Plague Diary Season 3 Week 2

Day 8, August 25. 62 new cases, one in Wellington. Community case is now 210. A data guy said yesterday cumulatively over 1000 is possible.

Very early in the lockdown last year, in response to media questions about the strictness of our lockdown rules, Jacinda said, "I have a duty of care..." and I couldn't take in what followed. It was the first time in my life I heard a politician say those words. Ethical, moral, but also so very normal. I don't understand all the flack New Zealand is getting from foreign press. 

Make no mistake, New Zealand is not a hippie Nirvana. We have anti-(insert-agenda) folks and lockdown dodgers, and associated warnings and arrests. We also have opposition parties. Last year someone sued the government for putting the country in lockdown, which is probably why Jacinda has to mention legal advice around changing/enforcing rules from time to time.

Meanwhile, the first lot of folks from Afghanistan arrived a few days ago, with assistance from Australia and, I think, UAE. Apologies if I got that wrong. I don't know how many are Kiwis vs. Afghans. But can you imagine being pulled out of Kabul as it crumbles; sit in a cargo hold of a large plane, (my conjecture;) having a stick shoved up your nose, (even if you are fully aware what it is for;) being placed what I imagine is a generic border quarantine facility; probably not being able to speak anyone outside of your immediate family; being served possibly unfamiliar food by possibly invisible persons; all in the middle of a quiet Level 4 lockdown New Zealand; where depending on where they are, may reach a high of 20C as opposed to 32C you might have had before you left? I wouldn't be surprised if littlies are even more terrified now than before leaving. I don't have skills, but if there is an opportunity, I would gladly hold a squirming, screaming kid just long enough for Mommy to wash her hair. Or go to the bathroom. I bring built-in cushion.

Today, my thoughts have been with them. 
Day 9, August 26, community cases: 68 new, 277 total. I've been loosing the plot. I still watch the 1PM update live, follow half a dozen folks online, but I can't take in the numbers nor new information. Instead,I've been absentmindedly staring at sign language interpreters, in particular, the different ways they sign "vaccine". Also, they stand in front of the black background, and many wear black. There is one woman in particular who wears matte black top, jacket, and a long black skirt, and when she is on, I can only see her face and her hands moving as if each has its own mind. It's utterly mesmerizing.

Otherwise, I've been quite brain-dead. (What a sentence!) Other than laundry, ironing and too much cooking, I haven't done much. Must. Do. Better.
Day 10, August 27. 70 new cases, all in Auckland; 347 community cases in all; 333 in AKL, 14 in WLG. All regions south of Auckland will move to Level 3, (commonly known as "Level 4 with Takeaways",) from Wednesday, September 1. Auckland and Northland's levels will be reassessed on Monday, August 30, but Auckland is likely to remain in Level 4 for a fortnight.
This micromanaging, so different from last year, is causing a something of a wee havoc, if you can call something that. Where does "south of Auckland" start? (Apparently roadblocks were set up in different places last year.) Is Port Waikato in Auckland? (No idea.) Why is Northland with 0 cases in Level 4, but Welly with  14 in Level 3? This is the one I kept shouting at the telly. (Apparently something to do with all Welly cases being within a household; a north of Auckland case being in a workplace and on a major road; and a bunch of Aucklanders escaped to their holiday homes up north before and after lockdown started?)
And then the wastewater in South Island: Covid found in Christchurch is "probably" from the quarantine facility. In stark contrast to Jacinda relentlessly reminding us how transmissible Delta is. (Not about sewage, but there was transmission in managed isolation through open hotel doors.) And why does she ceaselessly talk over Top Doc, as if she's stopping him from going off script??
So, I'm grumpy tonight. Things are not straight forward this year. And my favorite NZ Doc Michael Baker says some data openly disclosed elsewhere is not coming through here. Got you a pic of finished purple crocus with just emerged yellow ones. I don't think I'll mix colors next year. Also, Zoom party with even-tempered, lovely vegetarians in half an hour, thank goodness, so I have to... go... and be a better person.

