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Archive for the ‘Covid 19’ Category

This year’s WORD Christchurch festival is very different from previous ones. I bought my tickets way back before Covid Delta colonised Aotearoa. It must have been a nightmare for the organisers when they had to first cancel, and the re-schedule the festival. The poetry workshop I’d originally registered for was cancelled completely, with the fee fully refunded.

The other session I’d booked was Fifty Years a Feminist, with author Sue Kedgley interviewed by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Sue, who lives in Wellington, couldn’t attend in person, but came via a video link, and it seemed strange that there was only one chair on the stage.

Sue online and Lianne on stage

I arrived early at The Piano, and was shown to a socially distanced seat, with every second row left empty, and two vacant seats between each bubble. I estimate the Carter Hall would have been only about 20% filled for a session that would usually be a sellout. The audience was all masked of course.

I haven’t yet read Sue’s book, and hardly felt I needed to after reading Phillida Bunkle’s very thorough review. The fact I’d lived in Auckland through many of the incidents portrayed made me keen to hear Sue talk about them.

Sue emphasised the fact that the slogan The personal is political which was prevalent in the 1970s still applies today, and gave the example of the harassment of students at Christchurch Girls’ High School by boys from Christchurch Boys’ High School, where collective action by the girls had been effective.

Sue and Lianne both spoke of the bullying that goes on in our parliament and how that male culture needs to change, preferably with the assistance of a Code of Conduct. It’s heartening to see signs of more co-operation between parties. Empathy, compassion, and the ability to listen are often hallmarks of women leaders.

When asked how we can help women in public roles Sue mentioned that the National Council of Women is setting up a Misogyny Watch group. We need to show our support for each other. Change often comes through collective protest action.

Sue pointed out that the gains of feminism are fragile and some young women have no idea of how hard won they were. Our new history curriculum needs to incorporate the history of feminism and the importance of protests.

There was discussion of how people could be rallied, and Sue acknowledged we are all exhausted, especially with Covid. Earlier this year a group of young women in Wellington rallied against harassment in bars, and were successful in putting responsibility on the hospitality industry.

What an energising boost it was to hear these two women discussing the history and current state of feminism in Aotearoa.

A boost to feminism’s strength
to hear these women talk at length

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Floral Friday

Cecile Brunner are the perfect miniature roses, and it’s a sign that summer’s almost here when they start to flower. I was delighted this week when there were enough for me to be able to pick a bunch and bring them inside.

Cecile Brunner bunch
Cecile Brunner bush

A friend who died had her birthday at Beltane, the beginning of November, and I always gave her a bunch of these roses, because that’s what her mother used to do.

When my brother died his former wife brought a bunch of these tiny roses to the funeral for me, because she remembered that they had grown at our childhood home. I have no memory of them there, but I love having them in our garden today. Ours were planted in 1995 and have flowered profusely ever since. With Covid now detected in Christchurch such signs of hope are even more precious.

These roses hold a memory
and promises of what will be

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This morning we’ve had the news that there are two Covid positive people in Christchurch. Some of us may soon be in a similar situation to that described in my poem. I’m just relieved that we are both double vaccinated, and I had a haircut yesterday.

A poem inspired by an artwork is called ekphrastic. We were each given an illustration from a magazine, and invited to imagine what might have been happening at the time the photo was taken. This is the picture I was given, and the poem I wrote.

Inspiration for an ekphrastic poem

Alone in Auckland

He waits beside the window

it’s been four long weeks

trapped in this high-rise apartment

not allowed to leave

he’d been to a location of interest

meant he was a close contact

obliged to self-isolate

first tests were negative

then a weak positive.

Stay where you are, they said

contactless deliveries will come

there’s television and Zoom

space to move around

air conditioning.

But the windows don’t open

he’s languishing, and longing

for the freedom of fresh air

and the touch of a lover

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A letter from my doctor advised it was time for my annual blood tests. Stephen usually has a monthly test, but missed last month because of lockdown, and last week when he went to our usual clinic at Forte Health he found it closed because of Level Two. We decided we would both go to the Barrington Clinic and we needed to go early because my tests require fasting.

When we arrived at 7.45am there were eight people waiting outside at carefully marked social distances. I wondered what happens to people who can’t stand for a long time.

