And so it goes…

It’s now Saturday May 21st, 2022. Kia ora!

This morning it was very cold. There was some condensation in our house.  Later in the day, it was sunny and fine. We went to the supermarket in Thorndon, and although I couldn’t get the salads I wanted, I bought some raspberries, feijoas, bread, pies and cakes, lettuce, and beefsteak tomatoes. It was very busy at the store; thankfully people are still wearing masks.

Today’s Covid 19 report isn’t too bad, athough two Auckland secondary schools have reintroduced mask wearing. Apparently Eric Clapton, who refused the vaccine, and so far escaped the coronavirus, now has covid 19 and has had to cancel some planned concerts. He’s 75, evidently, and still performing. Today there are 6,635 new community cases, and there’ve been 6 deaths.

The deaths included two people in the Auckland region and one each in Northland, Taranaki, Canterbury and the Southern regions. One of those who died was in their 60s, two were in their 70s, two were in their 80s and one was over 90.

It’s reported that the 400 people in hospital include 10 people in Northland, 38 in Waitemata, 39 in Counties Manukau, 80 in Auckland, 38 in Waikato, 10 in Bay of Plenty, two in Lakes, one in Tairāwhiti, 14 in Hawke’s Bay, 12 in Taranaki, four in Whanganui, 11 in Mid Central, two Wairarapa, five in Hutt Valley, 17 in Capital and Coast, eight in Nelson Marlborough, 61 in Canterbury, 10 in South Canterbury, two in West Coast and 36 in Southern. There are 12 people in intensive care, and the average age of those in hospital is 61. The Topp twins have tested  positive for Covid 19, as well as both having cancer.  Many people that had escaped Covid 19 up till now, are now catching it.

The location of today’s new community cases are Northland (194), Auckland (2222), Waikato (527), Bay of Plenty (205), Lakes (121), Hawke’s Bay (255), Mid Central (190), Whanganui (94), Taranaki (172), Tairāwhiti (57), Wairarapa (67), Capital and Coast (466), Hutt Valley (177), Nelson Marlborough (206), Canterbury (985), South Canterbury (106), Southern (519), West Coast (67) and five were yet to be linked. There are also 85 imported cases.

The war in Ukraine – has stalled, perhaps?  There are terrible videos about of wounded people; tragic stories of bereavements; stories about Putin having cancer, and about plots to roll him; whatever’s going on there, there’s no doubt that Russian troops have wrought immense destruction and death, and I doubt that Putin’s going to pick up the pieces and make things better any time soon. All this tragedy and turmoil is quite unnecessary. George (Dubya) Bush made an extraordinary gaffe when he spoke to a university recently, citing the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq”; oh, he meant Ukraine. And then he had the nerve to giggle about this Freudian slip. Well, we know it wasn’t his decision alone – then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney and lots of US journalists helped him make the decision, but I remember the huge protests in London and other places that accompanied this decision; the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair went along with this “boots and all”.  There was a British scandal, too – remember the “sexed up” dossier”, and the suicide of Dr David Kelly. At the time I thought, as did many others, that Dubya was the worst ever president of the US. He was later to comment that Donald Trump made his presidency look better, and, of course, it did, although that’s not saying much. I remember someone who lived in the US calling the invasion of Iraq “the end of US hegemony” (what a beautiful word hegemony is).   Well. they did topple Saddam Hussein, but there were no WMDs there. Many US and UK troops died needlessly,  and thousands more Iraqis died needlessly and had their way of life totally disrupted. There was no Plan B, about how Iraq would be administered after the war, or how many US troops would stay there (I believe there’re still some there). Instead, we got ISIS.

Also in the US, more texts have been released from Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, showing that she urged Arizona legislators to deliver an alternate slate of electors to the Electoral College, to show that Trump has won Arizona rather than Biden. Will any of these people be held accountable? It doesn’t look like it.

We spoke to our son in the UK; he has recently visited Lithuania. He commented that it was very clean, in a rather Scandinavian way, with a huge sense of history. We spoke about the Polish-Lithuanian Empire, which I have been reading about. The history of Europe is so interesting, and down here we are so very far away! 

During the evening I watched results of the Australian General Election, as the votes were counted.  Labour seemed to be doing well, when you looked at one view of the outcome; other views had Labour and the Coalition (National and Liberal) very close.

It’s now Sunday May 22nd.

I woke up at 1:40 am this morning, but thankfully went back to sleep until 7 am. Then I saw that the Labour Party have won the Australian election, and Antony Albanese will be the next Prime Minister. I also saw that the odious Josh Frydenberg’s, (the former Treasurer), seat is in danger, with the result too close to call at that stage. I gather the Greens have done quite well, which is a relief, considering that Australia has been quite terrible in addressing climate change.

It was very cold this morning; thankfully the windows weren’t too steamed up.

I had church in Wadestown this morning, but I zoomed in along with a few others.  JD was too busy to take me there, and there’s no good public transport options for getting home. It was sunny later in the day, but didn’t really warm up properly. In the winter, even if it’s sunny for a bit, the days are so much shorter that I’m glad of winter woollies.

Today’ Covid 19 report was much better, with less than 5,000 new community cases reported (4,990), and 10 deaths. There are 379 people in hospital, and 9 in Intensive Care. It’s reported that the average age of current hospitalisations is 62 (that’s pretty much the norm).

 The cases reported were spread as follows: Northland (140), Auckland (1693), Waikato (353), Bay of Plenty (165), Lakes (88), Hawke’s Bay (166), MidCentral (182), Whanganui (62), Taranaki (137), Tairāwhiti (27), Wairarapa (58), Capital and Coast (351), Hutt Valley (134), Nelson Marlborough (165), Canterbury (799), South Canterbury (84), Southern (344), West Coast (36), Unknown (6). There were 60 new imported cases.

The disease of Monkeypox is going around, with slowly increasing numbers in some countries.  I read a long article about it, but I find my questions unanswered: if you’ve had chicken pox as a child, or been vaccinated against it, or had the shingles vaccine (Zostavax, free for people over 65), are you immune to monkeypox?  From the photographs, it causes a rash of skin pustules, a but larger than chickenpox ones.  I don’t know if it leaves scars like smallpox.

I later find out it’s more like small pox than chicken pox or shingles; sexual contact is one of the main means of transmission.

It’s now Monday May 23rd.

It’s a beautiful fine day today, and not too cold a start. I walked up to the store and back to get some croissants for lunch. When I woke early this morning I listened to the newly released podcast Will be Wild. Man, it quite upset me. I had listened to an episode on the Skulduggery podcast where the authors had spoken about their new podcast, about the events leading up to the riot on January 6 2021. I found it shocking indeed, horrifying.

This afternoon I had my ears suctioned; I had them syringed years ago; now they do suctioning. My GP thought it would be a good idea, and so it was.  It was a little uncomfortable at the time, rather like being at the dentist’s; but I’m glad I had it done.

Today’s Covid 19 report is good-good, although Wellington mayor Andy Foster has Covid 19. Today there are 6,000 new community cases, and there’ve been 9 deaths. There are 363 people in hospital, and 14 in Intensive Care.

It’s reported that cases were broken into regions like this: Northland (158), Auckland (2053), Waikato (463), Bay of Plenty (206), Lakes (77), Hawke’s Bay (163), Mid Central (196), Whanganui (85), Taranaki (179), Tairāwhiti (27), Wairarapa (45), Capital and Coast (444), Hutt Valley (181), Nelson Marlborough (230), Canterbury (878) South Canterbury (90), Southern (461), West Coast (62), Unknown (2). There were 58 new imported cases.

It’s now Wednesday May 25th.

Yesterday I met a friend and we visited the Fine Arts Academy, where there is a wonderful exhibition until 12 June. There are paintings by Charlotte Hird, Vivienne Manthel-French, Philip Markham and others. There are some beautiful paintings, and more lovely things in the gift shop. I would very much like to visit it again. Afterwards, we had lunch at a nearby café, but it was just on midday and very busy there.

This morning it was very cold, but later a fine, sunny day.

This morning I went to hymn singing – lovely, as always. Thankfully I didn’t get a frog in my throat as I sometimes do. Afterwards, I caught a bus into town and had a cup of coffee and a cheese scone. Afterwards, I walked to a cinema where I saw Operation Mincemeat – a very good film.  Pardon my ignorance but I did not know that the British invaded southern Sicily in 1943.  This was a complicated operation to deceive Hitler; Churchill, of course, loved it. I guess the movie showed the intricacy of planning such an operation, and the human side of it too.  Colin Firth, Matthew McFadyen and Jonny Flynn starred; Penelope Wilton too. Jonny Flynn, who played Mr Knightly in the latest film of Emma, starred as Ian Fleming. I enjoyed the film, but I think JD would have hated it, so I didn’t feel guilty about seeing it alone. There were I think 4 other adults in the theatre.

Meanwhile, there’s been another school shooting in – where else – the US, this time in Texas, in an elementary school. Nineteen children have died and two adults. The numbers keep going up. Apparently the gunman, a teenager, is dead. This follows a recent shooting at Buffalo, where ten people died, and it seems this was definitely a hate crime, where the teenage shooter set out to kill black people.

Before this latest tragedy, President Biden said the US would defend Taiwan if China attacked. This has caused a general freak out: another Biden gaffe; why, I wonder? Biden has done a marvellous job of unifying support for Ukraine against the Russian attack, without committing any US forces to the special military action; why shouldn’t he do the same for Taiwan? This was no gaffe, in my view.

In New Zealand, the governor of the Reserve Bank has raised the OCR to 2%.  I thought the OCR announcement was made on a Thursday. Now it’s evidently on Wednesday.

Today’s Covid 19 report is as follows: there are officially 8,150 new cases, and it’s reported that omicron sub-variant BA. 2.12.1 has been detected. This case does not have a direct link to the border.  There are 368 people in hospital, including 11 in Intensive Care. There have been 11 deaths.

Of the 11 deaths reported, two were from the Auckland region, one from Waikato, two from Taranaki, one from Hawke’s Bay, one from MidCentral, three from Canterbury, and one from Southern. One person was aged under 10, one was in their 30s, one was in their 60s, one was in their 70s, three were in their 80s, and four were aged over 90.

It was announced yesterday that New Zealand would stay at the Orange level.  The Hon Chris Hipkins predicts that New Zealand will have another wave of omicron. There were a number of public transport cancellations today, because of staff sickness.

There is worldwide concern about monkeypox, which is spreading around the world, but it is not thought to be as infectious, or pose as much of a threat, as the coronavirus.

In the US elections today, Brian Kemp won his primary election against the Trump-endorsed Brian Purdue; when I looked, Brad Raffensberger was ahead of his competitors for Secretary of State; and Herschel Walker had also won his primary. Perhaps there are chances here for democrats after all.

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

The Charge

The Crimean War of 1854

Today is Tuesday Mat 17th, 2022. Kia ora!

Yesterday I went to a friend’s house for lunch.  It was lovely.  I feel at present that I don’t have much to write about, however in the afternoon I read more of the Stalingrad book. It is such a wonderful novel:  for years, I had thought that the Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 was very scary and effective. But it seems it was not; the German victories were Pyrrhic ones, in that while they kept on “winning”, as they moved east, in fact they were gravely stretching their supply lines, and the troops were ill-clad and ill-supplied. In the end, of course, the Russians (well supplied by Allied forces) won.

Now I am watching the success of Ukrainian forces against the Russian invasion:  there is such irony here, in that the brave defence of the Ukrainians against the ill-timed and ill-equipped invasion of the much-vaunted Russian troops parallels in many ways the ill-judged German invasion of Russia.

This morning I learned that one third of Russia’s forces have been destroyed; that Ukrainian forces are entering Russia north of Kharkiv; that there is fierce fighting around Izyum, which the Russians have taken; that there have been more evacuations from Mariupol (which has still not surrendered; and there’s more evidence in Bucha of Russian shooting of civilians. The Ukrainians deliberately flooded a village to prevent Russian military access; and while Ukrainians reported the use of phosphorus bombs in Mariupol, the Telegraph podcast reports that these were probably mistaken for incendiary devices.

