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Archive for the ‘Wellington’ Category

Week 13 of Blogging with Friends

Today is a public holiday, giving New Zealand a long weekend. After the lockdown, and with domestic travel approved, many people took the opportunity to leave town. We didn’t, though we’re planning (hopefully) some days away sometime soon. The weather was predicted to be very bad, so when Saturday dawned bright and sunny, we decided to take advantage of it, and go for a walk. We took this particular walk for the first time just a few weeks ago, when lockdown was finally lifted and we could leave our suburb.  It felt remote and safe, yet liberating, so was perfect for what we needed at the time. I suspect I’ll always associate this walk with the 2020 pandemic, lockdown, and freedom.

First we drove down the gorge from our suburb, along the motorway that tracks the faultline and the western shore of the harbour, then turning off to go east, along the Petone foreshore, and down the eastern side of the harbour, past the seaside suburbs nestled into the hills and native bush there, till we got to the end of the road.

From there, we went on foot. The unpaved road is gated, but only locals are, I think, allowed through. We walked south, and from that side of the harbour, we look through the heads of the harbour, across the ocean straight down to the South Pole. On Saturday, one or two mountains from the South Island were clear. They were capped with snow, the white peaks sharp against the blue sky.  As soon as I saw this scene, I kicked myself for not bringing my camera, and its zoom lens. Though if you click on the photo below, you can just see it in the distance.

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The shore is stony – not quite sandy, although in spots there is coarse black sand, and not very rocky.

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Shags stand on the few rocks there are, sunning themselves, and enjoying the mild winds, until my photographic efforts caused them to fly off.

There are piles of driftwood, and some hardy plants that I didn’t actually photograph.

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We could walk along the beach, but that would be hard work, and risky on dodgy ankles. Besides, the track is clear and smooth, and allows us to keep up a good pace. It winds around the (sadly) gorse-covered hills that come right to the coast, where the occasional intrepid sheep can be spied on the steep slopes. At times we are shaded from the wind, and welcome the relief and the warmth from the sun. That’s when I think it would have been nice to have brought a picnic. Other times, the wind whistles around us, inevitably causing my eyes to water, and by the end of the walk, my ears start to ache from the cold.

The sea is a deep blue, and the sky is a strong blue, interspersed with clean white fluffs of cloud, and the sun – so far from us at this time of year – is very low. There’s not much going on in the harbour, not out close to the entrance. It feels peaceful, private and remote. We could walk further, to get to the lighthouse, and will do that one day, but not today. There are things to do at home. After about 40 minutes walking south, we turn and head back to the car. Our return walk is just as pleasant, and I stop to snap some photos. But walking into the bright sun makes me squint. So much for the grey clouds and rain that were supposed to arrive.

 

 

 

 

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It seems particularly appropriate to record my thoughts about my COVID-19 experience today, as on Thursday last week, NZ moved out of full lockdown, and into what we call COVID-19 Alert Level 2. We had a much stricter lockdown than many countries, although not as strict as Spain – we were allowed to go out to exercise (walk or cycle) but we were to keep close to our homes, maintain a 2-metre physical distance, and not to stop and chat. All takeaway shops were closed, and no delivery of hot food was permitted.  Two weeks ago we moved into Alert Level 3, which meant that deliveries and contactless pickup was permitted, and certain industries were opened up. Construction, for example, which was restricted in lockdown, was opened up in Level 3.

After a week when we had three days of no new cases in a row, and when any new cases were linked specifically to clusters, the government felt that it was safe to move to Alert Level 2. This means we can travel domestically, we can meet with friends and family in our homes or elsewhere as long as total numbers are kept at 10 or under. Restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and retail shops can open, as long as they maintain physical distancing. Hairdressers, as long as they wear PPE, are open. A lot of people are nervous, especially as we have watched other countries suffer from second waves of infection. Even though extensive testing across the country has shown no evidence of current community transmission. All cases now are related to specific clusters of infection (that can be traced back to a single infection) or to international travel. In my city and a neighbouring province, there are no current cases of COVID-19, and there have not been for several weeks. So when we go out, the risk is very low. We know it is not over. But we’re hopeful.

