Holy Week 2023

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper in Milan (seen in 2010)

It’s now Sunday April 2nd, 2023, Palm Sunday. Kia ora!

This morning I went to church. Last night we turned our clocks back one hour, it was the end of Daylight Saving here. We are plunged into shorter days and darkness.  Sadly, last night the movie on Te Whakaata Māori was Marley and Me.  It wasn’t a great movie but JD likes Jennifer Aniston.  I didn’t sleep that well and accordingly listened to lots of podcasts.  One of them, Lawfare’s Rational Security podcast, had the co-hosts in discussion with Benjamin Wittes. One of their topics (this podcast was recorded before the Trump indictment announcement), was Trump’s choice to go to Waco for a rally on the thirtieth anniversary of the disaster there.  Although I remember this incident, the co-hosts were children or young people, as in the 2003 invasion of Iraq; consequently, their attitudes are coloured by not having lived through it. Ben Wittes quoted some wag who advised not to worship in a compound, and not to believe the leader is the Messiah, if the Bible is true. 

Last night it rained, but it became fine during the day, and it’s not cold.  At church, the organist and the pianist played together, which was quite wonderful, as they’re not seated close to each other. Quite a bit of practice must have been required! At church we were reminded of the distinction between Palm Sunday, and Jesus’s procession to Jerusalem, and His Passion on the Cross, as we head into Holy Week or Passion Week. The texts were Philippians 2: 1-11 and Matthew 27: 11 – 26, about Barabbas being released instead of Jesus, although Pontius Pilate could find no evil in him.  At Sunday School, the children had a Passover Meal, and we shared the leftovers after the service.  The Minister gave me a copy of Huia Come Home by J. Ruka to read, about the introduction of Christianity to Māori. I read several pages on my way home. There was confusion between me and JD as to whether he could pick me up or not, but as my usual bus was cancelled I caught a bus into Wellington Railway Station, and then caught a train to Johnsonville, and a bus after that. I managed to fit in a flu vaccine at Johnsonville Shopping Centre along the way.  As a child, I loved the huia. I had a pad with the huia (even then extinct) on the cover; it took a long time to get through one pad, and they featured native birds on the frontispiece, back in the day.

I have been reading an interview between Jon Meacham, historian and friend of President Biden, and David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine. Thankfully, for once, I was allowed to read this one!  It was well worth reading. Meacham spoke about the current state of American politics, i.e. the hold Trump has over the Republican Party and millions of Americans.  To many of us, this does not make any sense at all, except to be thankful that I don’t live there, and none of my family currently lives there.

It’s now Monday April 3rd.

This morning I went to the movies with a friend of mine. We saw Red, White and Brass – a movie about a Tongan brass band at the Rugby World Cup in 2011. It was a very good movie!  Afterwards, we went to Kaffee Eis in Wellington’s Cuba St before catching a bus home. It was raining heavily in the morning, but in the afternoon it was just drizzling.

Then  weekly Covid 19 report came our today. The numbers are still pretty awful; it’s not going away any time soon; there are still thousands of reinfections, and too many deaths.

It reads as follows: there are 12,202 new infections, and 5,149 of them are reinfections. There’ve been 25 further deaths, and there are 220 people in hospital, with 9 in Intensive Care.

It’s now Tuesday April 4th.

Last night I watched an episode of Succession on my laptop.  Well, there are no guns, but there’s plenty of bad language, and actually the clothes aren’t great, Still, it’s mesmerizing, in a strange kind of way.  I guess it makes me grateful not to be part of One of Those Families, although I have to admit the theme music is amazingly entrancing.

This morning I went to Bible Study. I sometimes go, sometimes not; it’s always different, but like most things, it takes a while to find one’s feet. This morning we were looking at Acts 10: 34 – 43, not Pentecost, but the opening up of the early church to all Christians. It comes after the conversion of Paul, the Damascene moment of Acts 9, and again states the coming of the Holy Spirit.  We talked about speaking in tongues! Most of us are really sceptical about this, but we had a good discussion. Afterwards, I did some shopping.

It’s autumn here, and it’s a really strange time for me.  My allergies are worse, for some reason; I think I’m better in winter, although I’ve enjoyed the fine weather without it being too warm. But I feel unaccountably sad, at this time. The reason why, eludes me.  But I have a strange, sad feeling; the end of daylight saving plunges us into darkness, or shorter days; the sky is a strange place, and perhaps it reminds me of something sad in my past, but I don’t know what, exactly. 

It’s now Wednesday April 5th.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was beautiful, and we had a great turnout. We sang “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” and “Ah Holy Jesu how hast thou Offended” to tunes from Bach’s St Matthew Passion, the latter being the tune from the final, beautiful chorus.

Here’s a recording:

Afterwards, noting that Trump had in fact appeared in court as required, I actually managed to ignore much of the hullabaloo.  In the afternoon, I note that Trump’s speech from Mar-a-Lago is highlighted, while I cannot find Alvin Bragg’s presser. I noted, however, that the journalists around Trump Tower outnumbered the protesters, and Marjorie Taylor Greene’s address was drowned out.  She was there for ten minutes, apparently. There were protesters on both sides – for and against the indictment. Yes, America, this is a big moment, but one would like to ask: Just When Will you Grow up?  I’ve been listening to an American Scandal podcast series about a 1950’s attempt to bring about the downfall of a democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran.  This is all so upsetting.  MSNBC are covering the incidents, of course; they screen Alvin Bragg’s comments listing the charges,

Meanwhile, Sanna Marin, former Prime Minister of Finland, has conceded defeat in the recent election to the far right; on the other hand, Finland will join NATO. You win some, you lose some. Here in New Zealand, former Prime Minister Ardern’s so-called legacy is being debated. It’s fair to say that most if not all journalists and opinion-writers are giving her a hard time. Many of us thought she was simply marvellous, and such a breath of fresh air.  We rejoiced at her handling of – most things, really – especially the mosque shootings in Christchurch, and then Covid 19.  It’s still really hard to get used to Chippy Hipkins, although he’s growing on me.

In Israel, there are troubles again, as Ramadan and Easter begin – both of which may not be relevant to many Israelis.  Rupert Murdoch has called off his fifth engagement. That doesn’t really matter, but it’s noteworthy, perhaps.

I went out to Queensgate Shopping Centre, despite my better judgment.  I wanted to buy a small container of hand sanitiser, since I keep leaving one behind; I also wanted to buy more disposable face masks, since I have carried a pack in my tote bag (they weigh nothing), but they’re all used up – I have lent them to many people as required. Sadly, you can’t get them now, except in a box. I had to go to Countdown for a small container of hand sanitiser. 

I went to the Warehouse, but it’s pretty awful shopping there. But I did find a Butler’s Café there, with plenty of room!  I hadn’t noticed it before, but it’s probably nicer than any of the other eating options at Queensgate.

It’s now Maundy Thursday, April 6th.

This morning we had our last Thursday morning singing session for the term, and we enjoyed a delicious shared lunch afterwards.

Then I went shopping in Khandallah. It was bedlam there! The store is to be closed for Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, but not for four days like when we were first married! I bought some things, having asked JD to pick me up. My music was very heavy, too. I sat outside the store so JD wouldn’t have to enter the carpark, but of course he didn’t see me. Still, we caught up eventually.

In between times, I’ve been listening to various podcasts about Trump being formally charged with 34 felony counts by New York DA Alvin Bragg. Trump duly appeared, as promised, but he did not look like a happy man.  There’ve been some delicious headlines: Individual 1 gets his day in court; the Trump show moves to the courthouse; and so on.  A protester hoped Trump would be well-treated by Marjorie Taylor Greene’s “gazpacho police”. There was a really funny The Daily Show episode chaired by Ron Wood Jnr, with an appearance by Jon Stewart; MSNBC scrapped their normal programs to screen a special with their main anchors as team hosts.  To be honest, I was upset when several spoke at once; it reminded me of CNN programs before the 2016 presidential election.

The most interesting podcasts were a Lawfare Emergency podcast, and Lawfare host Benjamin Wittes appearing on the Bulwark podcast and Stay Tuned with Preet (those were the two he chose to appear on).

Just by the way. Nicola Sturgeon’s (former SNP Leader) husband was arrested; (he’s now been let go), and it wasn’t the end of Western democracy. I don’t think there was even a protest.

It’s now Good Friday, April 7th.

Last night I went to the Maundy Thursday service at my church. It was very moving, as it was last year. But I think there were fewer of us there than last year.  We washed each other’s hands, and then had Communion. Then we went into the church, which was progressively darkened, as the candles were extinguished.  We left in silence. This time a friend’s husband picked me, and JD picked us up afterwards. I should have asked him to come a but earlier! I am now very tired indeed.

It is hard to find out just what services are on today. Our church does not have one, although the Johnsonville Churches (Uniting, Catholic and Anglican) are to have a service combined with a walk at 10:45 am.  Coming from a background where Christmas and Easter were not celebrated, I guess I have a bit of a “take it or leave it” attitude. Public re-enactments don’t alter the fact that Jesus suffered for me, and on my behalf.

This morning I have been listening to more podcasts – it’s Stormy (Daniels) weather!  And the pointy heads seem divided as to whether this first indictment has merit, and if so, how much.

It seems that Ashli Babbitt, a Trump protester who was shot by a black policeman during the January 6 riot, has become a martyr for the Far Right in America (although she carried a knife); this reminds me of the Horst Wessel story in the 1930’s in Germany, where he became a political martyr.

What’s happening in Ukraine? Again, I don’t know, and I don’t know how this ends, although I assume it will. Of much lesser importance was the protest in Parliament Grounds here in Wellington just over a year ago. It became evident that cold and stormy weather was not going to move these folk; even throwing excrement at the police was not going to move them, but look, they’re gone now. Thank goodness. There is a huge feeling about one’s right to so-called “free speech”, here and in the US, despite Prince Harry saying that the first amendment (of the US Constitution) was “bonkers”. I believe that one should always be careful about what one says; that one should endeavour not to hurt anybody, and to claim one’s views as one’s own. At the time.

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

(V) indicated!

One of Donald Trump’s “bleats” on Truth Social railing at his indictment.

It’s now Wednesday March 29th, 2023. Kia ora!

We had an adventure, nipping up to Napier to see our daughter (briefly), and then driving back today.  Last Sunday I went to church, which was lovely; JD picked me up afterwards. We did not go to the fourth Lenten session for our church, although I would have liked to go. JD preferred not to. He was really busy.

On Monday the weekly Covid 19 report was published. The numbers are still stubbornly high. The report reads as follows: there have been 11,258 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week and 76 further deaths attributed to the coronavirus. Of the new cases, 4712 were reinfections.

There were also 211 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, with seven cases in ICU. The seven-day rolling average of cases was 1605.

Last week 11,544 new cases were reported and 12 further deaths attributed to Covid-19.

Three years on from the country’s first lockdown, former director-general of health Sir Ashley Bloomfield said New Zealand had stayed below predicted death rates, which was” virtually unique around the world”.

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aotearoa’s pandemic response is due to be completed in June 2024.

On Monday we finally got away after 2 pm, as JD had several appointments in the morning.  We stopped at Shannon, at a café that was still open; we then drove over the Pahiatua Track to Pahiatua, and thence to Woodville, and on to Napier. It seemed a very long drive, although the contractors had stopped work after 4 :30 pm.  Sometime after 7 pm we got to Napier, and then found our motel. We hadn’t stayed there before: there was a cricket final (domestic) at McLean Park on the Tuesday, and it was very hard to get accommodation for that night. 

In the event, we had an apartment, which was very well equipped with plenty of room, plenty of beds, two couches, and a washing machine and dishwasher. There was beautiful bed linen, and nice thick towels. We were very comfortable there, although it was quite noisy, being on a busy road.

The first evening we went to a pub for dinner. I ordered a salad, but it was far more than I could eat; there was an unpleasant odour of cooking oil.  It was hard to sleep that night, but then it’s usually difficult to sleep the first night one is away.  The next day we visited Hōhepa at Clive to see our daughter. She was in a singing session, and we joined in. Later that day we picked her up from her house, and walked along the waterfront, before taking her to dinner. We went to the same pub again, and the food was pretty good.  I had brought her Easter eggs and card with me, so we gave them to her too. This time, when we took her home, we went into the house, and into her bedroom. It’s lovely!

