Folk Behaving Badly

Ukrainian stamps celebrate explosion on Kerch Bridge

It’s now Friday October 7th, 2022. Kia ora!

This morning someone was supposed to come from Access to do some housework. It wasn’t the usual person; the arrival time was put back to 12:45 pm, and then 3 pm. I cancelled – I was really tired, and didn’t feel like showing a complete stranger the way around our house. However I did change the sheets and towels, put the rubbish and recycling out, picked up the camellias in the drive, hung up JD’s clothes, folded his washing and put it away, and did some general tidying up. No wonder I was exhausted!

I checked my phone at some stage and found that Access was sending someone new to me at 3 pm.  I rang and cancelled, since I was very tired, and didn’t want a stranger in the house.  Nevertheless, someone turned up at 2:30  pm, and JD let her in!  Oh dear, I told her that I’d cancelled, since I really didn’t feel up to showing her where everything was. Apparently Access hadn’t told her that I’d cancelled. As I had settled into reading, writing and having a rest, I didn’t feel like having a cleaner here, although the house certainly needs cleaning.

I slept very well last night, and I don’t seem to be coughing so much today, although I still need to blow my nose heavily quite often. But I feel as though I’m improving.  Last night we watched another episode of Bite Club on Eden.  We missed last week’s episode. Sadly, the lovely Dan has been arrested and charged with his girlfriend’s murder. It seems that Zoe (Dan’s ex) and her new fiancé have had a big row, and he is on the point of moving out. Meanwhile, the creepy Stephen is creeping around, now dressed in a suit and tie, helping the homicide team. After that I went to bed. My cousin in Christchurch retires early, and I am glad to too – and avoid falling asleep in front of the television.

In the evening we watched two episodes of Rumpole of the Bailey.  It is very well written, and well acted, and even has some beautiful music and Rumpole quotes poetry, and even the Bard!  He criticises the judge, who does indeed seem very partial. We just heard that Peter Ellis’ conviction for child sexual abuse was overturned, on the grounds that the evidence was unsafe.

It’s now Saturday October 8th.

Last night I slept well, although I’m still coughing quite a lot. 

After I woke up, I listened to several podcasts: The Lincoln Project podcast, where host Reed Galen was talking to Alexander Vindman; The Rest is Politics, with Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, who have a great deal to say about Liz Truss and her Anti-Growth Coalition. It seems a bit like former president Nixon’s Enemies List:  Am I on it, and if not, why not?  Oh dear, Margaret Thatcher was a piece of work, but Liz Truss may be even worse, if that were possible; her giggling Chancellor isn’t much better, and he can’t seem to take that smirk off his face.  Then there’s Suella Braverman, the new Home Secretary, looking forward to the first flight of would-be refugees/asylum seekers to Rwanda. Where did these people learn to be so cruel, so inhumane?

Lastly, I listened to the second episode of a British Scandal podcast about Mary Whitehouse, who performed a kind of Patricia Bartlett role in trying to clean up the British media.  The climax of the second episode is when, on the point of retiring, she is invited to meet the newly elected Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher.

Then I got up and got breakfast, did the Saturday morning puzzles, and tried to catch up with the telegraph’s Ukraine The Latest podcast.

Going back to the Herschel Walker story in Georgia:  he says he’s been forgiven for the incident that he says didn’t occur; he’s also said that abortion is murder, a position that he now holds; there are all kinds of anomalies here, but it seems the Republicans are willing to condone whatever he’s done, whatever his personal failings as a husband and father, whatever his mental health issues, and yet accept the views he now espouses. He claims to have been forgiven, yet expresses no regret, no remorse, for his actions. Nor do any of his supporters. One of them called the girl a “skank” – and that was a female, too.  Yet – yet – yet – there is no sympathy at all for women here! None, whatsoever.  The grief and shock and potential indecision over having a foetus take over one’s body for a time, and the consequent feelings of nausea, pain, regret, whatever, just don’t exist. Women who seek abortions – for whatever reason – just don’t deserve to be alive themselves!  The perilous state of maternal health care in many places in the US confirms that. And yet, everyone has or had a mother at some point. A woman gave birth to Greg Abbott, Ron de Santis, and even Trump himself, and probably did most if not all of the work involved in raising a child.  How is it possible that women aren’t held in higher regard?

During the week, as we were driving to see the opera, we listened to a news report about the protests in Iran, occasioned by the death of a woman in police custody, arrested for wearing her hijab incorrectly, i.e. having some hair showing. I thought then how far backwards we are going, when women are fighting to have some hair showing!  We are surely going backwards, when violence of any kind is increasingly seen as being all right, even justified; and women are feared and hated in many places, and still seen as someone’s property, whether that be a man, or the state itself.

People are endeavouring to see and say how they were wronged in the past, and seeking for anyone they can lay guilt on; apologies are not always accepted, and the fact that “things were different back then” doesn’t really cut it. Yet they’re prepared to do enormous hurt, even bullying, towards others.  Why can’t we just all be kind to one another? I sometimes feel guilty about car carrying conditions when my children were small not being as strict as they are today; I then remind myself, at least they had booster seats, and safety belts, whereas when I was a child we had no seat belts at all, and helmets were not routine the way they are nowadays. 

Today we went shopping at New World in Thorndon. It’s become a bit of a ritual now, We did get raspberries – two punnets, some asparagus and lettuce. We also got coffee beans, tonic water, yoghurt, some frozen vegetables, salads, and bread. Sadly there were no pies to buy. But we had a good trip. Quite a few people were wearing masks, along with me!

In the evening we set out to watch Capote (2005)  on Te Whakaata Māori, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, where he travels with Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) to interview two men charged with a grisly crime, the murder of four family members in a remote part of Kansas. I had watched the 2006 film starring Toby Jones called Infamous, which deals with similar material.  I found this too sickening, so we switched to watching more episodes of Rumpole of the Bailey.

During the afternoon we heard that Tory Whanau was to be the next mayor of Wellington.  Well, I know little about her, but at least it won’t be Andy Foster. In the early evening we heard about the blast on the Kerch bridge linking the Crimea to Russia. This would be the Crimea that was annexed by Putin after the war with Ukraine in 2014. This is a very long bridge over the Kerch Strait built by Vladimir Putin, with a rail and a road component. This bridge was opened to great acclaim – Putin even drove a truck over it, unlike Trump and Johnson, who only pretended to drive big trucks. As the evening wore on, more information and more video footage came to light.

It’s now Sunday October 9th – White Sunday.

I was to go to church this morning in Johnsonville; JD was due to play golf, so he dropped me off early.  Of course, he was running late, so I ended up much too early for church, but with not quite enough time to have morning tea first, as had been my plan.  As it was, I got to church on time; there weren’t nearly as many people there as there had been on Fathers’ Day, when we had been there previously.  The Samoan service was taken primarily by children and families. Many wore white shirts or tops – I wished I had worn my Polynesian lei. Afterwards, I just missed a bus home, but a dear friend gave me a lift home.  It’s now fine and sunny after an overcast start to the day.

Turning back to Ukraine now, the Kerch bridge has been damaged by a blast – perhaps delivered by a missile?  A train crossing the bridge was seen to be on fire.  There was lots of dramatic video footage; apparently 3 people died, and a section of the 18 mile bridge has collapsed. This bridge was the main means for Russia to supply weapons to its troops in Crimea; this must be a heavy blow. The Ukrainians have not claimed responsibility, but dare I say it they’re not displeased. There’s talk about shoddy Russian construction. Part of the bridge has collapsed – evidently one road lane is still open. Others say it will be closed for at least two months. Some wit has added film of Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday, Mr President to the then president Kennedy; President Putin was 70 yesterday. A stamp has been produced in Kiev showing the burning bridge.

I have to opine some more about the Herschel Walker scandal in Georgia.  It transpires that the woman who had an abortion became pregnant again, and decided to keep the child, although Walker wanted her to have a second abortion; he has however kept up payments for child support, although he hasn’t been a part of this child’s life either. So Walker, who claims forgiveness for the thing he says he didn’t do, had a child with this woman, whom he doesn’t remember, and has continued to pay child support. Although he promised to sue The Daily Beast, which first reported these incidents, this has not yet happened either. But he now claims abortion is murder; so much for any human life, before, during or after pregnancy, huh?  The news keeps getting worse for the would-be senator. How can the mother’s life be worth less than that of an unborn child? Doesn’t motherhood matter? And fatherhood?  For the republicans, alas, it’s all about power, it seems.  Any election is fraudulent unless the republican candidate wins!  Character and integrity evidently don’t matter.

I have finally finished reading Stalingrad, by Vasily Grossman, translated from the Russian. It ends not with some dramatic surrender but with the following words: “…the German batteries were no longer firing. A well-coordinated salvo of Katyushas had silenced them once and for all. With eyes, ears, and joyful heart Krymov understood all that had just happened.”  The fighting is not quite over, but it is almost over. Krymov is about to visit Stalingrad and has just made the terrifying boat crossing of the Volga river. What a powerful book! It has been well worth while reading it again.

There is quite a long Afterword, which I really should read. In the meantime, last night I started reading Aftermath, an account of Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich 1945 – 1955. It is an account of the restoration of order out of chaos, and I am looking forward to reading more of it.

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

The Show Must Go On

A scene from Verdi’s opera Macbeth

Today is Wednesday October 5th, 2022. Kia ora!

I didn’t write yesterday. I had a bad night on Monday night, and yesterday I wasn’t very well, with a running nose and quite a bad cough.  I even got out the Prospan cough mixture again.  I tried to print off my tickets to the opera, but did not succeed. To see my tickets, I had to enter a password. For some reason, Ticketmaster did not recognise my old password; it wouldn’t accept variations on it either, so I had to think up a new password.  It’s all right for me to have our tickets on my phone, but I suspect for many older folk it would be really problematic. I certainly have had many email reminders of the fact that I have booked to see the opera.

Yesterday (Tuesday) I felt most unwell, but I slept well last night, and feel (a bit) better this morning. I’m coughing less, and my nose is much better.  I took another Covid 19 test, which was negative. A “polar bomb” is being forecast; strangely, it was sunny and quite mild this morning. Now, though, it’s raining and a bit cooler. Last time we went to an opera at the St James’ Theatre it was really warm inside.  I don’t want to be too hot.

There’s lots of news this morning. In Ukraine, their forces continue to make  inroads into territories supposedly (illegally) annexed by Russia.  There was a scary speech by Putin, a rock concert, and a supposed celebration, with other leaders holding hands with Putin – supposedly he’s dropped his strict isolation rule. It transpired that the Russians weren’t sure about the boundaries of the territories they’d annexed; I suspect Putin is declaring “victory”, although the evidence says otherwise. This is a demonstration of lying in action. Is Putin lying (again) about his threat to use nuclear weapons?

In the UK, Prime Minister Liz Truss has done a U-turn on one aspect of her economic policy – the bid to give the wealthy a tax break has been modified, despite her and her chancellor vowing to stick to their guns. This change was announced during the annual Tory party conference. Ironically, although I think Trump would support her policies, he’s certainly not “his type”; I don’t think he would find her attractive. And as for having a black Chancellor… I’m not prejudiced, but I just don’t see Kwasi Kwarteng (Kamikwase) as a “serious person”, to use the vernacular. I take it to mean that a person has a modicum of intelligence, decency, and respect for human life, (dead or alive). Kwartend said that he’d listened (to whom, I wonder? The Bank of England? Tory members of parliament? His constituency?). He didn’t apologise for what he and Truss had done to the (once proud) British economy.

It seems very sad and frustrating that Liz Truss has said that the new King Charles should not go to the next COP (Climate) summit, which will apparently take place in Egypt.  She, of course, is for fracking – removing regulations, and “opening up” the British economy that way. There are plenty of environmental authorities that deem fracking disastrous. Actually in my opinion, they could start by growing their own food. Who could forget the late Queen’s speech at the Glasgow COP conference, where she said how proud she was of (then) Prince Charles, and Prince William, for their environmental concerns.  Prince Charles has long made the environment and climate change one of his main concerns, long before it became “fashionable”. Charles is King, now, at last, and there’s very little he can obviously do about his government’s present direction.