I am aware there are real problems in the world, like folks who have to work while their little ones are home during lockdown. Or Afghanistan. I'm just being a big baby.

As you were.
Day 11, August 28. 82 new community cases; 429 in all, Auckland 415, Wellington 14. 
We made our first lockdown trip to the supermarket this afternoon. We left home around 5PM; it'd been a sunny, warm spring day after heavy overnight rain, and a brilliant afternoon. There was more than the normal Saturday afternoon traffic on Tahunanui Drive, plus more runners and cyclists than I've ever seen in my life. More than 90% did not have masks; of the rest, about half were only carrying them, leaving only 4-5% wearing them. But also, there were a few groups obviously made up of multiple bubbles, but overall, folks seemed to stick with their own.

During lockdowns, we go to the bigger Countdown supermarket, because there is less chance of a queue to get in, (none when we arrived, one waiting when we left;) inside is roomy; and they let two people from the same bubble shop together. Just as the media reported, there were no broccoli, New Zealand's newly-crowned star veg this lockdown. There were no bananas when we arrived, either, but I spotted a staff carrying two bunches, and Ben followed her to grab one. Meat section was very sparse, but not empty, and we managed to buy a variety of shiny, attractive protein, enough for the next almost fortnight.
There were plenty of eggs; plenty of loo paper if you aren't fussy about the brand; I forgot to check yeast, but I did catch a quick shot of the flours. There were plenty of supermarket bakery's bread and baked treats left on the shelves. 
Ben said everybody inside, shoppers and staff, had masks on. (I was too busy trying to buy everything on our list I didn't even look.) Though we didn't engage in the usual, lengthy picking up of unfamiliar products, reading of labels, and comparing nutritional contents, the atmosphere was much closer to normal compared to last year. Although... some shoppers and staff weren't too concerned with distancing. Hummm... 
The weather has been changeable, but winter is most definitely coming to a close. 
Day 12, August 29. 83 new community cases, (A:82, W:1;) in all 511. Head-down-bum-up-in-the-mud, or miso marinade. Ben's going to say I've diluted the miso too far again. I don't like the just-miso flavour; he loves it.
We've been eating more beans the last few years because they are easier on the old bod, we buy dry so easy to store especially during lockdowns, and we hang out with a lot of Vegetarians so it's good to familiarize ourselves with recipes sans meat. The other night during zoom, I mentioned lentils are one kind I've never found nice, to which one such vegetarian asked if I've ever had a good daal. I said I didn't recall, and I don't, but it's possible I never tried it because it has... lentils... Another wise vegetarian told me perhaps the reason I find "vegetarian" difficult is because I'm not used to thinking of veg as main dishes. No truer words!

When I asked Ben this morning if he wanted the chicken marinated in miso or Tandoori Masala, (I secretly wanted him to pick the latter, or for him to tell me to choose as he normally does,) forgetting whenever miso is in the mix, it's his default choice. So this week I shall try one of these. At Chez B&M, we can't call this a real lockdown without Indian food, and Chooza Tikka is no longer considered Indian because I make it so often.

I count it a good day when I forget about a 1PM update. It just popped up on my screen halfway in. I noticed today's sign language interpreter had her left wrist taped up, although it didn't appear to hamper her work. Signing must be dangerous work. 
I didn't garden like I planed to, I didn't weave like I'd hoped to, but I was a happy chappy tampering with some protein in the kitchen most of the day. And I washed an experimental weaving sample tonight. 
Day 13, August 30. 53 new cases, all in Auckland. Community nationwide 562; A 547, W 15. We in south of Auckland will go to Level 3 starting Wednesday; Auckland in 4 for another fortnight; Northland provisionally 3 from Friday.

Tomorrow is officially the last day of winter, and this morning I realized I may not have the tail end of a cold, but perhaps Day 10-ish of hay fever. We had strong wind most of the day, which didn't make things easier, and I stayed inside. 
First thing I did today was some work. I had not scrutinized or labeled samples like this in close to two decades. It was time-consuming but enjoyable. Hee hee. Then I cooked a whole lot, again, and washed a whole lot more. 
Day 14, August 31. 49 new community cases, all in Auckland; total 612. New case numbers decreased two days in a row, and for that the nation is cautiously ecstatic, but get this, 2/3 of the cases are under 30 and there are six kids under one year old. One. Year. Old!! 