In Hawkes Bay, there are signs of the recent Cyclone Gabrielle, although some areas are quite untouched. We didn’t go to the Esk Valley, or up Pakowai Road, not wanting to be rubber-neckers. There were fences down, and a lot of debris, but what really shocked us was the damage to the railway line that we saw when we went along SH 51 to Clive. 

Before seeing our daughter, we had coffee and I had a mini-doughnut at Adoro Café.  We tried to have lunch at Ajuna Café, but despite the internet saying it was open, it’s very much closed. We had lunch at Tennyson Bistro (Formerly Ujazi) instead. I went to Farmers in Napier, but they’ve moved everything; they’re doing some development upstairs. Fortunately, although there was a sale (!), I didn’t buy anything.

I slept better the second night.  In the morning, it was very cold, even in Napier. Fortunately, as an afterthought I had brought some shoes and socks (as opposed to sandals), a pair of velveteen trousers, and a blouse and warm top. I was really thankful to have some warmer clothes to put on; I also enjoyed the lovely robe at our motel (which I had been trying not to use).

We had morning tea in Waipukurau, at Stella Café – a long black coffee, and a date and orange scone – yummy! We had lunch in Woodville, at Café 88, where I’m happy to report that the toilet facilities have been upgraded. We usually drive back to Wellington via the Saddle Road, but it was closed for a few days, so we had to use the Pahiatua Track again – a highway not meant for lots of large vehicles. Still, it was very hard for me to make such a short trip; I much prefer to stay at least three nights there.

I have been trying to work out how I’d get around and just what I’d do if I were there on my own, apart from shopping and drinking coffee, of course!

It’s now Friday March 31st.

Yesterday I was very tired, but I went to my Thursday singing, which was lovely. It was very cold, however. With a sudden drop in temperature, we’re not used to wearing warmer clothes. There was a Te Reo refresher class at 1 pm, so with a 30 minute break, some of us went to a nearby café to buy something to eat. I would have liked to order a coffee to takeaway, but they were very busy, with a queue, and someone learning on the till, I did not. As it had been so warm, I had left my woollen hat and gloves behind! Normally I would keep them in my tote bag in case I needed them. The refresher class was very enjoyable. We went over much that we had supposedly learnt, and I have actually learnt quite a lot. Afterwards I caught a bus home, again regretting that I hadn’t worn a warmer jacket and hat and gloves.

This afternoon we have an appointment in town, but I have just heard that a New York grand jury has voted to indict Donald Trump on hush money charges. The specific charges aren’t announced yet, but the Dompost, the NZ Herald and the Guardian websites all lead with this news. The local papers have red highlights, so you can’t miss this news.

Well, there has been much opining during the last few days, with Trump announcing he would be indicted, and many fulminating on Alvin Bragg’s delay, and the reasons for the grand jury taking a month’s leave.  Republican reactions to Trump’s predicted indictment have also been shocking. As usual, Trump has managed to hog the news, knocking other important things off the front pages. My initial reaction would be Well done, Alvin Bragg!  There was some upset that this – the Stormy Daniels hush money case,   was not a serious enough misdemeanor to warrant all the fuss.  Well, it was pretty serious. At the time of it potentially being exposed, the famous Access Hollywood tape had just come out; several women announced they would sue Trump for sexual assault.  Stormy Daniels’ revelations would potentially cause his chances of winning the presidential election even more harm. Accordingly, his then attorney, Michael Cohen, went to great lengths, on Trump’s behalf, to conceal these payments. Cohen even took out an extra loan on his house. Apart from the issue of cheating on Melania, who had just given birth to son Barron Trump, this issue could have done Trump great harm. Cohen spent time in prison because of this! So yes, it’s very significant.   We await further developments.

There is some other significant news. Evidently Turkey has voted in favour of Finland joining NATO (it was a previous holdout); exposure of the Vulcan files shows Putin’s involvement in global and domestic cyberwarfare tactics – I’ve yet to find out more about that. The Russians have taken a Rupert Murdoch-owner Wall St Journal reporter hostage. In Israel there are huge protests against Netanyahu’s effort to compromise the authority of Israel’s Supreme Court.  In France there are huge protests about President Macron’s intention to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 years.  Many of us are saying, really?  When will the somewhat volatile French get this anger out of their system?

And locally the Stuart Nash furore is heating up. Do I care? The local media are making it a front page issue. Is it because of lack of other news? Is it just a storm in a teacup? And what’s happening in Ukraine?

Of course Trump went to Waco, Texas to hold a rally, Waco being the site of an FBI action against the Branch Davidian sect commanded by David Koresh.  I listened to a podcast series about this on American Scandal podcasts, and I watched a Netflix three-part series also examining what happened there. While there’s no doubt that the FBI made some mistakes, surely David Koresh should have let more people go. Both series presented him as being extremely difficult to deal with. I am reminded again of Joy Reid’s saying, that while Christians believe their Saviour died for them, cults tend to believe that you should die for the supposed saviour, be it David Koresh, Jim Jones, Donald Trump, or whomever. It also struck me again just how gullible some people are.  Of course Trump wasn’t sharing any compassion with those who’s lost loved ones; he was, as usual, feeling sorry for himself, and celebrating lawlessness.

It’s now Saturday April 1st.

Last night we went to a concert at the Michael Fowler Centre, where the NZSO were performing Mahler’s Third Symphony, preceded by a Waiata by Robert Wiremu. They were conducted by the wonderful Gemma New. We don’t know Mahler’s music well at all, although I had tried to listen to this symphony. But the concert hall was full, and the enthusiastic audience gave a standing ovation afterwards. The audience was very respectful, with very little coughing or disturbance like we had at the opera a few months ago.  But goodness me, the seats are very cramped! They’re comfortable, but I couldn’t cross my legs. We managed to find a carpark in Dixon Street, (not too far away), and it wasn’t raining. It was nice to get dressed up again. And the tickets were only $25 each!

Oh, and there’s been another mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, at a Presbyterian School, that had previously been attended by the shooter, a transgender female, i.e. a woman who wanted to be a man. Her parents did not accept this, and insisted that they dress as a woman at home. They would then change afterwards.  Yet again, it’s a terribly sad story. It’s also a sad first: previously, mass shooters have been mainly male, rarely if ever female. They carried two assault rifles and a pistol, and shot through a closed door, dispelling the myth from the Uvalde shooting that doors should always be closed to keep shooters out.  Yet again, republicans insist on every child being born, and insist that someone has a right to carry an assault weapon, that may be used to shoot said child.  The price of freedom is accepting that children (and others, such as their teachers, support workers, and other staff) may well be shot, even in private schools.  That is a very high price to pay. Yet again, many of us are mystified at this contradiction in values.  What price human life?  Many of these children are traumatised at having seen their friends shot dead, or wounded, and at doing regular lock down drills, as if they were real.  In the US, most people are afraid all the time.

There’ve been some emergency podcasts following Trump’s indictment. Initial elation is turning perhaps to cooler reflection; Ron de Santis has said he won’t assist in Trump’s extradition to New York, where he is due to appear next Tuesday; Trump has apparently said No to that. Oh the irony, of de Santis declaring Florida a Sanctuary State! Some have pointed out that once indicted, things move out of Trump’s control: if he doesn’t surrender, he becomes a fugitive from the FBI; decisions whether he should be handcuffed (unlikely), or imprisoned (even more unlikely), move completely out of his control, although no doubt he’ll find a way to spin next Tuesday’s appearance to his own benefit. I like Meghan McCain’s tweet: “I like people who aren’t indicted…”

Americans are, for the most part, upset that a former president has been indicted: this has never happened before! Trump has always managed to evade serious legal jeopardy. I guess many of us are wondering, what took you so long, America?  Why did you elect him in the first place? I guess there’s never been a president like Donald Trump; he’s scored many firsts, including being the first president to be indicted..

There’s also argument about use of the hush-money/election finance scandal to cause the first indictment. Well, we don’t know what the actual charges are, although there are rumoured to be 15 (the Guardian’s Marina Hyde says 34 charges of falsifying records).  Apparently Stormy Daniels said Don’t pay me; anyway, he wasn’t president when he had his fling with her. He now calls her Horse-face, and claims she wasn’t his “type”, although he told her she reminded him of his daughter, who was very much his “type”.  I wonder what Ivanka’s thinking now, although apparently she’s said she loves her dad. My point is, if Trump hadn’t covered up this liaison, involving David Pecker in a “Catch and Kill” operation to hide the potential scandal, Trump may well not have been elected president, and his subsequent crimes may not have happened: this was maybe the start of this particular presidential crime spree, although many of us are very suspicious about Trump’s knowledge of the Russian involvement in his win.

I’d better stop now, No doubt there’ll be more pontification as the days go on. Trump will continue to be in the news, for all the wrong reasons; like the American love-affair with guns, many are seemingly in love with Trump and conspiracy theories.  

Meanwhile, life goes on. Stuff happens, and the Covid 19 numbers are still high in Aotearoa. But there’s the flu vaccine, and a new Covid 19 vaccine out, so that’s good. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

Beauty and Freedom

Michelangelo’s statue of David in the Gallerie Della’ Academia in Florence

It’s now Monday Match 20th, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning I went to a friend’s house for lunch. It was delicious: chicken sandwiches! It was lovely to see her. We talked about lots of things – acquaintances that know other acquaintances; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the cricket, of course – the NZ Black Caps are playing against Sri Lanka at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, and it’s day 4 of a 5-day test match. We also talked about mattress toppers, trips overseas, exercise classes, and how to get work done. The weather is weird: it’s not that cold, but it’s windy and overcast, and almost drizzly. We also talked about whether, and how, the dreadful mosque shootings in Christchurch should be commemorated, after four years; and about the church I attend.

Last night we went to a third Lenten session at a local café, held by our minister. It’s good to see other church goers as we try to get to grips with what Te Tiriti o Waitangi means in terms of Christian worship today.

The weekly Covid 19 report is out today. It reads as follows:

There have been 11,171 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week and 24 further deaths. Of the new cases, 4630 are reinfections.

The ministry said 26 deaths were attributable to Covid-19. It said the change in total deaths with Covid-19 may not be equal to the number of new deaths reported today. “This is because deaths that occurred more than 28 days after a positive test that are subsequently determined to be unrelated to Covid are removed from the total.”

Of the 24 deaths being reporting today, one was from Northland, one was from Bay of Plenty, three were from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, two were from MidCentral, five were from Wellington region, one was from Nelson Marlborough, five were from Canterbury, one was from West Coast and four were from Southern.

Three were in their 60s, five were in their 70s, nine were in their 80s and seven were aged over 90. Of these people, 13 were women and 11 were men. There are also 200 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, with eight cases in ICU.

The seven-day rolling average of cases is 1593. Figures reported last week showed there had been 11,544 new cases of Covid-19 reported, and 12 deaths attributed to Covid-19. So that’s not great. Covid 19 is still very much with us.

It’s now Tuesday March 21st.

Well, I wasn’t going to go back there again, but the American news networks are getting into this piece of not-so-ancient history – The Bulwark, the Lawfare podcast, and the New York Times: here’s a link to the Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes’ daily newsletter. Note the Americans are more obsessed with whether Trump will be indicted, and, if so, what may happen:


Former President George Bush is unabashed, which I guess proves what I always thought, that he’s a shallow, rather unintelligent person who lacks insight.

Here is another UK Guardian article:


And the UK’s Guardian has another insightful article: 


This involvement by Great Britain also spurred the television series “The Thick of it”, written and directed by Armando Iannucci.  It was cynical indeed.

JD argues that Blair had to go with Bush and preserve the “special relationship”; I argue that he didn’t.  I remember someone saying, as the US was poised to invade Iraq, that “we’re watching the end of American hegemony”. Isn’t “hegemony” a wonderful word?  It derives from the Greek, from “hegemon”, meaning leader, in the version I looked up. Under Trump, it seemed indeed that the US wanted to give away its global leadership; under Biden, not so much, and Biden has rallied the UK and European leaders in their support for Ukraine against its Russian invasion. 

