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 16

Day 16

It was another gorgeous day today in Auckland so perhaps my welcoming of Winter was a bit premature. I had my 119th and 120th walks of the year today. Up Maungawhau (Mt Eden) that sits proudly watching over Tāmaki Makaurau. It’s the highest Maunga (mountain) in Auckland’s monogenetic volcanic range on the mainland. Each volcano erupts only once, as compared to polygenetic volcanoes, such as Whakaari White Island, or Mt Ruapehu.  The most recent one to erupt was Rangitoto Island, 550 years ago and it’s also the tallest.

The Tūpuna Maunga o Tāmaki Makaurau Authority is the statutory authority which co-governs fourteen of Auckland’s fifty-three Maunga with Auckland Council. Of those fourteen, in addition to Maungawhau, Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill), Ōhinerau (Mount Hobson), and Te Kōpuke / Tītīkōpuke (Mount St John) are within easy striking distance for walking during the Lockdown. Maungakiekie adjoins Cornwall Park, and is essentially one large park. Mount Hobson is very close to me and I often attend our weekly Consulting all-partner morning calls striking it up to the top, hoping that when I need to speak I’m actually at the top and not pacing it out upwards!

I feel very blessed to live amongst such beautiful form in the city, which has meaningful history and is ideal for walking for fitness. The variations in route, views, typography on any one walk are almost endless.

It really did feel like the city had cleaned out and gone to the beach for Easter. I think a few may have, but some got turned back – STAY HOME! – and no doubt reminded that it’s a staycation this weekend.

It’s still a great opportunity to do some cleaning out I reckon. Little projects that you can do at home in the garden or the house to clean out stuff you don’t need. Face it, we have too much. Clean some stuff off your mental or actual to do list too. Create a project list*. and if something doesn’t make it, it’s never going to be a thing. Maybe that physical photo album is not really a thing. Forget it, it’s clutter in your mind holding onto it and then clutter 30 minutes after it’s created.

I got cleaned out of someone else’s 2020 plans. Plans for a project were ended with “I’m bowing out“, without explanation. But I respect that. We’ve all got our own stuff going on and to clean out is refreshing for the mind, when needed. No-one wants to continue with something, when you’re only half-hearted, or something doesn’t feel right. But it was slightly jarring nonetheless. Not my call but you have to move forward for the next opportunity.

Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill

So a big question for Auckland will be when the next eruption might be.  When will the volcanic bed get cleaned out? The eruptions have generally been thousands of years apart, and scientists’ best estimate will be that the next one is off the coast near St Heliers, near Browns Island. LEAVE HOME! will be catch cry you would assume when that happens.

Almost forgot COVID-19. It’s still a thing alright, you can see that everywhere you go – which isn’t far – but we need to be patient.

Cleaning out and patience. Excellent leadership traits to practice during a long weekend confined to home. Patience is underused.

Stephen

*I’m reading Getting Things Done at the moment.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Day 14

Day 14

Are we there yet!

Could we be half-way? Well we could be, but at least we can be certain we are halfway through the minimum sentence! But I get the feeling that although we’ve generally been well-behaved, it hasn’t been perfect so there might be a little more time.

But no more time for the almost 400 pilots at Air New Zealand about to be laid off, the 300 Flight Centre Staff who are laid off, or the other 100,000 tourism jobs estimated to be lost. Wellington Airport is in discussions with its banks and half of New Zealand’s hotels are closed. And this is just one sector.  Sounds like a crisis to me.

To its credit the government is in discussions to “re-start” the Tourism sector, which means domestic tourism only, as we have no community immunity, and unless I’m missing something, we can’t possibly permit any overseas visitors until there is a vaccine.

So it’s time to “Don’t leave town until you see the Country!” again. I love a good road trip. I’ve driven from Cape Reinga to Bluff and most places in-between. There’s so much to see! The gorgeous bays of Bay of Islands, Molesworth Station, Ophir, the giant canals of the South Island’s Hydro-electric schemes, Lake Paringa on the West Coast, Arrowtown, the square of Palmerston North, the Redwoods of Whakarewarea Forest at Rotorua, the Hokianga Car FerryMona Vale Gardens and the Wairarapa to name but a few places I’ve been to on road trips.

ABARTH

And no disappointment if your favourite isn’t mentioned, the list is almost never-ending. In fact the only two places I think I haven’t driven to are Gisborne and Farewell Spit. Makes me want to wrap my hands around the leather steering wheel, press “START” and head off.

My personal favourites from the top of my head: the Giant Te Paki sand dunes, Otira Viaduct at Arthurs Pass, Gibbston Valley in Autumn, and – one I visit every week – Cornwall Park.

Te Paki Sand Dunes

Right now, we’re not able to do any road trips – STAY HOME! – but it’s an ideal time to plan the next one, to reflect on places you’ve been to – get the photos out or on the screen and relive the memories.