In the US, there is upset about Trump’s “Coco Chow” jibe against his former transport secretary; he also accused Mitch McConnell of having a “death wish”. CPAC put up and then took down a message decrying US support for Ukraine (I think); also, Herschel Walker, senate candidate in Georgia, has denied paying for an abortion for a previous girlfriend  (she has the receipt, a record of his reimbursement, and a get-well card signed by him), and one of his sons Christian has done another rant accusing this person who preaches moral rectitude of being an absent father, who did not take care of his mother, or be part of his sons’ lives.  Still, he’s a republican; he’s like Trump, really; all this is “locker room talk”; of course, if the Democrat candidate, black minister Raphael Warnock, transgressed similarly the R’s would be all over him. With a republican candidate, what do you expect? They’re not renowned for living their family values, although of course they espouse them. It’s a case of Do as I say, not as I do.

Last night we watched some of Heartbreak High on Netflix; apart from the rather wonderful kiwi Rachel House starring as the principal, I don’t see much to recommend it. After that we watched The Dry, another Australian film starring Eric Bana. Although we’d both seen this at the cinema when it first came out, we didn’t remember all the plot twists.  I went to bed just before it finished – 11:30 pm is way past my bedtime.

I listened to The Telegraph’s podcast, Ukraine The Latest, which is supposed too come out each week day. It’s incredibly informative. 

Meantime, I’m rereading Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad, his wonderful novel which I happened to have on loan from the library in 2020 when we first went into lockdown. In a very generous gesture, Wellington City Library allowed us to keep whatever loans we had until July; no fines would be charged. So I read this extraordinary book – a kind of companion to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I determined to read it after reading a review in the Economist. It’s a very long book (about 1,000 pages), but Grossman has quite an extraordinary ability to create meaningful characters – on both sides.  It’s been very interesting to reread my paperback copy of this book while the Ukrainian war remains in force.  One cannot help equating the brave Ukrainians with the brave Russian forces who defended Stalingrad. There’s no question of heroism – on both sides. And yet hearing reports of the Russian army today – it’s hard to believe there’s any relation.  It’s true that defending something you value – whether it be poor Ukraine, or the city of Stalingrad, is significant, even if it entails enormous sacrifice in so doing.

I am now nearing the end of this book; we are in Stalingrad itself; and I’ve just read a scene in which German soldiers have made themselves comfortable in a bombed out building and are supremely confident that they will win; indeed, arrogantly so.  We all know what happens next. I admire Grossman’s ability to describe multiple scenes leading up to the final conflicts.

Every time I read the book, I want to write at the same time. I long for some technology that would transcribe what I’m saying into writing. It probably foes exist.

It’s now Thursday October 6th.

Last night we went to the opening of Verdi’s opera Macbeth.  It was wonderful, of course. It was nice to dress up, and put makeup on. I was really worried about my cough, and dosed myself up as much as I dared, but in the event I only coughed a couple of times, and then not loudly or at length.  I had tried to book for us to have a meal beforehand, but the few local restaurants that were still open were fully booked. Plan B was to have a light meal (slice of a flan) before we left, and then get coffee and cake at the café that used to be at the front of the St James Theatre.

Silly me! I had worked out that we would park in the car park in Taranaki Street by the Hope Gibbons building; this was blocked off, however. JD turned into Dixon St, and to our surprise we found a carpark quite nearby. We made our way to the Theatre, where there were already many people – 30 minutes before the opera was due to start. But there were very few chairs; what there were, were already taken. The audience seemed to be mostly older people. Instead of wrestling with my phone, we went to the box office to get our tickets printed (as did many other people). Then I found a seat that was available, and asked JD to bring me coffee. Off he went – presumably with my phone. He eventually returned – with two plastic glasses of white wine. There was no barista, apparently, and no food – so it seemed. Hardly anyone was wearing a mask, although I was.

When we went in, I found that our seats were really near the back of the theatre – under the Grand Circle. Although the seats are sloped, a man with a large head sat in front of me, severely impeding my view.  The acoustics are fantastic, but I would have like to see the stage in more detail.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of background noise. This is an opera, people! Some respect is due. Creaking, noisy movement, talking, are all unwelcome. Even if the seats aren’t great, you don’t expect the background noise.

The show, of course, was wonderful. The music was superb. The singing was pretty good – I’d been listening to a recording of Maria Callas as Lady Macbeth;  the singers took a while to warm up, I thought; the singer with the Lady Macbeth role was a bit screechy; JD said she should just relax more, which I guess is good advice. She certainly makes a big sound. The male leads were all good, especially Macduff, who stole the scene in his major aria.  Personally, I didn’t think the chemistry between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth particularly convincing.  The opera stuck very closely to the plot of Shakespeare’s Scottish play, but the three witches were replaced, of course, by a large number of female chorus singers.

The lighting and colouring were impressive; it was very dark, black and white in the main, with lots of red. The figure of Macbeth in a blood-stained shirt kept appearing.  The changing backdrop was very effective, and provided an unusual visual as well as an aural spectacle.  The choral singing was pretty good, too, after they’d warmed up.  On an opening night things can be a little rough around the edges.  The view of what I assumed was a refugee centre was very effective (this represented Macduff’s flight); the representation of Birnam Wood, and bombing and desecration was effective. 

After the interval, JD wanted to go home! We had met two old friends of ours; she was achy all over, and he was about to take her home. I suggested we move – there were some unused seats a couple of rows ahead of us. We sat there, and had a much better view. The second half was even noisier – in different ways. There were lots of coughs, and lots of noise of people unwrapping sweets – Strepsils, perhaps?  Nevertheless, it was less crowded, we had a better view, and everyone on stage had warmed up. I enjoyed the second half  more than the first.

Afterwards, it was quite cold outside. I had worn my light puffer jacket over my pretty skirt and top – even so, it was very cold. We lamented that there seemed to be nowhere close one could go and drink coffee, eat cake, and discuss the opera.

I found that the Chaffers New World was open until 11, (it was now just after 10:30 pm), so we went there.  There weren’t really any nice cakes to buy, but JD bought some wine.

We came home and I had my coffee, although it was so late in the day.  While I had been quiet at the show, not blowing my nose at all, and hardly coughing, I started coughing in the car; unfortunately I kept coughing during the night, but I did sleep between bouts of coughing.  It was very worthwhile to go to the show.  These wonderful lines from the play were not in the opera, but I did think of them afterwards. I had memorised them when I was at college.

She should have died hearafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

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

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

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.   (Shakespeare’s Macbeth, 5.5)

It’s quite cold here, but today it’s sunny and fine; Wellington seems to have escaped the worst of the polar blast that has swept up the South Island.

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

Remembrance of Things Past

The beautiful Raspberry Café

It’s now Friday September 30th, 2022. Kia ora!

We spent a few days in Christchurch during the week. We had a lovely time, of course, but I was badly surprised by how tired and exhausted I was. We flew south on Monday afternoon – around the time of the memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, when I booked our tickets I didn’t know that Monday September 26 would be a public holiday. I had forgotten how cramped it is at the back of an Airbus; we were almost in the back row.

We had a delicious dinner of baked chicken with green olives and lemon, roasted potatoes and vegetables, with lemon posset for dessert.

The next day I was to meet an old friend at the lovely café at the Christchurch Art Gallery. We had delicious omelettes and salad, and lots of black coffee. It was roomy, and not busy, and we had a good talk.

Afterwards I caught an Uber home; there was confusion, of course, about where to pick me up. I had caught an Uber there, but the return car was determined to pick me up in Worcester St; the bright sun shining on my phone made it difficult to see the phone.

That evening, we had dinner at a Greek restaurant.  We had haloumi cheese, flavoured with oregano, soaked in Greek brandy, and flamed – with pita bread. It was delicious. Afterwards, we shared mains, with my cousin and I sharing a delicious pork belly dish.  Perhaps there were too many flavours – I soon felt quite unwell, although the food was delicious. It wasn’t the kind of straightforward Greek food I was expecting, like lamb kebabs with the lovely garlicky mashed potato dish and a salad!

The next day started out fine, but soon turned to drizzling and being overcast. We drove to Governor’s Bay, and had a delicious lunch there. I had a Greek salad with lamb and pork meatballs and pita bread with garlic butter.

That night we had roast lamb with roast vegetables and leeks, followed by a delicious chocolate slice.

On Thursday we met another friend who had moved from Auckland. We saw and admired her lovely house, and then went to Raspberry Café for another beautiful lunch. Keeping the Greek theme alive, I had another Greek salad, this time with lamb steaks, tzatziki, carrot humus, and lots of cucumber. Then we shared delicious cakes for dessert, and black coffee.

It was surprisingly emotional meeting old friends again, as well as my lovely cousin and her husband.  We are all aging, of course, and have already lost a dear friend to breast cancer (two years ago now); the wife of another dear friend has dementia. So things have changed. As well as growing older, and having various physical trials, we all get very tired, and are wary of infecting each other.  The friend I met on Tuesday I first met at a La Léche League meeting, when our eldest sons were babies.  Our children went to the same primary school, and our second sons learnt violin together at a music centre.  Like several other friends of mine, she had a daughter after having three sons.

The friend we met on Thursday had been at our wedding, and at our wedding anniversary party just over a year ago.  We had known her (and her parents) since our university days.  We later swapped houses for holidays.

A great deal has happened in the intervening years.  These occasions are really special.

After this we went to Riccarton Mall, where I redeemed a voucher we’d been given a year ago – on a queen size sheet set which had been reduced. I would have liked to spend more time shopping, but we were short of time and I was exhausted. I should put in a credit for this Westfield Mall (we don’t have one in the Wellington area).  Farmers in Riccarton Mall honoured the voucher, which I hadn’t been able to use earlier.

Our flight back to Wellington was supposed to leave just after 7 pm, but it was delayed. When we were asked to board, it was raining outside, and we had to walk a long way, past one plane, and climb the narrow, steep steps.  But there seemed to be more room in this ATR than in the Airbus we had travelled in on Monday. I had chosen seats nearer the front of the plane, but as they were boarding from the rear, I still had to walk a long way.

On board there were a few bumps taking off, but we were glad of the coffee and snack offered to us on the slightly longer trip home. It was just as well, because after landing with a bump, we then had to wait several minutes on the tarmac before the plane could be parked and we could exit. The kind steward held my bag for me while I descended the steps. After the motion of the plane, I’m always swaying myself for a while. Again, there was a long way to walk back to the airport building. We were the last off the plane, so it was a long, lonely walk to baggage claim. Out bags were there, though, and we caught a taxi home.

I slept better last night than I did in Christchurch, but it’s very cold here, and mostly raining. JD took me out for a Christchurch-type lunch; instead, we shared a delicious pizza, delicious coffee, and a chocolate éclair. I brought a roast vegetable salad home for an evening meal. There must be a new chef and barista at our local café; everything tasted better than usual.

In the evening we spoke to our son in the UK about the economic crisis there. They’re both economists, so while I won’t say they enjoyed the discussion, it was nice that they could have an interesting discussion about it. In England some banks have cancelled mortgage lending; I assume they’ve cancelled approved lending that hasn’t been taken up yet. That of course impacts a wide circle of people, not just would-be buyers.

It’s now Saturday October 1st.

Today we went shopping at New World in Thorndon. It was certainly  different there: I saw very few masks, although I wore mine; it was busy, but people didn’t seem to be trying to avoid each other; there seemed to be a new sense of casualness.  Also, lots of things were missing, or short dated: there were no raspberries, tomatoes are still expensive, and there wasn’t much lettuce. I ended up buying mesclun, not my first preference, and salads. There were no pies, so we bought a quiche. We also bought ice cream, coffee beans, and pâté, also some biscuits.