On another note, this morning’s newspaper has an article about the death of Traute Lafrenz at 103. She was the last of the White Rose movement – a movement in Germany against Hitler after the defeat at Stalingrad. Sophie Scholl and her brother were arrested, and executed by the Gestapo – years ago we saw a film about this. But Lafrenz, although arrested and interrogated twice by the Gestapo, managed to survive. After the war, she went to San Francisco and founded the Esperanza School for children with special needs, following the philosophy of anthroposophy founded by Rudolf Steiner.  Our daughter attended the Hōhepa School and stayed in the Hōhepa Hawkes Bay community, which is also based on anthroposophy. So that is quite wonderful.

It’s now Wednesday Match 22nd.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. Today there was no traffic problem, and I was the first there! Although there were four apologies, there were plenty of us and it was a joy to sing together. 

Afterwards I caught the 10 am bus into town, and went to see the movie Aftersun at the Lighthouse Cinema in Wigan St. The movie had a good review, and I enjoyed aspects of it, especially Paul Mescal’s relationship with his 11 year old daughter, but to be honest I found much of it boring. For some reason, although it was Seniors Wednesday, I wasn’t offered a cup of coffee. As it was almost time for the movie to start, and I hate to go in once it’s darkened, I went without. I was really hungry and thirsty afterwards, but there was a queue for tickets, and apparently only one staff member, so I walked to Café Eis instead. It was nice there, although a but draughty. I had a sandwich, a long black coffee, and a delicious chocolate tart, most of which I brought home.  I then walked down to the bus stop in Manners Street and caught a bus home.

It’s now Friday March 24th.

Yesterday I went to my Thursday morning singing at Khandallah.  There was a big turnout – almost 30 people, and we had a lovely session. 

This morning my lady from Access came to do some housework; accordingly, I changed the sheets and towels and did some tidying up before she came. I slept better last night, thankfully, waking at 5 am but going back to sleep after that. The previous nights I did not sleep well. One night I thought that listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony might put me to sleep- alas, not. I marvelled at the wonderful recording I was listening to, of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti. Even on my phone it sounds wonderful.  To get to sleep, however, I had to listen to a podcast. Sometimes on Apple they keep on going without a break; if they finish, I often wake up. Of course navigating all this when you’re sleepy doesn’t always result in wise decisions.

I’m now reading a book I bought about Ravenna, by Judith Herrin.  After seeing pictures of the wonderful frescoes there on a Youtube video, and hearing podcasts about the Emperor Justinian on The Rest is History, my interest is awakened and I would so like to go there. It also chimes in with my knowledge of Roman History, and the four emperors, the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, and a bit of religious history gleaned from Tom Holland’s Dominion.

It’s now Saturday March 25th.

Today we won’t go shopping, we’ll have a lazy day instead.  There are several interesting things happening: here in Aotearoa, the far-right anti-Gay activist known as “Posie Parker” has been allowed into the country, but she couldn’t speak in Auckland (juice was thrown at her), and she’s cancelled a planned appearance in Wellington tomorrow.  In the US, Trump has announced that he’ll be indicted, but so far he has not. He has, however, hogged the limelight. He’s also made horrendous threats against Alvin Bragg, the New York attorney, who is expected to indict him.  Ron de Santis has walked back remarks he made about the war in Ukraine, calling it a “territorial dispute”.  Evidently it’s 20 years since the Michael Moore film Bowling for Columbine was released; I watched it, for the first time, on my computer.

In the UK, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been in Parliament trying to justify his lying to the general public about the parties that happened at 10 Downing Street, while the rest of the country was in lock down, while their loved ones were dying alone and numbers at funerals were severely limited.

There is argument about the efficacy of lockdowns, with history being rewritten in some cases.  Remember how scary it was during the pandemic, i.e. for much of the last three years: initially, there were a huge number of deaths, and we didn’t know what caused someone to get Covid 19, there was no vaccine, and there were many deaths and many people seriously ill, with dreadful aftereffects.  Remember in New Zealand, after the first lockdown, we went about our daily lives pretty normally?  Auckland had the Americas Cup yacht racing, and we had wonderful concerts in Wellington. Now people are still getting Covid 19, and some are dying from it, or in intensive care, but it’s no longer as scary as it was, thankfully.

In the Ukraine, it’s hard to know what’s happening. The nuclear power plant is in grave danger (still? Again?); fierce fighting continues in Bakhmut.  Is Ukraine going to win? If so, how? How will this fighting stop? One hopes it will stop soon, with an honourable outcome for the brave Ukrainians, but the end does not seem to be in sight. Meanwhile, thousands of Ukrainian children have been abducted to Russia, and the ICC has labelled Putin a war criminal.

It’s now Sunday. I went to church, and we had the organ playing, always a joy.  However, although there were several children there, there weren’t many adults. The sermon was about faith, and the ways God might call us to spread the Good News, and say to others how much it means to us. Afterwards, JD picked me up.

I’ve listened to more podcasts – American – about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, twenty years on.  The Brits got into this much sooner. But I’m astonished at Americans, who have a different attitude – even if they now think it was a shame. Many of these people (Lawfare, the Bulwark) were impressionable young people who for the most part were behind the President George Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their mates in their gung-ho, non-reflective urge to invade the Middle East. This was “sold” in advertising terms, and the “selling” was obvious to more sceptical, cynical viewers, right down to “mission accomplished”, so obviously staged. It should be said that even now neither Bush nor Blair have any spoken regrets about the mess they caused.  It’s easy to see how Trump and Republicans and Boris Johnson and the Tories in England now rate all their moves on how they’ll be received by their adoring voters, not on what will be best for the country, or its citizens, or the planet we live in. Bush traded on the saying that you’re either with US, or with the terrorists (vague people, posing an even vaguer threat). There was no safe neutrality. 

Even General David Petraeus spoke mainly of the bravery of American troops, with some regret that objectives (what objectives?) after the toppling of Saddam were not achieved. There seemed to be no plan as to What Would Happen Next. Into that void, came civil war, Sunni-Shia divisions, Iranian success, and, of course, Isis.  Americans (gullible?) believed the need for war; then Trump was able to take advantage of that trust and gullibility. Whom should the American people trust? Why, Trump, of course!  Despite the fact that he’s a proven liar. Not their own government, at any level.

In Mother Jones there’s an interesting article by David Corn, who was one of the very few reporters who thought from the start that invading Iraq might not be such a good idea:


Back in New Zealand, the activist known as “Posie Parker” left last night, apparently having seen enough opposition to her message to deter her.

In the US, Ron de Santis, governor of Florida and probable presidential contender, has signed laws and espoused some very scary views, while promoting his book The Courage to be Free.  Many would wish to be free, after the principal of a school in Tallahassee was forced to resign after showing pupils a picture of Michelangelo’s famous statue of David.  David is unclothed, and someone might take offence. To many of us, that statue is one of the most beautiful things in the world, even more so as Michelangelo carved it from a spoilt piece of marble.  To me, there is no shame in David’s nakedness. I don’t find it offensive.

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


Sir Derek Jacobi playing Hamlet in Shakespeare’s great tragic play

It’s now Saturday March 18th, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning I listened again to the Rest is Politics podcast about the leadup to “Desert Storm”, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The issue explored in the movie Official Secrets related to a UN resolution supporting the war, and hence authorising in some way the use of military force to combat the “existential” threat posed by Iraq’s WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).  Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons before, and it was feared he would use them again. The WMD related to chemical weapons, not nuclear weapons; there was subsequently great controversy over whether Iran was had a nuclear capability, and how soon they could build nuclear weapons.  During President Obama’s reign a treaty was signed in 2015 and came to be known as the JPCOA. Russia was a signatory, too, but Trump pulled the US out of the deal.  Whether it was a bad deal or not, it was a deal, and I suspect Iran has become considerably more dangerous since Trump pulled the US out of the treaty. 

In the US, English-born journalist Mehdi Hasan has spoken about the twenty-year anniversary, saying that no one has been held accountable for the invasion of Iraq and the deaths and all the destruction and subsequent chaos.  I have not heard any other US networks commenting at all.  No doubt many of us remember dreadful scenes from the Abu Ghraib prison, where a female member of the US military was leading a male Arab prisoner on a leash.

In the UK there are more articles in the Guardian’s webpage:




And an article by UK journalist Jonathan Freedland:


I realise the US had had success in their 1990 invasion of Kuwait, to liberate it after Saddam Hussein had invaded.  I remember “Stormin’ Norman”, General Schwarzkopf, who was a bit of a character, if you weren’t being bombed or attacked by his forces.  I also remember Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defence claiming that the intelligence about WMD in Iraq was “only intelligence”. Well, it was very heavily relied on, nevertheless.  Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, seemed determined to go to war, and he did not lack allies.  What business had the US being in the Middle East? It wasn’t as if Israel had asked for help. Perhaps it was about the oil, Operation Iraqi Liberation.

On to other things now. This morning we went into town. I wanted to go to Commonsense Organics, but it’s really hard to get to, being up near the top of Tory Street.  We waited and waited to get up Tory Street, which is so very narrow, with buildings overhanging so it can’t be widened. Perhaps it could be made one-way. I really wanted to go to Moore Wilson’s too, but I didn’t dare ask for that!  We did get a parking space in Tory Street outside the complex car park, so that made it easier to get away afterwards. Thankfully, they did have my fragrance-free deodorant. I bought some Hōhepa Danbo cheese too.

Then we laboured through heavy traffic to get onto the motorway north, and thus to the New World Supermarket in Thorndon. There seemed to be masses of traffic,  heading – where, exactly? Not to the cricket at the Basin Reserve, or the Homegrown Festival on the waterfront.  Eventually we got to the supermarket, and it wasn’t too busy there. We even saw some friends of ours. They also had nice salads and pies.  We didn’t need much today.

It’s now Sunday March 19th, Rātapu.

I can’t let go of the 2003 Iraq war, despite saying that I wanted to.  The UK’s Guardian is full of stories about the unwiseness of this invasion, and of the UK’s going along with the US.  I listened to the British Scandal podcast episodes again about what they’re calling the “sexed up” aka dodgy dossier and David Kelly’s suicide.  It was thought that Alastair Campbell was responsible for making changes to the dossier, although it’s all pretty murky really as to exactly who made changes to it. It’s evident though that although Saddam Hussein was a very dodgy character, and many Iraqis wanted to see him gone, the supposed intelligence about his potential use of uranium was probably not for nuclear weapons production. The WMD did not exist. As Donald Rumsfeld later said on Stephen Colbert’s show, It’s only intelligence!  It’s been pointed out that Tony Blair was a lawyer in a previous life, and was perhaps seeking to make legal arguments to justify his decision to ally with the US and invade Iraq;  for Alastair Campbell, his “spin doctor”, this turned out to be a story that could not got on top of, and he had to testify to a Royal Commission about his role. No wonder he resigned; I think he had a nervous breakdown too. 

Furthermore, the so-called intelligence was obtained from Australia, and there are huge doubts cast on that as this Guardian story shows:


I remember stories about Valerie Plame in the US, and her being outed as a CIA officer. I watched a film about her moral dilemma. It seems as though whatever the evidence, and no matter how flimsy it was, Bush was determined to go to war. And alarmingly, he has no insight to this day as to what a terrible idea it was. His rhetoric was scary at the time.

In the US, it seems that only Medhi Hasan is remembering this invasion, and he hammers George Dubya Bush and his administration even further in this Youtube clip:

He argues that not only has no one been held to account for their role in this invasion, but that one of the consequences is that Putin has felt emboldened to invade Ukraine; another consequence is that Bush, Blair, and John Howard in Australia were all re-elected. Blair’s legacy is indeed tarnished, but, compared to Trump, Bush doesn’t look quite so awful now. Indeed; but it could be argued that distrust in Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and co. led more or less directly to the election of a reality-television star to the Presidency, and to the clown-show that put Boris Johnson and his mates in power in the UK. Johnson and Trump are both gone for now, but who’s to say they won’t return to power? They certainly have their fan base(s). Biden and Sunak are trying to clean up the mess; with varying degrees of success, depending on whom you listen to.

