I get it all out of order but slang evolving in schools and at parties and on bits of the web too young for me reaches me sometimes and I can see how it does new things, How the word filled a gap, maybe a rebirth of an earlier phrase or concept, but wonk. Like lit. Excellent, and it comes with it a whole fathom of nuance, of lit from within, of lit by a spotlight, of lit like a candle. Something that is illuminated or illuminates.
When I walked tonight, oh, the sky was lit. A great expanse of pink and clouds full of rolls and folds and curls. And the sea was extraordinary, somehow still and smooth and a bright light blue with various pink stripes. Not its usual grey greeny self at all. The South Island was dark and huge and so long, the lines of mountains seemed to go on forever. As if I everything had been somehow heaved up and shifted and landed again in a different place.
I was walking the track I had never been on before lockdown, which weaves past the urupa and over the small hills, so you can see the bike track on one side and the sea on the other. Tonight is the last night of lockdown so the walk felt significant. The light, the single cicada vibrating, the high pitched tweeting of small birds. At one point a strange heavy bird flew in front of me, I saw it had landed in a tree but it was quite dark by then and I could only see a silhouette, it was some kind of parrot. The large empty roads of the park with their giant white arrows that I was not following.
One hour and fifteen minutes until lockdown lifts. We're moving to level 2, schools open on Monday, tomorrow shops, restaurants, malls, libraries, cafes, hairdressers, doctors, dentists. No gatherings of more than 10 people. KT and Sam are coming over for cards at the exact moment, midnight. Joe slept badly and is half-asleep, his elbow resting on the arm of the sofa, his head tilted into his hand, his eyes closed. Tuesday our cat is clinging on to his sloping lap. The kids have made plans with their friends, Alex's quite definite, Maggie's vaguer. One of Maggie's best friends lives over the fence. They wanted to bring soup to Maggie at midnight but I said no unless Maggie wakes up spontaneously.
There were no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today and no deaths. 4.3 million reported cases worldwide, it was only 2 days ago that it reached 4 million. 293,000 reported deaths. Of that 1.4 million cases are in the US,, and they've had 83,000 deaths. These are just the reported cases.
The wood burner sounds like an insistent wind. Joe is stretching now, changes position, falls back asleep. Tuesday determinedly purrs on. I love our room full of colour and light, our little house full of the kids crocheting themselves a personhood, their feelings like waterfalls. their brains firing, their stuffing, their stuff.
Around 4,116,000 around the world have had the virus. I think I just saw an article saying 10 million people in the US have lost their jobs.
In NZ over the last week we have had between -1 and 2 cases. We've had 1400 or so cases and 21 deaths, many of them in rest homes. We are in alert level 3, which meant we were allowed to surf and swim at the beach and kids of essential workers could go to school. Cafes and takeaway places and restaurants could serve takeaway food and drink. Tomorrow there will be an announcement about going into level 2. Level 2 will mean a resumption of pools and malls and schools and workplaces. Kindergartens and some training places, shops, cafes. People are encouraged to work from home still, beauticians and hairdressers wear ppe, personal protective equipment. We have to remain socially distant, cafes can only open with table service, no going up to the counter. They have to limit the number of people allowed inside. No indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.
We are doing well is the general idea. NZ is doing really well.
Joe is printing a lockdown alphabet, commentary on coronavirus. I love it. Today's letter is M.
Maggie is asking about the school terms, outraged by a possible longer term (holidays were shifted to the first full weeks of lockdown). She finds science boring, Joe says it may be boring teachers. Ask them to tell you why it's interesting, he says.
"Wouldn't this house be more aesthetic, cooler and more fun to visit and generally much better if it grew legs and could walk around?" asks Maggie.
Joe and Maggie are discussing this "I think lots of tiny little legs would be better" says Joe "so it could scuttle around.".
I am in our end room. It has high bookshelves on one side of the room and the bed for occasional guests or restless nights on the other. I'm at the desk in between. We have a giant film poster on one wall, Un film de Marcel Camus, L'oiseau de Paradis. It's Cambodian, made in 1962, it is probably the original poster and I should not have it bluetacked to my wall where it is getting damaged. On the wall too, a small kete, postcards, a picture of a wary kestrel fallen out of some book, paper fish, cut, hand drawn and painted with watercolours by Joe. They have small metal hooks in their mouths, a remnant from one of our kid's birthday parties,
On the desk, tins with their labels scrubbed off filled with pens and pencils, none of them useful or practical ones, a can of fixative, Japanese ink still in its box, a pair of sunglasses, a cord I use as a skipping rope, a picture of my Dad. A box of bull clips. The box the bull clips are in once contained a Moomin cup. One of the pictures on the box is of a party in Moominvalley, I think it is a composite, I can't think of a scenewhere this gathering would make sense, but it does capture the essence of a Moomin party, which remains for me, the great ideal of social gatherings. It's in a garden, among huge trees which are decorated and glowing, with lights or their own fruit or flowers, I can't tell. Snufkin is lying in a tree, Moominpappa is playing the accordion, the morose Hemulen has his empty butterfly net, the terrifying Groke is hiding behind a tree, the luminescent hattifatteners are grouped like flowers on long stalks, Sniff looks on skeptically. Moominmamma is in the distance with her handbag. Strangely there is no Moomintroll.