It will be a busy day tomorrow, so the rest of the day is very quiet.

It’s now Sunday October 2nd.

Sadly, I’m not feeling so well today. I have been fighting off what is, I hope, just a cold, not flu or coronavirus, with a raspy throat and a bit of coughing.  I’ve been taking an anti-viral supplement, but in spite of sleeping much better in my own bed, I wake up feeling quite unwell. I definitely have a sore throat now, and strange feelings in my chest, with a chesty cough. I was going to go to church, visit a friend, and then go to a concert at my church, but, alas, I’m not going anywhere. I sent an apology to my friend, zoomed into the church service, and sent another apology for the concert. Yesterday I felt that I could do this all, but now, sadly, I don’t feel like doing anything. It’s quite a busy week ahead – although it’s school holidays, we have engagements tomorrow, on Wednesday and Friday. I feel pleased now that I didn’t organise anything else. Tomorrow morning we’ll do Covid 19 tests again.

In Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have taken back the city of Lyman (which had been taken by Russian forces). This is despite Putin’s annexation of four provinces (including Lyman) and a rock concert and a terrifying speech in Moscow. It seems his forced conscriptions are going really badly. No one wants to go and fight in Ukraine; we’ve seen photos of queues of cars trying to get out of Russian. Former US ambassador Michael McFaull apparently said more men had left Russia than had been conscripted. There are photos of conscripted men being sent into areas quite unprepared for them, including a field strewn with snow! Yes, winter is coming (in the northern hemisphere).

In the UK, Prime Minister Truss seems determined to pursue her doom-laden budget, despite its already visible effects. She’s even warning of more cuts to welfare payments; she was going to ban strikes, but already there’s a rail strike. Won’t someone stop this madness? The Iron Lady was quite something; this is next-level crazy, however.  PM Liz Truss did not win a popular mandate for what she’s doing. The British Labour Party is doing rather well in the polls, where Sir Keir Starmer is emerging as a credible leader of the UK.

In the US, people are agonising over the coming mid-term elections, where margins are narrowing. Whatever. The devastating effects of Hurricane Ian are becoming more evident every day. The death toll is now at least 35 people. 

It’s now Monday October 3rd.

This morning we were due to go out for morning tea, to a group that John really wants to be part of.  We both did covid 19 RAT tests, which were negative, thankfully. I felt a bit better than yesterday.  I had wondered what the dress code was; my google results said don’t wear black!  I really wanted to wear black trousers, a cream jersey and a woollen jacket; I actually wore a navy blue skirt and blouse with my light blue top from a David Jones’ sale (when it was still open, before Covid).  It was a bit of a rush: the first hose I put on had a run, so I had to find another pair. I ended up applying makeup in the car. When we got there, guess what most women were wearing: black trousers with a jersey, and differing degrees of scarves and jewellery. The men wore “smart casual”, with not all of them wearing ties, and some woollen jerseys rather than jackets.  It was quite pleasant, but we didn’t know many people there.  I didn’t cough at all.

Afterwards we visited JD’s aunt.  When JD rang first, she had a coughing fit, so we felt less guilty about visiting her.

We had lunch at a bakery (many places are closed on a Monday), and bought a Shepherd’s Pie to bring home. I saw very few masks while we were out.

We came home using the Transmission Gully highway, having turned off at the new-ish Manor park intersection. It’s really confusing. You turn left, go around a roundabout, and then take the Haywards Road to Pauatahanui. There have been tremendous improvements in the road, which are still continuing. There was a huge slip. At Pauatahanui we turned onto the new highway to drive back to Johnsonville – remembering to post our returns for the local body elections. I was going to post them yesterday in Khandallah, but didn’t go out.

The latest Covid 19 figures are reported today. In the last week there have been 9,975 new cases, 33 deaths, and 111 people in hospital (as at last night), with 7 in Intensive Care.  Evidently 10% of the new cases are reinfections.

Of the deaths being reported, 13 were from the Auckland region, two were from Waikato, two were from Bay of Plenty, one was from Lakes, one was from Hawke’s Bay, two were from Taranaki, two were from MidCentral, one was from Wellington region, six were from Canterbury, one was from South Canterbury, two were from Southern.

Two were in their 40s, three were in their 50s, two were in their 60s, three were in their 70s, 15 were in their 80s and eight were aged over 90. Of these people, 11 were women and 22 were men.

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

“Mourning has Broken”

St Paul’s Cathedral Wellington, where there was a memorial service for Queen Elizabeth II

It’s now Saturday September 24th, 2022.Kia ora!

I haven’t written since last Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was beautiful, as always; we sang a beautiful hymn to Sibelius’ Finlandia, Psalm 23, and Love Divine as sung at the Queen’s funeral. Afterwards I met an old friend for coffee. We had a lovely chat. 

On Thursday morning I had my other singing session.  JD could not take me there, so I had to Uber. Although it was a bit of a rush, I got there a few minutes early. In the afternoon I zoomed into another meeting I had joined.

Friday was quite a busy day.  JD had a meeting all day, and had to pick two people up from Wellington airport, and another from the Bay Plaza hotel, before driving to Hōhepa at Otaihanga for their meeting. He left at 7 am.

Meanwhile, I had a hair appointment in Mana at 12:45.  It was overcast, and drizzly, but not particularly cold. Nevertheless, I wore my big puffer jacket, and was glad of it. Thankfully, none of the buses or trains I planned to use were cancelled, although other services were.

It was all quite an adventure. I took some crackers with cheese in case I didn’t have time for lunch.  I caught the shuttle bus that left Johnsonville at 11:14 am; I then caught a bus from Johnsonville to Wellington Railway Station. I had to wait a few moments n Johnsonville, and I was glad of my warm jacket.

While I was waiting, I saw a truly amazing manoeuvre. Someone dropped a young woman off, at the bus stop, and then did a U-turn, in the middle of the busy Moorefield Road; the driver had to reverse to complete the U turn, and reversed into an oncoming car; that car couldn’t reverse, because there was traffic behind it; thankfully, the turn was performed without touching between cars. What an amazing sense of entitlement!

At the Railway Station in Wellington, there are workmen changing the main stops, so the bus stopped at the new temporary Stop A, past the wooden government buildings and almost at Stout St. I walked back to the Railway Station, where fortunately there were a few minutes to spare before the train left to Waikanae. It’s great to have information boards all around so you can tell which platform to go to.

The train was quite busy. It was supposed to get to Mana by 12:40 pm, but it was a few minutes late; it was then quite a walk to the hairdressing salon. Never mind, it was lovely when I got there, and I was given a long black coffee and two tiny biscuits individually wrapped – a nice touch.

In the event, I caught the last train back to Wellington before 3 pm, due at 2:53 pm. I had a few minutes before the train came, but not time for lunch, of course. I was thankful to have some crackers with cheese.

Once back in Wellington, I had something to eat at the New World Café.  It’s very basic, but I didn’t have enough energy to go somewhere more salubrious. My toasted salmon bagel was delicious, but it would have been nice to have some cutlery! After this, I was notified that several trains on the Johnsonville line were cancelled, but not the next one, thankfully. It left from Platform 1, quite a walk away. Like my train to Mana, it was busy. Using my snapper card, I logged on at the Railway Station.  It was raining by now.

I notice there is a good shelter at Crofton Downs station. I got to Johnsonville, just missing the shuttle bus home.  Still, it’s a bit of a hike from getting off the train, walking down the ramp, crossing the busy road. At least I could wait in the library. I finally got home, where JD had just arrived back.

We were due in town for dinner at 6:30 pm, so there was time for a short rest before getting changed and ready to go out again. Amazingly, I had felt very unwell in the early morning, but having survived the day, 3 bus trips, 3 train trips, rain and all, I felt up to going out for dinner, even though the venue was somewhere I’d fainted on an earlier occasion. In the event, it worked out well, although of course we couldn’t park anywhere nearby.  Never mind, we did get safely home, after having a nice meal at Apache. 

Today is definitely a rest day! No appointments today. A very quiet one.

It’s now Sunday September 25th.

Daylight saving started last night.  Thankfully, we’re not driving back from Hawkes’ Bay after an exhausting Hōhepa Family Weekend, and a short night. Actually we miss these events, but Covid 19 has forced many of them to be cancelled or postponed.

This morning I went to church. It was quite cold, and drizzling, as usual. But church was lovely. We had a mixture of organ music and piano and guitar. We sang “Guide me o thou great Jehovah (Redeemer?)” to the beautiful Cym Rhonda tune.

The texts were from Timothy 1, chapter 6, about the nature of piety and contentment, and about the love of money being the root of all evil; the gospel text was from Luke 16, about the poor man Lazarus and the chasm between Heaven and Hell.

I was getting public transport home, but needed to do some shopping first. I perhaps could have caught the next bus, but someone ahead of me at the checkout took a very long time, so I had a snack in one of the cafés while I waited for the next bus.

The latest news is that President Xi of China may be under house arrest, according to an Indian news channel. Well, that would be big news, if it were confirmed. (It is not).

Meanwhile, there’s bad news from Russia about the Ukraine conflict. Putin spoke a few days ago (when exactly?) about his intention to conscript 300,000 more Russians, his intention to hold referenda in the occupied territories, and a threat to use nuclear weapons to safeguard territory he regards as his; it’s thought that the referenda are a means towards calling more territory Russian, and then needing to be defended.  He looked strange and weary and rather unwell, while delivering this terrifying speech.

The call for conscription terrifies many. Evidently, the conscription papers were already drawn up, and were delivered almost immediately. Men aged from 17 to 65 are being called up, regardless of their health, or lack of military training. . This has sparked protests, especially in Moscow and St Petersburg, where 1,000 (later reported as 2,000) people have been imprisoned; people are also trying to flee in cars, causing huge queues, and on the domestic airlines that are still flying, to countries that don’t require a visa.  It’s caused huge upset, with sick and ill people being told they are fit to serve at the front. Meanwhile. Ukrainian cities are still being shelled, and there are reports of people at gunpoint being forced to participate in referenda.  Once again, the world sits in the nightmarish situation of the potential for nuclear weapons to be used, while nuclear power plants carry their own risk.  Meanwhile, some people are returning from being in Russian custody very thin and with marks of torture. There was a mass grave at Izyum, now abandoned by the Russians.  There’s no welcoming committee, then.  It’s suspected that lots of Ukrainians have been deported to Russia.  It’s a very scary time – continued, but up a notch.

In the US, things have been happening too.  Rod De Santis, governor of Florida and potential presidential candidate, used tax payer funds to fly a number of asylum seekers fleeing communism to Martha’s Vineyard, seen as a liberal enclave, without any warning.  It seems the migrants were lied to, about a welcoming committee to meet them in Boston with housing and job offers.

The New York Attorney General, Letitia James, has indicted Donald Trump and three of his adult children for what she’s memorably called “The Art of the Steal”, for tax fraud over several years, where assets were greatly inflated in value to secure loans, and seriously undervalued for the purposes of paying tax.

There has been legal to-ing and fro-ing over the finding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago; a special master was appointed, as Trump’s lawyers requested; but conservative Judge Dearie (yes, really!), a Trump appointee, has asked for specific evidence that the FBI planted documents, and the US Department of Justice has appealed Judge Aileen Cannon’s ruling that would have put a hold on their document review, meaning they can continue to review these top-secret documents.  So it’s not going all Trump’s way.

The mid-term elections remain a toss up; polls are probably quite unreliable because of the limited group of folk who actually take part in them.

It’s now Friday September 30th.

We’ve been away for a few days, so I’ll write about that in my next blog.

Meanwhile, hurricane Ian is wreaking havoc in Florida, and now threatening South Carolina. On September 29 the January 6 Committee was to give another presentation on the events around that dreadful insurrection, but this has been postponed due to the impact of this hurricane. In the UK, after a period of mourning Queen Elizabeth II, there has been a bit of a meltdown, with the new Chancellor’s budget causing so much concern that the pound has fallen and the Bank of England is having to take corrective action. In Iran, huge protests continue over the death of a woman in police custody; she was arrested for not wearing a hijab correctly. In Italy, the head of the fascist party is about to become Prime Minister.

