Heping (Peace)

One of the Herbivore Vegan Restaurants in Taipei

It’s now Sunday May 21st, 2023. Kia ora!

It’s cloudy and drizzly again, but quite warm, although it’s predicted to be quite hot today. A bit like Wellington, really, although hotter!

What a day it has been! I zoomed into my Wellington church service, and then showered and dressed. Then we went down to breakfast, where I just had fruit and coffee. Actually, that worked just fine.

I decided to go to the local Presbyterian church this morning, which was a few minutes’ walk away.  I wanted to see what it was like, although I had not taken into account that we could not easily slip in and out again.  Everyone was very welcoming, and an Elder who spoke English showed us to our seats, and sat beside me.  The church hall was upstairs several floors. There was no altar, but there was an organ, a grand piano, and an upright piano. Of course we didn’t understand the sermon, which was all in Chinese, but we enjoyed the choir, who sang beautifully, twice; the pastor also sang – he had a beautiful voice. And there were three hymns sung by the congregation, to the accompaniment of the organ.  Two of them I knew!  So I was able to join in, to some extent.  Afterwards we sang Amen three times, just as we do for hymn singing in Wellington. But the church in Wellington would be ashamed at the size of this congregation (there were three services this morning!). The singing was just beautiful, all of it.  Afterwards our daughter in law and our grandson were already at our hotel to meet us, so we hurried back there.

Then we joined the rest of the family (our eldest son, and his daughter, and two of his brothers who had arrived last night) at another Herbivore restaurant. The food was wonderful, and I think I’m getting better at ordering. JD ordered a bottle of sparkling wine, which some of us enjoyed; I had a delicious drink flavoured with kiwi fruit and lemon juice. It’s a joy to have drinks that aren’t too sweet. I had a salad with caramelised pecan nuts, pieces of cooked beetroot, sone quinoa, something like crumbled feta cheese, and lots of lettuce greens. One of my sons had ordered a side dish of brussels sprouts with miso sauce, and I enjoyed some of them too. My granddaughter had ordered pancakes, which I sampled too – just delicious.  We did not need dessert afterwards!

We made our way through the huge shopping complex using escalators and walk ways to a Lego shop – truly amazing!  Our grandson was to choose a birthday present (he chose Space lego), and his sister chose a floral arrangement. They also had Eiffel Tower models, the Coliseum, and even a grand piano!  Choosing too a very long time, so three of us retreated to another Moonshine Café where we had coffee and some intense discussions. The other eventually joined us, and then I queued to use a restroom. Never mind, it was very clean, and there always seems to be warm water to wash your hands, liquid soap, and paper towels, with bins that are regularly emptied.

Then we made our way through the Taipei 101 building (the tower) to use public transport to get back to the Da’an district. Our other two sons are staying at the other end of Da’an Park, so they’re quite handy.  It is just so enjoyable to see them all again, and not be trying to entertain everybody!

It’s Monday May 22nd now. Time to think about going soon.

Last night we snacked on cheese and crackers, and fruit in our room.

This morning I went to find the shops I wanted to go to in Heping St, but the bookshop doesn’t open until 12 noon; the boutique was closed, too, with a corrugated iron door (like a garage door), but I don’t know when it opens.  Many places are closed on Mondays, but it still seems busy.

After breakfast I had a shower and then went for a walk in Da’an Park. It is very hot and sticky today, but it’s cooler under the trees.  There were many people there, some exercising, quite unselfconsciously; I watched a group doing Tai Chi. They’re far more accomplished than I am; I think they’re doing a different style of tai chi.  I found a secluded spot, and did the Lotus Qigong twice, but found I could not remember the form we had learnt. I had messaged my son from the UK, who was going to meet me there, but he had slept in!  It’s very hot and sticky outside, I changed to a cooler top when we got back to the hotel.

We were to meet our eldest son at 11:30, which we duly did, and caught a taxi to the nearest subway station, and then a train into town. We ate at a large buffet restaurant on the top of a large building – we had to go up in a glass cage lift to reach it.  There were so many people there!  You chose your food from an extensive buffet, where there was soup, cooked dishes, a salad bar (I did not discover this until later), a fruit bar, an ice cream/gelato bar, a dessert bar, and a place where you could make coffee.  Twice I got up to get more food, and couldn’t find my way back to our table!  Thankfully JD found me, as I’d left my bag at the table, with my phone etc inside.  This really was a marvellous place, although it did remind me of Pizza Hut restaurants back in the day. This was far more up-market, though.  The food was beautiful, and I think vegetarian. I had a small piece of a Mexican omelette, but unlike Taiwanese food, it didn’t have much flavour. 

Afterwards we made our way back to the hotel, using subway train and bus.  The trains are very sophisticated, with barriers so that you can’t enter till the train is there, and is stopped and opens its doors. With quite a crush of people, though, it can be tricky for a group to stay together.  All the technical stuff seems to work pretty well most of the time, although sometimes the card readers cannot read my pre-loaded card.

This afternoon JD picked up our grandson from his pre-school, and we looked at old photos on the computer – when he was a baby, and we travelled to Atlanta to see him and his family – almost six years ago.

In New Zealand, the weekly Covid 19 report was published today. It’s still not great – numbers remain stubbornly high. It reads as follows: there were 12,277 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand in the week to midnight on Sunday and a further 30 deaths. The 30 people added to the Covid-19 death tally brings the total number of deaths from the disease to 2792.

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

Last week 11,063 new cases of Covid-19 were reported and a further 26 deaths were attributed to the virus. The World Health Organisation has declared that Covid-19 no longer represents a “global health emergency”. The organisation said the virus was now an established and ongoing health issue that no longer constituted a public health emergency of international concern.

An American doctor believes that more than 800.000 Americans would still be alive today if the US had taken New Zealand’s approach to Covid 19, with many health professionals giving bad advice.

It’s now Tuesday May 23rd.

It’s overcast and raining again.

Last night we had quite an adventure. We were to meet our other two sons, one from Wellington and one from the UK, for dinner. We were to take a taxi to the restaurant from our hotel. We went downstairs, but seeing that it was pouring with rain, I went back up for my raincoat and to put on some proper shoes. Getting a taxi in the poring rain, after 7 pm, was not easy; and then after hailing one, telling the taxi driver where to take us was another challenge. My sons showed him the destination on their phones; that’s tricky, though – does google do Chinese or English? Most taxi drivers have little English, but he got it, eventually, and took us to a lovely, quite modern, vegetarian restaurant.  Our table was set with cutlery!  Sometimes it’s set with chopsticks and little porcelain ladles, but the Taiwanese don’t seem fussed which one uses. I try to start with chopsticks, and go to a fork and spoon if it gets too difficult.

Ordering is always a challenge; this restaurant wasn’t vegan, but the menu helpfully showed a pint milk bottle beside an item if it contained dairy products.  I ordered a fruit salad on lettuce leaves with yoghurt dressing; we ordered a side of vegetables, which was delicious. You could have pizza, but JD had mushroom risotto.  We ordered dessert, too – some kind of cheesecake. Thankfully the servings are small.

Then we set about getting back to the Da’an district, We had just left the restaurant when there was a torrential downpour, that did not let up. We crossed the road, and managed to stand under some shelter while waiting for a taxi to come. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long, and one son had brought a card from the hotel, telling the cab driver where to go. It rained all the way; one feels sorry for anyone driving in these conditions. When we got back, our sons came up to our room, and we shared a bottle of wine together, before they returned to their Airbnb.

In the night it thundered some; today it is still raining, and overcast. But JD an I are to go on a tour, arranged by our daughter in law.  It’s a bus tour with an English-speaking guide, and it goes outside Taipei to visit a tea-growing district. Our son dropped off instructions this morning on where to meet the tour, at a local station, where we have been before. I feel that I’m getting to know this city a little, but the traffic, wide roads, and overpasses are confusing! It’s not as though you can say meet me on Via Veneto, or Fleet Street, or even Cuba Street!

It’s now Wednesday May 24th, D-Day -1.

Yesterday we were to go on a tea-tasting tour at 1 pm. Accordingly we had breakfast at our hotel and walked to the nearby Presbyterian Church to leave a letter for the lovely elder Mei-Ling who had looked after us. After that we had an early lunch at The Dancing Goat café.  It seems Americans really like this place – black coffee seemed limited to Americano or Espresso; I had an espresso, and JD had Earl Grey tea in a mug. We wanted to order waffles, but the friendly host said it was too early for waffles, and directed us to a breakfast combo.  We ordered two of those, and it was amazingly good: not too large, with a small serving of scrambled eggs, some delicious hot bread (baked there), some sweet potato mashed, sliced banana, and some salad, with lettuce and tomato. There was a container of butter, and a small jug of something like cider vinegar. Somehow it all worked, and tasted delicious.

Then we headed back to our hotel, before catching a taxi to a nearby station, since we were to meet the English speaking guide and the others on our tour at the No 2 entrance. Our eldest son had printed off all the instructions, and brought them over that morning.  The No 2 entrance seemed a long way from where the taxi driver had dropped us off, but JD was correct; there was a Park, a Mos burger outlet and a 7/11 store, and we were in the right place, if far too early! But it was cooler today, and there was a mild breeze – ideal for a couple of Wellingtonians.  There were two other couples on this tour – one from the US (American guy, Korean partner); the other couple were from Austria, English speaking, but they didn’t turn up until 1:30 pm! We travelled in a van, which was very comfortable, but not very easy to get in or out of.

I just looked at my word count, so I figure I’d better stop now and describe our wonderful tour in my next blog.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

On Holiday

An exhibit from the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

It’s now Thursday May 18th, 2023. Kia ora!

I am somewhat horrified to realise that it is now Thursday, and our stay in this lovely place is half-way through.

So what happened yesterday? I did some Tai Chi in my hotel room, although I had intended to go to the park and do it. But we went down to breakfast after 8 am, on JD’s recommendation, and it was extremely busy. We had to share a table, and queue up to get food!  Also it was very hot, and a bit late for exercising, I thought. And there are no beards here! And very few pets. There are advertising screens. And curtains, in some taxis. The ads are annoying, and although one can’t understand what’s being said, it’s pretty obvious what’s being sold: a vitamin supplement, or pain relief medication.

The breakfast buffet works really well, and it’s obvious that all the guests know how it works. At the dining room entrance, you show your room key/card, and you’re given a blue place-holder plastic-covered label. That’s so you can find a place to sit, and leave your blue card there while you go to get fruit, juice, cutlery, napkins, cooked food, toast or coffee. Dirty dishes are frequently cleared away, but I guess you can go to the buffet as often as you please.  There is steamed rice in a covered container, watery oatmeal, and things one would normally eat for dinner such as a cooked meat dish, noodles, rice, vegetables, and various pickles. Once you get over the fact that the only Western food is white bread for toasting, butter, peanut butter and jam, and orange drink and coffee, you’re good to go. After realising that we usually eat large lunches, I’m happy to eat fruit and toast for breakfast. Everyone is polite, unhurried, efficient, and neat. The recorded music is – eclectic, perhaps?

I’ve seen one nail salon here, and no hair salons!  I’ve seen various clinics for animals, but there are very few animals around. And I’ve seen very few dress shops!  Not much chance for shopping, then!

We went to a vegan restaurant called Herbivore, a spacious and newer one. They had an extensive menu, and colour pictures of all the dishes, which all looked amazing. We had chive dumplings to share, with a spicy dipping sauce, and then our mains came (called entrees here, in American fashion).  I had pasta with pesto and avocado.  This was the first time I’d seen avocado here. The food isn’t especially spicy, unless you want it to be.  My food was delicious, and although I tried manfully I wasn’t able to finish it. JD and I had smoothie type drinks made with oat milk; mine also had banana, mint and kiwifruit. It was delicious, and not too filling.  Note: in almost all restaurants they bring you a glass of water at the beginning. The tap water seems fine to drink. If you buy a drink, you’re asked whether you’d like it hot or cold, and, if cold, whether you’d like ice. The smoothie type drink seemed to cut through the heat of the spicy sauce.

