Stay the %$^& at Home!

31 Mar

Lot 18Thankyou

March 31, 2020

Day 8,

The world is going to remember how they changed during the Covid-19 crisis. Despite all the death and pain and economic tectonic shifts, the human spirit is shining through. From the Minnesota state trooper who gave a doctor he had pulled over for speeding five new N-95 masks from his personal supply (and no ticket) because he saw that she had one in her purse that looked like she was re-using it (not recommended), to the twin brothers in Italy who are brightening the hearts of millions, including mine through their love off music and (dare I say it?) infectious joy at living. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duX6vQvI9KU

Yes, there are covidiots out there (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0G63uzhFP4) (Strong language warning!) and yes, they are self centred, rationalising, entitled, stupid examples of how not to act when the health of millions hinges on the behaviour of a few, but they are outnumbered by the legion of good, kind hearted, intelligent, compassionate, enduring and brave souls in the world delivering food to their neighbors (the picture above is of a bucket we’ve placed at the top of our drive for just such deliveries), health care workers being saved food by grocery store managers, and numberless others using their imagination and love to help their fellow man survive the challenges of these times.

There is hope. There is light. There is joy.

And there is vigilance required to make sure that many survive who might not should we relax our guard. Today in New Zealand these numbers hold the key to the future.

31marCovidNZ

The number of new cases is fluctuating. Time will tell the tale with more clarity, but for now, in that fluctuation I see a sign that the social distancing shut down is working. Over ten percent of total cases have recovered. These are individuals to watch as well. Can they be reinfected? Are they contagious in some way, shape or form? Better qualified people than I are working hard to find the answers to these questions, to develop treatments and create a vaccine.

For my part I will gladly stay isolated and do what I can, where I am, with what I have.

I love you all.

Stay strong. Be resolute.

This, too, shall pass.

The 309 Road

30 Mar

March 30, 2020

Day 7

Mahakirau Forest Estate sits at the top of the central ridge of the northern end of the Coromandel Range, a dominant feature of the peninsula consisting of a series of low hills and old, eroded volcanic plugs. The hills are covered with podocarp forest that has replaced the once luxuriant and widespread kauri forests of old. European settlers new to ‘the Antipodes’ harvested the great hardwood forests and mined the hills for gold with a fervour, dedication and persistence that is hard to imagine nowadays. From the 1870’s through to 1920 virtually every kauri of useable size was felled and dragged down from the hills to small mills that dotted the land. The resultant timber was shipped by sea from numerous small villages that dot the east and west coast of the peninsula. To get the timber to the sea a series of dams were built, the valleys behind them flooded and filled with gigantic tree trunks. At regular intervals the dams were breached and the flood would carry the trees down to the coast and the process would be repeated as necessary until all the trees in an area were cut down. Where these driving dams were not available, rugged tracks were carved by hand from the clays hills over which huge wagons drawn by teams of oxen or great shire horses carted their cargos.

One of these tracks survives to this day in the form of a winding gravel road that bisects the peninsula across the ridges between the town of Coromandel on the west side and Whitianga on the east. It’s name is The 309 Road. Say the name in New Zealand and someone will have heard of it. Mahakirau Forest Estate can be found 12.5 kilometres up it from the east and 9.3 kilometres from the west. Stop at the black iron gates set into massive stone gate posts and if you have the gate code, enter it on the keypad or hit your remote and it’s open sesame.

In the four years we’ve been driving up and down the 309 there has never been a time when we did not see at least one car somewhere along it’s length. The road is a short cut to those who know it and plenty enough do so that, despite its reputation as a dodgy road, at any given moment on any day (or night) you are highly likely to pass someone, somewhere on the road. It is narrow and precipitous in places, mostly gravel, except for paved portions at either end, has innumerable off-camber turns and switchbacks and can, in the steady rains of winter, be slick as ice. Drive it for any length of time and your car, no matter what colour, will soon be brown from the mud or dust. Tires wear out faster than normal and if you haven’t had a flat tire there, you’re one of the lucky ones. Any one of these attributes would be enough to warrant the term ‘dodgy road’ but despite the 309 having them in spades, the real reason the road is dangerous is the people you will find driving on it.

