Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Plague Diary Season 3 Week 7

Day 14+7+22, September 29. 45 new, Auckland; 1230 in the cluster; 243 active, 986 recovered. I'm stunned, but glad I missed the live update.
I've known Ben since 1985 and been married to him since 1990. Last lockdown, he surprised me with his expertise in making Chinese dumplings. This week he stunned me, saying he could go for a big bowl of jello/jelly. 
I've always loved jello. As a kid, mom bought me a few boxes once in a while so I can experiment with color layers, or mixing milk to make them translucent, or clear soda so to have bubbles like glass. In college it was a staple at our dorm cafeteria; it started with one color on Mondays, maybe another color Tuesdays, then layers, and by Friday it was a murky brownish with slight variations. By then I was aware of the evils of artificial sweeteners and colors, so I had them perhaps once a fortnight, earlier in the week, but not when it included mini marshmallows. 
As a grownup, I still loved them, but I preferred gelatin sheets and made them with coffee, (mom's favorite, no sugar, but unwhipped cream poured over,) tea, wine, sake, or soda. Once, I made one with orange juice at the bottom and milky bubble at the top for my niece, calling it a "beer jello" for her to have while her dad indulged in 0% alcohol beer, but from memory, she didn't come that weekend. 
Ben was never a big fan of jello, and listened to my stories with a slight disdain. Sometimes the "gelatin" I bought were vegetable based and didn't have that wobbly quality, (in Japan, we always had both, and used them in different ways, so a clarity on the packages would have helped!) so perhaps at the start of this century, I stopped. 

Even Ben doesn't know what possessed him to "miss" jello; maybe it was the weather suddenly warming up. But I'm always game, and I suppose I can indulge in a few store-bought, color-and-sweetener-laden variety. Today I went into town for a leisurely and pleasurable lunch with girlfriends, while Ben had a busier-than-usual day at home. Afterwords I went to the store and got the above assortment of flavors. I forgot strawberry, my childhood favorites, and they didn't have cherry or pineapple, but there was blackberry. Never mind, they probably taste all the same. We'll start with Boysenberry, his favorite real berry.   
Day 14+7+23, September 30. 19 new, 18 Auckland, one north Waikato; 1249 in the cluster; 256 active, 992 recovered. 
I was all set to weed again, but by the time I was ready, at around noon, the wind had picked up. Still keen, I went outside to gauge how bad, and it was not just gusty, but I could see the dust and pollen, (in my mind's eye.) So I stayed inside answering a difficult email re. weaving software, (i.e. politely saying I didn't understand what he was on about, and he needs to weave half a dozen warps so he can probably answer his own questions,) and an important-for-me blog post, which I'll finish after this. I didn't get around to one more thing I wanted to do, mixed media, but spent some time texting a dear friend with whom I once did a drawing exhibition; I'm going to be a lady who does lunches, again, next Tuesday. Also got an audience with Mom; she insisted we moved house second week in a row, but you all can still come see us at our "old" place.