When was the moment you knew this was serious. Where were you and what happened?

I’ve been aware of this since the very beginning of the year, with the first announcements from China and the WHO. I’ve followed it closely since then, especially as it spread through Asia, as I knew it might affect family who were travelling in Vietnam and Malaysia at the time, and because I was (at the time) planning a trip to Thailand sometime in 2020. I felt relatively safe here in NZ, until we had a first case in Wellington (a stupid Australian who was symptomatic and had been travelling to countries where the infection was prevalent, got tested, and flew on to NZ before getting his – ultimately positive – result) on 14 May. We went out for dinner that night with my niece and her family who were in town visiting, and wondered if we should be doing it, but there was no real reason not to do so. But within a week, it was a very different situation as our numbers began to increase. Even then though, the scenes in Italy and elsewhere didn’t seem real. Our case numbers continued to grow, but were largely related to those who had travelled internationally. So when our full lockdown was announced on 23 May, I will admit to suddenly feeling that “s#%$ just got real!”

Looking back now, is there one particular news article or story that stands out to you?

Perhaps the first reports of Italy’s health system becoming overwhelmed, and the sheer numbers of deaths and critical care patients. Or one of Trump’s ridiculous statements. Or an article posted by a relative living in California which was full of conspiracy theories. It will be interesting to think what I will remember this time next year, or in ten years.

What was the first meme that caused you to laugh out loud?

There were many, but the one I remember is this one, that came after Australia and New Zealand were seeing cases drop, and were starting to think about the next stage:

Newscaster: “Australia and New Zealand are exploring a travel bubble allowing citizens to visit each other’s country without quarantine, which could be a model for other neighbouring countries.”

Canada:  A look of sheer terror – The visual was of the Ice Age squirrel Scrat, backed up against a tree, terrified.

What have you observed in your community that has been heart-warming?

The overwhelming number of teddy bears in windows (including car windows on the street) when we go on our daily walks, there to give comfort to children, but that also help adults amongst us too.

On ANZAC Day (effectively our Memorial Day), a dawn service was broadcast online and on TV, and rather than attend services, people were encouraged to stand at their gates at dawn. It was a beautiful way to mark the day, maintain the solemnity of the day, and yet adhere to the lockdown.

The Student Voluntary Army that has been helping with shopping for vulnerable people. The “Army” came into being after the Christchurch earthquakes, and have spread nationwide. Makes me feel confident that our country is in good hands in the future.

What has been the biggest change to your everyday routine?

Because I work (or don’t work) from home anyway, I haven’t had huge changes in my routine. Not being able to go out on a whim, with my camera or to go out for a coffee, or pop out to the supermarket has been the major restriction. This has meant that I’ve had to make real shopping lists, and try and do some meal planning. I don’t think I’ve ever done that consistently ever before!

How has family life been altered in your home? 

Every morning we usually check in with each other – “anything you want to do today?” My husband kept saying it, and then laughed at the look of frustration on my face.

He has been doing most of the shopping at the same time as he has shopped for his father, so I haven’t been able to browse the supermarket, and although I’ve made lists, he has sometimes bought things that he likes not the things I like!

Otherwise, life hasn’t changed too much for us, once we’re at home. I have enjoyed knowing that the fridge and freezer and pantry is well-stocked, so I can choose what to cook with more freedom than usual. Within constraints, of course.

What have you learned to do because of this pandemic?

How to make a shopping list! (Okay, I knew that, but never did it regularly.) How to make my own chocolate marshmallow Easter eggs! A very useful skill. Lol And I made my first pizza dough, and the Malaysian roti canai bread, successfully too.

What change has created the most disappointment for you?

I’m obviously very sad for the people who have lost work, or have found the lockdown stressful.  And yes, I’m disappointed that I can’t travel this year – or maybe not even next year. I’m disappointed at reactions of people internationally who have unbelievably politicised a pandemic.

Otherwise, I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude that NZ has acted so quickly, and that we have personally been in a situation where this hasn’t caused us great distress or financial hardship.