The cement trucks will scare the bejesus out of you but if you are in your lane you’ll be okay. The drivers of those beasts are professional and experienced. They go faster than you would think possible, uphill and down, but they are not a problem to the experienced hand. Caravans and RV’s creeping along in desperate fear or idyllic obliviousness are bad because after a few kilometres they tend to make people behind them take all sorts of risk to pass. But they’re not bad, they’re just slow and irritating. The small percentage of uncaring yahoos and local yobs that careen up and down at high speeds on any side of the road are dangerous but at least they know the road or they wouldn’t be flying along it like they owned it. If you don’t go too fast and stick to your lane you can avoid them. They are callous and stupid and they exist, so watch out, but you’ll usually be okay. The tradesmen and company truck drivers go steadily fast and make good time safely. If you see one of them in your rear view mirror start looking for a place to pull over and let them by. Normal, sane residents traveling at a decent, safe speed make up the majority of the people on the 309. They are just like you, hopefully, and you need not worry about them.

The real killer on the 309 road is the scared. lost tourist who has been instructed by his sat-nav computer or better half in the passenger seat that the road is only 22 kilometres long and will save them a lot of time rather than go the long way around. They grip the wheel in abject terror and creep along at 30 KPH while trying to check their map or phone or insurance policy for some esoteric detail that will save them from all perils, real or imagined. They stay in the exact centre of the road and will not move no matter what happens to be coming down the pike at them from the other direction. They don’t know what they don’t know and they strike fear into me everytime I encounter them. They are the proverbial loose cannon, a recurring nightmare one cannot wake up from and they, coupled with everything else including a fisherman towing a 30 foot boat on a trailer will find you when you’re least expecting it. Dodgy road.

Today, March 30th, 2020, for the very first time in four years of traveling down into town and back up the hill on the 309 road, we saw no other vehicles. Nothing, Nada, Zilch and no-one. And that’s something.

Whitianga was quiet. The pharmacists still have their tables up across their doors and are accepting payment by card only, no cash. The grocery store was uncrowded and quiet. Everyone inside, customers and staff alike, observed social distancing in a beautiful but weird ballet of stop and go walking with cart and baskets, with gentle swerves and arabesques to maximise separation. We collected our supplies, paid by card, thanked the cashier, were given a dollop of hand sanitizer at the exit by a smiling young door monitor an stepped out into a brilliant morning in the first week of autumn in New Zealand.

30MarNZCovid

Steady rise, no surprise. We watch. We wait.

The 309 was quiet on the way home. Three cars coming the other way and no cement trucks. The gates opened at the top of the hill and we slipped back into the forest, returning gladly to the serious business of self-isolation.

 

309 sign

 

 

Numinous

29 Mar

Today in New Zealand a woman in her seventies died from complications due to the Coronavirus. The virus has been carried by a continuous chain of human hosts, none of whom thought they would catch the disease, from a wet market or research lab in Wuhan, China on or about Dec 1st, 2019, to New Zealand and her lungs late in March of 2020. Once there the cells of her respiratory system were hijacked and made to produce millions of copies of the virus. Her body’s immune system was overwhelmed, or, more to the point, the reaction of her body to the invasion of overwhelming numbers of virus flooded her lungs with fluid and drowned her.

No cellular respiration on a large enough scale and everything shuts down. Brain death occurs, the host ceases to be a viable environment for further reproduction of the virus, but it’s survival is assured by the nature of human beings respiratory systems. We exist in shared space, breathe the same air, touch the same surfaces, live together, love each other, laugh, sneeze, cough, talk….and breathe.

Ah, breathing, there’s the rub.

This disease that I am trying to avoid speaks to me more than most because from an early age my lungs have been my Achille’s heel. I have asthma which can be triggered and then aggravated by my many allergies. One particularly severe attack left me in an oxygen tent for a week during my youth. The learning curve of my parents regarding the extent to which this disease affected my health matched very closely the attacks brought on by my reaction to allergens. (One of my earliest memories is of being the reason we had to get rid of our pet cat. I knew I was to blame but I didn’t know why.) Many was the time I was sent to my father’s parents during weekends in the summer. They had a poodle named Max who slept on the couch on the wide front porch that overlooked Wikapecko Drive in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Because I often had asthma attacks there I was allowed to sleep in the ‘open air’ on the porch. On Max’s couch.