My delicious lunch with noodles, pesto, pine nuts, and avocado.

After this we walked to Moonshine Café, where I could order a Long Black coffee!  It was a bit bigger than I expected, but it was very good. JD ordered affogato again, something they do really well here, serving a dish of ice cream and an espresso in a small jug.

Then we walked some more, and caught two buses back to near our hotel. I was not feeling very well, having worn a skirt with elasticated band that seemed far too tight, and a clingy top that seemed far too hot. On the bus, a voice over announces each stop in four languages: Mandarin, Taiwanese (a version of Mandarin), Hakka (another Chinese language), and English.  Our grandchildren were having another Taekwondo lesson, so our son was going to join them there; in the meantime, we went back to our hotel for a rest before visiting our loved ones in their apartment at 7 pm.

We duly did so, and played cards, built a marble ramp, and did sudoku, before leaving at around 8:45 pm. We hadn’t had dinner, but all the restaurants seemed closed, But we found a Carrefour supermarket nearby, where we bought Anchor cheese slices (from New Zealand!), some crackers, and some more pineapple. That was ideal! We had a wee feast in our hotel room, and then went to bed.

This morning we went down to breakfast at 7 am, and although there were already lots of people in the restaurant, we were able to find a table.  The background music included Silent Night!  I had intended to go to Da’an Park after breakfast and practice Tai Chi/Qigong, but in the event I needed to go back upstairs and use the bathroom. Later on in the morning we went to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

What a strange place this is! It’s very spacious, and very odd. We visited an exhibition without a nudity warning – in New Zealand it would have had one!

One of a series of exhibits made from paper at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum

There was a couple huddled together, perhaps homeless, having a dialogue – in English!  This was asking fairly existential questions: what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Why is the sky blue? What’s the meaning of life?

All the exhibitions we saw are very different, and I found them quite confronting; an interesting mixture of ancient and modern.

We also saw an exhibition of photographs, and found them really interesting, trying to figure out just where they were from. 

Then we went to have lunch at the Acme Café, where there was Western-style food, at exorbitant prices. There was a QR code containing the menu; and there was a buzzer on our table, which beeped when our order was ready. It was very modern, with wooden seats without backs at Formica topped tables. I ordered a baguette with prosciutto and cream cheese; JD ordered a toasted cheese sandwich with avocado; we ordered waffles with strawberries and chocolate sauce to share; I ordered an espresso and JD a English Breakfast tea! It came in a mug, with a tea bag.  This is unusual in Taipei, where tea would often be served quite formally, on a tray, with a teapot and small cup and another pot of hot water, My baguette turned out to be a bagel, but tasted good, none the less; the waffles were a bit over cooked. We each were served some salad leaves with dressing and tiny tomatoes as well.  It did feel like back home, paying rather too much for not great but familiar food! 

This must have been quite close to the airport, because there were planes flying overhead every few minutes.

Afterwards, we caught a taxi back to our hotel. Our bedroom had still not been made up, although a fresh banana and orange had been left. JD found Housekeeping, and used Google translate to indicate that the room had not been serviced yet. Really, we just needed clean towels, hand towels and bathmat. Accordingly, it was done a few minutes later. Someone from housekeeping had come while JD was in the shower; I asked them to come back later but she had no English so I may have been misunderstood.

In the early evening we intended to go to The Dancing Goat Café for something to eat; it was due to close at 7 pm, and we went along about 6 pm, but the chef, who spoke some English, apologised profusely, explaining that it was closed because they’d run out of food!  Then we went to another café nearby, Café Prague, which looked quite luxurious, with a grand piano and beautiful furniture, but the woman there explained that they served beautiful coffee, but no food. It was a bit late in the day for drinking their beautiful coffee, so we went back to the hotel and ordered one meal, to share, and two yummy cold drinks. That worked really well.

It’s now Friday May 19th.

It’s overcast and raining today, and much cooler (24° – 26° C); there was a thunderstorm early this morning. Although I woke early, and wad quite hungry, JD’s theory was that we shouldn’t go down to breakfast until after 8 am.  So we shared a delicious banana in the meantime. Each week, it seems, a guest room gets an orange, and a banana, and I have to say the Taiwanese pineapples and bananas are far better than the ones we get in New Zealand.

We had no trouble getting a table for breakfast, although there was no peanut butter, and the jam had been replaced by – marmalade. It looked like pineapple jelly, but it was quite tart, and tasted like marmalade, although it had no tell-tale “bits” of citrus peel. It had no pips, either.

We are due to meet our son for lunch.

In the event it was raining when we met our son and daughter-in-law, and we took a taxi to another vegan restaurant – this one perhaps the best yet. It was more modern, and had packages of foodstuffs for sale. Almost every restaurant we’ve been to involves stepping up from the kerb, and wrenching a heavy door open. In New Zealand we’re used to automatic doors, perhaps, and an Open banner outside.   

This time I ordered more wisely. I asked for a skewer, and a Thai salad. Both were delicious, and I was glad I’d ordered less food. I had a drink of fizzy vinegar with ice – a bit like cider vinegar, and not too sweet. JD had a submarine – a subway-type sandwich made with wholemeal bread, and potato chips!  Afterwards, we shared two desserts: a blueberry mousse (actually it was more like a frozen pie), and a delicious creamy pie with papaya – a bit like apricot.  Totally yummy. Afterwards we visited a gallery across the road, with paintings based on street art, and then went to Moonshine Café for coffee, a long black for me and an affogato for JD again.  After that we got a bus back to our hotel, a few minutes before JD was due to pick up our grandson from his pre-school.

That evening we watched our grandchildren at Taekwondo again; next to the premises, there is a second-hand book shop, and a clothes boutique. I must go there again!

Back in our hotel room, we had more fruit and more cheese and crackers. We had been given some jelly, but to be honest we couldn’t distinguish the flavour, and found it quite bland.

It’s now Saturday May 20th.

This afternoon we are to attend a concert in which our granddaughter takes part. Again, it is cloudy and raining, off and on; my forecast tells me it’s cooler today, but it was very hot last night, and I had trouble sleeping. I had gone to sleep and was dreaming when JD came to use the bathroom. How did you get here, I asked him, being somewhat disoriented. I was always here, he replied, as, of course, he was. After that I had great trouble getting back to sleep.

In other news, there’s been dreadful flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which includes Ravenna, where I indeed want to go. I do feel for those poor folk: a current pattern seems to be drought, followed by intense downpours of rain, so that the dried out ground cannot absorb the rainfall as it normally would. Although there’s a lot of drizzle about too, where you get a bit wet, but it’s too warm to wear a winter jacket. Ah, ponchos are the answer!

We went to a restaurant that advertised itself as being Gluten Free.  It was upstairs in a building. The lovely waitress made a huge fuss of our grandson.  Waitpersons here are determined that you’ll have a good time.

This was a Japanese restaurant, and not all dishes were vegan. Some included eggs. The waitresses wore charming shirts, brown, with white stand up collars and cuffs, over black trousers. Our waitress sprayed our hands with sanitiser before we entered. We ordered some light beer to share, as well as the water we’d been brought. Then began the lengthy scrutiny of the menus on offer, which had photographs of the food – very helpful, rather than being off-putting, as they sometimes are. I ordered a bowl of soup with noodles and vegetables. It seemed to be a good choice. I ate it all apart from a vegetable segment which looked like parsnip, but was in fact a kind of mushroom. Anyway, it was too tough for me to eat.

Pudding was good too: a kind of cranberry-topped cheese cake, a chocolate tart, and a purple-topped dessert chosen by our grandson.

While we were there, an anxious young man, obviously from the US, came in. He was concerned about what kind of gluten-free flour was used: he couldn’t tolerate almond flour, apparently.  My gluten-free friends generally use a combination of gluten-free flours for their very successful baking. Anyway, he was anxious, in the way only Americans can be. Our son spoke to him. He asked where he was from: America and New Zealand, our son replied. He’d been to Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.  The waitress was very sorry not to be able to help him, as he sadly went on his way. Actually, in Taipei, it would be very easy to eat well without eating anything glutinous, but if you don’t have Chinese, it might be difficult.

This restaurant was in a more upmarket area, with shops selling clothes, handbags, and shoes; a spray of fresh flowers was bought for our granddaughter, who was going to sing at the concert. She could not join us for lunch, because she had to be at the concert venue early.

We made our way to the concert venue – a large auditorium, perhaps slightly smaller than Wellington’s MFC, but the seats were better spaced and more comfortable.  We ended up going from 3 to 5 tickets, so we were all able to stay and watch.  There was an MC, who did a good job, I think, but being unable to understand Chinese, I found it rather boring. The concert seemed to take a long time to get started, but it included several musical groups, who performed very professionally.  My grandson behaved amazingly well, for a 5-year-old; the appreciative audience was very well-behaved too. There was no talking, or going in and out, or rustling of sweet papers, as there might be in New Zealand.

The school choir sang at the beginning of the second half, they sang three songs, and then returned towards the end to sing Singin’ in the Rain and other items with the very accomplished orchestra. What a performance!

After the choir’s first performance JD and our eldest son left to meet two other sons who were to arrive late that afternoon, one from the UK, and the other from Auckland, New Zealand.  They were due at separate terminals, but thanks to Messenger, we were all able to communicate. The other two are staying in an Air B’n’B near Da’an Park. We are due to meet for lunch on Sunday.

My daughter in law and the children and I got a taxi back to my hotel.

That night JD and I ate in the hotel restaurant again, sharing a meal. We were both quite hungry, and sharing a meal works well for us.

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

A Charming Place

Our dessert and tea at the National Palace Museum, Taipei. I am reluctant to include pictures of food, but this was so beautifully presented that I couldn’t resist!

It’s now Sunday May 14th, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning we went to the Taipei Palace Museum.  Although we could have taken public transport, it seemed much easier to take a taxi, and accordingly we asked at the lobby for one to be ordered. Although I had printouts for this museum, I didn’t have the name in Chinese characters, so I asked the man at the lobby to write it down for us. I wondered if we were going the wrong way, as we seemed to head towards the hills after driving through the city, but then we were there.

On the way, we drove through some really interesting areas – a few new buildings, but many old ones all with air-conditioning units on the outside. We passed a small group of private houses near the museum, but they didn’t seem to have large gardens. There were several parks along the way, however, and lots of green trees.

The Palace Museum is en enormous complex, and it made me think pf other large museums I had been in before. On entry, we purchased tickets at a vending machine, and JD paid with a credit card.  We certainly didn’t cover all there was to offer; we marvelled at the intricacy of the artifacts we saw. Sandalwood is prevalent.  The objects are well curated, with labels in front of them and often demonstrations of the actual tiny writing or drawing therein.

We went through the jade exhibitions, and also some seriously old stuff in the antiquities section. We both found it all very interesting.

There was a restaurant upstairs, where we went to have lunch. They did have a European option of quiche and salad; on this occasion, it seemed much easier to opt for that. JD had tea to drink (it came with a tiny tea bowl), and I ordered a coffee latte, which came in a mug-sized cup!  I haven’t really figured out how to drink enough here, but the tap water seems fine.

Afterwards, I used the ladies’ rest room: tiny cubicles. But touch-free soap and warm water, with paper towels for drying ones’ hands. Then, of course, we went to one of the shops, where we bought book marks and a tote bag.

Then we made our way downstairs, and caught a taxi back to the hotel. There were lots of people at the museum, and many of them were wearing masks. There’s no stigma here to wearing a mask.  At lunch we sat next to a very annoying, entitled American young woman. Dick Cheney asked, Why do other people dislike us so? Well, apart from the accent, and leaving food uneaten – a grave sin where there may be food anxiety – the sense of entitlement and exceptionalism are just plain annoying.

