Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Hurry up and wait!

I am just starting a new piece of work with the Dept of Conservation down in Hokitika - my favourite place! We were going to make our way down there, leaving home very early on Wednesday morning for the ferry departing at 0845. However on Monday afternoon we had a text and an email (comprehensive communication - lots of brownie points!) to let us know there were gale force winds forecast and it was likely the ferries on Wednesday and Thursday would be cancelled.


Our plan had been to wend our way to Stoke near Nelson and spend a few nights at Ann and Salvi's place, consuming their electricity, eating their food, basking in front of their fireplace and playing cards in person rather than by FaceTime (as we have been doing with much hilarity and pleasure since the beginning of lockdown back in late March).

So instead of waiting and seeing - see previous post which explains my impatience - ACP who is purportedly the one with patience (and obviously an endless capacity for uncertainty - that is sarcasm, by the way, in case you missed it in your outpouring of sympathy for said ACP!) that ACP (previously mentioned a couple of times in the same sentence) suggested I try to rebook when the weather was likely to have cleared. Dammit, almost every other passenger had the same idea but quicker than we did. All booked out on Friday and Saturday ... (Actually, it turns out it is the start of the school holidays - that's why they are all booked out.)

So we decided we ought to just suck it up and wait and see. Are you bloody kidding me?! Nah!! ACP gave it 5 minutes (that is the limit of his uncertainty tolerance timeframe [UTT]) then said he would try to book a passage on Sunday.

So we are booked at 0630 Sunday, with the latest check in at 0530. I think that means leaving home on Saturday afternoon and staying overnight at Plimmerton NZMCA camp so we do not have to be up quite so early.

Earlier that arvo, I had started setting out the clothing I will need while we are away - a bit hard on two counts:
* there is not much clothing space on board (remember that I did change the wardrobe into a pantry),
* I need casual clothing plus work stuff.

I hadn't taken it all out to the motorhome but had stacked it neatly on the bed.
  • x number of tops, 
  • x-4 skirts/work trousers, 
  • all of my jeans, lots of jerseys, plenty of socks
  • at least a week's worth of underwear
 Then the delay occurred. So did I put it all back on hangers and in drawers and do the exercise again in a few days' time? Nah. So, in between showers, some of it was stored in the motorhome and the rest was carefully stacked on the armchair in the bedroom.

Note to self, nothing has yet been identified as travelling clothes ...

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Reframing the impatience criticism ...

I read an article in the Washington Post this morning about a 69 year old man who recently died from COVID-19. He was obviously a well respected person.

Here is an excerpt:
Allen Lew ... built a generation of Washington landmarks as a hard-charging city administrator. From building the District's convention center to the Nationals Park baseball stadium and a massive rehab of the city's decrepit public schools, Mr Lew blasted through layers of bureaucracy, ignored rules that he said slowed progress and got big projects done in record time.

Clearly he was an amazing man with extraordinary talent in his field of endeavour.

One of the things that he was quoted as saying in a job interview was "I have a constructive level of impatience for getting things done." I am not saying that I am as talented as he was.

However I am saying that reframing ACP's criticism about my impatience has made me feel a whole lot better!

It is official and you read it here first:

I have a constructive level of impatience for getting things done!!