Barrington blood test clinic

Half an hour later when I was finally admitted there were eleven in the queue behind. I was given a numbered tag and asked to sit in a room where three others were also waiting. There was a water dispenser, but no cups. The woman who took my four vials of blood told me they were short-staffed, the pressure had been relentless, and it was expected to continue for weeks. I was pleased we’d got our tests before anything happens to change life again.

Afterwards we were keen to break our fast, but Barrington Mall was not yet fully open. Luckily we found the Majestic Tea Bar who serve cooked breakfasts. This is a larger place than the one in the BNZ/Five Lanes centre, with a number of tables in the corridor outside.

Majestic Tea Bar @ Barrington Mall

After this we headed for home and my usual Monday morning cleaning routine.

It’s challenging to get blood test
You need to queue up with the rest

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Zoom is wonderful as a way of catching up with family and friends in distant places. However, I personally find it difficult to use as a medium for learning. Last year I was enrolled in a Te Reo class, but when lockdown struck and classes moved online I found it hard to manage, and dropped out.

I later enrolled in a Zoom seminar, but I found it difficult to understand the tutor for whom English was a second language and left before the end. Even with people I know well I find an hour of a Zoom group is all I can take before my concentration goes, and I wonder how on earth do school students manage? I guess they are younger and more adaptable, and possibly more accustomed to concentrating on screens.

I recently took part in a workshop where the tutor and students were all masked, and found it hard to hear what was being said. Earlier this week I was at a meeting with ten socially distanced people, and very relieved when all but one removed their masks. I appreciate that in Level Two masks are required in any public venue, but that just makes me more inclined to avoid public venues. I’m relieved to know that masks are not mandatory in schools because it seems to me they would hinder students’ ability to learn. Let’s hope that Covid vaccinations can soon be made available for children under 12. How are you coping with learning in this Covid environment?

I’m relieved that the W.E.A. is making mask use optional during classes under Level Two, and the same applies to a another course I’ve enrolled in. Perhaps there’s hope for my lifelong learning after all.

I do not like to wear a mask
when I’m absorbing some new task

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This was a workshop offered free by the Arts Centre. The tutor was Nathan Joe, currently an Artist in Residence there. There were just ten students, all socially distanced, in the School of Art in Hereford Street.

School of Art

The room we were in was formerly the Hurst Seagar Room, which some years ago was the venue for my fiftieth birthday party.

With Nathan wearing a mask I found it difficult to hear him, especially as he speaks quickly. I started to wonder whether I would last for the whole two hours, and at the break I mentioned the difficulty I was having and found I was not the only one. Under Arts Centre Level Two protocols all staff and students are expected to wear masks, but there are exemptions for performers, and after checking with the whole group it was agreed that, as a performer, Nathan could remove his mask, and this made hearing much easier. I would hesitate to enrol for any other workshop under Level Two if the tutor was going to be masked. A friend who’s a teacher told me a sobering story from the U.S. about a teacher who removed her mask so she could better interact with students. Apparently all the students in the first three rows contracted Covid from her.

We were led through several exercises, the first a little like doing Morning Pages, others that tapped into our memory banks and encouraged us to use the five senses in our writing. We were introduced to Jose Rivera’s 36 Assumptions about playwriting, which give some useful tips.

This workshop was a good way to stimulate creative writing.

A good workshop with Nathan Joe
especially once his mask could go

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Painstaking Printing

It was serendipitous that my writing course finished the same day it was announced that we were to go into Level Four Lockdown. The final draft of my memoir chapbook, titled Ruth’s Reminiscences, had been printed out at Warehouse Stationery. When I inquired about using card for the cover they said that was something they couldn’t provide, but if I brought the covers along they could print out the inners and then staple the whole booklet together manually on their special stapling device.

Luckily I had some card in stock, and during the first week of lockdown I carefully printed out twenty covers. Once we moved to Level Two and Warehouse Stationery re-opened I went in confidently expecting to get my inners printed out and the stapling done. To my dismay I found their printing department was restricted to files that had been sent by email and there would be no way I could have them manually covered and stapled. I presumed I’d have to wait until we reach Level One.

