Planning

Today is Monday January 24th, Wellington Anniversary Day. Kia ora!

We are all coming to terms with what status Red means for us.  Event organisers are deciding whether or not to go ahead with planned events; and, if they do go ahead, how to manage safely the event situations.

In Wellington a Lunar New Year Festival has been cancelled; there are many more planned events, including the Cubadupa Festival, and the NZ Festival of the Arts.  That used to be a big thing for us – our sons were usually performing, and there were several events JD and I (or our sons) wanted to go to. Prime Minister Ardern has indicated that she will make public a three stage plan for omicron on Wednesday. Hohepa sent out an email yesterday; they are meeting again today and will communicate again. The main thing I’ve noticed is a lack of anger this time:  people got very angry late last year when it looked as though New Zealand’s delta outbreak could not be stopped, and Auckland was in lockdown for about three months.  But it wasn’t just Aucklanders who were angry: everyone was angry, everyone was in a rush. Now it seems there is a quiet resignation.  We have seen the devastating effects of omicron across the world, and especially in our neighbour, Australia, whose government’s approach has been to “let it rip”, and who’ve had stunning numbers of daily Covid 19 infections and deaths.  Thank goodness we have a good government here.

Pupils will be required to wear masks in schools, when school goes back, either at the end of January or early in February.  The CEO of Air NZ has stood down a number of staff who are either close contacts of the staff member who has diagnosed positive with omicron, or staff who are showing symptoms. The staff member who tested positive for omicron was tested as part of routine staff testing. I would think that flying poses quite a risk, as it has done for the last few months.

In China, officials are fighting small numbers of Covid 19 positive cases in several cities by heavy handed means.  They are desperately trying to maintain the Winter Olympics in Beijing as a viable event. Omicron in the community has also reached Taiwan, who, like New Zealand, has tried to keep it out. It’s believed to be in Japan, too. 

I have ordered better masks from my local chemist. They were supposed to arrive last week, but so far they haven’t. Minister Chris Hipkins is warning that there may be tens of thousands of new cases each day. 

This morning I learnt that an Indian restaurant in Auckland’s Mission Bay is a location of interest, as is a Countdown supermarket in Motueka.

I walked up to the local supermarket this morning mainly to get a pie dish as part of their sticker rewards scheme, which closes soon. I was able to get a pie dish, and some croissants for lunch. There were few people there, and the mood was sombre and muted, with no anger visible.

The 1 pm new statement is confusing.  There are 8 new cases of omicron (in the community, we assume) across Auckland, Nelson and Palmerston North. These are all contacts of existing cases.  Several more locations of interest have been published. To date there are 19 cases of Covid 19/omicron in New Zealand.  Apparently there are 50 cases of covid 19 at the border. There are 25, new community cases: 4 in Northland, 13 in Auckland, 4 in Waikato, 1 in Lakes, 1 in MidCentral and 2 in Nelson /Tasman. There are 10 people in hospital.

Overseas, reaction to Prime Minister Ardern’s action is very negative. I don’t think the likes of Piers Morgan realise that under status Red you can actually do most things; it’s just that numbers at gatherings are limited, and further limited if attendees don’t have vaccine passes.  It was joked that while Ardern has cancelled her wedding, at least the bloke is lucky – he’ll still be free. Actually, do I detect a hint of jealousy here? I also understand that Prime Minister Ardern has postponed her wedding, not cancelled it.  Many of us have had to cancel events, or limit numbers in attendance; make sacrifices that we’d prefer not to make. I wonder if I will ever see my sons who are currently overseas again.

What a strange thing travel is.  When I’m at home, I yearn to be somewhere else; when I’m somewhere else, I often find it quite difficult, or boring, or tiring. You have to settle into whatever your brief home away from home is. One must always be aware of security. That is balanced by magic moments when you prick yourself to realise that you are actually seeing something special, or are in a special place. Sometimes I find out later that there were things I should have known about, and looked out for. I still feel that whatever the crowds, my own view and vision is unique to me, and I will carry the memory of that vision with me.

It’s now Tuesday January 25th.

This morning I learn that Sarah Palin has Covid 19.  The US may send troops to Ukraine, after all. Biden is beefing up military support for Ukraine, and some embassies are withdrawing their staff from Kyiv.  The Russians withdrew their diplomatic staff first. I’m reminded of the Munich film – what do you do about Putin’s aggression? Appease him? Buy time?  Large numbers of Covid 19 infected people in Russia don’t seem to be holding him back.  Honestly, don’t the pundits drive you mad? They carry on, pretty safe in the knowledge that the conflict is very far away from them.  Mind you, it could have global effects, if not questioned, at least.  We’re all inter-connected.  In the UK, there are photos of a birthday party for Boris Johnson, which must have also broken the rules.  Another Tory MP has defected, although he claims it’s not about this rule-breaking issue.  There’s talk of bullying, and a Muslim MP is claiming discrimination because of her faith. Here, the elderly are advised to “hunker down” through an expected omicron epidemic, whatever that means. Hey, we’ve been hunkering down for most of 2021, waiting for vaccines, then having the delta outbreak, and exercising supreme caution; Auckland’s borders opened before Christmas, and now we have omicron to fear.  No wonder most people I know are thinking very carefully about each venture out of home, be it to buy food, use public transport (should I use Uber instead?), or meet in a coffee bar. All is risky. One only has to look at the ever-growing list of exposure sites in Auckland where the omicron-infected family went: a hotel, restaurants, Rainbow’s End, two weddings, a funeral, and, of course, an Air NZ flight.  That reminds me that nowhere is safe, although some places are probably safer than others, and some people exercise a lot more care than others.

Of course there has been some so-called panic buying.  I admit to securing a supply of toilet paper, rubbish bin liners (now they were scarce), and coffee beans, but I doubt that I’m depriving other people.  After all, you can always use tissues – which don’t seem to be in short supply.

Last night I booked our accommodation in Napier, with the option to cancel, of course.  The prices have dropped, so I’m glad I didn’t book earlier.  I was expecting Hohepa to send another email yesterday, but so far they have not.

Meanwhile, I am reading the Robert Harris book called An Officer and a Spy, about Alfred Dreyfus. I am finding it quite interesting. I have listened to The Rest is History podcast about General Gordon. Who on earth was her, one might ask. Well, I did not know, but I do now, and I’m looking forward to listening to part 2. He was a very interesting person. I won’t pay extra to belong to their club; I’ll put up with the sponsors, annoying though they are.

I’m still waiting for my N95 masks, which are supposed to give better protection against omicron.

At 1 pm I learn there are 10 new omicron cases in the community, including 2 in Tauranga. The index case has still not been found. There are 10 people in hospital, and none in Intensive Care. The PM is to give a press conference at 4 pm. Apparently there are 25 new community cases in all, and 37 at the border. Today’s new cases are in:  Northland (1), Auckland (18), Bay of Plenty (2), Lakes (2), MidCentral (1), Nelson Marlborough (1).

Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield front a press conference at  4 pm. Again, I think the PM is amazing. Tomorrow there’ll be another presser with Dr Verrall, where she’ll outline stage 1 of the 3 part plan to combat omicron. It’ll be interesting to see how this new-ish minister handles the press. The gist is as follows: vaccine booster take up is good, and please continue; proper masks must be worn basically all the time, and they must be proper masks, worn correctly; ventilation units are being purchased for schools; testing capacity is being increased; Rapid Antigen Tests are on order but there’s huge demand for them at present. Meanwhile, I received a message from Access saying that only essential cares will be provided while we are at red status.

So that’s it  for now. Ngā mihi.

Ce n’est pas possible!

Today is Thursday January 20th, 2022. Kia ora!

You can’t go back! It’s not possible. Trump, Brexit and the age of Boris Johnson – they’ve changed everything, and not for the better. These phenomena can’t be undone or reversed, sadly. Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark longs for what he calls “normalcy”.  I rather suspect I wouldn’t go for his normalcy. US and right-wing politics were bad, in my view, well before Trump’s election to the presidency; just watch The Newsroom on Neon for that. Dubya Bush joked that the Trump presidency made his time in office look not so bad.  Remember the invasion of Iraq? WMD?  You can’t go back, and you probably wouldn’t want to, although one may feel that wife-beating and physical punishment of children have been replaced by ghosting by the likes of Meghan Markle; and, by the way, domestic abuse continues. Cruelty continues. Some people are kinder to animals than to other people.  But you can’t go back; this (virus) too will pass, but the new normal will be different, as we are seeing.

This morning I heard that in Auckland a household contact of the infected MIQ worker and the Auckland Airport worker are both confirmed to have the omicron variant of Covid 19. One of them visited a café in Half Moon Bay, in Auckland. A person in Manawatu is confirmed to have Covid 19, although presumably the delta variant, not omicron.  Potential locations of interest are being researched.

I watched a very funny video of the Line of Duty team (Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston) interviewing Boris Johnson about breaking his own government’s Covid 19 rules. The video is called Led by Donkeys. As my lovely cleaning lady said yesterday, just imagine if Jacinda did that! I doubt if she’d still be alive to tell the tale.  In Parliament the Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer asked “Have they brought their own boos?” in an unusually funny quip. You can find the video on Youtube.

Listening to a podcast about one of the 10 Downing St parties, I heard many very sad tales. I think the one that upset me the most was that of a woman who’d seen her husband off in an ambulance, not been allowed to accompany him, and didn’t see him alive again.  That is just so sad.

There is a statement early this afternoon about New Zealand’s Covid 19 status. Northland is to move from Red to Orange status at midnight tonight.  That means all of New Zealand will be in Orange. Prime Minister Ardern has said there’ll be no more lockdowns, but a community outbreak of omicron would put the whole country into Red status. I wonder what she means by a community outbreak? The case in Manawatu is now thought to be the omicron variant. Today there are 42 new cases at the border, and 39 in the community. Two new cases have been detected in Hawkes Bay, one connected to an existing Hastings cluster, and the other may have contracted the virus outside the region. Thankfully, my daughter has had her booster. We are finalising plans to travel north to see her. I do hope we’ll be able to go.

It’s now Friday January 21st.

Today’s news is scary.  Today I went to town. It was a fine day, after a cold start. There were quite a lot of people around, but very few masks in the street, although they’re mandatory in most shops. I went to get a birthday present for my granddaughter – quite a challenge.  JD took me into town and picked me up afterwards – it seems much safer than getting public transport.

Today, again, there are more cases in MIQ (at the border) – 44 – than community cases – 22 – of Covid 19.  The case in Manawatu (Palmerston North) is confirmed as being the omicron variant. This person, who was in MIQ in Christchurch and had 5 negative Covid 19 tests, travelled to Auckland and then to Palmerston North, by plane.  That’s a whole lot of contact(s)!  Another Auckland Airport worker has been diagnosed positive (not connected with the first Auckland Airport worker) . It’s reported that there are 9 new cases in Nelson (actually in Motueka). They are all living in the same household, and it’s thought recent travel to Auckland may be the cause of the infection. Eight of these will be included in tomorrow’s total. More locations of interest have been published, including Auckland’s Sky City Casino again. It’s reported that there were new community cases in Auckland, Waikato, Lakes, Hawke’s Bay, and the Nelson Tasman region. In Hawke’s Bay, the ministry was officially recording two cases, however a third case was notified after the cut-off time.

