A New Adventure

J W M Turner, Sun Setting over a Lake (seen at the Light from Tate exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery)

It’s now Monday May 8th, 2023. Kia ora!

I am reviewing coronation coverage, and noticing details that I had missed earlier.  I think it was such a relief that it all went so well, and that nothing except rain drizzled on the King’s parade, and of course it was very late here. While I felt immensely for King Charles III having waited 70 years for this occasion, I felt for him too being well over 70, and that this would be a physical ordeal as well as a significant occasion.  Public affection for Charles is increasing, and perhaps earlier there wouldn’t have been so much of that. Despite the disgrace of Prince Andrew and the betrayal of the Sussexes, the late Queen’s platinum jubilee, and her funeral demonstrated affection for the monarchy, and the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children have been quite superb. I watched Prince William giving a speech at the Coronation Concert, and again, I was very impressed by him.  King Charles III has been an odd cove, to be sure, but he’s older now, and seems happier and more settled. He’s been an advocate for taking better care of our environment for many years, since before it became fashionable and acceptable to do so. Of course his good qualities are being highlighted, while his quirkiness is being downplayed. But all credit to him; as one commentator noted, the British are wonderful at all this pageantry; it’s a shame they aren’t better at governing themselves.

And I have to put in a credit for Penny Mordaunt holding a the ceremonial sword of state weighing 3.6 kg for 51 minutes! And wearing high heels too!

I was impressed by the music at the coronation service: especially much of it (there was so much!)  I was also impressed by the diversity displayed by people of many different faiths and colours, all respected. There was a wonderful gospel choir which sang a Capella – three black men and three black women, all dressed in white, and dancing to their beautiful singing.  I know from experience it’s really hard for me to do more than one thing at a time: if I’m singing, it’s hard to clap, or stamp a foot, or play an instrument.

Meanwhile, in the US, there’s more carnage. In Texas, where there was a mass shooting at an outlet mall, a car has been driven into a shelter looking after migrants in Brownsville, killing 7, and injuring 10 more. 

I should admit here that I’ve listened to three podcasts on The Rest is History series about British coronations. The Rest is Politics is yet to devote an episode to this event, although they did mention it last week. I think Alistair Campbell is an avowed anti-Monarchist. 

The weekly Covid 19 report came out today. The number of new infections is even higher than last week. People are still getting ill enough to go to hospital, and to be in intensive care; people are still dying.

There were 12,277 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand in the week to midnight on Sunday and a further 30 deaths.

The 30 people added to the Covid-19 death tally brings the total number of deaths from the disease to 2792.

The number of people with the virus in hospital was 249 with 12 in intensive care.

Last week 11,063 new cases of Covid-19 were reported and a further 26 deaths were attributed to the virus.

Tuesday was to be q quiet day.  A friend called by to give me a present; one of our sons came by to do a recording of his Dad (I listened in and learnt some new things); we had lunch and then JD did some shopping. Oh, and he had dome work done on the car, early.

On Wednesday morning our next travel adventure began. I had carefully worked out what to wear, and what to pack, but it rained heavily overnight in Wellington, and there was such heavy rain in Auckland that a State of Emergency was declared. The Mayor, Wayne Brown, was of course not there but so as not to be accused of letting things get worse, he allowed a state of emergency to be declared.  It rained very heavily on the Tuesday, but neither of Auckland’s main airports was flooded.  Thus, although I had expected to wear sneaker-like shoes (with holes, and cooler than regular lace ups), and my puffer jacket, I ended up wearing stronger shoes, packing my jacket and wearing my raincoat. This made my overnight bag weigh more than 7 kg, so I checked it in. In the event I was very glad I’d worn stronger shoes – there were several puddles and lots of groundwater to be negotiated.

On Wednesday morning we got up early and one of our sons drove us to Wellington Airport. There was heavy traffic out our way, on the northern motorway and surrounding roads, but we got there in plenty of time. Although I had checked us both in online, and printed our boarding passes, we were happy to go to the premium desk and hand over our bags. Then we went through security, and up to the Air NZ Lounge.  There were a few people there, but it was pretty quiet.  We had coffee and juice and some fruit and JD had a cooked breakfast. Then we sat in comfortable chairs to await our boarding call.

Ironically, when I checked us in online I was invited to pay more for seating, so instead I chose seats that cost nothing in Row 18.  I wondered how Air NZ could charge us Business Class fares (partially refundable, whereas there was no refund for Premium Economy), and not allocate seats for the domestic flight. Someone queried our getting into the Lounge.

On the flight to Auckland, there was so much turbulence that they couldn’t serve any refreshments, so I was very glad I’d had coffee in the Lounge.

Coming off the plane, we retrieved our luggage, thankfully, and since there was only light drizzle, decided to walk to the Novotel Hotel, next to the International Airport, where we hoped to leave our luggage, if we couldn’t have access to our room. Welcome to New Zild! Kia ora!  Overseas visitors must be so amazed at this hike, which entails several road crossings, is not covered for much of the way, and involves walking through industrial areas. You can see the Novotel, but as in a tunnel, you keep seeing it without seeming to get much closer to it, and you wonder for a while whether it’s closer to go backwards or forwards.  Apparently the Airport shuttle is supposed to run every 15 minutes, but we did not see one. Anyway, to catch the bus, we would have had to lug the baggage on somehow, so it seemed better to walk with a baggage trolley while it was not raining heavily.

