The new ‘COVID 19 Normal’

I’ve just spent the last half hour writing a rant. I’m relatively sure no one wants to know about what’s irritating me right now, so I’ve closed off that post and sent it to the draft bin.

One day, when I’m not so angry, I might being it out again and temper the language. I’m sure there have been days when you’ve been so annoyed at the stupidity of people that you too would want to vent your anger.

Neither the time or the place.

The point is, I have an awful feeling the world is going to hell. It never used to be like this. Life was normal once. You know, we were all battling along the majority of us hovering just above or just below the poverty line, but mostly above.

The Government sailed along making stupid decisions like it always does, increasing our incredulity in either the government or the opposition, because it seemed to me all they did was blame each other when something went wrong.

Coronavirus withstanding, the status quo is almost the same as before it hit, only there are a lot more people hovering below the poverty line, and as governments, reportedly looking after their people in a crisis, start throwing money around like it’s water.

I can’t complain, they threw some water at me and I drank it. I’m still alive becaise of the decisions the current ruling party has made over the course of the pandemic in this country, so I can’t complain. That is left to the opposition party who, for the first few months were silent, but now, have decided to question everything the government has done, or criticiser it for what it hasn;t done.

To me, no one is perfect, and it is a pandemic and none of us alive (except for a very few who wethered the Spanish Flu pandemnic) have any iidea what it’s like to live in such times. We are weathering it, we have lost relatively few people in the fisrt wave, and a lot more in the second.

That the second wave could have been prevented is moot. It happened. We have learned from it. I hope. Foolish mistakes are always accompanied by catastrophic results, and in the eventual wash up someone will be blamed. We live in a world where blame is essential to make ourselves feel better. I’m bot sure anyone will feel better about anything this time.

But, we’re not out of the woods. There is still a whole lot of scope for us to catestrophically fail again, because this virus is insidious, and a killer, and not just to those we know it will kill. We don;t know enough about it yet to know whether any vaccine will give lasting protection, or just a few weeks, like it seems to this who have had it and recovered.

They can get it again. Given the damage it does to some of the survivors, it’s like if it didn’t kill you the first time, maybe it will the second time around. Who’s compiling the results so far from those who’ve survived, or from those who have died? What underlying causes are the worst, who should be protected, and are vaccines being tested on vulnerable groups?

What will happen to those who are given a so-called vaccine in six, twelve or eighteen months time? How long have we been testing the current batch of vaccines, a month, two at most?

I worry that being in that vulnerable group, irrespective of vaccines tested or untested, that I’m between a rock and a hard place. Whoever came up with this coronavirus, whether manmade or from wildlife, certainly knew their stuff, because it seems to be it’s incurable, like the common cold, only with a lot more deadly effect.

I had a cold, I thought it was the virus, but no, it was just a cold. It was bad and I’m still recovering from the effects. Colds, as we all know, can kill. So can influenza. Neither of these have been eradicated, but can be vaccinated against, but you can still get it. This is the nature of such viruses.

So, we now live in a new world, a COVID 19 world where we are going to have to change everything we do, and apply a new level of care, and, unfortunately, suspicion, because the moment there’s a chink in the armour, the results will be catastrophic.

They’re are beginning to call it a ‘COVID 19 normal’ down here.

Limited or no overseas travel, limited interstate travel, a new level of public hygiene, with new laws and regulations? Pre COVIS we thought we were free, but that was just an illusion. Now, we’re still free, but the lines between right and wrong, once blurred are very, very clear.

Will this, eventually, be the fate of the whole world?

Searching for locations: New York from a different perspective

It is an amazing coincidence that both times we have flown into New York, it is the day after the worst snow storms.

The first time, we were delayed out of Los Angeles and waited for hours before the plane left.  We had a free lunch and our first introduction to American hamburgers and chips.  Wow!

I had thought we had left enough time with connections to make it in time for New Year’s Eve, like four to five hours before.  As it turned out, we arrived in New York at 10:30, and thanks to continual updating with our limousine service, he was there to take us to the hotel.

The landing was rough, the plane swaying all over the place and many of the passengers were sick.  Blankets were in short supply!

We made it to the hotel, despite snow, traffic, and the inevitable problems associated with NYE in New York, with enough time to throw our baggage in the room, put on our anti cold clothes, and get out onto the streets.

We could not go to Times Square but finished up at Central Park with thousands of others, in time to see the ball drop on a big screen, exchange new year’s greetings, and see the fireworks.