In Covid 19 news, the NZ Prime Minister Ardern is still unwell. Phil Twyford has tested positive as well. Australia has a very high number of cases – I think it was 55,000 on Sunday, although you’d struggle sometimes to get this news. Mind you, there have been deaths and hospitalisations and even some on ventilators there. In New Zealand, we’ve had no one on a ventilator since the initial outbreak.  JD took a RAT test on Sunday evening, and I took one on Monday morning – both were negative, thankfully. I didn’t take one because I had symptoms, but because I’d been out and about, and was to visit a friend’s house.

Yesterday there were 7,061 new cases 0f Covid 19, and 5 deaths. There were 415 cases in hospital, and ? in Intensive Care. It was also reported that of the deaths, 3 people were from the Southern region, 1 was from Auckland and 1 was from Bay of Plenty. 1 person was in their 50s, 1 person was in their 70s, and 3 were aged over 90. Of these people, 3 were women and 2 were men.

In North Korea, there’ve been more deaths – 50 odd, this far. It’s feared that over 1 million people have been infected.  I just competed a survey about concert attendance, and I have to say I don’t feel nearly as safe as I did in 2020, when we both enjoyed going to several concert performances.  The seating in the Michael Fowler Centre is very cramped – like being on an aeroplane; so I wouldn’t choose to go there at present.  Perhaps if mask-wearing were enforced, and they used every second row, I might consider it.

Today’s Covid 19 report is more serious than yesterday’s. Today there are 9,843 new cases, and eight deaths have been reported. There are 421 people in hospital, and 10 in Intensive Care.

Of the eight people whose deaths the ministry reported on Tuesday, three were from the Southern region, two from Auckland, two from Northland, and one from Canterbury. One person was aged in their 60s, four people were in their 70s, and three were aged over 90. Of these people, four were women and four were men.

It’s reported that the location of new community cases was Northland (288), Auckland (3442), Waikato (792), Bay of Plenty (342), Lakes (185), Hawke’s Bay (361), MidCentral (339), Whanganui (105), Taranaki (291), Tairāwhiti (90), Wairarapa (87), Capital and Coast (600), Hutt Valley (249), Nelson Marlborough (320), Canterbury (1305), South Canterbury (177), Southern (781), West Coast (83), Unknown (6). Nationwide, the seven-day rolling average of community case numbers on Tuesday was 7795 – last Tuesday it was 7927. There were 63 new imported (i.e.  from overseas) cases.

The numbers I’m watching most closely are those from Hawkes Bay (361) ad Wellington (600). That’s a concerning rise.  I haven’t had a report from Hohepa for a few weeks now. It seems that we’re well and truly in for more sickness, whether it be flu or Covid 19. 

Meanwhile, the Heretaunga Wing at Hutt Hospital has been declared an earthquake risk, and must be evacuated; in Hawkes Bay, a ward has been placed in lockdown to prevent the spread of the highly contagious norovirus, and at Southland Hospital in Invercargill more than one ward has been closed to visitors because of multiple Covid 19 exposures.  It’s reported that two patients, one on the rehabilitation ward and another on the medical ward, both tested positive on Friday followed by two more, one in each ward. Two patients on the surgical ward have also since tested positive. There are restrictions in other areas of the hospital also. In the US, Stephen Colbert is back – he did have Covid 19, and was getting better when he fell ill again. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel has it – again.

In Ukraine, the last besieged fighters (more than 260) have left Mariupol, it’s reported. Does that mean they’ve conceded defeat?

It’s now Wednesday May 18th.

This morning I got up early and went to hymn singing. It was lovely, as always. Afterwards I had morning tea and wrote to my daughter; as the shop filled up, I was happy to leave and catch the bus into town.  I went to David Jones, but evidently they’ve been having a sale for some time now, and lots of things have gone. I didn’t see anything I wanted to buy there. The I walked to Unity Books, where I did buy something – a book about Persia, (a history of ancient Persia) with beautiful coloured photographs. Then I met my cousin for lunch at a café which was almost empty. I had a very nice omelette. Then I caught a full bus home. Thankfully, the bus emptied out and I was able to sit well away from other passengers.

Tomorrow I have singing again.

Todays’ Covid 19 report wasn’t great. There are 9,570 new cases of Covid 19, and there’ve been 32 new deaths. That takes the total to over 1,000. There are 425 people in hospital, and 9 in Intensive Care.

Of the 32 people whose deaths the ministry reported on Wednesday, two people were from Northland; nine from the Auckland region; two from Bay of Plenty; two from Taranaki; one from Tairāwhiti; four from MidCentral; two from Hawke’s Bay; three from the Wellington region; one from Nelson-Marlborough; four from Canterbury and two from Southern. One person was in their 20s; four people were in their 40s; two in their 50s; four in their 60s; nine in their 70s; nine in their 80s and three were aged over 90. Of these people, 10 were women and 22 were men.

The location of Wednesday’s new community cases was Northland (273), Auckland (3,297), Waikato (742), Bay of Plenty (307), Lakes (173), Hawke’s Bay (304), MidCentral (318), Whanganui (124), Taranaki (283), Tairāwhiti (82), Wairarapa (91), Capital and Coast (642), Hutt Valley (241), Nelson Marlborough (314), Canterbury (1,368), South Canterbury (155), Southern (737), West Coast (112), Unknown (7).

Nationwide, the seven-day rolling average of community case numbers on Wednesday was 8024 – last Wednesday it was 7533. So the numbers are inching upwards. There were 91 new imported cases.

It’s now Thursday May 19th. This morning I listened to a very interesting interview between Dan Carlin (of Hardcore History fame) and Barry Strauss about the battle of Actium (in 31 B.C.), which heralded the change of Roman government from a republic to an empire under the Emperor Augustus (formerly Octavian). This was so absorbing I was almost late to singing.

Singing was very enjoyable, as always. We do so enjoy our time together.  We sang some beautiful songs, including ABBA’s SOS, Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game, and Will you still love me tomorrow.  Afterwards JD met me and we had lunch at La Cloche, always enjoyable. Quiche, salad, French fries and a long black coffee – delicious. We got home to find another LRB has arrived. I have so much to read and to listen to at present.

Today’s coronavirus report is as follows: there are 9,091 new community cases; there have been 5 further deaths. There are 411 in hospital, and 12 in Intensive Care. The increase in numbers continues to be worrying. I can’t find the figures now, but Wellington (not the Hutt Valley) had 595 new cases, and I think Hawkes Bay had about 259. Somebody died in Wellington.

It’s now Friday May 20th.

Early this morning was the thunderstorm we were promised yesterday. Yesterday we had wind, rain and stormy weather; this morning we had lots of thunder and lightning. I listened to a Skulduggery podcast, where the hosts spoke to the two hosts of the new “Will be Wild” podcast. This has just been released and goes over the events of the US Capitol riot on January 6 2021.Once again, I am very depressed about all this, hearing more information about the dreadful events leading up to that fateful day.

A new issue of the LRB arrived yesterday. I read an article about the refugees arriving in Poland from Ukraine. They are mainly women and children, because men are required to stay in Ukraine and fight. Many of these women are particularly vulnerable to male crooks, American evangelists, and the Polish government’s archaic attitude towards abortion, despite many cases of rape, by both invading Russian troops, and those who would seek to exploit woman and teenage girls.  I also read an article about grain supplies disrupted by the war; many countries used to buy grain from Russia and/or Ukraine. These supplies have been hugely disrupted, as countries sought to recover from the effects of climate change or the coronavirus pandemic, or both. Egypt is particularly badly affected.

This morning one of my sons and his two children visited; then someone came from Access to do some cleaning.

I read more LRB articles: about the war in the Crimea in the 1850’s: who (of my era!) can forget Tennyson’s poem, of the 1968 film, The Charge of the Light Brigade (where British troops looked particularly incompetent). It’s reproduced below  I also read an article about the Italian commander Rodolfo Graziani, in the Second World War. I remembered there is a podcast about him too. I had never heard of Graziani before, but I doubt I will forget his brutality in Ethiopia in 1937 (after an assassination attempt) after this. He and Mussolini also took many valuables from Ethiopia with them.

Today’s Covid 19 report is as follows: today there were 7,800 new community cases of Covid 19, and 17 deaths were reported. Among them, 3 people died in Wellington, one in Hawkes Bay. There are 401 people in hospital, and 14 in Intensive Care.  In Wellington, there are 530 new cases; in Hawkes Bay there are 270. In Australia, people are still dying in large numbers, there are many in hospital, and some on ventilators.  You can look up the totals each day on the ABC news website. In North Korea, there are 2 million cases, and the leader is not best pleased.

In Ukraine, hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers have been taken to Russia, Russia announces; the Ukrainians are invading Belgorod, in Russia; some refugees are returning to western Ukraine, brave souls, to their ruined homes.  I don’t really know what’s going on there. The US Senate, despite their internal political hassles, have approved a large aid package – I think it’s 33 Billion US dollars.

That’s it for now. Thank goodness we have RAT tests!  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON

I

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,

All in the valley of Death

   Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!

Charge for the guns!” he said.

Into the valley of Death

   Rode the six hundred.

II

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”

Was there a man dismayed?

Not though the soldier knew

   Someone had blundered.

   Theirs not to make reply,

   Theirs not to reason why,

   Theirs but to do and die.

   Into the valley of Death

   Rode the six hundred.

III

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon in front of them

   Volleyed and thundered;

Stormed at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,

Into the jaws of Death,

Into the mouth of hell

   Rode the six hundred.

IV

Flashed all their sabres bare,

Flashed as they turned in air

Sabring the gunners there,

Charging an army, while

   All the world wondered.

Plunged in the battery-smoke

Right through the line they broke;

Cossack and Russian

Reeled from the sabre stroke

   Shattered and sundered.

Then they rode back, but not

   Not the six hundred.

V

Cannon to right of them,

Cannon to left of them,

Cannon behind them

   Volleyed and thundered;

Stormed at with shot and shell,

While horse and hero fell.

They that had fought so well

Came through the jaws of Death,

Back from the mouth of hell,

All that was left of them,

   Left of six hundred.

VI

When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

   All the world wondered.

Honour the charge they made!

Honour the Light Brigade,

   Noble six hundred!

Accountability

Ukraine is to hold a war crimes trial. In the US, males who sire unborn children are nowhere to be seen.

Today is Tuesday May 10th, 2022. Kia ora.

This morning I met an old friend for coffee. The café where we had agreed to meet was closed, so we went to another one. It was quiet when we first went there, and we had a lovely time.

The rest of the day has been very quiet. The Covid 19 report was worse than yesterday’s: there are 9,173 new community cases and there’ve been 14 deaths. There are 385 people in hospital, and 13 in Intensive Care. There have now been over one million cases in New Zealand: that’s about one in five.

Of the 14 deaths reported on Tuesday, six were aged in their 70s, three were in their 80s and five were over 90. Six of those people were from Canterbury, two were from Auckland and one each were from Northland, Waikato, MidCentral, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Southern DHBs.

It’s reported that the new community cases are as located as follows: Northland (265), Auckland (2945), Waikato (625), Bay of Plenty (254), Lakes (175), Hawke’s Bay (274), MidCentral (348), Whanganui (97), Taranaki (255), Tairāwhiti (75), Wairarapa (105), Capital and Coast (600), Hutt Valley (264), Nelson Marlborough (339), Canterbury (1397), South Canterbury (164), Southern (889) and West Coast (98). The location of four cases is unknown.

Wellington is seeing more cases this week than last week.

It’s reported that Russia held a march in Moscow yesterday for Victory Day, with no fly-past. Putin made a very odd speech, blaming the West for his invasion of Ukraine.  He didn’t look well, and had a blanket over his legs. In Ukraine, Dr Jill Biden has visited Kyiv, and also Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. The misery grinds on. 

In the US, there is still a great deal of talk about the Supreme Court draft decision to revoke Roe v Wade, depriving women of the right to an abortion. I am still amazed that there is no talk of male responsibility. I know some men are very upset if their partner chooses not to go ahead with a pregnancy, but in all these discussions male responsibility is not discussed at all – “My body, my choice” is therefore a logical conclusion for American women.

I was further amazed when listening to The Bulwark podcast, when Charlie Sykes reiterated his opposition to democrat proposals to cancel student debt.  He sees no connection between the two issues. Most people see having a good education as a key towards bettering one’s opportunities, but if poorer women have to bear and raise children they can’t afford, it’s extremely unlikely that those children will get a good education.  In my opinion, Americans have very black and white views about issues, whereas most issues are very grey, with all kinds of different viewpoints on them. 