Well. It’s Sunday now, and I went to church this morning. There was a good turnout today, including a couple with their new baby! She’s only a few weeks old, just beautiful, and she slept soundly through the service. She reminds me of my eldest son. We missed the organ player today but enjoyed the pianist! She’s just great too.

The sermon was on Psalm 23 (which the reader read from the King James Version of the Bible), and John’s Gospel chapter 9 about the man blind from birth, whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  He healed him by spitting on the ground and this making mud, which he applied to the blind man’s eyes. Is its cleanliness dubious? Perhaps so. Then he commanded him to go and bathe in the pool of Siloam.  The Pharisees, though, complained and cast him out, but eventually he met Jesus, and having been told who he was, did him homage.  The main message of this story is about the blindness of the Pharisees, or Jewish teachers, compared to the man with a serious disability who was healed by Jesus and believed on him and gained his sight both literally and spiritually.  Of course there are other parallels, like that of the bathing, compared to Naaman’s bathing to be cured of his leprosy; and the suggestion of baptism, and bathing; the faith of one’s parents, and the cleansing from sin.  And then there is the wonderful image of the Lord as the good Shepherd from Psalm 23, and we’re again reminded of the many parental images in the Bible of God’s care, mothering and fathering. Both are invoked. 

I was reminded of our last trip to Europe. We were in Barcelona, and due to begin our return to Wellington the next day. We went into a cathedral, where a baptism was being conducted. I love the way one can go into churches in Europe and often there’s a service being conducted – it’s just part of everyday life, it seems. The priest recited Psalm 23 in Spanish: “El Senor es mi Pastore…” As we were about to fly home, that seemed very appropriate to me.

Going back to the Guardian, there’s an article reminding me that at one time Ben Jonson was more popular than Shakespeare.


I did a paper on Ben Jonson, back in the day, when I did my Masters degree in English (Renaissance) literature. He was a very fine poet as well as being a fine dramatist. His plays were all in iambic pentameter, as were Shakespeare’s: it was the literary language of the time. I remember The Alchemist, Volpone, but there were others too. I think we did a reading of The Alchemist. He was a very clever writer; which is not at all to say that Shakespeare wasn’t, but perhaps he lacked Shakespeare’s common touch in appealing to a wider audience.  It’s nice to be reminded of Ben Jonson.

Talking of great actors, including one very great Shakespearean actor, there is another story from Sir Derek Jacobi:


Enough links to stories already, I know how annoying they can be.

I’ll finish today with a beautiful poem by Ben Jonson, on the death of his first daughter. Years ago I sent a copy of this to a dear relation, and she told me it meant so much to her too. It still makes me cry.  Ngā mihi nui.

On My First Daughter


Here lies, to each her parents’ ruth,

Mary, the daughter of their youth;

Yet all heaven’s gifts being heaven’s due,

It makes the father less to rue.

At six months’ end she parted hence

With safety of her innocence;

Whose soul heaven’s queen, whose name she bears,

In comfort of her mother’s tears,

Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:

Where, while that severed doth remain,

This grave partakes the fleshly birth;

Which cover lightly, gentle earth!

Coalition of the Willing

Toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003

Today is Monday March 13, 2023. Kia ora!

I didn’t go to my exercise class this morning, partly because I didn’t feel up to going, and partly because rain was forecast. There were some heavy showers this morning, but then there’s sunshine trying to gleam through the clouds between showers. The intensity of the showers is a bit scary.

The weekly Covid 19 report is out, and it’s not great, perhaps worse than last week’s report. It reads as follows: there have been 11,544 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week, and 22 further deaths. Of the new cases, 4717 were reinfections. The ministry reported 22 deaths with 12 attributed to Covid-19.

Of the 22 people deaths being reported today, one was from Northland, six were from the Auckland region, one was from Waikato, one was from Bay of Plenty, two were from Lakes, one was from Hawke’s Bay, two were from MidCentral, one was from Wellington region, five were from Canterbury, one was from South Canterbury and one was from Southern.

Two were in their 30s, two were in their 50s, two were in their 60s, five were in their 70s, eight were in their 80s and three were aged over 90. Of these people, seven were women and 15 were men.

There were also 190 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, with five cases in ICU. The seven-day rolling average of cases is now 1644.

Figures reported last week showed there had been 11,453 new cases, with six deaths and 177 people hospitalised.

So that’s not great. I seem to keep saying every week that people are still dying, people are still getting Covid 19, while there are a few brave souls who haven’t had it (yet); and the numbers are still alarmingly high. Meanwhile, one sees very few masks around. You have to wear one to a medical centre, or a pharmacy, and I always keep one handy just in case. It’s now three years since Covid 19 entered New Zealand, and how it has changed everyone’s lives.

But I was reminded again last night of how we’ve abandoned all Covid 19 restrictions, as we gathered at a local café for a Lenten celebration of what Māori means in connection with established religion in terms of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. It strikes me again that Aotearoa is so fortunate to have a treaty; that we are also so fortunate that the Māori language is fairly common among different tribes, and that Māori have a deep sense of spirituality, and worship one unseen God, and don’t worship idols, while they have a deep sense of reverence for their ancestors.

It’s now Wednesday March 15th.

Yesterday was quiet but one of my sons brought his three year-old daughter to visit in the morning. She wanted to give him a toy for his birthday; we suggested that maybe she should leave it here, so that she or her older brother can play with it whenever she visits. She’s a busy little girl, but quite delightful.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing.  JD had an appointment soon afterwards, but we encountered heavy traffic, so it was a frustrating journey. Other attendees had trouble with traffic too. I think we’ll have to go back to leaving home before 9 am, and going around the back way which is longer but usually has less queuing.

After this I had a Te Reo Māori class. There was a driving class for older drivers at the same time, so we had fewer people than usual. But there were several new faces, and I knew most of them!  It was lovely, and we’re due to have a catch-up class in a few days’ time.  I am feeling slightly more comfortable with it now.

Afterwards I caught a bus into town where I was to meet my cousin for lunch. On the bus, I met someone who used to come to hymn singing. What a lovely conversation we had!  It was good to see him again.

It turned into a fine sunny day. When I got up, I agonised over what to wear – whether I could still get away with a summer skirt and sandals, or should wear warmer clothes. I chose summer clothes, an, for the most part, I was warm enough, although the daylight time is much shorter now, and it’s quite cold in the morning. Last night I had the heater on in my bedroom.

Lunch was pretty good: we each had a pie, with lovely pickles, and salad; I also had garlicky mashed potato. There was lovely thin gravy, too. I bought a jar of boysenberry jam, one of my favourites. Afterwards we went shopping together, before I caught a bus home. But the day wasn’t over yet: I was due to get my stitches out later that afternoon. The would in my back seems to have healed up well. I’m relieved to have the bandage off: I think it was causing some discomfort. Now there are some plaster strips, which should come off soon. I cannot see this scar!

It’s now Thursday March 16th.

Apparently Christopher Luxon, National Party leader, has diagnosed positive for Covid 19.  One of my son’s partners has it too, having held out when we all had it last July.  People are still getting it. It’s very strange how some people avoid it and others get it regardless.

This morning I went to my Thursday morning singing. I agonised beforehand over what to wear: it’s not cold today but not as warm as yesterday. We’re missing now the hot days when one wore sandals and loose skirts and tops; the days are much shorter, and getting more so every day, although we try to think it’s still summery. Singing was just lovely.

I’ve finally finished reading a book leant to me by one of my friends. It grabbed my attention from the beginning, but I have to admit that I was speeding through it at the end.

In the US Silicon Valley Bank has failed. Another bank, I think called Signature Bank, based in New York, has failed too. General nervousness has increased when we heard this morning that Credit Suisse has failed.  In New Zealand, the government still doesn’t provide a guarantee of bank deposits. Meanwhile, our major banks, Australian owned, are making bigger profits than previously. Here in New Zealand and Australia, some building firms and joinery firms and a Tiny Homes firm have gone bust. And this in a time when many people were seeking to build additions onto their homes; many new homes are boing built; and then we just had Cyclone Gabrielle, which has surely created a need for more building. In almost every street, it seems, there are red cones, and workmen forcing two lanes of traffic to queue up and wait a long time for each other to pass.  So how can any business be failing?  I know there are stringent building requirements, and supply-chain delays, but nonetheless, it’s really hard to get any work done, should you want to do so.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Hipkins is doing quite well in the polls, although his actions to address cost of living issues and defer climate proposals have been described as “reckless” by the UK’s Guardian. 

It’s now Friday March 17th.

Yesterday afternoon we bumped into our old family doctor, whom I haven’t seen since he retired several years ago. He was already well past retirement age when he retired, but it was a great loss of someone who’s delivered all my babies, except for the first, who was delivered by a specialist.  JD and I have known him for decades. He looks really well, as though retirement agrees with him, but I suspect he misses us too.

This morning I listened to a really interesting podcast from The Rest is History, talking not so much about climate change but climate challenges over the years, as humankind have had to deal with whims of the climate, severe winters, droughts, eruptions, plagues and other natural events. It was claimed that Lloyds of London say that Florida is uninsurable. Someone should tell Ron de Santis and his supporters.

In the UK people are reflecting on the Iraq War 20 years on. While it’s rather annoying to be reminded of things we would rather forget about, I think that this calls for reflection.  I feel that I’m living through so much history during my lifetime that it’s useful to remember pivotal moments, and this was certainly one of them. That would be the one where the US cobbled together a coalition, The Coalition of the Willing, in which the UK was the biggest partner, although Australia and Canada were in there too. I think even New Zealand sent some troops, under prime Minister Helen Clark. The premise was that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, aka Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMD.  There was also the fact that many people wanted to see Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, removed. And there was also the fact that the US had suffered some scary germ warfare incidents. There were a number of Republicans known as Neo cons who were keen for the US to go to war, despite their massive failure and the unpopularity of the long war in Vietnam.  There is a podcast series under Slow Burn about the lead up to the Iraq War from an American perspective: here’s a link.


There were huge protests against the American invasion of Iraq, especially in London. It turned out that a specialist Prime Minister Tony Blair had perhaps mistakenly relied on, David Kelly, committed suicide as a result of what came to be known as the “sexed up dossier” case. Keira Knightley starred in a 2019 film made about reasons for the invasion called “Official Secrets”. Blair was thought to be far too cosy with President George “Dubya” Bush and his warlike mates, although there was a suggestion from Alastair Campbell that Bush wanted Blair to restrain them. There’s a British Scandal podcast series about this:


I’ve listened to Campbell and Rory Stewart podcasts about this, about the lead up, and the effects. It was very interesting to hear Rory gently taking Campbell to task for his part in Blair’s decision, although it was stressed that the decision to go to war was the Prime Minister’s.  It’s good to hear about this from a British perspective.  Of course, the aftermath was just awful, and it was interesting to hear Stewart talking about the immense difficulties of the so-called reconstruction. The Americans, after early success, including the famous toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein, and the revelation that his sons, Qusay and Uday, used Viagra, seemingly had no plan to reconstruct society there, seeking to install a Republican-type government.  It has all been so terribly sad, and on the face of it led to failed government, enormous destruction, and then to the rise of Isis and even more terrorism. An article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper claims it led to more distrust in government in the US and the UK, the Brexit referendum, the election of Trump, and the belief by many that democracy no longer works as the best form of government, and extreme cynicism – about everything.  Governments that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, i.e. Tory governments in the UK and Republican government under Trump in the US, have confirmed many in the belief that the right are desperate to hang on to power, although deeply unpopular, and unfair and unkind to many of their less well off citizens, while refusing to take their problems or concerns seriously. Here’s a link to the Guardian article:


I have to admit I’m quite cynical about Dick Cheney’s never-again Trump stance, whereas he was so in favour of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and encouraged the use of Halliburton, a firm he had links to.

I had to work really hard to find this article, after reading it on my phone. It certainly doesn’t have priority in the paper’s webpage. I warned you that I’m a podcast junkie!  But I like to think that I listen to a better class of podcasts.

