Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Hold My Beer

12 Aug


August 13, 2020

Day 162








I’m in a bad movie. Intermission is over. On with the show.




Coronation Chicken

21 May


May 21,  2020

Day 61

Toady I spent most of my time being aware of the incredible beauty that starts right outside our windows and extends ever outwards wherever one looks. The green of the valley walls is bathed in burnished silver and gold, framed by the clear blue of the sky beyond. We hear birdsong and the wind moving gently through the trees, rustling the ponga fronds and making the branches of the rose bushes nod. It’s as if they agree that they are part of a masterpiece painted by a singular artist, available for viewing only in this moment and never to be seen again in the long sweep of time to come. The sun moves in its shallow arc across the northern sky and shines in the new double doors of the sitting room so that we have to close the curtains during lunch to cut down on the brightness. The quail visit, peering in the bedroom window to make sure we know they’re here and then retreating as I walk up the steps, welcoming them quietly, telling them they are loved. They seem to know we’ve cleaned the steps and signal their approval by working with the new program. Food will be placed in the clear area beneath the power box and next to the steps or in the grove now. They have it down. I give them two big cups of seed and back silently down the steps.

Later I throw open the doors to the workshop container and stand on the forest porch looking down at the ground below. I’ve got a huge job ahead of me clearing brush and saplings and building a facade to blend the forest into the vertical walls of the porch and the shipping container itself. The steps down to that area still need to be built and painted. Paths are going to have to be cut and levelled and all evidence of construction removed. When finished, the view from the porch will be of forest extending undisturbed from the deck all the way down the the stream that marks the valley floor. Lots of work. Plenty of time. It will be worth getting it right.

Inside I re-stowed tools left out after my last project and start in on a new one. There is a young possum that has taken up residence somewhere nearby and has begun eating the rose buds and tender shoots of the new branches late at night. It knocked over a watering bowl down on the bark in front of the verandah and might be what is digging up the leaf litter along edge of the path below the grove. The project of the afternoon was to make a new set of bolts for the crossbow pistol and have them ready by nightfall. The first step was to cut off the knurled tip of a metal knitting needle with a high speed grinder. This required safety glasses. One of the three pair that I keep stashed in various spots would have worked, but I could not find any of them. This led to a slow, thorough look through, around, over and under every shelf, desk, horizontal surface, box, bucket, bin and barrel in the shop. I found a pair of reading glasses I’d bought three weeks ago and lost, but it took another hour before I finally found the two spare pair of safety glasses in a new spot I’d chosen and then forgotten. One day, one day, one day, all will be organised. If I don’t forget.

Glasses on, I ground off the ends of the knitting needles, set one aside and sharpened the point on the other. Fashioned some flights from a plastic bin lid and glued them on with epoxy. While they were drying I test fired the crossbow for the third day running. It is still zeroed in, a fact that is going to lead to the end of one creature’s life and the saving of many others. Red of tooth and claw, I am a part of nature and I choose the roses.

Lights off, arrows collected, crossbow loaded and placed near my shoes by the door of the house, I step from the gloaming into a warm sitting room. Dinner was a chicken and rice dish that was so delicious I asked Valerie what it was called. She smiled sweetly, as if she knew that it’s name was synchronistically appropriate. “It’s called Coronation Chicken, created to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth…” I thanked her and smiled. We live on the Coromandel Peninsula hiding out from the Coronavirus and we’re having Coronation Chicken for dinner. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t make this stuff up.


Queen opens parliament


Another thing I can’t make up are today’s numbers. I’ll leave that to Turkmenistan and North Korea. They’ve got much better imaginations than me. Here’s what the real world figures are for New Zealand on this day…


Zero New cases. 5 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to probable and confirmed cases is 96.6%. Five Zeroes on the board. 30 people still infected.




Screen Shot 2020-05-20 at 10.31.59 PM


A couple of hundred years from now people will jack into a museum feed and see pictures like this to try to imagine what life was like in the years before China fixed everything.

Thanks for visiting. This exhibit is closing now.

Stay safe and Goodnight.

Nous Sommes Heureux

12 May



May 12,  2020

Day 52

Amidst the slow reawakening of activity and community here on the estate, as the finer legal points of the nationwide lockdown are now being debated, after the fact notwithstanding, and with the backdrop of a changed and changing world, here are today’s numbers…


Zero New cases. 12 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 93.3%. Five Zeroes on the board today. This is a first. It is also a blessing and a sign of things to come for little New Zealand, whose five million souls have, for the most part, worked hard to get where we’re going.