We went to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby.  JD ordered a beef stew with French bread; I ordered a fried noodle dish, but they didn’t have it tonight, so we both had the beef stew with French bread. It was advertised as Banh Mi, but it wasn’t Banh Mi as I’d understand it. It was quite nice, though, and we navigated using chopsticks to eat it. I did miss having a napkin, though, although I appreciated a wrapped wet wipe to use before eating. To be honest, there wasn’t a great deal on the menu. I ordered guava juice to drink; JD wanted wine, but they only had red wine; the Californian pinot noir looked acceptable, but cost about $NZD40, and you couldn’t buy it by the glass, so we shared a large bottle of Sunkist orange drink (not juice), bringing the rest back to our hotel.  After we had eaten we went for a walk, and found a convenience store where we bought a can of beer for JD (our hotel does not have a bar!), two Haagen Das ice creams, and some mango pieces.  We did pass a bar, but it was closed. Well, it’s no harm to me, but it might cause some visitors some difficulty!

Last night our eldest son called in to see us. He had just flown back from the US, doing the long haul flight across the Pacific Ocean. It’s a very big ocean, and can be quite turbulent.  It seemed that he’d been flying all day, while we’d been doing other things. He looks well, though!  After that, some friends of our son and his wife sent more packages to us, after dropping them off at hotel reception.  There is some fruit, a selection of cakes (the pineapple cake is delicious), and two perhaps savoury baked goods – a bit like small pies. Our eldest son will have to translate.  As if we need to eat any more!  We won’t require dinners! 

I have found that I can get Netflix on my computer here, but not Neon, so I won’t be able to watch Succession, I fear – they’re dropping a new episode each Monday night in New Zealand, perhaps Sunday evening in other places. It’s weird: New Zealand sees the sun first, but we’re often the last to get new things released.  I can also log into TVNZ On Demand, but when I tried to watch the last episode of a series, I couldn’t do so.  Of course, it seems silly to have enough time to watch something on television, but there is a surprising amount of down time when one is on holiday. On the television set in our room we can only get BBC News, or local sports programmes.

I have reset my FB password, so now I can log into Messenger and hence get my photos transferred. There was probably an easier way to do this!

It’s now Monday May 15th.

This morning it is still overcast, but we can see the hills surrounding Taipai! It is drizzling, and warm.

The weekly Covid 19 report has been released in New Zealand. It is as follows: there were 11,739​ cases of Covid-19 reported across the country in the past week. The Ministry of Health released its latest weekly update – covering the period from Monday, May 8 to Sunday, May 14.

The number of reported cases was down slightly compared to 12,277​ the week prior.

As of midnight on Sunday, 247​ people were in hospital with Covid-19, compared to 249 at the same time last week. Six​ were in an intensive care or high dependency care unit.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases was 1672​, down from 1746​ last week.

The Ministry of Health reported 66 deaths in the past seven days. Of the 66 deaths, one was aged in their 20s, two were in their 50s, eight in their 60s, 20 in their 70s, 21 were in their 80s, and 14 were aged over 90. Of these people, 40 were women and 26 were men.

The number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 increased by 58​ in the past week: 40​ where the virus was the underlying cause of death, and 18​ where Covid-19 was a contributory factor. So it’s still very much around, as it is here in Taipei. There are a great many people wearing masks here.

It’s now Tuesday May 16th.

Yesterday our son took us to another vegan restaurant, what he called a “Mom and Pop” operation. Small and cramped it may have been, but the food was delicious! I had noodles with mushroom sauce (which I ate with a fork, thankfully!), which came on a tray with some soup, and three small dishes of vegetables: some greens, a mixture of mushrooms, carrots, and something like turnip, with a slice of ginger; there was another small dish containing edamame beans, corn, and something pink which my son told me was tofu. There was a napkin, but no drinks were offered!

Afterwards we caught a bus back to a main road near our hotel.  It was very like the Metlink system back in Wellington: you tag on and off with a pre-loaded card; there are frequent Stop buttons, and there’s a sign to indicate that the bus is due to stop at the next stop.  On our way back, our son pointed out Da’an Park, which is near our hotel, but in an area we hadn’t explored yet. He also took us to a supermarket, where we went downstairs, and bought some lovely soap – a thing I had meant to bring more of but had forgotten. JD had not brought soap.

Afterwards, I needed to have a cup of coffee. We chose the café at the hotel. We ordered two espressos, and they were perfect. Small, but not too small. We shared a slice of delicious cage from the cabinet – a mocha flavoured cake.

Later on our grandson came back to our hotel for a bit after his pre-school finished, and he ate lots of fruit – only vegan food!  Our son had translated the lovely foods his friends had sent us, but most of them weren’t vegan. The ones that were, he’d taken with him!

In the late afternoon we walked our grandson back to his apartment. It seems that there are main roads here, criss-crossed with narrow lanes, many of them one-way. There aren’t raised footpaths, but areas marked for walking, and plenty of pedestrian crossings. After that we went to the Grand Courtyard – presumably at one time a private dwelling, now a picture gallery. One artist’s paintings were displayed there, and they were truly amazing. In another building nearby, there was a restaurant. There was already a group there. JD wanted to eat there, but there was no English menu, and no translation – there was no way of knowing what the food was, and I was reluctant to eat unknown food. Also, I needed to use the restroom!

We walked back to the hotel, and ended up eating there. I thought there would be a Western menu, but no; but the menu we were given had English translations of the Chinese dishes. JD ordered Beef Fried Rice, and I ordered Pork Meat Balls with Vegetables. Both were absolutely delicious, and far too much: we could have shared either dish and had some left over. I combined his fried rice with my yummy meatballs, but I was given my own serving of rice as well. I had an orange drink and JD a Taiwan beer (they didn’t have Heineken).

This morning we had our usual breakfast of fruit, toast and coffee, and then went for a walk in Da’an Park before it got too hot. It’s fine and sunny today, and already very warm!  I saw one pet, a medium-sized dog on a leash!  There is absolutely no smoking here. Everything is very clean, and cleaned, although buildings tend to be grimy. In the Park, we saw a woman sweeping up leaves – no annoying leaf-blowers here! The plants are watered regularly. The hotel outside areas are cleaned regularly. Everyone is very well behaved. I’ve seen one police car, but I have yet to see a policeman.

The park is a lovely flat, restful area with lots of seats, lots of birds, and a running track. We made our way to a stream where you could ride exercise bikes to power the water wheels. There were beautiful lilies in the water. Later we came across the Pond, where several well-fed fish swim in the rather murky waters.  While you can hear the traffic noise all around, it is peaceful and there’s no litter!  Taipei is very environmentally conscious, with rubbish and recycling bins around, also helpful signs and maps. What a lovely place!

At Da’an Park – exercycles that turn the water wheels

We met our son and his wife for lunch, and went to a different, more modern, busy vegan restaurant.  I ordered ramen noodles with black garlic; what came was a kind of soup with noodles in it and some strange vegetables. I also had plum juice to drink, with ice. It was all delicious. The menu had English translations, and you could have Italian pasta with sauce.

After that we caught a metro train to a huge department store, which had an amazing supermarket underneath.  Then we caught another train, and went to another café where I had an espresso and JD had a glass of chardonnay and affogato. Then we went to a fruit market, and caught a bus back to our hotel. JD picked up our grandson from his pre-school nearby, and they came back to the hotel room for a bit. After a rest, we went for a walk and watched our grandchildren roller-blading – very impressive!

On the way back to our hotel, we bought some more fruit, not really fancying dinner.

Taipei seems to me to be a very egalitarian place. People are tidily dressed, usually in long trousers and t-shirts; they don’t wear bling or makeup. There are very few overweight people; and people seem uniformly pleasant, polite and unselfconscious. They’re not obsessed with their appearance, which I find very refreshing.  It seems to be a pretty egalitarian society; I guess there are seriously rich people, and according to my son there are dispossessed and homeless people, but I haven’t seem anyone begging.  I don’t know what kind of social welfare network there is, or what agencies and church organisations help poor people, but there seems to be serious awareness of disabled people, with lift controls at armchair level in some lifts; some ramps around; although I don’t know how a disabled person would use a tiny toilet cubicle!  Still, we feel very comfortable here, and I can see why my son likes it here. It’s very handy to have a Chinese speaker around, too!  Many signs and menus are not in English.

That’s it for now.  It’s nice to be away from everyday concerns, although there’s been a dreadful fire in a hostel in Newtown, one of the older suburbs in Wellington; six deaths have been confirmed, so far.  By the way, NZ Herald, it’s Newtown, not Newton, which is in Auckland. The war in Ukraine grinds on, sadly; Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

The Pond at Da’an Park


A photo of the hotel where we are staying. (Note: I’d love to load more photos, but haven’t yet figured how to get them from my phone to my PC).

It’s now Saturday, May 13th, 2023. Kia ora! It’s my eldest granddaughter’s birthday today.

I finished my last blog with our boarding call to board our direct flight from Auckland to Taipei. The last time I had flown business class was with Emirates back in 2016, in pre-Covid times. This was very different!

Our take-off was a bit bumpy; soon after that we were asked what we would like for lunch. This was quite a production: we had printed menus, and there was an amuse-bouche, appetiser, main course, dessert, drinks, and of course the bakery – garlic bread with olive oil. It sounds like a great deal of food, but of course the portions are very small. An individual table is unfolded and a linen cloth put on it; we had proper cutlery too.  What fun!  As our first choice of main courses was gone by the time the attendant got to us, I had the salmon and JD had chicken.  I had sparkling water to drink; it was all delicious. With the garlic bread, I got a wee bottle of olive oil.  Afterwards there was delicious coffee.

JD and I were each in a kind of capsule. There was a comfortable seat with a footrest, or dumpty, as I think we used to call them. On this were a pair of scuffs (adjustable, wrapped) – thanks Air NZ, and a pouch containing some goodies – lip balm, a toothbrush, socks and hand lotion. There was a pillow on the seat, and a bottle of water. There wasn’t much room, of course, and I had some trouble getting myself organised, and getting what I wanted out of my bag that I wanted to stow. There was room to put things almost behind my seat; I was a newbie at this, and I felt that everyone else knew what they were doing. Meanwhile a staff member was offering sparkling wine or orange juice. There was a ledge for the glass, although this had to be stowed for take off and landing. Eventually I got to sit down, and overcome the challenge of finding my seatbelt! A flight attendant came around with those lovely hot wet facecloths, that are so refreshing.

I wanted to read during take-off, so I asked the lovely Taiwanese flight attendant to show me how to turn on my reading lamp. This was part of the individual entertainment system, but alas, it didn’t work, for myself or JD. The attendant told her manager, who announced that the system would have to be rebooted during take-off, and this would take about 10 minutes. During take-off, we both wondered?  It seemed like a dangerous time. But it was duly rebooted. Sadly, the reboot did not improve its performance. Not only was there no reading light, but there was no inflight map – you know, the annoying one that tells your altitude, the temperature outside, the speed, and the time at your points of embarkation and destination, and the time to go. I try not to look at it for ages and ages, and it still tells me there are hours to go. Well, you kind of miss it when it’s not there. Of course there was no in-flight Wi-fi, either.

There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment. There was the film Aftersun, which I had seen but watched again, thinking what a lovely Dad Paul Mescal played, and how like my just-turned 8 granddaughter 11 year old Sophie was.  But it was later that I watched it.

Although this was a daytime flight, it was expected that we’d all go to sleep for most of the rest of the trip.  To achieve this, each business class seat had to be converted, The seat was rolled back and turned into a lie-flat bed, complete with mattress, two pillows, and a cover. 

