Slouching toward Christmas

Today is Monday December 20th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning there is more news from the UK: Liz Truss is to replace Lord Frost in the Brexit negotiations; there’s a photo of Boris and his wife and friends enjoying wine in the 10 Downing Street garden in May last year, when everyone else was in some kind of lockdown; (it certainly doesn’t look like a business meeting; perhaps it was the business of wine testing); and on Sunday 48,071 new coronavirus infections were reported, today 82,886, an increase of 72% on Sunday’s total. Omicron is the dominant variant of Covid 19 in Ireland, and there’s talk in the UK of the British government being recommended by their scientific advisers to impose a new lockdown as a “circuit breaker”.  Dr John Campbell claims that omicron is 60% of new cases in England. A new lockdown has been suggested by Sajid Javid, the new health minister, but Boris Johnson has not approved it yet; no wonder, for people like Lord Frost and some other Conservatives despise restrictive measures. It’s been a continual battle throughout the pandemic, between those in authority who would seek to preserve human life (like the Labour Government in New Zealand and some democratic governors in the US), and right wing people who think business is more important. Here, there’s a heading on the Stuff website that reads: “Pessimism reigns as New Zealand ponders 2022 Economy without elimination strategy”. Really! Wasn’t business desperate to reopen?  Haven’t there been protests about restrictions, about limitations on personal freedoms? You can’t have it both ways. Again, I see why people distrust the media. During 2020 someone made the point that you can’t have a healthy economy without healthy citizens (and that would include citizens who aren’t terrified for their friends and family members). In NWS in Australia, there’s a surge again of cases, including 266 omicron cases.

In the US, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have both tested positive for Covid 19, despite being fully vaccinated and having had booster shots.  The January 6 Committee is reportedly (via Adam Kinzinger) announcing that it’s considering whether Trump committed a crime. Another report tells that it  was Ivanka Trump who encouraged he father to stand outside the church in Lafayette Square in Washington D.C., holding a bible – evidently Mark Meadows has related this in his book.

In New Zealand at 1 pm there is, again, mixed news: there are 69 community cases of Covid 19; cynics would say that the number may be reduced because Aucklanders holidaying in the Coromandel may be too far away to drive to a testing station; but there are 9 new cases of omicron in MIQ! This takes New Zealand’s total to 22.  Surely it’s only a matter of time before it gets out into the community. There are 62 people in hospital, and 7 of them are in Intensive Care. The new community cases are as follows:  Auckland (59), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (2), Taranaki (1).

At some point the length of the MIQ visit shortened from 14 to 10 days, or perhaps to 7 days? This fact has eluded me. Apparently the Cabinet is to meet virtually today to discuss new developments regarding the spread of omicron, and whether the booster shot can take place less than 6 months after the second vaccine shot. I went shopping this morning, thinking again I may as well buy what I can, while I still can.

In Sydney, a young man evidently attended a night club, after receiving a text saying that he’d diagnosed positive for Covid 19. Consequently, about 150 people are having to isolate.

It’s now Tuesday, December 21st.

Today there are 28 new community cases of Covid 19, and 57 people in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care. There are 22 new cases of Omicron in MIQ! That’s nearly as many as there are delta cases in the community! 22! That’s just crazy.  Of the new cases, 21 are in Auckland, 5 are in Bay of Plenty, and 2 are in Taranaki; none in Waikato or Northland today. It would seem that New Zealand is licking this delta variant, but then omicron comes along, and we’re all super spooked by the situation.  The Hon. Chris Hipkins is due to front at a press conference at 2 pm, and is expected to announce any changes to the booster vaccine rollout, and to the proposal to open up external borders.

The announcement, when it comes, is very interesting.  I don’t think I’ve heard Minister Hipkins speak this well before. He had with him the MOH Chief Science Advisor Ian Town and a Maori paediatrician (Dr Danny Delore).  He said that the time for booster shots is being reduced from 6 months after your second jab to four months. JD and I had a our second jabs on 26 August, so we’ll be eligible for boosters from Boxing Day!  Minister Hipkins says at first you can just rock up to a vaccination centre; later they’ll get the revised “Book my vaccine” site up and running.  Records of booster shots are to be added to vaccine passports; they’ll issue new ones from the middle of next year. Workers who were required to be vaccinated will also be required to have booster jabs.

The other changes he announced relate to time spent in MIQ, and external border reopening. He also stressed the unpredictability of the omicron variant of Covid 19, and that the traffic light system may be used to make certain areas red again.  The temporary change to MIQ requires everyone to stay for 10 days; apparently this had been reduced to 7, with a further 7 days isolation out of MIQ.  Everyone on an international flight where someone tests positive for omicron is to be regarded as a close contact. Negative departure tests will be required 48 hours beforehand, rather than 72 hours, which is the present requirement. Vaccines for children aged 5 -11 are to be rolled out from January 17, before school goes back for 2022.

There are also changes to border reopening: the self-isolation date is to be moved back from January 17 to the end of February 2022.

On the whole, I think this is good news: the government’s strategy is to keep Covid 19/omicron out of the community for as long as possible, and, of course, they’re getting daily advice on what’s happening overseas, and what steps should be taken here.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

Aroha

It’s now Friday December 17th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning there’s a whole lot more news: a photo of Boris Johnson at a Pizza party in May 2020, when the country was supposed to be in “lock down”; I put this in inverted commas, because lock down means different things to different people. In Tasmania, 4 children (and later a 5th, in hospital) have died when the bouncy castle they were playing in was picked up by the wind and dropped; Her Majesty the Queen has cancelled her pre-Christmas lunch, for the second year running: a tradition where the family would get together just before Christmas; and the UK has recorded 88,576 new cases of Covid 19.  There is great confusion, in the UK and in Australia, between going liberal and dropping restrictions, and making them more restrictive, amid a scary rise in Covid 19/delta cases, and a rapid rise in omicron cases. As a medical person in the UK pointed out, even if the omicron variant is a milder disease, the fact that it’s growing so rapidly means that probably many will need hospital treatment in any case. People are advised to get booster jabs of vaccination, but many can’t get an appointment, it seems.  In Australia, and the UK, governments rely on vaccination to protect people, but this seems “ae fond wish”.  Two jabs plus a booster may offer some protection against omicron, but there’s difficulty in getting the booster.

In New Zealand news, there are 76 new community cases of Covid 19 today; we assume they’re all the delta variant. There are 51 people in hospital and 5 of these are in Intensive Care. Forty-seven of the new cases are in Auckland, 15 in Waikato, 10 in the Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes and three in Taranaki, taking the total number of active cases to 2104. The last time Auckland had this few new cases was two months ago on October 17. The Ministry of Health has also confirmed that a person died in MIQ on November 2, and that a child under 10 years of age has died from Covid 19. Also, three more passengers, who were on the same flight as New Zealand’s first omicron case, have tested positive for Covid 19.   There has also been Covid 19 detected in the wastewater of Gisborne, again, and people are urged to get tested if they have symptoms of Covid 19. The total death toll in New Zealand from Covid 19 is now 49.

MIQ offers a good defence against the Omicron variant of Covid-19 at the border, but there are concerns it will eventually escape into the community.

People infected with Omicron have much more of the virus in their cells than Delta cases. Omicron is also better at bypassing natural and vaccine-induced immunity to the virus, new evidence suggests.

New Zealand’s first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 arrived on December 10. There are 82 close contacts of the case, most of whom are in managed isolation in Christchurch.

As a result of climate change, the world’s axis has changed, and it’s not quite so stable on its poles as it was. In Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier poses a huge threat, as its break-up could cause a sudden major increase in sea-levels.

In the US, things are truly weird, as people and journalists and talking heads digest the huge news of the texts received by Mark Meadows, surrendered to the January 6 Committee and read out by Liz Cheney. Boy, is she an effective communicator!  I have to say she puts many of her Democratic colleagues to shame.  It’s evident that Jim (Gym) Jordan of Ohio played a huge part (he admitted it!) even before the January 6 certification in encouraging Meadows and Trump’s colleagues to overturn Biden’s win in swing states. It’s also evident that the Fox News hosts were not at all a-political in their texts asking Meadows to ask Trump to call off the insurrection: they feared it would make them look bad! Last night Chris Hayes spoke to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, who were supporters of Trump and had offered to organise the protest and manage the crowds. Although they were then ardent Trump supporters, they did not support the insurrection and invasion of the Capitol, or the march down Pennsylvania Avenue, and became seriously disgruntled with him. These two have been asked to testify, and are now cooperating with the January 6 Committee. It’s evident that all the folk texting mark Meadows believed that only Trump could call off the insurrectionists, and that he failed to do, for over 185 minutes.

In the evening I learn that there are three more cases of Covid 19/omicron in New Zealand, in MIQ in Rotorua. These people flew from Dubai to Auckland, and have since been transferred to the Jet Park isolation facility.  Given how transmissible omicron is, I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the other people that flew with them? The bus driver? The airport employees and police on duty? I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow.

It’s now Saturday December 18th.

Last night we went to a party for work reasons. I was loth to go, but JD thought it was an important choice. We had to sign in, and our vaccine passes were photographed, but there were no masks in sight; there may have been hand sanitizer at the door, but the people serving weren’t wearing gloves.  We didn’t know what kind of party it would be; we hardly knew anyone there, but they were about to serve (a seated) dinner, so we didn’t interact with many others. After we left, I learnt that there are 3 further omicron cases in New Zealand, not connected with the first case, and discovered in MIQ in Rotorua. I feel very nervous about all this.  There were some gaps at the dinner – I figured out why! I took an unnecessary risk, and I rather wish I hadn’t.

This morning the UK Guardian reports that there are 93,045 new cases of Covid 19 in the UK, Is that double yesterday’s total? It’s a large and scary number. Omicron has completely changed the equation. It’s as scary as climate change, which is still scary, by the way.