It’s reported that NSW had its worst day so far, with over 20,000 new cases and 46 death, although it’s reported that the peak of omicron has now passed in Australia. I trust that’s not wishful thinking.

It’s now Saturday January 22nd.

This afternoon I wanted to go to the movies; this changed into a shopping trip, to “stock up”.  Today’s information isn’t great; a second Auckland Airport worker’s case is confirmed to be omicron; a bar in Rotorua is a location of interest, and a café in a small place called Paerata.  Today there are 43 new community cases and 41 at the border – more community cases than border cases. It’s reported that today’s new community cases include 19 in Auckland, four in Waikato, six in the Lakes District Health Board region, six in Hawke’s Bay and eight in Nelson Marlborough. There are eight people in hospital. Apparently five Air NZ flights are connected with the Nelson cases. The six new cases in Hawkes Bay are news to me. It seems that omicron in the community is getting ever closer to having a big effect on us here.  I fear mostly for my school age grandchildren: my fear is that it will be really scary to go back to school in early February, or that school will be closed, causing more grief to their parents.

As usual, there are conflicting voices in the media.  On the one hand, it must be illegal to say New Zealand citizens can’t come home (i.e. can’t get a place in MIQ); on the other hand, the much maligned MIQ system, which has kept us safe from the ravages of the coronavirus, is overwhelmed with new infectious cases.  New Zealand won’t be able to cope with omicron at Red status;  hospitality business owners have actually stopped grizzling, perhaps wisely realising that some restrictions may be better for them in the long term. Act’s David Seymour thinks that Brian Tamaki should be released from prison. In the Guardian, Prime Minister Ardern is accused of using delaying tactics.  Their headings just get more and more ridiculous. I don’t think they even have a correspondent here.  Prime Minister Ardern has looked after us very well thus far; I don’t doubt that she will continue to do so.

Late this afternoon we went shopping at New World in Thorndon.  There was an air of quiet desperation. It was quite busy, not crazy busy; but always nice to go there, of course.

Today NSW records 20,148 new cases and 30 deaths.  Milburnians are reported as staying home because they’re afraid to go out, although everything’s open. So much for the healthy economy. I tried to buy everything we might need, or things  that would keep and we wouldn’t want to go out to buy. I needed kitchen tidy liners, and couldn’t find them anywhere.  I asked one staff member, who said he was new, and didn’t know; I asked another, who said Aisle 8, but there seemed to be no numbers on the aisles. I went back to an earlier aisle, and found what I was looking for, that is, I found the right area. The bin liners I wanted were right at the back of a shelf; obviously they were in demand. I also bought another non-stick fry pan, and coffee beans, bread, salads and raspberries. When we got home, I washed my hands, as I always do, and wiped my phone down with Dettol.  I can still smell the Dettol. It’s quite hot and sticky this afternoon.

It’s now Sunday January 23rd.

Things happened fast today. But I went to church, and heard the organ playing both before and after the service.  The organist announced that hymn-singing will begin again on 2 February. We had that wonderful text from Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus reads from Isaiah 61: “Lo the spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah has anointed me to announce glad tidings to the meek…to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah”.  Then in Luke 4:21 he says “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears”.  When we exchanged the sign of peace (an opportunity for a little chat!), a woman told me that Prime Minister Ardern was to address the country at 11 am.

Afterwards, JD picked me up, and indeed the Prime Minister’s announcement has been made: New Zealand is to move to Red setting in the traffic light system at midnight tonight.  The cases of Covid 19 in Motueka are confirmed to be omicron (now 9 cases, I believe); they took a flight to a wedding in Auckland attended by about 100 people – these are now of interest, as is Nelson Airport; an Air NZ hostess is also Covid 19 positive, and four other flights she flew on are of interest. It’s not known what is the index case, i.e. where this infection came from, specifically.  Prime Minister Ardern has postponed her wedding.  She’s philosophical about it, saying “Such is life”. Omicron is now circulating in Auckland, and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region and elsewhere, she said.  I immediately wonder about my granddaughter’s proposed birthday party, and our proposed visit to see my daughter in Napier; oh, and my plan to get a large photograph of old Wellington reframed and rehung.

What can we still do under the Red setting?  Numbers at events are limited, and mask-wearing is more important, but apart from that, I think it’s a matter of going where you feel safe to do so, and (continuing to take) taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

The 1 pm statement, when it comes, is not quite so scary. Perhaps. There are 24 cases of Covid 19 in the community, and 47 at the border. There are only 8 people in hospital, and none in Intensive Care.  Another rest home worker in Summerset by the Park Rest Home in Flat Bush in Auckland has tested positive.  It’s reported that sixteen of the new community cases are in Auckland, two in Northland, one in Waikato and five in Lakes. There is one new case in the Waikato today, in Hamilton. They are linked to previous cases. Fifteen people are isolating at home in the Waikato. All five new Lakes DHB cases are in Rotorua. Two of them have not yet been linked to known cases. All are in isolation or MIQ.

It is very, very quiet here, the noise only punctuated by aeroplanes noisily flying overhead.  It’s as if we’d all been muted.  This morning’s newspaper was full of doom and gloom stories about how New Zealand isn’t ready for omicron. I must stop getting upset about these stupid stories. I don’t know how you can be “ready”: ready for what, exactly? More hospitalisations and perhaps deaths? The government has sought, wisely in my view, to delay the coming of omicron. We can be thankful for that.

Last night we watched the new movie on Netflix, Munich: the Edge of War.  It was very good, I thought, although Jeremy Irons’ distinctive brogue did not sound quite like Neville Chamberlain’s.  It was suitably scary, especially with the terrifying black uniforms of SS officials with the swastika on everything, even in 1937, and a frightening level of violence. The movie promoted the idea that Chamberlain had succeeded in buying time before England went to war; meanwhile, the Sudetenland was in effect “given away”, with the Czechs having no say in the matter.  Despite the violence and the racism, many Germans supported Hitler, and it was a brave person back then who would oppose him.  I kept thinking of Americans’ support for Trump, in spite of the dreadful stories about him, even before he won the presidential election in November 2016.  Although he had a lot of help, it’s mind-boggling that anyone would support him (and he got even more votes in November 2020, although he lost the popular vote both times).  In the US, terrifying details keep emerging about Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election, and remain in power – and it’s not as though he had no support in this. Apparently Giuliani masterminded the plan, and Trump drew up an executive order for the army to seize voting machines.  The US escaped “by the skin of its teeth”.  Thankfully, there were a few brave souls who saw to it that Trump’s dastardly plans did not succeed, around one year ago.

That’s it  for now. No doubt there’ll be more news tomorrow. Ngā mihi.

Clouds

Today is Friday January 14th, 2022. Kia ora!

In today’s Covid 19 news there are 18 new community cases, and 43 at the border. The Stuff website reports the new community cases as follows: in Auckland (11), Waikato (four), Bay of Plenty (one) and Canterbury (two). The Canterbury cases were announced on Thursday, but officially added to the tally on Friday. The border cases are from all over, no one specific area. Apparently 266 omicron cases have been detected at the border since the beginning of December 2021. That’s quite remarkable, seeing that our much-maligned MIQ system has kept them out of the community. There are more locations of interest, of course; the only Wellington one is the Myrtle Bakery and Café in Mt Victoria.  It’s become apparent that any venture to a café, supermarket, or gas station is potentially a risk. Kiwis do get around, too, often being tested in one place but turning up as an infection in a different location. There are 34 people in hospital, including 2 in Intensive Care.

The relative calm here is deceptive. Of course, there are voices in the press claiming the New Zealand government is not taking Covid 19/omicron seriously enough; I guess there always will be. No one is calling for greater freedoms, though, and just look at what’s happening in Australia.  Numbers are through the roof for infections, hospitalisations and deaths. I heard on the coronacast podcast that they’re no longer doing genomic sequencing for tests; the whole issue of testing is fraught, as some testing stations have closed down, and RAT tests are hard to come by. There was a joke going round saying how do you get a quick test result? Play England at cricket, that’s how.  Australia is reporting well over 100,000 new cases today. That’s probably severely under-reported.

It’s evident that the “let her rip” approach is a disaster, with numbers of sick people continuing to increase; even though the rules around self-isolating have been relaxed, there are still not nearly enough “well” people to care for those who need care. Once again, the elderly and the disabled are at risk. One epidemiologist explained that omicron is not a delta variant; that there is no assurance that this will be the last.

In the UK, it transpires that there were 2 more parties at 10 Downing St the night before Prince Philip’s funeral. Who can forget the picture of Queen Elizabeth II sitting, masked, on her own at his funeral?  Strict rules of social distancing and limited numbers in attendance were followed by Her Majesty, at a time when she could perhaps have been forgiven for relaxing the rules.

And, today, Prince Andrew has been stripped of the right to be HRH, and of his royal patronages.  I guess many of us, myself included, regard him as a pompous ass who has failed to find anything useful to do, and has behaved in a seriously bad manner, being friends with Jeffrey Epstein, whoever he slept with and however old they were. It’s evident that his attitude towards women is both archaic and awful, and it contrasts markedly with that to his odious friend, Epstein.  It’s to be marvelled at that his and Fergie’s daughters have turned out as nice as they have. Evidently the Queen has a soft spot for each of them. Prince Andrew will fight Virginia Giuffre’s lawsuit as a private citizen.

Prime Minister Johnson has made a carefully worded apology for something – perhaps the May 20 party.  He’s under even more pressure than before, as Covid 19 disgraces keep emerging.

In the US, the head of the Oath Keepers has been charged with sedition (“seditious conspiracy”), the first such charge for people who offended during the January 6 2021 insurrection. This is momentous. First I heard there was one such charge; Rachel Maddow reports that several people (11) are involved.

This morning we took our grandchildren to the Destination Mars exhibition/experience at Te Papa.  I had booked tickets online, and what a mission that turned out to be.  A booking for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children) cost $70 plus the booking fee. I thought this was for an hour, but it was only for ½ an hour.  The cost for a family was the same as for 2 seniors and 2 children. When we got there, I got the tickets printed as although I’d opted for having them on my phone, I couldn’t find them there.  We arrived a few minutes early, and queued up for what seemed like ages in a kind of plane boarding/customs queueing arrangement. Eventually, they let us in. It was sit where you like – at stools around a horseshoe shaped bench. Each seat had its own console, which was pretty easy to operate.  The operation did rather fill me with horror, seeming to combine extreme ineptitude and carelessness, of the kind you’d expect to see in a spoof movie. Spoiler alert – I doubt if it was worth $70, but you did have to see it.  My granddaughter needed some help, and I needed some help from my grandson.  We sat at the end of a row, and there was quite a big gap next to me, so I felt quite safe.