Looking back at my life of strange machines that hummed in the night next to my bed and antihistamine pills and inhalers and exercise induced respiratory distress, I can pick out several times during severe attacks when my breathing was so compromised that my body shut down from the extremities inward until all that was left was my mind hovering on the border of unconsciousness. Those moments, once I’d moved past the stress of straining for air with each successively weaker breath (asthmatics often try to breathe with their shoulders rather than their diaphragms) were peaceful, out of body experiences that gave me an insight into inner realms that I would not otherwise have had at a very early age. I value them now, for I know that there is peace at the end of the struggle.

I have a very good immune system. I can’t remember the last cold or flu I’ve had. Sore throats seems to come along every few years, but by and large I am resistant to most germs and resilient when they do try to take up residence. But the Covid-19 virus is not most germs. Its characteristics and the resultant reaction of the body tends to, in a certain small percentage of cases, effect asthmatics more severely than the rest of the population. Bad luck. As crosses go, my asthma has been a not too terrible burden to bear. I am sixty-six going on sixty-seven years old, another statistical lottery losing number where Covid-19 is concerned. More bad luck. (Anyone remember Paden in Silverado?) On the flip side I was able to adapt to work for almost six years at what is classed as very high altitude on the summit of Mauna Kea during extended shifts at the Keck Observatory. Oxygen level at sea level is roughly 21%. Oxygen level at 14,796 feet is about 12%. 40 percent less oxygen. Indeed, I was selected for my job because the successful candidate could not tolerate the altitude and quit after a month. The early bird may get the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese. I was lucky, because working outside beneath the stars night after numinous night proved to be one of the most amazing and pivotal times of  my life.

So who knows? If I get Covid-19, will it be the mild version? Or will it be the bad luck, lottery losing version? And if so, will my lungs measure up or be found wanting. Despite my laments, I feel they’ve done an excellent job thus far and I have no complaints. The silver lining in this dark cloud of questions is that I know what waits on the other side. And it will be alright.

29MarMinHalthSum

Number of new cases has dropped. Will be watching this space. Number of deaths column has a number other than zero. Will be watching that space too.

Speaking of watching, if you’re home and have the inclination and possibly the time, here is an interesting read from an antipodal point of view.

https://shorthand.radionz.co.nz/coronavirus-timeline/index.html

On the home front today I built a framework to support some tiles around the washer and dryer while Valerie painted black all of the woodwork of the new ‘forest porch’. She did the hose enclosure I built yesterday and a chair and table and some of the floor and all of her painting clothes and the post for the Lot 18 sign at the top of our drive. And it all looks beautiful.

Tomorrow we go into town early to pick up some medicine and essential supplies. Alarm is set and so are we. Be interesting to see who’s out and about early in the AM.

See you then.

Happy Birthday, Scott!

28 Mar

March 27, 2020

Day 5 (Or something like that.)

 

My son Scott Alan MacIlroy is 44 years old tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Scott.

He lives in Washington State in the US of A and is the father of a sweet, rambunctious daughter and the husband of a rock solid, highly skilled Cardiology ICU nurse who is seeing the current Covid-19 contagion with a real insiders perspective. They are the penultimate nuclear family and though I have concern for them, I have no fear. They’ll be fine and will, I’m sure, look back on all this one day, shake their heads with wonder and say, “Well, we made it through that Charlie-Foxtrot back in 2020. Wonder what else life holds in store for us down the track?”

Good things, I hope. Bold initiatives made real, such as the ongoing drive of Space-Ex and Elon’s push toward Mars. It’s happening now. Don’t blink, or you might miss it, in exactly the opposite way my generation missed out on the colonisation of the moon back when we had momentum and imagination, but no persistence of vision. Lagrange orbit stations, the Lunar Gateway, a mission (or many) to Europa, the mining of asteroids… So much is going to happen that it boggles the mind.

Heinlein said, “History Tailgates” and he was right. It wasn’t too long ago that a Pharaoh in Egypt decided he wanted a very deep and square reflecting pool constructed for his enjoyment near the river Nile. He gathered his engineers, told them what he wanted and then turned them loose. Twenty-three years later he checked in with them and found they’d mixed things up, got the blueprints upside down and built a pyramid. His lack of supervision being the big problem, the pharaoh decided to pretend that the man made mountain was exactly what he had in mind from the start. Paying closer attention to things from there on out, he invented the profession of project management. The rest is history.