This morning I watched another Youtube video of Lady Colin Campbell.  At the beginning of this presentation Prime Minister “Chippy” Hipkins popped up making a compelling speech about cost of living increases to many benefits, including superannuation. He looked and sounded great. She’s very right wing, so I can only presume she doesn’t have any say in which advertisements air during her segment.

I read in the Guardian Australia newsletter that Covid is rearing its ugly head again. Certainly there are odd cases  around, of people who have held out up till now, and then many getting it again. There is a new wave of a variety of covid variants in NSW.      

Most weekdays I listen to Charlie Sykes’ The Bulwark podcast, mainly to keep up with what’s happening in the world of conservative politics. I readily admit it can be irritating at times. In my opinion, Charlie just wants his former conservatism back, which is probably not going to happen.  He continues to find fault with democrats, and is not a fan of President Joe Biden. In fact it seems to me that he’s ultra-critical of progressives, while criticising factors that are so different from the Trump era of politics, which shocked everybody. While Biden is an old man who tells stories (we all know old men who love to tell stories!), they’re pretty harmless, for the most part, and he’s always done this.  I know that with so much accumulated knowledge and memories, it can be hard to “cut to the chase” when recounting an incident.  In addition, I have really vivid dreams, and sometimes when I’m remembering them I have to remind myself that it was only a dream.

In the US, First Republic Bank is now being propped up by “Wall St giants”, according to the Guardian.  Does this herald further bank failures? Could it be that greed is still rampant, causing banking crises? 

This morning we drove to Mana where I had a hair appointment. As we’ve come to expect, we navigated a sea of red cones and queued up for stop/start one lane pass throughs.  Yet we’re told there has been a 6% drop in the December quarter. How can this be, when there are heaps of road gangs employed, it’s a waiting game to get any kind of work done on your house, and all hospitality venues are short staffed? The economy looks to be buzzing, with people in the towns and lots of building going on.  Very strange.

This morning it rained very heavily, but it’s quite warm.  Since it was raining, I didn’t want to wear a long skirt or sandals; but I didn’t want to be too hot either. I compromised and wore trousers, non-suede shoes, and a green top, but even so I was too warm. The rain’s stopped now, but there was some flooding in Waikanae.

That’s it for now. Interesting times!  Will Trump be indicted? Ever? We continue to wonder.  Ngā mihi nui.

Waters of Life and Death

Both lanes re-open on the Waitangi Bridge near Clive, on SH 51 between Napier and Hastings

Today is Monday March 6th, 2023. Kia ora!

It was great to learn during the weekend that the Waitangi Bridge on SH 51 between Napier and Hastings (and Clive) is usable again.  One hopes that things will return to some kind of normal, and that wsde decisions will be made about rebuilding, and where to rebuild.  Hawkes Bay is paradise, except when there’s severe drought, or flooding. That’s the way it is.

This morning I went to my exercise class in Ngaio. I was all set up to catch the train to Ngaio afterwards, but in the event JD gave me a lift. What a sad story when we got near, though: Kenya St was being resurfaced, and there were cones, queues, and stoppages. JD let me out of the car, but there’s no footpath on the left hand side of the road; I made my way, delicately, to Ngaio Union Church, noting that any passage in the area was very difficult, as one tried to avoid motorised traffic that was also trying to get somewhere.. There was a big turn out for exercises, although I hardly knew anyone there. Still, it was fine, and lovely. They have some attractive night-time activities there, but it’s not an easy place to get to. Afterwards, a kind person gave me a lift home.

In the afternoon the Covid 19 report came out. Later, I can’t find it! But the numbers aren’t going down as quickly as one would have hoped. Hold-outs are still getting Covid 19, and there was a spate of it in Hawkes Bay during the recent cyclonic disaster.

That night we watched the movie Best Sellers on Neon, I think. It was full of swear words, to my horror. It starred Michael Caine. I think he’s a Sir now, but I don’t like him. I saw him in Alfie years ago, and it put me off for good.

It’s now Tuesday March 7th, Census day. I remind JD of this.

This morning a friend’s husband picked me up and drove us to the Lighthouse Cinema at Petone, where we were to see What’s Love got to do with it?  It started out pretty cold in the morning (my phone said 7C, and there was some condensation on the windows), but it turned into a beautiful fine day, although it was cold in the cinema. We had plenty of time to have a cup of coffee and a muffin beforehand. The movie was very good, actually, with a star turn by Emma Thompson as Lily James’ mother.

Afterwards we visited a lovely china shop in Petone, before catching a bus back into Wellington.  I visited the Chemist Warehouse with her in Lambton Quay, and was amazed at the rows upon rows of goods. It was a bit of a maze – I ended up waiting for my friend outside. It’s one of those stores where you don’t really want to shop and queue up to pay; I guess they’ll soon have self-service kiosks like K Mart and some Warehouse stores. I would prefer not to buy there. I see my local pharmacies in Johnsonville and Churton Park attempting to diversify, and not quite hitting the mark – where do you buy things that you would traditionally have bought in a chemist? I prefer a nicer shopping environment. It’s upsetting to see Chemist Warehouse advertising, like Harvey Norman, ad nauseam. I hope that I never spend money in either pf them. Afterwards we caught a bus to the northern suburbs.

It’s now Wednesday March 8th.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was lovely, of course. We sang a psalm to what I think is Gregorian chant – quite different, but fun to do. Afterwards I had some surgery to remove a cyst on my back under local anaesthetic. I was very nervous, but it all went fine, although I had to go to Thorndon which posed some difficulties.  I wished I had taken my cell phone headphones, as it was disconcerting to hear the various noises while not feeling pain, and lying rather uncomfortably on my front. I tried to concentrate on deep breathing, relaxing my shoulders, and going over the hymns in my mind. Afterwards JD picked me up and we had lunch at La Cloche in Thorndon. Now I am trying not to watch medical dramas on television, or on my PC. They’re rather too close to home at the moment.

In the US there is great consternation about the release of testimony from Rupert Murdoch because of the legal case whereby Dominion is suing Fox News. Dominion supplied voting systems that were used during the presidential election in 2020. There is more information tumbling out conveying various Fox hosts’ upset at their calling Arizona for Joe Biden; and then such upset that Fox’s stock price was falling, viewers were going to other right-wing channels, and so the Fox anchors lied about the result, and perpetuated what came to be known as the “big lie”. People are shocked by the cynicism of Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch: “You don’t want Trump as an enemy”. This has caused, and is still causing, no end of trouble.

It’s now Thursday March 9th.

It’s cloudy today, although it was quite warm last night.  Can I still wear sandals and summer clothes, I wonder? The days are definitely shorter now, and it seems darker.

Last night we re-watched three episodes of Smiley’s People on Youtube.  It is just so well acted and filmed.  All the actors are quite wonderful, and it’s always a joy to watch Alec Guinness.  Alan Rickman does a star turn as a hotel concierge!  I guess the actors have great scripts to work with, which must help. Of course, in reality Kim Philby was always there in the background, but John Le Carré’s Cold War novels are complex but well-written, and they have a sense of authenticity.

This morning I went to singing. It’s always a treat, and we had a good turn out today. I picked up some Te Reo Māori handouts from the office at Khandallah Town Hall, as I’d missed a class.

Well, in the US the Fox revelations continue to be shocking: It’s been revealed that Tucker Carlson hated Trump “passionately”, thought he was a “demonic” force, and thought his presidency was a waste of time, saying (texting?) that he was a champion at breaking things. Or some such. One get the general drift.  Most people are shocked. Comedian Seth Myers had a segment showing Carlson going on Fox about people’s irrational hatred for Trump.  JVL at The Bulwark claims there will be no repercussions for Fox, despite some anchors despising their audience. Everyone else is waiting to see what Rupert Murdoch will do. Furthermore, Carlson aired a few minutes’ video from hundreds of hours of January 6 rioting footage, which he apparently demanded from US Congress chair Kevin McCarthy, and for the most part Republican politicians are claiming it was a peaceful tourist visit. Mitch McConnell and a few others claim otherwise.

Then there was Trump’s scary speech at CPAC. Many republicans did not go – Nikki Haley was jeered, but Trump claimed, among other things, “I am your retribution”. Well, the Good Book in Romans 12: 19-21 says “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord”. I somehow don’t think that Trump was quoting from the Bible.  It seems that Trump is still rating high in some polls, although Ron de Santis, governor or Florida, is rating pretty highly as well. Which of them is more scary?  I find them both to be pretty scary.  Meanwhile, there’s debate amongst the Democrats as to whether Joe Biden should aim for a second term as president. Well, he’s old, but he’s amazing, and I guess those around him have a pretty good idea of what he wants.

We finished watching Smiley’s People on television (on Youtube).  It’s an old series, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that Smiley gets his Russian counterpart in the end. Theis series is so well crafted, it’s been amazing to watch, even if Smiley is sad and depressed at the end. The state of his once-proud service would be enough to depress anybody. 

It’s now Friday March 10th.

At midday my usual lady came from Access to do some housework.  Apparently she finished early last week, and hence did not come. However Access did not ring me, or put anyone else in the schedule.  JD went off to our Art group – without me. He had fun there. I caught a bus into town: I had a Whitcoulls voucher expiring, and wanted to use it.  I bought a gift, and then checked out Farmers Red Dot sale. Fortunately there was nothing there to tempt me, in fact I thought all the clothes were rather dark, and not attractive colours.

That night we watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Bravo. It had quite a stellar line up, including Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as the leads, and Robin Wright and Christopher Plummer amongst others.  It is quite a violent movie, but it’s a joy to watch Daniel Craig.

It’s now Saturday March 11th.

It is sunny and warm today!

We went shopping at my favourite supermarket  – New World in Thorndon. It was busy but not crazy busy. I was able to get raspberries, lettuce, an avocado, tonic water, salad, potato-topped pie, quince paste – and –Black Doris plums! I have not been able to get them the last two summers. I am so glad to get some now!

In the evening we watched the new series (3 episodes!) on television one called Murder in Provence. It’s two hours long, and stars Roger Allam amongst others. It was quite good, but the advertisements are so annoying.  Patricia Hodge (affectionately called Portia by Rumpole in Rumpole of the Bailey) starts as Allam’s partner’s mother. It didn’t feature same-sex relationships, but did feature the menopause. I do find that quite annoying. It was in the category of things You Didn’t Speak About back in my day, now that it’s well behind me.

It’s now Sunday March 19th, another beautiful fine day.

I went to church this morning. It’s a fine day, and the organ was playing. Everyone was very friendly.   The sermon today was about the living water; the texts were from Exodus 17: 1 – 7, where God tells Moses to strike the rock to give the Israelites water to drink, and from John’s Gospel 4: 5 – 42, where the Samaritan women comes to the well, and encounters Jesus, the Messiah, there, who tells her about the living water.

There are all kinds of relevancies here: Moses striking the rock on Horeb, which is on Mt Sinai; the suggestion that water is essential to human life; and the well in the New Testament, which dates back to Jacob, one of the three patriarchs of Israel. Samaria is thought to be in Palestine, although Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. Anyway, Jesus tells the woman that if she drinks from the water He will give her, she’ll never thirst again. She recognises that He is the Christ.  Here is another instance of Jesus revealing himself to an outcast of society.  It’s very striking how often the events in the New Testament build on those of the Old Testament.  There is always a connection, with many Old Testament events prefiguring those that are yet to come.

But what a tangled web we weave, wondering about things nowadays!  In 1 John 4: 1, which says “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world”. I remember reading Tom Holland’s Dominion, and being amazed that there has always been controversy and disagreement over religious beliefs, even amongst Christians. I appreciate what we have at the church I go to regularly.

In prayers for others reference was made to Isaiah 41:10, Fear not, for I am with you; I also thought of Isaiah 43: 2, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.

In Ukraine, bitter fighting continues in the city of Bahkmut.  It’s difficult to get accurate information about what’s happening there, as there are reports of the Wagner group lacking the equipment they need; Russian troops gaining some ground at huge expense; advice that the Ukrainians should stage a strategic withdrawal; and arguments that Ukrainian forces should continue to try to hold onto a potentially strategic route – but how strategic is it? Is it worth continuing for either side? Are the Ukrainians causing Russians to be distracted by this intense fight?  Is this a right, or wrong, decision on either side?  I’m sure this will be analysed intently in the future. But it’s still going on, right now.