I tried to sleep after lunch, lying back, thinking this is living the dream, but I became rather bored with that after a while. There were bouts of quite severe turbulence; but thankfully I don’t worry anymore; I did miss not being able to read; I listened to José  Carreras for a while (he does sing arias from Tosca beautifully); I got up to use the toilet, and I have to report that it was just fine: very clean, and not quite as cramped as the toilets in cattle class.  I returned to my cocoon, but it was just that – a cocoon where I couldn’t easily sit up, or read the magazines I’d brought with me, or use the limited functions available in the on-board entertainment system. I couldn’t even see the time on my watch.

Eventually, when there were only 4 hours to go in this 11 ½ hour flight, I asked for my bed to be returned to sitting position.  Then I watched Aftersun again, and most of Women Talking. Eventually dinner was served, but it wasn’t quite such a production as lunch had been. I chose schnapper for my main course, but didn’t really enjoy it. Note to self: never order fish again. It was really fresh, but seemed barely cooked. Of course, I wasn’t really hungry, but it’s amazing what a distraction food can be on a plane, and how one can work up an appetite after several hours in the sky doing nothing.

Eventually we descended and landed in Taipei. It was cloudy outside, and there wasn’t much to see at all, although I did see some lights and buildings through the passenger opposite’s window. The plane taxied past hundreds of aircraft before stopping. Entry was no problem, we were waved through, without having to queue for long; everything was in Chinese, but I established which carousel our luggage would be on. We went through to baggage claim, grabbed a trolley, and waited. It helpfully said this was the right carousel for Air NZ flight 77; there seemed to be no separate queue for priority baggage. I was so pleased that I’d used the toilet on the plane before our descent, rather than waiting to use a restroom at the airport. There was nowhere to sit down, of course.

I marvelled at the enormous suitcases people had, many of them secured by a band around the large suitcase. I felt quite unashamed in comparison, with a large suitcase and a small overnight one; JD had a small suitcase and a backpack.  Finally our luggage arrived. This was a big relief, as I couldn’t see an Air NZ office anywhere, and almost all notices were in Chinese. As we had nothing to declare, we walked through Customs and out to another public area. We went out and crossed the road to a taxi stand (as our son had advised), and caught a taxi into our hotel. Our taxi driver had no English; he drove to my printed directions, but that was to our son’s apartment building!  I found some instructions in Chinese, and he sighed with relief and took us to our hotel.  The helpful people on the desk did speak English, so we were checked in, and given keys to our room. Our daughter-in-law had helpfully prepared a welcome pack, with some fruit and snacks in it and a beautiful note. Although we’d had plenty to eat on the plane, it was nice to have some delicious pineapple to tuck into and celebrate the fact that we’d safely arrived. Taiwanese pineapple is much nicer than Australasian!

First impressions? Taipei is a busy, thriving city. It took about 50 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel; there were lots of concrete flyovers, there was lots of traffic, and it all kept flowing smoothly. Pretty much everything is in Chinese, and the characters are quite complex! It was dark and raining when we arrived, so there wasn’t much to see. We did see Ucks Coffee, which of course was a Starbucks, but it was a relief not to see any McDonalds or KFC outlets.

Our hotel room is just fine, with a sitting room, compete with sofa, armchair, desk and lamps, a small fridge and tea making facilities. And there’s a bedroom with two single beds, a reading lamp, a wardrobe and a bathroom with shower.  It’s all very elegant and gracious, without being over-the-top. In Taiwan there’s evident concern about the environment. I have yet to see a plastic bag.

Yesterday (Friday) I woke up very early; I showered and we went down to breakfast at 7 am.  It was buffet style, and already there were lots of people there. It was very quiet as people concentrated on eating.  The food was unfamiliar; I had some fruit and toast, juice and cona coffee.  JD had some noodles, I think.

Afterwards we went for a walk to explore the area. It’s very busy – there’s an elevated major highway outside our room on the tenth floor, but if you go down to the lobby on the opposite side there’s another road on street level. While there’s lots of traffic, cars, motorbikes, and pushbikes, there are crossings which give you plenty of time to cross the sometimes very wide streets.  You don’t press a button for crossing; instead you wait for the Red Man (Stop!) to change to the Green Man (walking). It’s a strange mixture of beautiful green trees and shrubs (which are regularly watered) and older slightly run-down buildings, a lot of concrete, and to be honest, some ugliness interspersed with beautiful decorations.

We stopped outside the Elementary School our grandson attends (actually he attends pre-school there at present), but we couldn’t see him, and the young woman in charge had no knowledge of him.  The building itself looked quite dowdy, but then most do, and there seemed to be quite a nice play area outside. Then we made our way to the large Sports Complex where we thought our grandchildren would be practicing taekwondo that evening. There were white flowers there, which looked as though a red poppy had been sliced in half, and coloured white. Having found a large sports complex, we then found Galette Café, one recommended by our son. It didn’t open until 10 am, so we sat down outside the Elementary School and waited.

Eventually we made our way back to the Café, and then began the torturous business of ordering coffee.  It seems you can get an Americano (I didn’t want that), or an Expresso, which is tiny. Eventually they brought a double Espresso in a small jug, and a cup of hot water. I added the Espresso to the hot water, and almost got what we would call a “long black”. It was delicious. There were lots of puzzles there, and you could actually do a jigsaw there, yourself; there were lots of lovely impressionist puzzles as well as other ones. We bought one about space for our grandson, and one of Renoir’s lovely Boating Party for our granddaughter. I bought a small one for our daughter in Hawkes Bay.

Then we made our way back to the hotel. We decided to have lunch there, on the grounds that we were to see our grandchildren practising Taekwondo at 6 pm, and we wouldn’t need dinner that evening.

Lunch was complicated! It was Chinese, of course, and we were advised to choose from a set menu – you could choose one of three mains (we chose chicken because it seemed the most familiar).  There were chopsticks, of course, but we managed them. There was a starter – pickled egg, I think, with some kind of meat; then soup came, with a jug of a spicy red condiment to be added to taste; it was delicious, but it was frustrating not to know just what was in it. Then the mains came, with rice; just how do you navigate eating that? Then some fruit, something to drink, and finally, a dessert, which seemed like cream caramel, with some kind of custardy mixture and a caramel sauce. All of it was delicious, and somehow far too much. There were groups of older men having lunch, and they excused themselves to us for making too much noise!  There are no overweight people in Taipei, or not that I’ve seen, anyway.

We set off in good time to the Sports Complex, thinking we were following our son’s instructions, but no, when we got there, there was no sign of our daughter in law or our grandchildren.  Thank goodness for mobile phones, because, alas, we’d gone to the wrong place. She asked us to meet her back at our hotel, which we duly did; then she took us to the right place (I don’t think we would have found it by ourselves). We went upstairs, took off our shoes, and went in – and there they were!  Obviously looking out for us!  Just like their photos! This was a small class, and we agreed to stay and watch and then walk back to their apartment with them. 

It was very Chinese! I don’t mean that pejoratively, at all. It’s quite refreshing to see something that’s a bit down to earth. The class was extremely energetic! We watched, but there was also a television screen running pictures of the children in action, including some lovely shots of our grandchildren.

I guess the street outside reminded me of Newtown, perhaps; the street/lane where our loved ones have their apartment is a very narrow one.  They live not at all far away from where they train for Taekwondo, and there seemed to be no fear about walking home in the dark, it is a martial art, after all!

We had some chamomile tea there, and then they walked us back to our hotel and we gave the children the puzzles we’d bought that morning.  I was amazed at all the greenery outside the small apartment buildings we passed on our way back.

Although I’ve heard emergency vehicles (not nearly as many as in Paris), I have yet to see a policeman. This seems a very peaceful, polite place.

There is an ATM in the lobby of our hotel. It has a voice over, and at the end it asks you to store your money “properly”. That’s nice, I think. The exchange rate is much better than at Auckland Airport.

We’re gradually adjusting to life here:  it’s hot, muggy, rainy and it gets dark early! And the food and drink is all very different! For example, do you want your tea or coffee hot or cold? And organic soy milk with fruit juice? That’s new to me.

On Saturday morning I woke up really early again. This morning breakfast was in a different restaurant. There was lots of cooked food – more of the kind I would tend to eat for lunch or dinner, like chicken and mashed potatoes!  JD had cornflakes and I stuck to fruit and toast, some orange juice and beautiful coffee.  The fruit is watermelon (very prevalent), custard apple, and oranges.  We don’t have beautiful Taiwanese pineapple in the breakfast buffet. I have yet to see any cheese!  And gluten free doesn’t seem to be a thing here.

We were to meet our daughter in law and grandchildren for lunch. They were to walk to our hotel, and then we would get a taxi to the vegan restaurant that had been booked. We went to Soul Café, and had a beautiful lunch, although there was far too much food and the service was quite slow! Still, we sat outside. There was a 7/11 convenience store nearby, where JD bought some more toys for the children. There was a Mother’s Day set menu, and we were advised to have that. Well, I thought that with eating mainly vegan meals I would lose weight, but it is not so: the food is delicious and plentiful. One feels ashamed not to eat it all, although there is no microwave oven in our room, so we can’t take leftovers away with us.

We had water with a slice of lemon and a slice of orange in it; there was delicious soup to start with – like minestrone, without Parmesan cheese. Apparently our son knows where to buy vegan cheese.

Then there were potato wedges, a vegan crumbed steak that was delicious, and some kind of vegetables – broccoli, zucchini in a tomato sauce; there was delicious salad with cranberries in it, although I found it hard to eat it tidily.

Then a mushroom risotto came out for me – again, delicious, although I was full by now, and there was a noodle dish for JD.  After that, there was along wait, and then our desserts arrived – tiramisu and crѐme brulée.  After that we all crowded in a taxi to go back to our son’s apartment for yet more food – a birthday cake! I was amazed by how grimy many buildings looked – a bit like the buildings of Paris as you come into the Gare du Nord Railway Station. The apartment is very nice, though.

We sang the birthday song, and enjoyed the beautiful vegan birthday cake. It was amazingly good, with some kind of cherry filling.

Then we excused ourselves, and our grandchildren walked us back to our hotel.  After that we were properly tired, and slept through until nearly breakfast time the next morning.

I had planned to go to a Presbyterian Church here, but realised the service would be in Chinese, and so took the easy way out and zoomed into the service back in New Zealand. Then we went down to breakfast. We were properly hungry by this time, and the restaurant was very busy, although it was Sunday morning and soon after 7 am.

I had two cups of coffee, and some cooked food as well as fruit and toast. If we give our evening meal a miss, perhaps I should eat more cooked food at breakfast time. Today we plan to go to the Palace Museum.

Well, that’s it for now! It’s quite a challenge being here, but a treat, as well.  We look forward to seeing more of our loved ones, and the sights here, and, of course, doing some more shopping!  I did see a McDonalds yesterday on our way to the Soul Café, but they’re certainly not ubiquitous here. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

A New Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Royal Occasion

London Coronation Rehearsals

It’s now Sunday May 7th, 2023. Kia ora!

Last night I stayed up to watch the coronation of King Charles III. JD stayed up too, and we watched it together. I went to bed sometime after 1 am this morning, so I missed the balcony appearance; I also missed the salute of the massed troops on the lawn of Buckingham Palace.  But I did watch the ceremony. Even avowed anti-Monarchists watched the ceremony, realising that it’s been 70 years since the last coronation, and wanting to see how this one might be different, and wanting to see the pageantry. Well, it did not disappoint, although it continued to drizzle with light rain in London. Never mind, there may have been the odd contretemps, but it looked as though everything went pretty smoothly, apart from some very frisky horses in parades leading up to the big event.  And what was Richie McCaw doing there, with Sir Sebastian Coe?  I didn’t know that he’d been invited.  Evidently some service members had to board trains at 3 am to get to London and be there on time. FB, now Meta, has a lovely photo of red-uniformed guards boarding a train to get back to their barracks, with the caption: So nice to see guards on trains again!