Aconfindence is contagious



Cecilia’s March

1 May


May 1,  2020

Day 41




I went to town again today to pick up a prescription, mail a package and top up the larder. 154 turns on the dodgy road in a caravan behind two other cars all the way down. Whitianga is looking more active but no one knows quite what to do yet. Lots of businesses are trying to figure out how people can shop by standing at the front door and speaking to salespersons inside. Others are simply going to wait for Level 2 to come along before they can open, which is what a lady told me at the door of the stationery store where the post office is located. Package not mailed, check. Off to the the grocery store where there were more people than during Level 4 but fewer paying attention to social distancing. I was the only person with a mask and had to work very hard to get through my list without running into other customers.

I sound like a broken record, but after a month of hard work at Level 4 and good results to show for it, the way people are acting at Level 3 is breaking my heart.




Upon returning home to check the figures for the day I see the behaviour I observed appears to be a nationwide trend. The news is full of stories about push-back at the excesses some feel they had to endure under Level 4. It’s as though many people think things would have turned out just the same had there been no lockdown and now they’re all rebelling at the idea of continued vigilance.




These people don’t seem to get that the quickest way to lose your laurels is to rest on them. They are shaking my confidence daily. We did not get to the numbers below for no reason.



3 New cases. 11 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is holding at 84%. Two Zeroes on the board. 227 still under the gun.




With the advent of Level 3, lockdown’s covidiots are being reinforced by thousands of knuckle-headed Cecilia’s who just want it to be over. They march aimlessly in different directions, together in the dark in a room full of gasoline, each holding a lighted match so they’ll be able to see victory if it shows up.




I wonder whether we’ll make it to level 2…




An Unknown Future

27 Apr


April 27, 2020

Day 35

Today is New Zealand’s last day (fingers crossed) at Alert level 4. Total lockdown has been strange, weird, scary, sobering and somehow exhilarating. As I said at the start of this blog, “Nothing concentrates the mind like a sentence of death”. Events in this country thus far have me feeling hopeful, but I am mindful of the nature of the beast and thus will continue to act as though I am still in lockdown and keep on searching the chaff for the wheat.

Robert Heinlein is one of my all time favourite authors. If you haven’t read any of his works, now would be a good time to start.  In The Notebooks of Lazarus Long he says, “What are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history”–what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future, facts are your single clue.”

Thirty-five days into the new normal and there is not much buzz about a cure or even a high percentage treatment and if there is they’re saying it will be later rather than sooner. On the status board of most of the institutions and governments working in that direction is a sign that says, “Don’t hold your breath”. As of this date, as I write, you can wear a mask or a full face respirator, shop at dawn and swim in a vat of hand sanitiser when you’re done, but, young or old, rich or poor, covidiot or pragmatic prepper, whether or not you’re going to catch it and whether or not you’re going to survive unscathed is still a numbers game.

Today’s are as follows.


Minus 1 New cases today. 38 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 80%.

20% to go…





It will Fluctuate

26 Apr


April 26, 2020

Day 34




During the previous month members of our tight-knit community have taken it upon themselves to do the easement road maintenance while the workers normally contracted for this job are locked down. Grass is weed-whacked and gorse rooted out. Cracks in the road have been marked for future attention and safety barriers are in the process of being water blasted and re-painted. One project undertaken by the Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Incorporated (MFESI) is the construction of a research ‘hub’ near the picnic area that will serve to house visiting biologists and guest workers. This week individual volunteers, working from an online schedule so that only one person is on site at a time, began staking out and clearing the land for this facility. Life goes on and despite us all being constrained by the challenges of this contagion, our work continues.

Today I started dismantling an old, out of disused outhouse that was knocked over by a falling tree a few years back. I’m using the thin plywood from the walls to make small storage boxes that will sit on the new shelves in the workshop shipping container. Internal framing is coming from scrap wood, fasteners are being culled from a box of screws collected over time from various other building modifications. I throw very little away and am glad I have this habit because all of the hardware stores are closed. Like the whelk, I must live in my home while I build it. The storage boxes will replace the hodgepodge of cardboard ones that contain all of the things that won’t yet fit into our small (but growing) house. I will build one a week while working on other projects higher on the priority list, but eventually they’ll all be done and I can cross them off and move on down the line.