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

The Funeral

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with her fiancé Clarke Gayford at Westminster Abbey for Queen Elizabeth’s Funeral

It’s now Tuesday September 20th, 2022. Kia ora!

Last night I watched much of the television coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.  I found it was better to watch it on TVNZ OnDemand on my laptop, as there seemed to be atmospheric interference on out television set.  During the leadup, I watched Telegraph coverage on my mobile phone, rather than TV One’s rather irritating coverage. Eventually they switched to BBC coverage, which was awesome, as expected.

Well, what an occasion! It all seemed to go off without a hitch, although there were some interesting moments. The weather was fine, and it didn’t rain!  I was quite desperate to get my own feelings and impressions down before watching other people’s coverage and impressions. 

At the outset, the Queen’s coffin was to be transported from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey for the main funeral service.  This was a rather nervous moment, I sensed; the Royal Navy group did seem a tad scruffy, in some rather ill-fitting uniforms, and perhaps some shoes not shined. They looked as though they’d just had breakfast – and they probably had. They certainly don’t have magnificent uniforms.

Getting the coffin from the pall-bearers’ shoulders onto the gun carriage that was to be pulled to the Abbey seemed tricky. Atop the coffin was a purple velvet cushion carrying one of the crowns, and the orb and sceptre, as well as a wreath, and a card from the new King Charles, signed Charles R.  The flowers were from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Highgrove. The coffin was covered with the royal standard. The guys managed the move without disaster (it had been practised!) but it looked tricky.  One just hopes the crown, sceptre and orb had been secured – perhaps with museum glue?  I presume the Brits had thought of this.

The gun carriage was hauled to the Abbey – a beautiful manoeuvre, that was to be repeated. Eventually, it arrived, and again there was a tricky manoeuvre getting the coffin onto the pallbearers’ shoulders again. Once they’d carried it into the Abbey, it was placed on a blue stand.  Everyone in attendance was already seated; they now stood. I can’t remember if King Charles and his siblings followed the coffin into the Abbey.

US President Joe Biden arrived in the Beast, with its ultra-thick doors; not nearly as glamorous as a Rolls Royce or a Daimler, however.

Anyway, I was moved by the intimacy of the setting, in this vast building, where members of the Royal Family were very close to the bier. The Prince and Princess of Wales were there with Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

The service was, mercifully short – it took exactly one hour. There was no commentary for much of it, to the relief of many, I suspect. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivered a brief, well-spoken homily.  The new Prime Minister Liz Truss did one of the readings from John’s Gospel – “In my Father’s house are many abodes…”. I did get the feeling that this scripture was not particularly familiar to her. She mangled the reading, somewhat, but at least it wasn’t Boris Johnson reading it. One of Her Majesty’s last services to her country was to see off Bojo as PM and appoint Liz Truss.

There were a number of religious dignitaries who delivered brief prayers. One of them dropped his notes. Two of them represented “Free Churches of England”. Their website makes the following claim: the Free Church of England is a Christian church in the Anglican tradition and so rooted in a Reformed Catholic heritage. So do they object to the British monarch being head of the Church of England?  I have never heard of this movement.

The singing was magnificent, of course, and I admired the beautiful boy sopranos. Psalm 23 was sung to the tune of Crimond, with a beautiful descant; the hymns were “The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, by Charles Wesley, a Methodist anthem.  I hope we’ll be singing them tomorrow morning.

Towards the end of the service God Save the King was sung.  Everyone sang lustily, although not Prince Harry.  Princes Harry and Andrew did not wear uniform, although they wore their medals.  They are the only members of the Royal Family who actually served in war – Andrew in the Falklands, and Harry in Afghanistan. Everyone wore black, except for Prince William, the new Prince of Wales, who wore an RAF uniform; the colour was blue/grey.  Almost everyone else wore black, and most women wore a hat, although there seemed to be some from the Middle East spotted from their head attire.

Harry looked daggers throughout the funeral and procession: it hardly seemed like grief; more like anger, but why, I wonder? This was not a time to be angry.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, did not dominate; the lovely Sophie, Countess of Wessex seemed to be deputed to be with her. No hand-holding there, then.

Also towards the end was a lone bagpiper, playing in the Abbey. I’m not a great fan of bagpipes, but this was magnificent.

After the funeral service in the Abbey, there was an extraordinary procession – evidently it was 1 ¼ miles long! That’s the procession.

Members of the Royal Family followed the coffin, in a very long procession -they all marched. It was absolutely extraordinary – with amazing music. Everyone marched in step, although some of them were quite elderly, and must have found it a strain. There were Canadian mounted police, and defence contingents from New Zealand and Australia.  Along the way, there were crowds galore. Drums were shrouded in black. Some of the horses seemed a bit frisky! Servicemen’s arms were held in reverse. Standards were lowered, the crowd clapped, solemnly, as the procession went past them. It all seemed to go on forever.

At some point the women, other than Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, got into cars to follow the procession. Queen consort Camilla was in a car with the Princess of Wales and Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The Princess of Wales was wearing a pearl choker, as Diana had before her.  I had not seem her wear one before.

At some point the camera panned to views of Wolverhampton, Edinburgh, Christchurch (not the New Zealand one!), and Belfast showing crowds there watching the ceremony on big screens; evidently cinemas were also playing the ceremony.

The ceremony went on for ages. At 1 am I went to bed, but the march was still going, albeit the coffin had been transferred to a hearse, and was being transported to Windsor Castle. It was way past my bedtime! And I figured that I could watch the rest of it the next day.

As I can. There is footage of the ceremony at Windsor Castle; again there is a lone bagpiper, who plays superbly. The crown, orb and sceptre are finally reverently removed and the coffin is lowered into the royal crypt, to lie alongside that of Prince Philip. Apparently there is a private family service after this.

Well, I agree with many that this is a big moment, and I doubt if we’ll see anything like this again.  King Charles’ coronation will surely be an exciting moment, but it won’t be quite like this.

I think the Prince and Princess of Wales were wise to leave Prince Louis behind. This was not an occasion for young children.

I hesitate to read social media, but I couldn’t resist a Guardian newsletters suggestion: some wit suggested that a procession of former Prime Ministers represented The Descent of Man. Hasn’t Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, put on weight! I missed the spider.  Enough said. 

It seems everyone who was anyone was represented – at one of the services, or in the parade. Thousands of people lined the streets; thousands queued for hours to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth.  What a special few days it has been, and nice to have a breather, if a rather sad one, from the trials and tribulations that becircle British politics.

I’m now reading media commentary, having written some of my own. John Crace of the Guardian has summed it up rather well:

Back in New Zealand, the report on Sam Uffindell has been released – on Monday September 19th, the day of the Queen’s funeral. Sam has been reinstated – the report found that he had not been a bully since his school days. Or some such rubbish. Evidently chasing your flatmate out of the house while calling her names was not bullying then. Whatever you call it, and whether or not you think it some retaliation was justified, this kind of bad behaviour is never justified.

In the US, Trump has performed at another rally in Ohio, where he was greeted by the Qanon sign, and had scary music as a backdrop. He also claimed that J.D. Vance was “kissing his arse”, in an extraordinary statement. What he said was “J.D. is kissing my ass he wants my support so bad”. As some wit said, the middle man has been dropped! Frank Figluzzi claimed it was like a religious cult. The Queen’s funeral was light relief compared to this performance, and endorses the truth of Justin Welby’s homily, where one of the things he said was that rulers of this world who seek glory are deluding themselves and won’t be remembered as heroes. Trump using this phrase is a new low, even for him. It certainly isn’t dignified.  In my book, it’s akin to swearing. This cannot be okay with all Republican women, surely!

In China, a bus carrying people to a Covid 19 quarantine facility has crashed, killing 27 people. That is some crash! People are furious, of course. There’s been a big earthquake in Taiwan; President Biden has guaranteed that the US will support Taiwan militarily if necessary.

Next Monday, September 26, is to be a public holiday here, with a memorial service to be live streamed from St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington, so there’ll be an opportunity to indulge further in honouring Her Majesty. I do wish they’d built a more attractive cathedral, though. I don’t much like the Catholic St Mary’s either – it’s very cold, to me.  I do rather like Old St Paul’s Cathedral, built in wood and now earthquake-strengthened (ha ha!), and the Catholic Basilica in Hill Street, also in Thorndon. I’ve been to some wonderful concerts there.

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

A Time to Remember

King Charles III meets New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern at Buckingham Palace

It’s now Wednesday September 14th, 2022.Kia ora!

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was very cold, so I wore my extra warm puffer jacket. I also found a tartan woollen scarf.

Hymn singing was lovely, and then I went to a Māori Language week celebration.  That was very pleasant, to meet new people and learn some phrases.  It’s nice to feel a bit more secure with familiar phrases, and about when to use them.

Thankfully JD picked me up afterwards, and we bought some lunch from Nada Bakery in Tawa. 

It turned out to be quite a busy day. In the afternoon our new stove was delivered.  It just fits into the space left empty by our previous stove. I had always feared that extensive carpentry would be required for this – well, it would if I had  had a double oven as I wanted for so long; I am trying to read the instruction manual, but after wading through all the stupid taken for granted stuff, I cannot interpret the instructions. There’re not obvious at all, like Bake, Grill or Timer.  How it actually works is yet to be discovered. Just after it was installed, my grandchildren came to visit. Thankfully I had some chippies and chocolate biscuits to give them for afternoon tea.  Then, I was due to get an eyebrow treatment. I haven’t had one for ages – I had an appointment, which was cancelled, because the therapist was sick; then I chose not to go for ages, since our Covid 19 figures were so high; then I had Covid 19 myself, and it took weeks to get over it. 

On Thursday I went to singing, which was most enjoyable.  Nothing much else happened.

It’s now Friday September 16th

This morning we both got up earlier than normal, JD to get a WOF for the car, me to prepare for someone from Access coming. I changed the sheets and towels, feeling very virtuous.

In the evening, we were due to have soup for our evening meal, and I decided to make cheese on toast to go with it. I put the soup on to heat up, and turned on (I thought) the grill to heat up. There was noise from a fan. I toasted the Vogel bread, and sliced the cheese, then put it on top of the lightly toasted bread, as I usually do. The I popped it in the oven to grill.  It wasn’t working! JD came out, read the manual, and decided that I had the wrong setting. He corrected the setting, and eventually the cheese was grilled, but it wasn’t browned. Ah well, by now the soup, served out, was getting cold. The manual said to close the oven door when using the grill! It gave rather strange instructions for baking – if the cake is too dry…if the pastry is too dry???? That doesn’t make sense. Honestly, my instincts tell me to leave the oven door ajar when using the grill. And why doesn’t it brown? I don’t really care, since I seldom cook now, but I would have found it really annoying in the old days.

It’s now Saturday July 17th.

It was very cold this morning, but there wasn’t a frost!  So no condensation. It’s been a fine, warm day.  This weather is weird!

Early this afternoon we went shopping in Thorndon. Sadly, there were no pies or quiches at all, but there were raspberries!  I had a lovely shopping experience.

On Sunday (yesterday) I went to church; they had the AGM afterwards. I am now a member of the Strategy Committee (silly me, I didn’t find out when it meets!), and I also joined a prayer group.  It was a lovely fine day; a huge magnolia tree outside the church lounge was in flower – quite beautiful. Afterwards JD picked me up from the New World Supermarket. I had bought a raisin brioche and a chocolate snail (my favourite) to share, and some pizza bread and some yoghurt.

It’s now Monday September 19th.