In the US, there’s all kinds of news. Jeffrey Toobin is back on CNN; presumably he’s done something to redeem himself.  It seems apparent that some of Trump’s Republican colleagues (Jim Jordan, Rick Perry) expected to turn the presidential election for Trump even before the vote was called for Biden by simply not recognising the many democratic voters.  It just gets worse and worse.

The 1 pm statement today is most interesting. There are 39 new community cases of Covid 19 – that’s much lower than it’s been for ages; but there are 4 new omicron cases at the border.  There are actually 10 new cases in MIQ, and four of these are omicron, bringing New Zealand’s total to eight. Of the 39 new community cases, 25 are in Auckland, 11 are in the Bay of Plenty, two are in Lakes and one is in Taranaki. Of the 11 new cases in the Bay of Plenty, eight were in Tauranga and three were in the Western Bay of Plenty. There are 49 people in hospital, including 5 in Intensive Care.

Two Omicron cases arrived in New Zealand from Singapore on separate flights – one travelled on a flight to Auckland on December 13 and the second case was on a flight to Christchurch on December 15.

Of the eight Omicron cases, two were in a bubble but the other six cases were unrelated to each other suggesting no cross-contamination or cross-infection either in-flight or within MIQ facilities, the ministry said.

“We are carrying out whole genome sequencing on all new border cases of Covid-19 to rapidly identify any new cases of the Omicron variant,” the Ministry of Health said.

In the UK, Ireland has imposed an 8 pm curfew on hospitality venues.  That would be pubs!  Boris Johnson and the Tories are smarting from a convincing defeat to the Lib Dem candidate in a by-election, in North Shropshire, a seat that had been a Tory party stronghold. Boris Johnson’s popularity is now waning. To many, this will be a relief.

In the US, information just keeps emerging about the January 6 riot at the Capitol. It seems that at some point it transformed from a legal, managed protest, to being an illegal, shocking and highly violent insurrection. Who ordered it? It’s evident that only one man, Trump, could call it off as witnessed by the many text messages to Mark Meadows.

It transpires, too, that Trump delayed responding to the Covid 19 pandemic early last year, not allowing the CDC to report (according to Dr Deborah Birx).

Wales new restrictions have been impose. Rachel Maddow reports that the Republican party paying Trump’s legal bills, even though he’s no longer a politician.

It’s now Sunday December 19th.  There was no bad news overnight; well not  here, anyway. I went to church, and figured out that Christmas Day is next Saturday, not Sunday. There’ll be a Christmas Eve service, at 11:15 pm, then church on Christmas Day, then church again on Sunday, Boxing Day. After church I learn that in the UK Lord Frost has resigned – the Tory minister who was responsible for the Brexit negotiations.  It’s another nail in Boris Johnson’s coffin, I fear; to mix metaphors further, the knives are really out for him now. What a mess for someone else to clean up. Whatever the new parliamentary priorities, they won’t please everyone. Just look at the US, where poor Joe Biden is prevented from doing good things for people, and is unfairly being held responsible for the rise in Covid 19 cases and the rise in inflation, and he’s not really liked by millennials, either. The coronavirus isn’t his fault!

The 1 pm news release here is mixed: there are a further 5 omicron cases in MIQ (don’t these people have to have a negative Covid 19 test before they come?), and 55 new community cases:  there are 56 in hospital, and 6 of these are in Intensive Care.  There are now 13 cases of omicron in New Zealand in MIQ; thankfully, no community cases as yet. There are new community cases in Auckland (41), Waikato (four), Bay of Plenty (three), Taranaki (seven).

Overseas, the Dutch are going into lockdown before Christmas; in London, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called a state of emergency; Germany has been added to the list of countries that do not welcome British people there. Omicron is running rampant, and even if it’s not such a serious illness for most people, its being so infectious means that some people will still get sick and need hospital care. Games have been cancelled, and there are worries that there won’t be enough well people to provide essential services. This morning I learnt that there are more than 10,000 omicron cases in the UK. It’s spreading really fast.

Back here, we just had a lovely afternoon tea for family in Wellington. My vegan Christmas Cake tasted good, and all the Christmas presents went down rather well.  I had been appalled to find that one gift I had ordered online had come in the wrong colour, but my granddaughter made an adjustment and I think it will be acceptable. Wow, we’re really winding down towards Christmas, now. It’s been a beautiful sunny day, here, although rather windy.

A sixth child has died from the bouncing castle tragedy in Tasmania. No Messiah live performance for me, this December; no Hohepa Christmas plays. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi. À bientot!

Covid for Christmas

It just keeps raining on their parade…

It’s now Wednesday December 15th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I learnt that there is a cluster of covid 19 infections in Eltham, a small town in Taranaki – there are 11 new infections based in one primary school.  Actually there are 15 new infections, and it’s understood that 11 of them are students at the primary school. In the UK, Prime Minister Johnson is seen on television wearing a mask. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear a mask before. In Australia, Covid 19/ delta infections are on the rise in Sydney and Melbourne, and they are still having deaths; in Sydney, many people are isolating after exposure to a Covid 19/omicron case in two bars.  It seems that rather than the delta variant being replaced by the omicron one, you can now have both; the delta variant is still very strong in many places, and omicron is right there almost alongside it. Scandinavian countries are imposing further restrictions, for fear of omicron. In some places, Covid 19/omicron is the dominant variant, and cases are rising very fast. Already in the UK there are difficulties staffing schools, because so many people have come into contact with an omicron case, and are isolating.

Christmas here seems strangely muted, this year. There are Christmas decorations around, but few traditional Christmas trees. And quite a lot of silver tinsel. Silver seems to be the theme colour this year, and there’s a lot of red about – Pohutukawa and poinsettia.  And very few Christmas carols:  this morning I went to our last hymn-singing session for this year, and we sang some beautiful carols: All Poor Men and Humble (I don’t think I’ve sung this since I was in college), O Holy Night, In the Bleak Midwinter (it was cold, bleak and wet this morning), Angels from the Realms of Glory, and In Dulci Jubilo. It was just beautiful. It being the last session for the year, four of us had morning tea together afterwards. Who know when we will sing together again?

I am missing Christmas carols this year. It’s usually a bugbear, but the only time I’ve heard a take-off of Mariah Carey is on the Bulwark podcast; I did hear “Joy to the World” this morning, but where’s Feliz Navidad?  This reminds me of an earlier Christmas, when one group I was singing with couldn’t stand Feliz Navidad, and another wanted to sing just that. It takes all sorts, I guess.

Later in the morning I went into town, and made my way to Commonsense Organics’ new store near the top of Tory Street. I found what I was looking for, a vegan Christmas cake; I then went to the Warehouse and bought some picture frames. Then I went to Moore Wilson’s and got some gluten-free mince pies. By now it was very hot, and although I’d taken my jersey and raincoat off, I was still overdressed. I walked down to the bus stop at the St James Theatre, and caught a bus home.  Those shops are seriously difficult to get to!  You certainly don’t want to be carrying much weight if you have to walk back to the bus stop.

My computer is running extremely slowly today, and it‘s very frustrating.  We are still reeling from Mark Meadows’ text records, especially the ones from Fox News anchors – who have since minimised the violence shown on January 6.

At midnight last night Auckland borders opened, and there were people striving to get out in their cars – at 11:59 pm!  Down here we are bracing for the influx, but thankfully wherever I’ve been today was not busy – the Commonsense Organics store was probably the busiest.

Today there are 74 new cases of Covid 19, and there has been a death, in  Tauranga, of a man in his 30’s. The family have asked that no further details be released. There are 61 people in hospital and four in Intensive Care. Journalist David Farrier has had Covid 19, in Los Angeles. There are new cases in Auckland (56), Waikato (9), Bay of Plenty (7), Lakes (one), Canterbury (one).

It’s now Thursday December 16th. There’s lots of news this morning, mostly, if not all, bad; some weird.  A photo has surfaced of a Tory party held last December for the London mayoralty candidate, which shows platters of food, including canapés, and a group of people, unmasked, standing very close together, for a photograph. Some wore party hats. Meanwhile the Guardian reports 28,438 new Covid 19 cases.  In the US, over 800,000 people have officially died from Covid 19. Congress has voted to hold mark Meadows in contempt, as recommended by the January 6 Committee; the texts he handed over to this committee, as read out by vice-chair Liz Cheney, are still shocking; perhaps the most shocking is the one from Don Jr asking Meadows to call the insurrection off ASAP.  He evidently didn’t have his father’s cell phone number.

The front page of the Dompost highlights that the Hon. Grant Robertson is promising to give money to the health sector: $4m hospitals boost, the front page reads.  I think this is not actually a great deal of money: I heard last night that the figure promised was closer to $4 billion dollars; then I read the article, which says “Two of Wellington’s hospitals will get $4m worth of infrastructure upgrades”. Still, the heading is extremely misleading. Stuff, you have to do better than this! Then I read a headline on my google news feed claiming Christmas is cancelled!  This told of how two planeloads of Australians flying from Sydney to Queensland would have to isolate because of exposure to a Covid 19 case – deemed an over-reaction. All this was before I had my breakfast.

I then watched Dr Campbell’s talk on Youtube, which claimed, unlike his earlier optimism, that the omicron variant was like a light flu, and/or that it would replace Covid 19/delta, a very dismal outlook, saying that omicron is 8 times more infectious than delta (certainly not twice as infectious, as was earlier reported; NHS hospitals are being emptied out in preparation for an influx of Covid 19 patients; footballers are isolating, and there’s fewer people left to drive tube trains or lorries and there’ll be some shortages. A football game has been cancelled!  While Covid 19/omicron may be a mild disease in South Africa, that is very different from the UK and much of Europe, which is heading into winter and very short, cold days. The Ashes series is being played, but the new Australian captain will miss the second test because he has to isolate, having come into contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid 19. Well done, bro!