Those who survive Covid-19 are going to continue the long march onto the future. I wish them luck and a sense of humour. They’re going to need them as they weather the economic fallout, taxes, blame and recrimination that will all be in abundant supply. China will double down on it’s “We’re the heroes of the outbreak!” public relations push and their efforts will rival those of the PR team of Preach and Leech in futility and tone deafness. Neither will get what they want, but they (all three) brought it on themselves so I’m a fan of them not even getting what they need. (Sorry Mick). China is going to lose business and face and the PR war. (Ginge and Cringe are just going to lose, period.) Eventually prosperity will reign as nations pick themselves up and get moving again, but it’s going to take some time and it’s nowhere near over yet.

Covid-19NZ28Mar

Up another 83 today. 50 recovered. Zero deaths.

On the domestic front I finished the outside rain protection and hose routing enclosure for the laundry facilities and built shelves above the washer and dryer. While doing this I hatched a plan to tile the bench above the dryer and washer to make a nice smooth surface for folding clothes…. Tomorrow.

I’ll do it all tomorrow.

Which is a nice segue into this birthday anthem for my son

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkeWSJBZ990 )

and bedtime for your valiant correspondent.

Tomorrow, makin’ a list of things to do
And when I wake up, uh uh uh oh
Gonna cross off a few
There must be millions of reasons
To try and explain why you’re never through
When they give you twenty four hours
Only so much a man can do
Tomorrow, made up my mind
Gonna get busy, come from behind
Today I’m staying right where I am
Break a few rules, make a few plans
There’s thousand of things to keep you from doing
What you want to do
And if it isn’t this, then it’s that
Back where it’s at, and you’re never through
Good night, good luck and Happy Birthday, Scott.
P.S. You know there’s going to be a huge jump in the birth rates about nine months from now, don’t you? Will the call them Covid Babies? Please, no.

Train’s in the Station!

27 Mar

Rain shrouds the valley in mist and highlights the folds of the small ridges leading up to the summit of Totokoroa. All morning long the sun warmed the land and now the earth soaks in the moisture like a sponge. Good, real rain. The streams will rise, the clay of the hills will swell and close the cracks that have opened in the summer. It is the sort of rain we haven’t had for months and will fill the rivers and the tanks. Somewhere out there the quail are hunkered down beneath the undergrowth, scratching at the ground in search of seed, or resting, at peace, like us, and watching the forest revive.

Looking out over the forest canopy as I work, I think of how fortunate I was to find this place so far removed from, yet so close to civilisation. Listening to birdsong filling the morning, it seems a miracle that I should be here. As I cut two holes in the shipping container wall, bright sparks stream off the diamond wheel of the grinder. They flicker into bright, brief light, flash across my field of view in a shower and wink out just as quickly. Is that all life is? Are we but sparks flying off the diamond wheel of the spinning earth? In the long view, perhaps. I file the rough edges and paint them, then glue small sections of tubing around the periphery to keep the water hoses from wearing through when the machine vibrates. I move the washing machine into place, run the supply hoses through from the outside and connect them, shove the drain hose outside, then begin assembling and attaching an exterior housing to keep out rain and hide the plumbing. Paint comes tomorrow if the rain lets up, then we’ll give both machines a test run. I am an optimist at heart and clean clothes are a necessity.

Three more of our neighbours have offered to pick up groceries for us and drop them at the top of the drive. They know we are both in the high risk demographic and they are kind and caring couples, each with rocks and shoals of their own to navigate, but still they extend the hand of friendship in case we need it. Does life get any better? I don’t think so. I am grateful and I am not afraid to say it. Thank you to all of you who have ever helped me in my life.

After a delicious lunch of bacon sandwiches I check the stats from the Ministry of Health.