It’s now Wednesday May 11th.

This morning I went to hymn singing. It was heartening, as always. Afterwards I was going to catch a bus into town, but the bus wasn’t at the stop till well after 10 am, but it did turn up. I had my first long black coffee for the day in town, with a toasted cheese scone.  It is much cooler today – closer to 10 degrees C. Today’s Covid 19 report is not so good. There are officially 7,970 new community cases, and there’ve been 28 further deaths.  There are 381 people in hospital, and 10 of them are in Intensive Care. 77 cases were identified at the border, but the borders are to fully open earlier than expected. In Auckland, one high large school (Albany Junior High School) has taken up online learning again, seeing that they have 200 students impacted by omicron.

It’s reported that of the new cases, 2633 were in Auckland. The rest were in Northland (252), Waikato (594), Bay of Plenty (254), Lakes (151), Hawke’s Bay (256), MidCentral (261), Whanganui (95), Taranaki (209), Tairāwhiti (75), Wairarapa (87), Capital and Coast (498), Hutt Valley (190), Nelson Marlborough (282), Canterbury (1172), South Canterbury (152), Southern (744), West Coast (62), Unknown (3). So those numbers are not decreasing as fast as we would have hoped.

Of the cases in hospital, 167 were in Auckland. The rest were spread across Northland: eight; Waikato: 44; Bay of Plenty: 17; Lakes: 5; Tairāwhiti: 1; Hawke’s Bay: 14; Taranaki: 10; Whanganui: 1; MidCentral: 23; Wairarapa: 1; Hutt Valley: 4; Capital and Coast: 12; Nelson Marlborough: 6; Canterbury: 44; South Canterbury: 2; West Coast: 4; Southern: 18. The average age of those in hospital is currently 60. Eleven of the deaths of people with Covid-19 were in their 80s, eight were in their 70s, five were in their 90s, two were in their 60s, one was in their 50s and another was in their 40s. 12 in Wellington! 

In the US Bill Gates has Covid 19, and New York Governor Kathy Hochl has Covid 19. Journalist and author John Dickerson and his family have had Covid 19. We all know lots of people who have had Covid 19. But you can get it again. No one in my immediate family has had it so far, but it has come very close.

In the US, the reaction to the leaked Supreme Court decision drags on. It transpires that one of the reasons for the decision to overturn Roe is that the stock of babies to adopt is very low, way below the demand. 

It’s now Saturday, May 14th.

On Thursday morning I had singing.  It was very enjoyable; we had a committee meeting afterwards.  After that I got a lift into town and bought some more corduroy trousers – they had a special with 30% off everything. Then I caught a bus home. After school, two of my grandchildren visited, and we attempted to tidy up the yard with sweeping and gathering up leaves into the rubbish bin or into plastic bags (dry-cleaner covers). It was fine and warm outside, but I found it hard not to pull weeds out as well as tidying up.

On Friday someone came from Access to do some cleaning.  I changed the sheets and towels. Afterwards we went into town to pick up a delivery, and had a delicious lunch at the Tasting Room. Although it was quite late, they were happy to feed us, and there were few people there. I enjoyed it.

Today we had lunch at Gipps St Deli.  I do like their quiche – the custardy filling reminds me of the baked custard my mother used to make, a flavour and texture I’ve been unable to replicate.  We had nice salad too, and I had a beautiful cup of coffee. On our way back, we stopped in Brandon St so that I could change the trousers I’d bought at Farmers.  It was raining, and there was lots of traffic. After this, we stopped at the supermarket in Thorndon, which, again, was super busy. There were no potato topped pies left, and they didn’t have my favourite salad, but we did get more feijoas and coffee beans. The kind staff were allowed to pack our goods again – which is much appreciated. It has been raining off-and-on all day, and much cooler than previously.

The Covid 19 report is so-so; sadly, Prime Minister Ardern and her daughter have tested positive for Covid 19. A good friend of ours in Auckland has tested positive for Covid 19, and has recovered. Today there are officially 7,068 new cases, and there’ve been 18 further deaths. There are 398 people in  hospital, and 8 of them are in Intensive Care.

Of the new cases, it’s reported that  2409 were in Auckland, and the rest were in Northland (202), Waikato (507), Bay of Plenty (200), Lakes (120), Hawke’s Bay (219), MidCentral (237), Whanganui (55), Taranaki (198), Tairāwhiti (57), Wairarapa (75), Capital and Coast (459), Hutt Valley (228), Nelson Marlborough (209), Canterbury (1,096), South Canterbury (105), Southern (619), West Coast (69), and Unknown (4).

Of the deaths reported on Saturday, two people were from Northland; four were from Auckland; three were from Waikato, one was from Lakes DHB, two were from MidCentral, two were from the Wellington region, one was from the West Coast, one was from Canterbury, one was from South Canterbury and one was from Southern. One person was in their 40s, one was in their 60s, five were in their 70s, five were in their 80s and six were aged over 90. Of these people, nine were women and nine were men.

That’s still an alarming number of new cases, and an alarming number of deaths, although the numbers of those hospitalised or in Intensive Care has reduced significantly. I guess we were hoping that numbers of new cases and deaths would have reduced more than this by now.

In Ukraine, the news of Ukrainian forces’ achievements continues to be amazing. Yesterday I heard that Russian forces had attempted to build a pontoon bridge and were transporting equipment across it, only to be attacked by Ukrainian forces; the Russian equipment was greatly damaged, if not destroyed, and many Russian soldiers (Ukraine claims 1,000) were lost. It seems that Ukrainian forces are making great strides, but Russian forces are focussing on Eastern Ukraine, and their brutality continues.  Putin has threatened to cut the supply of electricity to Finland in retaliation for its joining NATO. Sweden intends to join too.  The President of Turkey has expressed reservations about this. Ukraine has reportedly taken back more towns that Russian forces occupied; the Russians seem now to be concentrating on the Donbas area in eastern Ukraine. The BBC reports that Russian forces have been driven out of Kharkiv.  Senator Mitch McConnell has visited Kyiv.

North Korea has finally admitted to a Covid 19/omicron epidemic. First there was one case, then 2 deaths, then 5 deaths and thousands of cases; now 21 deaths. It seems their population is unvaccinated. Leader Kim Jong Un has called it a time of “great turmoil”. They have limited testing capabilities, too, it’s reported. A lockdown has been imposed, which will no doubt cause huge problems in a country which already has trouble feeding itself.

It’s now Sunday May 15th

This morning there was quite a strong earthquake felt in Wellington, centered to the east of Kapiti Island. There was an initial light shake, followed by an alert on my phone to expect more shaking, and then immediately there was some quite strong shaking.

This morning I attended church via zoom.  They were due to have visitors today, and the omicron numbers are rising, so I chose not to go in person. I think the organist was having a day off too.

That’s it for now. I have discovered that I missed the Scandi Film Festival. I am determined to show brave and go to some of the French Film Festival films. Last year most of them were wonderful.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

A Pyrrhic Victory

Representation of a Pyrrhic Victory

It’s now Friday May 6, 2022. Kia ora.

I’m receiving a Morning Briefing from the New York Times, which I’ve recently signed up for. Unfortunately, I can’t keep it or save it; I get an alert in the morning; once I move away from that image, I haven’t figured out a way to go back to it. But it’s very informative; I find it most useful.

The briefing tells me that in Ukraine, Mariupol is still holding out, with 200 civilians in the Azovstal steel plane there, and some Ukrainian troops. The rest of the civilians have been evacuated. A former employee told the Russians how to get into the plant, which has rambling networks of underground tunnels and bunkers. Desperate hand-to-hand fighting is going on there, I gather.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed a village near Kharkiv, and thus pushed Russian forces back and prevented their access. This is seen as a strategic move. India is reported to be buying oil from Russia at low prices. In Iraq, there is a terrible dust storm.

In China, there’s a lot of Covid 19 testing going on – presumably, it’s PCR testing. China is clinging to its covid-zero policy, despite unrest in Shanghai; it’s citizens aren’t allowed out of their homes to protest.

In the US, a sub-variant of the BA.2 variant of the omicron variant of Covid 19 is known as BA2.12.1, apparently. It seems that while several people were infected with Covid 19 after a grid-iron dinner, several more became infected after the White House Correspondent’s dinner. I do hope President Biden doesn’t get this – although if Nancy Pelosi and HM Queen Elizabeth can get it and recover, I guess there’s hope for Joe Biden.

There’s ongoing anger at the Supreme Court (draft) decision to rescind Roe v Wade, allowing legal abortion in the US; it’s now feared that they’ll go after not only abortion medication, but also contraceptives themselves.  Back to the future, girls and women;  how many supposed rights did we win, only to see them being dismantled – politically correct speech, while frustrating, was far better than “free speech”; violence is not, ever, ok; scientists can make mistakes but their proofs are far safer than hunches or hearsay; and many of us preferred some segregation – having separate restrooms, or hospital wards. I remember the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, where they had blue or pink above each rest room. You could choose to be female or male, but not both, at the same time. I thought that was very clever.

Today’s Covid 19 report was better than the last two days, but there are still far too many deaths. There were 7,347 new cases, and 24 deaths.

It’s reported that of today’s deaths, two people were in their 40s; one in their 50s, one in their 60s; seven in their 70s; eight in their 80s and five were aged over 90. The latest deaths spanned the country with one person was from Northland, eight from Auckland; four from Waikato; one from Bay of Plenty; one from Lakes DHB area; one from Taranaki; one from MidCentral; two from the Greater Wellington region; two from Canterbury and three from the Southern region. Thirteen were female and 11 were male. The total is now 845 deaths.

There are 363 people in hospital with the virus, including 18 in intensive care. Today’s breakdown of people in hospital with Covid across New Zealand included Northland: 11; Waitemata: 40; Counties Manukau: 37; Auckland: 60; Waikato: 31; Bay of Plenty: 20; Lakes: 3; Tairāwhiti: 0; Hawke’s Bay: 15; Taranaki: 6; Whanganui: 4; MidCentral: 14; Wairarapa: 1; Hutt Valley: 3; Capital and Coast: 10; Nelson Marlborough: 11; Canterbury: 66; South Canterbury: 4; West Coast: 1 and Southern: 26. The average age of Covid patients in hospital is 57. This has been consistent so far.

It’s reported that new community cases of Covid-19 were detected in: Northland (234), Auckland (2346), Waikato (443), Bay of Plenty (189), Lakes (106), Hawke’s Bay (212), MidCentral (272), Whanganui (83), Taranaki (226), Tairāwhiti (66), Wairarapa (100), Capital and Coast (482), Hutt Valley (185), Nelson Marlborough (254), Canterbury (1261), South Canterbury (99), Southern (721), West Coast (64), and four in unknown locations.

It’s now Saturday May 7th.

The news is confirmed that Ukrainian forces have sunk another Russian ship; that they have probably made some attacks in Russia itself, such as Belgorov; there are further efforts to evacuate remining citizens in Mariupol; and that fierce fighting continues in Mariupol, but the Ukrainians have not surrendered, so far.

Today’s Covid 19 report is slightly better than in previous days, although it’s hard to find, now. There are officially 6,745 new community cases, and there have been 12 deaths. There are 339 people in hospital, including 15 in Intensive Care. We’re not told where the new infections are.

It’s now Sunday May 8th.

Unusually, I am woken by the alarm on my phone. I get JD to make a video of me opening my daughter’s present.  There is a beautiful mug, with a beautiful card and some fudge and a sachet of a gingerbread and chocolate flavoured drink – you just add water and stir.  I load the video into Storypark, but when I look later it’s not there, so I load it again.  There was a phone call from her too, but she doesn’t say much – I think she enjoys hearing the sound of my voice.  I went to church, and the minister has diagnosed positive for Covid 19, so again he’s refining his televangelist skills. He does it very well, although he did sound a bit hoarse. We were given flowers and pins to pin them to our clothes.  Actually his wife had Covid 19 just a few weeks ago (perhaps back in March?) There were barely twenty people physically at church. We heard about Tabitha/Dorcas, a female disciple, and then more from the book of Revelation. There was a special morning tea afterwards, to honour the fact that everyone has a mother, but I didn’t go, partly because I wanted to catch a bus home, and partly because I am due to see one of my granddaughters this evening, and therefore I want to limit my exposure. I did go to the supermarket to get some wrapping paper and a bereavement card, and found it very busy. Then I went to catch my bus, only to find it had been cancelled. Plan B was to catch the train, and I walked to the station, only to find I’d just missed the one I’d hoped to catch. So it was a long, slow, journey home, with lots of waiting – but not too cold.