I go to the last singing session for the year. It’s lovely, of course, and we sing several Christmas carols, including Feliz Navidad. We also sang Silent Night( in English and Māori), O Come all ye Faithful, Away in Manger, and Jingle Bells. Then we enjoyed a very nice lunch, with savouries, sandwiches, cakes, fruit, and a savoury platter with cheese, crackers, olives and so on. Most people aren’t going away for Christmas – sadly, we’re staying here in wellington, in case anything happens. It’s going to be a very muted Christmas.

While we were singing, there was an Anti-Vax protest in Wellington, organised by Brain Tamaki’s daughter.  The marchers were joined by the Mongrel Mob, of course. They were due to march from Civic Square to Parliament – which closed for the year yesterday.  One of my singing colleagues’ nephews warned her about it – he caught a train into Wellington from Paraparaumu, and it was full of rowdy protesters. Others warned about traffic and transport disruption in the city. It seems a shame that these loud voices drown out the majority of quiet, civil, respectful, law-abiding citizens, who really care about their children, grandchildren and their friends.

Here the weather’s still terrible; actually it’s not terrible, but it’s drizzly and overcast, although not particularly cold.  It’s certainly not summery, although we don’t have gale force winds, which I guess is something to be grateful for.

Ironically, what is now State Highway 59 is blocked in both directions ar Pukerua Bay, because of a slip. The rain must have been quite heavy up there. SH59, by the way, used to be State Highway 1 – the main route north. The new Transmission Gully road will become SH1, when it opens. This closure must be so frustrating for people – anything to keep those Aucklanders away!  Actually, I know why they have to get away – it’s the humidity!

I’m reading this afternoon that the variants delta and omicron may merge to create something more deadly, more awful. Meanwhile it must be a southerly wind, because planes just keep flying overhead. I find it quite annoying.

Today the total number of community cases in New Zealand is 91, and there are 58 people in hospital with 4 in Intensive Care. Aotearoa is 90% fully vaccinated, the stuff website claims. I hope this claim isn’t guesswork. Apparently the paediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine has been approved here by Medsafe for children aged 5 to 11 years. There are new cases in Auckland (55), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (10), Lakes (1), Taranaki (16 – 15 of which were announced Wednesday).

I also read that the first case of omicron has been diagnosed in New Zealand – now that’s a shock. It’s in managed isolation (MIQ) in Christchurch, I gather from Stuff. The Ministry of Health is to address the country at 4:20 pm about this case.  I expect it had to turn up sooner or later.  Apparently the person had been double-vaccinated. I listen to the press conference, which is fronted by Dr Bloomfield. He looks a bit rushed, and his hair is not quite as tidy as usual. He’s reassuring, as ever; the timing for booster jabs is being reconsidered: he’ll be recommending somewhere between 1 and 6 months gap (Ha Ha!). This case travelled from Germany to Auckland, and then travelled in a group by charter plane from Auckland to Christchurch; everyone is regarded as a close contact and is isolating blah blah. There may be localised lock downs in future. For the rest – wait and see.  I later learn that this case has been in the country for 6 days. Am I surprised? Not really. I remember saying we’d be told sometime that omicron was in New Zealand, and, by the way, it had been here for a few days.

In NSW, delta cases are on the rise again. Perhaps delta is jealous of omicron!

Britain has recorded nearly 79,000 new Covid-19 infections in a single day amid warnings that the United Kingdom would continue to “break records” in the weeks ahead as the Omicron variant rampaged through the country. That’s a lot more then I reported earlier from the Guardian; perhaps the lower number was for London, or for a particular area, not the whole of the UK.  It’s also reported that in the UK infection rates are doubling every two days.

That’s it for now. There’ll  be more news tomorrow, no doubt. Ngā mihi.

Texts and Wild Weather

It’s still Monday December 13th, 2021. Kia kaha!

This morning I went to see the film The French Dispatch at the Lighthouse Theatre in Wigan St. I had to show my vaccine pass, and they recorded my name and phone number against my booking. I had a couch to myself and felt quite safe there.  But I did not enjoy the movie. It was seriously weird, and not about a French newspaper but a Kansas one. I should have read the review praising it first. It was directed by Wes Anderson. I had to see it, but I should have known better. Thank goodness I didn’t take JD. He would have wondered, loudly, just what we were doing there. If we’d been watching it at home, I would have recommended watching something else. I wasn’t brave enough to walk out. Frances McDormand was wonderful in it, of course, but she wasn’t on for the whole movie, which was a series of vignettes.  It was very theatrical, with scenery being slid on and off-screen as though it were a play or an opera.

I’ve later remembered the artist who was discovered in a lunatic asylum, and his art was made to become famous. This has a close connection with an issue of the London Review of Books that I read recently, which featured a very long article about the Neuherne Mental Hospital in Ireland, which was not closed until 2013. The author’s mother had worked there, and had seen various changes in the ways that mentally ill people were treated. One of the treatments was the use of art therapy, and the discovery that many people who could not function well in the “real’ world were in fact wonderful, if untrained, artists.

When I came out of the movie, I stopped at a café for lunch. The kitchen was closed, but they served cabinet food. I was really hungry by this time and had a very nice little mince pie that had dried fig in it as well as my sandwich and coffee. I then caught a bus home and JD picked me up in Johnsonville.

While I was having my lunch, I caught up with the news. The South African Prime Minister, Cyril Ramaphosa, has Covid 19. In the UK, Prime Minister Johnson has called an emergency – cynics would claim it’s partly to distract from his other problems, that are getting worse, not better.

The figures today, at 1 pm, are not too bad: there are 101 new cases of Covid 19, and 61 people in hospital, including 4 in Intensive Care. Ninety-seven of the new cases announced were in Auckland, while new cases were also reported in Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Nelson-Marlborough and Canterbury.

At 4 pm there is a press conference, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern. She announces that on 30 December, most of the country, including Auckland, will move to Orange status. Northland is to remain at Red – I suspect at the request of Maori kaumatua. There are grizzles, of course – why can’t Auckland move earlier? I think that’s wise, though. The strategy is still pretty risky. The next  review is scheduled for January 17, 2022, and Prime Minister Ardern said she is aware of the threat posed by the omicron variant, and the government may make changes to proposed relaxation of MIQ rules, i.e. fully vaccinated people will be able to isolate at home for 7 days;  the implication being that this requirement may be changed. January 17 seems a long way away, for now.

It’s now Tuesday December 14th.  This morning I listened to a podcast announcing that the Steele Dossier, in particular the famous “pee-pee tape” has been discredited; i.e. the source for this information, which could not be independently verified, is a Russian living in the US who has been charged with lying to federal investigators.  Naturally, this is being used by the Right Wing of American politics to discredit the Russia investigation.  It was pointed out in the podcast by New York Times journalist Michael Schmidt that offences charged as a result of the Mueller Report had nothing to do with the Steele Dossier. There were many things to be concerned about, from well before Trump became President.  Trump himself is said to have answered then FBI chief James Comey, “Do I look like I need hookers?”  Not a great reply, but his concern that Melania might find out was proved to be valid when it was later shown that he had paid off sex workers with whom he’d had affairs, fearing that this wasn’t a good look. So that’s disappointing, but it doesn’t invalidate the rest of Mueller’s findings, or indeed the concerns that many of us had.

I learnt this morning that someone with omicron has died in the UK;  meanwhile, a South African doctor is telling us not to overreact. The omicron variant is now the majority of cases in many European countries. It has even reached China. Prime Minister Johnson is very concerned. He has lots of things to be concerned about.

This morning I also listened to the Bulwark podcast. It featured Charlie Sykes talking to Damon Linker of The Week, who usually features on Mona Charen’s Beg to Differ podcast.  I think he’s the centre-left dude. Anyway, I thought he spoke quite well. until it came to the matter of Ukraine’s defence. Like so many others, he seems to have forgotten that the US and the UK guaranteed Ukraine’s defence if they relinquished their nuclear weapons. Now they stand to be invaded by their larger neighbour, Russia, and President Biden has said that while there may well be other sanctions, the US has no intention of sending troops there. While the situation is complicated, I do feel that there’s an obligation to the West to defend Ukraine. It really upsets me to see the US seeming reluctant to accept their obligations here, although of course one doesn’t want to see any military situation escalate. 

Back In New Zealand, Aucklanders are waiting with eager anticipation for their borders to open at midnight tonight. The rest of New Zealand waits with trepidation! Air NZ has put on extra flights, for Aucklanders (12,000!) desperate to get away. Poor things, I hadn’t realised that Mangawhai Heads and beach are north of the Auckland border. Meanwhile, the weather is terrible: it’s raining in Wellington, and there’s been some flooding further north. Many flights have been unable to operate as scheduled. Who’d want to go anywhere in this downpour? Everywhere one does go, one’s thinking – are many people there? If so, perhaps I should avoid it.  I find that I am forgetting my mask sometimes.

There is a new poll out, in which the National Party has gained at the expense of Act, not Labour.

Today there are 80 new community cases of Covid 19/delta, a welcome new low. There are 62 people in hospital, and four in Intensive Care. There are new cases in Auckland (51), Waikato (21), Bay of Plenty (seven), and Lakes (one). A large proportion of the Waikato cases are in Te Kuiti.

Several members of a flight crew have been identified as close contacts of an Omicron variant case in Australia, the Ministry of Health announced. These crew members arrived in New Zealand last night and are in a MIQ facility, as per standard international air crew arrival procedure. That news is pretty scary.

There is also an additional case in Christchurch, which was reported after the cut-off so will be officially recorded in Wednesday’s case numbers.