NZMoH Summary27Mar

The figures are flat and lifeless, yet each one represents a life on the line, and each one has come into contact with others before they tested positive.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock… Count to twelve…

[[[(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BApRnhL-kjI) (Trigger warning! Don’t click. Nothing to see here.) ]]]

…Train’s in the station…

 

Quaranta Giorni

26 Mar

March 26, 2020

Day 3

Woke at dawn dreaming about quails calling and went outside to find out it was not a dream. Fed the knuckleheads and went right back to sleep. Woke much later and read the news to see what had happened. Carol Deminski, my friend in New York forwarded some news and no one commented about Billy Joel. The guy is a genius. Why, you ask? You’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out. It’s like the old saying goes, ‘for those who don’t know, explaining won’t help, for those that do, no explanation is necessary’. I could have titled yesterday’s blog, Pressure. Billy knows life and the burdens of the common man. Listen to The Downeaster Alexa. Listen to all of his songs. I’m thinking you’ve got some time on your hands. Enjoy.

Slept so late that breakfast became brunch. Toast and butter and cold sausage. Delicious. I am trying to cut down on portions during this ‘timeout’. If things go really south I’d like the food we have stashed to last a little longer than three days. Afterwards I went to the shop to sort out the washer and dryer and found myself thinking about supply chains and electricity as I worked.

I think I’ve prepared really well for this month of isolation. I didn’t know when it was coming but thought it might, given the signs (there were plenty of them) and so began collecting what I thought we might most need. That being said, I wish I’d gotten more silicone sealant in tubes for the caulk gun. Hardware stores are all closed now, so I’ll have to husband what I have. This thought was courtesy of the knowledge that I’m going to have fabricate a tiny rain awning for the outside of the container wall where I cut holes for the water inlet and outlet for the washing machine. Then I started thinking about whether I could do any of what I had to do without power. We’d received a notice from Genesis Power that they were going to be doing some line maintenance today, though their notice was unclear and listed two dates. One was ‘Interruption date’ (today) and one was ‘Reserve date’ (tomorrow). As my lights were working in the shop long after their supposed interruption time of 9:00AM I figured the crisis had put paid to their maintenance plans. Were they even now adjusting their work shift schedules and prioritising everything to eliminate large gatherings of electrical workers? Hard tellin’, not knowin’.  Electricity. Do you take it for granted? I don’t.

I decided that I could get the job done with the tools I have, but that it would take much longer and would be a lot harder and given that the washer and dryer both require electricity, it would be wise to focus my efforts elsewhere until the power came back on. I have a hand drill and could fashion a holder for a metal cutting blade and slowly, slowly, Andy Dufresne style, get the holes cut. Life without a steady source three-phase AC current would be a real pain.

Creating space for the washer and dryer beneath my workbench required the removal of same and rebuilding and rejiggering supports, gussets and this and that. How to cut in half a vertically oriented 2×3 that was fastened to the interior wall of the container’s corrugated side without dismantling the shelves above it? Wedges, a pry bar and some careful handling of a circular saw. Done. Next? A pedestal for the dryer so that it sits as high as possible under the bench top. One with rollers just in case. The ones I found in an op shop in town which had been carefully stowed until a use for them showed up. Like now. Built the pedestal, mounted the rollers, set the dryer in place and locked it in with a few screws. Tried to roll it under the bench. Hey, Presto! It didn’t fit. Sorted the blockage by moving a cross piece. Back and forth, up and down, round and round all afternoon until finally, as the sun was about to drop behind Totokoroa, a hill we own one quarter of that sits above our valley, I downed tools and closed up shop. Along the way I’d built four sets of latches for the new container doors and mounted and tested them, marked the position of the holes to be cut tomorrow, got the dryer sorted and in position, rebuilt the work bench and generally, slowly but surely, gotten a few things done.

Dinner was the best ever. If you’re ever going to go into self isolation for any length of time, do it with a gourmet cook who loves you. The setting sun lit the clouds in orange and pink, brief but beautiful, and another day drew to a close.

The possum avoided death last night. From the sound of nothing doing outside right now, he’s avoiding it again tonight. Hope springs eternal, though, and sooner or later, he’ll come back for more rose buds and that’ll be that. Which got me to thinking about field dressing a possum and cooking some delicious stew. Or not. It depends, right? Hunger is the best sauce. This dystopian feeling that has been permeating the air for the past two months has me thinking all kinds of things I might not normally ponder.