When I was a kid with a friend coming over, I would wait at the end of our driveway for them. Wanting to speed the visit up. I spent many years going to mass camping events, protests mostly, sometimes music events or dance parties, sometimes perhaps just social things. My heart would leap when I would see a field, with a fire, and glowing tents or campervans or house buses. The great unknown of what was waiting for me, of friends, of strangers. In Christchurch, for a short time I shared a house with a bunch of women art students. We'd go off to parties en masse, they were larger than life, op shop stylish, I felt like that when I was with them, powerful, our extravagance absorbed into the noise and people of a party. How the party opened to receiveour magnificence and closed around us. We became part of it. When I first visited Wellington as an adult, I found the occupation of the place, the tall buildings, the greenbelt, the streets, the cafes, the gigs, all of it thrilling. It was full of hope and mystery. Things happened here, it was like waking up. When I tramped around London, I remember swearing to myself that I would not get lost there, that this city would make room for one more bedazzled foreigner. That I would be alone but not lonely.
There is something about social encounters which fed me. I knew a party or a conversation or a city could change me and that I could change it. That the event or place and I would move on each other like lovers, changed forever. We would slip under each other skins and stay there. I am made up of remembered phrases, of unexpected chiming laughter, of walks through urban tunnels, of dinner in tramping huts, of holding weeping friends through the night, of sunrises, the deep blue of a flatmate's bedroom, the smell of a shared living room, legendary picnics by rivers, Christmas dinner in a London flat, of how someone's body moved when they danced, how air lapped around another, how space was a cloak that moved with them.
It was all so dazzling, perhaps because I spent most of my high school years invisible. Untouchable. Eyes would flit across me like I had a sign nothing to see here, nothing to see here, which I may in all fairness have been projecting, because invisibility was better than mockery or contempt or unaccountable venom at my unpopularity, my lack of fit. I was hated. And that was really the only kind of social attention I got. I became so small at high school, so colourless. A shy, unopinionated, frightened person. Ugly had to be quiet. My demons were called Tania or Janelle, Chris or Brent or random strangers to whom I was an affront. I was not attractive, oh no. And as a 1980s Christchurch teenage girl, I had just one job.
Our New Zealand Covid-19 full lock down, dubbed Level 4 here, was originally set at 28 days. No malls, or libraries, no flat whites in cafes, no swimming pools. No sports fields illuminated at night, no train trips, no shops except supermarkets. We leave the house only for exercise (everyone walks now) or to get supplies. Only essential goods ordered over the internet. Only essential workers go to an actual place for work. No swimming, no fishing, no gigs, no galleries, no movies. On Day 26 the Prime Minister announced Level 4 was extended for a week. So now next Tuesday we are in level 3, where not much changes except shops can send a wider range of goods to customers, and some sports can be played at private clubs, and kids that can't be looked after at home can go to school. For most of us it will be the same.
Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern is being hailed in the Western world as the great leader of these times. New Zealand acted fast. She resisted moaning by various business sectors about impact on the economy and said lives were important. As of yesterday we had 1461 total cases, 18 deaths, and we've had only between 3 and 6 new cases for the last five days, testing over 6000 a day. New cases are all linked to overseas travel or known cases (bar one under investigation yesterday). Most people who had it have have now recovered and so we have 325 active cases. Ireland has a similar population: over 18,000 cases, over 1000 deaths. Trump continues to be terrifying, his last suggestion was to disinfect people inside their bodies, or to shine virus-killing lights into them. He's now claiming it was a joke. There are 895,766 cases in the US and 50,439 deaths. People are now talking about the US no longer being a superpower.
The thing I have been thinking about is how lockdown is not so different for me. My life once so full of people, so occupied with flatmates, and friends, and activist groups and encounters, so driven by the idea of gatherings, of being with, of standing alongside, has emptied. That pre-lockdown I went to work, I very occasionally went to music, I had a monthly volunteer meeting, I once in a while went to something social, but most of the time would lose interest and instead stay at home. I would see wider family. Joe and I would sometimes have friends over to play cards. I organised a last minute party in late summer before lockdown, and it had something I loved in it, of family and friends, the right portions of people who knew each other and those who didn't. We did put up lights and we did sit in our garden. But it was rare. My life has both expanded and narrowed so I return each night to two kids and a partner, and they have taken the place of those other things. They are my greatest loves. But it's different.