Aucklanders are warned to expect gridlock on the roads, as they escape the confines of their spacious city. Meanwhile, Wellington traffic causes problems too: JD was supposed to go to a training session in town, but it’s been postponed because the presenter was stuck in traffic. Last Friday, someone else couldn’t come to our last Art Group session for the year because she was stick in traffic in Petone. Really!  It’s doubtful that the new Transmission Gully highway will open before Christmas. I’d say it’s especially unlikely, given the amount of rain we’ve been having, but it’s tantalising to see it looking almost ready from the north Wellington end, with new signs covered up, and the road smoothed out. For so long we’ve been travelling at reduced speed over a bumpy surface in preparation for the big opening. At the northern end, the Waikanae expressway is wonderful, and it seems to inch back towards Paekakariki, and forward to north of Otaki, each time we head to Napier. I guess in future we’ll have to get off this lovely new road to stop at my favourite café in Otaki. I am not always in favour of new roads, but this one is quite wonderful, I think, and much safer, being dual carriageway.  One time we stopped off in Paraparaumu, another in Waikanae, and it was still really busy there off the motor/express way. But there’s no rush to open the new road.

In the US, Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff to the former guy, has been held in contempt by the January 6 Committee for defying their subpoena to testify to this Committee. He joins Steve Bannon in this (dis)honour. Correction: the January 6 Committee has voted to hold him in contempt of Congress. The Congressional vote is to follow. Before the vote, Liz Cheney read more text messages to Mark Meadows, including ones from Fox News Hosts and one of his sons, (Don Jr!) begging the then president to call off the rioters who invaded the US Capitol. These are truly shocking. I have watched a number of news clips, each showing Mark Meadows in a worse light as newly revealed information comes to light.  It is shocking, indeed; the insurrection on January 6 was shocking, but the information being revealed now is even more so. Apparently he wanted to keep the national guard on hand to protect the rioters, not the politicians or the police struggling to hold the line.

After these requests, the Fox News hosts went right back to their usual right-wing blather. By the way, Chris Wallace has left the animal channel. Just like that!

That’s it for now. I’m sure there’ll be more news soon.  Ngā mihi.

Gaudete!

Today is Sunday December 12th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I went to church. Today, on Gaudete Sunday, the Advent theme is Joy. Gaudete is a command, it’s in the Latin imperative mood: “Rejoice!” There seemed to be fewer people there than usual, both physically and on zoom, although the rules have been relaxed: we can now pass the peace of Christ (some shoulder bumps!), and they were having morning tea afterwards.  My friend Malcolm played the organ, and that was beautiful. ”It was raining quite heavily today, and it’s quite a bit colder than it has been.

There’s been no bad news overnight, but today there are 103 new community cases of Covid 19, and there are 61 people in hospital, including 3 in Intensive Care. On reflection, frustrating as this outbreak is, I think the New Zealand government has managed it rather well, keeping the numbers of those in hospital limited, and limiting the number of deaths. Are the vaccines making a difference? One hopes so. The new cases are in Auckland (86), Northland (two), Waikato (nine), Bay of Plenty (three), Canterbury (two) and Lakes (one). One case in Taranaki and one in Nelson-Tasman were also confirmed, but would be added to Monday’s total, the Ministry of Health said.

Back here, Dr Michael Baker, ever a voice of caution, advises against opening borders (presumably overseas ones) as advised by the government, given the presence of the Covid 19/omicron variant overseas;  Aucklanders are apparently desperate to be anywhere but Auckland. In Australia, people are now advised to get a booster shot of vaccine 5 months after their second shot; in New Zealand, the advice was considered, and remains – after 6 months. In NSW, it was reported today that there are 11 cases of omicron, and one of those is in hospital.  Perhaps the hope that it wouldn’t make people so sick is a pipe-dream. 

Last night, again on Maori television, we watched the film Learning to Drive, starring Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson. This film too was about relationships, and their challenges, especially marital ones. It was a good film.

Tonight on Māori television we watched Lilting, a charming film about the relationship between the partner of a gay man who dies by accident, and his partner’s non-English speaking Chinese mother, who did not know that her only son (Kai) was gay. The former partner engages a young woman fluent in Chinese and English to translate, and sometimes navigate, between the mother and her romantic relationship with another man, and between Kai’s mother and himself.

I am reading another novel by Elizabeth Strout called Oh William! This was recently published, and I reserved it from the library. I had read the first book in the series called My Name is Lucy Barton.  The book I’m reading is quite intense, focussing as so many modern books do on family relationships, and their ups and downs. Lucy is somewhat fortunate in that although her second husband David, whom she really loved, has died, her first husband William, father of her two daughters, who remarried twice after she left him, and is now alone again, turns to her for support. Now they have a different relationship, now that they’re both more mature and they have adult children, but aren’t grandparents, yet.  Reading this book has forced me to re-evaluate many of my own relationships, and see them in a different light. It has also struck me how different things are when lack of money is not a concern, and doesn’t affect all the decisions one makes. One of the interest questions it explores is to what extent we marry our parents. 

It’s now Monday December 13th. What a lot has happened! Here in New Zealand, a new case of Covid 19 has been diagnosed in Rotorua. There is to be a press conference at 4 pm, where Prime Minister Ardern is expected to announce any changes to New Zealand’s traffic light system. It’s reported that Auckland will be deserted over the holiday break: people are desperate to get out of there, although it’s a big place with lots of beautiful beaches.

Overseas, it’s reported that several cases of Covid 19/omicron are now in hospital in the UK So much for it being a “light flu”. I remain sceptical.

In the US, there has been a devastating series of tornadoes, wreaking havoc through several mid-western states, and cutting a swathe of destruction. Some of the worst damage has been done in the Kentucky town of Mayfield. While the odd house is still standing, the scenes of devastation are shocking.  Someone asked about going door-to-door to offer help: but there are no doors! The power and the water are off, of course. Yesterday it was reported that 70 people had died; today they’re saying at least 100.  There were terrifying cries for help from people who had sheltered in a candle factory in Mayfield. This isn’t hurricane season; tornadoes like this in December are very unusual.

Also in the US, and the UK, damaging information just keeps leaking out.  Both about the January 6 riot in the US, and the Christmas Party at 10 Downing Street in December 2020, when Christmas was cancelled for most people.  I saw somewhere that information about this event would keep coming out, and so it has. Now there is film of Boris Johnson holding a quiz show at this meeting where no rules were broken.  One can’t escape the conclusion that there is one rule (or perhaps no rules) for Tory MPs and another set of rules and expectations for everyone else. Far be it that Tory MP’s and their PM should lead by example. Boris Johnson continues to face more heat on this issue.  Many other issues are being brought up, like, for example, the British leaving Afghanistan recently, when the Foreign Secretary was on holiday, and apparently pets (i.e. dogs) were given air priority over desperate Afghans.  No one is covered with glory by this withdrawal.  Most agree that it’s a good thing that the US war against Afghanistan (that never should have happened, in my view), has ended, but the withdrawal was chaotic.  Now the Taliban are in charge there; woman cannot go to work and girls cannot go to school; there have been ghastly reports of random killings and violence; and now there is a grave humanitarian crisis, where people don’t have enough to eat.  This poses a further problem for those who would help: hunger is hunger, whoever’s in charge, and however badly they’ve managed the situation.

In the US, Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff to the former guy, seems to be very confused; he’s written, and hawked, his book, which tells, amongst other things, that Trump has a positive Covid 19 test several days before he revealed that he’d tested positive.  People are shocked that he put Joe Biden and many others at risk; he was infectious at the dreadful first debate with Joe Biden.   But evidently the former guy did not appreciate this! Meadows was cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee; now he’s not cooperating; he’s suing Congress and Nancy Pelosi; but he’s already given the January 6 Committee many papers, including a power point presentation, that sets out (with many conspiracy theories) how Trump could retain the presidency. Evidently he’s not a wealthy person; he could well be having trouble with legal fees. In what is seen as another legal defeat for Trump, a Court of Appeal has ruled, very quickly for them, in a voluminous report that he cannot withhold January 6 communications with the White House from the January 6 Committee. A news anchor and a commentator were prepared to say this report is scathing, and although this matter is due to go ot the Supreme Court, there is doubt that they would take it up.

In the US, coronavirus is surging in many places, even without the omicron variant, which is hardly surprising after Thanksgiving celebrations. I repeat, again, the Good Lord gave you a brain; perhaps you should use it, and be thankful in private. Give this year’s celebrations a miss – they will probably make you sick. This scourge too will pass.

In Russia, troops are massing on the Ukrainian border, and the world is poised to see if Putin will invade Ukraine.  When the USSR broke up, and Ukraine became a country separate from the Russian Federation, it gave up its nuclear weapons in return for the US and the UK guaranteeing its safety. Does anyone remember this?  Rachel Maddow reminded us during one of her shows last week. President Biden has had a discussion with Putin, but on the animal channel, and other right wing television channels, the anchors are taking Putin’s side against Ukraine’s independence.  Another scene of interest is the nation of Taiwan, where its much larger neighbour, China, is continuing to display some very scary and threatening actions.

So what will happen? Will the January 6 Committee succeed? Will Bojo fall? Will anyone cheer up? Will something dreadful (like the Challenger disaster, the Indonesian Tsunami or the Texas freeze) happen in January? Many times we’ve got through Christmas, and the joy of the Saviour’s birth, even the Boxing Day sales, muted New Year celebrations, and then something dreadful happens. Yesterday we sang Joy to the World; I remember last year in the US people singing “Joy to the polls”! Peace be with you. There is much to be thankful for.  Rejoice! Ngā mihi.

Boosters!

Today is Thursday December 9th, 2021. Kia ora!

Last night I read that Covid 19/omicron has been diagnosed in Victoria.  They are still having numbers of infections, and deaths there, from Covid 19.

This morning I went to my Thursday singing group. This was complicated by the fact that we on the desk needed to sight vaccine passports, and that most people now needed to pay for the remaining sessions of the year. As well, the Community Centre staff had to photograph vaccine passports. Apart from that, it was lovely, and everyone was very friendly.  It was also colder, and overcast – drizzling at times.

At 1 pm we heard that there are 103 community cases today.  There are new cases in Opotiki and in Canterbury, but these will be included in tomorrow’s total. A staff member at another elder-care facility in Auckland has diagnosed positive – a rest home in Mangere East.