This morning JD gave me and a friend a lift to our exercise class in Ngaio. It was drizzling with rain. It was lovely, of course, although quite energetic! Afterwards we caught the train from Ngaio. I must admit I didn’t realise it was quite a steep walk up to the station; then, it turned out we were on the wrong side, and had to cross two sets of tracks – Ngaio is one of the places where the trains cross. To my amazement, not only was there no subway, or bridge, but not even warning lights, or a barrier. We crossed safely, but the station there is not as good as the one at Mana. That one is a model for affording some protection from the elements!

I caught the train back to Johnsonville, and then had lunch (a cheese roll and a lemon slice, with coffee) there. It’s always busy, but it did thin out a bit while I was there. Then I caught the shuttle bus home.

The hosts at The Rest is Politics podcast finally got into action again towards the end of last week. Meanwhile, new books keep coming out in the US about Trump’s time in office.  The rest of us continue to wonder about the state of US politics. At least some people are waking up now to the dangers posed by threats to their so-called democracy.  David Corn has published a new book called American Psychosis– I’ve listened to two podcasts about it.

The Queen’s funeral service is to be televised tonight while it actually takes place in Westminster Abbey.  Our Prime Minister Ardern is to attend, along with the Governor General, the Māori King and others. She has secured meetings with the new King Charles, the new British Prime Minister Liz Truss, and with the new Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine. A Defence Force unit also performed a Māori haka for them.  I am bursting with pride.  To be honest, I haven’t looked at many Youtube videos during the last few days. The endless media speculation drives me nuts.  But I hope to be watching the funeral.

There are new Covid 19 figures out today, as the Ministry of Health goes to weekly reporting. There are 9,606 new cases reported over the past week;  there are 175 people in hospital. There have been an average of 1,369 new cases each day. There have been a further 74 deaths: of these four were from Northland, 20 were from Auckland region, five were from Waikato, six were from Bay of Plenty, one was from Tairawhiti, two were from Hawke’s Bay, four were from Taranaki, six were from MidCentral, four were from Whanganui, two were from Wellington region, three were from Nelson Marlborough, 15 were from Canterbury, two were from Southern.

Three were in their 20s, two were in their 30s, one was in their 40s, three were in their 50s, ten were in their 60s, 16 were in their 70s, 25 were in their 80s and 14 were aged over 90. Of these people, 33 were women and 41 were men. This takes the total number of deaths to 1962. I fear we’ll crack over 2,000 soon. Still, the numbers are much fewer than they have been. Although masks aren’t required in most settings now, many people still wear them.  There isn’t the fear that there used to be. And it’s quite all right here to wear a mask.

In Ukraine, a lot of territory has been taken back by Ukrainian forces, and many Russian troops left in some disarray, running for their lives, and leaving weaponry behind. Nevertheless, although this is hugely significant, many advise caution; and Ukrainian cities are still being shelled. This war ain’t over, by a long shot.

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

Long Live the King!

Britain’s King Charles III, center, and other members of the royal family hold a vigil at the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II at St Giles’ Cathedral, 

It’s now Sunday September 11th, 2022. Kia ora!

It’s a nice day today (again). It’s not raining, although there’ve been some showers; it’s been sunny and quite warm, in the main.

I assume the statement “God save the King” is in the subjunctive (“Would that God might/may save the King” rather than imperative – you don’t give God orders to do something). I must say King Charles does look striking in that kilt and sporran (I don’t think I’ve seen that tartan before), those red socks, topped with the jacket and shirt and tie.

This morning I went back to church, physically. I haven’t been for weeks: I’ve been zooming into the service. I was in luck today: the organist was playing, there was communion, and several people spoke to me. The sermon was about the parables of the lost coin, or the lost sheep from Luke 15: 1-10 (later on we have the parable of the Prodigal Son).  Afterwards there was a beautiful organ solo.

Then I went shopping at the supermarket nearby. JD was due to pick me up. He rang while I was at the checkout – looking for bags, cards, no I’m not collecting the Little Garden collectables; he rang repeatedly, and I couldn’t answer the phone because I was busy with the lovely checkout operator! And there were people behind me in the queue! I had bought more things than usual, since we hadn’t been shopping on Saturday like we usually do. I composed a text for JD, to tell him I was coming, but I didn’t actually send it – sometimes the send button takes several goes to actually work.  JD was in the carpark. He was worried that something had happened to me.

We got home and had coffee together before JD had to go out. We watched some videos on television of the Ukrainian conflict. Ukrainian troops have tricked the Russians, and liberated some territory that had been taken by the Russians.  We saw some film of liberated Ukrainians: they are very thin indeed; they’re not in good shape physically, but they’re so happy to be rescued.

I am switching between watching videos about the Royal Family, about the Ukraine conflict, and the historian Tom Holland speaking about Christianity, and its place in Western Civilisation; and about how Christ’s death – and that the death of the cross – has such significance for us all; while crucifixion was the worst death the Romans could inflict, yet the mighty Roman Empire fell, and Christianity still reigns. Part of the Queen’s role as Head of the Anglican Church was Defender of the Faith. Charles, as Prince, used to be rather lukewarm about this, but it seems he has reiterated his commitment to the Christian faith in his first speech as King.

In a lot of the tributes talk about Queen Elizabeth rejoining the Duke of Edinburgh, who died just over a year ago; this belief is not part of my tradition; I wonder just where it comes from. We’re told that in the resurrection, there’s neither male nor female; we are told that the Lord will wipe the tears from every eye; I find that a very comforting thought.

The media show the new Prince and Princess of Wales with the Sussexes acknowledging the crowds at Windsor Castle. There seems to be no booing, but as expected the Cambridges are amazingly wonderful, while Prince Harry  manages to look dishevelled and uncomfortable, and Meghan fiddles with her hair. I wonder who put them up to this?  The new King Charles perhaps. What a moment.  The Sussexes walk hand in hand, needless to say; the Cambridges don’t. They’re far more mature. I did note that Meghan was wearing black hose (tights). 

I have to apologise to the London Review of Books. In honour of Queen Elizabeth’s death, they have emailed me “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett, first published in 2007. I think I remember it’s being published as a small hardback volume; I did not read it myself, although I may have given it away as a present. I enjoyed reading this beautiful story. Bennett is a very good writer, I enjoy anything by him. I can read this story, but the LRB won’t let me read anything more. Rory Stewart and Alistair Campbell, hosts of The Rest is Politics podcast, remain silent. Surely the news of the Queen’s death is political.

It’s now Monday September 12th.

I went to the exercise class in Ngaio again.  Today it was drizzly and overcast, but not nearly as cold as last week. The trains weren’t running, again. JD gave me a lift, thankfully. The class wasn’t as crowded as it was last week.  There were different people there, too – and some of them knew me! Oh dear.  One’s past follows one around. I enjoyed the class, although I did find it tiring.

Afterwards I took a leisurely walk to the bus stop for train replacements, and caught the bus to Johnsonville. Then JD picked me up, thankfully, although the buses weren’t cancelled today. Thankfully, too, my new Listener arrived today.

The covid 19 numbers are still down, with 1149 new cases, 225 in hospital, and 6 virus related deaths. There are 3 people in Intensive Care.

The 225 cases in hospital were in Northland (1), Waitematā (46), Counties Manukau (28), Auckland (36), Waikato (18), Bay of Plenty (3), Lakes (3), Hawke’s Bay (1), MidCentral (8), Whanganui (1), Taranaki (1), Tairawhiti (0), Wairarapa (6), Capital & Coast (13), Hutt Valley (10), Nelson Marlborough (4), Canterbury (37), West Coast (1), South Canterbury (1) and Southern (7).

The hospitals are still under enormous pressure, although the number of  Covid 19 infections is down. There are still many new cases flying into the country from overseas.

From midnight tonight, the government’s rules change. The traffic light system is to be abandoned; masks will only be required in health care and aged care situations; and household contacts of Covid 19 positive cases will no longer be required to isolate. Covid 19 positive cases are still required to isolate for 7 days.  So that’s that, I guess.

At my exercise class this morning we did quite a lot of touching – of the individual stretchy bands, the bean bag, and our chairs, but most people were wearing a mask, however.

Prime Minister Ardern has announced that there is to be a public holiday on September 26 to remember the Queen, and a memorial service will be held in St Paul’s Cathedral.

It’s now Tuesday September 13th.

I was going to meet one of my sons this morning, but he has a heavy cold, so I will be lazy and go for a walk instead. It’s not fine today, but it’s not raining at present; it’s cloudy, but not overcast.

I went for a walk to the local store. There is a very strong northerly wind, which almost blows me over, yet according to the nice lady at the checkout it was raining and overcast in Porirua. JD gets home and asks me if I got wet. Of course not, I reply, since it’s now sunny outside and I’m bemoaning the fact that the wind makes it unpleasant to sit out in the sunshine. Apparently there was a cloudburst, a very heavy shower of rain while he was on the motorway north. He couldn’t see where he was going, and had to slow down to 60 kph. You wouldn’t know it here.

While I was shopping, I bought the latest copy of the Economist that we get, obviously printed before HM the Queen passed away.  It has an obituary of Mikhail Gorbachev, who also died recently. Evidently he died in the same hospital where the head of Lukoil supposedly fell to his death out of a sixth-floor hospital window. He was not given a state funeral. I think Putin laid flowers at his coffin in the hospital; he was too busy to attend the funeral. It seems Gorbachev used brutality against Lithuania, when they tried to rebel; this was uncharacteristic of him. I have to say that I greatly admired him, whatever his faults.  The act of letting the Berlin Wall be torn down, and the subsequent reunification of East and West Germany, and independence of previously communist nations, was of tremendous significance, as was the end of apartheid in South Africa, and the coming to power of Nelson Mandela. By the way, did you know that the US “won” the Cold War?  You’ll hear Americans unashamedly claiming this.  I think perhaps humanity enjoyed some success there. Whatever has happened since, I think we’re all better off without the Berlin Wall.

I also read book reviews in the Economist, about the effects of climate change and its forcing of migration, and the desperate and challenging journey of migrants from Latin and South America to the United States.

I was a small child when Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, and I remember being taken to see her and her husband, Prince Philip, when they first came to New Zealand.  I also remember two subsequent visits – one, waiting in the then Millard Stand at the then Athletic Park while she was driven around the ground, waving; another when I escorted a group of college students to line the drive to the Mary Potter Hospice in Newtown, where she was driven by. I remember noticing how small she was, and how pale.

There seem to be a great many events of great significance, even in my lifetime. While I consider that my parents were quite obsessed with the Great Depression of the 1930’s and World War II that followed, they occurred during their formative years, and my parents and their families endured severe deprivation. 

Some of the big events in my life have been the erection of the Berlin Wall, the assassination of President Kennedy; the nuclear scare, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Wahine disaster in Wellington, the Vietnam War and the even more terrible conflict in Cambodia; Watergate; conflict in the Balkans; the two Iraq wars and the events of September 11 in the US; famine in Ethiopia; Chernobyl and Fukushima; and so on and so on. I’ve probably omitted many things. Along with these have been growing awareness of the challenges posed by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and now the conflict in Ukraine.  Thankfully, my husband didn’t join the NZ Territorials (someone tipped him off that he’d be sent to Vietnam), and we didn’t have to send any of our sons to war (or persuade them not to go). One of one of my son’s friends joined the army, and did two tours of duty in Afghanistan.  He’s now back in New Zealand, married with two young children.

Along with all this, there has been a renaissance of all things Māori here. Te Reo is found in many hitherto unexpected places – in google searches, in newspapers, in place names, and in common usage. After all, where else but here is this language going to be nurtured?    I am going to have to know far more than my very basic Te Reo.