Afterwards we went to the café downstairs. The children had chips. I checked out the cabinet food, but there wasn’t much there, so I had an avocado stack. It was very good. There’s plenty of room there, so again, we felt quite safe. I am so glad to have some hand sanitiser in my handbag.

It’s now Sunday January 16th.

Yesterday’ Covid 19 news wasn’t too bad: 29 new community cases and 25 at the border. 29 are in hospital, 5 in North Shore, 8 in Auckland, 12 in Middlemore, 4 in Tauranga. Two cases are in ICU. There are more locations of interest, an MIQ worker has contracted Covid 19, and a care home worker at the Selwyn Retirement Home has become infected. On Friday we were told that 1/60 people coming into New Zealand have the omicron variant of Covid 19.  I guess that’s meant to be reassuring.  In Australia, there’s ongoing devastation and deaths as omicron works its way around. While some are foolishly attending Covid parties, there are fears that “long Covid”, i.e. the after effects that may never go away, need to be treated too, where they can be; if, say, there’s been heart damage.  You really don’t want to get this disease.

The main news from last night is of a severe underwater volcanic explosion near the Pacific Island of Tonga, which has caused devastation in Tonga and tsunami warnings for Northland in New Zealand, and for Australia and the US.  We’re quite a long way inland, and higher up, so we’re not worried for ourselves but in Tutukaka in Northland the marina has felt the force of extra high waves and boats have been smashed up.  New Zealanders are warned to stay away from the beaches. We’re also warned about the approach of Cyclone Cody from Queensland. There is no contact with Tonga, and it’s feared that these beautiful islands have sustained major damage. Prime Minister Ardern is to give an update at 3 pm. (On Wednesday I learnt that three deaths have been confirmed so far).

This morning it was quite cold early on, but it’s a beautiful hot sunny day now. I went to church in Ngaio this morning. Interesting.  It was very different, but almost everyone kept their mask on. I was just starting to enjoy my coffee and a cheese scone at a local café when the chauffeur arrived. You can’t do anything quickly these days, once I’d scanned in and shown my vaccine pass.

On Sunday there were 25 community cases of Covid 19 and 43 at the border.

It’s now Monday January 17th.

Today there are far more cases of Covid 19 at the border (43) than community cases – 16.  The good news is that all the tests of close contacts of the infected MIQ worker have come back negative.   The not-so-good news is that there are many locations of interest – in Auckland. Children from 5 – 11 can be vaccinated from today.

Brian Tamaki has been arrested for breaking his bail conditions, and will spend a few days (10) in prison. He claims he’s not a criminal.  Djokovic has been sent home from Australia, and now the Tennis Open can continue under very strange circumstances.

It’s now Wednesday January 19th, and I haven’t written for a while.

To catch up, an MIQ worker was diagnosed positive with Covid 19, and it was later confirmed that this case is omicron. A close contact also has Covid 19, although most close contacts’ tests have come back negative. Yesterday one of the community cases was a Wellington one – I don’t know where that was from. Today we learnt that a worker at Auckland Airport has been diagnosed with Covid 19; it’s feared that this is omicron too. Today again there are more cases of Covid 19 at the border (56!) than community cases (24). The MIQ lottery system for March and April has been paused. That probably puts paid to my son’s visit from the UK.  The Black Caps proposed tour of Australia (they were due to leave in a few days’ time) has been postponed, due to lack of certainty about their return – no spots in MIQ have been booked. The Big Gay Out has been cancelled for 2022 – this was due to be held in Auckland on 13 February. Meanwhile, we are making plans to travel to Hawkes Bay, and a son is making plans for a granddaughter’s birthday party. Will these go ahead? Hopefully, they will.

This morning someone came to do some housework. She was very good, and I hope she can continue. They haven’t sent anyone since a week before Christmas!  That’s been very frustrating.  I have tried to explain to JD that while I may summon up the energy to go to church, or to visit a friend, or go to a movie or an exhibition, changing sheets and towels and emptying rubbish bins is work I would greatly prefer not to have to do. My dear friend who died last year advised me to save my limited energy for doing things I really want to do. I would gladly give myself permission for just that, were it possible.

In Australia the omicron surge shows no signs of peaking as yet. They are having 70? Perhaps 100? Deaths each day. Omicron may not be the last variant of Covid 19, we’ve been warned.  For myself, boring as it is (Will I ever go overseas again? Would I be able to afford the insurance?), I guess I’m glad to be here, where the government is doing its best to make sure we’re not overrun by Covid 19. That’s appreciated. Overseas, cruises are in trouble, and more and more operas are being cancelled. In the US, Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers have been subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee. Sadly, General Mark Milley has been diagnosed with Covid 19. In China, there are fears for the Winter Olympics due to be held in Beijing after one case of Covid 19 was found, and a drastic lockdown ensued.

We’ve been watching series 3 of Afterlife on Netflix.  While I was disposed not to like Ricky Gervais, he’s rather good in this series.  It’s extremely well done, as were the previous two. It’s been very thought-provoking.  The final episode had Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now playing in the background. What a beautiful song it is. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
Looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and they snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
And you leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know love
Really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh, but now old friends they’re acting strange
And they shake their heads and they tell me that I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

It’s life’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know life
I really don’t know life at all

Shadow Lockdown

Washington and McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth

Today is Tuesday January 11th, 2022. Kia ora!

I heard on a podcast that NSW is having a “shadow lockdown”. I guess this is what happens when you let it (Covid 19) rip.

The Covid 19 news today here isn’t too bad. There are 14 new community cases and 9 at the border. Both figures seem remarkably low, compared to what we’ve become used to. It’s the lowest number of community cases since September 28! There are 34 people in hospital; that is less, too. There were new community cases in Northland (two), Auckland (nine), Waikato (two), and Wellington (one). There are two new cases in Canterbury, which will be included in tomorrow’s total.

So that’s not too horrible. JD and I would like to go and see our daughter in Napier, and we’re tentatively arranging a trip for early February.  Hohepa authorities agree, that depending on Covid 19 numbers, this should be all right.

JD and I have been watching The Great on Neon, series one and two. It’s very well acted, and very colourful. The guy playing Emperor Peter, Nicholas Hoult, is amazing, in my view. Peter is quite mad, and quite impervious to any hurt towards others. Sexual immorality is rife; Peter is very strange, and unpredictable, although likeable in some ways.  There’s a strange mixture here of deference and lack of worshipfulness, quite different from things one might see in The Crown. In one scene, Peter walks around naked. He has no shame about this. He thinks nothing of inspecting other men’s genitalia; he even procures a lover for his wife (the Empress, who becomes Catherine the Great). She’s remarkably canny, though, and eventually gets him to abdicate in her favour. The coronation scene is quite remarkable.

On the pods I have been listening to the Bulwark daily podcast; I do find this frustrating, although I like to keep up with the news of crazy.  I’ve been enjoying much more The Rest is History podcast, presently about Caesar crossing the Rubicon (I’ve heard episode one so far), and I also listened to Tom and Dominic speaking to Stephen Fry about The Trojan War (he’d just written about this). What a treat it is to listen to intelligent conversation. I’m looking forward to hearing the second part of the Rubicon episode. 

Tom has a way of speaking about these folk, Caesar, Sulla, Pompey and others like real people, making comparisons with living icons. This is a far more interesting view than just presenting the dusty facts, and makes these intrepid people come to life in a new way.

It’s now Wednesday January 12th.

This morning I listened to some old pods: one about Trump, obviously recorded before the January 6 insurrection, but interesting nonetheless; how naive we were back then! and one about the year 1981, when Charles and Diana married, and Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. In New Zealand, it was also a time of great unrest, being the year of the South African rugby tour (and, of course, the royal wedding).  I was relieved to be pregnant with my second son, and so had a very good excuse for not joining in any of the protests that took place. The tour was extremely divisive, and should never have taken place, in my view. Rob Muldoon was Prime Minister here, and he was certainly a very divisive figure.

I also listened to a Bulwark podcast about the likelihood of another civil war in America.  This is a very scary issue. The guest (Barbara Walter) had just written a book about civil wars, and the kinds of events that precipitate them. 

Overseas, the omicron variant of Covid 19 continues to break records with case numbers and hospitalisations. So much for it being a mild disease!  Most people who’ve had it claim that it’s not mild, and you certainly don’t want to have it. In the UK, a former health secretary has contracted the virus for a second time; it occurs to me that perhaps omicron cases at the border have declined because so many flights have been cancelled. China has locked down a third city, Anyang (home to 5.5 million people); in Australia, the Djokovic saga continues, and I read last night on ABC news that, yes, they are in effect having an unofficial lockdown.  Remember, you heard it from me first.  No one is predicting when this wave will peak anymore. In the UK, there’s yet more annoyance at Boris Johnson inviting 100 people to another party at 10 Downing St (in the garden) in May 2020, while the rest of the country was enduring severe restrictions. In the US, the weather is causing problems with flights and with Covid 19.

Today’s Covid 19 report is mixed. There have been two deaths, including that of a man in his 30’s (who was diagnosed with Covid 19 after his death). There are 28 new community cases today, and 65 identified at the border. Of the new community cases, there are 17 in Auckland, 1 in Waikato, 4 in Bay of Plenty, 4 in Lakes and 1 in Christchurch. There are 31 people in hospital.

Very sadly, a man of 39, a father of six, died while surfing. It’s reported that he suffered a brain aneurysm. Actually he died in Intensive Care a few hours later. While his death is truly tragic, it’s just not true (in my understanding) that someone dies suffering a brain aneurysm: many people have a brain aneurysm that may not cause any problems unless it bursts causing a brain bleed, or grows to such a size that it causes problems.  Having suffered an undiagnosed brain bleed myself, I do claim some knowledge of what I speak.

This afternoon I went to see The Scottish Play (aka The Tragedy of Macbeth) at a picture theatre.  It was nice to go, and I felt quite safe: there weren’t many people there, and I do enjoy the Bard. I even managed to carry my free Long Black coffee into the small theatre, without spilling it or falling over.

This was the film version with Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. I thought it was perhaps the best film version I’ve seen, once I got over the American accents, which I found quite incongruous at first.   McDormand was magnificent, as she always is, and yet right from the beginning I wondered just what was biting her: she seemed truly evil from the get-go, whereas her husband is a more conflicted figure. The film is all in black and white, and seemed very theatrical, with limited sets, and the actors sometimes spot lit. The outside is always bleak, populated mostly by the ghostly hags and by black ravens; the castle is purely functional, quite unadorned (there are no paintings), and the human beings seem dwarfed by its size and its darkness.  The whole atmosphere evokes fear. In many cases, royalty aspires to much greater grandeur: not so, here; Macbeth’s crown could be a child’s toy.  Lady Macbeth has her hair done up, but is she wearing a crown? Perhaps later in the play she is.  The film seemed to stick very closely to Shakespeare’s wonderful dialogue, which sounds quite modern when spoken: what a wonderful dramatist the Bard is.  The spoken words are so apt: at one point, Macbeth talks about sleep knitting up the raveled sleeve of care. How true that it!  All his plays were written in blank verse, or iambic pentameter. I remember a fascinating talk about how he used this discipline. I fear this film was made in covid times: there’s no tender touching that I recall, except for I think it’s Banquo giving Macbeth a hug.  There are horrific sword fights.