With one piece of outhouse wall to work with, I set up a temporary workbench on the deck of the forest porch and hummed Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning as the sun poured in like butterscotch. The days are getting shorter and colder, but there are still a few warm and pleasant hours on either side of noon. The swallows are active in this interlude, their scratchy chirps filling the sky as they swoop and wheel around the clearing below the house. A few quail come to the steps and call and are fed by their humans. After their meal they sit in the warm sun in the grass at the edge of the grove and dream of summer. Chaffinches have returned from wherever it is they go during the summer and the moreporks are calling earlier in the afternoon. In this tail end of Indian Summer two of the rose bushes are putting out buds and the climbing rata are blooming in orange brush strokes all over the valley.


For a few minutes, Valerie walked in the garden, breathing in the outside air for the first time in three weeks. A smile wreathed her face as she contemplated what must be done to return the place to order. For now that is all she can do, but it is enough.

Other jobs done included two loads of laundry in the newly painted ‘laundry room’. I figured out how to clean the antique Chinese white ceramic lamp whose close spaced decorative lattices have been collecting dust for years. Counting the holes in four square inches and multiplying by the total surface area told me that there are over a thousand tiny, irregularly shaped triangles to clean. I put the lamp base in a bucket of soapy water collected from the outflow of the washing machine where I will let it soak for a few days. Should take about a week to finish that tedious task by doing a little bit here, a little there, in between other endeavours.

Fading light and lowering temperatures told me to stop and wrap up. Shut down, tools down…lockdown. I walked to the verandah and scanned the sky above the ridge to the northwest. It took me a while, but I found the thin sliver of the new moon hiding in plain sight, chasing the sun. So beautiful. So absolutely, amazingly beautiful. I linger there for a time and marvel, then go inside to check the numbers.


When asked by a brash young reporter what he thought the stock market would do that week, financier James Pierpont Morgan famously replied, “It will fluctuate”. I think that holds true for pandemics as well.

9 New cases, up from the day before. 24 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 77%. Two Zeroes on the board today but again they are just place holders. 328 people are still infected.

Thus far I am not aware of anyone of note in New Zealand weighing in on the question of  whether previously infected people develop immunity or not. Can you catch Covid-19 again and again? Other questions are percolating to the surface as time goes on. Massive strokes are being reported in young patients currently hospitalised with active infections and a great deal of the at home deaths in New York City during the past month were from strokes. I will wait for further developments as April draws to a close and reflect on how fortunate I am to have been to be able to self-isolate in such a wonderful, peaceful spot.





Right Figures

24 Apr


April 24, 2020

Day 32

Knowledge about the Covid-19 virus accrues daily, paid for in the stark currency of lungs scarred and lives lost. This knowledge is stored not only in data banks and medical journals, but in the collective memory of mankind in hospitals and clinics around the world, in research facilities, university think tanks and government virology labs. It is also stored in graveyards, interred with the victims of Covid-19 in the form of the DNA or RNA genome of the virus. Some concerned individuals have put forward the idea that the bodies of all victims of Covid-19 be burned lest the virus riddled corpses be harvested for use by nefarious persons or agencies to create a new wave of infection at a later date.

Some of the ever growing knowledge will be hoarded by pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines and medicine and structure treatment protocols whose main focus is not the welfare of individual patients, despite what their marketing brochures and stock prospectuses say, but is instead, the time honoured and much revered practice of revenue generation.

Critical knowledge will be hidden or deleted or altered in bureaucratic labyrinths to suit the narrative of the day and depending on who’s asking the questions. Items such as the identity of patient zero (there’s that number again) in Wuhan, China, will go missing or be mysteriously erased from all pertinent documentation. Was it an unfortunate patron or merchant at a wet market or an unlucky or incompetent worker at the Wuhan Institute of Virology? How many Chinese lives were claimed by the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan? Knowledge is power.

W. Edwards Deming said, “Wherever there is fear, you will get wrong figures.” He was taking about a corporate environment but it fits the current climate in China perfectly. You can bet that the answers to the questions above are known, but none dare say it for fear of being disappeared, along with the truth, in that train wreck of a country.

In the end, the truth will out. Hundreds of thousands of people in countless institutions all around the world are beavering away to find out everything there is to know about the Covid-19 virus. These conscientious souls in their far flung bastions of learning, or healing or study will illuminate the inner workings of this particular virus through sheer numbers, dedication and persistence. Years from now we will be able to look back and point to specific instances where new technology had its origin in the search for, and accumulation of knowledge during this pandemic. Nobel Prizes will be won, research grants will be awarded, careers will be made, and yes, lives will be saved.