Taking time to reflect on past adventures enriches us. We should allow ourselves the time and space to take a journey in our minds. Reflection is not just about learning.

It’s also an opportunity to luxuriate in past pleasures and times of great satisfaction.

Are we there yet!

Stephen

 

 

Day 13

Day 13

A lucky day for me, being born on a 13th but not so for some, or so it’s said. Friday the 13th, 1307, legend (only) has it, is when the French King ordered the arrest of hundreds of Knights Templar, to steal their resources. It’s also 13 guests at the last supper, one of whom was a traitor.

Today was lucky for some. More people in New Zealand recovered from COVID-19 than were diagnosed with it. And the numbers of new cases has dropped again, but early release was unlikely.  Seemingly unconnected, the police declared in a new interpretation of the law that they had a lot more power than previously thought – to enter property and so forth – if that had reasonable grounds to believe bubbles were mixing!  You’ve got to laugh, really. But the reasonable grounds provides a check, a self policing check that is open to review, but nonetheless an important check.

Little Kids Having Fun Outdoors

Overseas, in the UK, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to Intensive Care, which has to be concerning, while the Sussexes competed with that news, and announced their new charity, telling the media, that they felt “compelled” to release it now.

Given half the world is compelled to stay at home, you’d have to wonder where that compulsion came from, right now. But that’s a part of life that was weird long before COVID-19 came along in December last year.

I read an excellent article today comparing the impact of World War II with the current situation. It seems trite in terms of global impacts, deaths etc, but it compared the business transformation that the war brought to many American companies, with what might be possible now.

In small ways, we can see already that for knowledge workers, the ability to work remotely at scale, is both achievable and in many ways, helpful. We might not require all the space, or type of space, that we’ve had before, or many of the other tools of our trades. There’s new questions we hadn’t even thought of before, that need answers. One of mine is if my breakfast bar stool that I use for work, which has started squeaking, can be replaced during the Lockdown. Probably not, but seriously we knew that working remotely is possible – we had all the tools – but looking back, already we can see how timid our prior attempts have been. Do change resisters rule the roost during times of prosperity?

Yes, prosperity. Who knew that a month ago we were in a prosperous economy? You barely know it when it’s there, but you soon know when you’re not! The speed in change and the enforced nature of the change are the differences in this crisis. We’ve gone from prosperity to crisis in days, as a consequence of the government closing us down. I’m not aware of this happening before.

So, now is the time to make the changes for the new world, that we’ve been too timid, had too much resistance, and had excuses not to do, even though it was the right thing.

Virtual bubbles unite!

Stephen

p.s. In searching for a Knights Templar stock photo I noticed there were 13 pages of them!

So I chose a Last Supper theme, ever hopeful we might be out of our cave soon. It’s from Prague – The fresco of Last Supper in church kostel Svatého Václava by S. G. Rudl (end of 19. cent.).

And just for fun, if you’ve made it this far:

iStock-458256121.jpg

Day 12

Day 12

Settling in was the feeling today. We’ve had two weekends and it’s the third working week we’re in. After my walk this evening I felt quite tired again, not sure why. Have I got Daylight Savings around the wrong way somehow!?

I suspect it’s running on adrenaline for too long, but it could also be all the walking – don’t tell anyone but I have got quite a lot of exercise done – or should I say more regular exercise during the lockdown. Even lost some weight!

Over the weekend I noticed lots of walkers, runners and cyclists out and about, enjoying the great weather in Auckland and getting their essential Lockdown exercise. Walking past the Olympic Pool in Newmarket a bus pulled up and the driver exited. I joked that it was a busy day on the bus today. “No one at all” he said. I commented that you can only get in the back door, and so I assume you can only use your Auckland Transport Hop Card. He told me there were three ways of travelling: If you’re an essential worker, it’s no charge, if you have a Hop Card, you swipe it, and if you haven’t got a Hop Card, you “just take a ride for free“.  Weird times we live in. Even weirder than the payment options, is where do you go, and when you get there what do you do?

Which is more or less what we’ll be asking in 16 days and a bit. We were told it was a minimum of 4 weeks and I’m picking it’s unlikely we’ll be free earlier, until all likelihood of risk is eliminated.

When we assess risks in almost any field that I am aware of we assess Likelihood of the event occurring and the Impact of the event (virus in this case) should it occur. So in assessing the risks of COVID-19 it is firstly necessary to assess the likelihood of the virus spreading.  So if nothing is done to mitigate the virus there is probably a strong likelihood that it will enter the community, obviously really.

