Wednesday 1 April 2020

28 Days Later - Day Seven

Day Seven. In the wee hours of the morning, my brain decided to go for a wander. I dreamt I found a nice house on a fully fenced quarter acre section, not far from where I was. It even had established fruit trees and a grape vine, although it was rather overgrown, and obviously abandoned. Someone else appeared, standing next to me. Bizarrely, I think it was my father, and yet it also wasn't. He wanted to have a look at the back yard, but insisted we get to it through the neighbour's back yard. So we entered the neighbour's back yard and headed in straight line for my yard. But the yard we went into wasn't mine. Neither was the next one, or the next one. We just kept creeping around an endless maze of back yards, sometimes having to sneak through sheds, workshops, and art studio, and even a couple houses to try to reach the next yard. We couldn't even seem to get to a front yard to get back on the main road. I was worried we were going to get caught. At some point, the other person disappeared. Eventually I woke up, frustrated and really pissed off.

It was still dark, but surprisingly warm, which meant two things. Firstly, it was probably around 5.30am. The morning cold usually started settling in at between 6 and 6.30, so it was always warmer before that, and the best time to get up and get dressed. A quick glance at the clock on the dresser confirmed that - 5.24am. Secondly, it was probably overcast. It was always warmer when it was overcast.
At the height of summer it would already be getting light, but we were past the autumn equinox now, so it would be another hour and a half before the darkness started to recede. Time to put the coffee on.

Today was Wednesday, which was usually my shopping day. I debated whether or not to go up. We were allowed to go out for essential services. I had enough to last the whole lockdown, but in these uncertain times it might be wise to replenish what was used, and keep stock levels up. And I wanted pudding. I never eat pudding, but for the past three days, all I could think about was pudding. Vanilla pudding... chocolate pudding... what other flavours pudding might come in... mmmm, pudding.
Let's face it, getting out would probably be good. I was restless, had weird cravings for pudding, could definitely do with the exercise (it was a 4 km walk to the supermarket and back), and it would likely go a long way to helping my crappy mood. 

Heading into town, there was a surprising amount of traffic on the main road. The few businesses that were open were very obvious by the long lines outside - the dairy, the pharmacy, the bank. 
I got up to Pak 'n' Save, and looked at the line. it completely circled the parking lot, and was straying out onto the pavement, and it was moving really slowly. There was a guy in high-vis vest yelling "Only five at a time. We're only taking in five at a time, only one from each family". I decided to walk the extra 1/2 km to Countdown, hoping it might be a little better.

At first glance, things looked good, as I couldn't see anything resembling a line in the parking lot. Then I realized - the line wasn't going around the parking lot because it was going around the block instead. In the end, I settled for the Reduced to Clear shop, which mostly stocks end-of-line, expired, and near-expired food items, as well as a few staples like bread and milk. There were only a dozen people in the line there. If nothing else, I should at least be able to get pudding. I needed pudding.
As the line crept forward, I looked at the girl ahead of me, tied on my surgical mask, snapped on my latex gloves, and suddenly felt like some kind of weird pervert or psycho serial killer. Which reminded me, I had the full series of Dexter at the back of the DVD cupboard, and had only seen season one when it was on TV a few years back. I mentally filed that in my "watch while in lockdown" list.
As I surveyed the shelves, it became apparent that most of it was biscuits (cookies), sweets, unhealthy snacks, and junk food, interspersed with various pantry items. I reached for a bag of Peanut Butter and Choc Chunks bikkies. All natural ingredients. Yeah, I could be persuaded with that. Next I spied a packet of chocolate cake bikkies. Very little natural in those, but at this point my mood was even worse than when I left home, so I didn't really care. Into the trolley with them. After that I found a jar of pickled peppers - you never see those in the supermarket, so definitely getting them, a small tin of Spanish smoked paprika, a couple pouches of Chipotle tuna, a bottle of Periperi mayo - that goes great with fish, and a "3 for $2" deal on tins of blackcurrant fizzy drink. Finally, a 2 ltr of milk. No pudding though.