In the US, Mark Meadows, former chief of staff to the former guy, has stopped cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee.  He’s written a very-enlightening book – and has perhaps offended his former boss.  His “fake news” is very interesting, telling tales as it does of Trump’s illness from covid 19. As reported earlier, Trump was much more ill than he let on.

Covid 19/delta is still killing 1,000 people a day in the US, according to Chris Hayes “All in” programme.

It’s now Friday December 10th – an overcast day, with drizzling rain and very low clouds. It’s not summery at all, although it’s not cold. Is this our punishment for having a mild winter?

This morning, or rather, at midday was the last meeting of our Art group for 2021, so I really wanted to go.  I sorted out what we wanted to take there, amongst the range of paints, paper and brushes, and we set off. However, we were quite late (Grrr! I hate being late), and we couldn’t find anywhere to park, so we went shopping instead. Again, there were no carols at the supermarket. Yesterday I noted missing the nice end-of-year gathering the lovely ladies at the  Khandallah Community Centre usually organise; tonight there is a carol evening at the church I go to, but the weather’s not great for that.

Thankfully at the supermarket they are more relaxed now. JD could come in without his own trolley; they packed my goods (very welcome), and they had lots of lovely Christmas fruit at great prices: I bought raspberries, strawberries and asparagus, fresh bread, and a chocolate snail. I really want to hear some carols, though: I miss them.

On the way home I stopped at the library to pick up a reserved book. Again, my vaccine passport was scanned.  I do find this hi-tech approach a bit scary.

Last night we had a chat with our son in the UK, He’s presently in Glasgow. He and his wife have cancelled their planned trip to Tenerife. Secretly, I’m relieved – the risks posed by the volcano on La Palma island, and the various Covid 19 tests required, to say nothing of the omicron variant, are just too great, in my view.  The British Government, reeling from the Downing Street Christmas Party (that wasn’t) allegations, has put in place a “work from home” order, which my son is not happy about.  Furthermore, their new house is actually very old, and quite hard to heat – although it’s been very cold and they’ve had snow already.

As the Covid times progress, about to enter into their third year, disinformation abounds – mainly about the vaccines. The national party has a new leader, the former CEO of Air NZ, Chris Luxon.  He is very bald, tall, and authoritative, in the way a right-wing guy would be. He has a smiling sidekick, I think she’s called Nicola. At least she’s  not blond. I haven’t heard her speak, or even that she’s been given an opportunity to do so. Judith Collins is now not on front bench. I guess that’s a relief, for now. Todd Muller, briefly a former leader of the Nats, until he had a nervous breakdown, undecided to retire from politics.  Chris Luxon has shown himself to be severely tone deaf over several issues; his worst gaffe, I think was admitting that he owns 7 properties – he’s the elected politician with the most property. He claimed that house prices should fall, but not by too much, since he owns 7. Many people are homeless, other struggle to buy a property, and we struggle to maintain our own house, which surely needs many things done to it.  Housing is a big problem in New Zealand. You’d think that in this wealthy, spacious country everyone could have a sound, warm home and enough good food to eat, but sadly, it ain’t so. Luxon’s apparent greed doesn’t help. He’s also claimed that the Auckland borders should be open, that Auckland should be Green, not Red, and that the traffic light system  “makes no sense”. To this, one is tempted to reply: “do  you need it explained to you in words of one syllable, then?”  The rest of us are quite nervous about the Auckland borders being open from 15 December; some will go to the Coromandel; evidently many will go to Queensland, and some will go to Hawkes Bay; the far North and the East Cape don’t want Aucklanders, and who can blame them?  I suspect (and hope) we’re too boring in the capital for many to come here, although they may wish for less humidity.

In other news, Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, has tested positive in the US for Covid 19. Omicron has advanced in many countries, although, one hopes, not here in New Zealand yet.  We still don’t really know how severe it will be; there is some talk that if you have the Pfizer vaccine, plus a booster shot, you’re well protected.  If it’s less severe – just like flu, really (I always found flu to be quite a severe illness, not usually requiring hospitalisation, but capable of making one feel pretty awful for several days), then presumably there’ll be less testing.  Up till now, I suspect contact, or feeling terrible and unable to breath, or taste things, had caused much of the testing.

Today there are 95 new community cases of Covid 19; there are 54 people  in hospital, and there have been two further deaths in hospital from Covid 19. In the press, there are more dire warnings about the capacity and ability of hospitals to provide care, and intensive care if required. Thankfully, so far, it’s been kept in check. There are 95 new community cases, across Auckland (75), Waikato (11), Bay of Plenty (5), Lakes (one), Nelson-Tasman (one), and two in Canterbury. A new case in Taranaki will be recorded in Saturday’s numbers.

It’s now Saturday December 11th – another grey-ish day, although not cold. Last night I watched the movie The Nest on Netflix. What a strange, sad film, I’m not a fan of Jude Law; the character he played conformed closely to my view of him.  The story was quite interesting, as it unfolded.

This morning’s paper’s front page says: Capital Waits to Welcome Aucklanders. Really? I suppose the tourism industry would welcome a boost (craft beer tours, anyone?) but many of us wonder why they’d want to come here. We have nice coffee bars, but so do they; they have to be double-vaxxed and have a negative Covid 19 test before they come, but even so, I’m pretty wary. There’s lots of research about the omicron variant of Covid 19, with most not wanting to down-play it too much. It’s agreed that it’s very contagious indeed; while it may not make you as sick as the delta variant, if it infects a lot of people who will be left to do essential work?  It also seems that you need a booster jab of an approved  vaccine to be considered immune; we aren’t eligible until February 2022, having had to wait for our jabs until the end of July. Let’s hope that omicron stays out of New Zealand.

Today there are 63 new community cases of Covid 19, and 60 people in hospital, with three in Intensive Care. This is the lowest number of community cases since October 20th. It’s very welcome news. There are no nasty surprises; the cases are located as follows: Auckland (53), Northland (two), Waikato (three), Bay of Plenty (one), Taranaki (one), and Canterbury (two).

In the US there is a lot of talk (podcasts, books, newspaper articles, discussions) about American elections, and the threat of losing what they are pleased to call “democracy”.  It’s true that the prospect is terrifying many folk, including me; Barton Gellman of the Atlantic magazine wrote a very scary article about this, which has received a lot of attention, but he admitted that he’s a journalist, and doesn’t know what to do about this situation. It’s maddening, for sure, and, by the way, why can’t the Democrats be more like Republicans? Many people are now asking whether Democrats realise the potential seriousness of the problem. Will Republicans take back control of the House of Representatives (the US Congress) in the id-term elections to be held in 2022? I won’t think about that possibility, for now.

There are always swings and roundabouts in US politics.  The January 6 Select Committee has received a lot of evidence.  All power to them, and their investigation.

In the UK, Boris Johnson is at last facing some pushback from various crises, the main one being the Christmas party held at 10 Downing Street in December 2020, when, for the rest of the Brits, Christmas was cancelled.  Daily revelations about this party, which may or may not have occurred, are deeply disturbing, especially to people who lost loved ones to Covid 19 at this time and couldn’t visit them. Apparently Boris has a new baby daughter – that might explain his rambling Peppa the Pig speech. Lack of sleep, and minding a toddler, will do that to you. In response to the omicron variant of Covid 19. Boris is trying to introduce some restrictions, but many Tory MP’s don’t support him in this.

What’s ahead? Better weather, one hopes, no omicron, and a steadily lowering total of Covid 19/delta infections.  That’ll do me for Christmas. Ngā mihi.

A Challenging Birthday

Napier’s beautiful Clive Square

It’s now Tuesday December 7th, 2021. Kia ora!

Today JD and I just got back from Napier. Mostly, we drove through heavy rain, with the temperature much cooler as we headed south. The rain was heaviest between Levin and Otaki, but I couldn’t find any news about the weather on the stuff or the rnz website, although I did hear a report from a woman who lived in Te Horo and was stuck in her home, since the road to it had been closed because of flooding. Naturally, I was quite anxious, and wondered if we should look for a motel in Otaki. But we got home just fine, after driving through what turned out to be the worst of the rain.

On Saturday we had headed north to Napier, for our daughter’s birthday. We had both had Covid 19 tests, as requested, on the previous Thursday afternoon, and we each got a text message just before we left Wellington to say we’d tested negative.

We stopped for lunch at Otaki – my choice, although the café was quite busy, and although we’d ordered cabinet food, we had to wait a while to be served, after having our vaccine passes photographed.  Then we headed north-west again, arriving in Napier late afternoon.

The motel where we stayed was a huge disappointment. I had stayed there some years ago with my eldest son, and my daughter had been evacuated there when she still stayed at Clive, so I was disposed to think well of it. I’m sure I was quoted a lower price than we paid, too. I booked through Wotif, which seemed to be the only option – and unsubscribed from their endless emails. (They’re still sending me emails. Grrr! How was check in?)

The motel had beautiful gardens, but tight and limited parking. Our studio unit was small, with no bath, and a very small shower. I joked o JD that it was a good thing he wasn’t any larger, and, by the way, he’d have trouble falling over in this shower. There wasn’t much room to put our sponge bags in the bathroom. In the bed-sitting room, there was a queen-size bed, a desk with one chair, a luggage rack, a wardrobe, and two armchairs – with no cushions and no headrest.  There was a breakfast bar with two high stools – no table to sit down at.  There was a fridge, hot water jug, microwave, and two elements, but no free toiletries in the bathroom, and no shower cap, despite the shower not having a hand-held unit like most modern showers do. This was not a place we wanted to spend a lot of time with our daughter, although they did have a playground, a pool, a spa pool, a pool table and table tennis table, and a guest laundry.  You’d think twice about using shared facilities at this time of Covid 19, though, especially with our vulnerable daughter.

The first night we had dinner at Portofino.  They have plenty of room there. They photographed our vaccine passes, and were happy to feed us. I had very nice bruschetta and salad, and my favourite veal in marsala sauce, with vegetables. I even had a glass of a very nice prosecco, that wasn’t too sweet.