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


Outside the Russian Embassy in London commemorating one year of military activity in Ukraine

It’s now Friday March 3rd, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning I was to meet a friend at a new café in Khandallah. As JD had an appointment at 10:30 am, I got him to drop me off.  My friend was also there, and she’d invited another friend to join us. The new café is called Bread and Butter, I think, and it occupies the old wooden building that previously housed the restaurant Taste. There were quite a few people there already, including some sitting at outside tables. My  friend and I had delicious cheese scones (Yes, we would like them warmed with butter), and she wanted a half-strength Americano, while I ordered a long black coffee.  The eftpos terminal required a surcharge for using payWave, even if it’s not on a credit card. JD and I had found this on our travels up North. It rather eliminates the convenience of using PayWave, as one has to touch the terminal to accept the charge (less than a credit card charge, but a charge, none the less). We took a number to our table, and sat down with our cheese scones. The coffee eventually arrived, with extra cold milk and hot water, as requested; the coffee turned out to be really strong and rather bitter. We were offered cold water, which we gratefully accepted. Our friend arrived, and went to order tea and a cheese scone, having established that our coffees were really strong and bitter. My friend asked for another cup of coffee. Then things became chaotic, as teething problems became ever more evident. A couple sat next to us, but their service seemed very slow. Our third member was delivered a pot of green tea, and no milk. The waiter apologised and took it away. She caught the attention of a female wait-person, and asked for English Breakfast tea – a normal request at a café, one would have thought. But perhaps we were in Fawlty Towers territory?  The wait-person, very loudly, brought her what she called “English” tea!  Someone had asked for the loud, contemporary music to be turned down.  It was difficult to hear each other – there was lots of loud conversation going on, and there seemed to be no baffles to absorb the sound.  Our second friend saw the barista looking up a Youtube video on How To Make Coffee.  You would think they’d have trained people on using a coffee machine, the till, and clearing dirty dishes – but ours weren’t cleared for ages. The people sitting next to us had ordered cooked meals, and they seemed to take ages to arrive.  Eventually most people left, our dirty dishes were removed, and it was quiet enough to talk again.  Ah well, I guess teething troubles are to be expected, but the coffee definitely has to improve. Also, we had to negotiate a step while walking to our table. There was no “Mind the Step” sign, although there definitely should be.  My friend and I agreed to go to the movies next week, and I went home to be there for my person from Access, who usually comes at 12:30 pm. She did not turn up. Perhaps she came early? Access did not ring me. How very annoying. My early meeting for morning tea was organised around the fact that I expected her to come at her usual time, and had rushed around doing my usual tidying up before her visit.

It’s now Saturday March 4th.

This afternoon we went shopping in Thorndon. It was very busy there, and many things I wanted were missing, hard to find, or had been repackaged and rebranded. Nevertheless, I got most of what I wanted: raspberries, lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, tonic water, Jif cleaner and what used to be Spray’N’Wipe and has now been rebranded as Mr Muscle. That’s a bit annoying as I used to just buy refills, if they were cheaper (not always), and reuse the original containers. We also bought salad, yoghurt, and some apricots and nectarines. We bought some red grapes; there were no Black Doris plums; and avocadoes have gone up to $3.49.  We have to have them, now, they’ve been so good and they were so inexpensive.

It is sad that Ans Westra, the renowned photographer, has died. I’m so pleased that we saw an exhibition of some of her photographs at an art gallery in upper Cuba St, while waiting for Ombra restaurant to open.

It’s now Sunday March 5th.

Last night we watched the final episode of the current Call the Midwife series, featuring Trixie and Matthew’s wedding. There were all kinds of upsets, of course. I must say I find Trixie to be quite hard on the lovely Matthew at times. Still, it all went off rather well, although I didn’t really like Trixie’s dress. And the hen party! I didn’t have a hen party, although JD had a stag night, and, of course, the guys drove home afterwards. Back in the day.  He grazed his nose, but that, I was told, was from rather unwisely trying to climb a cliff (at our romantic but cold seaside location). Also, the pre-wedding luxury seemed far more American than English. Still, it was fun to watch, I guess.  Trixie’s brother was fun, and I loved how he said she’d forgotten her manners when the bridal flowers were delivered. Put it down to pre-wedding nerves, I suppose.

After that we switched to the movie The Heat on Te Whakaata Māori, a very long movie (3 hours) featuring Al Pacino as a detective, and Robert de Niro as a villain. It was highly rated, and a more thoughtful film, although there was a lot of shooting.  I rather enjoyed it, especially seeing Pacino and De Niro; there’s one amazing scene where they meet. There was another highly rated movie on Eden, called Prisoners, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. 

After that I slept well for me, until around 7 am, but I had a dreadful nightmare about someone taking advantage of me, and hatching an elaborate scheme to catch out the culprit, meanwhile, as usual, I was racing against the clock. Is it a good night’s sleep if you got several hours’ sleep, but still had a nightmare?  JD and I had been discussing crypto currency investments and fiascos, so perhaps my bad dream was not surprising.

There has been discussion about Roald Dahl’s books’ texts being amended.  I would have to say I have always found his texts quite scary, and the movie Matilda was no exception. However I would caution against changing any text; parental discretion is advised, I think. I remember wanting to show my 3 year old granddaughter a book of nursery rhymes my grandmother had given me, and deciding that most of them were quite inappropriate.  We all try to shield our precious children and grandchildren from harsh reality, although in reality they are learning their independence from the moment they’re outside the womb. Other people can say quite hurtful things, that a parent would never say.  At some points they have to realise that it can be a cold, hard world out there, and they can no longer be protected from it, although their parents and family will, one hopes, always love them and care about them. 

I went to church this morning. It was lovely, as usual: the organ was playing, always a treat for me; and the texts were Genesis 4: 1-4 and John’s Gospel 3: 1 – 17. The first one tells about God asking Abram to go out to a new land, and that He would bless him and make of him a great nation. Abram was 75 years old when this happened! He obeyed God, and God indeed fulfilled what had been promised.  In John’s Gospel, Nicodemus, a Jewish teacher, came to Jesus by night and asked him about being born again, and then there is the wonderful text “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes on him may not perish, but have life eternal. For God has not sent his Son into the world that he may judge the world, but that the world may be saved through him”.  Nicodemus returns again in John 19:39, when he brings myrrh and aloes and he and Joseph of Arimathaea prepare Jesus’ body for burial and lay it in an empty tomb nearby.  I had not realised that Nicodemus was involved in this daunting task. So, the sermon was about faith, and answering the call of God.  In the time of witness, several spoke about answering a call for help, and sensing that God was calling them to express a practical kindness which led to speaking about God.

JD had promised to pick me up afterwards, but he was unavailable, and I’d missed the 11:12 am bus, so I went to have a cup of coffee and a cheese scone at one of my favourite cafés and had a rest while I waited for the next bus. It wasn’t cancelled, and when it came, I caught it back to Johnsonville. I had to endure the bus driver’s hymn singing recording, which I did not enjoy. I do enjoy good religious music, but not this.

There’s a team in the library providing Census support – a good move, I think. The I caught a bus home.

In the UK it seems that Prime Minister Sunak has negotiated a Northern Ireland deal with Ursula Von der Leyden, representing the European Union.  It also seems that Boris Johnson lied about this issue.  It’s very complicated, but it seems to be a reasonable good deal, although it’s attacked by Boris Johnson and the DUP.  King Charles invited Ursula for tea at Buckingham Palace; he formerly said he wouldn’t live there, but it seems that he is.  So Sunak is perhaps a more intelligent, more honest Prime Minister, despite his wealth and his previous support for Johnson.  He has Johnson trying to undermine him, which can’t be helpful.  I don’t pretend to understand the Northern Ireland situation, but it was just huge when the Good Friday Agreement was signed by Tony Blair at Leeds Castle in Kent.  We have visited Leeds Castle, too. It was cold, but enjoyable.  Before this, IRA terrorism was truly terrifying.

After this historic agreement was signed, the dreadful violence ceased for the most part. 

In the Ukraine, the war has now been going on for over a year. February 24 marked the one year anniversary of the latest beginning of military activity in that troubled country. In London, some activists painted yellow and blue, the colours of the Ukrainian flag, outside the Russian Embassy. Now, after fierce fighting and resistance, it seems the city of Bahkmut is about to fall, if not already fallen. The Russians claim it has fallen; the Deputy Mayor says that Russian forces aren’t in charge.  Brutality continues, while it’s hoped that Western support continues for the brave Ukrainians.

Here in Aotearoa Christopher Luxon has made a speech at his party conference, excoriating the Labour government’s “bloated government”. I guess people in Auckland, Northland, the Coromandel, Tairawhiti, the Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay who are desperately seeking help and advice would not agree with that. He’s also announced a tax rebate for childcare costs; this latter would seem to be at odds with his “bloated government” claim. He does have trouble hitting the right note, it seems, in attacking the Labour Government. It seems that newish Prime Minister Hipkins (Chippy is much easier to say) is as good in a crisis as former Prime Minister Ardern was. He’s only been in the job for five weeks! Still, I’m sure that while one wouldn’t wish any more disasters on the next government, whichever Chris(topher) is in charge, the media will be sure to bring one to our attention – the previously looming mental health crisis, the housing crisis, or the child poverty crisis.

Oh, and apparently, George and Kelly-Anne Conway are to divorce. I guess that will surprise nobody, since their political views are so different.

Guess what! I would really like to go to a performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion this year. And there is one. The Tudor Consort are performing it at – not the MFC or St Andrew’s on The Terrace or the Catholic Basilica in Hill Street, but at Wellington College’s Gibbs Centre. Well, I’d love to go, but the acoustics there are awful, and I certainly don’t expect JD to sit through three hours of it. And I don’t expect him to drive me there and pick me up afterwards. I wouldn’t expect a friend to go with me, either. So, sadly, I’ll have to find a nice recording to listen to. I’m really disappointed by the venue. We’re almost over Covid 19 now, and I’d love to go and hear it, live, again.

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

Another Pilgrimage

The beautiful Fitzgerald Glade on the road to Rotorua

It’s now Thursday March 2nd, 2023. Kia ora!

We set on from Wellington at midday on Saturday February 25.  I was determined to wear summer clothes and sandals, although it was decidedly cool.

We had decided to stop at the Woolshed Café for lunch. It’s just before you get to Sanson.  It was raining when we arrived there; it had been raining on and off since we left Wellington.

The café carpark was very busy. In fact the café was very busy. The old house from St Mark’s School in Wellington where my sons used to have choir practice has been completely revamped since we were last there.

I had scrambled eggs and JD had French toast. We shared a delicious date and apple cake – Lumberjack Cake, perhaps? It was very moist and very moreish.

Afterwards we set off for Turangi. It rained off and on most of the way there, although thankfully there wasn’t much traffic. Amazingly, there is still a railway crossing just before you get to Mangaweka! This is State Highway 1! Tourists must be amazed.

At Waiouru we stopped for a break at the Army Museum, but as it was due to close at 4:30 pm, and it was now after 4, we just looked at the shop – a new addition since we were last here. We don’t drive on this road very often now.

We drove across the Desert Road. There wasn’t much traffic, and it wasn’t raining, but the mountains were shrouded in cloud. Then we were through, and at Turangi, where we were to spend a night at the Turangi Bridge Motel, chosen partly because at $160 per night it was about half the price of staying on Taupo, and, furthermore, it had a restaurant.

Some friends from Hohepa had a motel in Taupo where we’ve stayed a couple of times; JD had tried to contact them, and he rang the motel, but evidently they have sold the motel and moved back to Napier. We did not know that.

Turangi Bridge Motel was fine, although it was quite basic. True to form, the chef wanted to finish early, but at least there was a chef; the prices have gone up, but the service is somewhat wanting.

There was no mini-bar at the motel. I was really thirsty, but the lovely Maori woman who had checked us in at Reception was also doubling as waitress and drinks manager, and she forgot our drinks order until we reminded her. We weren’t offered any water, but I’m really suspicious of local water, in any case.