Well, you have to hand it to the British, they do turn on an amazingly good spectacle, whatever the weather and the horses’ friskiness.  All that ceremony is a great tourist attraction, and while the Americans do funerals well (they’ve had a lot of experience), they must be slightly envious of the British ceremony dating back hundreds of years, on some cases, but not to Biblical times, as one commentator remarked. Really, that makes you wonder just what is taught in schools these days! And Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s remark that he hoped it wouldn’t be like a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera seemed totally inappropriate. He has been saying some odd things lately, but he conducted the ceremony all right.

Primarily this was a religious ceremony, with the anointing and coronation having roots in service, not in being served.  One felt for all the invitees having to wait hours before the coronation service began;  there was a pre-coronation concert, but even this avowed lover of classical music found some items rather tedious. King Charles may love this music, but I doubt that many of his loyal subjects share his views.  Never mind, it was entertaining. Meanwhile, one could tut-tut at the many ill-fitting suits and “silly walks” displayed, while a few displayed great elegance: Brigitte Macron looked amazing, Dr Jill Biden and her daughter made great entrances wearing blue and yellow; and then we had the “descent of man”, a line up of former British Prime Ministers, including Liz Truss, and the inevitably unkempt Boris Johnson. I was disappointed not to catch a glimpse of Rory Stewart wearing the uniform of a Privy Councillor, or any privy councillors. I did see New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins wearing a korowai, with the Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro.  Sadly, I could not be as proud of him as I was of former Prime Minister Ardern, but I guess we were fortunate to gave her for six years. All good things come to an end.

I watched the Coronation coverage on TVNZ on Demand, when JD didn’t have the television on TV One.  It was good the way the presentation switched between parades and preparations outside, and arrivals of guests to Westminster Abbey (poor lucky things, at least we had bathrooms and food and drink near at hand! And we didn’t have to dress up for the occasion).  Some of the marching left a lot to be desired, and the crowds seemed rather meagre, but then hundreds of people flocked to the Mall afterwards.

It did strike me that the pageantry for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, and her funeral, and this occasion were all wonderful, but all slightly different. Well done to those involved!

This was King Charles III’s big day, and so it seemed appropriate that the arrivals focused on him and his queen consort processing to the Abbey in a covered coach;  the arrival of the Waleses was not highlighted – JD wondered if they’d had a last minute crisis, but of course they hadn’t. Prince George was a page-boy for his grandfather; the Prince and Princess of Wales looked wonderful, of course, as did Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. The Princess of Wales and her daughter Princess Charlotte wore lacy headbands, not tiaras. Princess Anne looked quite wonderful too. But our eyes were on King Charles.  Prince Harry had arrived a few minutes earlier; he was seated with Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and their husbands, and he seemed to insist on a bit of friendly conversation and joking with one of them. Strategically, the red feather in Princess Anne’s hat got in the way of the camera having a direct view of him. Afterwards Princess Anne rode a horse in the parade back to Buckingham Palace. Her new honour solved the problem of what to wear, as she amusingly remarked. She looked very regal, almost like her mother.

The Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, Edward and Sophie, looked wonderful, of course.

The King did not look happy throughout. I found it hard not to think that he just wanted to get through it all safely; after all, there was a lot of formality, not just in the ceremony of the coronation, but the public trips to and from the Abbey, and then the appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, and the feast afterwards. All of it would be exhausting really, and he’s over 70, as is his sister Princess Anne.  Perhaps he was wishing his mother was watching him – See me now, Mum (and Dad); aren’t you proud of me (yet)?  He looked serious, dignified, almost as if he was in pain; perhaps he was just trying to hold it all together. His big moment was finally here, and yet what memories he must have had – perhaps of his mother’s coronation 70 years ago; we saw delightful photos of him and Princess Anne being naughty on that occasion. He must have also been remembering his marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, and how that ended in tears; of her death and funeral;  of his disgraced brother Andrew, and, of course, of his other son, Prince Harry, who married yet another difficult woman, and has betrayed his family so terribly.

We saw King Charles at his most vulnerable, kneeling before the altar, wearing a white shirt, before his anointing (which was screened off).  This reminded me of masonic rituals, although I guess that any induction ceremony or sacrament, whether it be baptism, marriage, or death, or ordination, or something else, requires an element of vulnerability. And I was correct about the crowns: he was crowned king with St Edward’s Crown, which is only used for coronations; otherwise the Imperial Crown is used, although Britain no longer has an Empire. It did when his mother was crowned, although India became independent in 1947, and the African nations were to peel off in subsequent years. When Prince William, Prince of Wales, kissed his father after promising his allegiance, it reminded me of Prince Philip’s sneaky kiss of his mother at her coronation.  The pledge of allegiance, to be undertaken by those watching (another Welby idea), was thankfully dropped. Really, the king has very little power nowadays, although according to the Guardian the British monarch gets to vet all legislation before it’s voted on.

It was noteworthy that a Scottish religious leader presented him with a new Bible, saying that it was the most valuable thing in the world. As with Roman Emperors’ victory processions, there were reminders that life on earth is temporal, yet there was a Latin chant shouting Vivat, and May the King Live Forever! Well, his mama lived for a very long time.  Their prayers were answered, and it truly did feel like the end of an era when she died.

The ceremony had the Eucharist, but for whom, one wonders? Not the congregation; perhaps for some of the religious leaders and the King and Queen. I did see a Communion Chalice being shared, and I froze; there wasn’t a mask to be seen, of course. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, did a reading from Philippians 3, about fixing one’s eyes on Christ: I found this quite striking. He seemed to have a speech impediment, a kind of lisp, which I had not noticed before. The hymns, sung by the congregation, were quite wonderful: Christ is made the Sure Foundation, and Praise my soul the King of Heaven. There was nothing in the service I would disagree with, and the emphasis was on God, and service to God. The Archbishop gave a short sermon, with a smile as he began to do so. I think everything was in large print, for the mostly elderly folk who had to say and do things.

One felt for Penny Mordaunt, who had to stand holding something really heavy for what seemed like a long time; it seemed rather unfortunate that she’d chosen to wear a teal-blue outfit, the strong colour not really fitting in with other elegant costumes.

It seemed quite a long ceremony to crown the king, but what about the queen? She was not forgotten, and was crowned with Queen Mary’s crown (I think she was the wife of King George V), which was remade for her, although it looked pretty heavy and seemed to not be placed quite right on her head. It’s an irony that Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s consort) and Prince Philip (Queen Elizabeth II’s consort) were not crowned, but Queen Camilla and Queen Elizabeth (wife of King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II) were crowned queen; Anne Boleyn was too, well after King Henry VIII’s coronation, and before her beheading. It seems she insisted on being crowned queen, and was disappointed that more people did not come out to cheer her parade.  What tumultuous times those were. That’s very odd, really; women don’t count for much, but if a woman is monarch, then her husband counts for less? I suppose you couldn’t have Albert or Philip being crowned king, could you? How come King counts for more than a Queen?

So it was all quite wonderful, if perhaps a tad – boring?  Prince Louis did not disappoint – the camera caught him yawning, at one point; I did not see him in the service again, so perhaps his mother had someone discreetly remove him?

After the ceremony, and one had to feel for the newly crowned King and Queen negotiating the steps, robes and trains, and those heavy crowns – the King and Queen rode back to Buckingham Palace in a gold coach. Now this, I have to say, reminded me of Disney, with its very ornate, almost rococo, gold roofing.  Mercifully it was covered; the Waleses came in another covered carriage, as did the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh and their children.  There was amazing synchronised marching by the forces on the parade back to the Palace. All the messes made by the horses had been cleaned up before the march back to the Palace.

Here’s a link to a video posted by the Waleses:


After everyone got back to Buckingham Palace, I went to bed. It was already very late, but I had trouble sleeping after all the excitement.

The Monarchy argument rages again: he’s not my King! Apparently some anti-monarchy protesters were arrested in the leadup to the coronation. I hear these arguments, but, honestly, would you rather have someone like Johnson, Truss, or Luxon as your head of state? The Royal Family are inoffensive, and the Prince and Princess of Wales are rather wonderful. They’re well liked here and in Australia, and loved in Great Britain (and North America). People complain about the costs of royalty, but look at the costs of the American political system!  All the politicians have flights from home to Washington, several staffers, and security.  Then there are the ridiculous costs of American elections. Certainly, the Royal Family’s finances are somewhat opaque, but by and large they’re inoffensive, gracious, sensitive, well-dressed, and behave impeccably. And we all like a good parade, don’t we?

The display of British pomp and ceremony (and a great time with the dressing up box) contrasts with the scene in the US, where there’s been another mass shooting, this time in a Texas outlet mall, with at least 8 killed and 7 injured, before police shot the gunman.  Meanwhile, Trump joins with the J6 “Choir” to sing the US National Anthem, hand on non-existent heart. It seems that in his view woman are there for his pleasure, and don’t exist to be anything in their own right. One presumes, though, that he perhaps views his daughter Ivanka differently?  Whatever the story there, she married a Jewish man and converted to Judaism, so that must have been come kind of rebellion. Didn’t he say “Tom Brady could have been my son-in-law”?  Ivanka’s preference didn’t come into it. In marrying the rather weedy Jared Kushner, she certainly didn’t marry a football player or even a sportsman.

Whatever your faith is, this was a Christian ceremony that made no secret of being Christian, and Anglican, but acknowledged other faiths and had their representatives in attendance. I think that is a rather wonderful example of being tolerant, while being Christian. The US, on the other hand, would claim to be a Christian nation, while some of their absolute judgements seem very unchristian to many others of us. 

Still, although the Abbey’s new blue carpet with a yellow background reminded us of the Ukrainian flag, we could be at peace with this lovely coronation, that went so well.  Long live the King! 

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

Time for the Crowning

Back during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, there were two crowns: the crown of St Edward, and, I think, the Imperial Crown. We went to see the crown jewels in the Tower of London in 1973. I’m not sure which crown King Charles will be crowned with.

Today is Friday April 28th, 2023. Kia ora!

Today is Friday and someone actually came from Access to do some cleaning. In the afternoon I went over to Seatoun to see my cousin who lives there and her sister who was down from Auckland for a few days. It’s been a lovely fine day, after a cold start. 

This morning I listened to a Lawfare podcast with Roger Parloff talking about the trial of the Proud Boys for insurrection in the January 6 riot; the verdict is now with the jury.  Roger Parloff is good value, in my view. After that, Charlie Sykes was joined on the Bulwark podcast by Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes for a weekly podcast to break down Trump’s legal woes. I found it very interesting.

It’s now Monday May 1st.

It’s been a busy few days!  We’ve had glorious weather, for autumn: fine and sunny, with little wind, but cold nights and mornings. On Saturday I was due to attend Singfest at Queen Margaret’s College from 1 till 4 pm.  JD insisted on taking me in, although he had an appointment at 1 pm. Consequently we left home early, and I wasn’t really ready. I missed having lunch! But I did prepare some snacks to take: crackers, biscuits and a drink bottle.  It turned out that the traffic was really heavy on the motorway. Plan B was for him to drop me off in Johnsonville, where I could get an Uber or a taxi; but there were huge queues for the Johnsonville turnoff, so we kept driving. Plan C was to use the Old Hutt Road, so that JD could drop me off and get back on the SH1 motorway, but there were huge queues for the turnoff to the Hutt Valley/Old Hutt Road, so that option was out too.  So we drove on the motorway, and he took the second exit and dropped me off at the top of Murphy Street.  I was happy to walk to QMC, but where to go?  I think I took Turnbull Street, hoping there would be a way through and all the gates to Thorndon School wouldn’t be closed. In the event there was a walkway, with a pink line painted on it; there was a gate, but it opened easily, taking me through to Hobson Crescent.  Thus I got through to Hobson Street, and so to QMC – extremely early.