Before the 1 pm Covid 19 report comes out, I learn that Prime Minister Ardern is to isolate at home for 7 days, because her partner, Clarke Gayford, has Covid 19. Today’s report is not too bad, with 5,647 new community cases, but only 3 deaths. There are 350 in hospital, (17 of them in Intensive Care) but the BA.5 variant (I didn’t know there was such a thing) has been detected at the border (again, in a person who had travelled from South Africa).  The BA.4 variant was detected on May 1, also in a person from South Africa.

It’s reported that the arrival of the BA.5 sub-variant in New Zealand is not unexpected and underlines the importance of the rapid antigen testing of all arrivals at day 0/1 and day 5/6 followed by a PCR test of any arrivals who test positive which then allows whole genome sequencing to be done. So now we know.

It’s reported that today’s New Zealand cases are in Northland (129), Auckland (1895), Waikato (353), Bay of Plenty (143), Lakes (77), Hawke’s Bay (176), Mid Central (184), Whanganui (69), Taranaki (131), Tairāwhiti (30), Wairarapa (67), Capital and Coast (424), Hutt Valley (206), Nelson Marlborough (189), Canterbury (914), South Canterbury (83), Southern (523), West Coast (51), Unknown (3). The numbers reported today show that the seven-day rolling average of daily cases has increased slightly since last Sunday. Today the average is 7510; last Sunday it was 7414.

Today it’s reported that all remaining women and children have been evacuated from Mariupol, from the steel plant. The ship that was sunk was the Admiral Makarov. A drone is reported to have struck a landing craft at Snake island.    

In the evening we visited a granddaughter on her birthday, and set up and played the game we had given her. We had a lovely time. How nice that her birthday fell on Mother’s Day this time!  Almost nine tears ago, my eldest granddaughter was born on the (then) Mother’s Day.

It’s now Monday May 9th.

The main things in the news are the war in Ukraine, (and Putin’s Victory Day celebration on May 9), and the US Supreme Court’s decision that they intend  to reverse Roe v Wade, which had made abortion legal in the US for almost 50 years (since 1973).  As discussions go on, with shock and horror, there is no mention whatsoever of a man’s role in most conceptions, certainly in the majority of pregnancies requiring termination. Surely a man is involved, and should be just as committed to raising the potential child as a women is. But they are so extreme in the US. Some states have trigger laws that will go into effect immediately when Roe v Wade is overturned, permitting almost no exceptions – rape, incest, maternal health, anyone? – to this cruelty. Protesters see it as likely that the abortion pill will be banned, as will contraception.  The feelings of women have no place in this discussion, much less the wrong performed by the male who created this situation. As in the past, white women who can afford the procedure will probably be all right, although technically they’ll be  committing a crime; poorer and/or  black women, the most likely victims of rape, are to bear the child (and the consequences) regardless.  I’m not personally in favour of abortion, but I think it should be safe and legal whenever it happens: a decision between a woman, her God, her doctor, and her family. What monsters these older men are, who think it’s their decision to restrict others’ “freedoms”. I agree with those who think the authority of and respect for the Supreme Court is already much diminished, and will be further so by this decision. Of course it’s not really a surprise, but, like the invasion of Ukraine, it’s shocking when it happens.

In Ukraine, bombing has occurred at a school in Eastern Ukraine, killing 60 civilians, including children. Dr Jill Biden has visited Ukraine.

I am rereading Stalingrad, the huge novel by Russian Jew Vasily Grossman about the Hitler’s attack on Russia, culminating in the deadly battle of Stalingrad. It’s s kind of companion volume to Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  But while this tells of what seems like the Germans’ inexorable advance eastward, I’ve been listening to lots pf podcasts, many about the history of Ukraine, and the progress of the current conflict, but also talking about the disastrous Operation Barbarossa, and how the Germans kept on winning for a time but were massively unprepared for the conditions they would find, and the Russian resistance: this was to prove very strong, and the Russians had the powerful T42 tank and an air force, and despite Stalin’s purges, they were prepared to die, and fought very strongly. To a German, to be sent to the Eastern front was disastrous.  Putin’s current Special Military Operation into Ukraine is being seen as similarly ill-fated, ill-prepared, and not thought-through-properly, although like Hitler’s troops’ movements in the 1940’s, very destructive and brutal indeed. Putin, on the other hand, is also being compared to Stalin, in many of his actions, particularly the way Stalin had treated Ukraine in the 1930’s.  One recent cartoon quipped what if Stalin and Hitler had a baby?

Today’s Covid 19 report wasn’t too bad, although I was prepared for a worse one, given that several people I know have Covid 19 – closer to me than I’m comfortable with. Today there are 6,407 new cases, and two more deaths. That’s considerably less than we’ve been used to for the last few days. There are 368 people in hospital, and 18 in Intensive Care.  Today’s detailed information is not readily available. Three people (incoming passengers from South Africa) have now been diagnosed with the BA.5 omicron subvariant of Covid 19.

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

Freedom

The Handmaid’s Tale, anyone?

Today is Wednesday May 4th, 2022. Kia ora.

This morning I got up early and went to hymn singing. It was beautiful – we sang the famous Easter hymn (Christ the Lord is risen today), Blessed Assurance, and Thine be the Glory.  Afterwards I got brave and had morning tea at a café – a long black coffee, and a date scone. Afterwards I caught a bus into town, and bought a birthday present for another granddaughter. Then I caught buses home.

In the US, the 28 page Supreme Court draft opinion by Samuel Alito, on reversing the “egregious” decision to allow legal abortion, dominates newspapers and podcasts.  It’s pointed out that abortion was never in the US Constitution; that it has been a right since 1973; and furthermore, what “right” does this unelected body, the Supreme Court, have to withdraw an existing right? There are big fears that this will lead to complete bans on abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, or danger to the mother’s life; that it will lead to further difficulties in obtaining contraception or abortion tablets; that it will outlaw gay marriage.  People know that abortion will take place, in any case;  surely it should be safe and legal?  I expect that we will have to answer to God for our decisions in this life. Marina Hyde in the UK’s Guardian writes very well under the following title: Through the Trumpian Looking Glass, forcing women to die from illegal abortions is “pro-life”.   

Now that the right-wing have got what they’ve been campaigning for, for years, are they rejoicing?  I haven’t seen any celebrations, so far.  Perhaps the protesting is more fun than winning?  What effects will this leaked opinion have on the mid-term elections?  This opinion is dated February 28. That’s ages ago! We all suspected they were heading this way.

As it turns out, the only person publicly celebrating was Marjorie Taylor Greene. Mitch McConnell was disgusted that the draft opinion had been leaked, and thinks a witch hunt should get underway to find out who leaked the document,

One wonders just why the Right everywhere are so determined to give women a hard time: you’d almost think they didn’t have mothers themselves, but were conceived and raised in petri-dishes. Some one probably endured a great deal of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, general discomfort, needing to pee a lot, and labour pains to various degrees, and that was just before the birth. Then you’ve got swollen breasts, cracked nipples, the need to get one’s figure back, colic, teething, croup, childhood ailments, ongoing fatigue and safety issues, as the child grows up, into a teenager, and then an adult, who is likely to tell you that you’ve done all this wrong. Who’d be a woman?  Who indeed? Well, it’s a privilege to have children, in my view, and they can turn out amazingly well, despite the sacrifices. I was fortunate in that I was able to give birth to wonderful children who have grown into clever and admirable adults and are now having beautiful children of their own.  I’m thankful that while their lives could have been better, they could have been a lot worse.

There’s been a great deal of shocked reaction to this “draft” opinion, which was dated at the end of February and apparently was voted on; of course, with the majority of justices being safely conservative, the majority decision was that it should be overthrown (note it hasn’t been overthrown yet).  There are protests across the US; this has a very “Handmaid’s Tale” feel about it. There are certainly some wonderful fathers around, and their support is greatly valued, but by and large mothers bear the discomforts of pregnancy and childbirth, especially the physical ones, whether or not the outcome is successful in terms of a giving birth to a healthy, normal child. In fact, one usually feels like an incubus, the pregnancy so takes over one’s body.

This morning I listened the Bulwark podcast. Of course, they are obsessed with the Roe v Wade draft opinion (it’s not a decision as yet), but the latter part of the podcast I found very amusing. I didn’t see Benjamin Wittes as a demonstrator (although his Brookings Institute was on Nixon’s enemies list), but this was very funny. He and some others hired a lighting firm to project the Blue and Yellow Ukrainian flag onto the Russian Embassy building in Washington DC. The Russians tried to use spotlights to hide it; the light operator kept moving the projection. The Secret Service helped the demonstrators.  Ben says there’s something further planned for May 9th. It’ll be Witte (he says, punning on It’ll be Wild). Here’s a link:

https://www.knkx.org/2022-04-14/meet-the-activists-who-projected-a-giant-ukrainian-flag-on-russias-embassy-in-d-c.

I was going to rejoin my singing group on Thursday mornings for term 2 (we cancelled term 1) tomorrow, but having seen today’s Covid 19 report, I’m not so sure that I’ll go. Today’s report is not good, with 8,454 new community cases, and 24 deaths, including a child under 10. These deaths include 12 people who died in the last three days, and 12 people who died since March 5.  One assumes that you seriously don’t want to be so sick that you have to go to hospital, since it seems you’re likely to get Covid 19 there; or perhaps there are deaths from rest home residents. There are 481 people in hospital, including 14 in Intensive Care. I still feel very vulnerable with this amount of illness around.

Of the deaths, it’s reported that one was aged under 10; one was between 10 and 19 years old, two were in their 40s, one in their 50s, two in their 60s, nine in their 70s, five in their 80s and three were aged over 90. Nine of the deceased were from Auckland, four from Waikato, two from Bay of Plenty, one from Whanganui, one from MidCentral, two from the Greater Wellington region, three from Canterbury and two from Southern DHB. Seven were female and 17 were male.

It’s reported that there are new community cases reported in  Northland (222), Auckland (2568), Waikato (501), Bay of Plenty (256), Lakes (142), Hawke’s Bay (278), MidCentral (308), Whanganui (102), Taranaki (245), Tairāwhiti (79), Wairarapa (112), Capital and Coast (614), Hutt Valley (231), Nelson Marlborough (281), Canterbury (1418), South Canterbury (106), Southern (900), West Coast (85), and six in unknown locations. There were 54,210 active cases of Covid-19 across the country on Wednesday.  That’s still quite a lot! Most by far are detected by RAT tests.

Officials also reported an additional 124 cases of Covid-19 detected at the border. One wonders how they are tested, since I thought MIQ was over?

In the US, late show host Jimmy Kimmel has Covid 19; here in New Zealand, Minister of Health Andrew Little is now isolating after a family member tested positive.  It’s still very much around.

On the climate front, there’s a warning that in New Zealand sea level rise is likely to come sooner than expected, because much of New Zealand’s coastal areas are sinking as well. It’s warned that many coastal homes may become uninsurable.  In India and Pakistan, they’re battling heat  waves.  It seems to me that while the need for Russian oil and gas is not so great in summertime as in winter time, if it’s very hot people may well wish to use air conditioning units to cool their environments down.

It’s now Thursday May 5th.

My Thursday singing sessions resumed this morning.  There was a good turnout, although many of us are still afraid of Covid 19.  I felt this was a risk I was prepared to take, and having said I’d be there, I was reluctant to change my mind. It was lovely, of course;  lovely to be back and see everyone again. Highlights for me were singing Tutira mai ngā iwi, Mull of Kintyre, and Wild Mountain Thyme.

Today’s Covid 19 report was not good: 8,609 new community cases were reported, and 20 deaths, including that of a child under 10. There are 386 people in hospital, including 14 in Intensive Care.

One of the 20 deaths reported on Thursday was under the age of ten. One was aged in their 50s; five were in their 60s; two were in their 70s; seven were in their 80s and four were aged over 90. Three of the deceased were from Auckland; one was from Waikato; five were from Bay of Plenty; two were from Hawke’s Bay; one was from the Greater Wellington region; one was from Nelson-Marlborough, five were from Canterbury and two were from Southern. Twelve were female and eight were male.