One would then look a the actual impact. There seems little doubt that there is harm from the virus. In studies I have read, acknowledging that there’s still lots of research to be done, some general themes appear:

  • Most people suffer mild symptoms.  One Chinese study put this as high as 80%. This must mean that there are many more cases of COVID-19 than the records show, I would have thought. I wonder whether the figure is exponentially higher, globally. But that’s my speculation, but if it’s the case, the death rate is much lower.
  • The death rate increases by age. Although there was a media report recently of a 5 year old dying, it hasn’t come through in the statistics, and subject to that, the death rate for ages 0-9 is zero. By far the greater risk of death is to those over 60-70+ and those with underlying medical conditions. This BBC article suggests that many of those that died would have died from something in the short term anyhow, and argues that to attribute those deaths to COVID-19 is not realistic.  That sounds harsh, but everyone dies of something, and if COVID-19 is the final trigger, it paints a different picture of harm. Be that as it may, patients with cardiovascular disease are much more likely to die, so if you’re 75 with heart disease you’re at high risk of serious harm. Of course, death is not the only harm – being on a ventilator, struggling to breathe for an extended period is not exactly a picnic.
  • There are non-medical impacts too: If there were many cases, we might not have enough medical resources to manage it i.e. beds and personnel.

What we’re hearing a lot more of now is the economic impact of the Lockdown which, on the face of it, has tackled the risk by ensuring that virtually none of the impacts – barring a very small number of exceptions – have come to fruition. And this is where it gets really complicated.

Early information released was that there was the likelihood of 80,000 deaths in New Zealand alone, then it was adjusted to 14,000, then back up to 20,000+.  I doubt that many people think now (or even then) that those figures were even remotely possible, given the relatively small global death rate – I say small because it’s never going to get anywhere near the 1.8m people that died from the Spanish Flu in 1918, and might be within the ballpark of the 150,000 who die each year globally from influenza.

Taking an approach that has virtually eliminated all harm in New Zealand is attractive, but all risk decisions have winners and losers.  In this decision there are a probably relatively small number of winners (we may never know) and many losers, in economic and social terms.

Leaders make decisions on risk daily. No decision is perfect and leaders know that you can’t eliminate risk completely – be that regulatory, economic, timeframes, Cyber protection, or the myriad of other things that need to be assessed for risk. But there will always be risks that leaders determine the impact of is just too great to bear, and will take maximum steps, at the cost of other activities, to eliminate that risk. Physical workforce safety is one of those things.

Whether the virtually complete elimination of the impact of the COVID-19 was the right thing to do is a judgment call made by the Country’s political leaders. We won’t know whether the consensus that this was right or wrong until much later, when the economic and social impacts – the new harm caused to eliminate the virus harm – are properly known.

But I do feel more relaxed about it all having lightly analysed a decision making process!

And that could well be my longest blog – way too long – sorry about that!

Stephen

Day 10

Day 10

Double digits! 18 days and 1 hour to go. Maybe.

The rates of infection have levelled and there was hope today that we’re on the right track, meaning we might be able to reduce to Alert Level 3 in 18 days, and one hour. It will be a welcome relief but will not be enough for business to get back to where it needs to, to be productive. Business needs level 2.

I missed some things today. I missed a weekend breakfast in the Cafe on the ground floor of my apartment building. I missed the hum of activity in the city. In global terms, Auckland is a small city, but in New Zealand it’s large, growing and active 24/7. It felt sad that the energy, dynamism and production has been stalled.

I got out on my motorcycle today, to clear my mail – that’s an essential service activity right? – and to get some supplies from the supermarket. It was great to be out on two wheels again and was pleased I hadn’t forgotten what to do!

I also got out for another walk – it was a gorgeous day – and now I’m pleasantly tired from physical exercise.  The Maunga of Tamaki Makaurau are great for the heart!

OTH

Not everyone is so relaxed though. Unsurprisingly tensions are flaring in supermarkets, although not where I’ve been. A person is set to appear in court after punching a supermarket manager in Warkworth. When it was first said we’d be able to get out to the Supermarket, my original plan was Warkworth, until the concept of “local” was put out there. Fortunately for me, as it sounds like a hotbed of frustration.

And there will be a lot of frustration. The housing crisis hasn’t suddenly gone away. They’ll still be large families living in homes that are too small causing untold pressure. They’ll be abusive adults with young children. Tragic, especially when you consider that not a single child under 10 has died, anywhere in the world,  from COVID-19. Who will be the first to say that this thing is a Boomer* thing? They’re the ones at risk, along with the Silent Generation. The economic and social victims are younger.

A warm message from the incoming Police Commissioner, who like his predecessor is taking a realistic Kiwi stance: “We allow people to undertake exercise because that actually is healthy for people, and this is hard. People are stuck in their homes and we’re only in the first week, so we need to be sensible about this.”  Empathetic Leadership.

Enjoy the extra hour of sleep tonight, and if you didn’t get it, enjoy a long day!

Stephen

*Baby Boomers were born after World War 2, 1946 up to 1960 although sometimes it refers to people born up to 1964. The 1960-1964 are “Confused Baby Boomers”. The Silent Generation are people born from 1925 to 1945. As far as I am aware there is no scientific or research basis for the generation descriptions and behaviours, which often surprises people as it’s spoken in common language as though it’s a thing. The only thing are the dates, all behaviours attributed to a generation are without a foundation.