I hope that one of them will be mine.

The good news for me is that I live in a country where the numbers are…


5 New cases. 30 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 75%. One Zero on the board, this one referring to the lack of change in the amount of cases requiring hospitalisation. Still 8 under the care of nurses. 17 deaths total, these souls now in the hands of the Universe. One more left us today. Requiescat in pace.

ALYridshower croppedcopy


23 Apr


April 23, 2020

Day 31

AApr23NZCov copy

The number circled in red on the summary above marks the first time since this diary of a pandemic started that the number of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand (known) has not risen. It’s a simple thing, really, but oh, how it brings a smile to my face. Zero, nada, zilch, zip… Pretty cool, for a lot of reasons.

The first is that this zero is a harbinger of zeroes to come. It sits on the right hand side of the summary, minding its own business, but let’s hope, like the Covid-19 virus, that it is contagious and that the left-hand column starts coming down with zeroes, too. The first four categories have the possibility of going to zero. That’s the target, the intention, the goal. It is where we’re headed.

The second reason that first zero is so unutterably cool is that it represents the quiet, yet emphatic answer to the question, “Does social distancing really work?”. The answer is, Yes! The economy is in the hospital, not in ICU, but under observation. It can be fixed, especially if we are able to move judiciously down through the alert levels and re-open most, if not all businesses. I know I need some plywood and white silicone bathroom and kitchen sealant. I’m short  on epoxy glue, I need various lengths of timber and an 8X12 metre heavy duty tarp. And that’s just the start. This house isn’t going to build itself. There is already talk of opening the Tasman Sea border between Australia, whose citizens also are making great strides against the contagion, and New Zealand. That would mean a resumption of airline travel and a rise in risk, but we have gained precious time in the testing for, and mitigation, monitoring and treatment of the disease. We’ve got to start somewhere and this small step will be one of many to get us going again.

The zero means hope to a nation of rugged individualists whose can-do spirit is really showing though in these strange and trying times. It means hope for the staff of all hospitals. Hope that they won’t fall ill while treating someone with Coronavirus. Hope that they’ll be able to return to some semblance of normality in their own lives. Can you imagine what it must be like to work in a hospital and to have to return to your home at the end of your shift not knowing whether you carried the virus? Into your home, to your children, parents, husband, wife? That little zero looms large. The zero means hope for all of us.

Hope that the numbers in the first four categories of the first column will all one day be zero. Hope that eventually the tally of recovered cases will cease grinding higher, then judder to a halt at some yet to be seen number that will become the benchmark for reporters and historians when they write about what happened in the year 2020.

Most of all, it means that the number of deaths will stop climbing. Sadly, this number cannot return to zero, for life is not a zero sum game, but there will be a finish to it, and a completion of the roll call of those who were struck down because they happened to inhale a new virus, the novel corona virus.

Today’s numbers are:

0 New cases. 29 Recovered cases. The ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 73%.

And because I am one of those four out of three people who are maths challenged (to use the British English terminology) I am going to start counting zeroes. Out of a possible 10 zeroes on the summary graphic I post each day, we are now showing 1 Zero.

Who would’ve thought a lot of zeroes would add up to something big?




(While researching zeroes I ran across this. Coincidence? I think not. )

[And since you’re still here, ever wonder what you’d tell yourself if you could go back in time… ]

Safe Harbor

22 Apr

April 22, 2020

Day 30



6 New cases. 30 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 71%. Step by step, upward, we rise.




The sun came out today and lit up my world. Even though I know she’s out there, and always will be for me, it fills my heart with joy to feel her warmth and see her shine.


An L


Do you know what you mean to me? I dearly hope so. Everything I’ve ever said or wrote was straight from the heart and remains so to this day. Thank you.


AOnce in a while



If you’ve ever conned a ship at sea you know there is no feeling on earth like that of entering safe harbor in the middle of a tempest. It is a privilege denied to many and once experienced, you will never forget it. The wind drops, the waves slacken and calm settles over the water. Whatever troubles you had are placed in abeyance when you drop anchor. There is respite. There is peace. There is time to reflect on how lucky you were to find shelter from the storm. I am fortunate and forever grateful to have been granted this boon.


At sea





I’ll Just Rest Here.

21 Apr

April 21, 2020

Day 29


5 New cases. 32 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 70%. 439 people still have Covid-19 in New Zealand….that are known.




It is said that the pen is a long arm from the grave. Here’s another raft set adrift on Oblivion’s sea. I am in it.