It’s now Thursday January 13th.

There are more locations of interest locally: I can’t remember what they are, although when I read them last night I was relieved that I hadn’t been to any of them, and also noticed how close to home they’re getting.  A Rod Stewart tour of NZ in April has been cancelled ((by him), including a concert at the Mission in Taradale (Napier). He’s cancelled “due to ongoing travel restrictions amid the influx of Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant”, according to the NZ Herald. He was due to give three concerts. All I can say is, thank goodness for that. I know many people will be disappointed, but needs must. The Stuff website reports that NSW has a record 92,264 new cases of Covid 19.

Some years ago we went to a concert featuring José Carreras at a winery in Hawkes Bay. We had brought our daughter back to Hohepa, and I thought how nice it would be to hear him sing. He was one of my favourite tenors, and recovered from a cancer that could well have affected his beautiful voice. It did not, he could still sing again. We drove to the concert venue, parked in a field, and took our seats. The NZSO was accompanying the singer; the singing was miked.  But the worst of it was the generators which made a very loud noise throughout the first half of the concert. It was explained to us that they were needed to chill the wine that concert-goers were expected to buy at half-time. But afterwards, the noise continued: the caterers had to clean up, and did not care how much noise they made. JD remarked it was like listening to a CD on a tractor.  Well, it was certainly not what I expected; some musicians were not at all happy about it either. The concert was a lovely idea, but the reality was dreadful, and it seemed the organisers were not at all sympathetic to music, singing, and the challenges of a live performance. They may have been wine lovers and quite commercial, however.

Today the covid 19 news isn’t too bad. There are 13 cases at the border, and 28 new community cases. The stuff website reports that there are new cases in Auckland (nine), Waikato (three), Bay of Plenty (five), Lakes (two), Hutt Valley (two), Wairarapa (four) and Canterbury (three). An unexpected detection of Covid-19 in wastewater in Kawerau, in the Bay of Plenty, on January 10 was also reported. There were 34 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Thursday, up slightly from 31 on Wednesday. This included two people in intensive care or high dependency care units. There are two new cases in the Wairarapa town of Featherston, and two in Lower Hutt.

I’m going to finish today by quoting some of Macbeth’s wonderful lines. Ngā mihi.

Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!

Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

And, because you can’t have too much Shakespeare:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

Ready (or not)

Coffee beans: essential for survival

It’s now Sunday January 9th, 2022. Kia ora!

I haven’t written since Friday morning. A lot has happened since then.

On Friday we had an Covid 19 update. Local figures for Covid 19 community cases are not too bad at 35, with 18 in Auckland, 1 in Waikato, 13 in Bay of Plenty, and 3 in Lakes. There were 24 new cases at the border; most of these are believed to be omicron. I remember when 10 cases at the border was a cause for alarm. There are 37 people in hospital.

On Saturday (yesterday) there was no official update. But I learnt that a person with Covid 19 who had left self-isolation before they were supposed to, and were travelling south to catch the Cook Strait ferry; the Ministry of Health asked the New Zealand police for help in apprehending this person. Apparently he gave himself up, but he had been through Lower Hutt and Wellington.

Then I learnt that there are 2 positive cases in Wellington, thought to be connected to a music festival in Taranga. A list of locations of interest has been published; they include the Countdown supermarket in Newtown. These people do get around!

JD and I had our booster shots yesterday, at the Johnsonville Shopping Centre. Apart from a sore upper arm, I feel fine and thankfully seem to have no other ill effects.

Overseas, omicron numbers are still climbing and causing some devastation – amongst everyone, really, to say nothing of the consternation here. In Australia, the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg has tested positive, as has former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  NZ’s epidemiologist Michael Baker’s son has tested positive in Sydney. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been diagnosed positive. The Crown Princess of Sweden and Sir Keir Starmer have tested positive. In the UK, there have been 150,000 deaths from Covid 19 – officially. That’s more than any European country.

Australia, the omicron cases continue to rise, and the Novak Djokovic saga continues (apparently he has had Covid 19, but his story is complicated). I won’t go into the details. Here in NZ, a National MP has taken part a  second anti-lockdown and mandate protest.  A headline asks something along the lines of When will we let Omicron in? Now I know they have to sell newspapers, but I find this ridiculous.  No one wants the omicron variant, and it’s accordant devastation, but I strongly suspect New Zealand cannot keep it out indefinitely. It’s already at our borders, and there’ve been three community cases, so far.  I think the best strategy is to try and manage it, and limit its devastation. It’s school holidays at present, and nothing much really happens until after Waitangi Day on February 6, so we can be thankful that the children aren’t back at school yet, and most normal activities like singing and exercise haven’t resumed yet for 2022. At present many of us are just choosing what  risks we are prepared to take. There’s conflicting information about whether school openings should be delayed beyond Waitangi Weekend.

Overseas, sad things are happening: the commemoration of the January 6 insurrection in the US. Remarkably, the only two republicans to appear in Congress were Liz Cheney and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. Now I am not at all disposed to think well of Dick Cheney, but this appearance was remarkable, and I value Liz Cheney’s position as deputy Chair of the Select Committee investigating the shocking events of January 6 2021. Other sad events include the abasement of Senator Ted Cruz in front of Tucker Carlsen on the animal channel; unexpected snow in northern India and Pakistan; a dreadful rock fall on a lake in Brazil (something you’d expect to see in a Hollywood blockbuster mover); protests in Kazakhstan, put down by shooting to kill; and the very sad death of Sinead O’Connor’s 17 year old son, Shane. Whatever one may think of Sinead O’Connor, her son’s death is surely a tragedy.  And then there’s the ongoing saga of Prince Harry’s family in Montecito.  More and more I think that if I were one of his children, I would want to be part of the Royal family, and part of all that wonderful tradition. I think I should resent very much being kept apart from that.

I remember when my children were small there was an offer to send one of them to the US, where they’d be brought up by a wealthy family.  Neither I nor my husband would think of it; we’d worked very hard to have our special children, but questions were asked by them, later! JD and I thought it both shocking, and amusing and ridiculous, that we’d part with any of them. We were very appreciative that we had them, and I realised too that none had chosen to be born.

This morning I went to church in Johnsonville. There was a good turnout, and some beautiful singing, but no decorations!  There was a very interesting sermon. It questioned the actual reporting about Jesus’ birth, as opposed to the Christmas myths that have grown up around it. It was about the Epiphany, which occurred on January 6.  The Epiphany (I should have known this, but didn’t) is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12). The preacher thought that the Magi may have been Babylonian mathematicians, as opposed to Kings. The sermon, which was quite academic (covering mathematics, philosophy, astronomy and astrology), managed to link Jupiter as being the planet which stood over Bethlehem when Jesus was born, with the Southern Cross, which mirrored his death. Bethlehem was predicted by the prophet Micah (5.2) as the place of Jesus’ birth. This has been timed according to the eclipse that occurred at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  I had not heard anyone make that link before. The preacher claimed that God had put his thumbprint in the heavens on the birth, and death of Jesus Christ.  I found it quite remarkable and very thought-provoking. I have since found a recording of this reflection called Star Gazers.  The person delivering the reflection was Rev Reg Weeks. Bishop Barron in California also spoke about the use of science to determine details about Christianity.

The 1 pm Covid report is now in. There are 64 (!) Covid cases at the border, 85 community cases, and 31 people in hospital (2 of them in Intensive Care). It’s been reported that 57 of the cases were in Auckland, seven in Waikato, 16 in Bay of Plenty, and two in Lakes and two cases announced on Saturday in Wellington. Covid 19 has been detected in wastewater from the Coromandel town of Whangamatā in the weekend, and an additional testing site has been set up there. Most of the cases detected at the border are expected to be omicron.

NSW has its deadliest day yet with 30,062 new cases and 16 deaths.

It’s now Monday January 10th.

There’s been no more Covid 19 news here overnight, but it would be fair to say that we’re all very apprehensive about the coming of the omicron variant. It’s said to be a matter of when, not if.  Meanwhile, Brian Tamaki addressed an anti-vaccination protest in Christchurch, possibly breaking his bail conditions. I’m sure God didn’t want him to be disobedient to the police as agents of the government. The WHO says there have been 10 million new cases of omicron in the last week. It’s spreading with shocking speed, and doesn’t seem to have peaked yet.

In Australia, states are continuing to break records with new covid 19 cases; the Governor General has tested positive; there are shortages in the stores. What’s more concerning is that essential workers must go to work, even if they’re Covid 19 positive. “Let it rip” is really letting it rip. How can you ever stop infection spreading if infected people are required to continue working? In China, over 11 million people are being tested for Covid 19 in the city of Tianjin since 22 cases were discovered.  In Kazakhstan, order has been restored (whatever that means) and 164 people have been killed as a result of the shoot to kill order.  The three men convicted of killing Ahmed Arbury have been effectively sentenced to life in prison.

Probably the scariest news come from Cyprus, where a variant of Covid 19  combining delta and omicron has been discovered. It’s known as Deltacron, and 25 cases have been found.

Before the 1 pm announcement I walked to the local store

It seems quite well-stocked, but I buy coffee beans (which are scarce), just to be on the safe side. It’s not busy. Then the announcement comes. Today there are 27 new community cases of Covid 19, and 33 at the border. Of the new community cases, 16 were in Auckland, five in Waikato, two in Bay of Plenty and one each in Rotorua (covered by Lakes DHB) and Wellington.  My judgment is that this news is not the worst, but not the best, either. It’s very scary that most of the border cases are the omicron variant. They come from all over the place. The government has shortened the amount of time required to have a negative test before travelling to 48 hours of departure, instead of 72 hours. Frankly, it doesn’t seem to have made a difference. I remember when there were around 10 cases of Covid 19 in MIQ, from mainly flights from India (during the beginnings of their delta wave); those flights were banned for a time. I fear it’s just a matter of time before the omicron variant is rampant in New Zealand.

Last night we watched the movie On Chesil Beach on Māori television.  It was beautifully acted, but what a frustrating plot!  How come this beautiful, intelligent couple couldn’t get it together? What a contrast to many films and series. I did enjoy the Bach Cello suites and the Chamber music, though.

That’s it for now. I have a good supply of coffee beans and toilet paper. I’ve had my booster jab; it wasn’t to bad; I had a sore upper arm and shoulder for a couple of days, but I’m over that now and ready for omicron (not). Ngā mihi.

The Festive Season

Today is Tuesday January 4th, 2022. Kia ora!