Eventually the workshop began, in the atrium. It wasn’t a large space, and the seats were very close together. I saved a seat beside me for a friend of mine, who had offered to pick me up, but she brought another friend and they sat somewhere else. The workshop began with a warm up and a very energetic first song, with lots of clapping, foot stamping and dancing.  So all that would have been fine, if we’d had more room! There was some beautiful singing, though, and once again it was nice to sing with strong singers.  We had two breaks, and both times I went outside.  I moved my seat, partly as required for a gospel singing item, and partly to have more room. There was lots of standing. I must say, though, that although QMC claims to be accessible, they could do with far more handrails!  The only one I saw, that I used, had some ghastly mess on it, which soiled my hand and my handkerchief. I tried to wash  my hands in a drinking fountain, but I felt really unclean after that. I expected that JD would pick me up afterwards, but he had an unexpected visit from one of our sons and his daughter, and so wasn’t answering his phone.  I had hoped to go shopping in Thorndon, but my friend gave me a lift home. The traffic was still heavy – because SH58, the Haywards Road, was closed.  She was catching a plane early the next morning, so I felt really guilty about taking her out of her way. But I did get home, and had a cup of coffee and another snack!

What was truly amazing was that I didn’t get a frog in my throat!

The next day I went to church. It was a special occasion, with an special older lady being awarded Elder Emerita, and two baptisms. It was also Harvest Sunday.  In this day and age of plenty, where many of us eat too much food, and agonise over what type of food it is (vegetarian, vegan, organic, gluten-free, and all the allergies), we tend to take it for granted that we have plenty of food to eat. We’re not too worried about the quality or amount of the harvest, in fact many of us are quite removed from it, buying our food at a supermarket of a farmers’ market. After morning tea, there was to be a congregational meeting. The strategic plan (which I had had something to do with) was adopted, and those who were there got into the weeds of shared meals, faith pathways, and Te Reo classes. I put myself down for further discussion about two of these; I’ve summarised what happens at the Khandallah Town Hall for Te Reo Māori classes; I think the Minister has something more formal in mind. I have yet to hear from anyone about these proposed activities. I guess they go some way towards addressing some of my issues!  There is an introduction of Biculturalism in the Mission Statement, which is good.

This morning I was to go to my exercise class in Ngaio, but it seems that most if not all trains on the Johnsonville Line have been cancelled, and there are no bus replacements, so even if JD dropped me off, I had no way of getting home from Ngaio. The #25 bus joins Ngaio Gorge Road at Perth Street, so that’s not really an option.

There were 11,063 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Aotearoa in the week to midnight on Sunday and a further 26 deaths attributed to the virus. The 26 people added to the Covid-19 death tally brings the total number to 2762.

The number of people with the virus in hospital was 265 with eight people in intensive care.

Canterbury, Waitematā, Counties Manukau and Southern recorded the highest number of the country’s cases.

There were 12,383 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Aotearoa the previous week, and a further 20 deaths attributed to the virus.

Last week the Ministry of Health abandoned a long-awaited survey of Covid-19 infections, with a spokesperson saying it was no longer needed.

It’s now Wednesday May 3rd.

Yesterday I went to Bible Study (Acts 7, speaking about Stephen’s preaching and martyrdom).  This comes after Peter’s preaching, and before the incident with Philip and the eunuch, and before Paul’s Damascene moment. Stephen is so graceful, and perhaps typifies what had happened to Jesus Christ earlier; but he called those he addressed “Stiff necked”. That didn’t go down well, it seems, and Stephen was stoned to death. It struck me that there were great times of conversion, and baptism, contrasted with Paul’s persecution of the saints, before he became a servant of Christ. 

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was lovely, as it always is.  This afternoon I met an old friend and we had a lovely conversation over coffee.

That evening I read in the Guardian that 6 Libyans are facing death penalty for converting to Christianity. They’re a threat, it’s supposed.

It’s now Saturday May 6th.

Has it been consequential? I went to my other singing group on Thursday morning, and had lunch with a friend afterwards. On Friday someone came from Access to do some cleaning – wonderful.  For our evening meal, which JD was supposed to cook, we had a semi-instant pasta meal, where you didn’t have to cook the pasta first; you mixed in the sauce and heated it in the microwave. It was edible, but there wasn’t a great deal of it.

In the US, in summary: four Proud Boys have been convicted of seditious conspiracy; the hard-to-watch trial of Donald Trump for the rape of E. Jean Carroll continues; the evidence has now been presented.  This morning I watched an excruciating tape on Youtube about Trump’s evidence, where he claimed that a photo of his second wife, Marla Maples, represented E. Jean Carroll, having claimed that Carroll wasn’t “his type”, whatever that means. Trump’s and his lawyer Joe Tacopina’s attitudes are disturbing: basically, that Carroll didn’t react straightaway, by screaming or going to the police.  I imagine she was totally shocked, as a moment of fun and flirting, in a semi-public place, suddenly turned into a sexual assault.  Trump’s attitude seemed to be that any woman would desire him – she had no choice in the matter; she wasn’t given a chance to say “I don’t fancy you”. We’re brought up not to hurt anyone, but with some guys one has to be very direct; even then, some think that a woman really wants them, and that “No” really means “Yes”.  So that has been quite upsetting.

The news about Supreme Court judges having payments and benefits from wealthy right-wing donors just gets worse and worse.

In London, things are heating up for the Coronation of King Charles.  While this has been slow to excite people, here and abroad, many of us are getting excited now.  Many avowed republicans are keen to watch – for the ceremony; that reminds me of men who claimed to read Playboy for the articles. Ah well, the Brits will put on a good show, and it will be well worth watching, I think; there’s been a suitable gap since the Queen’s platinum jubilee, and then her funeral, a few months later.  People like ex-Tory Cabinet Minister Rory Stewart talked about hiring his Privy Councillor’s uniform (costume?), complete with feathered hat.  It seems, though, that Archbishop Justin Welby advocated that those watching the ceremony swear the oath of allegiance at home, or wherever they are. That has caused distress and people vowing that they won’t swear allegiance to King Charles. In the past, dukes had to swear allegiance to the monarch, so that he could count on their loyalty; “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”, said Shakespeare, who wrote several plays about monarchy. It evidently fascinated him. Welby has said some strange things lately, and there seems to be a huge split in the Anglican Church over the blessing of gay marriages. 

Anyway, most of us are keen to watch the ceremony, as long as we can stay awake!  What will the Princess of Wales wear? And will she wear a tiara? What will everyone else wear?

It’s hard to know what’s happening in Ukraine, apart from probable lies, suffering, and continuing brutality.  That’s it for now.  I hope to stay up watching the coronation tonight, although I expect by about 1 am tomorrow I’ll be happy to go to sleep, and watch the rest later.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.


No caption required.

It’s now Tuesday April 25 2023, Anzac Day. Kia ora!

April in Māori is Paengawhawha! Isn’t that wonderful?

Yesterday I went to my exercise class at the Ngaio Union Church.  I felt very guilty about not having been there the last few weeks, but claimed my autumnal asthma as an excuse.  It’s also a hard place to get to!  But it was lovely, of course, and I enjoyed coffee and an Anzac biscuit afterwards. I must admit I prefer Anzac biscuits as they traditionally were in the Edmonds cookbook, unadulterated with chocolate, or cranberries, and not too thick. Chocolate and cranberries are fine, but Anzac biscuits are special, and don’t need them. They have no eggs, either!

After a cold, wet start yesterday it became fine and warm if rather windy. I caught the train back from Ngaio and JD picked me up at the Johnsonville Library. I was very tired after the exercise class.

Last night we watched the film Children of Men on Prime Television.  It’s a very dystopian vision of a future where women are infertile; the frequent advertisements were mostly for McDonalds. I found them extremely annoying.

On Sunday night we watched the film Vice on Eden. As if we needed reminding if just how awful Dick Cheney is.  While he doesn’t want to see Trump as president again, he helped create the conditions that led to Trump’s appeal to millions of Americans.

Yesterday the Covid 19 report came out, and I didn’t even notice!  It wasn’t quite as bad as the previous week’s one.

I actually slept well last night. I woke up to the news that Tucker Carlson has left Fox, and CNN have got rid of Don Lemon.  CNN have got rid of/failed to renew the contracts of several people lately, all on the liberal side: Fareed Zakaria, Bill Smerconish, Don Lemon, someone else who’s name I can’t remember right now (I think it was Brian Stelter).  CNN videos regularly came up on my Youtube feed; they don’t now. I have to work quite hard to find Jake Tapper or James Acosta, even. Erin Burnett, female and white, comes up quite often.

This morning I listened to Charlie Sykes’ Bulwark podcast, but evidently when it was recorded the news about Tucker hadn’t broken – it wasn’t mentioned. Will there be more emergency podcasts, I wonder? It’s being discussed on Nicole Wallace’s Deadline Whitehouse. How will politicians like Ron de Santis and Donald Trump react? I’m wondering in particular how Ron de Santis will react. What a delicious quandary! Where will Tucker go?  His evil work was done, perhaps, or was he too much of a risk to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire?  Did Trump ask him to get rid of Carlson? Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and now Carlson have gone, and the rather wonderful Chris Wallace and not so wonderful Shep Smith but Rupert Murdoch remains, and the Fox news no longer claims to be “fair and balanced”; rather, it’s gotten worse and worse.  So what’s Murdoch after, other than more power and more money?  What if he were to support left-wing liberal outlets?  But Carlson has gone, he’s already presented his last program, and he doesn’t get to say goodbye, not on Fox, anyway.

Rupert Murdoch has made some odd moves lately, leading some to wonder if the nonagenarian is losing his reasoning powers: he’s divorced his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, by text; he was engaged, and then broke it off, after buying a very expensive engagement ring; and he didn’t settle earlier with Dominion, who were suing Fox for $1.4 billion USD  The Guardian had an interesting story about him recently, reminding us of how much damage he’s done:


There are lots of stories about him, but I was horrified to learn how Margaret Thatcher had abetted his moving his media empire into the UK, before his US move. It all seems incredibly cynical. 

I recently answered a Labour Party questionnaire, about how the coming election campaign might be effective. It was nice to be asked, but I felt increasingly out of touch with concerns that younger people might have. But I did answer it, and of course the main issues remain: child poverty, the need for comfortable, affordable housing, the climate, of course: and just being a kind and decent human being, with opportunities for all, not just the privileged few.  While many people may be tired of a Labour Government and long for a change, I think many have forgotten what a National Government is like. If they’re in coalition with Act, it will be even worse.  Anyway, there’s been a change of Prime Minister, and Chippy seems to be doing just fine, while Luxon seems unable to say anything effective. I miss former Prime Minister Ardern so very much, but some of that toxicity that she aroused in protesters has gone, although Chippy was at her side as Covid Minister. Ah well, what it is to be a male, albeit a separated one. I don’t even know what his religious affiliation, if any, is.

With regard to Ukraine, there’s some news.  Putin has cancelled commemorations for the Russian victory over Nazi Germany in what it calls The Great Patriotic War. This is huge: the commemorations are enormous, as is the propaganda; (I recently found out that the great tank battle at Kursk came several months after the Battle of Stalingrad).  It’s said that Putin fears that there may be protests against his special military action in Ukraine, and also fears upsetting Russian citizens about the deaths of their men, and the cost of this action. It has also transpired that the Wagner group have been ordered to shoot any Ukrainian forces that surrender, rather than taking them prisoner. That, too, is shocking news.

We return now to Carlson’s exit from Fox – not a dignified one. Journalists and comedians are already having great fun with this, in particular, Seth Myers and Desi Lydic on The Daily Show. I can’t resist including links:


Jimmy Kimmel was very funny too, with his “Mother Tucker” piece:

Tucker’s manic giggle will long be remembered, hopefully more than the crazy things he said.  One will also remember his fawning interview with Trump after Trump was indicted, and of course Tucker’s texts: “I hate him passionately”. Well, Trump was certainly good at destroying things, as Tucker noted, in fact he may also have destroyed Tucker’s so-called career, as well as any credibility he may have had.  It’s hard to feel sorry for Tucker. In fact many people are feeling maliciously happy.