I'm thinking how, when we move to Level 2, and to Level 1, that it will not be so different. That it will not be a great release from a prison for me. In Level 4 I still spend too much time on the internet, I still chat with friends mostly online, I sometimes engage with new people but I don't know how real all those exchanges are. Do they sustain me in the same way? Do they expose and expand me? The thing about meeting people online, is that you can control everything, you can engage or disengage at will, you can turn away, or talk over. You aren't accountable. There's no etiquette. You're not physically occupying the same air, breaking bread, or painting a banner or planting a garden with them, or being drawn into the magic of clouds and sun and dusk passing over and through a good conversation. The ones that last from afternoon until night. The ones when you remember a friend saying something important and the way the light fell on them, and how their voice went from quiet to urgent. The traffic in the distance. The birds you all hear. I'm wondering if I'd already locked down. What I'd shut off. What part of being human I'd turned from. What I willingly lost and why I lost the hunger for it.
Trump has withdrawn US funding from the World Health Organisation. He is now blaming China, and WHO for not dealing with the virus properly.
15 new cases today. 11 of them known to be associated with known cases. 300 non-symptomatic testing was done in Queenstown today where there is one of the more serious outbreaks. This is to try and figure out if it is out in the community.
There was an explanation from Ardern about what will happen if we go into Alert Level 3, which is that schools will open for kids who can't be kept at home, cafes and restaurants can open for takeaways, shops can open for online trading, we can swim, surf, and mountain bike again. Malls, libraries, pools, all stay shut. We continue to work at home if we can. We are told on Monday if we move from level 4 to 3 on Wednesday midnight.
Everyone I know waits avidly for the 1pm briefing from Ashley Bloomfield and Jacinda Ardern. Ashley Bloomfield has acquired a cult status, there is a fundraiser for Women's Refuge selling t-shirts and tote bags with Bloomfield's face and the slogan The curve crusher.
Three friends and I had a Zoom chat tonight. We weave in and out of each others lives every day through Slack.. H. talked about the virus crisis, and looming under that the economic crisis, and under that the climate crisis. The virus may be being brought under control here in New Zealand but there are bigger more frightening storms brewing. In the fear, stubborn stones of hope. Could we build something new? Could we do something different? None of us wants to go back.
Tonight, it will be announced there are 2 million cases worldwide, On April 3rd only 12 days ago there were a million cases. 850,000 of the cases are in the US. Trump is having tantrums at reporters and playing pro-Trump propaganda. He's saying he acted before anyone thought he should which is a rewriting of history because he denied it was real, denied its seriousness. I tried to find the propaganda video but some sites wouldn't share it because they were so disgusted. He is saying the president of the United States csn fo whatever the president of the United States wants. I just saw a headline which said Covid19 relief cheques will have Trump's signature on them.
We had writing group tonight, I haven't written a poem for a long time. There were three poems all with a dangerous melancholy. I'm not so jittery now, but they are jittery times. Our new cases in New Zealand gave hovered around 20 per day for the last 3 days. The Newshub site though showed there were far more tests today so in fact the percent of positive results was going down.
The four weeks of our total lockdown are due to end in a week, on Wednesday. On Monday Ardern will announce if we are staying in Level 4 lockdown or moving to Level 3. They are announcing over the next day what Level 3 will mean. I don't think schools will go back. Today was officially start of term 2, Alex has done most of the work for this week already. Maggie is learning about pre-Treaty Pākehā-Māori contact.
I have been taking photos of 50 things, I want to take 50 photos of 50 things before I turn 50. C. has been giving me tips.
I talk to friends overseas, little pits of being stuck, glimpses of despair and vulnerability, where income is fragile or broken and when that goes, choices go. I think of how this is happening everywhere at the moment, millions of stories, things broken, things taut.
Usually during lockdown, I have been walking. This afternoon I went for a bike ride along a popular flat bike track I came back jittery and anxious and worried. I am not usually like this. I felt suspicious and nervous of everyone. First I passed 3 lovely seeming young men coming the other way on bikes, one of them with a bunch of dahlias sticking out of his backpack. But I guessed they were not in the same bubble, I figured they weren't from our village, I suspected they were going to an illicit driveway gathering in our village. Everyone who overtook me felt too close to me. I read an article about riding in other people's slipstreams and the way the virus stays in the air. I gave people a lot of space but still them and their glorious children came close, rearing up at narrow parts of the pathway or one-way bridges. I could be unknowingly infected, they could be. People did not adequately wait. There was very little adequate waitage. They were practically jostling. They can not measure or they do not care. One father and his young son did not go into single file when we passed. While putting his son in peril he beamed at me saying Hi! Hi, I said, stiffly, unsmiling, and biked on frightened as i heard him muttering to his child, aghast and angry at my rudeness.