And now coming back to the event that still dominates in Great Britain, and to a lesser extent, here – the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II. I admit I have been luxuriating in some of the Youtube videos of all the formalities. The pageantry is quite wonderful, and I do enjoy it, as I did during the recent jubilee. What wonderful spectacle! What wonderful precision, and training. One can only admire such an amazing display. John Crace in the Guardian newspaper summed it up rather nicely:

There’s a lot of criticism of the costs involved in such ceremony and pageantry, and, to be honest, I have visited Cambridge University (yes, two of my sons were there, one a Junior Research Fellow at Kings’ College, Cambridge, the other a fellow at Christ’s College for a year); I attended a Midsummer Feast, a very special occasion. While I was prepared for the toast to HM (and nobody drinks first), I was unprepared for standing for the second Grace. Silly me! JD and I did our best to behave ourselves and not cause embarrassment. But while beautiful and gracious, these were really museum pieces, and did not feel like the “real” world outside of delayed or cancelled trains and clanking buses, or queues at the post office. The Brits are so obedient and well-behaved, on the whole, that I have a sense of “both and” rather than  “either or”.

There’s no doubt that the Royal Family has enormous private wealth, with many estates and lovely (if somewhat cold and draughty) homes. The Queen also had an extraordinary collection of paintings, to say nothing of the jewellery – she always was seen wearing pearls, and a brooch, if not a tiara, earrings and a bracelet. She was also known for being rather parsimonious, and not wishing to waste money. Still, I’d venture the British taxpayer gets more bang for their buck than the American one.  In the US all politicians get offices and staff, often security; the President gets a some might say ridiculous motorcade, and the secret service not only protect the serving president and his family, but past presidents too. So the US government must spend a great deal of money on its so-called democratic government. I think the British Royal Family is good value for money, on the whole, despite media baron Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to take them down. And imagine being under such examination – everything you wear, every piece of jewellery, is carefully noted, photographed and analysed; every time you go out the door, you have to be prepared to be scrutinised.  I remember thinking this about Charles and Diana’s then relationship; when I was having children, I certainly wouldn’t have born examination for all of the time.

It also strikes me as extremely ironic that King Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 in order to marry an American divorcée; I know there was lots of history behind that move, but that’s the story we’re been fed; King (formerly Prince) Charles married the woman, another divorcée, with whom he’d been having an affair, before and after the death of his wife, the then Princess (Diana) of Wales, the mother of his two sons, Princes William and Harry, and mother of the heir to the throne. .  Meanwhile, Harry has married (been allowed to marry?) Meghan, another American divorcée, and just look how that has turned out. Whatever your feelings about the Sussexes (and yes, feelings, we’ve got ‘em!), it’s not a good idea to be critical of your, or your husband’s family.  What a lot of questions their two children will have as they grow up. 

Speaking as a parent, and having faced questions from my own children, I would say the following: while there are some things I’d do differently if I had my time again, I was always busy, and always tired, and aware of obligations to people like my parents-in-law and the older generation. I think I always did my best, and tried to meet the needs of the child who needed me most at the time. I don’t think anyone was ever hungry, and they were always looked after. They all learned to play the piano – and many other instruments, besides. They had the right sports gear. They had new musical instruments as they needed them. While their childhoods could have been better, they certainly could have been a lot worse. I remember the fifth commandment, to honour your father and mother, “that you may be long-lived on the earth” – the first commandment with a promise. Sometimes I wonder just how well I have passed that one on!

In China another city, Xinjiang, has been locked down as well as Chengdu, where they have an indefinite lockdown, and they’ve just had a big earthquake. In most places there’d be an outcry if civilians couldn’t get food, or help; in China, that’s another matter. They’ve had flooding, too. It’s reported that tens of millions of people in at least 30 regions have been ordered to stay at home under partial or full lockdowns. On Monday China recorded 949 new Covid cases across the entire country.

In Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have taken back a considerable amount of territory held by the Russians, with in some cases Russian soldiers running for their lives, and leaving lots of ammunition behind. While this is very significant, Putin is retaliating by continuing to fire on cities and taking out electricity. The Ukrainian soldiers liberated from Russian control look relieved, and starved; the Russians certainly didn’t provide a welcoming committee. Everyone is nervous as to what Putin may do next. He’s never actually lost a war. It’s said that 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded.  It’s certainly not going Russia’s way.

The Covid 19 numbers continue their downward trend here, with 1,941 new cases, and 241 people in hospital, with 3 in Intensive Care. There’ve now been 1,962 deaths from Covid 19; that’s an average of 4 deaths each day, which is a lot less than it was. There were 78 new cases at the border today.

That’s it for today.  I’m aware that some of these topics will be very controversial. It’s nice for me to have a forum to air some of my views. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

Te Aroha

Queen Elizabeth II

Today is Monday September 5th, 2022. Kia ora!

Last night I did not sleep very well – too much coffee, I fear. I went to sleep during Brokenwood Mysteries, as I often do, but it’s not a good sign for getting back to sleep. It was colder this morning, and quite windy and drizzly.

I had arranged to go to an exercise class in Ngaio this morning. Firstly, I learnt that several local train services had been cancelled. JD dropped me at the railway station in good time to catch the10 am train, but the trains were replaced by buses. The so-called shelter had no seats.  Then, having alighted in Ngaio, it was a bit challenging to walk to where the class was; there was lots of traffic, and one had to cross the road more than once. Nevertheless, it was lovely when I got there, and everyone was very welcoming. There was a big turnout. Most of the exercise was seated, with some standing; it focused on breathing, and exercising each part of the body. There was some stretching and balancing. Afterwards there was tea, coffee (brewed coffee!) and refreshments – cheese and crackers and some cake, I think.

Afterwards I walked to the bus stop, which had no seats.  Eventually the bus came (presumably there was a better shelter at the railway station); I got the bus to Johnsonville, but then the next two buses home were cancelled. I was too tired to face spending over an hour at the library. Fortunately JD was on his way back from town and could pick me up.

After all this I was very tired indeed.  I didn’t blog on Tuesday (yesterday), feeling I needed to recover and get my strength back.  In the early evening  we delivered a birthday present for my grandson, which had been sent from China, and we went to the supermarket in Churton Park.  I bought two packets of decaffeinated tea bags.  They taste like tea, but having the caffeine removed seems to make quite a difference.  I still drink coffee, however, caffeine and all.

It’s now Wednesday September 7th.

After two nights’ good sleep, I wake up feeling much better, and get up to go to hymn singing.  I’m a bit early, so I post a birthday present to my son in the UK.  Hymn singing is lovely, as usual, and I miss the 10 am bus into town, so I have morning tea – a long black coffee and a date scone. 

Then I caught a bus into town, noting that the Wellington Railway Station Bus stop A has moved – to in front of the famous wooden building – quite a long way from the Railway Station; if you were catching a bus to Wellington Hospital, you’d have to allow at least five minutes to walk the distance – there are no shortcuts.  I went to Unity Books – always a treat, and then to the Metro New World supermarket in Willis St.  Walking back down Willis St, I bumped into an old friend – another treat.  Then I caught a bus home – via the scenic route, and JD picked me up in Johnsonville. It’s a lovely fine day, after a very cold start, but there wasn’t a frost this morning, thankfully.

Today there are no disruptions to the bus service, thankfully, although I get several emails telling me that the trains services are disrupted.

This afternoon I’m trying to catch up with all the news: the Sussexes’ visit to Manchester (yes, I have to get up to date with some of the news of the dastardly duo); a Trump-appointed judge has granted Trump’s request for a special master to oversee the issue of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago – this has caused an enormous upset; meanwhile, the Washington Post has a story about stolen papers having details of the nuclear arsenal of a foreign nation, which is, again, upsetting, especially with the decision to appoint a special master, and thus hold up the judicial investigation; and then there’s Ukraine’s efforts to take back some areas captured by the Russians around Kherson.  There’s a lot happening.

It’s now Friday September 9th.

I didn’t blog yesterday. I went to singing in the morning. JD had to drop me early, so I had a long black coffee and a cheese scone beforehand. There was a great turn out there – the singing sounded wonderful. Afterwards a friend gave me a lift to Johnsonville, and I had lunch at the library café. Unfortunately something I ate didn’t agree with me, and I didn’t feel well once I got home.

During the night, I went to sleep and woke at about 1 am. When I looked at my phone, members of the Royal Family were making their way to Balmoral Castle; it had been said that Her Majesty should be under medical supervision. Just hours earlier she had met the new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss.  I went back to sleep – listening to something. When I next woke up, sometime after 5 am, I learnt that Her Majesty the Queen had died.  Prince Harry had gone to Balmoral, but Meghan Markle had not. Well, it’s a shock. Although the monarch was 96 years old, I think my respect for her, and the respect of others, grew greatly over the past few years, especially as she was evidently struggling with her health, and the devastating criticisms of the dastardly Sussex duo, and of having Covid 19. At least the Brits had a wonderful jubilee recently; at least the Brits have a profound sense of occasion and ceremony, and you know that everything will be done just so. The ceremony will be extraordinary. 

I went to have lunch with a friend of mine, who comes from England, and has Sky television. I watched much footage on Sky News. Together we realised that this is a big moment. Everything changes. I’m just waiting for my favourite British podcasts, The Rest is History and The Rest is Politics, to drop new episodes; after all, they rushed into not print but speech when former Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced to stand down.

There’s other big news too: in the US, the Department of Justice has decided to appeal the Special Master ruling in relation to the classified papers Trump took to his private club, Mar-a-Lago, and Steve Bannon is to surrender himself to the court system on suspicion of fraud – specifically a charity called “We Build the Wall” that collected money towards building Trump’s promised wall on America’s southern border, which was then used fraudulently for Bannon’s personal benefit.

On the war front, Ukraine seems to be doing rather well in its efforts not only to resist Russian occupation, but to take back some territory held by Russia.

It’d now Saturday September 10th.

I have been digesting news of the Queen’s death, and news from the US, as mentioned.  The historians at The Rest is History have put out two episodes about the life of Queen Elizabeth II, and perhaps her place in history.  I listened with great interest.  Apparently King Charles has made the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife the lovely Kate, Prince and Princess of Wales.

We bought a new stove.  This had been promised to me as a Christmas present, which did not happen at the time because JD didn’t feel quite comfortable about it. I have very mixed feelings about getting a new stove.  The salesman asked me what I like to cook? I said I like to cook as little as possible.  Still, I guess the new oven will be good for heating pies!  The current stove takes ages to heat up, and is then super-hot. The contents are either burnt or under-cooked. I wanted a new stove for ages, but it didn’t happen. For years I couldn’t cook a turkey and a ham in the stove at Christmas time, because it’s not nearly big enough. It doesn’t have a warming drawer, either. I guess when we go to sell the house it will be good to have a working stove, and JD did get a good price. One of my sons still cooks for us sometimes – at least he’ll have a good stove to cook in.  Ah, progress! I found it nerve-wracking.

After this scary spend we went to have lunch somewhere.  The traffic was quite heavy. We went to a favourite place in Lower Hutt, but it was full, and we then went to the very busy café at the Dowse. It was very busy, and quite dark, but we did get a table. We got served quite quickly, but there was no coffee afterwards. Afterwards we had a look at the museum. It used to be a nice place to go, with a nice restaurant! It’s totally different now.

I’m still digesting the big news of Her Majesty the Queen’s death.  While she had lived a very long life, and retained her mental faculties to the full, it’s quite sad that her close family members don’t really have time to mourn her privately.  The timing is critical – even the timing of advice of her death.  It’s hard to get used to saying King Charles (III).  I remember, sadly, what happened to Charles I; I think Charles II was a better king. Charles III has been proclaimed king now, so the few hours where he could choose a different regnant name are now gone. Some things happen automatically, for example, Prince William becomes Duke of Cornwall automatically, but the titles of Prince and Princess of Wale had to be formally bestowed on the Duke of Cambridge and his wife by the new king, and I gather some formal ceremony will follow.  King Charles has a really busy few days ahead. Will his wife be Queen Camilla? I rather hope she’ll take another name.

King Charles III and his queen consort, Camilla, arouse very strong feelings in many people, especially now that Queen Elizabeth II has died and her very long reign is over. Many of us have not known another British monarch, or were very young when she became queen.

I watched the new King’s speech, and I have to say I was impressed.  He seems to be growing into the role. He vowed to continue his mother’s commitment. Prince Harry was summoned, and went to Balmoral Castle when told of the Queen’s fading health; he didn’t arrive in time for her death, and it seems his father stated that Meghan shouldn’t come.

