazing scene where they meet. There was another highly rated movie on Eden, called Prisoners, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. 

After that I slept well for me, until around 7 am, but I had a dreadful nightmare about someone taking advantage of me, and hatching an elaborate scheme to catch out the culprit, meanwhile, as usual, I was racing against the clock. Is it a good night’s sleep if you got several hours’ sleep, but still had a nightmare?  JD and I had been discussing crypto currency investments and fiascos, so perhaps my bad dream was not surprising.

There has been discussion about Roald Dahl’s books’ texts being amended.  I would have to say I have always found his texts quite scary, and the movie Matilda was no exception. However I would caution against changing any text; parental discretion is advised, I think. I remember wanting to show my 3 year old granddaughter a book of nursery rhymes my grandmother had given me, and deciding that most of them were quite inappropriate.  We all try to shield our precious children and grandchildren from harsh reality, although in reality they are learning their independence from the moment they’re outside the womb. Other people can say quite hurtful things, that a parent would never say.  At some points they have to realise that it can be a cold, hard world out there, and they can no longer be protected from it, although their parents and family will, one hopes, always love them and care about them. 

I went to church this morning. It was lovely, as usual: the organ was playing, always a treat for me; and the texts were Genesis 4: 1-4 and John’s Gospel 3: 1 – 17. The first one tells about God asking Abram to go out to a new land, and that He would bless him and make of him a great nation. Abram was 75 years old when this happened! He obeyed God, and God indeed fulfilled what had been promised.  In John’s Gospel, Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher, came to Jesus by night and asked him about being born again, and then there is the wonderful text “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal. For God has not sent his Son into the world that he may judge the world, but that the world may be saved through him”.  Nicodemus returns again in John 19:39, when he brings myrrh and aloes and he and Joseph of Arimathaea prepare Jesus’ body for burial and lay it in an empty tomb nearby.  I had not realised that Nicodemus was involved in this daunting task. So, the sermon was about faith, and answering the call of God.  In the time of witness, several spoke about answering a call for help, and sensing that God was calling them to express a practical kindness which led to speaking about God.

JD had promised to pick me up afterwards, but he was unavailable, and I’d missed the 11:12 am bus, so I went to have a cup of coffee and a cheese scone at one of my favourite cafés and had a rest while I waited for the next bus. It wasn’t cancelled, and when it came, I caught it back to Johnsonville. I had to endure the bus driver’s hymn singing recording, which I did not enjoy. I do enjoy good religious music, but not this.

There’s a team in the library providing Census support – a good move, I think. The I caught a bus home.

In the UK it seems that Prime Minister Sunak has negotiated a Northern Ireland deal with Ursula Von der Leyden, representing the European Union.  It also seems that Boris Johnson lied about this issue.  It’s very complicated, but it seems to be a reasonable good deal, although it’s attacked by Boris Johnson and the DUP.  King Charles invited Ursula for tea at Buckingham Palace; he formerly said he wouldn’t live there, but it seems that he is.  So Sunak is perhaps a more intelligent, more honest Prime Minister, despite his wealth and his previous support for Johnson.  He has Johnson trying to undermine him, which can’t be helpful.  I don’t pretend to understand the Northern Ireland situation, but it was just huge when the Good Friday Agreement was signed by Tony Blair at Leeds Castle in Kent.  We have visited Leeds Castle, too. It was cold, but enjoyable.  Before this, IRA terrorism was truly terrifying.

After this historic agreement was signed, the dreadful violence ceased for the most part. 

In the Ukraine, the war has now been going on for over a year. February 24 marked the one year anniversary of the latest beginning of military activity in that troubled country. In London, some activists painted yellow and blue, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, outside the Russian Embassy. Now, after fierce fighting and resistance, it seems the city of Bahkmut is about to fall, if not already fallen. The Russians claim it has fallen; the Deputy Mayor says that Russian forces aren’t in charge.  Brutality continues, while it’s hoped that Western support continues for the brave Ukrainians.

Here in Aotearoa Christopher Luxon has made a speech at his party conference, excoriating the Labour government’s “bloated government”. I guess people in Auckland, Northland, the Coromandel, Tairawhiti, the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay who are desperately seeking help and advice would not agree with that. He’s also announced a tax rebate for childcare costs; this latter would seem to be at odds with his “bloated government” claim. He does have trouble hitting the right note, it seems, in attacking the Labour Government. It seems that newish Prime Minister Hipkins (Chippy is much easier to say) is as good in a crisis as former Prime Minister Ardern was. He’s only been in the job for five weeks! Still, I’m sure that while one wouldn’t wish any more disasters on the next government, whichever Chris(topher) is in charge, the media will be sure to bring one to our attention – the previously looming mental health crisis, the housing crisis, or the child poverty crisis.

Oh, and apparently, George and Kelly-Anne Conway are to divorce. I guess that will surprise nobody, since their political views are so different.

Guess what! I would really like to go to a performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion this year. And there is one. The Tudor Consort are performing it at – not the MFC or St Andrew’s on The Terrace or the Catholic Basilica in Hill Street, but at Wellington College’s Gibbs Centre. Well, I’d love to go, but the acoustics there are awful, and I certainly don’t expect JD to sit through three hours of it. And I don’t expect him to drive me there and pick me up afterwards. I wouldn’t expect a friend to go with me, either. So, sadly, I’ll have to find a nice recording to listen to. I’m really disappointed by the venue. We’re almost over Covid 19 now, and I’d love to go and hear it, live, again.

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

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