I had a pretty bad night the first night, waking up after I’d been asleep for about an hour, and having trouble getting back to sleep. It was very hot, and I couldn’t get comfortable. That day we picked up our daughter, and she spent the day with us. Fortunately, she had a mask-wearing exemption, but no vaccine pass, so we had to cancel the lunch that we’d planned with her flatmates. We had to keep a detailed diary of everywhere she went. I had planned where we would go, so this worked out well. Fortunately, we were able to sit outside one of the cafés and have lunch – they didn’t require vaccine passports, and we sat outside and listened to the bells of Clive Square playing Christmas carols. We also heard Christmas carols playing in Whitcoulls; otherwise, there was a man playing Abba’s Fernando on a portable keyboard. Town was busy but not crazy busy – there were people around, but not enough to be threatening.

After lunch, we played mini-golf, and then went for a swing – the park where we went was deserted!  Then we went back to the motel, which was now a bit cooler.

The second night I woke again after a short sleep, but found it easier to get back to sleep again.  I had thought about staying somewhere else, but couldn’t really be fagged moving everything.

On Monday it rained! I was so relieved that we’d spent the previous fine day with our daughter.  We picked her up in the afternoon, and had her birthday “party” at our motel: fish and chips (at her request), raspberries and ice cream, and birthday cake. We sang the birthday song, but were careful to put the candles for her to blow out in her portion, rather than the whole cake.  I greatly admired the lovely book her brother had given her. Then we took her back to her house, and said goodbye – outside the house. What a strange and memorable birthday, and a sad goodbye.  We had planned to come here for Christmas again, but we won’t this year. Consequently I had to organise all the Christmas presents that we were leaving behind – wrapping and labelling gifts for my daughter and her carers and flatmates. There’ve been no statistics that I’ve seen about special needs people having covid 19, but I sincerely hope that none of these folk get it. People like her seem very vulnerable.

On the third night we both slept much better, for some reason; it was a bit cooler, we were more used to the bed, and our surroundings, and it was quiet.

The next day I bought some Danbo cheese at the Hohepa Shop, and we headed back to Wellington.  We usually stop in Woodville for lunch, but we didn’t want to this time; and we didn’t want to go to McDonalds in Dannevirke, either, although it’s one of the better ones. We stopped at a café – not a very good one, but there was no one else eating there, and they didn’t require vaccine passports there. I guess that tells you something, too. I was looking for a café where we’d been before, but perhaps this hadn’t survived two lockdowns. There were very few parking spaces in Dannevirke. Then we drove back to Wellington, where one of the first things I did was to turn on our coffee machine.

On Tuesday there were 98 new community cases: 74 in Auckland, 10 in Waikato, 8 in Bay of Plenty, 1 in Taranaki, and 5 in Nelson/Marlborough.

It’s now Wednesday December 8th. I slept well last night, and got up early to go to hymn-singing. It was lovely, as always; we finished by singing “O Holy Night”. None of us is Pavarotti, but I think we sang it rather well. We certainly enjoyed singing it. There’s one more session before Christmas, and then – who knows?

The weekend, on reflection, was quite a challenging time, in many ways.  Having the Covid 19 tests, urgently, on Thursday afternoon, was a novelty, although I didn’t find it bad at all. On Friday, someone was supposed to come from Access to do some housework. This was only the second time this person had come, and she was supposed to come at 11:40 am. I got ready and waited (i.e. I changed the towels, emptied the rubbish, put washing away, tidied up the toys, and did some other tidying up), and then I saw the rostered time had been changed to 12:30 pm.  Still no show, so we had lunch and went shopping.  Back home, I was just settling in for a rest, with a cup of tea, when she turned up. Poor woman, she’d had a really busy day, not getting to me till around 4 pm.  The next day we headed off to Napier.

I’m pleased about the rules Hohepa have put in place to protect people like our daughter. And I respect them. The fact that these rules inconvenience me at times is really irrelevant, although I have to admit that I sometimes struggle to know just what to do with her and her Dad, other than drink coffee and eat cake!  The Aquarium was out of bounds this time, as was the Warehouse and the golf driving range. Everywhere one is thinking: how many people will be there be, and what are the rest rooms like? Will they require vaccine passports?

Today I was in town in Wellington. I went to one of my favourite cafés, where I had to show my vaccine passport. The person on the counter just looked at it, she didn’t photograph it.  I had to show this at a Wishbone outlet, too. I’m a bit wary of (a) losing my mobile phone, which has my vaccine passport on it, and (b) having it photographed: it has my date of birth on it, and who  knows what’s on the QR code?  Will my booster shot record be on there, when I’m eligible? Is my covid 19 test record on there?  I had hastened to explain to the Medical Centre that I wasn’t feeling unwell, and I hadn’t been in contact with someone with Covid 19; I was having a test because Hohepa required me to. Between Covid tests, Mask mandates (and exceptions), and vaccine passports, all of which seem to have happened quite quickly, I am a tad discombobulated and concerned. Now that I’m home, everything’s different again. When I’m away, I enjoy not having to make my bed or  cook my dinner, but there are other challenges; now that I’m home, I’m sleeping better in my own bed again, but there’s no one to make it for me, or cook my dinner.  I’m operating at a different level.

Today in Covid 19 news the double-jabbed rate equals 88%; there are 90 new community cases and there are 74 people in hospital.  In an aged care facility in Ellerslie, a staff member has Covid 19; in a Catholic primary school in South Auckland, there’s been a positive diagnosis. Another person at a primary school in Nelson has been diagnosed positive.  There are several school affected by this delta outbreak – a cause for concern, since children under12 can’t be vaccinated until January 2022.

Overseas, Covid 19/omicron continues to infect many people, and infest many communities. There’s stings in its tail, too: there’s a “stealth” version that’s harder to track, and having had Covid 19 previously is no guarantee that you won’t get the omicron version too.  As for vaccines?  Omicron, like delta, appears to laugh in their faces: remember last Christmas, when it was “Hold on, vaccines are coming!” and now it seems Covid 19 says:  “Hold my beer, I’m still winning this race, I’m not done with you yet!”

More tomorrow. Each day brings new news. Ngā mihi.

(Not) Moronic

Today is Thursday December 2nd, 2021. Kia ora!

Last night I heard more disturbing news about the movement of the omicron variant of Covid 19. There is now a case in Japan. There is a case in California. There are apparently several cases in London: it seems they just don’t really care too much. An Israeli doctor has been diagnosed with Covid 19, and claims he caught it at a medical conference – in the UK. It seems more than ever that while two South African doctors first raised the alarm about this concerning new variant, which they’d diagnosed, it was already doing the rounds in Europe. It has now been diagnosed in West Africa and the Gulf (where’s that, exactly?) This morning I read that California has diagnosed its first case. Dr John Campbell claims there are now 222 cases in the UK.

In response, many countries have rushed to put in place stricter border protections, enforcing greater quarantine and testing for travellers from South African countries. They are seeking to make vaccination compulsory. So far, Covid 19/omicron has presented as a disease with mild symptoms, leading to the hope that while it may be very infectious, it may be a mild disease. Still, no one really knows.  While there is a certain fatalism amongst many, most of us would definitely prefer not to get it, or risk exposing our family and friends, especially people like my daughter, and my grandchildren. It seems that tweaking the vaccines will take a while: Moderna says it can’t do a clinical trial until March 2022.

 In New Zealand, two schools in Nelson (an Intermediate and a primary school) have closed, after someone being diagnosed positive with Covid 19/delta. Friends of mine are planning a trip to Motueka, going via the ferry.  Another friend has cancelled her family’s proposed holiday in Rotorua.  At least in new Zealand, everywhere is beautiful, and wherever you are, there’s somewhere nice to go. My cousins are planning to spend a few days in Nelson next week – it is a special anniversary for them.

In Wellington, there are two locations of interest, both in Kilbirnie.  Evidently a guest who stayed at the Brentwood Hotel later tested positive, and this person had also been to Farmers Department Store in Kilbirnie.

It’s been a busy day for me. I had singing this morning, and then a covid 19 test so we can visit our daughter at Hohepa. In the afternoon, I met with a dear friend.  All our arrangements for Christmas and January have defaulted to staying close to home – around Wellington – around family and friends. That way we don’t have to cancel anything. 

In Africa, the omicron variant of Covid 19 is fuelling an exponential rise in cases, reports the UK’s Guardian.

In New Zealand, at 1 pm it was reported that there were 172 new community cases of Covid 19, including ten in the Nelson area.

The Rhythm and Vines gathering has been postponed till Easter next year.

There are three cases in New Plymouth, and a school has been closed.

It’s now Friday December 3rd. Today New Zealand moves to the traffic light Covid 19 system, and consequently the rules change, depending on whether you’re in a Red, Amber or Green designated area. So far, every area is either Red or Orange. In Wellington, we are Orange, and so is Hawkes Bay, but Taupo, Wairoa and Auckland are red, as are many other North Island areas. More significantly, vaccine passes are now required to be shown at many places, or service can be denied.    This is tricky for some people. I had tried to load my vaccine pass on my mobile phone, without success. Yesterday I was successful. My husband has a printed pass. So we’re both good to go. Sadly, my daughter and her friends don’t have their vaccine passports yet. They’ve all been vaccinated – I think they were in group 2, and there was some behaviour modification to get over fear of needles and general reluctance, but, of course, they don’t have the technology smarts to tackle downloading their own passes. We’re dependent on others to do this. This discrimination also begs the question, that if you find somewhere that will serve you without seeing your vaccine pass, does that mean they’re lax about vaccinations – of staff or customers? In that case, do you wish to or feel comfortable about eating there?