Tomorrow, we go into Level 3, which is Level 4 with takeaways. Also tomorrow spring starts unapologetically, although we've already had several beautiful, balmy days, sandwiched between occasional reminder of winter. People are happy. But this worry-er is worried. If 95% of Nelson on Tahuna Drive on Saturday afternoon under Level 4 couldn't be bothered wearing masks, if ,already, this time around solid law-abiding folks were bending the rules here and there, (they were,) Jacinda might be herding cats in a week or so. Let's hope I'm very wrong, but for now we're mostly staying in.
As well, Auckland, who has to stay in Level 4 for a fortnight, got hit by very heavy rain this morning, some suburbs having to evacuate, etc. So spare a thought for them?

If I were to order a perfect day to entice me to get outside, today would have been once such. Relatively still, cold but sunny and generally quiet. (For Level 4, there has been a surprising lot of noise, especially traffic.) But from the moment I woke up, my head was full of weaving. I felt slightly guilty, but I convinced myself, (not difficult,) my reason for being here on this planet is to weave, not weed. 
Gotta love unironic hyperbole. Sometimes it's nice to be a second generation drama queen; I take after my dad.



This is going back a little. 

In the second half of February and early March, I revisited the draft post on "Syrie" I abandoned when the Plague arrived a year previously. I put in so much work then and wanted to... what... summarize what I'd done up to that point, and what my future options and preferences were. Maybe it's not a good idea to try to stuff it all into one post. And if that's not bad enough, another long-postponed project has been on my mind a while. Structurally, this should be an easier project, although, you know, I still want it to be spectacular. 
In April, Ben and I both had numerically insignificant birthdays, and jointly a numerically-insignificant anniversary. 
In May, I learned Pat passed away; her cancer had come back after seven years and she had become ill around Christmas. We hadn't been in touch, we probably had one lunch after I came home from Japan in September 2019. But she was supportive of my weaving, in fact my only weaving friend in Nelson, and I shall miss her. 
About a fortnight later, I learned my former boss's wife passed away in Australia. Bruce and Judy are Kiwis; I worked for Bruce in Japan in the 80s, and they and their two fabulous kids are four big reasons Ben and I've come to live in New Zealand. Although... Bruce and Judy moved to Australia soon after we came here. Causality?? Bruce was a fabulous boss, and Judy was a spectacular Kiwi cook and a consummate letter-writer. I last saw them, with their late daughter Susan's family, in 2014.
I knitted, we wore things I knitted, so there's that. I finished weaving the Sunflower warp and made a simpler Sunflower II to study how the different lifting relate to the pattern, but I'm preparing a separate post or three on this. It's been most interesting, almost addictive. House repair issue also intervened; we had to store the contents of the linen closet into the stash room for a fortnight, twice, which stopped me weaving. Oh, and I've gone downstairs to have a look at the purple warp a few times, but haven't returned to it.

More frequently than usual, I've had strong urges to draw or indulge in mixed media, or spend some time photographing stuff. I've done a little of the latter, especially with Ben's old awesome-fone with a wonderful camera, which is now my phone mainly for Covid tracer app. It's been satisfying, but I haven't done anything more with them. I've also joined a new Letter Journal swap with folks I've done my best swaps with. 
One of the reasons I hadn't posted is because I was removed from words and writing for some months. Not intentionally, but organically. Every time I thought to post, it felt like an insurmountably onerous task. I never stopped reading, but I experienced life not in texts. In fact, I now recall life seemed vague and unclear. The experience itself didn't bother me; in fact, I wondered if something new would emerge in my visual life. But also it's a very foreign MO, and along with the undefined vagueness, I wondered if it was the start of dementia, because that's was how it appeared to have started with my step-grandmother. But then we went into lockdown, and I resurrected my Plague Diary. It took better part of half a day to scribble the first entry, and I wondered if I've lost "it", but it doesn't seem so. None of the subsequent entries have been as challenging, even if at times time-consuming. 