New community cases were reported in: Northland (207), Auckland (2796), Waikato (543), Bay of Plenty (237), Lakes (135), Hawke’s Bay (229), MidCentral (347), Whanganui (104), Taranaki (239), Tairāwhiti (68), Wairarapa (88), Capital and Coast (575), Hutt Valley (242), Nelson Marlborough (323), Canterbury (1379), South Canterbury (114), Southern (900), West Coast (76), and seven in unknown locations. The ministry also reported a further 97 Covid-19 cases detected at the border.

It seems to me that case numbers are going up again, while hospitalisations are falling.  The number of deaths continues to be a concern. Last night I listened to two ABC news podcasts (coronacast) saying that at present we’re dealing with sub-variants of the omicron variant of Covid 19; there could well be other variants yet to come; this might be like the flu, where different strains are common each winter, and ever winter we need a new flu jab. Dr Norman Swan also pointed out that statistically the risk of dying is greater now than it was two years ago, in Australasia, but we have added defences like vaccines, drugs to treat coronavirus, and more effective masks.

There is a new book out called The Palace Papers by Tina Brown.  Stories from it are dribbling out, including a story that Meghan Markle hated every second of her and Prince Harry’s Australasian tour shortly after their dramatic wedding.  Well, she certainly smiled for the cameras, and I doubt that she regretted changing into a new dress three times a day, sometimes forgetting to remove the label.  The New Zealand taxpayers shelled out a princely sum for this tour; I expect the proprietors of the Maranui Café in Wellington’s Lyall Bay aren’t best pleased either; even if you’re with Team Harkle (and I am certainly not), you’d have to be a teensy bit upset, I think, that she didn’t even enjoy the tour. I know there was that incident where she left early, and it was said the heat was too much for her; nevertheless, it would have been good manners if she could have been nice about it all. We (almost) all feel cheated now. I was sceptical when they married, but was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, that it might turn out better than it has; if I were Archie Mountbatten-Windsor’s sister, I’d be mightily disappointed not to have met the famous great-grandmother she was supposedly named after.

On Monday evening there are two attractions, requiring some bravery. One is a showing (a film of the Metropolitan Opera in New York) of Mussorgsky’s opera, Boris Godunov, at the Penthouse Theatre, with a special dinner – Chicken Kiev, as well; the other is a concert at St Paul’s Cathedral with members of the NZSO and the Tudor Consort playing – for Ukraine.  Both of these are very tempting – I hope I get to go to one of them.

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

Blinded by the Light

A painting by Caravaggio on the conversion of Paul

Today is Friday April 29th 2022. Kia ora.

I slept well last night, and it’s been a good day.  The weather continues to be fine and warm, although it’s cold in the nights and mornings. I changed the sheets and towels, and then went with JD for an appointment in Thorndon. After this we had lunch at La Cloche, where I had a salmon and leek tart with salad, and we shared a beautiful cake with an almond flavour.

In the afternoon someone came from Access to do some cleaning. I’m enjoying reading my new Anne Tyler novel, French Braid.

Today’s Covid 19 report is so-so, with 8,242 new community cases, and 14 deaths. There are 480 people in hospital and 15 of them are in Intensive Care.

On Friday night we watched a strange film called Windfall on one of the streaming giants. The female lead was the woman who starred in Emily in Paris (a series I found extremely annoying).

On Saturday, another fine day, JD had an appointment in Karori. Afterwards, we enjoyed a very nice lunch at the Gipps St Deli.  I had quiche and salad. Normally I’m weary of quiche, but this was really nice. I also had a chocolate caramel slice, also delicious: I took most of it home to finish later. Then we went to the Warehouse in Porirua. There was a special on woollen slippers, which I need, so I tried some on, and JD tried some on too, since it was two pairs for $18 – an unbelievably low price. We move to the checkout, only to find we had too queue up for self checkout. The slipper special turned out not to apply – we’d got the wrong things. I didn’t want to go back – there were many people by that time, and I was very tired, so we let it go, but I was angry about the misleading signage.

The Covid 19 report wasn’t too bad, with 7,043 new community cases, and 7 deaths.  The Washington Post reports that formerly unvaccinated older adults were dying, but now the vaccinated elderly are dying too. I couldn’t read the rest of the article, so don’t know any more than that. I’m not sure how many people were in hospital, but as I recall there were 15 in Intensive Care, down from previous numbers.

On Sunday morning I went to church. There would have been barely 30 people there, but we had the organ, and it was marvellous. We sang Immortal, Invisible, This is the Day, Come Thou long expected Jesus, and There is a Redeemer. One of the texts was the famous story in Acts of Saul/Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  There is that wonderful bit where Ananias, sent to him, says Saul, brother; and this was a zealous young man who actively sought out Christians in order to destroy them, and had sat by while Stephen was stoned.

 Afterwards I caught a bus back to Johnsonville.  Later this week my Thursday morning singing starts up again, after cancelling term one.

Today it’s reported that there are 5,646 new community cases of Covid 19, and 6 further deaths. There’ve now been 750 deaths from Covid 19 (or with Covid 19). It’s also reported that someone from overseas has tested positive for an omicron sub-variant BA.4, not hitherto found in New Zealand. There are 466 people in hospital, including 16 in Intensive Care.

Case numbers in each DHB were as follows: Northland (139), Auckland (606), Waikato (341), Bay of Plenty (175), Lakes (116), Hawke’s Bay (149), MidCentral (202), Whanganui (64), Taranaki (149), Tairāwhiti (99), Wairarapa (58), Capital and Coast (360), Hutt Valley (152), Nelson Marlborough (222), Canterbury (931), South Canterbury (118), Southern (625), West Coast (74), Unknown (6). There were 62 cases at the border.  The numbers are certainly taking a while to wind right down; while New Zealand is well past this peak, it’s taking ages for the numbers to dwindle right away.

With regard to the war in Ukraine, I’ll try to condense the facts that have made an impression on me in the last few days. The head of the UN, Antony Gutierrez, went to Kyiv, after visiting Putin in Moscow, and the Russians shelled Kyiv while he was there. I guess it’s a good thing that he went, but I’ve heard it said he didn’t condemn the war forcefully enough. There are also issues over whether the Ukrainians are grateful enough for the support they’re receiving, mainly from the US, where President Biden continues to ask Congress for large sums of money to support Ukraine, both militarily and from a humanitarian perspective. There is discussion about offensive as opposed to defensive weaponry. It seems the US has now accepted that Ukraine may “win” this conflict – although what winning means has not really been defined. It made a big difference for US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to go to Kyiv; also, many countries, including the US, are setting up embassies there again. It seems the Ukrainians are still having victories in small skirmishes, but heavy fighting continues in Donbas and the Donbas regions in the East of Ukraine.  It also seems that the Russians have captured several more small towns and deported more Ukrainians into Russia. Several people have commented on Putin’s brutality, comparing it to that of Stalin. The threat of nuclear war is ever present.

It’s now Tuesday May 3rd.

Yesterday on Monday I got a lift into town with JD and went to see The Duke, starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. Actually I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected: it seemed really slow-moving to start with, and the desperate poverty and living conditions and general cruelty seemed very sad.  It was diverting, however, and nice to get out. There were only 3 other people in the theatre, so I felt quite safe.

It’s reported that there are 9,109 new community cases of Covid-19 today and 20 related deaths.  There are 481 people in hospital, including 10 in ICU.

One person was from Northland, one from Auckland, two from Waikato, two from Bay of Plenty, four from Tairāwhiti, four from the Greater Wellington region, five from Canterbury and one from Southern. One person was in their 50s, three in their 60s, three in their 70s, eight in their 80s and five were aged over 90. Of the people who have died, 12 were women and eight were men.

The locations of today’s community cases are Northland (266), Auckland (2678), Waikato (547), Bay of Plenty (280), Lakes (167), Hawke’s Bay (283), MidCentral (365), Whanganui (121), Taranaki (249), Tairāwhiti (88), Wairarapa (89), Capital and Coast (437), Hutt Valley (433), Nelson Marlborough (332), Canterbury (1586), South Canterbury (161), Southern (947) and the West Coast (78). The locations of two cases are unknown.

The 481 cases in hospital are in Northland (30), Waitematā (75), Counties Manukau (70), Auckland (90), Waikato (33), Bay of Plenty (27), Lakes (two), Hawke’s Bay (11), Taranaki (four), Whanganui (one), MidCentral (eight), Wairarapa (one), Hutt Valley (five), Capital and Coast (13), Nelson Marlborough (nine), Canterbury (70), South Canterbury (three), West Coast (one) and the Southern region (28).

Meanwhile, 128 Covid-19 cases have been detected at the border. 128!

Yesterday there 6636 new cases in the community and seven people died with the virus – this brings the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 757. There were 480 people in hospital, including 12 in ICU or HDU.

In Ukraine, some people were able to evacuate safely from Mariupol, but the Russians started shelling again as soon as they were gone.  Reports are conflicted, as ever; the Ukrainians are having success with preventing Russian forces from achieving their war aims, whatever they are; but Russian troops are still inflicting lots of damage and doing lots of harm. It seems some Ukrainians have been forcibly repatriated to Russia.  Who are they, and where have they gone?  It could be very difficult to track this down sometime in the future. Nancy Pelosi has made a visit to Kyiv, and promised more aid until the job is done. Some in the US are saying it was a good thing for her to go there, but it should have been bipartisan.  The EU is trying to draw up a plan to get agreement to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

In China, a mass evacuation centre has opened in Beijing; evidently wanting to avoid the protests in Shanghai, the government has closed restaurants and schools and limited access to some facilities, but has thus far avoided a complete lockdown.  You have to show evidence of a negative test to use public transportation. Facilities in evacuation centres aren’t great – no one wants to go there.  It seems many people diagnosed positive are asymptomatic, which is perhaps unusual.  There hasn’t been much of it here. Apparently cases are surging again in South Africa (and in New York). South Africa has seen variants of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The two people diagnosed here with the BA4 subvariant both flew here from South Africa. Should we be more afraid, than we already are?  We are reassured (for now) by Those Who Should Know about these things. Are we ever going to be free from the coronavirus? I doubt it, now. Initially I said This Too Shall Pass; I have my doubts, now. It has totally changed our lives.

In the US, a document leaked by Politico claims that the US Supreme Court has voted to strike down Roe vs Wade, thus ending legal abortion in the US, unless individual states elect to make it available in their own state. In Georgia, a long-awaited grand jury is being convened to look into Trump’s phone call to Brad Raffensberger.

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

Lest we Forget

It’s now Anzac Day, Monday April 25th. Kia ora.

Actually it’s now Thursday April 28th. I’ve not been writing lately.  Monday was a quiet day, with shops not opening until midday; accordingly, I walked to the local supermarket at midday to get croissants for lunch. Because Monday was a kind of holiday, I didn’t get my latest Listener delivered, but it did come the next day. I must admit I don’t have huge feelings for Anzac Day; thankfully, nobody close to me died in any war, although JD’s father was in the British Army (and was quite severely affected by his experiences, in my view). From my side of the family anyone who was called up would have been a conscientious objector, bearing in mind the fifth of the Ten Commandments, Thou shalt not kill.  Of course, we now monitor each day the dreadful “progress” of the unprovoked war in Ukraine, and again are thankful that none of our loved ones is directly involved. There are advantages to being here at the bottom of the world, although I would still love to go to Ukraine.

On Monday evening we watched a very affecting film version of Journey’s End, on Māori television.  I was especially moved by the men being so kind to each other. 