Sorry to inundate you with yet another tulip pic, but such is our life now, (kind of like last year's tuis and kowhai,) and this won't be the last. This variety, I thought was white, but the far left bud has taken on a pale hue I hesitate to name. Because our patio is so windy, if I am to buy more next season, I think I'll go for shorter varieties.
Day 14+7+24, October 1. 19 new, Auckland; 1268 in the cluster; 260 active, 1007 recovered. Gusts were forecasts from around midday, so I told myself I was going out early to weed even for a little while, picking up where I left off on Tuesday. But I'm not a morning person and after I cleaned the kitchen in slow motion, and took care of some emails, it was after 11.30. And then I did some other stuff and the wind looked like it was picking up, and... I went outside.
I've been visualizing myself being a little old lady who likes to potter around the place. It's not working, because that little old lady doesn't have to get on her knees in the near-mud and dig up convolvulus roots. My gardening style is more angry combat operation. Anyway, it turned out to be a lovely day, no gust, sunny, almost hot, and I did clear another wee patch, even though it took about times as long as I had hoped. There was a couple of more hours of sunlight, but I called it quits because I was entering a tricky area. 
I prefer to weed in the late autumn and winter, when the soil is wet and temperature low; I like, for example, weeding on those cold days when it's snowing over the hills. Every autumn, I resolve to finish the worst of the weeding before August, before the wind and pollen come out. But this year I'm so behind, I've kept going amidst all that, and discovered something; after I clean up an area, I can put seeds in right away, because the soil is warm enough. So not all is lost. 
After I started to put away my tools and garden bags full of weeds, I noticed the sun was shining on one red camellia at the bottom of the shrub, behind the lime tree, behind the white sasanqua, under the cherry tree. I stood and admired it for a moment before I thought to grab the phone to show you, but by then the sun had moved on. 
See the top of the picnic table? If you go slightly to the right, about a quarter of the way towards the lime tree trunk, might see a wee spot of red, that's the top of the flower. Maybe another day. We are expecting rain on Monday, so we might put more plants and seeds in on the weekend.
Day 14+7+25, October 2. 27 new, Auckland; 1295 in the cluster; 226 active, 1068 recovered. Today started a little blustery, even though wind was forecast from midday, and I woke up with hay fever, severity 7/10ish. Although Ben and I agreed we'd do a few things in the garden I couldn't/don't want to do by myself, it's the weekend, so no rush. We discussed perfecting baking supermarket frozen croissant, had a few leisurely coffees while reviewing beans he ordered; I cleaned the kitchen, and made lime/ginger/choc chip cookies; and finally having used so much dried lime peels, set out to dry more. 

Except I couldn't find my peeler, so I wondered if I could use the butter curler. This is a special one; we were given this in 2017 by my parents' oldest friends Ron and Puff; we met in Minneapolis in 1961 when Ron and Dad were research fellows at the U, and R & P have known me longer than their own children. They were preparing to move out of their Melbourne house of over 50 years; it's especially precious because not only are they really serious foodies but they have ancestors who worked with food, including in grand mansions of England. 

Result? The peel is thicker and shorter but it will do the job. And I found mine. 

I was itching to go outside. By early afternoon, there was just the occasional pleasant breeze, sun was out, the day was turning into another beautiful one, but hey fever severity progressed to 9.5/10. I was ready to postpone everything to tomorrow, when I heard Ben outside. Without my asking, (boys, you have no idea how happy this makes your girls,) he proceeded to trim the apple tree, (the one I think is crab apple, but Ben thinks is Fuji, and I hate to admit but he is likely right from last year's tasting,) lime tree, and part of banksia growing straight into the red camellia. And just so I don't get bored, he gave me these. Not all are ripe, but they were on the branches he pruned and the peel is good. He wanted to prune a couple of more branches but he'll wait until I work through these and/or give some away.
Since around 4PM, it's been still and gorgeous, but I'm slightly woozy from hay fever meds, so I won't go out other than to see what a good job Ben did. And he did! It's one of those near-perfect Saturdays we plan all the time, but doesn't often have because we end up doing something else. 
Day 14+7+26, October 3. 33 new,  32 Auckland, 1 Waikato, plus one (?) discovered after the cut off this morning; 1328 in the cluster; 250 active, 1078 recovered. Sections of Waikato will be in Level 3 Wednesday to Sunday. The latest Waikato cases were apparently not vaccinated and possibly not genomically linked to Auckland cases. A truck driver from Auckland tested positive in Palmerston North in a routine essential worker testing scheme, apparently also unvaccinated. Prof Baker thinks this is the tip of the iceberg. There were large protests by a pseudo-religious anti-lockdown groups around the country as well. This all comes at a terrible time when we were expecting the nation to move down levels this week, and entry-into-NZ rules proposed to ease. And why the hell does Bloomfield continue to tell people to get tested, "if you have symptoms" ?????
I've been looking at Australian curves; Victoria has had stricter lockdown rules and went into one quickly, as opposed to the New South Wales' halfhearted government policy, and yet Vic's curve has followed NSW's pattern. A while back I saw NZ curve superimposed on this graph from an Australian source, and even the ever-worried I thought that's just Australia bringing us down; last night, though, I saw a revised version, and... yeah... nah... 
Rain is forecast almost all week next week, so we put three bight-colored osteospermums, lemon balm, and two packs of seeds in the ground where I weeded recently. This could be a wise or a stupid move because after I weed and trim, there is a lot of gap and the sun comes through, but as plants return to their default states, it's a shady, crowded area. As well, I've worked hard to make this wee patch a blue-and-purple-with-a-few-exceptional-exceptions area, but who am I kidding, we have a lot that needs to go in the ground, and there are gaps. Besides, seeds are better in the ground than in foil packets. We were both tired so we came in rather soon.