Between Mom-related issues and Covid, I was holding my breath, waiting for something to happen, for a very long time. Not "depressed" but mildly depressing Considering the latest lockdown, considering how I love a cocooned life, I should be feeling... relieved now, but this lockdown is not as clean and decisive as the last, and now that's getting me really worked up. Oh, dear.


Plague Diary Season 3 Week 1

Hello. It's been a while and a lot and not much has happened. I wrote half a dozen draft posts over the last few months but deleted them last night. I think I'll restart afresh. Meanwhile, you may or may not know, New Zealand has been in a Level 4 lockdown, so once again I'm keeping a Plague Diary. We don't know how long this one is going to last, another assessment is happening tomorrow, so it may be a short-lived Diary, but here goes nothing.
Day 0, August 17. Level 4 lockdown starting midnight tonight, for three days for us, seven for Auckland, provisionally, because we may have a Delta in Auckland. We had been warned of this a week ago. Supermarkets and other retailers worked well last time, so though hoarding has started, folks on the telly were buying one extra pack of loo paper for e.g.
Day 1, August 18. Almost forgot about this diary on the first day, although this may end up being a very short one if lockdown lasts only three days. Or not. 
Last night, we had one community-transmitted case; tonight there are 10, nine loosely connected, but one not to the cluster but to border quarantine work. The first "index" patient had a busy holiday on the weekend while already transmissible. The main cluster that includes the index patient's workmate, a group of flatmates, went to bars, casino, church and a tertiary course lecture with 84 classmates. Top Doc says these folks were "out and about a lot" and there may be as many as 120 or so cases in all. Now I'm thinking, let's hope it stops there. And it's a NSW strain. 
On the home front, Ben had the day off. Originally we were supposed to have our second shots. But we've had this terrible cold, Ben for nearly a fortnight, we postponed them to mid-September. 
During the first lockdown, Kanopy, a video rental service we can sign up through our public library, offered ten videos per account per month. That was reduced to five late last year. So Ben had his library membership reinstated last week. Good thing because this afternoon, after the 1PM update, Ben's laptop suddenly screamed; he had on the newest Japanese Godzilla movie! I ran into the kitchen to kneed sourdough and juice limes while watching a documentary on Gustav Stickley; a much more pleasant viewing. 
Day 2, August 19. Woke up to the news one of the locations of interest, Bar 101, a "premier student bar" in Auckland, had upwards of 900 folks when one of the cases visited, and that was a slow night in a venue that routinely have upwards of 1800 kids drinking, shouting, dancing and sweating. Lordy. 
Then my thoughts turned dark: for over a year there was almost no case here, (all lockdowns were local and not at Level 4, although my memory is a tad vague on that); we've only started getting vaccines in large amounts five or so weeks ago, and in spite of the big rush in recent weeks we're only approaching 20% with two jabs. A friendly Aussie Delta hops across the ditch, and presto, we're just the cleanest petri dish. 
In the afternoon we also learned something of the process used in determining (one) likely origin of this outbreak via genome sequencing. I imagined this could one day become a simple case study in... virus tracking 101 textbooks, because it's got to be a relatively compact, straight-forward case, compared to larger countries or sicker places with competing strains? 
Sourdough waits for no one, even for those with a prolonged cold and a stuffed head. It turned out funny looking and the crust is overbaked, but the inside is OK. Or that's what Ben tells me. 
Day 3, August 20. Numbers are up as expected; as of tonight we have 31 Delta community spread cases, while a few were ruled out as they are unrelated border cases. I don't know what that means, because it doesn't change the fact these folks testing positive were out and about, which you'd think is a big deal. But the more relevant issue today was three of the new cases were Wellingtonians who only spent the weekend in Auckland. 