On Tuesday I went to town to Unity Books to get a present for my eldest granddaughter.  My loyalty card came due, so I got a copy of Anne Tyler’s latest novel.  I do like her books, and perhaps I can lend it to a friend after I’ve read it.  I was going to have lunch at Smith the Grocer in The Old Bank Arcade, but not only was there nowhere to sit, there was a long queue there.  Instead I went to Sierra Café, a spacious one, where there was a queue too, but there were empty tables.  It’s good to see these places busy again.  I went to Whitcoulls to buy a copy of the Economist and a padded envelope, then walked to Lambton Square and took the escalators up to the Terrace to find a lab to have a blood test.  I walked back down, and then called in to Farmers, to check out their specials on nightwear.  I didn’t buy any nightwear but upstairs they had good specials on woollen jerseys with roll-neck collars. Just then JD rang and offered to pick me up. I gratefully accepted, but he said, Oh, by the way, get me something to eat.  Well, that posed problems. I walked back to Lambton Square where there used to be a Muffin Break, where I’d bought him lunch before. It was no longer there.  I figured sushi wouldn’t cut it for him, and I was really tired by this time, and carrying the books I’d bought too.  I ended up going to a Mr Bun café in Waring Taylor Street. There was a flight of stairs, with no handrail, and then another, this time with a very sticky handrail. I bought him some pre-packaged chicken, avocado and lettuce sandwiches and a blueberry muffin. Then I sat down to wait in Midland Park, where, thankfully, it was mild and sunny, to get picked up.  It was busy-ish on town with perhaps 70-80% of people wearing masks.  Some places still have QR codes to scan, others do not, although I am habituated now to keeping a record of where I’ve been, adding a manual entry to my Covid ap if necessary. At no time did I feel unsafe. In the evening we watched another episode of The First Lady. Gillian Anderson is pretty good as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Michelle Pfeifer is wonderful as Betty Ford, but disposed as I am to admire Viola Davis, I do not like her presentation of Michelle Obama.  It’s still quite an interesting series, though, although it jumps around in time. Sometimes you wish they wouldn’t do that.

On Wednesday I was due to go to hymn singing at 9:15 am, and I wanted to post my parcel afterwards.  Singing was lovely, of course: we sang the Easter Hymn, and When I Behold the wondrous Cross, amongst other things.  I had a friend coming to visit in the afternoon, so I scampered around trying to tidy things up, and feeling quite inadequate.  JD had an appointment but on his way back managed to get a potato-topped pie from Nada in Tawa, so that took care of dinner – we had it with some salad.  In the evening we watched some of The Score on Māori television, starring Robert de Niro and Marlon Brando. He seemed slightly more together than he did in the Godfather, but it was his last movie before his death, and the story goes that he was extremely difficult in the movie.  We watched for a while and returned to videos about US politics.

This morning I went into town again – to check out the Farmers specials. After telling myself I had quite enough clothes already, I decided I wanted to check out this sale.  And it was worthwhile: I got some more corduroy trousers, and a woollen jersey, and got the savings on the two items.  I’m pleased with that. Afterwards I had coffee and a toasted cheese scone (the best!) at Smith the Grocer, and then caught a No 14 bus up Molesworth Street to near the New World supermarket. It was very quiet in the big store, so I shopped at leisure, having arranged that JD would pick me up there. Panic set in when he finally answered my call at 2:10 pm, saying he had a 3 pm appointment, and, by the way, would I get him something to eat?  I gritted my teeth, got him a croissant, and bought raspberries, lettuce, brussels sprouts, salads, tonic water, another potato topped pie, and bread, knowing I would have to pack all this myself – the checkout staff at New World Thorndon don’t do packing.  As it turned out I needn’t have rushed; I ended up waiting for him outside, again sitting outside in the mild, sunny weather.

So, what’s been happening?  On the Covid 19 front, Covid 19 is still very much with us, but not as serious now in Wellington or Hawkes Bay – more serious down south. I did another RAT test yesterday before my friend came to visit, being slightly nervous about our activities last Saturday (the movie, the Borough in Tawa), but thankfully it was negative.  I have messages from Manage My Health about the blood test results, but they are confusing – I’ll have to go and see my doctor for an interpretation.

Today’s numbers are as follows: 9.047 new community cases, and another 13 deaths. There are 484 people in hospital, and 15 of them are in Intensive Care.

Two of those who died were from the Auckland region, three from Bay of Plenty, two from Waikato, one from Taranaki, one from MidCentral, one from Hawke’s Bay, and three from Canterbury. Two were in their 50s, two in their 60s, one in their 70s, three in their 80s, and five were over 90. Five were women and eight were men.

There were new community cases in Northland (276), Auckland (2519), Waikato (550), Bay of Plenty (335), Lakes (129), Hawke’s Bay (281), MidCentral (344), Whanganui (108), Taranaki (215), Tairāwhiti (137), Wairarapa (95), Capital and Coast (589), Hutt Valley (236), Nelson Marlborough (358), Canterbury (1505), South Canterbury (185), Southern (1,065), West Coast (113), and seven in unknown locations. Officials also reported an additional 80 cases at the border.

There were 9830 new community cases reported on Wednesday – an increase of 3450 cases on the day prior.

It seems that Covid 19 is always a step ahead of us. We obediently get used to scanning, vaccine passes, and mask-wearing, when now most restrictions have bee lifted.  There’s a new drug to treat Covid 19; mask-wearing is still pretty common here, but sometimes you’ll search to find a QR code.  We put huge effort into getting vaccinated, and then it’s not a sure thing that you won’t get the virus – but you probably won’t be hospitalised or die of it. That said, there’s still an alarming number of deaths here. 

In the US, Dr Fauci claims that probably half of all Americans have had the virus. Almost 1,000,000 people have died from Covid 19 thus far.  Some have had a second booster. Here, there’s no medical recommendation to have a second booster shot.  In the US, many well-known Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Adam Schiff, and Attorney General Merrick Garland have caught Covid 19; there was a Gridiron dinner where many people supposedly caught the virus. One has to wonder if this was some dastardly plan. President Biden has had his second booster jab, although his press secretary Jen Psaki and her deputy, Karine Jean-Pierre, have it too.

China is pursuing it’s Covid-zero policy, despite protests in Shanghai; now there are community cases in Beijing, and everyone here is to be tested for the coronavirus.  There are reports that officials can’t tell President Xi news that he doesn’t want to hear; that with omicron, lockdowns don’t work in limiting the spread of the disease. China’s economy is in a bad state, with the Shanghai lockdown further worsening it.

In the US, Kevin McCarthy is in a whole world of pain, as more and more recordings are released, and text messages to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former Chief of Staff, showing how scarily close Americans came to losing their so-called democracy during the riot on January 6, and the period before and afterwards.  Fox News’s Tucker Carlson has come out against McCarthy, for being a closet Democrat (PS I don’t think they’d have him!); meanwhile, at a rally, republicans cheered for him.  It’s kind of strange to see republicans in disarray. I wonder if the Democrats can capitalise on this.

The war in Ukraine drags on, US Secretary od State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin having visited Kyiv; Austin spoke very well, and they’ve achieved major success in unifying opposition to Putin’s invasion of Russia.  Russia has announced a boycott of oil supplies to Poland and Bulgaria;  he’s also threated “immediate retaliation” to any nation that supplies arms to Ukraine, in an even scarier threat. What does it mean? Who can say? Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov is calling this a real threat, but the Russians have lied so many times, who can tell what Putin intends?  We’re all scared, but down here, perhaps not quite so scared. We have other things to be afraid of.  There have been disasters for the Russians, too – not just inside Ukraine, where sabotage of their equipment continues, but some events in Russia that no one’s yet claimed responsibility for, like a fire at a defence depot.  Putin is not seen awarding medals for bravery, or even visiting the wounded, or bereaved parents.  There are concerns that he’s making inroads to Moldova, too, and there’s the strange and complicated case of Transnistria. Thousands of people have been killed on both sides. President Zelensky continues to amaze the rest of the world with his strong, proud demeanour. He looks exhausted, but we don’t see him wearing some amazing uniform with lots of medals, he’s simply dressed, usually in fleece, sometimes in a bullet-proof vest. More and more the rest of us realise that the brave Ukrainians are fighting on all of our behalf.  We salute them, and unite behind them.

Here in Invercargill, four young men were killed in a dreadful car crash. Elon Musk us going to buy Twitter, a move which causes despair in most people. Some wit thinks people on the Right will buy Tesla electric cars, in response. Will Trump be allowed back on Twitter? He’s set up Truth Social, which is apparently not a success.  I think Musk should use his undoubted intelligence to do something far more useful. JD pointed out that there’s a waiting list for Tesla cars.  Oh, and Madison Cawthorn was nabbed for trying to take a loaded gun on a plane in North Carolina.

In Australia, there’s an election coming up soon, and predictably, there’s anger about a proposed deal between China and the Solomon Islands. There’s some very scary war-mongering statements from Australians, including from Peter Dutton, their Defence Minister. In my view, they should have done more to help the Solomons.  Although we’re four hours’ flying time away from Australia, I don’t doubt that we’ll be lumped in with them, regardless of how much we/I disagree with many of their statements and policies.

This morning the mail came really  early. It included a new issue of the LLRB dated 7 April. It has a very moving article written by a British reporter who went to Ukraine.

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Nga mihi.

Low Sunday

The Mariupol Steel Plant

It’s now Saturday April 16th, 2022. Kia ora!

Today we get a Covid 19 report. There are 13,636 new community cases of Covid 19, and there’ve been 30 further deaths.  It’s reported that today’s community cases included 7763 on Good Friday and 5748 today, while the 30 deaths, included 20 on Friday and 10 today, the ministry said in a statement. There are 500 people in hospital including 15 in ICU.

Among the new cases today 638 are in Northland, 869 in Auckland, 1079 in Waikato, 532 in Bay of Plenty, 266 in Lakes , 460 in Hawke’s Bay, 556 in MidCentral, 244 in Whanganui, 429 in Taranaki, 120 in Tairāwhiti, 121 in Wairarapa , 822 in Capital and Coast, 522 in Hutt Valley, 451 in Nelson Marlborough, 2255 in Canterbury, 325 in South Canterbury, 1747 in Southern, 137 in West Coast and 14 cases yet to be classified.

Saturday is a very quiet day.

On Sunday morning, it is Easter Sunday.  I don’t go to the 7 am service, but I do go to church at 10 am. We sing Thine be the Glory, This is the Day, In Christ Alone my hope is found, and Te aroha.  The texts are from Acts 10, where Peter preaches the first sermon, and from John’s Gospel chapter 20.   It is quite wonderful. Afterwards I wait for JD to pick me up outside the library, where it is sunny. The only places open are the dairy and one café.

In the afternoon, our youngest son and his wife are to come and see us.

The 1 pm Covid 19 report is so-so: there are 5,933 new community cases, and there have been a further 10 deaths. There are 537 people in hospital, and 20 of them are in Intensive Care.

On Monday evening we went to Wellington Airport to farewell our loved ones. It wasn’t too busy there. We managed to park in the “right” (convenient) area.

It’s now Wednesday April 20th.

Today I got brave and went to a movie in Brooklyn with a friend. JD took us in, and we had coffee afterwards and talked about the movie, Nowhere Special.  James Norton was the lead actor, sporting an Irish accent; he acted very well, and the child was superb.  It was such a sad, but uplifting story.  We caught a bus to Wellington Railway Station, and then another bus to the Northern Suburbs.

On Tuesday there were 8,270 new cases, and 5 deaths reported, with 305 people in hospital – marked reductions.

The Covid 19 report is as follows: 11,217 new cases, and 13 further deaths. That’s up a bit from the previous two days. There are 547 people in hospital, and 14 in Intensive Care. It’s reported that the locations of those who died include Nelson-Marlborough (1); Auckland (1); Hutt Valley (2); Northland (1); Hawkes Bay (1); Whanganui (2); Canterbury (2); Waitemata (1); Mid-Central (1); and Taranaki (1).

It’s reported that the cases in hospital are split between Northland: 41; Waitemata: 92; Counties Manukau: 82; Auckland: 83; Waikato: 38; Bay of Plenty: 22; Lakes: 7; Hawke’s Bay: 17; Taranaki: 9; Whanganui: 4; MidCentral: 12; Wairarapa: 4; Hutt Valley: 18; Capital & Coast: 15; Nelson Marlborough: 9; Canterbury: 49; South Canterbury: 4; West Coast: 1 and Southern: 40. There are no people with Covid-19 in hospital in Tairāwhiti on Wednesday. There are still an alarming number of people in hospital.

In Ukraine, the brutality continues.  Another Russian general has died; the Ukrainians have taken out another expensive Russian missile; a friend of Putin has been found dead in his Moscow luxury apartment, along with his wife and younger daughter; their bodies were found by the elder daughter, all shot with his pistol. The Russians have been bombing Lyiv, and seven people were killed;  the Russians have concentrated forces in the Donbas region, and the battle has already begun. It’s reported to have been raining in Eastern Ukraine, thus creating muddy conditions for Russian tanks and troops. Besieged Mariupol has been asked to surrender, twice, and has refused.  In some cities, there is no food or water and conditions must be dreadful. The early “romance” of sheltering in underground railway tunnels has long lost its lustre, as we continue to see the brutality of Russian troops: their theft, and their cruelty. Europe is trying to avoid its dependence on Russian gas and oil, but this is in doubt if Marine le Pen wins the French presidential election.  In her show today Rachel Maddow outlined what a dreadful person her father was, and emphasised her friendship with Putin.