This still seems a sad and shocking time. I wouldn’t have considered myself a Monarchist, but surely we’re better off with Elizabeth, Charles, or William as our Head of State rather than Luxon, Albanese, or whoever the current governor-general may be.  I was very impressed by Prime Minister Ardern’s very quick and gracious tribute to Her Majesty.

 This is a strange time.  Despite the British tradition of maintaining a stiff upper lip (while shedding a manly tear), and not displaying emotion, the British people went wild when Diana Princess of Wales died. They are now going even “wilder”, if that were possible.  At that time Queen Elizabeth II’s and the Royal Family’s popularity were quite low. Three of the Queen’s children’s marriages and her sister’s marriage had ended in divorce, there was a fire at Windsor Castle, and there were questions about HM’s parenting style – which seemed to leave a lot to be desired. The television series The Crown portrayed the then Prince Charles as a strange, lonely young man who seriously irritated his father. Fancy sending him to Gordonstoun in the north of Scotland (“Colditz in Kilts”) and then to Australia to school!  How could you do that to a child?  He in turn came across as a cruel and uncaring husband, although I’m sure Diana was a handful – she came from a seriously dysfunctional family herself, and was much younger than her husband.  Isn’t Prince William rather wonderful, though? 

Prince William visited New Zealand soon after the remote Pike River Mine disaster on the West Coast, where 29 miners died in November 2010. I remember how impressed I was when he spoke. He spoke well, saying New Zealanders did not realise that the rest of the world holds us in high regard. He also said that his grandmother had warned him that grief is the price we pay for love. At the time he was engaged to Kate Middleton. He seemed a nice young man, and not nearly as stuffy as one might have expected.

One of our sons living overseas rang us last night, and we remarked that, whatever JD’s and my faults, our children have all turned out to be quite wonderful, and have all chosen lovely young women to be their partners.  They’ve been chosen by these wonderful women too.

In the US in 2020, when Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, and when Trump said he had Covid 19, all the podcasts I listen to rushed into action with their emergency podcast systems, to talk about what this might mean, and what might happen. I’ve been expecting the British ones to do the same, but they’re taking their time. The Rest is History dropped a double episode yesterday about Queen Elizabeth II, and We Have Ways of Making You Talk dropped another, about the Queen in wartime, when she was a teenager. As of now The Rest is Politics (Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart) has yet to comment. I do find that surprising.

The History episodes were very interesting, noting how the Queen encouraged the colonies of the British Empire to become independent, and forming the British Commonwealth. Independence hasn’t worked out so well for them -sadly – and while the British did some truly awful things, at least they got out of ruling their former colonies. Most, if not all, colonial powers were cruel and thoughtless.  It upsets me to hear USA Americans talking (on MSNBC) about Britain having to reckon with its colonial past – and look who’s talking here!  The way the Americans treated their indigenous people was just ghastly, and the shiploads of slaves they brought were treated very unkindly, for the most part. This terrible legacy continues today; the death of George Floyd sparked many protests, and many podcasts, where coloured people, many of them well educated and supposedly doing all right, spoke movingly about what they and their families had suffered.  So, would you rather come from Puerto Rico, off the coast of the US, but not a state, or Guam, or from somewhere that was British like Jamaica?  While the USA did not actually colonise many if any states (what is the status of Guam, I wonder?), it certainly interfered with many governments, especially in South America. I think we are so fortunate here in New Zealand. Goodness knows, our record is by no means perfect, but at least there was a treaty, the Treaty of Waitangi, between Queen Victoria, Maori leaders, and God. There was the Waitangi Tribunal, chaired by the then Sir Douglas Graham, which sought to compensate Maori tribes for the land taken by European settlers, and now there are serious efforts to include Maori in decision making; the Maori language is being fostered. Many signs are in Maori.

Next week is Maori Language Week here, and on Wednesday morning I’m going to a morning tea to celebrate and learn some more Te Reo.

That’s it for now. The Ukrainians are doing rather well in deceiving the Russians and taking back territory seized and occupied by Russia.  The Covid 19 situation here is much improved, with fewer new infections, hospitalisations, and deaths.  Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.


The office at Mar-a-Lago

Today is Wednesday August 31st, 2022.Kia ora!

 It was a beautiful fine day yesterday, although cold in the morning. There was a heavy frost – I looked across at a field steaming, seemingly on fire, but it was the frost being warmed by the sun.

I visited a friend in the afternoon yesterday, catching the I pm train from Johnsonville.  I got myself to her house, and back again on public transport, and felt very proud about that. There were no cancellations!

The covid 19 report yesterday wasn’t too bad: there were 2,464 new cases, and 11 deaths. There were 314 people in hospital, and 4 in Intensive Care.

On the deaths being reported, one was from Northland, two were from Auckland region, one was from Waikato, one was from Bay of Plenty, one was from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, one was from Nelson Marlborough, one was from Canterbury, one was from West Coast and one was from Southern. Three were in their 70s, five were in their 80s and three were aged over 90. Of these people, six were women and five were men. There are now a total of 1884 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19,

There were also 128 new cases reported at the border.

Today on Wednesday I got up early to go to hymn singing, and then I met a friend for coffee. It was so nice, we had a good chat. Afterwards I went to the New World supermarket in Khandallah, hoping to get more Olivani dairy-free margarine; they don’t have it here, either. Then JD picked me up. 

In news today, Senator Lindsay Graham has threatened riots if former president Trump is indicted. Riots!  People are really shocked by this.  Meanwhile, it’s reported the Wall St Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch) is wondering if the FBI search gathered up all the remaining classified documents. I am wondering why they didn’t carry out their search sooner; evidently they’d asked for these missing documents several times. The story gets worse and worse: it seems that Trump, far from storing these documents in a secure location, had them all over the place, and sometimes travelled overseas with them. He wrote on some of them. The FBI is reported to be doing a “damage assessment”. 

Mikhail Gorbachev has died at the age of 91. Who could forget President Reagan’s begging “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  That would be the Berlin Wall, which divided Berlin into East and West; I remember the horror when this wall went up. In 1974 JD and I went through Checkpoint Charlie.  The wall seemed permanent, then.  I remember the grey, colourless nature of the East, as opposed to the colourful nature of the West: living it up, for tomorrow they might die.  There was enormous fear that the Soviets would invade. I watched a documentary on Gorbachev a few years ago; I got a biography out of the library, but it was a large tome and I didn’t read it all. He was a remarkable, if conflicted, character.  I guess he’s best remembered for ending communism, and the Iron Curtain; despite a pronounced swing to the right in Hungary and Poland, the Baltic countries are independent, Ukraine is fighting to retain its independence, and everything is very different indeed. The communist governments crumbled so quickly!

Today’s Covid 19 report is as follows: there are 2,244 new cases, and 288 people in hospital, including 2 in Intensive Care.

A further 17 people with Covid-19 have died. Of the deaths, two were from the Auckland region, three were from Waikato, one was from Hawke’s Bay, one from Taranaki, one from Whanganui, three were from the Wellington region, four were from Canterbury, one was from West Coast and one was from Southern. One was in their 50s, two were in their 70s, two were in their 80s and 12 were aged over 90. Of these people, nine were women and eight were men.

In Ukraine, Ukrainian forces are attempting to retake Kherson.

I haven’t been able to catch up with all the news.

It’s now Thursday September 1st.

This morning I went to my Thursday morning singing group.  There were 28 people there! It was lovely. I was exhausted, before and afterwards, but it was heartening to be there. A friend of mine from my hymn singing group was there too.

In the afternoon I had a zoom meeting with Hōhepa. 

Everyone i.e. most people, especially Americans, are shocked to see the photo of classified papers strewn on the floor in Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago. It’s generally assumed that he will be indicted. It’s become apparent that the documents weren’t stored correctly, and that they had been sought for months, despite one of his solicitors signing a document to say that all government documents had been returned. It’s been pointed out, repeatedly, that the documents didn’t belong to Trump, they belonged to the American government, specifically the National Archives. I was shocked, furthermore, at the carpet: surely the former president would have a more attractive carpet in his office?  On Fox News Karl Rove said that Trump was not permitted to take documents from the White House.  There are huge fears for human intelligence (i.e. spies) abroad, as well as whatever other secrets may have been divulged. Trump has made various claims, including saying that all the documents had been returned, when evidently they hadn’t. Evidently Trump claims to have information about French President Macron’s sex life. As he’s a good-looking Frenchman, I don’t think any of us is too surprised, or overly interested.

It’s now Friday September 2nd.

This morning someone came from Access to do some housework. Accordingly, I changed the sheets and towels, emptied rubbish bins, and generally tidied up. Boy, am I tired. Hopefully this feeling will pass.  I told people yesterday that it wasn’t fatigue so much as weakness.

In China three large cities have been locked down – because of Covid 19. In Chengdu 21 million people are locked down; other areas have also been affected. They test everyone there, and always find some asymptomatic infections. I always find that really strange, and it casts queries over the effectiveness of their testing. I don’t know of anyone who had Covid 19 here without any symptoms. Meanwhile, here, the government is thinking about scrapping mask mandates. Many countries have reduced the isolation period from 7 to 5 days.  I guess that’s understandable if one has Covid 19 mildly, but for some of us it takes months or weeks, not days, to get over it.  But there’s no question that the rates of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths are going down. Today there are 1,800 new community cases, and 269 people in hospital with 3 in Intensive Care. There have been 10 further deaths.

Among those who have died, one person who was in their 60s, one in their 70s, six in their 80s and two aged over 90. One person was from Northland, two were from Auckland, one was from Hawke’s Bay, two were from MidCentral, one was from Wellington region and two were from Canterbury. By now 1910 deaths have occurred as a result of Covid 19. Yesterday 2 deaths were reported.

In Russia, the chairman of Lukoil, Ravil Maganov has died after falling out of a 6th floor hospital window. His company had been so bold as to criticise the Russian military exercise in Ukraine, and express sympathy for the victims. This seems very strange indeed, and very unfortunate. He’s reported as being the 8th Russian energy executive to die suddenly this year, and the second from Lukoil.

It’s reported that there are still hundreds of people with the virus in hospital across the country. They are in Northland (four), Waitematā (44), Counties Manukau (25), Auckland (50), Waikato (38), Bay of Plenty (nine), Lakes (seven), Hawke’s Bay (three), MidCentral (13), Taranaki (three), Wairarapa (four), Capital & Coast (17), Hutt Valley (five), Nelson Marlborough (four), Canterbury (31), South Canterbury (five) and Southern (seven). In Wellington there are still 17 people in hospital!

The government is to review New Zealand’s traffic light system in two weeks.

On Saturday we went shopping to New World in Thorndon.  It was raining and overcast, but very busy at the supermarket. They had raspberries!  We bought lettuce, bananas, coffee beans, quiches, salads, peppermint trumpets, and bread. On Saturday evening we re-watched Morning Glory on Eden, bemoaning the fact that on Sunday there are much better offerings. This film seems dated now, but Harrison Ford was very good indeed, I thought. I quite like Amy Adams but she was very AHDH here, I thought.

In the US, more dreadful facts emerge each day as a result of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.  Some of the folders, marked classified, were empty. Where are the contents?  David Brooks agrees with me that the carpet in Trump’s office there leaves something to be desired.  And apparently there’s a public bar in Trump Tower that has been redecorated as a 45-themed bar with a Classified folder on display. People are asking if there are documents in New York, or at his Bedminster Golf Club.