JD had ordered bread and dips to start with. It came with a very nice salad. He’d ordered a chicken burger, which, unusually he ate most of; I had ordered the fish special, which was pan fried orange roughy with potatoes, vegetables and a creamy garlic sauce. Unfortunately it came smothered in masses of sauce; it was hard to find the vegetables. I remembered, too late, that I don’t really like fish.

We went back to our room and watched the last half of Call the Midwife! I’d forgotten it was on Television One on a Saturday night.

Early the next morning there were several very heavy showers of rain.  I was a bit jittery about this, but it later turned into a beautiful fine day.

We drove to Taupo, but as Lake Terrace was closed to traffic we cut across and drove to Taupo Cemetery, where both JD’s parents are buried. We found their graves, and it seems as though someone’s been looking after the headstones, they were both in very good condition. JD took a photo and loaded it on the family chat page. There was the sound of gunfire in the background, which seemed somewhat appropriate, since JD’s Dad was in the British Army after finishing at boarding school in England. His finishing there coincided with the start of World War II.

Then we drove through Taupo and stopped the car, looking in vain for a convenience store where we could get a copy of the Sunday Star Times. Eventually we walked past a waffle café to Whitcoulls, and got the last copy of the paper! We also bought a jigsaw puzzle with Monet’s bridge over the lily pond at Giverny to give to our hostess in Tauranga.

Then we headed back to the waffle cafe (it advertised authentic Belgian waffles) for lunch. It was almost midday by now.

We managed to order wisely at the cafe. It was quite roomy, and we got a table inside.  We ordered cheese rolls (3 for $5!), waffles with fresh fruit cream and raspberries to share, ginger beer to share and two long black coffees. It was all pretty good, and the right amount of food to share.

Then we headed off north.  There was debate over where to turn off, whether just past Putaruru or before Tirau. As it turned out, there were good signs everywhere and I was able to follow our progress on Google maps. There were a couple of death-defying intersections, but we navigated them and drove over the Kaimai Ranges to Tauranga.

We got to Tauranga, but it’s quite a big city and we needed to get to Papamoa Beach. I entered our destination address into my phone, and amazingly, Google Maps did its thing and delivered us safely to our destination. I think we would have had great trouble finding it on our own.  We were earlier than expected, so we were able to find our way (with Google Maps’ help), to the nearest Pak N’Save store and buy some flowers, some bananas, and some tonic water. 

At our host’s house, we had a separate wing of his lovely house, with a bedroom and bathroom separate from the rest of the house. Everywhere we stayed had an electric power point right beside the bed, so we could charge our phones.

The funeral was to be on the Monday. It rained heavily, and it was only 19C, not 24C as forecast; never mind, it was good not to be too hot, and I had brought non-suede shoes.  Notice of JD’s aunt’s death had not been put in the newspapers, so some were unaware of it, perhaps.  Suffice to say it was good to be there, and to reminisce about the lady some called the Duchess.

The funeral was a Christian one, led by a celebrant. There were no readings or hymns, although there were some recordings: Morning Has Broken, Amazing Grace, and Time to say Goodbye, performed by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. We watched a photo display, and it was hard not to tear-up during this, and the evocative music. Afterwards we had very nice refreshments, and glasses of bubbly.

The next day we were to meet some old friends for coffee.  I checked on Google Maps, and the journey to meet them in Brookfield would take 25 minutes!  By now I had figured out how to get Google Maps give us oral directions, and again we were thankful for this. The traffic in Tauranga is weird!  It looks kind-of unfinished, but we found our friends, and shared coffee and delicious date scones at a very nice café.

After this we set off for Taupo. This time we took a different route, travelling via Rotorua rather than Putaruru.  We drove through volcanic country, all almost familiar, from years ago. Everything has changed at the Hamurana end, but we made our way into Rotorua.  We hadn’t had lunch, so JD chose to stop at the Pullman Hotel. This turned out to be a good choice. We had more coffee, and I had chicken satay with a salad and JD had fish and chips. They had very nice, very clean restrooms.

Afterwards we made our way to Taupo, a detour forcing us to drive through Reporoa – which, amazingly, we hadn’t driven though before.

We got to Taupo, and found Suncourt.  We checked in; our room was upstairs, but we were given a “Happy Hour” drinks voucher, and advised to make a booking at the restaurant, since they had a function that evening.  We duly came down to the restaurant for dinner, and ordered a house pinot gris and a house chardonnay from the Happy Hour menu. The chardonnay wasn’t great, but the pinot gris was quite drinkable. We ordered a smoked salmon starter to share, and a pizza to share. Our meals took ages to come, and we were offered more free drinks. I ordered an aperol spritz – it was very nice. The food was very good indeed. We decided not to have dessert, and went back to our room. There was a very limited range of television channels, meaning we couldn’t watch the Sky Premiere movie that I’d hoped to watch. We weren’t aware of the earthquake at this time, probably because we were moving outside anyway from the Restaurant to our bedroom.

The bed was quite comfortable, although it was disappointing not to be able to see the mountains because of the cloud; the set up was a bit inconvenient, as the luggage rack and small wardrobe were between the tiny kitchen, the entrance way, and the bedroom. The heated towel rail did not work, and although there was a bath, it wasn’t a spa bath. When I used it the bath somehow got lots of water on the floor, although I swear I didn’t cause this. It was so cold in the morning that JD turned on the heat pump. There was condensation on the doors to our balcony, although it was much less cloudy in the morning so we could see more of the mountains.

We didn’t have breakfast there. Instead we went to Victoria Kitchen and Café, where we’d met some friends two years ago. I chose toast and spreads with a long black coffee and a glass of orange juice. When the toast came, it was slightly over done, but I found it delicious.  JD had carrot cake, having breakfasted at the motel. Then I got a newspaper at the nearby service station, and we set off to drive back to Wellington.

Alas, although it was fine, there was lots more traffic, and many big trucks. Furthermore, they were resealing SH1, so there were many stops, many queues, and many places where we had to drive slowly, and endure small stones hitting the windscreen. We stopped at the Army Museum in Waiouru to get presents for our grandchildren, but did not dine there. We drove on through the beautiful Rangitikei district to stop at the Flat Hills Café. How this has changed! They apologised for being understaffed (like everywhere else), but were very welcoming. I had mushrooms on toast and JD had a hamburger. We sat outside in the sunshine. The food was very good. Afterwards, I used the restroom (pretty basic), and we set off again. There was a huge queue stopped, waiting to drive south. A kind person let us into the queue, and we slowly made our way back to Wellington. JD wanted to stop in Levin, but there seemed to be nowhere suitable. We were so pleased to get on the new expressway sometime after Ohau and before Otaki. After that it was plain sailing.

This morning I went to singing. There was a big turnout there and it was lovely. We worked at My Girl again, and sang Six Ribbons – a beautiful song.

Overseas, it seems that Rupert Murdoch has admitted that Fox News channel knowingly spread misinformation about the presidential election held in late 2020, which Biden won, but over which Trump and his followers continue to spread misinformation. This continues to cause many problems, as far from being disgraced, some purveyors of misinformation have now been elected to the US Congress.

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


President Biden’s Surprise Visit to Kyiv

It’s now Tuesday February 21st, 2023. Kia ora!

Today President Biden visited Kiev, on the anniversary of the Maidan uprising that forced  the resignation of President Yanukovych, and the empowering of the democracy movement there.  Ukrainians have always sought to be free, wherever their boundaries have been; they have a sad and bloody history, but under the leadership of President Zelensky they have been truly amazing as they continue to resist Russia’s invasion. President Biden went to Kyiv, and President Putin was informed that he was going to go there! It’s seen as being a very brave move, especially for an American President. He spent hours on the train, getting there – perhaps 11 hours, and made a rather wonderful speech there. He visited a Cathedral with President Zelensky, and while they were there, an air-raid warning sounded! It’s hard to imagine The Former Guy spending time on a train.  It’s noted that the US does not control the airspace over Ukraine.

Last night I did get an update from Hōhepa Hawkes Bay, again demonstrating how amazing they are, with their wise planning for this event, and their superb management of it. JD was on the regional board for a term, and was trying to alert then members of the dangers posed not only by climate change, but also the vulnerability of their beautiful site at Clive, situated as it is between the sea and three rivers, where the stop banks were built after the 1931 earthquake, and where the sea-level is rising while the land is sinking. Much of Napier is below sea-level, posing particular dangers for certain areas, as demonstrated whenever flooding occurs. It’s quite a job to evacuate those still sleeping at the Clive site – there are still a few, although the board has been on a mission to rehouse everyone that sleeps there. It’s much easier to evacuate a household, rather than an entire site of households;  and, of course, all the carers have their own families’ safety to consider.  One now gives thanks for SUVs, rather than saying who needs them?  The other question is in any emergency can you safely evacuate? Are roads and bridges passable? What are the traffic queues like?  It is timely advice to have a grab-bag ready, in case you need to get out after a fire, flood, or earthquake.  Thankfully here in New Zealand we’re not likely to be exposed to dangerous chemicals (viz. the recent train derailment in Ohio), or gases; for the most part, the air that we breathe in residential areas is safe and unpolluted. JD and I figured years ago that while earthquakes and other acts of God are unpreventable, you usually get warning of a coming flood, and we wouldn’t want any of our special people to drown to death.  Sometimes Hōhepa have evacuated unnecessarily, but it’s better to heed the warnings and be safe rather than sorry.

In Turkey there’ve been another two more powerful earthquakes, with three dead and 213 injured. 

The weekly Covid 19 report came out yesterday. It is as follows: there have been 8220 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week, and 24 further deaths. Of the new cases, 3429 were reinfections.

Of the deaths being reported, one was from Northland, seven were from the Auckland region, four were from Waikato, one was from Taranaki, one was from MidCentral, one was from Whanganui, one was from Nelson Marlborough, six were from Canterbury and two were from Southern.

One was in their 20s, one was in their 50s, one was in their 60s, two were in their 70s, 12 were in their 80s and seven were aged over 90. Of these people, nine were women and 15 were men.

There were also 162 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, including four in ICU.

The seven-day rolling average of cases is now 1160, up from last week’s figure of 1148.  So the numbers are trending downwards, but not as quickly as one would like. 

I see that King Charles has opened up three of his homes for people to escape from the cold, and have a cup of tea and a natter: Highgrove House, the Castle of Mey, and Dumfries House. This is a very magnanimous gesture, although I fear that Castle May is a draughty old dump, and how does one get there? Still and all, it’s kind of him, and will be appreciated.

It’s now Wednesday February 22nd.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was previously cancelled, but then un-cancelled, as the organist, having seen the news reports, decided not to go to Napier after all. It was wonderful: we sang Be still my Soul, to the beautiful tune of Finlandia; we sang Guy Jansen’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer, and we sang a chant to the Nunc Dimittis. 

When I got home I rang the house where my daughter lives, and was greatly relieved to learn that the power is on again, and it’s stable now. They are greatly relieved to be able to use the dishwasher, the washing machine, and have showers again. Having the fridge and freezer working again must be wonderful, too. Afterwards I went to a friend’s house for lunch, where I met a lovely friend of hers.

JD has got my new computer linked up to our printer again, so that’s a big relief too. I can print stuff again! 

It’s now Friday February 24th.

Yesterday it was much cooler, I had to find some warmer clothes to wear to singing.  I did go to my Thursday morning singing, and it was lovely, although we worked quite hard!  We worked on My Girl and Six Ribbons. Many asked me about my daughter at Hōhepa in Napier. Another couple are interested in Hōhepa as a possible option for their grandson, who is autistic.

We are concerned about Hawkes Bay again; more heavy rain is forecast, and Hōhepa Hawkes Bay may have to evacuate again. Esk Valley residents have already been asked to evacuate (up to 40 households). There was an interesting article on Television One about the state of roads and bridges. Here’s a link:


It must be so upsetting to have more heavy rain forecast, after all they’ve been through. On the other hand, the death toll has not risen from the previous total of 11, but the number of those unable to be contacted has declined to 152, according to police.  According to USAR (NZ Search and Rescue Taskforce) it’s now in single figures. So that has to be good news. Meanwhile, there are all kinds of stories, from people giving thanks for their lives, to complaints about how much they have lost.  Indeed, I feel so sorry for them all for this disruption. The Hawkes Bay has flooded before, and, of course, Napier was all but destroyed in the huge earthquake of 1931.

