Day 22

Day 22

Sadly, my trip down to Christchurch to do a surprise visit for Mum’s 89th birthday got cancelled by Air NZ. Well, I’m sure Air NZ didn’t want to cancel it but they have no choice as we’re not permitted travel until Alert Level 2 is here. So Mum will have to see in her 90th year just with Dad, which will be just fine!

Mum’s been bottling fruit  since 1952 – 67 years  – as long as her and Dad have been married, and there’s no bigger fan of it than Dad who loves it with his Tip Top Boysenberry ice-cream. On our annual road trip in January, Mum picked up some apricots from the place just on the edge of Cromwell as you head towards Queenstown. I enjoyed a bottle of it tonight, slightly warmed, with some Vanilla Ice-cream. Perfect. I’ve been eating it, not regularly, but all my life. I remember the annual bottling ritual when I was a boy – it’s been apricots, peaches, plums (off the tree), pear and stewed apples. Despite the sugar that I recall going in the big vat, it must be alright for you!

If you’re ever at Mum and Dad’s the bottles are safely stored in the cupboard in the laundry. It always seems full, despite them eating it for breakfast and dessert every night. Just don’t go there at night-time because the cat is locked up in there, heated bed and all, safely for the night.

Apricots all eaten up

During the Lockup it’s definitely been a time to enjoy home pleasures and of course home-cooked food. There’s not much else. But growing up I don’t remember much else either. There were occasional visits to friends, rare fish ‘n chip nights and even rarer meals out. Nowadays, they’d never been a week, or in fact hardly a day, when I wouldn’t eat out or at least purchase out.  So maybe it’s not so bad for us all to have some, hopefully, home-cooked nutritious meals. Who knows, it might keep the ‘rona away!

I walked twice today – total 16.5km – and there’s little doubt that La RĂ©sistance are firmly in control of Cornwall Park. The security guards on duty have gone from stern occupying sympathisers, to silent, but benevolent supporters. Never have there been so many smiles and acknowledgements from passing walkers. Yes, we’re in this together, but we’re also in this– our democratically empowered exercise – together. If we have to choose, it’s the walk, so don’t mess with us!

There’s been some weird stuff in the park. A well groomed small man with immaculately trimmed barista style beard and hi-vis vest hurtling down the road from the peak of One Tree Hill on his tiny cycle, to skid sideways to a halt just before the barrier; a woman who I knew but couldn’t remember her name who claimed to have a gun to ward off runners who came too close; selfies with bulls; a child out of control on her balance bike down the hill in the wet, smiling all the way; people with masks protecting their chins only; golf; one man soccer games; and skate boards that go up hill (I need).

When we get out of our motor vehicles, play, interact and stop being busy and important, real things happen. This isn’t new to me, but like the ‘rona is said to compress the mortality rate of those most at risk from 12 months to 2 weeks, the Lockdown has compressed these great pleasures into a few weeks.

Can I say keep it up! Well the walking yes at least!

By the time you read this it will be Friday. Enjoy your dessert. Only two people will have it as good as mine was tonight.

Stephen

 

Day 20

Day 20

I almost broke the chain of blogs today, but no way. I could hear the 1pm press conference echoing in my ear – STAY HOME AND WRITE! – or something like that so lucky I’m compliant.

I had a call with someone outside work today who reckoned that I was just a featureless blob on the screen. I blamed the sun streaming in behind me but she didn’t let up and insisted we find another option. I was concerned that I’d become either featureless or a blob or both but I checked the mirror and I found features, admittedly in two degrees, but that’s the nature of a mirror. Later on we had a telephone call.

It might also be that this third week – three weekends in – has made us all a little stir crazy. Since school, have you ever felt so dependent on another adult for what you can do in your life? Will we get out? What will we be able to do once we get out? Can we go home early after PE? Okay so maybe the last one really was school, but you get the drift.

As I said on the D-Day Home-D blog, Freedom is my most important value. I don’t care much for unnecessary control as a consequence, so the dangling, the hope, the scolding, is all a bit much at times. But hey, we may, if we’ve done the right things, have 8 days to go until the worst is over.

There were four more deaths today. A nurse on Checkpoint this evening texted in and said that the annual influenza cuts through the elderly in rest homes in much the same way as COVID-19 does when it takes hold. A podcast of a Saturday morning interview by Kim Hill with Dr Chris Smith, a UK virologist was replayed tonight (yes I’m boring). Dr Smith said that they expect the death rate to be significantly lower than currently described once the data is in on the very large numbers of people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic. The story of this virus will have remarkably different headlines in three years time than it does now once full information is known.

But governments can only be expected to act on data that they have available to them at the time. When they data shifts, the politics of owning the decision suddenly make it more challenging. That’s fascinating, especially given that we’ve all been under the impression that most key decisions were political, when in fact they’re not.

There’s a leadership learning here and relevant to leaders everywhere.  Have you put so much leadership or political capital into a decision that to change course unbalances the ship?

It truly was a winter’s walk tonight – 14 degrees –  dark, wet and cold and that chain, the walking chain, stayed intact too, although it was only 4 kilometres. The police approved I’m told.

And it’s Wednesday already! Plan for that last weekend – or maybe don’t just in case it’s not.  After all, Saturday week is ANZAC day and we might just sneak out and make our own freedom parade if we’re not ordered to stay home!