Some things that happened today
Test numbers in New Zealand are going up but new cases flattening or going down. On Thursday the 2nd of April there was a record high of 89 new cases, on Friday there were 71, on Saturday 82, on Sunday 89 again, yesterday 67 and today 54,, also in the last 24 hours 65 people recovered. So for the first day overall numbers went down. It could flare up again, but officials are looking hopeful.
Last week, David Clark, our Minister of Health, was spotted driving to a mountain bike trail (which is not recommended in lock down). Yesterday he admitted to driving his family 20 kilometres from their house to Doctor's Point for a beach walk and offered Jacinda Ardern his resignation. Ardern demoted him, making him the lowest ranked Cabinet officer, but said it would be too disruptive to sack him. At the press briefing today the journalists asked most of their questions about that. Ardern got increasingly tight lippped. He made a mistake and he is paying for that mistake. Over and over she said it.
Until today the media briefings have been 1.00 pm, Ashley Bloomfield, Director General of Health - he has become a weird cult figure with people admitting crushes on him. He's very straight looking with large glasses and careful hair. And then later on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Today they combined for the first time. I have been watching the media briefings avidly, they're live video streamed on RNZ. Perhaps I'll remember that, the video stream starting with the podiums empty as the news is read, then the officials coming in, the way the sign language interpreters' faces move as they sign the speech. Looking at how fluid the language, as English is, evolving to absorb new words and concepts, ideas are changing all the time. I think I know commissioner, and protect, and Level 4. I must see if I can figure out the sign for Covid-19.
When I'd known KT for a while she admitted that it greatly amused her that I had, now she knew me, actually quite longish arms. For some reason when she and someone else had heard of me but did not know me they developed the habit of referring to me as The woman with the freakishly long arms or possibly Maria, with the freakishly long arms with absolutely no knowledge of the length of either me or my arms.
KT has known my partner and his twin brother for a long time. Maybe about 678 years. Joe once said of KT that she used to take quite low stake amusing things incredibly seriously and get quite worried about them and then when she moved to the Burmese border and supported the Burmese student guerrillas she wrote letters home as if it were a jolly girl guide caper (in no way diminishing her commitment to it all).
One of my earliest memories of KT is that I met her when she had been reading a lot about social etiquette and knew exactly who to introduce to whom based on status. She described it to me. Dame Such and such, may I introduce Lady so and so. I am sure you will have a lot to talk about as you both do exquisite fondue art of grizzly scenes from classical literature, etc etc.** She was all set for meeting the queen.
At one of the early anarchafem conferences she was one of the people who had a variation on the name Kate. Everyone there except me had tattoos or were called a variation of Kate.***.
When my 2nd and 3rd books came out KT knitted me fingerless gloves and arm warmers that had the covers of my books on them. She also knitted me a green steering wheel cover for my little green fiat. She knitted the words Smash the phallocentric hierarchy into it. She has knitted during every meeting I have ever been in with her, usually without a pattern, and always listening attentively and commenting astutely.
KT is on an extended visit from Burma where she is now based. Just after Christmas we played tennis. She wore barefeet and a shimmery silver frock that she found somewhere a month or so earlier and has worn continuously ever since saying. well when you have a dress this good why would you wear anything else? She was not bad at hitting the ball and she was very interested in meticulously adhering to the rules. I taught her to gleefully yell out van in and van out because I knew it would amuse her in the same way it did me.
She's in lockdown with Joe's brother and flatmates up the road. As our mutual friend T. and I discussed. KT's just the person you want around in a lockdown. She offered to shop for us in week one and off she went.. Later that day we received this:
Then she sourced some beans we wanted and we received this:
Since being here on her trip, originally planned for 3 months she saw a piano accordion in an op shop and decided it would be handy. As you do. So she bought it. And then on request came and participated in my coronasafe evening entertainment for a friend's 50th (whom she didn't know) on his lawn down the other end of the road. She played happy birthday and we sang. We did it the next night as well for another friend's birthday. She worried about the amateurish of her accordion playing but was just generally enthusiastic about the idea.
Today Joe's brother shopped for us and there was this:
...which transpired not only to tell us where the groceries were but also KT's most secret long held desire.
(I want my puzzle to feature in Maria's blog. It is my most likely chance at fame)**** .
*I have probably misremembered everything in here but it's my blog so my memory
**Probably actually the wrong way around
***This is like almost certainly quite close to the actual truth
****KT has a misunderstanding of how famous my blog is. But thank you loyal readership (Hi Mary). KT I'd like you to introduce you to my readership, readership I'd like you to meet KT. You will have an awful lot to talk about as one of you has just read about KT and the other one is KT so you definitely have KT in common.
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