It’s now Friday April 22nd.

I have not been writing recently. I am rereading the novel Stalingrad, by Vasily Grossman (translated), a book which so impressed me when I first read it during our first lockdown two years ago. How naïve we were then! To think that life would “go back to normal” any time soon. The first lockdown was a circuit breaker, and a welcome relief to many of us, who were so relieved that the government was taking action to protect us, and there was a wage subsidy too. I don’t doubt that many people were severely affected, but few complained, back then; furthermore, we saw the results of our efforts, with numbers of Covid 19 patients steadily falling, and pretty soon we could get back to doing things here in New Zealand again, like going to church, movies and concerts, eating out, and travelling within the country. Children could go back to school, and by and large we were free from fear, as we watched the  dreadful scenes in overseas hospitals of ambulances queuing to unload their patients, refrigerated morgues for the dead bodies, and people on ventilators. But twas not thus here: we were protected; the dreadful scenes overseas made us thankful, or at least less complaining, about the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere outside the country.

I have also been listening to podcasts, many about warfare and history. They seem to go together, somehow. I’ve also been listening to the Collapse Surfside podcast, about the collapse of the Champlain Towers apartment building.  It’s most interesting to me to hear how the disaster unfolded, and the individual stories of how different people and their families were affected. You would think, well at least they’ll get the insurance, but that’s where it gets complicated. As in so many of these sad stories, building and maintenance was shoddy, and while you might have paid handsomely for your lovely home, it probably wasn’t worth much when disaster struck.

Now in 2022 here things are very different. Thankfully, vaccination rates are very high, but there are still an alarming daily number of deaths. We have just been through what was for us hopefully peak Covid 19, with the infectious omicron variant at large, affecting many of us, and many services. Thankfully, with being doubly vaccinated and boostered, it’s hoped that most of us won’t be ill enough to go to hospital or die with it, should we get it. But no one anywhere wants to get it!

Today a friend visited in the morning, bringing us some fruit cake (yum!); late this afternoon, someone from Access came to do some housework. Thankfully I feel better today, and it wasn’t such a struggle for me to have a previously unknown person come to “help”.

Today’s Covid 19 report tells me there are 9,390 new community cases, with 56 new cases identified at the border, and 522 people in hospital. There have been a further 13 deaths, including a person between 10 and 19 years old. Other than that, they were older folk – all over 70. Yesterday there were 10,294 new community cases, with 66 identified at the border. There were 524 cases in hospital, and there had been 18 deaths. The death total is now 646. It’s still a scary time, and you can get Covid 19 more than once (some people just don’t get it – which is still unaccounted for).

This virus is still very much with us, and people are still dying – here, in Australia, in the UK ad the US, just not nearly as many as previously. In Australia, the Labour Party leader, Antony Albanese, has tested positive, as has the premier of Western Australia.

In China, in Shanghai they are seeing their first deaths; it seems the lockdowns have been somewhat relaxed, after people rioted because they couldn’t get food.  Some have been quarantined – many are covid 19 positive but asymptomatic, and they complain of lights being on all night, and no hot showers. In Taiwan, the numbers of community cases of Covid 19 are increasing now, but they won’t do a lockdown, they’ll continue to take sensible precautions.

In Ukraine, the conflict grinds on. Satellite images show a mass grave in Mariupol mass grave; the steelworks there are still being bombarded; and some say Mariupol will be the resounding image of this war. Evidently the Russians rejected the suggestion of an Easter truce (they don’t need a risen Saviour, then); in Moscow the chief exec of Lukoil has resigned after speaking  out against the war in Ukraine. There was some more scare-mongering from Putin, but the US i.e. President Biden announced another $800m aid package.

On Saturday we went to a movie in Pauatahanui, Everything Everywhere all at Once.  It had a very good review, but it was very long and not really my cup of tea, with lots of sci-fi adventure and kung fu. I think JD enjoyed it more than me. The theatre was by no means full, but we weren’t asked where we’d like to sit, and discovered that there were couples seated either side of us, with no gap in between. I was reluctant to move, not knowing how many seats had been sold. So that was a little strange. The movie lasted so long that most cafés had closed or were about to close, so we went to the Borough in Tawa to have something to eat. They advised they could offer us pizzas and bar snacks only; that was fine, but the flies were alarming!  We were handed dirty menus, and ordered a pizza and some fries. I ordered a mocktail, but it wasn’t very enjoyable, and fortunately not very large, as it came in a sticky champagne flute with no straw, and was quite difficult to drink. I decided I will have a RAT test before a friend visits during the week.  We went home for coffee.

Saturday’s Covid 19 report was alarming, with 19 deaths, including 2 children under 9. There were 7,930 new community cases, and 494 people in hospital, including 15 in Intensive Care.  One assumes that young people who die with Covid 19 are immune-compromised in some way, or already living with major health issues. It’s mostly older people who die – from 50/60 upwards.

It’s now Sunday April 24th.

This morning I went to church, and was happy to hear the organ played again. It is Low Sunday, apparently – the first Sunday after Easter.  There weren’t many there – perhaps almost 40, but the Wadestown congregation joined us too. Of course, I have no idea how many were on zoom.  Today’s theme was about spreading the good news of the risen Jesus.  It’s again a beautiful sunny day with little wind. Afterwards, I went shopping at New World, but there were no raspberries today. I consoled myself with buying some more feijoas.

This morning I listened to Preet Bharara talking to Bill Browder, on his podcast, Stay Tuned with Preet; and The Rest is Politics podcast, with Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart. I’m not disposed to like Alastair Campbell very much, but I am interested in what they have to say, seeing as they’re both intelligent and well travelled! I am realising how limited we are here in terms of travel abroad. In the earlier one it was very interesting to hear Bill Browder again. The oligarchs, far from being Putin’s best friends and this likely to influence him, operate at Putin’s pleasure and discretion, and daren’t annoy him. In fact, there’ve been a number of unexplained deaths recently of seriously rich and influential people close to Putin.  One doesn’t believe the Russian police stories about their deaths, especially after they were spectacularly uncooperative with British police after the painful death of Alexander Litvinenko from polonium poisoning.  That death caused a scare in London for potential radiation poisoning, as did the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury (they later recovered). 

Today’s Covid 19 report is as follows: there  are 5,662 new community cases, and there have been 9 deaths.  The XE variant of omicron has been discovered (in an overseas arrival, I think), and is not thought to pose much of a problem. I must say most of us wouldn’t have a clue whether we had it or not, since most of us are using RAT tests at home. Presumably some of the PCR tests are further analysed for BA1 or BA2 or XE (which I gather is a combination of BA1 and BA2).  There is still a lot of Covid 19 about here; it’s very infectious, whatever variant it is. In the UK, one in a hundred people have died from Covid 19! People are still dying in the US, and in Australia. Here, there are presently 490 people in hospital, and 20 in Intensive Care. It’s reported that Of the nine people who have died one was in their 50s, one in their 60s, one in their 70s, one in their 80s and five people were over 90.

The locations of today’s cases are in Northland (203), Auckland (1455), Waikato (365), Bay of Plenty (223), Lakes (85), Hawke’s Bay (187), MidCentral (196), Whanganui (68), Taranaki (152), Tairāwhiti (50), Wairarapa (53), Capital and Coast (355), Hutt Valley (191), Nelson Marlborough (224), Canterbury (978), South Canterbury (128), Southern (666), West Coast (81), Unknown (2). The total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 is now 674.  These numbers would have freaked us out a few months ago; in fact, I still find them alarming, although they’re slowly dropping.

In Ukraine, the sad saga continues. Putin claims to have taken Mariupol; Zelensky says troops are holding out there. The Ukrainians are damaging much Russian equipment; the Russian soldiers’ morale is still very poor. It seems Russian troops have captured several small towns; there are more reports of mass graves; yet Zelensky is still willing to negotiate.  Meanwhile, brutality continues. A baby has been killed in Odessa.  On it goes.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

Maundy Thursday

Cenacolo Vinciano

It’s now Wednesday April 13th 2022. Kia ora!

This morning I learn that the mayor of Mariupol claims there are 20,000 dead in his city; somewhere else I read it’s 21,000. There are fears that Russian troops have used chemical weapons in Eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainians have damaged a rail bridge; and Putin insists his aims are in Ukraine are noble; that there is really no alternative. Well, Russian troops retreated from Kyiv, didn’t they?  Remember the miles long convoy of tanks that was headed for Kyiv?

There’s also been a horrible mass shooting in the New York subway. I’ve been on that subway, several times. The culprit evidently flooded a carriage with gas, before letting loose with ammunition.  Over 20 people have been injured, and 10 have been shot (but not dead).  How is it that really bad shootings happen under democratic presidents? And that many think that violence at the end of a gun is the answer to any disagreement?

I also listened to a podcast explaining that a significant branch of conservatism was against President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which helped America through and out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  For a nation that is supposedly a godly one, there are some very unchristian attitudes there towards anyone less advantaged than yourself.

This morning I get up early to go to hymn singing.  One normal attendee has a sore throat, so there are very few of us. I sing quite well to start with, then get a frog in my throat that I can’t get rid of. Afterwards, the organist and I clarify when the services will be held over Easter. There is a service on Good Friday in the evening, not at 10 am, so I may be able to go. I have a family gathering on Friday morning. Then I go shopping at the supermarket, and there is hardly anyone there. But they do have cheese scones, after a long absence. It’s always tricky finding what I want at a store that’s not so familiar to me. JD doesn’t always get my texts, so I need to ring him if I don’t get a text reply.

The Hon. Chris Hipkins gives the Covid 19 update today. The entire country is to move to the Orange setting at midnight tonight, meaning there are no limits on numbers at gatherings. There is confusion about masks – they’re still recommended, I gather, but not compulsory.

Today’s the statistics are reported as follows: ​9495 community cases; 551 hospitalisations; 27 in ICU; 15 deaths. The OCR has risen by 50 basis points to 1.5%.   There seems to be no further information.

It’s now Thursday April 14th.

This morning I went to a committee meeting for our Thursday singing group at a café in Khandallah. It’s not too busy there, and it’s wonderful to see everyone again. It’s another lovely fine day in Wellington.

I listened to two alarming podcasts this morning. One had Ruth Ben-Ghiat being interviewed by Charlie Sykes, talking about “Gambling for Resurrection”; well, Putin will certainly be remembered as a tyrant, given that he’s more and more resembling his predecessor, Stalin, in his disrespect for human life, his cruelty to Ukraine (which has no right to exist, by the way), and his paranoia. It’s reported that not only is his spy chief now in prison (he was formerly under house arrest), but Putin has had 150 FSB agents arrested. Another dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza, has been arrested in Moscow (after being interviewed by Ali Velshi on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC). Meanwhile in Ukraine a pro-Putin person Viktor Medvedchuk has been arrested, and may be used as a bargaining chip (the Kremlin says No to that). Evidently more bodies are being discovered in Bucha, and 9 Ukrainian women are pregnant as a result of being raped by Russian soldiers. It’s reported that 765 civilian bodies have been found in Kyiv. It’s also reported that the Russians are claiming that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines have surrendered in Mariupol. This claim has not been verified and is being treated with a degree of suspicion.

But I also listened to Samantha Power being interviewed by Rachel Maddow; she’s been to Ukraine three times recently, and she’s helping them to document the war crimes being committed there. She looks weary, and much older than how I remembered her. President Biden has accused Putin of genocide.  Although for some reason the US does not belong to the ICC (are they scared of being prosecuted themselves?), it’s hoped and expected that Putin will face justice for these terrible acts, just as after the conflict in the Balkans ended, some of the crimes of ethnic cleansing were prosecuted.  It’s hoped that this acts as a deterrent. 

Apparently Putin addressed Russia yesterday, claiming what he called noble aims in Ukraine, but some recorded that he didn’t seem particularly well at the time, unlike previous appearances. Finland and Sweden are on track to join NATO, (after previous reluctance), and it’s recalled how bravely the Finns defended themselves and their country against Russia, their much larger invader towards the end of 1939. A Russian ship is evidently on fire: the UK’s Guardian reports that the ship that was engaged at Snake Island at the beginning of the war is now on fire and seriously damaged after a strike in the Black Sea.