It was now just three weeks until the birthday of my niece in Australia and I wanted to send her a copy, so I decided to print one out on my home printer. This is an old basic machine for which I now pay more for cartridges than I originally did for the printer. My booklet is 40 A5 pages, which meant I needed to print 10 A4 pages, double sided, and then fold them in half. The next problem was how to attach the pages to the cover. I don’t have a suitable sewing machine, and did consider making holes and tying the whole thing together. A friend suggested it might be possible to use an open domestic stapler into carpet, and then bend the staples back by hand. My desk stapler wasn’t strong enough for ten pages plus the card cover. We do have another heavy duty stapler, but it didn’t open up to allow for the booklet until Stephen unscrewed part of it and found it could work. I just hope no-one injures themselves on the strangely folded staples. My booklet definitely has a handcrafted look, and the first copy is now winging its way to Australia.

When I realised we are likely to spend at least a third week in Level Two I decided to print more copies at home. This is a laborious time-consuming task, but I like the idea that the whole thing has been produced at home – truly A Corner Cottage Publication, with Stephen in charge of the stapling. For each copy I have to change the printing format to Manually Print on Both Sides, and then reload the paper when prompted, to print the second side. With double-sided printing there’s no way I can see to print individual pages if something goes wrong. My printer is notorious for grabbing more than one sheet of paper at a time, so I need to carefully fan the ten sheets before I start.

Printing in progress

I wondered what would happen if/when my cartridge ran out and was pleased when I got a warning screen to say ink was low after I’d printed the seventh copy. The final photo in this one has not printed clearly, but the copy is otherwise okay, and will do for the National Library, who surely won’t care about the last photo. I think seven copies is enough for today. Tomorrow I’ll change the cartridge and start again.

I’ve started a production line
for copies of this book of mine

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Sad Story

Something has happened and I don’t know how to write about it. Usually I can write here about anything that’s going on in my life, but this is different.

Yesterday I learned of the suicide of a man I’ve known slightly for years, but never been emotionally close to. If I thought of him at all it was with occasional annoyance and pity.

He would sometimes ask me for help or advice and I always gave it willingly. As far as I know he never had paid work and lived on a benefit. About a year ago he asked me for information about making a will and I directed him to the Public Trust and Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Although I knew he had mental health issues it never occurred to me he might be contemplating suicide.

Now he’s gone, having died alone in Level Four Lockdown. I wonder if anyone will miss him?

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Level Three

Traffic’s back today, with lots of trucks. Construction workers have again taken over our local parking area. I hope Williams Brothers paid them fully during lockdown.

Construction workers’ vehicles are back

There’s concern that construction materials may run out within a few days. Much is stored in Auckland warehouses, and they are still in Level Four.

Level Three doesn’t make much difference for us, except that we could now have takeaways if we wanted them. Our local Club is offering takeaway meals, e.g. roast dinners or fish and chips, and we may take advantage of this if Stephen tires of cooking. The packaging is a worry, though.

Yesterday I walked along Bealey Avenue and noted this car’s window sticker:

It’s different, and I hope useful, although I wonder about the split infinitive. We’re currently re-watching Star Trek the Next Generation, and their mission to boldly go makes me flinch.

It’s disturbing to hear that in New South Wales Covid patients in Intensive Care are being sedated because there aren’t enough nurses to care for them. I’m just so relieved we’ve had our first vaccination.

The first day of the month brings optimism. I turned the page on my calendar of Australian Wildflowers and this month’s picture is of a Cat’s Paw – must be meant for Ziggy. As it’s the first of the month I shall do my usual voluntary tasks of financial report and invoicing. It’s good to have something “normal” to do.

I’ve just been for my daily walk and see that Little Pom’s are serving takeaways. Tomorrow I might take my credit card and get one of their delicious cheese scones.

It doesn’t mean that much to me
for us to be on Level Three

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Pandemic Protection

Today we had our first Covid vaccinations. This was earlier than previously booked – five weeks earlier in Stephen’s case. His medical practice offered us jabs and we eagerly accepted. It was much more convenient to go together to the nearby surgery than to any larger vaccination centre. The injection was straightforward and painless.

Ruth getting jabbed

We were each given a card with the Pfizer batch number on it, and a sticker that says I’ve had my Covid 19 vaccination. It seems pointless to wear the latter when we’re not being seen by anyone else at this time.

After our jab we thought we’d go to the supermarket to get a few things we’ve not been able to obtain online, e.g. paleo bread. When we got there at 3pm there was a long line of people waiting so we changed our minds and came home instead. Maybe we’ll try again early in the morning.

We are relieved we’ve had a jab
and grateful to that vaccine lab

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