Walking home the back way seemed the best option, then I could swing by the 4 Square (Superette) a couple blocks from home. When I got to the 4 Square, I stood at the back of the line and waited. Eighth in line, that wasn't too bad. The wait was only about 20 minutes. I snagged the last two packets of vanilla pudding mix as well as two chocolate ones, grabbed a dog roll, some sandwich stuff (no bread though - I would have to bake), a box of lemon pepper crumbed fish from the frozens, and a couple tins of fruit. I was horrified at how much it cost - almost my entire food budget for those few items. I had forgotten that prices at these little places were almost double what they were at the big chain supermarkets. At least I got my pudding.

When I got home, Molly was so excited to see me, which helped a lot. While putting the groceries away, I realized I had forgotten to get light bulbs, so would have no light in the kitchen again tonight. Collapsing tearfully onto the sofa to a lunch of peanut butter bikkies and fizzy drink, I looked around. The bed was unmade, the dished not done, I was exhausted, stuffing my face with junk food, and crying because I had forgotten light bulbs. Depression was setting in.

That really surprised me. I was reclusive by nature, having little contact with people for the most part anyway, was a self sufficiency nut and "prepper" from way back, and a huge fan of disaster and end-of-the-world movies. I should be 'living the dream' right now. Instead, I was eating junk food and crying over lightbulbs.

Ah well. Tomorrow is another day. I will need to embark on a serious campaign of cheering myself up, and I'm pretty sure it will involve pudding. And the box of Hypnotic Red hair dye I found under the bathroom sink. But not both together. And definitely no more supermarket trips for a while!

Goodnight all. Stay well and stay safe.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

28 Days Later - Day Six.

Day six dawned clear and sunny. Despite this, the icons on my tablet, phone, and Chromecast all insisted it was definitely raining... right now... right this instant... all day long. It goes to show that just because there is a consensus, doesn't mean it is right, and the sun steadfastly ignored the prevailing views on the weather, for the entire day. 

As I typed up the Day Five post, I pondered on my decided lack of productivity. I just didn't seem to be getting as much done as usual. And then it dawned on me - a huge chunk of my time was now being taken up blogging. Sacrifices had been made, not the least of which was my morning procrastination game of Age of Empires. The small blue army of cavemen no longer hefted their spiky clubs and marched across the land to beat the poop out of the green guys and set fire to their huts. 
Kudos to those who do this every day, day in and day out. You have my utmost respect. I could see the challenges of this 28-day task I had committed to, mounting. Doing this in even the best of times would be mammoth, but keeping up a daily log when you are locked inside... on your own... day after day... not going anywhere... not really doing anything... If it weren't for the dog, I would probably be looking for a soccer ball to draw a face on right about now. Where were the zombies when you needed them.

The daily garden tour was encouraging. The carrots, spinach, leeks, shallots, and Spanish onions were all pushing through. After that, it was the daily housekeeping chores, then a fossick  through the fridge. I wasn't looking forward to a fourth day of the chicken masala, and froze what was left in meal size portions.
All the fixings for a nice ratatouille were there. There was also the last of some feta, a little cream cheese left over from something else, and some regular cheese. Hmmm... if I added a few anchovies and some passata to the ratatouille, it would make a very passable chunky pasta sauce. So the rest of the day was spent making pasta sauce and 3-cheese filled raviolis,starting with making the pasta dough from scratch.

Four of these big raviolis makes a full meal, so once it was all done, I set aside four, put the rest in the freezer, and put a pan of salted water on to boil.
As evening fell, it was time to settle in for knitting and TV. I browsed through Netflix, then through my DVD collection, and eventually spied the Resident Evil series. Having seen and loved the first four, I had bought the collection of six movies several years ago, but had never gotten around to watching the last two. However, having just said I was going to cut down on the number of zombie flicks I watched, I figured it was too soon to binge watch all six of those, so decided to go with Scrubs on TVNZ On Demand. The full series had just come available.
I would wait until next week to binge watch Resident Evil. Yup, a week was a respectable length of time.