Yesterday on the Rest is History podcast Dominic and Tom spoke about Martin Luther, and J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s extremely interesting. Martin Luther was perhaps the founder of the Reformation – for his beliefs, he was excommunicated from the Catholic church; Tolkien, on the other hand, remained a devout Catholic. He was born in South Africa, but both his parents died while he was quite young.  it’s very interesting that he shared a house with C.S. Lewis, who also knew great grief; they were both very imaginative writers. I really enjoyed the Narnia books when I was a child; for some reason, I was permitted to read them. I whiled away night-time feedings by rereading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when one of my children was a baby.   Years later, I tried rereading it, but found it far too long to hold my attention. Peter Jackson has done honour to it in making three long movies based on the Trilogy, and then three on the Hobbit, a much shorter novel. Each of the movies is at least three hours long; you need stamina to watch them. Personally, for me The first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, was far and away the best, and it did really put New Zealand on the map. For the rest, I got very sick of seeing men with long greasy hair in dare-devil situations. I suppose that’s what you have to do if there are no guns or car chases, and you want to make a family movie that appeals to a wide audience.

Today’s coronavirus report is again not too bad. There are 31 new community cases, and 53 people in hospital; 3 of them are in Intensive Care. There are 29 new cases at the border. There’s one new community case of Covid 19, that person being a close contact of an Air NZ crew member who tested positive for omicron in late December. That means there’ve been 3 community cases of the omicron variant. Fourteen of the latest community cases are in Auckland, one is in Waikato, 12 are in Bay of Plenty and four are in Rotorua. It was reported last night that 6 people in Auckland are positive, who all went to the Pelican nightclub (aka a brothel).

A new highly mutated variant has been detected in France, presently dubbed IHU by the scientists working on it. It’s been found in a dozen people living in Southern France, and the index case came from Cameroon, in Africa. IHU, as it’s been known, has the N501Y mutation also found in the Alpha, Beta, Omicron and Gamma variants, which makes it more infectious, and the E484K mutation found in Gamma and Beta, which helps the virus evade people’s immunity., as well as numerous other changes. So should we be even more afraid? Who knows.

Meanwhile, the omicron variant is ravaging many “civilised” parts of the world. Leaders are determined not to call for lockdowns, but that’s what people are getting, in effect, as there simply aren’t enough well people or people who aren’t close contacts of infected people to come in to work and teach, nurse, or operate planes, trains, or buses. In Sydney covid 19 positive, asymptomatic nurses are called in to work, because, hey, they’re needed.  So much for this being a mild disease; it still required many hospitalisations, and much Intensive Care treatment. On Victoria, there are 21,020 new cases; in NSW, it’s 13,131.The ABC reports that symptomatic nurses have been pressured to return to work in ICU units. In some places you can’t get tests: two Sydney sites have shut down; often people can’t get test results quickly, i.e. in a couple of days.

In the US, Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of Theranos, has been found guilty of 4 fraud charges.  That will come as a relief to many.

In China the city of Yuzhou is in lockdown over 3 asymptomatic cases; meanwhile the city of Ti’an is still in lockdown. In the US, it’s reported there’s chaos as children are supposed to go back to school, with teachers and students reported sick. Evidently there are food shortages in the city of Ti’an, so food is being delivered to households by wagon.

It’s now Wednesday January 5th.

Today there are 17 new community cases of delta in New Zealand, with just five in Auckland, the lowest they’ve had for ages and ages. One could be nasty and joke that that’s because there’s nobody left there, but it’s still a remarkable achievement. There are 23 new cases at the border, and most of them are assumed to be omicron. There are 44 people in hospital, 5 in Intensive Care. Of the new cases in the community, nine were in the Bay of Plenty, while five were in Auckland and three were in Waikato. A rest home in Tauranga has had a staff member diagnose positive with Covid 19.

Meanwhile, NSW has 35,054 new cases, and Victoria 17,636. Djokovic has been given an exemption (from being vaccinated? From MIQ?) to attend the Australian Open, a summer event where people play tennis in crazily hot temperatures.  Apparently there are two new Covid 19 cases in Taranaki, and the Taranaki Hospital’s ED is now a location of interest.

Today we went shopping at New World in Thorndon.  I had forgotten to take my phone, so had to sign in manually.  It was lovely: I bought new potatoes (there aren’t many left, now), avocadoes (still 3 large ones for $1, although there’re pretty ripe), raspberries, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, coffee beans, ice cream, rye bread and pies (and a cake).  There were none of my favourite prepared salads. There’s no asparagus, now.  We  don’t queue up for booster jabs because JD has an appointment tonight.

This morning I listened to Dr John Campbell, of northern England. I have to admit I was really annoyed, specifically by three things he said. He claimed New Zealand was a “hermit kingdom”, or perhaps a republic. Actually, New Zealand used to be a British colony, and it’s now a member of the Commonwealth. We share the same sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II.  I would have thought that he’d know that.  His view is that we’ll all get omicron, and that will provide herd immunity. Well, that’s not necessarily true: people who’ve had Covid 19 are catching omicron, as are people who’ve been vaccinated and had boosters, so there’s no knowing about the community level of immunity to Covid 19, specifically the omicron variant. Then he said he thought we’d (i.e. the UK) be fine by June (that would be April 2022, not too far away).  There’s no guarantee that because we’ve had Covid 19 up to here, it’s finished with us. A scary new infectious variant has been discovered in France.  I think the esteemed Dr John may be a teeny bit jealous of the situation in New Zealand, where omicron has been kept to a minimum, as compared with Australia, where the numbers are astronomical and the health system in NSW is under great pressure.

It’s now Thursday January 6th.

1/10 are infected in UK. Unofficial lockdowns are in Australia, the US and the UK:  whether you like them or not: stuff can’t work as normal because teachers and other staff are ill or isolating.

There are 19 new Covid-19 cases in the community today, the Ministry of Health says. Of today’s 19 cases in the community, six are in Auckland, five in Waikato, five in Bay of Plenty, one in Northland and two in Taranaki. here is an extra case in Taranaki but as it came in after today’s cut-off time, it will be reported alongside tomorrow’s numbers. There are 43 new cases at the border, up from 23 yesterday, assumed to  be mostly omicron.  Apparently there are now 10 cases connected to the Pelorus Nightclub (aka brothel).

It’s now Friday January 7th.

NSW reports 38,625 new cases of Covid 19.  Here, we fear (and are warned by a modeler) that omicron is coming. The NSW government is now preparing to reintroduce some restrictions including closing nightclubs, banning singing and dancing in pubs and cancelling major events.  There is consternation around what exemption, if any, was made for Novak Djokovic to play in the Australian Open. Apparently he’s holed up in a hotel in Melbourne at present. The row has extended to Prime Minister Morrison (“rules are rules”), the Serbian President, and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic’s main rival on the tennis court.

In the US, the insurrection at the Capitol is being sadly remembered/commemorated.  Here in New Zealand, there’s been (and continues to be) a very sad count of water-related deaths (i.e. drownings) and road accidents. Everywhere else, Covid 19/omicron is rampant. Here, we’re thinking what is it still safe to do?  Using public transport poses a risk, as does going anywhere public. The WHO has admitted that Covid 19/omicron may be less severe than delta , but is not a “mild” illness. Thanks for that admission,

This morning someone was supposed to come and do some housework.  Access cancelled the arrangement, on account of staff sickness. It’s now weeks since anyone’s been – they cancelled last week, it’s being New Year’s Eve. It has been very warm during the week, but’s now much cooler: my computer says it’s 14C, as opposed to 27C earlier this week (it seemed very sticky, too). I must admit I find it easier to cope when it’s a bit cooler, especially at night.

Yesterday we queued up at the Johnsonville Shopping Centre to get booster vaccination jabs, only to be told, after waiting a while, that they’d run out of booster jabs, but we could book an appointment. Accordingly we’ve booked for Saturday afternoon. I bought a diary, but why did they have to change the format?  I liked to see a week at a glance. This one is different.

I’ve enjoyed The Rest is History Podcast finding events for the 12/13 days of Christmas, some of them quite obscure. Dominic Sandbrook’s fruity/plutey tones are quite mellifluous, although I probably sympathise more with Tom Holland. Each day they’ve found an episode relevant to the date, and full credit for that. They’ve covered Solomon Northup (celebrated in the movie, 12 Years a Slave), and Albert Camus; the death of Edward the Confessor and L’Affaire Dreyfus, and Alfred the Great and Pepys’ “Fanatiques”.  What a lot I have learnt.  It’s now time to take down the Christmas decorations, such as they are. More news tomorrow. Ngā mihi.

Bonne Année!

Today is Friday December 31st, 2021. Kia ora! It’s New Year’s Eve.

Some reflections this morning: Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty on 5 out of 6 charges, and will probably get jail time for this. She stood alone in the court:  all the rich and famous men who were “friends” of Jeffrey Epstein: Trump, Prince Andrew, Alan Dershowitz, Bill Clinton and others were nowhere to be found, and so far have not paid any legal penalty for their shady actions.  Their reputations are mud, but then I think many of us had our suspicions, anyway.

In the UK, British people will not be able to transit through France to get to their homes in the EU.  So they won’t be able to drive through the Channel Tunnel. Perhaps they could take the Channel ferry to the Hook of Holland.  I find this mildly amusing, although it does reek of pique, somewhat. Later I read that this rule has now been suspended. Overseas, records for new case numbers are being broken, more flights are being cancelled, and quarantine tines are being shortened. In the US, heaps of people are in hospital, including many children. This applies to Australia as well as the US, the UK, and European countries. I don’t think governments should sit on their hands and wait for things to get bad: they’ve gotten bad very fast, much faster than anyone expected.  This might (hopefully) be the coronavirus’s dying gasp, but Covid 19 has bee very hard to eliminate – anywhere. It may not be finished yet, however much we’ve had enough. I fear that coming impacts of climate change will be like this: change will suddenly be upon us and impacting many more people than it’s already having an effect on.  And if it’s a mild disease, how come there are so many new cases each day?

In New Zealand, there is a new case of Covid 19 in Napier. That’s not good news. There are two new locations of interest in Wellington:  the Rydges Hotel in Featherston Street, and an apartment on The Terrace.  Apparently the DJ Dimension had been granted 3 exemptions to get into MIQ.  Many New Zealanders, whose family members can’t come home, can’t get a place, or even an exemption, so that’s not great news, although perhaps the administration was trying to help the arts and the hospitality sectors.

In China, disgraced covid rule-breakers have been paraded through the city of Jingxi, reviving a practice of public shaming that had been abolished for a time. In New York, one of the subway lines is closed because of lack of staff availability. In another US city the fire department is closed. There is a Washington Post story about someone who “did everything right”, but still got the coronavirus. In the US, all the states are red (with case numbers). I don’t think people realise just how contagious this latest variant of the virus is. It’s airborne, which is an added challenge.  I don’t fear so much for myself, catching it, but I would hate for my daughter, or my school-age grandchildren to get it. The vaccines are good, but some are now saying you need another booster (that would make four jabs), or three injections a year!  You only get one flu jab each year, by comparison.  People here seem to be relying on vaccine passes (for two jabs); while they provide a shield of sorts, they don’t give complete protection. One can’t help feeling we’ve come so far, and yet so little distance, in terms of how much we know about this coronavirus.