Today’s 1 pm Covid 19 report features 9,563 new community cases, and 16 deaths. There are 528 people in hospital, and 28 of them are in Intensive Care. Again, while numbers of new cases, and numbers hospitalised continue to fall, there are still significant numbers needing Intensive Care, and alarming numbers dying. It’s noted that the latter includes people who died and were found to have Covid 19; presumably in most cases they had pre-existing conditions that compromised their health.  It’s reported that of the deaths two people were in their 60s, six in their 70s, four in their 80s and four were over 90. It’s mainly older people dying with Covid 19.

Of the new community cases, it’s reported that 258 were in the Auckland region. The rest are spread across Northland: 37; Waikato: 43; Bay of Plenty: 17; Lakes: 9; Tairāwhiti: 2; Hawke’s Bay: 11; Taranaki: 7; Whanganui: 4; MidCentral: 22; Wairarapa: 1; Hutt Valley: 25; Capital and Coast: 7; Nelson Marlborough: 6; Canterbury: 42; South Canterbury: 4; West Coast: 1; Southern: 32. That’s definitely far less than the numbers we’ve been seeing for Hawkes Bay and Wellington.  Numbers in Auckland are still quite high, but then Auckland’s a big place.

This evening I went to the Maundy Thursday service at church. I have to admit I had never been to one before, although I had been to a Good Friday Midnight Mass at St Mary’s in Wellington when we were first married. It commemorates Jesus’ betrayal, the commandment to love one another, and the Last Supper.  It was very moving. We washed each others’ hands with (hand sanitiser), sang hymns, celebrated communion, and then went into the main church where there were readings from Matthew’s Gospel, and the candles were extinguished, leaving us to contemplate in darkness the solitude and suffering of our Lord before his crucifixion.

It’s now Good Friday, April 15th.

It’s confirmed that a flagship of the Russian fleet, the Moskva, which was anchored in the Black Sea has now sunk. It was on fire yesterday – evidently armed. It’s thought there were between 500 and 700 sailors on board. The Ukrainians claim to have attacked this ship; the Kremlin has admitted it was sunk. Ironically the ship was built at the (now) Ukrainian port of Mykoliav, in Eastern Ukraine; even more ironically, this ship asked Ukrainians to surrender at the beginning of the war at Snake Island, too be met by the response: “F— you”.  Well, now the ship is well and truly f___ed. 

Back here, the biggest concern is how the new Transmission Gully road will cope with Easter long weekend and school holiday traffic.  I guess there’ll still be a bottleneck somewhere – just further north, maybe, between Otaki and Levin.

There’s no Covid 19 report today.  This morning we had a very nice family gathering, where we spilled outside, drank coffee, and ate very nice vegan gluten-free buns. In the afternoon we had a lovely chat with our daughter. What a beautiful smile she has. Easter is usually a lonely time for me, when most of our family go away to their in-laws, and we avoid going away, i.e. avoid the traffic, the crowds and the high prices.

In the UK, Johnson and Sunak have been fined over what is now known as the Partygate scandal. To distract from this, the UK has a plan to send migrants coming across the Channel trying to come to Great Britain to Rwanda instead. Which is the worse scandal? As with Trump, take your pick. It’s easy to forget the excruciating number of scandals, with new ones piled on. This seems a very cruel solution (maybe they got the idea frim Australia’s treatment of “boat people”.

It’s a strange day, with most shops closed, but there is a service at the church I attend in the evening (which is also on zoom). It’s hard to hear the recordings – zoom has its limitations, but the church is steadily darkened as the service of songs, readings and prayers continues. I get the feeling there aren’t many there, although the minister doesn’t give us on zoom (perhaps 4 of us), a view of the interior of the church. I listen to Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion again.

That’s it for now. The Russians are very displeased at the loss of the Moskva. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

Palm Sunday

On His way – to the Cross

It’s now Sunday April 10th, 2022. Kia ora!

This morning I continued being brave and went to church. It’s Palm Sunday, and there are services all week up until and including Easter Sunday, although I think gremlins have been at work and some of the dates are wrong and confusing. There aren’t many physically there; there’s no communal exchanging of the peace. Nevertheless, I’m pleased that I went.  The sermon talks about the war in Ukraine, amongst other things, and about religion being used to justify terrible deeds like Jesus’ crucifixion, and Christians killing Christians in Ukraine. The minister noted that the Russian Orthodox church, unlike most others, has not condemned this conflict. The time of Easter reminds us that death is not the end, however we die.  Palm Sunday points up the immense contrast between Jesus’ triumphal procession, and what then happens to him. There is beautiful organ playing today, and we sing All glory, laud and honour, At the Name of Jesus, and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

This morning I learnt that Boris Johnson had made a surprise visit to Kyiv and to President Zelensky, in a show of solidarity, promising more armaments. Ursula Von der Leyen of the EU has been there too, promising to fast-track Ukraine’s membership of the European Union. The Kremlin have acknowledged the number of casualties Russian forces have sustained; apparently Putin has appointed a new general to lead the next part of the invasion.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been deposed – the confidence vote went ahead, against him. What does this mean? I gather  the military are again in charge of the nuclear-armed nation.  In France, Macron’s re-election is by no means a certainty, with opposers such as the left-wing Mélenchon and the far-right Zemmour (who is Jewish, but takes some strange positions), as well as his old rival, Marine le Pen.

Today’s Covid 19 report is mixed, with only 6,718 new cases. There are 604 people in hospital but 22 in Intensive Care. Sadly, there have been 12 further deaths.  It’s reported that eight of those who died were from the Auckland region, two from MidCentral, one from the Lakes DHB area, and one from Hawke’s Bay. One was aged in their 40s, one in their 50s, three in their 60s, two in their 70s, two in their 80s, and three over 90. Six were women and six were men. People are still dying from this virus – it certainly ain’t over yet, much as we would like it to be.

This afternoon I play Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I’m reminded of the time  when I took my eldest son to a live performance in Wellington’s Town Hall with its wonderful acoustics.  The Orpheus Choir were performing. It was memorable, and a solemn occasion.

It’s now Monday April 11th.

Last night we met our son and his wife at a Thai restaurant in Porirua. This was a sudden invitation!  There were all food options there, both eat-in and takeaway, but the large restaurant we went to was very busy, with three birthday groups.  The food was beautiful, but I was a bit disconcerted by a man without a mask who entered with us, and the busyness!  Still, it was lovely to go out, and most unusual for us. The menu was quite complicated, different from other Thai restaurants I’ve been to.

This morning I listen to several podcasts, and among them I hear Fiona Hill speaking to Ezra Klein. She speaks about the image of Putin riding a horse, shirtless; and then she talks about the Four Horses of the Apocalypse:  War (conflict in Ukraine), Sickness (the coronavirus pandemic), Famine (Ukraine was a prime grain-growing area), and Death, (present and yet to come).  It’s a scary image.  There is a general air of fear of the coming battle in Donbas, where Russian troops are massing, there’s (another) huge tank convoy, Putin has appointed a new General Dvornikov, who commanded the brutal Russian operation in Syria, and Ukrainian citizens have been advised to evacuate. It feels as though we’re (they’re) gearing up for a major battle between good and evil; and meanwhile, in the French election, a run off between Macron and Le Pen is envisaged. The consequences of a Le Pen win are greatly feared: she is known to have been a friend of Putin, although she hasn’t supported his current military exercise; and perhaps France will leave NATO.  Will Macron be re-elected? His valiant efforts to prevent the invasion of Ukraine by speaking directly to Putin failed. On Ukraine’s side, Slovakia is providing an Air-defence system to Ukraine, and the UK and the US are promising more arms. I guess it’s frustrating for anyone who wants to do things in secret when every move on any side is photographed and analysed on multiple news and social media sites. It’s very powerful to have such images shown almost contemporaneously with the events being filmed and recorded.  It’s been pointed out, too, that whatever Dvornikov’s strengths, the troops he will command are demoralised and have demonstrated very poor form thus far, showing degrees of ignorance and brutality that remind one of the terrible stories of the Soviet army entering Berlin in 1945. It feels apocalyptic, and let’s hope the brave Ukrainians keep up their spirit and determination not to be dominated by Russia.

Back here, it’s reported that Hawkes Bay hospital in Hastings is really struggling with the coronavirus. Hawkes Bay has been very hard hit, and it still continues for them.  The 1 pm report follows a trend now, of fewer reported cases, but still an alarming number of deaths: back in the first wave, there were only 60-odd deaths in all, and they were all elderly folk. It was a big event when somebody died from Covid 19. Today there are 11 new deaths reported; a total of 7,582 new cases; there are 640 people in hospital, and 23 in Intensive Care.

Of those whose deaths were reported on Monday, three were from Auckland, three were from Waikato, one was from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, one was from Wellington, and two were from Canterbury. It’s reported that vulnerable people have been left without care, given that so many support staff are sick themselves, or isolating.

There were new community cases reported in Northland (312), Auckland (1378), Waikato (667), Bay of Plenty (309), Lakes (150), Hawke’s Bay (284), MidCentral (350), Whanganui (138), Taranaki (248), Tairāwhiti (69), Wairarapa (89), Capital and Coast (549), Hutt Valley (332), Nelson Marlborough (270), Canterbury (1286), South Canterbury (153), Southern (937), West Coast (68), and three in unknown locations. In New York, mayor Eric Adams has tested positive for coronavirus.

This afternoon it’s reported that Prime Minister Ardern is to send 50 Defence Force staff and a C130 Hercules to Europe, to assist with distributing supplies. They will not enter Ukraine.

It’s now Tuesday April 12th.

Today we had lunch with two of our sons at a café in Porirua. It was very busy out there, and we had trouble parking, but the café had plenty of room and we sat at a corner table with a bench. My daughter’s day 7 RAT test was negative, thankfully.  Evidently someone at the craft studio she goes to had tested positive for Covid 19.

Afterwards, I check the 1 pm Covid 19 report. Today there are reportedly 11,063 new community cases of Covid 19, and there have been 16 deaths.  A third person (a teenager) has died as a result of the vaccine. There are 622 people  in hospital, and 23 of them are in Intensive Care. There’ve now been 516 deaths from Covid 19. It’s worth remembering that while we may have passed peak Covid 19, in terms of numbers of new cases, many people and still very sick and some dying from it.  While some get it lightly, most speak of the shock of being very sick and utterly exhausted with it.

It’s reported that six of the deceased were from Auckland, one from Waikato, two from Whanganui, one from MidCentral, three were from Wellington, two from Canterbury and one was from the Southern district health board area. One was aged in their 30s, two were aged in their 50s, three in their 70s, six in their 80s, and four were over 90. Five were female and 11 were male.

There were new community cases in Northland (559), Auckland (1984), Waikato (965), Bay of Plenty (536), Lakes (214), Hawke’s Bay (474), MidCentral (534), Whanganui (225), Taranaki (370), Tairāwhiti (111), Wairarapa (137, Capital & Coast (683), Hutt Valley (355), Nelson Marlborough (404), Canterbury (1813), South Canterbury (250), Southern (1331), West Coast (108), and 10 in unknown locations.  So while the numbers are down, thankfully, from what they were, they’re still alarmingly high, and causing staffing difficulties in many care areas.

It was reported that there were an additional 47 cases at the border. ESR is genome sequencing cases detected at the border, and no cases of the new XE variant had been found so far.

The committee of my singing group are to have a meeting on Thursday morning to consider singing again (we cancelled singing in term one).  My son, over from the UK, suggests taking a RAT test before each event, as they do in the UK (and have been doing for some time). I’m not sure people would buy that, but I think it’s worth suggesting.  I feel that people will come if they feel it’s safe to do so, but for many of them it’s a social get-together as much as a singing session, and they’re unwilling to be very socially distant during morning tea.  The problem, as I see it, is we all have family and friends, and some of us are more immune-compromised than others.

In Shanghai, it was reported that there were 25,000 new cases, but the lockdown was being relaxed. There were reports of desperate folk in their apartments shouting that they had no food.

In Ukraine, the Chancellor of Austria has visited Putin in Moscow, and had a serious talk. He’s opposed to the war. The Ukrainians are still seeking more weapons.

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