Goodnight all. Stay safe, and stay well.

28 Days Later - Day Five

Day 5 dawned grey and wet. The forecast for the day was heavy rains and thunderstorms later, but that never eventuated. Instead, a fine drizzle settled in for much of the day. The cold and pervading damp put the kibosh on any work in the craft room. A fire was needed to warm things up and drive out the damp, but with very limited wood stocks and no idea when - or if - I would be able to get more, I couldn't really afford to heat the whole flat, so the rest of the flat was closed off, and the day was spent in the lounge knitting and watching movies. 
Somewhere over the past few days I remember hearing someone saying "the way to get through a lockdown was to embrace the boredom" Yup. Thank goodness for Netflix.

NZ recorded its first death from COVID-19 on Sunday. Amid the sorrow, we had to remember how lucky we were that our death toll wasn't - and with the early lockdown would likely never be - in the thousands like elsewhere in the world. It was unlikely it would even reach the hundreds. It would take many, many years for places like Spain and Italy to recover from their losses.

Although our lockdown was currently set at 4 weeks, realistically, we were expecting it to be extended to 6 to 8 weeks. And if people keep breaking the lockdown, it could be even longer. At the end of that though, if we were lucky enough to eradicate it from our little paradise in the... well, almost Antarctic, we would be able to get back to some form of normal living.
But "some form of normal" would not be "business as usual" by any means. With the virus still running rampant in so many places, our borders would remain closed. That could be as long as 18 months, maybe more - depending on when a vaccine was developed.
Export production in many countries had ground to halt. Supply lines between countries for raw material had been severely disrupted. There would likely to be restrictions on what imports were still available, to prevent the virus coming back in with crews.

Still, at times like this you have to say "it's good to be Kiwi". As an island nation, it is easier for us to keep isolated. Our population and land mass are both small enough that we have a very good change of eradicating COVID-19 here. Yet we are not so small that life in isolation would be difficult. We have a solid infrastructure, and a good sized workforce. 
And we are a food producing nation. It is what we do most, and what we do best. Meat, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy, fruit and veg. Cheeses from mass produced basic to artisanal. Breweries and wine producers up the wazoo.
We produce wool in abundance, grow trees like they are going out of fashion, and have fiber mills and timber mills. Our electricity is primarily produced by hydro and wind - renewable sources.
We are a nation of crafters and makers, DIY-ers and "she'll be right"-ers. We've always been able to make do with what we have, and weather whatever is thrown at us. Short of an asteroid or the islands sinking, there is not a lot we couldn't get through. We would probably even be able to survive a zombie apocalypse.

So, stay safe, stay strong, stay in lockdown. 

Sunday 29 March 2020

28 Days Later - Day Four

With the dawning of Day Four, the sun made a brief play for dominance before being overwhelmed by the massing dark clouds, but by mid-morning it made a valiant comeback, and blue skies prevailed.

This morning I actually got into my planned morning routine, even managing the morning meditation - a much needed break from a recalcitrant mind that spends much of its time racing around like a three year old that has had WAY too much sugar! For some time I have been thinking that adding an exercise routine to the day would be really good, and at the moment Les Mills is doing a free exercise class Mon - Fri on TV. So with that in mind, I set my alarm for 9am to remind me, and will give it go tomorrow.

With only a light breeze outside, I decided it would be good to sit in the garden and get in that knitting that got push aside last night in favour of a questionable movie choice. After a brief tussle with the dog for the cushie chair in the sun, Molly settled for a folded blanket on the ground, and the dog bikkie bribe that went with it. The warmth of the sun, chirping of the birds, and beauty of the garden were wonderfully relaxing. Every now and then, the smell of a strange combination of incense and bacon wafted by. Mmmm..... bacon.