We’ve been watching the Australian series Bump on Neon, and rather enjoying it, especially as the unexpected beautiful baby girl is called Jacinda, after former Prime Minister Ardern!

President Biden’s unexpected trip to Kiev, where he walked with President Zelensky in a cathedral, is seen as being rather wonderful, and the speech he made in sharp contrast to Putin’s long speech. His trip was kept secret, despite the risks; very few people knew about it, and it involved a long train trip. Although the Russians were informed, and an air raid alarm went off in Kiev, nothing bad happened to Biden or Zelensky. There’s a long article about British/American broadcaster Mehdi Hasan in the Guardian:


He claims, as many others are beginning to do, that Biden is a great American President. It’s an interesting article. Hasan is highly educated (he went to Oxford), and I’ve a lot of time for him, so I’ll forgive him for saying “nucular” rather than “nuclear”.

It’s an odd time here. An aunt of JD’s has died, at the age of 82, and so there’s a flurry of activity: JD i.e. I seem to be a point person for contacting the other members of his family. I am wondering what to wear to the funeral, and was getting out my black outfits, but a message has come through to wear bright clothing and bling!

The funeral is to be next Monday, in Tauranga. We would like to go. I check the weather forecast – it claims Tauranga will be fine, with a high of 24C, next Monday. JD wants to drive there and back;  we’ll break the journey in Taupo, each way, and perhaps see our daughter in Napier on our return. At the moment the highways between Taupo and Napier, Gisborne and Napier, and Taihape and Napier are closed, but every day more is being done to repair and restore them.  Sadly, though, more heavy rain is forecast for Hawkes Bay, as if they haven’t had enough already. In the event, there is more heavy rain, and there is further damage to the Taupo – Napier highway.  JD tries to contact friends of ours in Taupo who have a motel – we’ve stayed there twice, and although it doesn’t have a restaurant, it does have a spa bath, and is very nice. After getting no reply, he rings the motel, and the new owners claim that our friends have sold the business and gone back to Napier. We did not know that. In the end, we reserve a room at the Turangi Bridge Motel, which does have a restaurant. We have been there before, and it’s about half the price of accommodation in Taupo itself. However we arrange to stay at Suncourt Motel and Conference Centre on our return. And that, as they say, is another story!

With regard to further rain in Hawkes Bay, as it turned out a suburb of Gisborne was flooded, and the Taupo-Napier highway further damaged, as noted. But the casualty rate has not risen from 11, and there is only a handful of people still unaccounted for.

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

The Aftermath

Unison crews work to get the power back on in Napier, Hawkes Bay

Today is Saturday February 18th, 2023. Kia ora!

Yesterday I listened to the Bulwark podcast. Charlie Sykes was talking to Benjamin Wittes, who’s a fellow of the Brookings Institute (on Richard Nixon’s famous enemies list, for those who remember back that far) and editor-in-chief of Lawfare, which provides several podcasts and a blog. I’ve a lot of time for Ben W – his podcasts are useful, for the most part; and he has an interesting sense of humour. When Charlie asked him How are you? He replied that he has no ailments that others wish to hear about, or something along those lines. I totally admire that sentiment! He’s also noteworthy for projecting the Ukrainian flag on the Russian embassy in Washington D.C., and he told Charlie about the new light he’s planning to use on February 24, the anniversary of Putin’s conflict. He must seriously annoy the Russians; the Russians at the embassy have to get up during the night and do something about Ben’s antics.  He joked wryly that if his suicide is reported, he in fact has no intention of taking his own life. Presumably he doesn’t have relations in Russia; many Jewish folk have remained silent about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, presumably because they feel conflicted about it or they have relatives in Russia.

This morning I got some photos of my daughter and her flatmates having breakfast outside in the sun: bacon, eggs and toast, all cooked on the barbecue. It looked wonderful!  Apparently they’re able to boil water on the barbecue, so they can make cups of tea. The power is still off there, although it’s on in parts of Napier. Later on today they’re hoping to use a laundrette.

I listen to the midday update. The confirmed death toll stands at 9, and between 4-5,000 people are still unaccounted for. There seem to be very good updates on various websites. Although almost $2 million has been raised, there is a rush to donate clothing and bedding and suchlike. It’s confirmed, though, that giving cash is probably the most useful as people will know what they need most, be it a generator, a barbecue, food, clothing or bedding…now that many lives have been saved, people can look to the adjustment, the clean up, and their immediate needs, whatever they are. Banks are hoping to get ATMs operational as soon as possible, so that people can withdraw cash. Of course, some homes are beyond repair.

Once again, I’m relieved that my daughter is all right, although the washing situation may be drastic, especially for folk like her, after 5 -6 days.  Others face terrible loss. I cannot imagine losing everything; even on our recent trip to Australia, I dreaded losing my things that I’d packed for the journey; of course, they could be replaced, relatively easily.

Now there are recriminations of course: some reports of looting (overhyped, perhaps?) and questions about not receiving earlier warnings about the extent of the flooding in Hawkes Bay, especially in the Esk Valley and Puketapu.  I know the mayors of Hastings and Napier declared a state of emergency during the night i.e. early morning of Tuesday February 14; I know the flood waters came up very quickly, surprising everyone; I doubt that you can rouse everyone in the middle of the night. I know it was a really  scary time: my daughter’s house had no power; two staff members couldn’t get to her house to work because of the flooding; and this was before the evacuation order went out!  Then there was the issue of evacuating folk on damaged roads where some of the bridges were unusable owing to the rising floodwaters. 

In Napier and Hastings temporary morgues have been set up. In a small rural town, survivors have been distressed by the contents of graves being disturbed by the floodwaters. Meanwhile, in Hastings, Pacifika have been going to church and singing their thanks to God.  As long as you’re alive, that’s the most important thing.

This morning I went to a Repair Café at the Ngaio Union Church. I had put things in a bag to take there.  There was a lamp – I need to get a part for it from a hardware store before it can be fixed, but someone mended two jerseys belonging to JD and advised me about dyeing a hand-knitted but marked jersey of mine. I was also advised to unpick a label on another jersey of JD’s. This is really difficult, but I’ll persist.  They put on a beautiful morning tea, and I saw several friends there.  Afterwards I caught a train and bus home, but it was quite heavy to carry the things I’d brought!

It was quite cold early this morning, although it’s warm and fine now.  I feel that I have a good range of options on my bed, ranging from top sheet, fairy down blanket, duvet, and bed spread. Between them, I can add or subtract different items as necessary.

There’s a bunch of interesting items from US politics. A heavily redacted report from the grand jury convened by Fani Willis, District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, has been released. This jury was convened to investigate Donald Trump’s interference and claims of fraud in the November 2020 presidential election. This report states that some of those who gave evidence perjured themselves, although it doesn’t say who; Trump claims that this report completely exonerates him! Of course it does nothing of the sort.

The Special Counsel, Jack Smith, set up to investigate classified documents held wrongly at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, has subpoenaed Mike Pence and Mike Meadows. He seems to be working at quite a pace.

The other item of great interest is that Nikki Haley has announced a bid for the presidency in 2024.  There is lots of discussion about her flip-flops on policy, and especially on the fact that she was Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations.  What disturbed me the most was her invocation of a pastor Hagee as the person she would most like to be when she grows up. Hagee has been discredited as a deeply unlikeable and problematic person. How can you do this, America? Wonderful and terrible, that remains my impression of the US. I have been there a few times, and seen some variety of its states and views.

The other thing I was forgetting to mention was Fox news’s reporting on fraud in the 2020 presidential election, even when they knew there was none, or very little; certainly not enough to influence the outcome of the election. Yet they hosted people spouting conspiracy theories about the election, about what came to be called the “big steal”. Dominion, who supplied the voting machines, are suing Fox. And in another note, the Proud Boys have subpoenaed Trump, not that that will have much chance of succeeding. Still, I guess the gesture counts.

This afternoon we went shopping at -guess where – New World Thorndon. It was quite busy there. There were no cherries, but raspberries were a good price at $4.99 a punnet; lettuce was hard to find, but I got most of what I wanted, including Havarti cheese slices. There are no black doris plums, as yet.

It’s now Sunday February 19.

This morning I was to read the Gospel text at church. I had meant to check out the lectern and microphone during the week, but I’d forgotten, so I went early in order to do so. But first, I headed into the supermarket to get some strepsils.  A packet of Strepsils cost me $14.99! $4-5 more than I expected. The self-service machine didn’t print a receipts, although I requested one. Other than that, it was well behaved. My biggest fears were that I’d trip over the steps, coming up or down; that I’d get a frog in my throat, or that I’d read too fast. I think none of these things happened.

It’s Transfiguration Sunday. The Old Testament text was from Exodus, about Moses going up the mountain to communicate with God, in the cloud.  I was privileged to read Matthew 17: 1-9 about the Transfiguration of Jesus. The sermon was about how we see God and are aware of his presence; about the veil, or thin layer that prevents us from seeing him directly. No one has seen God at any time, but Job says I know that from, in my flesh, I shall see God  (Job 19: 25-26).

Afterwards I spoke to several people, and tried to ring or text JD – without success. He had been going to pick me up. Meanwhile, I had missed one bus, and there wouldn’t be another for an hour. I went to have a long black coffee and a cheese scone. I do like a good cheese scone!  I made my way to the bus stop, but the bus I was expecting had been cancelled, or delayed, so I caught a #25 into town. Fortunately this stopped at the Wellington Railway Station, not a good block away, and I was able to catch the 12:32 pm train to Johnsonville. It was quite full. I did this, and then caught a #1 bus to Churton Park, where JD picked me up. We were due at our youngest granddaughter’s birthday party at Avalon Park at 2 pm, but first I had to change into a pink dress, and we needed to wrap her present. Eventually we got away, and found it really easily. What a wonderful set up it is! We had to walk a long way from the carpark at the Park entrance, and it was pretty windy, but quite warm.  It was a wonderful venue for a picnic: the children could rise bikes, or ride the miniature train, or play in the play area, or just run around kicking a ball. There was blowing bubbles, and a beautiful cake, although it was too windy to light the candles.

There is another update from Hōhepa Hawkes Bay.  They are gingerly moving back to some kind of normality, with Civil Defence supplying generators to help the situation in Poraiti; some folk have been evacuated to Havelock North, where they are enjoying everyday luxuries like having the power on, and having showers and clean linen; and two community houses in the Napier are have the power on again.

The death toll from Cyclone Gabrielle has now reached 11, with thousands of people still missing. It seems that the flood waters rose really fast, with some people bashing through ceilings to get access to their roofs, so that they could be rescued. The Prime Minister says there are still 28,000 homes without power.

It’s now Monday February 20th.

I asked JD what he wanted to do today, but he still has a sore ankle from yesterday, when he chased a ball around Avalon Park with one of his grandsons. So I went to my exercise class. It was lovely, of course. It’s a beautiful fine hot day. Afterwards I caught the train back to Johnsonville, and then the bus from the library.  I got home just after JD had left to go out, so I had another cup of coffee and sat outside doing the puzzles in my new Listener magazine. Eventually JD got home; it was pretty late now for going out for lunch – it was a question not only of where would be open on a Monday, but where would still have a kitchen open just before 3 pm. We went to Johnsonville, and had quite a nice lunch, with chips, of course.

I have not heard from Hōhepa today. The confirmed death toll stands at 11; there are still many houses without power. It’s disappointing that there’s been quite a lot of looting in the Hawkes Bay area.  That is just so sad. I believe that Australia’s forced deportation of criminals who were born in New Zealand greatly contributes to the gang presence in Hawkes Bay. Evidently Finance Minister Grant Robertson is considering a Covid-like wage subsidy scheme for those affected by the flooding. Evidently $5 million has been donated so far.

That’s it for now.  I feel deeply for all those affected by the flooding, and trying to get their lives into some kind of order again. It must be so trying for those without power (about 11,000 in Hawkes Bay and Gisborne) – it’s been just on a week now, for those in Hawkes Bay!

Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.