Then, as luck would have it, we were able to get an authentic New York hotdog, just before the police moved the vendor on, and our night was complete.

The second time we were the last plane out of Los Angeles to New York.  After waiting and waiting, we boarded, and then started circling the airport waiting for takeoff permission.  We stopped once to refuel, and then the pilot decided we were leaving.

This time we took our eldest granddaughter, who was 9 at the time, and she thought it was an adventure.  It was.

When we landed, we were directed to an older part of the airport, a disused terminal.  We were not the only plane to land, at about one in the morning, but one of about four.  The terminal building filled very quickly, and we were all waiting for baggage.  The baggage belts broke so there were a lot of porters bring the baggage in by hand.

One part of the terminal was just a sea of bags.  To find ours our granddaughter, who, while waiting, sat on top of the cabin baggage playing her DSI until the announcement our bags were available, walked across the top of the bags till she found them.  Thankfully no one was really looking in her direction.

Once again we kept our limousine service updated, and, once we knew what terminal we were at, he came to pick us up.  This time we arrived some days before NYE, so there was not so much of a rush.  We got to the hotel about 3:30 in the morning, checked in, and then went over the road to an all-night diner where we ordered hamburgers and chips.

And a Dr. Pepper.

Living in a winter wonderland, not

Living in a more tr temperate climate where the days of winter are anything from 18 to 23 degrees Celsius, sunny, or overcast, without a hint of rain.

Rarely is it so cold that a combination of wind and rain can chill you to the bone, as it does in the southern states of this country, Australia.

Today is one of those days, sunny and with an almost cloudless blue sky.

Yet I love winter, the real winter where the temperature is so cold your face starts to freeze, an experience I had one January in Chicago, or where the temperature is hovering just above freezing and there was snow everywhere.

New Yorkers I discovered do not like this very much, understandably so because it interferes with their daily lives and livelihood, but to us tourists from those warmer climes it is manna from heaven.

3-foot snow drifts in Central Park, a place where a child can easily make a snow angel, these are aspects of winter we may never see where we live.

The closest we are going to get is a classic wood fire, where we can sit by and watch the flames dance while it keeps us warm.  Nights here do get cold, sometimes.

But as for a white Christmas, we have to travel to the other side of the world for that.  Good thing then that their winter coincides with our Christmas and, here, generally the hottest days of the year.

In fact, hopefully by this Christmas, we might come your way, or if there’s no relief in sight, perhaps the next.

For two reasons.  The first, I really do want to see the Maple Leafs play at home, and win, and Red Lobster in Times Square – no more needs to be said!

Where to go in winter to finish that damn book!

All in all, this is just the place I was looking for to write into a story.  A perfect blend of fact and fiction could make this into something else, or just plain hiding in plain sight.

If you are not skiing, not hiking, not horseriding, and have come for the fishing, this is the place to be.

Except…

There is something about a summer resort town in the middle of winter.

Or maybe it’s like this all the time.  After all, I have been here in Spring and Autumn and it was just as deserted on the main street.

And not just deserted it is almost like a ghost town, and I suspect the few people that are here are the few hapless tourists wandering about wondering where everyone else is.

It’s about 2 pm and we are heading for the local Coffee club for lunch and coffee.  It might be past lunch but I don’t think that’s the reason why there are so few customers

There is just no one here.

Perhaps it’s probably a different story on weekends when the city people come down for the snow and are passing through.

But, essentially, Taupo is a holiday town, and if you take a closer look, all you will see is cafe’s, dining establishments and motels.  A quick tour of the shopping center shows more shops are closed or vacant than there are open.

It’s not surprising that a lot of businesses cannot survive, because to stay in business, you need a steady stream of customers all year round, not just in Summer.

Unlike their winter counterparts, the ski resorts who seem to have a different working model, take as much as you can while you can, they only have to operate a few months of the year, use non-permanent seasonal workers, and can adjust if there’s no snow.

An indication of just how much custom there is in Taupo in winter is trying to organize horse riding.  Admittedly it is rather cold for both humans and horses, but not every day is a loss.  We sought out the local Taupo horse riding establishment and found it closed for Winter.  Understandable perhaps, but the more telling point was the fact it had a big sign up “Business for Sale”

I don’t fish, and aside from water sports, a summery thing to do, there is precious little to do there in winter, which could have it’s benefits.

Hmm.