In the US, there have been 5 cases of omicron detected in New York State. One person (now in Minnesota) claims he picked up the infection at an Animé conference in New York. Omicron is very prevalent, but we don’t yet really know how dangerous it is.  Many people are appalled that on the animal channel, a commentator compared Dr Anthony Fauci to Dr Josef Mengele.  In other news, Americans (and others) are reeling from the news (not a surprise, really) that Trump had tested positive for Covid 19 before his first presidential debate with Joe Biden, potentially endangering the presidential candidate.  Tim Miller has written an article for the Bulwark claiming just this, that the former guy was trying to kill Joe Biden. Then there was the event in the Rose Garden to honour Amy Coney Barrett – the event to honour the pro-life Supreme Court Judge was a super-spreader event, where several people caught Covid 19.  We don’t know if anyone died, but several people were certainly ill, some extremely so – former Governor Chris Christie was in Intensive Care. Some journalists and secret service folk became ill. How does this work?

It is now one week since we first heard about Covid 19/omicron.  At least we heard about it on Friday, but on Saturday I realised that it had the potential to be a very serious issue.  One week!  This has changed everything.  Before this, many places thought that Covid 19 was behind them, and people could do “normal” things again, providing they were fully vaccinated (and boosted, in some cases); sadly, no. In Many places, Covid 19/delta continues to cause problems. In New Zealand, I think we can be proud again to have restricted its development and effects. But there is a feeling that here we go again, this time on steroids.

Today there were 92 new community cases of Covid 19.  That’s a welcome lower figure than we’ve had for the last few days. As previously, most are in Auckland – 80 – where several schools and pre-school centres have been hit hard. Meantime, Auckland opens up again under the traffic light system – after being in lockdown for 107 days – for ages.  The rest of the community cases are across six regions:  2 in Waikato, 1 in Northland, 5 in Bay of Plenty, I in Lakes (that’s Taupo), 1 in Nelson, and 2 in Taranaki.  People must get around, as the case totals when given out don’t always match up with the news previously released.  There are 79 in hospital, and 9 in Intensive Care.  On the West Coast of New Zealand, a wedding has had to be postponed: the stag party was held in Nelson, and a close contact has tested positive, and there are consequent numbers of people isolating.  This raises all kinds of questions about the activities at the stag party, but one can only sympathise with the intricacies of delaying a big event like a wedding – including travel.

There is evidence of Covid 19 detected in wastewater in Gisborne and Matamata.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

OMC (Omicron)

It’s now Monday November 29th. Kia ora!

This morning there’s no new bad news locally, but overseas, it’s a different story. The two covid 19 cases in Sydney, that flew in from South Africa, have been determined to have the new omicron variant of Covid 19.  Thirteen people who came off a flight in the Netherlands are determined to have it. This afternoon, it’s reported to have been detected in Canada (in Ontario, two cases, coning from Nigeria).  For pandemic times, that’s a lot of flying!  One doctor in South Africa reports mild symptoms – severe fatigue and a headache; the rest of the world watches nervously as we wait to see how serious this one will be. There’s a view that the wealthy nations should have chosen to vaccinate the poorer countries, i.e. African nations, where vaccination rates are low; widespread vaccination would have made it less likely for a variant like omicron to develop.

I have forced myself to learn more about this omicron variant. Dr John Campbell has explained it quite well: it seems there are 32 mutations on the spike protein.  There were much fewer on the delta variant.

I go to my last Tai Chi class for the year. Some have brought food; some have stayed away. I am the only person who keeps my mask on, and I don’t stay for the party afterwards.

Today there are 182 new cases of covid 19, and 93 people in hospital, including 10 in Intensive Care. The new community cases are in Auckland (167), Waikato (10), and Northland (5). There is a new case in Nelson, which will be included in tomorrow’s total.

There is a press conference at 4 pm, outlining the country’s move to the traffic light system from Friday December 3rd. The entire South Island will be in Orange. Auckland and a clutch of other regions in the North Island with lower vaccination rates will start at red. Those are: Northland, Taupō, Rotorua lakes districts, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts. Wellington and Waikato will be Orange.

Thankfully, health officials here are considering the potential impact of the omicron variant being diagnosed here in New Zealand, and whether the borders need to be strengthened as a result. Dr Bloomfield has announced that the Government’s approach was to “keep the virus out for as long as possible in order to learn more”. Changes made so far include limiting travel to New Zealand citizens travelling from nine countries in Southern Africa who then have to spend two weeks in MIQ isolation and quarantine and undergo five tests.

It’s now Tuesday November 30th.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

This morning I learn that omicron is moving quickly.  There are six cases in Scotland, and a further two in Sydney. There are also cases in Spain and Sweden. In the US, Dr Fauci said two weeks were needed to assess its potential impact, and what changes should be made, if any. I suspect the cat will be well and truly out of the bag by that time, given the daily announcements of its spread.   Australia is now reconsidering its decision to open up its borders. Many countries have, and continue to impose, travel bans.  Here in New Zealand, as we move to the traffic light system, with some trepidation, the Hon. Grant Robertson has promised some financial relief to Auckland businesses, affected by lockdown since the middle of August.  Meanwhile, omicron is coming here – surely – and we’re still dealing with delta.  The situation changes every day.

In the US, of course, they’ve other fish to fry: Lauren Boebert has made another slur against Representative Ilhan Omar; Marjorie Taylor Greene has railed against Kevin McCarthy, and men are encouraged to be monsters, by Josh Hawley and Madison Cawthorn, whatever that means. Kyle Rittenhouse is being hailed by the right—wing as a hero (the teenager who shot two people dead and wounded a third).  On the animal channel, it’s claimed the Democrats caused omicron, which will somehow help them in next year’s mid-term elections.  Huh?

In New Zealand, two people are contending for leadership of the National Party: Simon Bridges (a previous leader), and Christopher Luxon, formerly CEO of Air NZ and member of an evangelical Church.  I dislike both of them.

In New Zealand, Hohepa is assessing its plans for the future on a daily basis: will some folk go home for Christmas?  How will they travel, and where will they stop on the way? How many staff will be needed – can leave plans be broken?  I know we’re done this before, but it has lost its novelty value.  The uncertainty is unsettling, to say the least.  We plan to go and see our daughter for her birthday – perhaps we should take our own refreshments, instead of stopping somewhere like we normally do. Every day, what is the news overseas? What are the latest numbers here? This Christmas will certainly be memorable. As prime Minister Ardern has said, it’s really hard to plan.

Today there are 134 new cases of Covid 19. There are two new cases in the Nelson area, but these will be included in tomorrow’s tally. Other than, that spread, there’s nothing too alarming here, apart from the number of people in hospital: 89, and 9 in Intensive Care. That’s a new high, I think – no, I’m wrong, Monday’s total was 93, and this is down from that. The new community cases are in Auckland (116), Waikato (eight), Bay of Plenty (nine) and Northland (one).  That total is rather lower than previously, which has to be good news.

This morning I packed a parcel to send overseas.  That’s quite a task, now!  It includes gifts and cards for Christmas, a birthday, and Chinese New Year. It’s reported that many food outlets (including McDonalds) require a vaccine pass to be shown, so I really must download mine – again!

The UK’s Guardian reports that omicron has been detected in “at least” a dozen countries: Portugal and Singapore should be added to the list. Japan has said that only Japanese citizens may enter the country; Israel has closed its border to visitors.  Almost everyone is on the edge of their seat, it seems. Omicron is certainly spreading fast – it won’t be delta for Christmas – it’ll be OMC (omicron). In the UK, masks are now mandatory in most situations.

The UK has shortened time for booster shots of the vaccine to three months after the second shot; here, in New Zealand, you can book a booster shot two months after your second jab – from yesterday, so that’s a relief.

It’s now Wednesday December 1st. There are still no Christmas carols playing, or none that I’ve heard, thus far.

Last night I heard that Japan had recorded its first case of Covid 19/omicron. This morning I learnt that in fact it was in the Netherlands before two South African doctors issued a warning about it.  The US President Biden is saying to be concerned, not alarmed, about it, but suffice to say we are all pretty alarmed already. Last Christmas, vaccines were coming – the great hope!  This Christmas, it’s not just delta we should be afraid of, it’s omicron too. What will its effects be? Who knows.  Most countries are reacting in serious ways to curb travel and movement, and increase vaccination percentages. Will the current vaccines be effective, or do they need tweaking? We don’t know yet.  In the last Sunday Star Times and in the Dompost n Monday Hawkes Bay was advertised as a great holiday destination.  I’m saying – don’t do this! Don’t go there!  What about vulnerable people like my daughter?

We were due to go to Hawkes Bay for my daughter’s birthday, having decided not to go there for Christmas this year, but anyone visiting now needs a negative Covid 19 test beforehand.  Accordingly, JD and I will be tested. He’s been tested once already, before we went to a funeral in Auckland in September last year, and after he’d had a cold.  This is frustrating for us and our family, but totally understandable in the present circumstances.

Today the government announced that children aged 5 to 11 can now be vaccinated from January. I’m sure that will come as a relief to many of us.  Today there are 145 new cases of Covid 19 in the community: There are new cases in Auckland (124), Waikato (14), Bay of Plenty (four) and one new case in Nelson-Tasman region.  A cluster is forming at a Bay of Plenty school, where everyone is a Covid 19 contact. There is a location of interest in Nelson: a brothel!  It’s called Secrets Gentlemen’s Club. I wonder who’d admit to going there.

Apparently Waitangi Day (February 6, 2022) celebrations have been cancelled because of Covid fears.  Evidently Christopher Luxon is anti—abortion., as well as belonging to an evangelical church, and owning 7 (!) properties. He thinks house prices should fall, but not too much.