Contract tracing has since shown it's now possible Delta is all over the country, and locations of interest have ballooned to around 200, but this number doesn't include schools and churches, because... (checks notes) Health Ministry is working directly with each organization in obtaining complete student/staff/member lists rather than appealing to the public. Testing is so busy folks have been turned away from some locations. So now, the whole country will stay in Level 4 until Tuesday. Folks interviewed on the telly and many in comment sections agree the extension is the right decision. Kiwis are rushing to get vaccinated also, although we also have pockets of anti-lockdown idiots. 
There was a rare occasion during the press conference today where Top Doc stated he recommended Auckland and the Coromandel remain in Level 4 until the end of the month, dissenting from the official government view... (checks memory...) who prefers to look at the whole country at this time. I didn't understand what Jacinda really meant, because from the start we had two tiers, three days for us, seven for Auckland/the Coromandel. 
In the first lockdown last year, I was far more concerned about what I should do every day, and lamented not having a Big Plague Art Project. This time I appear to spend more time learning about the bigger picture, trends, numbers, policies. Some mornings I surprise myself (pretending to) read medical research which, for a fleeting moment, seem to make sense and convinces me of whatever the author is trying to convince me of. It may have something to do with having had a pretty bad cold for a week or so, and not having the gumption to do much. 😃 
And then in the evenings, I feel deeply indebted to whoever first thought of potato chips.
Day 4, August 21. Expensive Toms. It's the dead-ish of winter here so these tomatoes were $14.99/kilo at the supermarket. At the end of the summer they can be as cheap as $3, even cheaper outside supermarkets, but more importantly, so much better. 
There was, in Japan, a popular, fancy curry shop Ben and I used to go when we were dating and soon after we got married. (I can't believe I just used the word "dating". That feels several lifeties ago!) Their curries were good, but they also had lovely cakes, and back then Ben didn't have a sweet tooth, so for cakes it was either there or a particular cafe chain we went. Anyway, this curry shop served a small tomato salad before the curry and every now and then we still make a facsimile of that salad. 
A while ago, having heard a terrible story of labour conditions surrounding canned tomatoes overseas, we started buying local, scooping out the seeds but saving the juice, not peeling the skin because that's a lot of work, to use in our cooking. And in the warmer seasons, even these with-acid kind, they've been delish. 
This time of year, though... no matter how many days I let them sit, they're not prime salad material. Today's taste like how I expect Japanese food samples to taste - plasticy. I'm not sure whether to dunk it in stronger dressing, or just cook it. But we need a little more veg in our lockdown diet. 
Aforementioned Japanese curry shop tom salad had smaller, uniformly-sized tom pieces, of course. After 31 1/3 years, we're not too fussy. 
The main Delta cluster is now 51 cases; around 10,000 folks were pinged. Considering the last 14 months, New Zealand is on fire, but most Kiwis are super compliant, posting funny or creative pictures on social media from the comfort of their homes. There is a strong sense of "we've been here before." 
Meanwhile, situation in some parts across the ditch is... dire. NSW, the state that includes Sydney, had a whopping 825 new cases yesterday. Melbourne finished her 200th days in lockdown. Yet when I see footage from Australia, their lockdowns look very unlike ours. (Mind you, different states have different rules, and NZ television have shown mostly Sydney and Melbourne CBD.) 
I hear more and more from Aussies in the press saying it's time to "learn to live with Covid," and that... irks me. With what looks to me like a half-hearted, (and you know I really mean a different part of the anatomy,) lockdown unable to control Delta, you're just going to quit and... live with it? With the proximity and amount of traffic between New Zealand and Australia, this means eventually they are going to drag New Zealand down the same path. And if you can't be bothered about NZ, what about all the conscientious Aussies who lock down the "proper" way? (Right, I've got to walk this off now; I'm getting too worked up.) 
Ben wanted to bake a cheesecake this afternoon but I've been dying to try this recipe, so I insisted. I've loved to bake since I was in high school, and only learned to cook meals out of necessity, like after getting married, but it's always been such a hit and miss affair. This lot, however, turned out spectacularly. I'd like it a little better moist and cakey in the middle, but this is the texture Ben loves, and I blew my mind!! 🤣 