View from the cushie chair

The stern warnings on the news about yesterday's shenanigans went largely unheeded by those who have been ignoring the lockdown so far. The same unsupervised kids were out hooning on their bikes, as were the ones playing ball out in the street yesterday, and an old guy on a scooter was making his usual Sunday rounds, going up driveways trying (unsuccessfully, so far) to visit various people he knew in the area. 
Otherwise though, neighbours were checking in with each other over the fence keeping a respectable distance, or conversing with each other from across the street, everyone making sure everyone was alright. The usual Sunday sounds of mulchers, mowers, hedge trimmers, and loud music could be heard, as people went about getting their yard work done while the sun shone. Down the street, a 'Terrible Twos' youngster was having a total meltdown. My heart went out to the lovely young couple locked up with that for four weeks.

After lunch the wind started to pick up, so I moved inside to watch the 1 o'clock news.Then the mid-afternoon video chat with Mum in Aussie. I decided to push through on the knitting, and settled in to binge watch the Indiana Jones movies to keep me going.
At this point in the baby blanket, there are over 600 stitches on the needles, so every row is a marathon, and every 4-row repeat of the lace pattern deserves a medal - or at very least, a cup of tea. A couple weeks back, I had almost finished the feather-and-fan section when I realized there wasn't going to be enough yarn, and I couldn't order any more. I had some of the same yarn in other colours stashed away for a jumper, so made the painful decision to tear a huge section back, and insert a wide maroon stripe, to ensure that there would be enough of the grey to do the edging. There were only two repeats of the maroon to go, then two repeats of the grey, and I would finally be able to start the edging. I was hoping to get those last two maroon repeats out tonight, but I didn't quite manage to complete the second one. Never mind.

Earlier in the day, once the air temperature rose above 16C, I put a clear acrylic spray coat on two inkjet prints I am planning to use in the altered book. Tomorrow I will take a break from knitting, and get into the altered book.

Goodnight all. Stay well and stay safe.

Saturday 28 March 2020

28 Days Later - Day Three

Day Three dawned cold, crisp, and overcast. A large flock of Green finches were picking the last of the seeds from the long-dead sunflowers along the driveway. An eerie silence pervaded. With the travel moratorium now in effect, the traffic on the highways was down to only the periodic rumble of a long-haul truck.

Photo from NZ Birds Online. I can't get close enough to the ones at my place to get a decent photo.

With the cold setting in, last night I thought it might be good to get out the slow cooker - it had been a while. I had bought 1 kg of chicken breast before the lockdown, so I shuffled through the pouches and sachets in the 'meal pouches and sachets' drawer - yes, I have a drawer just for that.

Under them all, I found a pouch of spice paste for a Madras Coconut Masala. It was a gorgeous artisanal spice paste crafted by a small NZ company. I love their stuff! The 'use by' date on the stamp was 2016, which meant I had bought it back in 2015. Yeah, I remember buying it. But unopened, these things never actually go off. So a kilo of chicken, a ton of coconut cream, and 6 hours later - voila! A fabulous smell wafting around the flat, and seven evening meals.

After breakfast, I made a point of reaching out to a few important contacts, which included my lovely landlady who lives in Japan, and a friend in Napier - to see if she wanted to set up some video chat crafting sessions. After that, it was time to get out in the garden for some more weeding and planting. For a time, the clouds withdrew and the sun streamed through giving some much needed warmth.

As the day moved on, the Government's fear that the weekend would see people relaxing the rules and treating it like a normal weekend were starting to be realized. After only one day of people taking it seriously, by 10.30 there were people once again out walking and driving around, kids up and down the pavements on scooters, and playing ball in the street. On the one o'clock news, there were reports of people congregating at parks to play Frisbee and touch football. Ye gods, people! Like crime and war, viruses don't stop for weekends and holidays!