Stephen

Day 17

Day 17

It was like I was in a scene from the charming British series Detectorists. I had been trying to get rid of some wasps that had made a couple of homes on my bore pump shed when I lost one of my Apple Airpods in the long hay. I’d already had to replace the entire set when it fell out of my bag dashing for a flight late last year. Hands and knees searching to no avail. I’d used the Find my Device function without success last time, but  as a last resort I gave it a crack. “Chirp Chirp Chirp“, GPS pinpointed the missing pod to within centimetres.

I’m a great fan of new technology. Watching the first two series that have been released on Netflix, Detectorists in High Definition with high speed fibre is a delight. Impatient for the third series I bought it on DVD. Great stories, but disappointing quality.

I love the countryside. I’m growing feed for the neighbouring farms on my bit of paradise and, armed with suitable documentation, I headed out today for essential maintenance. The motorway was clear and my journey there and back was uninterrupted and uneventful. I’d move out there tomorrow if the journey was that easy usually!

My earliest memories of farming life was staying on Uncle George’s dairy farm. He had me driving his Bedford Truck – I can still smell it – accelerator jammed with a 2×4 while he put the hay out and I steered. He was no doubt a beneficiary of the then government schemes that effectively subsidised dairy farmers but it appeared a charming lifestyle as a young boy looking on.  Sometimes you don’t realise who the influential people in your life were until way after you’ve lost contact.

shed

We now have four deaths said to be from COVID-19. I remember from my police days when you attended a sudden death (aren’t most deaths, like, well, sudden?), but anyway, if you didn’t have a doctor who could certify cause of death, then it was off to the Coroner. The training we had was that when the cause of death was certified without an autopsy, there was a high error rate.

To establish the cause of death, according to WHO, the doctor starts with the direct cause of death, then goes back to the preceding conditions until you get to the condition that started the sequence of conditions leading to death. This is said to be the underlying cause of death, which is described by WHO as ‘the disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death, or, the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury”

So what? Well if you’re a keen reader of all things COVID-19 you would have seen articles in overseas newspapers that bring perspective beyond the “underlying conditions” that we know most victims of the virus sadly have. COVID-19 may be the direct cause of death, but on the research I’ve seen it’s unlikely to be the underlying cause of death.

So I think we need to be very careful about all of this attributing of cause of death to COVID-19. This isn’t some sort of alternative reality – it’s what WHO says – and explains headlines that describe almost all deaths in Italy early on as being of people with underlying health conditions. That’s not to make light of those deaths, or to underestimate the strain on any health system of so many occuring at once, but that’s a different alarm. Of course the underlying call to action – the 80,000 deaths if we don’t do anything – the medical crisis and so on got us moving, quickly.  Thanks to those government steps we don’t have a medical crisis which is great news and we have cause to be thankful.

Next step?  Daily updates on the economic measures being taken too. That’s got most people in New Zealand worried. The dire warnings spurred us into action that worked, but I think most people now realise we’ve passed that hurdle and we need to get onto the actual crisis we have.

shed2Otherwise we’ll all end up like Uncle George and subsidised by government for the foreseeable future. That won’t work. Although I could do with cheaper red paint.

But it’s Easter still! I think tomorrow (today when you read this) is the actual Easter Egg day and the first time in living memory we’re allowed to go the Supermarket. Such excitement, but for me having been at my land today, I have all things rural on my mind again. Love it.

Stephen

 

 

Day 15

Day 15

If my European trip had gone ahead I would have landed back in Auckland today. It would have been Singapore, Paris, Ireland – to see my son and his family – and Barcelona.  It would have been a cool Auckland to have arrived back into, a much cooler Auckland than I’d left, although I would have been oblivious that it only turned cold today.

Dusk view of Barcelona, Spain. Plaza de Espana

Walking through Cornwall Park this evening it was very much a late Autumn feeling, and I wore a walking jacket for the first time this year on my 118th walk of the year.

It looks like we’ve broken the back of COVID-19 in this country. They’ll be some further stern words – STAY HOME! – and big pronouncements about what restrictions stay (most), but in reality, we’re over it, yes it worked, at what cost, and what now?

I think a hangover will set in really quick. The enthusiasm, village spirit, the dobbing in, the adulation, the jokes, will fade quicker than summer just did.

COVID-19 was and is not an evil, random hideous silent killing stalking us like the Alien.

It’s a virus, mostly avoidable, and when it’s caught it can be very serious, mainly to some vulnerable groups.  There will be a time to reflect on this in the future I hope, although now is not the time. 

But we will rise again. Speaking of which it’s Easter! Time of the Easter Bunny and the Cross. So it’s time for  – a new word! Syncretism: the merging of belief systems which for Easter is about the fertility rituals that underpin Easter, a celebration adopted by Christians to mark the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ isn’t the only religious figure said to have died and born again – here’s ten others – and there are others too.

I’ll miss the Church bells at Easter this year. You might have guessed I wouldn’t be there, but it’s a restful sound that somehow captures community. And we need that now more than ever.

So let’s hope we come back from this and go forward. No flying for us after the comeback though, so my visit to Mum for her 89th birthday later this month might be on hold. Don’t tell her, she doesn’t know I’m (supposed to be) coming.

And do have a community Easter in your Bubble, however that is done. We’ll never forget this Easter so we might as well embrace it, and those who share this moment.

Stephen