What has surprised you?

Perhaps I’ve been surprised at how NZers have, almost overwhelmingly, supported the government’s moves from the very start, and recognised that, when our numbers started going up quite suddenly, that these extreme measures were necessary. I think they said over 85% of NZers supported these moves, and this solidarity has been heartwarming.

What has not surprised you?

How stupid people can be. Sigh. And how, once the danger appeared to be over for NZers, certain politicians immediately started … well … being politicians. The solidarity we felt is gradually (albeit slowly) disintegrating.

What about the future creates feelings of worry or fear?

The economic implications of this on a global scale, as NZ always suffers from international downturns, and the uncertainty of this, how it affects our retirement savings, etc. Occasionally I have flickers of fear that vaccines or antiviral treatments won’t be effective, and that travel won’t be possible, prosperity will disappear, I’ll have to completely rethink how we will spend the rest of our lives.

What have you truly enjoyed about sheltering in place?

Not feeling obligated to go out! I quite enjoyed the cosiness of being at home, knowing that I didn’t need to feel guilty about staying at home because everyone else was doing the same. I’m losing that now that they’re all going back to work – or are still working at home – and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

Also, the feeling that it is up to me to make treats etc at home (eg baking, or a nice Saturday night dinner) because we are not going out. In the past I’ve often had the urge to try something new, but when it has been so easy to pop down to a cafe or shops or get takeaways for dinner, I’ve let my cooking skills stagnate. With the exception of naan bread, homemade is usually better!

I also loved being able to have a Zoom reunion with my AFS friends from 40 years ago, that I wrote about here.

And the guys at my favourite brunch place (which I recently wrote about here) have engendered a real sense of community on their Facebook page, posting regularly with recipes or stories about food or entertaining. It has really been a wonderful coming together of them and their fans.

Who or what has impressed you in a positive way?

Our PM. I knew she was a good communicator before, but hearing her speak and respond to questions at daily (almost) press conferences has really impressed me. I’ve been saying for years that I felt that our leaders were missing opportunities to send the right messages. She gets it right almost every single time.

What will you do differently when life normalises?

I hope I’ll keep cooking different things, as I’ve been meaning to do that for ages, but haven’t. My homemade pizza was a hit, so that’s going to be on the menu in future, and I made an apple galette last night that was delicious, so I’ll keep that too. I think I’ll keep washing my hands more thoroughly! And I hope I’ll keep in touch with people online more often too. Going out in groups will be disconcerting for a while, I think.

What memory or moment will you talk about in ten years? 

Who knows? The daily press conferences announcing the number of new cases and (sometimes) the number of deaths became appointment viewing/listening throughout the country. The Zoom catch-ups with friends with a glass of wine, or for my niece’s birthday, or my AFS reunion. The daily walks, meeting others in the neighbourhood and walking out into the carless streets to keep our two-metre distance, smiling and nodding or joking with our neighbours, and enjoying the teddy bears.

 

Teddy bears escaping out of a window down a sheet

Teddy bears making a lockdown break for it!

Thanks to Loribeth, who posted this list of questions here, and her response to them here. If you write yours, let me know!

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One of the things I’ve enjoyed about the lockdown at this time of year has been the ability to go for walks (these are permitted) around our neighbourhood. I take a few different routes, but I like walking up a particular road that turns up steeply from our street. We walk past a house that has amused greatly with a different pose and dress for its teddy bear in the window (I may post about that one day), over the top of the hill, and glory in the harbour that spreads out before us.

I noticed this tree the other day, laden with red fruit, tucked in behind a leafy green hedge. I think it is a strawberry tree, although it is bigger than any I’ve seen before, so I’m not 100% certain. We had a strawberry tree in the grounds of the tiny primary school I went to, and we all knew it was not a strawberry plant, and we should not try to eat the fruit.  The strawberry tree was right next to the sports ground, which was really just a big field of grass, and the fence along the roadside. I have lots of memories about that sports ground, which I might also blog about some day.

Can you see the sea in the background?

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Another in the Thursday Tree Love series – find all the other bloggers doing it here.

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