The remainder of the day continued to oscillate between sunny and cloudy, periodically threatening rain but never quite delivering. By mid-afternoon things had quietened down, and people were mostly back at their own places, although I think that had more to do with the ominous skies than any prevailing common sense. I was getting the distinct impression that the weather was going to be a deciding factor in how strictly people kept to the lockdown.

Meanwhile, three days in, and I still hadn't been able to trick myself into any kind of structure or grand productivity, just continuing to potter around. I looked at the altered book a couple of times, deciding the best way to tackle my "Garden Gate and Hidden Library" two page spread, then settled on sitting in the lounge knitting and watching Season three of "Boss Baby: Back in Business" on Netflix. On the bright side, I might actually get this baby blanket done before the baby is born. Before this, it was looking like I was going to be pushing to get it done before he/she graduated high school.

Evening came... and went. Dinner was had - no prizes for guessing what that was, and after 20 minutes browsing through all the movies on Netflix, I chose an English dubbed Chinese movie, and once more settled in for knitting and movies... minus the knitting. I got too engrossed in the movie, which by the end I still wasn't sure whether I liked or not.

After that I stood outside for a bit, looking up at the stars. The cold was the kind of cold you could actually smell - sharp, and slightly metallic at the back of the nose, with a heady floral top note - some unknown night-flowering plant. Missing were the usual lingering bottom notes of diesel and exhaust fumes. 

I wondered where all zombies were. I was going to be really disappointed if we didn't get zombies out of this. With that thought, I headed back inside promising myself that tomorrow, I would DEFINITELY get back on track with a schedule, get more productive, and maybe cut back on the amount of zombie flicks I watched.

Goodnight all, stay safe.

28 Days Later - Day Two

Day Two dawned bright and sunny. For me, it was mostly a reiteration of day one, pottering around. There was only one youngster hooning around on a bike early in the morning, after that - nothing. No-one was driving around 'having a look', or visiting friends. Neighbors could still be heard nattering over the fence, but they were keeping a respectable distance from each other. People were starting to settle in and take it seriously.
With the traffic on all the side streets now mostly at a standstill, it made the traffic sounds from the three main highways sound even louder.  

Our normally busy street today

Every now and then a solitary person on a dog walking mission could be seen going by. Some I had never seen before, others I knew. With the parks closed, walking the dog around the neighborhood was now the only option for those with medium and larger dogs.

Fortunately Molly is a small dog, and we already have an indoor exercise routine for her, worked out after I sustained an injury to my left foot and wasn't able to take her to the park. I sit on the sofa at the front of the lounge, and throw her ball down the lounge, through the kitchen, and out the back door onto the back porch, hitting the wall of the attached garage. It is a straight, clear path all the way through. She races frantically after the ball, and rushes back with it, eager to have it thrown again. After 20 to 30 minutes of this, she is completely pooped.

By midday, there were howling gales and ominous clouds, and shortly after, torrential rains set in. Late afternoon saw a soggy, mournful cat sitting on the bureau by the front door, waiting for a break in the weather so she could dash back out.

As night fell, I went out into the garden, and noticed immediately that it was much darker than usual. I could actually see stars in sky. I had given up many years ago trying to view the Orionid and Leonid meteor showers. Generally, you can pick out Orion's belt, and a couple of other bright stars, but that is it.
To the southeast over Havelock North, it always looks like a permanent sunrise, with a never-ending sunset to the northwest over Flaxmere, and the flood of light from Hastings central in the middle. When it is cloudy, the bright orange glows spread and merge across the whole sky, bathing the entire city and surrounding area in a perpetual twilight.
Now that there is no nightlife, and businesses can't afford to keep everything lit up like daytime all night long, the stars that long ago vanished, have reappeared.

We will see what tomorrow brings. Goodnight all, stay safe.

Thursday 26 March 2020

28 Days Later - Day One

As of midnight last night, New Zealand went into a level 4 lockdown for four weeks.