We’re up 78 today to 283. A tidy jump and a new record. This kind of exponential growth curve is why most charts use a logarithmic scale. Otherwise you’ll pull a muscle in your neck trying to watch the line as it rockets up and out of sight. All the big cities are ghost towns now. There’s still a few Covidiots out there who are telling the police they had no idea anything was going on. Really? Why won’t someone invent a virus that selects for low IQ? Or lack of common sense? Or ridiculous usage of gender identity pronouns? We could call it the FS Virus (Fixing Stupid). Too much to hope for? I’ll let you decide and as you ponder, will leave you with a short history lesson and then call it a day.

The practice of quarantine began in Venice during the 14th century in an effort to protect the city from plague epidemics. Ships arriving from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. The word was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.

Imagine sitting in your small coastal sailing ship, full of cargo ready to be offloaded, becalmed in sight of your hoped for port of call, and having to sit and wait…and wonder.

WideVenice

Stay safe everyone.

See you tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

Miami 2017

25 Mar

March 25, 2020

Day 2.

Woke to the sound of quail outside the bedroom window where the steps lead up to the drive. Rose and walked out into a cool, clear morning just as dawn bathed the valley in golden light. The youngest batch of quail, still almost chicks and not quite adolescents, heard the door open and scuttled down the steps and around the corner onto the porch. I tossed a handful of seed as gently as possible on the floor in front of them and they scattered in fright then scampered back to start pecking. Then began the dance of flight and return as I spread seed slowly and methodically up and down the steps. The quail retreated and advanced in direct proportion to their distance from my moving arm, some darting into the grove next to the steps, some trading places with others moving in startled confusion. They react to movement in a wild, untamed way that is set deep in their reptilian brains, but they know me and they know they know me and they really know the sound of seed as it hits the ground. The sound of easy pickings, the good life, manna from heaven, a perfect feast after a long night roosting.

I leave them to it, slowly walking down more steps to the shipping container that used to be our kitchen and is now a perfect storage room. Early in our time here I opened the doors to a point where they continued the line of the long side walls, adding an extra four feet to the twenty of the container. In the opening I installed a robust, three section sliding glass door and built a roof above and a wooden deck below. This became the container’s porch and enhanced the entrance with its functionality and space. On the porch there is a repurposed bookshelf painted black to match the motif of black walls and white trim that ties everything in the compound together and blends into the background of the forest. We keep two pounds of seed there in earthenware jugs and I took one of them through the garden to my workshop shipping container. There I collected a wicker basket and took the garden steps up to the parking area, bypassed the feeding quail and headed up the driveway. At the top I placed the basket so that one of our neighbours from up the road could leave organic fruit, vegetables and free range eggs for us on their way to their house. They are isolating on their farm near Auckland but had to swing by the peninsula and Mahakirau forest to deliver some supplies for the roadwork repairs our community must continually keep up with. No time like a lockdown to play catchup in that department.

No wind disturbed the leaves in the trees lining the drive as I walked back down. Near a weathered steel bell made from the bottom half of an old SCUBA tank I scattered more food for the quail and considered the beauty of the day. Just such a day might have dawned for the dinosaurs not too long ago. Have to enjoy what you see in the now. It is all the time there ever is.

Back in our sitting room I threw open the curtains to let in the light. It is a small house, tucked neatly into the hillside, embraced by the forest. It faces north, perfectly situated to take in the light of the sun as it moves across the sky. Every stick of it, save for the tiny cabin that has since become part of the bedroom, was built by me, bit by bit, board by board, addition by addition, over the past four years. It is an amazing feeling to have built one’s own house and I relish the thought of completing it in the fullness of time. Which leads me back to the day and into thoughts of the unknown future.

I spent the remainder of the morning replenishing seed on the steps and reading letters from friends who had contacted me after reading The Coming Wave. One of the letters was from a writer who lives in New York city. The story she told me was sobering and if ever there was a situation to put mine in perspective, it was hers. New York, New York is the epicentre of the worst hit Covid-19 region in the United States. There the wave of infection is crashing through the city and no one knows when they will come in contact with someone carrying the virus. 15,000 people are infected, 2,500 are in hospital and 500 of those are in intensive care. Couple that with a doubling of the infection rate every three days and you are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun without knowing who’s finger is on the trigger. After reading her letter I am glad I am half a world away, sheltered in sunlit serenity up in the hills and far, far from the urban centres like Auckland or Wellington.