Hang on, if I really want to disappear, and can’t be bothered doing anything else except a walk to the nearest cafe for a cup of coffee, and be away from all the distractions long enough to finish a book, this is the place to go.

it’s just a pity with the COVID restrictions, we can’t go anywhere, even New Zealand.

I guess I’ll have to find something closer to home.

Searching for locations: Central Park, New York

It’s a place to go and spot the movie stars, or perhaps their dogs.

It’s a place to go for long walks on idyllic spring or autumn days

It’s a place to go to look at a zoo, though I didn’t realize there was one until I made a wrong turn.

It’s a place to go for a horse and carriage ride, although it does not last that long

It’s a place to go to look at statues, fountains, architecture, and in winter, an ice skating rink

I’m sure there’s a whole lot more there that I don’t know about.

I have to say I’ve only visited in winter, and the first time there was snow, the second, none.

Both times it was cold, but this didn’t seem to deter people.

But…

We decided to go visit another part of the park, this time walking to West 67th Street before crossing Central Park West and into the park where Sheep Meadow is.

Once upon a time sheep did graze on the meadow, but these days it is designated a quiet area inspiring calm and refreshing thoughts, except for a period in the 1960s where there was more than one counter-culture protest, or love in, going on.

And, there’s the sign to say it was Sheep Meadow,

and that’s the meadow behind the sign,

Well, I don’t see any sheep, but of course, that’s not why the meadow is named or should there be any sheep on it.  That greenery that can be seen, restoring for the spring, was a very expensive addition to the park.

As a matter of fact, there is nothing was on it, because signs were up to say the meadow was closed for the winter, a new and interesting variation on the ‘Don’t Walk On The Grass’ signs.

I’m sure I could climb the fence, or, maybe not.  I’m a bit old to be climbing fences.

So, unable to walk on the grass, we tossed an imaginary coin, should we go towards West 110th Street, or back to West 59th Street.

West 59th Street won.

and, just in case we had any strange ideas about walking on the grass, the fence was there to deter us.  Perhaps if we had more determination…

One positive aspect of the park is that you could never get lost, and the tall buildings surrounding the park are nearly always visible through the trees, more so in winter because there is no foliage, maybe less so later in the year.

There is also a lot of very large rocky type hills, or outcrops where people seem to stand on, king of the mountain style, or sit to have a picnic lunch, quickly before it freezes.

Yes, it is cold outside and seems more so in the park.

I wondered briefly if it ever got foggy, then this place would be very spooky, particularly after the sun goes down.

A photo from the archives

I was poking around on the gallery on my phone and found this

It was the rear of the club house for a golf course that was adjacent to the resort we were staying at before COVID shut down the country and all travel.

It was a bleak day with rain falling from drizzle to a heavy shower, and I had to wonder what it would be like on a fine summer’s day.

The club house also had space for conventions and weddings, and I could imaging having the wedding in the rotunda as the the sun departed leaving behind shades of yellow, orange and red.

Having a fountain in the wedding photo would be so hard to take either.

Perhaps we could renew our vows one day in just such a location.

It’s a thought.

I’ve always wanted to be in a disaster movie

But not one where the plane crashes, though the figurative kinds of disasters always seem to feature, aeroplanes, airports, and passengers.

Certainly, every time I go near an aeroplane there’s a plethora of detail available for the next plot-line, or even a short story.  I just have to remember that being put down the back of the plane is not an insult, but the airline considering my survival if we crash!

It seems almost inevitable when travelling anywhere on a plane that something can and will go wrong.  Not necessarily with the plane, but that happens too, but rarely, if ever, have I been on an overseas flight that has not left or arrived late for any one of a multitude of reasons.

The last was just one in a long line of many…

It is not always a problem with the aircraft that causes delays.  Whilst often it is a case of technical difficulties, but this time it wasn’t.

We are missing a passenger.

Yep, on a plane that carries 301 passengers, we were missing the one.  And because they have not made the boarding cutoff, their baggage has to be offloaded.  Since there are 300 plus other bags to sort through, it will take time.

Scheduled departure time 8:45, an announcement about the offloading was at 8:35, it’s now 8:50.  Ok, now we’re closing the front door.  Let’s see what happens now.

8:52, the captain says we’re sorted, but…

Oh, the dreaded we’ve missed our slot and now have wait for the next.  Last time that happened, in France, we waited an hour.  In New York, Newark actually we just pulled over to the side of the taxi area and switched off the engines.

This is Brisbane, not so large an airport so it may not be a long wait.

9:01, we’re pushing back.  Finally a slot.