Cabinet meets tomorrow; Jacinda to announce next move at 4PM.
Day 14+7+27, October 4. 29 new, 18 Auckland, 1 Waikato, (three more after the cutoff to be included in tomorrow's numbers); 1357 in the cluster; 274 active, 1082 recovered. Positives include a newborn, whose father also tested positive. All out-of-Auckland cases, except the truck driver, have been linked to Auckland clusters; truckie's virus genome is still being sequenced. 
Auckland is plunging into a special, three-step move within Level 3 that only bureaucrats could dream up Wednesday. Jacinda said it's not political appeasement, but enhancing outdoor options as the weather warms up, (and a two-week school holidays started today,) while upping the vaccination rate. I'm sure people who make these rules believe that, but it's going to confuse a whole lot of people, including possibly police. Real press question: if under this rule, someone goes to a relative's house and has a lot of beer in the garden, can s/he go inside the house to use the loo? Jacinda's non-serious answer: the small-bladdered shouldn't stay so long. 
Special folks in Waikato remain in that special category announced yesterday, while the rest of us remain in Level 2. I forgot when the next assessment is, but probably next Monday. Who cares, I don't, do you? The government was between a rock and a hard place no matter what they said. I have a whole lot of virtual hugs to folks in Auckland. And if you haven't heard, spare a thought and send giant virtual hugs to the good citizens of Victoria, Australia, who have been in lockdown for the greatest umber of days. 

I can't believe how much enjoyment we are getting from the seven five-pack tulip bulbs. If you believe I'm posting pics ad nauseam, you should see my hard drive. Well, don't. I'm like your grandmother who carried a wallet with plastic concertina inserts full of grandbaby pics. Ben and I actually go outside at least half a dozen times a day inspecting and observing progress, and report back or show pics on our phones if we find something faintly new. I'm not sure if this would have been the case if we weren't in Level 2 (almost-pretend-unless-you're-a-business) lockdown. Coming up next is a short dark orange, followed by a short pink of some sort.  
Day 14+7+28, October 5. 24 new, Auckland 18, Waikato 6, one historical; 1381 in the cluster; 294 active, 1086 recovered. Jacinda said yesterday that Delta is looking for and finding the unvaccinated; the proportion of those hospitalized doubled in the last seven days. 
I have developped a habit of buying a takeaway meal for Ben whenever I have lunch in town with girlfriends. Poor guy works long hours, (some days,) at home; drops me off in town before rushing home to get back to work; worst case scenario, he has to come pick me up again. And our local eateries can do with one more meal order, I'm sure. It also makes me feel every so slightly less guilty about having a good time with girlfriends. So today, he got Pork Tamarind Quesadilla from Nicola's Cantina. Happy faces all around, after I had a leisurely lunch with Sam whom I hadn't seen in... we couldn't figure out when, but we remember the venue and members. A large arrangement was resting on the outside table at the back of Nicola's; it may be tidied and place on one of the large tables in the evening.

I must have had enough of Covid after yesterday's announcement. I suddenly remembered there are two local exhibitions at the start of the year to which I could submit something woven. I looked up the info right away and their due dates are five days apart, although the exhibitions are quite different. I started thinking about possible projects, and ended up working on the weaving software in bed. We'll see how this goes; I haven't submitted anything or exhibited since... umm... possibly 2012.  

With Auckland in Level 3-V1 or whatever, we'll still be in Level 2 so my diary will continue next week.

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