Evidently the jury members are to be chosen on Tuesday (that would be tomorrow, in the US), in the E. Jean Carroll rape trial; there’s no news of that. However Fani Willis, District Attorney of Fulton County in Georgia, has announced that she will announce charges in the coming northern summer. Ho hum, a lot of American excitement is over something that may happen in the future, if the Georgia state government don’t get rid of Fani Willis in the meantime.

It’s now Wednesday April 26th.

This morning I got up early (after quite a good night) to go to hymn singing. I should mention that last night we watched the latest episode of Succession on Neon. The three younger dastardly Roy siblings (plus their hangers-on, Tom, Shiv’s ex-husband, and cousin Greg) and their business team go to a Norwegian retreat to bargain with the seriously rich and seriously weird dude who would buy Waystar Royco.  There are scary scenes of gondola lifts and impossible heights, and other general weirdness, somewhat countering the pathogen that is (or rather was) Logan Roy, as Gerri puts it. Kendal Roy seems to have lost his coke habit and become a serious person, quite a change in his character. He now makes his brother Roman and his sister Shiv seem less than his equals, not that that’s setting the bar very high.

Anyway, hymn singing was lovely, as always. Afterwards I caught a bus into town, where it was drizzling quite heavily and it was quite cold. I got out my hat and gloves, and wished I’d worn a warmer jacket. I walked along Abel Smooth Street, crossing Cuba Steet safely, to the Southern Cross. I had good memories of this establishment, but it was pretty dark. I had to ask someone where the gallery was. I found my way there, “past the chandelier”, but it was tricky to see the paintings, which were hard to see because of a long table in the room. Still, I enjoyed seeing them. I knew two of the artists, Helen Wilson and John McConnell, and I’d heard them speak about Judy Langham. I enjoyed seeing them all. I could have stayed at the Southern Cross for morning tea – they had plenty of scones – but it was so dark and unwelcoming that I walked away. Outside it was still cold and wet, and I made my way down Cuba Street to the Manners Street bus stop. I caught a bus to Willis Street, and went to one of my favourite cafés, Smith the Grocer, and had a toasted cheese scone and a long black coffee. They do the best cheese scones ever!

After this I went to Wishbone in the James Cook Arcade, and bought sandwiches for lunch, a chocolate slice and an Afghan biscuit, and a risotto for dinner. Then I went to Strands to check out the luggage. They are having a sale until 14 May, but even so, it’s bewildering. I decided, wisely, that I’d have to think about it. I’d really like some new luggage, but I feel guilty, having suitcases already, although they’re well used, and I did give one to my daughter. Further thought is required.

This afternoon JD and I completed our vaccinations. I had my Covid 19 jab – the fifth one, I think – the co-valent one, and JD had both that and the flu vaccine.

Yesterday I was sent some photos of my daughter and friends at the Clive War Memorial and the Taradale War Memorial. I know the Taradale one, having driven past it many times, but I have never been to the Clive one, I’m ashamed to say. But I was struck again by the enormous sacrifice made by New Zealand in both wars, sending young men (and women too, as nurses) to battle grounds and trenches far far away. 135 men or boys went from Clive to the First World War, and 25 of them were killed in action. In the Second World War, Clive sent 136, two of whom were nurses. Of these, 15 were killed. And this is just Clive, not Napier, Hastings, Havelock North, Taradale, and other outlying towns, of which there are many. The Hōhepa folk had made a beautiful plaque for a memorial.

In the US, Joe Biden is they say running for re-election as President in 2024. They say he’s running, but it has to be metaphorical, at his age! I think I’m pleased, but I just hope nothing happens to him.

The pundits are still wondering just why Tucker Carlson was fired – defenestrated by Fox.  There is speculation that the Abby Grossman legal action is responsible; that disclosures made as part of the Dominion lawsuit were upsetting; that he was too rude to his bosses; that his general work environment was disgustingly disgusting; and that the members of his team rejoiced at his departure.  Misogynistic, racist and antisemitic as he was, he was not bigger than the network. I still wonder if Trump was responsible. And what is Kevin McCarthy to do now? Didn’t he give hours of January 6 insurrection tapes to Carlson, who minimised the terrible nature of this riot. One commentator noted that other Fox hosts did not follow in acquiescing with his interpretation. What happens to these tapes now?

And Trump’s rape case against E Jean Carroll continues. What to deal with first?

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

It Does Get In

Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of St Thomas

It’s now Sunday April 16th, 2023. Kia ora!

Yesterday we went shopping in the afternoon, and had lunch at Smith the Grocer café.  I had a salmon bagel, which unusually had quite a lot of red onion. We shared a beautiful cheesecake – raspberry and white chocolate. The kitchen was closed, so we couldn’t indulge our preferences, for avocado on toast with dukkha and an omelette.  We also bought a new mattress topper, from Wallace Cotton, who were having a sale.  This is a bit of luxury, but it is Oh so comfortable. I had slept on one when we stayed in Geelong in January, and I’m completely sold.  You can’t get them in shops here (well, I tried the Warehouse, Farmers, Briscoes and Bed, Bath and Beyond and none of them had one). It gave us a chance to air and change the bedding: sheets, duvet cover, and something to cover the new duck down mattress topper.  I am alarmed to realise the duvet inner we are using is well over 35 years old! It must be due for replacement. (I have since found another one that we can use).

I am relieved that the bus stops at Wellington Railway Station interchange have been fixed at last, I trust. The front one, stop A, has a hospital symbol (a cross within a circle, I think, but I couldn’t find one!), stope B has an aeroplane, and boasts the new Airport bus; and stops C (Brooklyn) and D are presumably for the others

Last night we watched Bernie on Te Whakaata Māori, a strange film starring Jack Black and Sally Field, based on a true story, evidently.

Today is a lovely fine day, although it was a cold start this morning, with some condensation. Despite the new mattress topper, I was quite cold (it was only 7 degrees C), and it was hard to believe the mercury would climb to 19 degrees C.  There were not nearly as many people at church as last Sunday. I was privileged to read from Acts 2, Peter’s first sermon, where he speaks about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, as predicted by David in Psalm 16. Jesus is presented as being a descendant of King David, although actually has was born of the Holy Spirit. It must have been quite an ask for Joseph to accept this baby as his first-born son, when he and Mary were not actually yet married.  The Gospel text was from John’s Gospel 20: 19 – 31.  The Order of Service was a bit mixed up, as though several files had been copied and pasted.  The problem with my reading (Acts 2:14 and 22 – 32) was that the lines were quite wide, and I sometimes confuse the beginning of the next line.  I used another sheet of paper to mark each line as I went. What a beautiful text to read.

I caught buses home, and in between buses I picked up a book on reserve at the library: A Heart Full of Headstones, by Ian Rankin.  I’ll add this to the pile of books on the go: my beautiful book about Ravenna, Huia Come Home, Seasons in Tuscany, A History of the Khandallah Church, and The View in Winter. Sometimes, though, it’s just too much effort to read and I’d rather listen.

It’s now Monday April 17th.

It’s fine and sunny today, but it’s not a great day for me. I should have gone to my exercise class this morning, but I didn’t feel up to it. Instead I listened to an item on Youtube featuring Tom Holland, Why I Changed my mind about Christianity. I found this very powerful. I recently read Tom Holland’s Dominion, and wrote about it myself. Here’s a link to Tom’s lecture:

The introduction is in Romanian, but the lecture is in English.

Today the Covid 19 report comes out. It is as follows: there were 14,242 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Aotearoa in the week to midnight on Sunday, and a further 21 deaths related to the virus. Another report says 32 virus related deaths. The 21 people added to the Covid-19 death tally brings the total number to 2716 people.

Of the new cases last week, 6061 were reinfections, according to the figures from the Ministry of Health today.

There were also 363 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, with nine cases in ICU. The seven-day rolling average of cases is 2029.

Last week 12,129 new cases were reported and eight further deaths were attributed to the coronavirus.

Professor Michael Baker says New Zealand is experiencing a fourth wave of Covid 19. So that’s that.

It’s now Thursday April 20th.

On Tuesday morning I went to a Bible Study; some of us had morning tea afterwards. in the afternoon I had a dental check up. It was quite intense – it was late on the afternoon, and I figure it cost about $15 per minute. Still and all, nothing amiss was found apart from some plaque.  I watched something on the television that corroborated the Lenten series I attended about early Christianity in the Bay of Islands.

On Wednesday morning it was raining heavily, but I got up early to go to hymn singing. It seemed to be still dark as we drove to Khandallah, but there was little traffic – it’s the second week of the school holidays. There weren’t so many of us there, but it was lovely, as always.

Afterwards I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch, but there was an urgent change to arrangements: our grandchildren came, and we took them to McDonalds for lunch. It certainly wasn’t my first choice, but actually there weren’t many people there, once we’d navigated our way through the heavy rain, the parking lot, and the gas station to Maccas.  Once there, there was a complicated new (to us!) ordering system.  It was complicated, but it made sense. Sadly, we got to the end, and to payment, when there was something wrong with our order. So it had to be done all over again.  Still, it came quite quickly, and I enjoyed my peach flavoured iced tea. JD asked for a medium “long black”:  ha ha! It was certainly long, and black, but I don’t think it was what he expected. The secret of a “long black” is the crema, and the fact that it’s small, as opposed to a ristretto, which is tiny. 

Afterwards we went to the Johnsonville Shopping Centre where the children spent some time at EB Games, which is to close soon.

This morning I went to a Te Reo Māori class in Khandallah. We learnt about Anzac Day, and I really enjoyed it. Somehow I felt more in tune with what we were doing. Afterwards I was going to catch a number 24 bus to Johnsonville, but the bus stop has been moved for a few days!  Instead I caught a train from the Box Hill station. The station is fine, but it’s risky crossing the busy road to get to it with no pedestrian crossing!  I caught the train, and then a bus home. After that, we had lunch at Simmer Café – we shared a pizza (much nicer than commercial pizza chains), and I enjoyed a lime and passionfruit tart. Then we picked up my bracelet that we’d bought at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport Duty Free area. The bracelet had broken less than a month after we bought it, but it’s fixed now, and it’s nice to have it back. It was a birthday present.

It’s now Friday April 21st.

This morning I met an old friend for coffee. As it was  drizzling, and JD couldn’t take me, I caught the bus. It was lovely to see her again.

There are things happening in US  politics which I should mention, alas.  Fox News decided to settle its lawsuit with Dominion, at the last minute, as the trial was just beginning. Fox News agreed to pay Dominion a large sum, $787.5 million dollars. That’s a large sum for most of us, but many American viewers feel cheated, not seeing the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Tucker Carlson, and others testify under oath, i.e. hopefully tell the truth. Apparently Biden is to announce his run for a second term as president; Ron de Santis is facing increasing negative perceptions about his ability to go up against Trump for the Republican nomination; thus far, there isn’t really anyone else in this competition;  and Trump faces increasing legal peril, including E. Jean Carroll’s rape case in Manhattan. Trump is not going to attend, so he says. I can’t see people flocking to a Ron de Santis rally, as they did to a Trump rally. He doesn’t seem to have that people power. And there are more and more senseless killings and woundings from gun violence.  Folk are pro-life and pro-guns: just how does that make any sense?

A US Supreme Court ruling has halted a Trump-appointed judge’s ruling against the abortion drug, mifepristone.  It’s so ironic that one of the reasons against the drug was that it may cause bleeding and cramping; well, as if birth itself does not cause that! Fancy! The Rev Al Sharpton made a lovely point on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that the little blue pill commonly used by men to achieve an erection would by no means be banned; indeed, unwanted pregnancies have nothing whatsoever to do with the male who fathered the embryo. Astonishingly, he has no rights and no responsibilities at all; apparently has nothing to do with the pregnancy, or the avoidance thereof. Really, the US is a wonderful, and a terrible place. And many Americans are wonderful people.  Just don’t discuss politics with them.