But…

There are five other planes in front of us, so it’s all adding up to a delayed arrival.  9:15 and still taxiing.

9:30, 45 minutes late we finally take off.  Let’s see how this affects our arrival time.  The flight time is advised to be 2 hours and 25 minutes.  This means if the flying time is correct, we should be landing in Auckland at 13:55 pm, local time.  New Zealand is, by the way, two hours ahead of Brisbane.

11:45, (or 13:45 local time) we commence our descent.  Landed at 14:10 local time.

It could have been worse.

What am I saying, we have now to negotiate immigration and then find our baggage?

Another photograph from the inspiration file

This is

A rainy day.

Not much of a revelation when it’s winter, but why is it when you have to go somewhere in a hurry, the universe knows, and tries to throw everything at you so you don’t get there on time?

I like to be punctual.

I’m one of those people who leave home to get to the airport hours before I have to because I know, from past experience, that if you leave at the time where you’d make it with an hour to spare, you would get stuck in the mother of all traffic jams.

I know this to be true.  It’s happened more than once to me,

If you’re not in a hurry, you get the best run you’ve ever had.  I know that’s true too, because that’s what happens most times.

It’s like when at work you’re in a hurry to get a photocopy.  The machine knows if you’re stressed and picks that particular moment to break down.  That use to happen to me more times that I’d had hot dinners.

Sorry, I needed to use that expression, which generally means a lot.  That photocopy machine, back in the days when they were huge and almost a new fad, my task every Tuesday was to copy a 3 page shipping report, 300 odd times.  Not once did I get a clean run, not in the two years it was my job.

But…

Back to the weather.

My day to pick up one of the grandchildren from the railway station.  It’s not far from our house, on any other day it would take about ten minutes, but since this is after 3 pm, I have the other school traffic to contend with, the tradies going home, and late afternoon shoppers getting dinner.

It never used to be like that.  The road was a single lane that used to be blocked by floods when it rained, there was no shopping centre, and no new estates.  In 30 years everything has arrived, the road expanded to two lanes either side, and almost continual traffic jams.

There’s a story there somewhere, but for the moment I have to take on the traffic.  Maybe once I get to the station I might have time to consider it.

We’re out in the country

Or almost

When you venture out from the city, particularly, this city, you find yourself among the blocks that run to several acres, allotments that are ideal for keeping a horse or two.

Inner suburban living often runs to high rise apartment blocks, with no gardens, except perhaps on the roof.

Outer suburban living runs to individual houses on allotments that are from 600 to 2,000 square meters. We have not yet gone into mass building of duplexes or terrace housing because for the time being, we don’t have the population.

And, this is why you only have to go about 35 kilometres from the centre of the city to be able to buy acreage.

So, we are visiting, and on such a glorious end of winter day, it’s a pleasure to sit on the back verandah, spending some time soaking up the sunshine, breathing the country fresh air, and let the inspiration flow into writing.

It works.

I’ve manage to write another photograph inspired story, number 124, which will be published on my writing blog in the next day or so.

Also being tackled will be the next chapter of PI Walthensen’s second case.

Unfortunately though, the inspirational location didn’t afford me a title for this new case but it will have the opening three words “A Case Of…’

The rest, I’m sure, will come as the story unfolds.

Delving into the inspirational photo bin

Does a rainy, cold, miserable sort of day usually reflect your mood?

This was taken on the morning of the following day we arrived in the Gold Coast hinterland when we were staying at a cottage in the countryside.

Good thing we had a GPS to get us there.

Going away for a weekend, in winter, can be challenging.  Not always, but for some years now, we have been going away when it is winter elsewhere in the world, and thought nothing of minus temperatures, simply because our summers are very, very hot.

With the pandemic travel anywhere is all but closed down.  This was at a time when we could only travel up to 200 km from home, in a low-level set of restrictions.  It’s since changed to the whole of the state because the other state borders are closed.

But winter here is not as bad as winter on the other side of the world.  Wet, raining, it was still about 16 degrees celsius, so it turned out to be a weekend where we could just sit on the patio and watch the rain go by, a rather interesting phenomenon watching it and the low clouds pass by going up the valley.

I was trying to read a book, but it was one of those that required no distractions.  I’d also tried doing some crosswords, but that too required concentration.

And being in the middle of nowhere with nothing but hills, bush, fields, farm animals, macadamia nut plantations, and a river, there was plenty going on around us.

I still have to bring a fishing line the next time, and tackle fishing in the river.  Maybe I’ll catch a trout.