In the US, there has been a shooting at a school in Detroit, leaving three dead and eight injured.  Mark Meadows, chief of staff to the former guy, is now said to be cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee. Chris Cuomo has been suspended indefinitely from CNN, on account of his involvement with his now disgraced brother, Andrew Cuomo, former Governor of New York, whose sex scandals finally caught up with him. There is great fear that the Supreme Court in the US will in effect overturn the Roe v Wade decision regarding a woman’s right to abortion. Are we going backwards, then?  I dislike abortion, but I think it should be safe and legal, if a woman wants to have one; In my view, anyone having one will have to answer to God; it’s surely a private matter, in which the state doesn’t play a part. I think that folk who are so anti-abortion should see to it that every child’s life (and its mother’s) is worth living. I just cannot understand how people can be anti-abortion and pro-guns. It seems that killing a potential child before birth is a great sin; shooting them afterwards is acceptable if you’re Kyle Rittenhouse. How is that fair or just? The senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, touched on this in speaking with frustration about this incident, yet another school shooting.

On that note, I’ll post this.  Talk again soon. Ngā mihi.

Covid 19 – the Prequel

Today is Thursday November 25th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I learnt that Judith Collins, leader of the National Party, had demoted Simon Bridges (a former leader) on account of a complaint about sexual harassment 5 years ago.  I assumed that (a) she was wanting attention, and/or (b) she didn’t want to be leader any longer.

I went to singing in Khandallah. It was lovely, as always, but, although I’d practiced singing in the shower, I got the hiccups and had a frog in my throat, and struggled with the high notes.  There was quite a bit of discussion, along the lines of: why do we have to have a catered lunch for our end of year breakup – the rules are ridiculous! Ranging to why does the government appear to have abandoned the notion of protecting us?  You can’t have it both ways: you may consider different organisations’ rules to be ridiculous, but at least there are rules, and most people do not want to get Covid 19.

After singing, I learnt that Judith Collins has been rolled as leader of the National Party, and that Shane Reti is the interim leader. He was to address the nation.  One feels that the leadership is a poisoned chalice, that nobody really wants, at this point in time. Who’s left then, other than Christopher Luxton, Muller look-alike, waiting in the wings – he’s not yet ready to lead this mess.

There are fewer new Covid 19 community cases today: 178 and 77 in hospital.

It’s now Friday, November 26th.  Today there are 173 new cases of Covid 19, across 6 regions: there are new cases in Auckland (154), Waikato (15), Northland (one), Bay of Plenty (two), and Lakes (one). There is also a case in Christchurch, who could not be included in yesterday’s total, a close contact of an existing case who was already isolating. 78 people are in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care.

It seems to me now that the Government is concerned about protecting the health system, as its first priority, and I wonder where that leaves mentally disabled adults, and other vulnerable people. Hohepa have taken very good care of our daughter up until now; the traffic light approach leaves us all scratching our heads, and wondering just how it will affect us, and more to the point, our daughter.

Meanwhile, one is doing Christmas shopping, and changing priorities as one must in these challenging times. Even during the so-called Black Friday Sales, and a rush for some good bargains, there are not that many people about, and most are genuinely polite and thoughtful. Thankfully, we don’t have Christmas Carols playing in the shops just yet, although most have Christmas trees up.

In the US, three men have been found guilty in the case of the Ahmed Arboury killing. That comes as a huge relief to many.  In the US it is Thanksgiving time again. This, to me, is a somewhat crazy ritual, like their Halloween (pronounced Hollow-een), accompanied by some very scary parades and decorations.  I listened to a Bulwark podcast, but they always get on to why can’t the Democrats be more like Republicans, be less liberal, less progressive, and by the way, inflation is terrible. I have to turn this off, I can’t bear to listen. I do agree with Charlie Sykes – we can be grateful that Trump’s not president.  There are many guides about surviving Thanksgiving with people you disagree with: why invite them? Why eat with them? Why punish yourself? Why buy a turkey, and then do the whole thing again in one month’s time for Christmas? Why, indeed.

There’s a new variant out of covid 19/delta, that’s been discovered in South Africa. Should we be afraid? The Hon. Grant Robertson says no, but apparently South Africa is to be put on the UK’s “travel red list” for this.

It’s now Saturday November 27th.  It seems that the new variant of Covid 19, now named Omicron, first observed this month, is indeed something to be very afraid of. Even Sajid Javid the UK Health Secretary, is calling the alarm. It’s been unheard of to date for the Brits to take much notice! There is wide spread alarm about Omicron.  It originated earlier this month in South Africa, but has already been found in Israel, Hongkong, and in Belgium.  Vaccinated people are not immune. The World Health Organisation has met, and says not to limit flights, but many countries are doing just that. The stock market has fallen. Meanwhile, in the US, there are alarming surges of Covid 19/delta in many places: most seriously in Michigan, but also in New York. We don’t yet know what the US Thanksgiving surge will be; that there’ll be one, is pretty certain. One wonders again, why do so many Americans put themselves through this? You have the perfect excuse to avoid travel and large gatherings.

Dr John Campbell has broadcast again, saying that we all need to be proactive about facing this; it’s complicated, but the variant seems to have several spikes within it; it’s potentially very infectious, but we don’t yet know if it makes people really ill.  Perhaps the vaccines can be tweaked to address this variant, and delta, too.  We were alarmed about the spread of delta in New Zealand, as borders are to be reopened, the fateful MIQ reduced (although it has done a great job of keeping us safe); one of my daughter-in-law’s parents are thrilled to be able to return to New Zealand from Australia, where they have been marooned for far longer than they intended.  This relaxation of restrictions was going to be good for some people, but still pretty scary for people like my daughter. More walks, more swings, any one? Now, with the coming of omicron, all bets are off, I fear. Certainly, the coronavirus hasn’t finished with us yet.

In other news, the US networks have been very quiet over the Thanksgiving break. The stores are advertising Black Friday sales (which actually last for several days). In the English Channel, a perilous stretch of water (I know, I’ve sailed on it twice), a dinghy carrying several desperate refugees sailing to England from France capsized, and 27 people drowned, including children and pregnant women. In New Zealand, the Reserve Bank raised – by 0.25% – the OCR (Official Cash Rate) – it’s now 0.75%. The Guardian duly reported that in NZ the Reserve bank had hiked the cash rate. That is a gross exaggeration, like much of the talk of that other bogey man, inflation. Go on, hype it up, why don’t you? One can see how people get angry with the media.

Yesterday the Hon. Grant Robertson claimed there was no reason to be alarmed about omicron; today, he’s reported as calling it a “wake up call”. We’ve all been woken up, I think: this is potentially worse than what we’ve seen to date.  What about special needs folk? We’ve had coronavirus, Covid 19, the sequel (delta variant); now it looks like omicron, the prequel, is coming.

Today it was announced that there were 145 new community cases of Covid 19, and a further death.  There are still no further cases in Wellington or Hawkes Bay.

On Saturday afternoon we went to North City Shopping Centre, to buy a Christmas present for one of my granddaughters, and a new toasted sandwich maker – we wanted to take advantage of the Black Friday sale.  It was very busy there – that Food Court must have the potential to be a super-spreader location. They tried to enforce queueing, but I doubt that had much effect. In the Farmers department store, it was quite busy. I managed to find store attendant who looked unsuccessfully for what we wanted; in the meantime, of course, JD found other things to buy. There weren’t many toasted sandwich makers left, either – I suspect the advertised ones had gone, but we did get one, and I later bought the present I’d been seeking online. It was not a great experience, going to North City – I won’t repeat it for some time. Actually, like Queensgate Shopping Mall, it’s not enticing at the best of times. It’s a place you don’t want to be.

On Saturday evening I learnt that there is a case of Covid 19 in Kawerau, a town in the Bay of Plenty.  Many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have put in place some kinds of restrictions on passengers from South Africa and several African nations.  There are no direct flights here from Africa, so it’s a bit dicey to know just where people arriving her have come from.

It’s now Sunday, November 28th.  It is quite a bit cooler today, after being very warm yesterday.  This morning I learnt that two cases of Covid 19/omicron had been diagnosed in the UK. Cases have also been diagnosed in Germany and Italy.

This morning I went to Church. It’s the beginning of Advent, and a little girl was to light a purple candle for Hope. The candle wick failed to ignite at the first attempt, and then flickered hopefully (ha ha!) when it did ignite. That seemed appropriate, somehow.  In church, they’ve apparently taken my advice (!) to allow seating in every second row, but unlike in an Anglican church we went to, where it was quite clear where one could sit, they’ve marked rows with little stickers that aren’t that easy to read:  rows  where one can sit have a beautiful red floral decoration, and alternate rows have a small sticker saying Please don’t sit here. I sat down, well away from others, but people came and sat rather closer to me than I was comfortable with.

After church, I went grocery shopping; it was really quiet when I went there, but soon filled up with people.  I got raspberries! And some apricots. The summer fruit is starting to appear. I didn’t get coffee beans – my bad.

Before lunch I learnt that there is another case of Covid 19 in Hawkes Bay.  This person went to the ED at Hastings Hospital, and was diagnosed positive. There are several locations of interest, which are gradually being published. Napier Pak’N ’Save is one of them, but in the evening – I don’t think our guys would shop there in the evening. Nevertheless, it’s alarming.  Two people landed in Sydney from South Africa, and were diagnosed with Covid 19. It’s not known yet whether it’s omicron or not. Meanwhile, Covid 19/omicron has been diagnosed in several countries.

The 1 pm briefing tells that today’s total of Covid 19 cases is 144; there has been another death in Auckland, this time of a woman in her 80’s. A child in Canterbury has been diagnosed positive: this child seems to have flown alone, and then caught a flight from Auckland to Christchurch; this is being regarded as a border case. Of the 144 new cases in New Zealand there are cases in Auckland (127), Northland (two), Waikato (nine), Bay of Plenty (four), Hawke’s Bay (one). There are 82 people in hospital, including 8 in Intensive Care.

There is still so much that we just don’t know about this virus. It seems that omicron has different symptoms, from the Covid 19 we’ve become used to, that it’s very infectious, and that young people catch it easily; other than that, we just don’t know how much of a threat it represents. We struggle on, trying not to take unnecessary risks, but feeling more than ever that we’re stumbling through a maze. There’s a lot of prayer; and I’m ashamed to say rather more fear than peace. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.