After lunch of sausage and bread and butter I checked the Ministry of Health, NZ for today’s case count. We’re up 50 to 205. Nothing compared to New York, but exponential growth never fills the pool until the last day. It will be worth watching the next ten days to see whether the rate slows as people starve the virus of hosts through simply staying away from each other.

This afternoon I tested our clothes dryer which had been stowed out of the way because there was no place to set it up for these many years. In the last month I’ve opened up the shipping container back end and added a covered deck and doors. Rebuilt the shelves that were inside to take into account the new doors and have been working continually to cover a plywood deck I cobbled together on the outboard side. With a roof up and functioning there is now room to store much of the more waterproof items outside and the result has been a freeing up of space inside. The dryer worked fine (there was an issue of a thermal overload tripping two winters ago but it was not in evidence today and we shall see). I sorted out a place to put the washer and dryer side by side near the back doors and tomorrow will plumb and wire them and build shelves above them to complete ‘the laundry room’.

The possum I heard last night had snacked extensively on the delectable leaves at the tips of several branches of a prized rose bush so as the day moved into a pristine afternoon I set up a possum trap nestled beneath its thorny boughs. These are not the cuddly and slow possums native to the Americas, but a thoroughly omnivorous pest introduced into New Zealand from Australia many years ago by a well meaning citizen. They reproduced with no natural predators to keep them in check and now, in their millions, feed on the eggs of the many defenceless birds that evolved in New Zealand over the last 65 million years. When they can’t get eggs they strip bare entire trees of their foliage and also eat the rare Coromandel Striped Geckos that the forest is famous for. Within the estate our predator free program has trapped them for four years and their numbers are quite low but no matter how many we remove, reinforcements pour over the boundaries on all points of the compass. With luck there will be one less sometime soon. When the trap was placed and baited I changed the flashlight batteries on my crossbow and attached my homemade laser sight (a magnetic laser torpedo level and a bracket made out of an old hinge). The crossbow sits by the front door, ready to go, should the trap not do the job.

Word via email has come that one saintly resident nearby has set up a ‘buy online’ plan at one of the local grocery stores and we are going to chip in and place our resupply orders with them. They will go in and the order will be handed to them at a special window. Imaginative and apropos. Less trips to town the better. We are making one tomorrow to pick up another prescription and some cash to pay our friend for the groceries over the coming weeks. In and out with gloves and masks on and hand sanitizer at the ready. It’s not New York (I don’t want it to be), but it’s no picnic either. Wish us luck (I’m sure we’ll be fine, but that’s what the redshirt guy always says in the movies).

Many people have written to me and I am deeply appreciative of the kind words and stories from other parts of the world. Hawaii, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, England, Arizona and Arkansas to name a few. I’ve got a list and I will answer everyone but as this night comes to a close and I rest I cannot get New York city and my friend self isolating there out of my mind. I’ll close with a song for the city and for her. I don’t know how appropriate it will be, but I’m old school and I think it fits perfectly.

Good luck, Carol. This is for you. Stay safe, stay inside and turn the volume up.

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3vM0KxQ2Io )

Seen the lights go out Broadway
I saw the Empire State laid low
And life went on beyond the Palisades
They all bought Cadillacs
And left there long ago
They held a concert out in Brooklyn
To watch the island bridges blow
They turned our power down
And drove us underground
But we went right on with the show
I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway
I saw the ruins at my feet
You know we almost didn’t notice it
We’d seen it all the time on Forty second street
They burned the churches down in Harlem
Like in that Spanish civil war
The flames were everywhere
But no one really cared
It always burned up there before
I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway
I saw the mighty skyline fall
The boats were waiting at the battery
The union went on strike
They never sailed at all
They sent a carrier out from Norfolk
And picked the Yankees up for free
They said that Queens could stay
And blew the Bronx away
And sank Manhattan out at sea
You know those lights were bright on Broadway
That was so many years ago
Before we all lived here in Florida
Before the Mafia took over Mexico
There are not many who remember
They say a handful still survive
To tell the world about
The way the lights went out
And keep the memory alive
New York City