Our Prime Minister declared a National State of Emergency, as well as issuing a Pandemic Notice. These gave the Government, police, and military, the special powers necessary to declare and enforce a nationwide lockdown.
All public places (museums, etc), schools, and non-essential businesses were closed. Even online shopping with non-essential businesses is closed.
Only essential services - Government, emergency services, hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, vets, financial institutions, supermarkets, and transport for goods - are all that are still operational.
Everyone who did not work in an essential service was ordered to stay home (which includes their yards for fresh air and exercise), only venturing out to access essential services. Most importantly, people should not have contact with anyone outside their "bubble" (the people they are in isolation with).

This unprecedented move was instituted to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 in NZ. To try to prevent what has happened in Italy, Spain, and other places.

So Day One dawned bright and sunny. The usual cacophony of children heading off to school was noticeably missing (we have a play center in the next block, and both a primary and a secondary school only a few blocks away). But in spite of the lockdown, the traffic levels on our suburban street were still close to the same. People were still driving around to visit friends. People were driving around "to just have a look". Kids were hooning up and down the street on bikes, unsupervised. One of my neighbours came over to me, and two other neighbours, asking if we had any spare boxes because she wanted to pack up the lounge so she could paint it.
People in this area are treating this as if it is a holiday not a lockdown, as if there is nothing to worry about, rather than there being a global pandemic with thousands of people dying. It is definitely worrying.

I started laying in supplies at the first rumblings of "a possible pandemic". My mother was visiting from Aussie at the time, and has helped financially with it, for which I am very grateful. I was able to get enough supplies in for the 4 weeks for myself and my two "babies" - Sheba my antisocial cat, and Molly the dog, who firmly believes she should be sitting on my lap every waking moment and sleeping on my head every sleeping moment.

Ironically, I spent much of my adult life "prepping" - keeping a six month supply of food etc stashed away. After over 20 years of doing that, two years ago, I decided, it was rather pointless and a waste of much need space, so I pared it all down to "normal" supply levels. That'll teach me!

We are currently in autumn, so the summer crops in the garden are finished, and the autumn/winter crops are only just now coming up.
Coming up in the last two weeks or so, I have Japanese giant red mustard, kale, Brussels sprouts, sprouting broccoli, cauli greens, leeks, miner's lettuce, Dutch cornsalad, lettuces, beetroot, rocket, arugula, onions, spinach, tat soi, and carrots. So the winter pantry is looking good. Today, I have spent some much needed time out in the garden weeding, and planted seed for salad mustard, more lettuces, and broadbeans.

By lunch time, the wind started picking up, and the clouds were coming over, so it was time to head in for the midday news, and some lunch.
The rest of the day was just spent pottering around, not doing anything in particular. Watching a lot of news, knitting, reading, a Skype call with Mum in Aussie, playing with the dog.

As evening wound down, and the sun was setting, I stood out in the yard to listen to traffic - that constant background hum that is always there day and night, from the main arterial ways the border our suburb on three sides. The main north/south highway that connects Wellington to Auckland via the East Coast side, the main highway running east/west that connect Palmerston North in the center thru Hastings to Napier on the coast, and a main east/west highway that connects the traffic coming down from Auckland in the north turning east to Napier and other east coast cities, bypassing Hastings.

The hum was still there, a steady stream of traffic swooshing and droning along the highways. Some of it will be extra trucks and vans hauling goods, and some of it people still in transit trying to get home. The lines at the Inter Island Ferry terminal and the domestic airports were so long and so frantic, that the deadline for people trying to get home was extended to Friday (tomorrow), to try to ease the pressure on services and stress on people.

It will be interesting to see how much of a reduction there is in the traffic, once the deadline for travel is passed, supply lines settle back to normal after all the panic buying, and the authorities start clamping down on those people who are just out driving around because they don't think the situation is really that serious.

Goodnight all, from here inside the lockdown. We will see what tomorrow brings.