Before you ask, base recipe is Nigella's. I've substituted quite a few ingredients, because I'm using what I have. I also used 70g of coconut sugar per batch; I mate two, one with big choc chunks that melted away, one with walnuts. 
Day 5, August 22. Today dragged on. We ate too much of my awesome cookies. And croissant with cream cheese and smoked salmon for brunch, but the baby spinach leaves were too wilted. And Ben watched a dreary Japanese dystopian science fiction animation. I watched it with him. 
Tomorrow Cabinet meets to decide our fate and we'll hear from Jacinda at 4PM. Auckland is likely to remain at Level 4 for a couple of weeks; there are half a dozen high schools, and at least as many supermarkets and churches involved. One supermarket is closed until the end of the month because too many employees are required to isolate. Delta cluster is now 72, six of whom are in Welly, the rest in Auckland; 8677 folks are in isolation. In spite of repeated threats, there have been none from the South Island so far. 
I'd rather be told Level x will go on for y weeks rather than being drip-fed every few days. Businesses want things opened and there is talk of the South Island being at a different level/openness. Regardless of the changes, Ben's work will be physically closed next week so he'll work from home. 
I'm looking for will power, gumption, resolve, and the like to be productive starting tomorrow. Maybe I'll start by folding the laundry I dumped on the floor yesterday. 
Day 6, August 23. 33 new cases in Auckland, two in Wellington. Total in the community is 107. All of New Zealand remain in Level 4 until end of Friday, pending another assessment/announcement on Friday; Auckland will stay at Level 4 until August 31. This piecemeal extensions is really getting on my nerve. Jacinda may be losing weight; her features look sharper and her nose looks like late-stage Michael Jackson. Her temper seems shorter; I don't blame her when taking media questions, but her displeasure didn't seem this evident last year, in my recollection. She cuts them off more, and when she does the "be kind" routine, somehow it doesn't appear as genuine as last year. It could all be in my head, of course. 
Had a very long shower. 
Washed bedding. 
Washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen. 
Made another pot of voo doo cold not-remedy. 
Peeled lime peels to dry and squeezed 400ml of juice. 
Folded the laundry on the floor and put them away. 
And it's not yet 4.30PM so I may still get something else done. Or not. I have to light the fire at least. 
Didn't, in spite of early morning intentions: 
Weed the pots. 
Sweep the patio. 
Sow seeds in new terracotta pots. 
I noticed kowhai flowering outside the stash room a few minutes ago. Earlier in the season it was a sorry sight, with about 10% of the flowers of last year. Usually by now they are all gone. The other tree by the driveway, which didn't flower well either this year, is well and truly finished this year; it had two flowering this afternoon. 
Day 7, August 24. 41 new cases, kids, three in Wellington; the community cluster is 148 with six sub clusters. None on the South Island. Close to 16000 contacts; 400 locations of interest. 
Oz PM ScoMo (Australian PM Scott Morrison) has been dissing New Zealand's eradication approach. And while I don't take him seriously, I have been wondering how feasible this approach is, considering a lot/most of the world has taken a different approach. I find this direction very depressing. Then, I found this, an episode from Australia's Covid podcast by Dr Norman Swan, (yeah, that's Papa Swan,) with a not-so pessimistic view on eradication.
We had a beautiful early spring day, but I dithered inside waiting for the 1PM update. I remembered from later in the lockdown last year that if I miss 1PM, I can always watch it later, and it didn't matter if I was a few hours late in learning the latest. I was feeling so ugh, Ben suggested I put my genius to work and bake more cookies. Pic's Peanut Butter ones turned out great; expensive 99% dark choc ones, not so much. 
Feeling I hadn't done enough, I read all parts of the Covid tracer app, loaded personal info which hitherto I avoided, and entered where I was for all but three days of the 30 days. After all that work, I learned that unless I've tested positive or have been in close contact, I can't and don't need to forward my whereabouts. Bummer.