On the pods, The Rest is History dealt with the Battle of Wakefield, in 1460, and the fall of the Duke of York, and Karl, the last Habsburg Emperor, crowned in 1916, towards the end of World War 1. I must confess I know little about either of these episodes, although I did see the movie Mayerling, about the murder/suicide of an heir to the Habsburg throne, and of course I know about the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, an event which precipitated the start of World War 1. The movie is famous for its inclusion of the Elvira Madigan suite, a movement from one of Mozart’s Piano Concertos, No. 21, 2nd movement, think.

Today’s news (NZ Herald) tells that there are 62 community cases of Covid 19. A few minutes later, the Stuff website advises that there are 49 new community cases, and no new omicron cases in the community, although there are 10 at the border. There are 46 people in hospital and 8 in Intensive Care.

It’s now Sunday January 2nd, 2022.

Yesterday was New Year’s Day, although I think that here as for Christmas Day, celebrations have been pretty muted. It’s been fine and warm, even hot, in Wellington. I haven’t felt much like doing anything, although I did go to church this morning – in Wadestown.  It was fine and warm there, although there weren’t many of us; very different from what I’ve come to be used to. Afterwards, I waited for JD to pick me up. I find this heat really enervating, although it’s nice, of course. This morning I had my morning tea outside, at my home, and again I find the sun, although “lovely”, is quite intense.

We are hanging out for having our booster shots of vaccine, and thinking we’ll see how the queues are at the Johnsonville Shopping Centre once vaccinations reopen. I tried to do as my cousin advised and book a time, going on the advertised website, but when I entered the date of my second jab, it said this date could not be in the future (ha ha! 2021 in not the future). Obviously the website hasn’t been fixed yet. Or tested, perhaps.

Yesterday there was no Covid 19 news, it being New Year’s day, except to say that Covid 19 had been found in another retirement home, one in Mt Albert this time.  Today it’s reported that there are 105 new community cases, none of them omicron, thankfully. There are however 2 new cases of the omicron variant in MIQ.  There are 43 people in hospital, and 5 in Intensive Care; there have been 2 further deaths. Sunday’s new community cases reported from the past two days are from Auckland (71), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (22), Lakes (Rotorua) (4), and Hawke’s Bay (1). The Hawke’s Bay case was first announced on Friday after the reporting cut-off but was officially included in Sunday’s tally. There’s lots of traffic on the roads – why, one wonders? Since the next two days are public holidays.

It’s been quite boring, really. I’ve been reading John Le Carré’s latest novel. Silverview (a Christmas gift), and quite enjoying it. Edward Avon refers to W G Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, which I’m proud to say I have read; in fact, I have a book about Sebald out of the library.

I’ve also been listening to lots of podcasts – more about Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos (the trial is currently being held, in fact the jury are still deliberating); what a piece of work she is/was!  I’ve also listened to Harsh Reality, a series about reality television, and a series about Enron.  I do find the incessant ads and promotions in these podcasts very annoying.

I’ve also been listening to The Rest is History podcast special for the 12/13 days of Christmas. These are not cheerful!  There’s lots of mutilation and massacres. On New Year’s Eve I listened to one about the African Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa, and the coronavirus; yesterday’s topics were Byzantine: the four emperors of Rome, and a battle that led to the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Although I know about the four emperors, this episode was pretty obscure to me. I have also been listening to more In Our Time BBC4 podcasts about The Rosetta Stone, Herodotus, the Congress of Vienna, and so on. I do enjoy listening to serious conversation.

In Australia, you can see what happens when the official attitude is to live with the coronavirus. The other day, NSW had over 7,000 new cases; today it’s 18,278. It’s reported they’ve been flying in medical staff – where from, I don’t know. A doctor in ICU in Wellington thanked the public recently for their part in heling keep this outbreak under control, so that the health system is not overwhelmed. Queensland has 3,587. Omicron is now Victoria’s dominant strain as new cases number 7,172. Apparently the Australian government have determined that “close contact” means you were in contact with another Covid 19 case for 4 hours!  That would rule out a lot of casual contacts, I think.

It’s now Monday January 3rd, 2021. How dull these hot days are!

The Covid 19 news here today is really rather good, though There are 27 new community cases of Covid 19, and 24 at the border – but none of them is the omicron variant. There are 44 people in hospital, and 5 of these are in Intensive Care. Cases at the border have arrived from the following countries: Australia, the United States, Canada, France, Qatar, United Kingdom, India, United Arab Emirates and Singapore. In other words, from all over. 12 of the community cases are from Auckland, seven from Waikato and Bay of Plenty and one new case in Rotorua. Close contacts of international DJ, Dimension – who tested positive for the Omicron variant and was in the community – have returned negative tests. In Auckland, a rest home in Mount Albert has several residents and a staff member infected.

Overseas, it’s a different story with hospitals being overwhelmed, operas being cancelled, more flight cancellations, very high testing rates, when you can get a test, and lack of staff availability. It’s said that anti-lockdown protesters are going to south America.  But there are few lockdowns to protest: heaps of things just can’t happen because there aren’t staff available who aren’t sick or haven’t been deemed close contacts. In the UK they’re talking about reducing the isolation period from 7 days to 5 days, so that asymptomatic people can get back to work. Some close contacts can’t get tests that would allow them to get back to work.

In the US, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has tested positive for Covid 19.   Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene has been suspended from Twitter. Thank goodness for that!  In Israel, the government is offering fourth booster shots to those over 60. And, by the way, tis morning I listened to an interview between David Axelrod and Prime Minister Ardern (on the Axe Files podcast). How intelligent she is!

People are finding that although this may be a “mild” disease (some experts’ terminology), there is ensuing chaos over the lack of availability of tests, queues of ambulances at hospitals, and an overwhelming number of positive tests: in Victoria and in NSW, one in five PCR tests are positive. Here in New Zealand, Prime Minister Ardern has done rather well, I think.

On Saturday night we watched Fiddler on the Roof on Māori television. Last night we watched the new Olivia Colman masterpiece, The Lost Daughter. What sad stories they both are!  It is indeed very hard to be joyful at present. Still, there is much to be thankful for.  We’re still doing all right, here. Ngā mihi.

Omicron is here

Today is Wednesday December 29th, 2021. Kia ora!

Today there are 46 new community cases of Covid 19. There are three new cases in Northland, 30 in Auckland, six in Waikato, four in Lakes, two in Tairāwhiti and one in Canterbury. There are 48 people in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care. So that’s pretty stable, really. There are no major concerns. At the border, however, it’s another story: the Ministry of Health said a total of 71 Omicron cases have been detected at the border. Yesterday, they said the total was 54. Doing the math, as they say, would mean there are 17 new omicron cases detected at the border.  This poses a huge risk for New Zealand. If one of those cases requires hospitalisation, the risk of community spread (mistakes, improper PPE use, all health care workers have their own networks of family and friends), becomes far greater. The word from overseas seems to be the equivalent of “just suck it up”: we’ll all get it, so why try not to?  And by the way, we’ll achieve herd immunity, so why take precautions?  Well, no one wants to be sick, and I certainly don’t want my family and friends to be sick. I think most of us still want to avoid Covid 19, in any variant. Once again, we are an isolated island nation (two actually, the Main Land and the North Island. There’s also Stewart Island/Rakiura, of course).

So what have I been listening to?  The Rest is History have been doing daily podcasts for the twelve days of Christmas; they do sound rather well-lubricated, but hey, it’s Christmas. I do have to wonder about their long-suffering family members, since they must spend a bit of time investigating these topics. They tag team, with each presenting a topic they’ve chosen. I must say I find them very interesting. The one on Boxing Day was about the coronation of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor (yes, I must find out much more about that), and the second topic was about the resignation of Mikhael Gorbachev, and the breakup of the USSR and formation of the Russian Federation, and the formation of Ukraine as a separate nation (evidently a referendum was held, and the majority wanted Ukraine to be a separate nation).

Yesterday Tom Holland talked about Childermass, the Massacre of the Innocents, as told only in Matthew’s Gospel. I had forgotten about this incident, but it’s reminiscent of the Flight of the Israelites out of Egypt, led by Moses. Herod was so afraid of the new-born Messiah, so he called for boys two years and under to be killed. Consequently Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus into Egypt to escape from Herod, and stayed there until Herod was dead. Before the Israelites left Egypt, the last plague was the death of all the first born; the Israelites’ children were spared if they put blood on the door from a lamb they had killed and eaten: this was the Passover, when God passed over the houses of the Jewish people, and touched only the Egyptians’ children. After this, Pharaoh begged the Israelites to go. Matthew quotes from the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt have I called my son”.  So it’s all very meaningful, and reminiscent of the dangers that existed even when Jesus was a little baby. His parents knew overcrowding, poverty, being in danger, and being refugees. Mary had just given birth, and I doubt if she felt particularly energetic at this time.

After this Dominic Sandbrook spoke about the Tay bridge disaster in 1879, when the new Tay bridge in Scotland on the way to Dundee was affected by stormy weather so that the train going over it crashed, and there were no survivors.  74 or 75 people died. William McGonagall wrote a rather bad poem about this disaster.

Lawfare has done a series of podcasts about the Russia/Ukraine crisis. 

In NSW, there is an eye-watering total of new Covid 19 cases: over 11.000! So reports the New Zealand Herald.

This afternoon the NZ Herald reports as follows: “The first community exposure in New Zealand to the highly infectious Omicron variant has been confirmed. The Ministry of Health says whole genome sequencing had detected a border-related case of Omicron who had briefly been active in the community. The person was a recent arrival who returned a positive result on day nine of their self-isolation period. The ministry said they had previously returned three negative tests for Covid-19 while completing seven days of managed isolation in an Auckland facility.” So – it’s here. We don’t know where yet – could be Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, or Rotorua; of course, this person may have flown around the country, too. 

More information has been released: the Omicron-infected person arrived on a flight from the United Kingdom via Doha on December 16 and was fully vaccinated with the mRNA vaccine, said the ministry. So far no other Covid-19 infections had been identified from the person’s flight.

They were active between December 26 and 27, visiting five locations of interest in Auckland, including central city nightclub Impala and Commercial Bay Precinct. 

To resume: the case recently arrived from the United Kingdom via Doha on December 16 and tested positive on day nine in their self-isolation period. So why weren’t they isolating in MIQ? Why? Why? Why? All you people that wanted home isolation…perhaps you just ruined summer for us?  How will I feel safe to do anything now? Evidently Minister Hipkins is to hold a press conference at 11 am tomorrow.

Just as well then that we went to see the Hilma af Klimt exhibition at the Wellington City Art Gallery (the building that used to be the Wellington Central Library).  This exhibition is extraordinary! Having said that, I don’t know that I want to see it again. She relied heavily on mathematical symbols, and on symmetry; some of the paintings are extraordinarily detailed.  Looking at them, you see more figures in them. The colours change, too. There are some odd signs and symbols that keep recurring – it’s very hard to interpret these.  There are different styles of paintings and drawings; I was tempted to say to her, Just relax!  It seems she relied heavily on the occult, and on séances, and on the companionship of other women – the Five. Apparently she showed some of her paintings to Rudolf Steiner, the father of Anthroposophy as practiced by Hohepa, and he did not particularly like them. They are quite intense; they’re not restful paintings, although I really liked some of the watercolours.