In Ukraine, the Ukrainians are tight-lipped about their ventures in retaking areas taken by the Russians. The International Energy Agency has been allowed to visit the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia, but there are conflicting reports about their difficulties, and how much they were allowed to see. The plant is presently held by the Russians. Everyone is holding their breath, as this is a particularly vulnerable site; a strongly built site, but the Ukrainians didn’t expect it to be shelled, or its backup power generators to be damaged. The Russians have closed down their Nord Stream 1 pipeline; although this was not unexpected, the Russians initially said it was for maintenance for a few days. Now it seems it will be permanent – apart from supplying Hungary, of course.  I think the US needs to export fuel to Europe, but it seems this will happen next year. In the meantime, Europe is in for a cold winter.  The summer has been terribly hot; perhaps their winter won’t be so severe as usual. Some are turning to nuclear power – Germany is reported to be re-opening their nuclear power plants, after closing them. I think nuclear power is terribly dangerous, in any case – it’s fraught with risk, but what if you have a drought, or flooding, or an outage, or an earthquake to destabilize the foundations? We read this morning in Jeremiah 18:1 – 12 about the clay in the potter’s hands, and about how God can fashion the clay.

It’s now Sunday September 4th.

It’s fine and sunny, and it’s Fathers’ Day.  I made a video of JD opening our daughter’s gift to him, and posted it on Storypark.  It didn’t work quite the way I’d intended!

This morning I went to the Johnsonville Uniting Church – a really difficult place to get to, but they had a huge turnout, and had to keep bringing more chairs. The Cantate Ladies’ Choir was there too: they sang Bruckner’s beautiful Locus Iste, Dona Nobis Pacem (I wanted to join in!), and a Negro spiritual song. There were perhaps 12 voices, including a beautiful soprano. Where were the male voices, I wondered? 

The Rev. Reg Weeks took the service, and preached – or gave a reflection. It’s always a joy to listen to him.  Afterwards, I had a long black coffee and a cheese scone at the café at Johnsonville Library. I thought that by going a bit before lunch time, it wouldn’t be so busy there, but it was, and I had to sit on a stool, not a proper chair. It was very nice, though – their cheese scones are pretty good. Then I caught a bus home.

I hesitate to wade in about the Sussexes, again, but Meghan’s two podcast episodes on Spotify and an interview in something called The Cut have aroused interest. By the way, I haven’t listened to any of them, and I think it’s really bad form to dish anyone – be it the Royal Family, Africa (didn’t Prince Harry rather like Africa?), Australia, New Zealand etc etc.  It strikes me that her whining is very like Trump’s – always the victim, with nothing positive to say.  Neither of them is prepared to move on, or look forward. They wuz robbed.  But nobody points out that after having a baby most of us are really  fragile for a while. Some have post-natal depression, which is truly awful; may of us are uncomfortable, with stitches in strange places, sore, leaking and large breasts, and desperately trying to get back into our pre-pregnancy shape; meanwhile, most new mothers don’t get much sleep; and then there’s the whole issue of adjusting to having this new little person not kicking around inside you any more, but having their own life and space and taking up rather a lot of room! They can also make quite a lot of noise – distressing noise, at that.  Leaving the new baby is such a guilt trip, too, and everyone wants to give you advice – much of it contradictory. I remember after I gave birth to my fourth son thinking that I could safely ignore advice, I now knew what I was doing.  But surely most people know this is a fragile time – you don’t just expect to be the person you used to be straight afterwards; that pre-birth person has gone, no matter how settled your baby is.

Anyway, I look forward to Archie and Lilibet being teenagers, and wondering why they don’t know their cousins or grandparents. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of grievances.

That’s it for now. More Covid 19 news tomorrow. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi.

Russian Roulette

The Russian Roulette Scene from The Deer Hunter film (1978)

Today is Friday August 26th, 2022. Kia ora!

It feels as though Russian Roulette is being played on several levels…

Today it’s wet and cloudy again. It’s very grey. It was nice to have it dry for a couple of days!  It was mild this morning, but turned much cooler at midday. Someone from Access came to do some cleaning, and I changed the towels and tidied up a bit. Actually because she came a week ago, the house hasn’t had time to get as messed up as it sometimes does.

This morning I listened to the final episode of the British Scandal podcast about the abdication of Prince David (briefly King Edward VIII, then the Duke of Windsor) in 1936.  While I had been led to believe that he and Wallis Simpson were faced with an impossible situation, it’s more nuanced in fact. A biographer has shown, now that certain documents have been revealed, that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were traitors to Great Britain – a choice they made deliberately, although, of course, the Duke may have felt that he was treated very unkindly and forced into being disloyal. Advising the Nazis to bomb London was surely extremely disloyal not only to his family, but also to the British people. He was a bit of a rake, certainly, and despite his popularity, it was felt that he wasn’t suitable to be king. His infatuation with Wallis Simpson was almost fortuitous, although one can’t help feeling rather sorry for them, being forced into critical situation which made their lives very difficult. They were probably not very well suited to each other.

I have read almost half of the new Stalingrad book.  Although I struggle to keep up with all the military tactical information, some depth of the struggle is being conveyed to me, nonetheless. The eye-witness accounts from both sides, and the dilemmas faced by the Germans, are very interesting

It’s now Saturday August 27th.

It’s cloudy today, and quite cold, but not raining where we are. Last night we watched The Blues Brothers on the Bravo channel.  According to the TV Guide, is started at 8:30 pm; evidently it started at 7:30 pm. JD had seen it before; I enjoyed it, especially the amazing musical acts. A great many cars seemed to be destroyed in this pre-digital era (the film was made in 1980).

I woke early this morning and listened to two Lawfare podcasts, a Rational Security one (featuring the Podfather, Benjamin Wittes), and an update with Roger Parloff on January 6 trials and convictions. Both were very interesting. Apparently some of those indicted for their part in the January 6 insurrection knew about the fake electors. Now that is a surprise.

In the US, the affidavit for the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago has been revealed, with redactions. It has transpired that Trump took 300 documents to his Florida club, most of it highly classified. This was not the FBI’s (or perhaps the National Archive’s) first attempt to retrieve documents, a lawyer of Trump’s signed that everything had been returned back in June. That was clearly not correct. It seems Trump reviewed the documents himself. And where exactly did he store them? Some of the documents were only allowed to be viewed in a Scif. You certainly couldn’t take them out of the White House.  It seems that there was a widespread search of Trump’s quarters at Mar-a-Lago, since confidential documents were not safely stored. It would seem.

In Ukraine, there are various concerns, the main one concerning the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhia. Apparently the power to it has been cut off – then restored – then cut off again. It’s posited that Putin will use it as a bargaining chip; already, there are grave concerns about it, not least about switching off the power to it. This is not a Chernobyl-type situation; this plant was built with much greater care and a robust risk assessment; they didn’t expect it would be fired on, though. That dynamic situation, and Dugina’s sudden death, make for a very highly charged environment in Ukraine and in Russia. Is Ukraine trying to take back Crimea? Who knows. The stakes are incredibly high, and I’m thankful again to be a long way away from that sad situation.

It’s also reported that Putin is burning (wasting) oil, seeing that it can(not) be supplied to most countries in the EU. Meanwhile the Germans are rationing power. A very frustrating situation.

The Ministry of Health is seeking to do its daily 1 pm update on weekdays only, so I’m not sure if there’ll be a report today. Still, the numbers seem to be falling, although people are still dying from Covid 19.  It seems there is no Covid 19 report today.

As has become our custom, we went shopping at New World in Thorndon, where I bought lettuce, tomatoes, oranges and bananas; bread; salads and pies, chocolate, Afghan biscuits with walnuts on top, and coffee beans, and a pizza bread.  We would have bought a large quiche, but they were best before 29/08/22, so I didn’t think we would get to use one up in that time. What a treat!  It wasn’t that busy, and everyone was masked. We didn’t have to wait at checkout. Now it’s fine and sunny!  Woo-hoo!

I have listened to lots of podcasts about the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, including one where Michael Moore went to Mar-a-Lago, and found there was virtually no security there. Rather than being asked to leave right away, or being roughed up, he found lots of media people and celebrities there who wanted selfies with him! Meanwhile there are many reports of classified documents being – where, exactly? Some of them in Trump’s private quarters. Republicans are maintaining radio silence now; no one is commenting. My reaction is – why did the FBI not carry out a search sooner than this?  This story just gets worse and worse – for everyone involved.  And in how many ways is the country’s security at stake? What spies might be rumbled?  What nuclear weapons secrets might have been divulged?  How many times have these documents been photographed – and disseminated?  And what’s the information on French President Emanual Macron?

It’s now Sunday August 28th.

Last night I did not sleep well; I listened to lots of podcasts.  This morning I zoomed into a church service, and begged out of a visit I was going to do with a friend this afternoon. The church service was lovely, and my friend was playing the organ. Sometimes the sound was turned off during the music, but it was left on at the end, when the organist plays a special piece of music.  There didn’t seem to be many people physically at church.

In Ukraine, danger persists at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant, where it’s uncertain  whether the power is on or off, and what if any power is being supplied to the rest of Ukraine. What a perilous, ghastly situation. It’s been going on for six months now, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.  Is Ukraine trying to take Crimea back? Who knows. Reports are murky and contradictory. During the recent Independence Day in Ukraine, 22 people were killed when another area  – Chaplyne- was shelled.  On the other hand, there was a procession in Kyiv of Russian tanks destroyed by Ukrainians.

Today it’s fine, and mild-ish.  We went to one of my son’s house for dinner. That was nice. When we came home, we watched Brokenwood Mysteries, although we missed the initial scenes. The episode made sense, however, and what about the wonderful jackets? After this we watched another episode of Line of Duty – which was incomprehensible to me. It was quite cold. We’d turned all the heaters off before going out, and although we weren’t out for long, it was very chilly when we got home.

It’s now Monday August 29th.

Last night I slept well – woohoo!  I slept until some time after 6 am.  It’s fine today, the sun is shining, but we didn’t have a frost, which is just the way I like it. I get up fairly early, however, and am disappointed too find that the target puzzle is repeated from yesterday’s paper. One less challenge then.

I have almost finished reading The Lighthouse of Stalingrad, my new book by Iain MacGregor. I am now reading the final pages, about how the undoubtedly heroic stories were mythologised in the Soviet media. The book would have benefited by closer proof-reading – I’ve come across several typos, and MacGregor has, at times, a rather strange way of writing, but I’ve found it very interesting, nonetheless.

Los Pumas. The national rugby team of Argentina, has beaten the (not so) mighty All Blacks here in new Zealand last Saturday night. So some of the nation are in a state of mourning. Ian Foster again gets to bemoan his possible fate. Honestly, who’d want to be the All Blacks head coach?

In the US, President Biden has announced some student loan debt forgiveness. This has given Americans something else to get up in arms about – I haven’t gone into the arguments for and against; I just think it shouldn’t lumber you with debt to get a “good” education, assuming that’s what you get, and you’re intelligent enough to study and pass exams. After all, who wants an inferior surgeon operating on them after having a heart attack, or a brain tumour? Or designing a car, for that matter? Or a space ship? Or managing air traffic control?

Today’s Covid 19 report is much better; perhaps, if you stop reporting the results, they improve? There are 1,653 new community cases, and there have been 6 further deaths. There are 341 people in hospital, including 3 in Intensive Care. Over the weekend, there were 228 new cases at the border.

On the deaths being reported today, four were from the Auckland region, one was from the Wellington region and one was from Southern. One was in their 60s, one was in their 70s, two were in their 80s and two were aged over 90. Five were women and one was a male.  One wonders how many people there still are out there in their 90’s. There are now a total of 1869 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor.

We watched the end of My Life is Murder on television one, starring Lucy Lawless; there’s something really annoying about this series, but JD quite likes it. We also watched another episode of Superpumped on Prime; what an odious character young Travis is!  Amongst other things, the battle with Lyft has primacy; Travis also gets to meet Larry Page at the Googleplex. Like many bad people, he is fascinatingly awful. 

There seems to be no Telegraph update on Ukraine today.  It’s reported that people in Ukraine living near the nuclear plant in Zaporizhia have been given iodine tablets.  The situation remains fraught.

Tomorrow I’m to visit a friend, and the next day I’m meeting another friend for coffee.  What treats!

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