In other big news, Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket blew up shortly after being launched (it cost a great deal of money, but I can’t find out how much now).  He’s also made some change to Twitter, which are seen as being negative. In the UK the Deputy Prime Minister (how could he be deputy PM?) Dominic Raab has resigned, after a report to the Prime Minister about his bullying. I wonder who they’ll get next? Be careful what you wish for: the dreadful Priti Patel, who was also accused of bullying, was replaced by the even more toxic Suella Braverman as Home Secretary. We thought Al Qaeda was terrible, but then Isis came along.  Meanwhile, we’re counting down the days to the coronation, to occur in a few days’ time.  One feels rathe sorry for Charles, and then one doesn’t.  Let’s keep the traditions, the tiaras, and the jewellery:  and forget about slavery, colonialism, adultery, faithless children, unseemly wealth, and so on. 

In Sudan, dreadful fighting continues.  In Ukraine, dreadful fighting continues, but on a different note the Russians managed to bomb Belgorod, a city in Russia, i.e. one of their own cities. 

It’s now Sunday April 23rd.

This morning I went to church, and tried to follow the readings in my Māori-language Bible on my phone.  Yes, I’ve downloaded a Bible Society version of the Bible in Māori – Te Paipera Tapu. It all helps with learning familiarity with Te Reo.  We sang Whakaaria Mai/How Great Thou Art in both English and Māori, and we had both the organ and the piano playing for several hymns.

The texts were again Acts 2: 14, 37-41, and Luke 24: 13-31. It’s the third Sunday of Easter, and we’re still learning about Jesus revealing himself to his disciples after he rose from the dead. In this Gospel reading he’s going for a walk; it’s notable that those close to him saw him several times, walking, eating, and doing human things, before he was caught up to Heaven. I must admit that I come out of church wishing to write about it, but of course time goes by and it’s hard to get back into the mood. It was nice when the Order of Service was printed, as it served to jog one’s memory, as well as advising what to expect. I admired the art work used to describe the sermon! Of course, we have a power point overhead, but it’s hard to remember it all.

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

Happy Easter 2023

A variety of Easter Eggs

It’s now Saturday April 8th, 2023. Kia ora!

There’s lots of news out of the US. While I try not to let it eclipse important other things, like the fact that it’s still Holy Week, as well as the initial indictment of Trump on 34 (!) felony charges, it’s been revealed that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has benefitted from huge donations and trips from a republican donor, that were undeclared; Mike Pence has agreed to testify (to the January 6 Committee?) after all, two black democrat representatives have been expelled from the Tennessee legislature, and a Texan judge has invalidated the CDC’s approval of the abortion drug, mifepristone. How does all this even happen?  I listened to a Bulwark podcast yesterday where Charlie Sykes spoke to a reporter who gave a terrifying picture of Trump supporters who are armed and have been “given permission” to be nasty, to say nasty things, to be racist, and implicitly, to rough people up. Some pastor referred to his gun as his “rod and staff” (Psalm 23). I’m sure the Good Lord did not intend that we would protect ourselves from other parishioners with arms! Mind you, Charlie is conflicted himself: he frequently appears on MSNBC, as do other Bulwark characters (Tim Miller, Mona Charen, Bill Kristol), and is rather rude about the MSNBC green room. He really wishes that republicans would go back to – what, exactly? What is “true conservatism” any more? Everything has changed, as pointed out by the white woman, a former teacher, who was not expelled from the Tennessee legislature. By the way, the three Democrat representatives were protesting about guns, and their ease of access, given that just days ago there had been a mass shooting at a Nashville Presbyterian school, and three nine-year olds and three adults had been shot dead – with an AR15, which now seems to be the weapon of choice. The brave white woman democrat had previously survived a school shooting! I think that’s the bulk of it. There are still podcasts giving reaction to Trump’s indictment; I am so glad that I don’t live in the US, wonderful and terrible as it is. The Texas judge’s ruling about the abortion pill has only just come out, although it’s been expected for some time. It seems so ironic to me that the pro-life (i.e. anti-abortion) brigade don’t seem to care about destroying existing lives or fertility, be it that of the mother with an ectopic pregnancy or another life-threatening condition, or doctors who would treat such women and provide safe abortion care.

Actually it’s the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement over Northern Ireland, which was just huge. The Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness, two men with extremely different views, somehow came together and the violence, religious and political, that had characterised Northern Ireland and Great Britain, for the most part, came to an end. This was immortalised in the film The Journey. The Guardian had a very interesting podcast where a mother and her daughter (born 25 years ago) both spoke. The mother spoke about the gauntlet she navigated just to get to school, and how she was used to the violence, and thought it would never stop. Here’s a link:


In February 2010 we visited Leeds Castle, in Kent, where the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

In Napier, my daughter is painting eggs for Easter. Last year she painted eggs with masks on! This year there’s no need for masks, unless you go to a chemist or a medical centre. One of my sons is visiting Napier with his family, and they plan to go bowling!

It’s now Easter Sunday April 9th, 2023. He is Risen!

Today is a beautiful fine day in Wellington, after a cold start.  There is a good turnout at church (I don’t know how many came to the 7 am Dawn Service).  It was lovely; JD brought me and a friend brought me home.  I felt the warmth of great friends there. Anyway, the sermon was about the joy of the risen Christ, and about our being commanded to spread the good news, that salvation is open to all on earth who believe in Jesus Christ.

The friend who gave me a lift home is another Marilynne Robinson reader!  I checked in my book room for any of her four novels, but I couldn’t find them – I’ve either given them away or got them from the library. She’s written five novels: Housekeeping (made into a film in 1987 and shown on the then Māori Television), Gilead, Home, Lila, and Jack.  The last four are related, although you can read them individually, of course.  The down-to-earth Christianity espoused in Gilead, in particular, related very strongly to the Christianity I was brought up with.

In the afternoon we went to see a painting exhibition at the Academy Gallery on Queens Wharf. It was very quiet there; very quiet in Wellington city, actually.

I have been watching a lot of Ozark on Netflix.

It’s now Monday April 10th.

I watched a sermon by Bishop Robert Barron for the Easter, It was entitled “Let Christianity be Weird”. It was a wonderful sermon, as his Easter ones always are, but he mentioned that he had been speaking to Tom Holland, the author of Dominion, which I have recently read. He spoke about his wearing of a cross pendant, and of the enormous influence of Jesus’ crucifixion on the world.  Here’s a link:

I also listened to another Bulwark podcast (The Next Level), featuring Frank Bruni, an American journalist and op-ed writer.  He used to feature on the weekly The Argument podcast with Michelle Goldberg and Ross Douthat. Their differing opinions and intelligence made for very interesting listening. I was sorry when Jane Coaston took over. I no longer listen to this podcast. Anyway, Frank Bruni had a stroke at the age of 52, and permanently lost the sight in one eye. He’s written a book about this: The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found.  He spoke eloquently on the shock of having a stroke which damaged his optic nerve and losing his sight in one eye (with the potential to have another stroke and lose sight in the other), and the later transformation to give thanks that things weren’t worse for him, and a different appreciation of losing one’s capabilities as one ages. One of his issues is memory loss. He’s quite open about this.  I have some blank spots in my memory, too, which have been a source of great embarrassment.

It’s interesting how Easter is celebrated in different countries.  In the US, Good Friday isn’t a public holiday; the Bulwark podcast was delivered as usual.  That seems odd to me!  On my Youtube feed, there isn’t much in the way of celebration. I have listened to Bach’s St Matthew Passion, again, and that keeps coming up on my phone. Is the celebration diminished, or is it just that stuff’s not coming up for me? Actually, I wrote about the troubles in Israel; of course, they celebrate Passover now, and many Christians eat a Passover meal too. But Easter and Ramadan don’t have the same significance for Jewish people as they do for Christians and Muslims, respectively.

I have been listening to The Rest is History podcast – their series is currently about the Black Prince, the 100 Years’ War, and the character of chivalry. The Order of St George of the Garter is one of the highest honours the reigning English monarch can bestow, and yet no one would now expect the recipients to go off and be a super-hero in war (or would they?)  The tradition of knightly chivalry (not a woman’s world at all) is still alive and well in the British Royal Family. I think that nobles are required to swear allegiance to their new monarch; an interesting question, in this day and age. Still, King Charles III seems pretty harmless. Queen Camilla, on the other hand, should take another name, in my view!  Queen Camilla will always remind us that he preferred Camilla Parker-Bowles over the troubled but extremely beautiful Princess Diana to whom (however unwisely) he was married, and who was the mother of his two sons.

It’s now Wednesday April 12th.

Yesterday I went to a Bible study, and had coffee with two friends afterwards. This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing, and then caught a bus into town. I resisted the impulse to buy another book at Unity Books (Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Ben McIntyre’s Operation Pedestal were contenders), but I bought a birthday card for my eldest granddaughter – in Māori!

This week the latest Covid 19 numbers were reported.  It was a public holiday on Monday (Easter Monday), so the report was published yesterday.

There were 12,129 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Aotearoa in the week to midnight Sunday, and a further eight deaths. The eight people added to the Covid-19 death tally brings the total number to 2695 people.

Of the new cases last week – nearly half were reinfections – 4973, according to the figures from the Ministry of Health today.

There were also 219 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, with seven cases in ICU. The seven-day rolling average of cases is just down at 1729.

Last week 2202 new cases were reported and 25 further deaths attributed to the coronavirus.

The government has decided to retain the 7 day isolation requirement for the Covid 19 infected people for a further two months. As usual, with Covid 19 restrictions, there are voices urging to get rid of isolation requirements, and others to keep them.

In town I had a beautiful toasted cheese scone with my first coffee of the day at Smith the Grocer, then I visited a jeweller to get my bracelet fixed – it was my birthday present, and we bought it duty-free in Melbourne!

I also got a pair of sneakers from the Hush Puppies shop – they were having a sale, and it was too good to ignore comfortable shoes that fit me well.

It’s now Thursday April 13th.

This morning I was to see a movie with a friend. We caught the 10 am train from Johnsonville to Wellington, and then tracked through the tunnel to catch a No. 83 bus to Lower Hutt. We got off in Jackson St, and arrived at the Lighthouse Cinema in Beach St with time to have coffee before the movie. We saw Driving Madeleine, a French movie. It was great fun, with French spoken slowly enough to understand, for the most part, but the key character had a very sad life, and there was some distressing domestic violence.  I’m glad I saw it, but it could have been quite upsetting. The review and the trailer did not indicate this. Still, I’m glad I saw it.

It’s now Friday April 14th.

Last night we watched a movie called Inside Man. I think I’ve seen it before. This morning someone from Access was due to come and do some housework. She was rostered to come last Friday – Good Friday – but Access rang me on Wednesday to say that she’d come on Thursday before Good Friday instead. Well. Thursdays are no good for me, as I’ve told them several times. So I had to cancel. As she was rostered to come today, I changed the towels, put two loads of washing on, folded JD’s washing, and did some general tidying up. I had an Art Group meeting, but decided not to go as the cleaning lady was due to come. Well, by 2:18 pm she still hasn’t come, and I wish I’d gone to the Art Group meeting.   That’s just so annoying. It’s almost impossible to talk to these people, and I suppose the arrangement will be reviewed in May – am I better yet?  Sadly, not. But whatever I say to whoever rings me (always someone different), doesn’t get translated to the person who comes to my house.

Internet access has been really poor here lately. I hope I don’t need a new phone – I think our Wi-Fi is dodgy sometimes. As it’s slow on my PC too, I suspect the connection, but it’s really annoying.

I’ll leave it there. IN Ukraine, fighting grinds on. I wish there could be an honourable peace.  Still and all, there are some advantages to living in New Zealand, even though it’s so far away – from anywhere!  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.