We had to show our vaccine passes, and sign in.  It took a long time to buy tickets and get organised. I’m glad we saw it before omicron becomes active in the community:  I fear that we’ll be very nervous about going anywhere once it’s widespread.

News has broken of the death of Senator Harry Reid, Democratic leader of the Senate for several years. He was a devout Mormon – now that I didn’t know. Also in the US, it transpires that Peter Navarro, Trump’s one-time trade advisor, has admitted to endeavouring to keep Trump in power.  These continuing revelations are shocking, horrifying; and yet the impulse is to ignore the silliness. But you can’t, really. 

It’s now Thursday December 30th.

I’ve learnt more information about the omicron case. It turns out it was a famous DJ (known as Dimension) from the UK, who was scheduled to play at the Rhythm and Alps music festival in Wanaka.  The Rhythm and Vines festival, I think normally held in Gisborne, was cancelled; but subsequently resurrected as Rhythm and Alps in Wanaka.

Dimension arrived from the UK via Doha on December 16 and spent 7 days in MIQ. This was to be followed by 3 days of home isolation. He returned three negative tests before testing positive on December 27 – the result of a test taken on day 9, which was December 25. He was active in the community for Boxing Day and the day after that, when he shouldn’t have been. A close colleague of his, the DJ known as Friction, played at Hagley Park in Christchurch, but is now isolating.  Other people assumed to be close contacts have tested negative. It’s not clear just how many places he visited, when he was infectious, or how many are regarded as “close contacts”. Both DJ’s have pulled out of the starting line up at the Wanaka festival, which has already started. So now we know. It’s now December 30th, and we were told on December 29th. That means that two days elapsed when we didn’t know.  That’s not great for engendering trust.

In other news, two people in Tairawhiti/Gisborne have tested positive, one of them a school-age child.

So omicron is here, in the community – right between Christmas and New Year. Apparently Dimension is “devastated”. So are we, so are we, dear boy.  You may be truly upset, but you did break several rules. You were trusted to comply with the rules.

The Wellington-based Phoenix team have recorded positive cases amongst several players and a member of staff.

Unfortunately I missed Minister Hipkins’ press briefing at 11 am. Apparently there were at least 47 people regarded as close contacts at the Impala Night Club attended by Dimension. Apparently his case is not related to other cases of omicron in MIQ (does this make sense to you?) Six locations of interest in Auckland have been published.

Auckland is set to move from Red to Orange status under the traffic light system, at midnight tonight. My reaction is: So what?  What difference is that going to make?

In the US, Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty of helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls.

Last night I listened to another episode of The Rest is History podcast on the twelve days of Christmas, this time about Saint Thomas Becket, and the Battle of Wounded Knee.  I found both very moving, especially as I have visited Canterbury Cathedral (twice), have studied T.S. Eliot’s verse play, Murder in the Cathedral, and studied Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. So it was good to hear the story again, and it reminded me of Chaucer’s wonderful prologue to his great poem:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licóur

Of which vertú engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye,

So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke,

That them hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

It’s so ironical that Chaucer wrote this poem in a time of plague (I read about this

in the LRB); and also, that while King Henry II wanted to get rid of Becket, in fact

he became a famous Saint and martyr; pilgrimages began, and St Thomas Becket

is probably more famous than King Henry II.  Murder in the Cathedral is a very

fine play, with elements of Greek drama, as evinced by the Chorus. Tom Holland

is familiar with it, too.

The story about Wounded Knee is very moving too. Who has not heard of the

book, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee? It was made into a film, too. Again,

there were some very questionable dealings here, and there was much death at

Wounded Knee, as US forces sought to eliminate Native Indians. Again, there are

martyrs. This mini-series is so interesting. I wonder what they’ll do next.

Back to Covid 19, here in New Zealand.  Over 100 people are isolating as a result

of being close contacts of DJ Dimension. There are 60 new community cases of

Covid 19, 6 omicron cases in MIQ, and another MIQ-related case of omicron. This

second case of omicron in the community is an Air NZ crew member who worked

on a flight between Auckland and Sydney on December 24. They were tested as

part of routine testing on December 27. This case is linked to 3 other omicron

cases on the same flight. They’ve been moved to MIQ, and there are no known

locations of interest.  It’s not known how Dimension caught the infection:

s, 20 are in Auckland, 28 are in Waikato, eight are in Bay ofPlenty and there is one each in Northland, Lakes, Tairāwhiti and Canterbury.

As we draw near to New Year’s Eve, there are all kinds of crazy predictions about

what 2022 may bring. As usual, I ignore them, and try not to be too anxious

about everything: the coronavirus, climate change, US politics, and the threats to

Ukraine and Taiwan etc. I would love to travel again.

That’s it for now!  Ngā mihi.

Mere Kirimihete 2021

New Zealand Pohutukawa

It’s now Boxing Day, Sunday December 26th, 2021. Kia ora!

I had a lovely day yesterday, despite not getting much sleep the night before. I had church in the morning – it was like Easter, with Friday/Saturday/Sunday church. We had a video call with our daughter in Hawkes Bay, although it took a wee while to master the intricacies of this. We watched her open some Christmas presents we’d left for her when we went there for her birthday, earlier in December. 

At church, the organ played again, and we sang more Christmas carols. The beginning of John’s Gospel was read: In the beginning was the word. And the word became flesh, and dwelt amongst us. It uses that wonderful Greek word logos, making one think of logic and reason, permanence and meaning – a different angle from the story in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus’ birth. Afterwards, I accepted a piece of Christmas cake.  I waited to be picked up at the library – there’s seating there, and although it was overcast, it wasn’t raining.  Some children were there wearing tutus and trying out their new scooters (no helmets, mind, although their older brother did have a bike and a helmet).

Once back at home, I called my son in England (he’d called while I was at church), and there were various calls with family members. We had a rest before preparing salads to take to another son’s house later that afternoon. I even got to lie down with my book for a bit – magic! And I wasn’t cooking a turkey – a big relief.

I got up, got changed and we went to my son’s house, where we had such a nice time, and video-called our eldest son and his family.  It was a very low key, but very enjoyable day.

That evening we watched a charming film on Māori Television based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I had a whiskey – Laphroiag.  Then I slept rather well.

This morning was Boxing Day, but it was Sunday, so I went to church again.  There were very few people there! The New World supermarket across the road was open, and it was sunny, although quite windy. I bought fresh croissants for lunch.

It has been a relief to have a break from the local covid 19 news. And today the news isn’t too bad: I had learnt there were new cases in Taranaki (one, related to the Eltham cluster), and two in Gisborne. Today there are 126 new community cases of Covid 19, this total being spread across two days, and 7 omicron cases in MIQ (there are 3 non-omicron new cases at the border).  There are 47 people in hospital, and of these 7 are in Intensive Care. The 126 community cases were in: Auckland (88), Waikato (17), Bay of Plenty (6), Lakes (13), Taranaki (1), Northland (1). So it seems we got through Christmas with no major Covid 19 disasters as yet; there have been some serious road accidents, however.

Overseas, it is quite a different story. In these grim times, one’s view narrows so much that it becomes all about myself and my family, and their safety and well-being. The last three days I’ve been happy to go to church; many people overseas cannot, as places of worship like the Washington National Cathedral have been closed to patrons. Thousands of flights have been cancelled, as in many cases not only are there not enough passengers to make it worthwhile, but the flight crew are sick themselves. It occurs to me that those who are against lockdown may find themselves in just that situation, if the people who normally serve them are ill themselves, or close contacts of infected people. In this situation, contact tracing becomes really hard work, and potentially a lot less useful.

NSW in Australia is in the grip of another deadly wave, with 6,394 new cases; South Australia has 774 new covid 19 cases, with 17 people in hospital (weren’t they keeping it out before?) Queensland has 714 new cases. And so on.  Prime Minister Morrison again seems tone deaf, as he does about so many issues – remember the severe fires this time last year? He was holidaying in Hawaii with his family. He says Australians will make rational decisions. It’s hard to be totally rational when your government is doing little to protect you.  I think more people are happy to have some rules to follow, even if they’re highly inconvenient at times.

In Melbourne, there were record numbers of people seeking tests; in Sydney, 400 people who tested positive were wrongly told they were negative.  Someone complained there was no triage at a testing clinic, as in do you have symptoms? Are you a close contact of an existing case? Have you recently travelled? Or are you just one of the worried well?

In China, although the large city of Ti’an has gone into lockdown, new cases of Covid 19 are being discovered.  Here, at least, we got through Christmas day without any major disasters. But Covid 19 says, hey, not so fast…

It’s reported that partygoers who attended an Otara Christmas party are being asked to self-isolate and immediately get tested after a guest tested positive for Covid-19.

A Christmas party held on Thursday December 23 at East Tamaki Community Hall in Otara has been identified as a new location of interest. Anyone who attended this party has been identified as a close contact. The Ministry of Health is asking anyone who attended this Christmas party between 4pm and 11pm to self-isolate, test immediately and on day 5. “Self-isolate, test immediately and on day 5 after you were exposed at this location of interest”.

This afternoon we went to see the Rita Angus exhibition at Toi Art at Te Papa. I was a bit cross when we got there, because they asked to see our vaccine passes, although they didn’t have a notice warning us of this. Then we had to hand-sanitise, and then scan or sign in. I think this is in the wrong order: I think one should scan the QR code, show one’s vaccine passport, and then hand-sanitise.

Never mind. We made our way to the exhibition, which had been well-curated and was very worthwhile. There were a few others there, but it certainly wasn’t overcrowded. What a strongly individual woman she was! Her independence shines through her beautiful paintings. What a strange life she had! She displayed an amazing use of colour in many of her landscapes. They are very detailed, even when showing hills or plains. There are also tricks in her works: remember that famous boat scene at Island Bay, with Taputeranga in the background? The boats actually look pretty flimsy, a bit like paper boats in a bath tub, yet it’s a iconic painting.

On our way home, we stopped at the New World supermarket in Thorndon. Thankfully it was much less busy than it had been before Christmas – there was hardly anyone there. We had new potatoes with mint and salad for dinner. I had forgotten how delicious new potatoes can be, Afterwards, we tried to watch the original West Side Story movie with Natalie Wood on Māori television, but I found it very long. I have to admit I don’t really enjoy musicals.

It’s now Monday, December 27th.

Today it’s reported that there are 34 new community cases of Covid 19, and ten border cases in MIQ, four of them being omicron (there’s a total of 49 omicron cases, still confined to the border). There are 41 patients in hospital, 8 of them being in Intensive care.

The locations of the new community cases reported on Monday are: Auckland (21), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (2), Rotorua (3) and Canterbury (1). There’ve been no  concerning wastewater testing results over the past 24 hours.