At the Novotel they were able to give us our room straightaway – it was by now almost 12 noon, so that was a relief. JD had a shower before our next adventure.

Then we did go into the city, to the Auckland Art Gallery. We had lunch there, and then bought tickets to an amazing exhibition: Light from Tate.  There were several paintings by J M W Turner, one of my favourite artists, and two paintings by Monet and some by Alfred Sisley.  I was so pleased to see this exhibition!  It seemed a marvellous start to our next adventure.  We also looked at some other art works in the galley too, before returning to the Novotel. By now it had stopped raining and it was sunny.

We had dinner at the Hotel. They have a big dining area, but it was very busy, so we were glad we’d booked, although I must admit I found the repeated  emails from Accor very annoying. Would I like to check in online? No, I’m actually quite busy, but then I did so in order that the room wouldn’t be a given to someone else. Would I like to upgrade? No, I would not.  This necessitated another printout, three pages odd; then another message comes noticing I haven’t booked for dinner or breakfast. No, I’m keeping my options open, although there’s really nowhere else to eat except the Airport, where it’s probably very expensive and not very nice.

Actually the restaurant was very good; it’s á la carte now, rather than buffet; I had something vegetarian and JD had very nice chicken schnitzel.  Afterwards we both had dessert: I had a delicious pear poached in Syrah with passionfruit curd, vanilla ice cream and a piece of shortbread. JD had chocolate tart with hokey pokey ice cream. The menu listed ingredients in Māori as well as English, making each item rather long and complicated. But the food we had was delicious. There was a thunderstorm outside, and we hoped it wouldn’t affect our flight the next morning.

The next morning we were due to be at the International Airport by 7:20 am. I had set the alarm for 6:10 am, but we were both awake at 5:30, and consequently had plenty of time.

We checked out of the Novotel. Their computer system was down, so they promised to send our invoice by email. As we hadn’t paid for dinner, but they’d put a $100 hold on JD’s credit card, we had to trust them over that. It was really cold and wet! Forget sunny, hot Auckland – it’s been cold and wet on my two recent visits.

Auckland International Airport was extremely busy, with many people checking in for overseas flights.  There was a premium check in for our flight, but it just meant joining another queue; we queued up to use a kiosk, but our boarding couldn’t be completed: we did get baggage tags, but no boarding passes.  There seemed to be some kerfuffle about entry to Taiwan. So I pulled out records of our online visa exempt entries, while we queued up to speak to a Live Human Being, who couldn’t see anything wrong with our documentation. She printed our boarding passes, and we handed our luggage to a baggage hand-off point. It all seemed very make-shift, and then we read a notice that Air NZ were doing repairs after some recent flood damage, and please would we bear with them; or look forward to next time.

We got though security all right, but I was really hungry by this time, and desperate to get to the Air NZ lounge. But there was a Travel Ex bureau, and JD wanted to get some foreign cash. There was a queue for that of course, and nowhere to sit down. Every transaction seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. I wandered through the One Loop Duty Free store, but there was really nothing I wanted to buy; things I might have bought were not much cheaper there, anyway. Eventually JD got his cash, and we made our way through this Duty Free store to the lounge. You had to go upstairs – there was an escalator, and a warning that the lounge was very full. There was a couple in front of us taking ages. Eventually, we scanned our boarding passes, and went in.  It was indeed it was very busy. It was huge lounge, but although some seats were unoccupied, there were no two seats together. By this time I was really losing my rag; we ended up sitting at a table on stools, not my favourite seating arrangement by any means, but at least they weren’t high stools.  Many people were eating a cooked breakfast with those revolting small sausages (revolting to me, anyway). JD went off to get  fruit, toast and coffee. My Air NZ app on my phone has asked me if I wanted to order coffee – I could now see why!  We had to wait ages for the coffee, which is a long way away from the food: why, I wonder?  JD came back with some toast, fruit and fruit juice, and one knife. He then proceeded to butter his toast with the one knife before going to see if the coffee was ready yet. I proceeded to butter my toast, and enjoy it with peanut butter, marmalade and jam. What a relief, to have something to eat at last. I took my meds, and eventually the coffee arrived. By then the lounge had emptied out a bit with some boarding calls being made.  We were able to sit at a proper table to enjoy our coffee, and then we moved to armchairs, although there wasn’t a newspaper in sight (I really wanted one).

Our boarding call was supposed to come at 9:55 am; we were asked to stay in this lounge until it was made; and it didn’t come.  Meanwhile, a very friendly couple sat down beside us and engaged in conversation. I then got texts from Air NZ to say that our flight had been delayed until 10:30 am.  Eventually we got the call, and took the down escalator to join the hoi polloi in making our way to Gate 6. On the way, we passed a Relay store, and I bought a copy of the NZ Herald, after having some trouble locating it. It didn’t have a target, by the way!

Then there wasn’t long to wait before we got our boarding call and our next adventure truly began.

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

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