So well done, New Zealand: the storm hasn’t hit just yet; perhaps it’s lying in wait? Who knows.

This afternoon the NZ Herald informs me that NSW has recorded its first omicron death, that cases are surging, and it’s reimposing restrictions. Masks are now compulsory in all indoor, non-residential settings, including for hospitality staff and in offices, unless eating or drinking. Venues and patrons must also now follow the one person per two square metres rule indoors at pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes.

It’s now Tuesday December 28th.  There’s no bad covid 19 news here, so far.

Overseas, it’s another story. The UK recorded 113,638 new Covid 19 infections on Christmas Day, but Prime Minister Johnson won’t impose restrictions. In France, the time delay between the second vaccine jab and the booster has been reduced to three months. In the Chinese city of Ti’an, Covid 19 cases continue to rise; although Chinese officials there face punishment for failing to prevent this latest surge.

In Australia people are complaining about testing; in Sydney, another 800 people were given false negative results of their tests; and there’s huge frustration.  Essential health workers are now having to isolate for 7 days instead of the usual 14, if they’ve been in contact with a Covid 19 case, because the health workers are needed.  They’re throwing shade at New Zealand’s approach, but New Zealand, I think, has been wise, as long as omicron stays out of the community.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has died at 90, and there are huge plaudits for him; Joan Didion has just died, too, and there are plaudits for her, especially for her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, which explores he grief at her husband’s sudden death. Her adopted daughter sadly died, too. Both were elderly. Reclusive Booker Prize winner Keri Hulme has died at 74, not that old, really. It hasn’t been said what she died of. Her one novel, The Bone People, was a hard read. I have a copy, but I haven’t reread it.

In New Zealand, the Covid 18 news is not bad. There’ve been some tragic road accidents, so far so normal, but today there are 18 new community cases: of these, 13 are in Auckland, three are in Waikato, one is in the Bay of Plenty and one in the Lakes District. Sadly, another person has died – a woman in her 70’s. There are 54 people in hospital, including 8 in Intensive Care. At the border, 16 new cases have been identified, including 5 of the omicron variant.

In Australia, in the UK, in the US, the omicron variety of Covid 19 is rampant, it’s out of control.  Quarantine times are being reduced, because of the shortage of well healthcare workers.  This variant now surpasses cases of the delta variant; it causes some hospitalisations and some deaths, but it seems futile to oppose it, in many places. Tests, where you can get them, have a high positivity rate. Some have concluded we just have to live with this. It’s airborne, too, so is very easy to catch. Many cases (with few or no symptoms) are probably undetected.  Still, I think one wouldn’t want to catch it, or for any of one’s children or grandchildren to catch it.  How long will New Zealand keep it out? We seem to have good news on the delta front, with reduced case numbers; on the other hand, it’s the holiday season so there have been reduced numbers of tests. We have yet to get through New Year.  That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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Nearly there: Christmas Eve

Today is Wednesday December 22nd, 2021. Kia ora!

Nothing too horrendous today, really.

At 1 pm we learn that there are 56 new community cases of Covid 19, and 6 new omicron cases at the border. The big news is that there’s a case in Lower Hutt (not Wellington), and there are five locations of interest in the Hutt Valley.

The location of today’s new community cases are: Auckland (33), Waikato (6), Bay of Plenty (11), Lakes (4), Taranaki (1), Hutt Valley (1). There are 51 people in hospital, 7 in ICU as of today.

Overseas, omicron has rapidly become the dominant variant of Covid 19, (73% of all cases in the US), although a delta outbreak is still raging in many places.

Covid 19 has been detected in wastewater from Napier and Whitianga.

It’s now Thursday, December 23rd.

So nothing much happened yesterday, although I did get into an email discussion with a podcast provider. The issue was, I was listening to a series which drops a new episode each week. The new episode was loaded, but it was the wrong one: they loaded an episode from an earlier series. Anyway, the correct episode was duly loaded, and I listened to it with interest.

Today again there are 56 community cases of Covid 19, and 3 new cases of the omicron variant in MIQ. So that’s probably good news.  I’ve seen really scary news stories overseas about omicron’s terrifying rate of increase, and that it’s rapidly becoming the dominant variant, even replacing delta, which is still causing problems. There are 48 people in hospital, including 7 in Intensive Care.

The new cases are located in Auckland (42), Waikato (four), Bay of Plenty (six), Lakes (two), and one each in Tairāwhiti and Taranaki.  Late this afternoon I learnt that there are 4 new cases in Murupara, a town that was devastated during the unemployment crisis of the 1970’s, and with a low vaccination rate. So that is a worry.

In the early afternoon we went to New World supermarket in Thorndon.  It was nice to come here, but it was very busy. I managed to get most of the things I wanted in strange places. (Where are the cucumbers? kiwi fruit? where’s the salad dressing?) I bought pâté, brie, grapes, raspberries…and we got pies to eat later for lunch, and a donut, of course.

I’ve learnt that some rich countries are recommending a second booster jab of vaccine, i.e. two vaccine shots and now two boosters!  Forget about vaccinating Africa, or India, then. Our survival now depends on multiple doses of boosters, and we struggled to get the vaccines. I’d have to acknowledge that New Zealand got off to a frustratingly slow start with vaccines, but they’ve done an amazing job, and now I believe over 90% off eligible Kiwis have had two injections.

It’s now Friday December 24th – Christmas Eve. It’s a fine day, and the shops are quietly busy, but not madly busy.

In the US, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland and Rep. Jim Clyburn have covid 19 infections. Later I learnt that Vice-Admiral Tim Laurence, the second husband of Princess Anne, has the coronavirus. In China, the city of Ti’an, a  city of 11 million people, has been locked down for 127 covid cases. New York has scaled back its New Year celebrations.

The January 6 Committee is delving ever deeper into those dreadful events, and they want to speak to politicians: Scott Walker and Jim Jordan, so far. It seems that republicans did everything they could do declare Joe Biden’s election invalid, and keep Trump on as President.  The death threats, and the acceptance of violence (and lack of condemnation by republican leadership) is frightening indeed. Those threatening such nasty violence seem to have no conception of it being done to their own loved ones. There are many situations where there’s a lack of discrimination as to who gets hurt, when things are really out of control.

This morning I listened to the latest The Rest is History podcast again featuring Rachel Morley, from the Friends of Friendless Churches charity, talking about her top ten Christmas Churches.  I was surprised and delighted to here that St Mungo’s Cathedral in Glasgow was number 7 on her list! I have been there, and I loved it too; it had a purple stained glass window, and reminded me of Blackadder, the television series.  There was a lot of talk about charities and collection boxes, and also some quite naughty acts!  You’ll have to listen to it yourself to find out!

The 1 pm announcement tells that there has been another death from Covid 19: person in their 50’s, who had been in North Shore Hospital since December 11. There are 45 people in hospital, and 8 of them in intensive Care. Meanwhile, 62 new community cases were reported on Thursday, in Auckland (37), Waikato (5), Bay of Plenty (14), Lakes (five) and Canterbury (one). There are nine new cases in MIQ, including 7 with the omicron variant of Covid 19.

After lunch we went briefly to Johnsonville, where I picked up two reserved books from the library there. I grizzled about having to show my vaccine pass, which can be time-consuming, but later went back and apologized to the nice security guard who was photographing them; after all, he doesn’t make the rules, and they’re there to protect us.  I’ll know to have my pass ready next time I’m there. We then called at Whitcoulls in the Johnsonville Shopping Centre, where they helpfully had lots of inexpensive gift suggestions.

I picked up two reserved books from the library. One is a book about of W. G. Seward called “Speak, Silence”. It’s a large tome. I remember reading Seward’s books several years ago, and I found them most interesting. In fact, based on ‘Austerlitz”, I tried to go to the Austerlitz Railway Station in Paris in 2016; there were lots of armed police there, and evidently it was no longer a railway station but was being turned into something else.  Despite the huge police presence, there was no obvious terrorism threat. I was disappointed not to be allowed inside the former Station. Railway stations can be quite wonderful, memorable and intriguing places.

The other book is Prisoners of Time, by Christopher Clark.  I don’t remember requesting this book, but it is so interesting. Christopher Clark is Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University, and he compiled this book during the Covid 19 lockdown of 2020.  It may have been referred to in a podcast I listened to, or he may have been a guest.  At the moment I’m reading a chapter about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as retold and interpreted by Daniel, in the book of Daniel. Chapter 2. I have read the preface, and the chapter about Colonel General Blaskowitz, who committed suicide before his trial at Nuremberg, but who showed elements of resistance to atrocities against civilians by the Nazis during World War 2. When he tried to highlight these, he was demoted, although he always stood up for the army as a non-political body. Of course, he was conflicted about its role and purpose and responsibilities. He did some bad things, and some good things, although it seems he could expect to be acquitted at the Nuremberg trials after the war. His suicide came as a surprise, but perhaps he fell into deep despondency about the terrible things that had been done.

JD and I went to a lovely candlelit service on Christmas Eve. He came in because there was really nowhere else for him to go.  We heard the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, and sang lots of carols. The church looked really beautiful in the flickering candlelight. There were lots of people there, although in that church no one’s uncomfortably close. Then we went home and tried to sleep.

What a strange time this is, and how fortunate we are to  be here.  The world is a very troubled place, with Russia threatening Ukraine and China threatening Taiwan, and the coronavirus threatening all of us.  For Christians, it is truly a time to be thankful, and joyful, and put aside frustrations and concerns.

The historian Christopher Clark has a podcast, The History of Now. While he writes very well, and I am reading more of his book, I don’t find his voice great to listen to.  It’s interesting to me just how important this is – the voice (or voices) have to be good to listen too, in my view, as well as having interesting subject matter. I listened to an episode where he interviews John Henderson and Jane Stevens Crawshaw entitled: Quarantine, Isolation, Lockdown: The Plague in 17th Century Venice and Florence. I found this episode most interesting, partly because I had read a review of Henderson’s book, Florence under Siege, in the London Review of Books. I was so interested from reading the review that I wanted to borrow the book from the library, but Wellington Public Library doesn’t have it, and it’s really expensive to buy.

The essence of what he’s saying is that in Florence the authorities saw to it that the poor were well fed during a lockdown, that they had wine, and basically the Italian authorities saw that it was important to be kind at this time and help people get through it.  I found this approach really interesting, similar to South Korea’s approach (which was successful, initially), and to Prime Minister Ardern’s here, where we were so well looked after during the nationwide strict lockdown of 2020, which was a bit of a novelty, and a circuit breaker. Sporadic localised lockdowns followed, generally of a fairly short duration, and the borders were closed, imposing the dreaded MIQ system. This was modified, and has protected us all really well, until it didn’t, and people couldn’t get a place to come back for a funeral, and our loved ones couldn’t come home to visit. The government has made some modifications, but now we’re all threatened by the omicron variant of Covid 19, and restrictions are being put back in place.

It’ll be a very strange Christmas here, for sure. More to come! Stay tuned. Ngā mihi.