A direct copy from Micky Savage re the wonderful Ashley Bloomfield

I decided to copy and paste this blogpost that my friend Sarah posted in Facebook early this morning (I think she has trouble sleeping, so clearly I am not working her hard enough ...)
The person who wrote this, Micky Savage, has said what I have been thinking over the last week or so - however Micky says it much more articulately than I would. 
So here you go: 
In Defense of Ashley Bloomfield
Well the last week has been a real roller coaster.
Aotearoa New Zealand has gone from the ecstasy of we have no Covid to the agony that we, at the time of writing, have eight cases of Covid and the first two went on a road trip from Auckland to Wellington, hugged someone who went to a gym and who the f*ck knows where we are now.  So far there is no evidence of community transmission.  Long may it stay that way.
As I previously noted National went to town on the issue.  Michael Woodhouse chose to hold back releasing information about the road trip until the time that it would be of the most political damage.  Sure elements of the Ministry of Health may have also known it but letting the Minister know it immediately would have meant that Wellington could have put its foot down, insisted that the quarantine regime improves its performance, and hopefully reduced the risk of the virus spreading.  Delaying meant he had a great Gotcha moment but the risk of the spread of the virus has now been increased.
But Labour would have done the same I hear you wail.  They also seek to maximise political advantage over contributing to the public good.
I doubt it.
There is this example from 2015 when Andrew Little chose to go to John Key’s office to tell him that there was something remiss with National MP Mike Sabin.  No publicity, no point scoring, just a suggestion he sorts things out.  From my post at the time:
If you ever needed to see the difference between Labour and National then Labour’s handling of the issues surrounding Mike Sabin provides a perfect example.
One of the issues of significance is when did John Key learn about Mike Sabin’s difficulties.  If he knew before the election the question will be why was Sabin reselected and why he was offered the chair of the Law and Order select committee.  After all the media knew about an allegation of assault before the election and had asked questions of Key’s office.
Initially Key declined to say when he first knew of Sabin’s difficulties.  When asked on Friday January 30 he declined to answer this question.  Then on Monday he said that he knew Sabin was “facing personal and family issues” in mid December.  Then he said it was “early December“.  Then on February 3 he said he found out about the “issues” on December 1.
Andrew Little said yesterday morning that he had heard about the issues in late  November, shortly after he became leader.  He was confirmed leader on November 18.  When interviewed he was at a Labour Caucus retreat and did not have the details  with him.  He said that he was received from two sources information that a National MP was under Police investigation and made the decision to alert the Prime Minister’s office.  Little was confident that it was at the end of November, within 10 days of his taking up the role as leader.  By contrast Key had maintained that his office had been informed on December 3, and he made aware of the issue on December 1.  He also maintained that his office already knew about the issue before the time Labour had informed it.
This all turned to shyte for National after Labour supplied a phone log showing that a conversation between McCarten and Eagleson happened on November 26, 8 days after Little became leader and well before the dates Key initially maintained National knew about the issue.
Little also said that Labour did not intend to take the matter further, and they would not be telling anyone else.
Last week Labour chose to go on the counter offensive and said in Parliament that Chris Bishop had advocated for the two women to be released early.
Can I respectfully suggest this was a mistake.  Electorate MPs should be free to advocate on behalf of constituents or their families.  Political links should not be drawn.  I have spent a career advocating for drunk drivers, robbers, burglars, wife beaters and drug addicts.  This does not mean that I approve of their behaviour.
It does however add in a further time point.  It appears that these two women were on National’s radar for quite a few days.  I almost get the impression National wants the quarantine system to fail.
Woodhouse’s source of information appears to be from within the Ministry of Health.  It is a shame they have not put as much effort into doing their job as they have into the leaking of information.
Is Bloomfield to blame?  He feels like part of my extended family.  He has been at the centre of a public service attempt to do what no other nation in the Western World has done and that is give us an insulated but normal life.  In the near future it appears there will be no foreign travel except possibly to the Pacific but at least our communities will be normal and our hospitals and morgues not overrun by people dying from the virus.
Did Bloomfield personally stuff up last week?  Well no.  Auckland’s Health management of the detention areas has been appalling.  But unlike Superman Bloomfield cannot be expected to be everywhere at all times.
Further infections have appeared over the past few days.  But they are all infections from overseas and, apart from the two road trippers, detected while in quarantine.  Last week there were 3,567 people in quarantine or managed isolation so new cases are almost inevitable.
The usual cheerleaders in the media are complaining that things are too strict AND not strict enough.  Please make up your mind.
And hotel guests have expressed frustration.  With the greatest of respect, the world is facing a pandemic and we want to as far as possible keep it out.  Your personal discomfort is the price of maintaining this as best as we can.
Meanwhile we continue to have no detected cases of community spread.  Long may it last.
And to be frank the chances of New Zealand staying disease free are very low.  The virus is a bastard, easily spread and hard to detect.
When you compare what is happening in New Zealand to overseas you still have to marvel at what we have achieved.  The number of cases in the world continues to increase. (graph from Johns Hopkins).
And the US, China, Germany and Australia, the country National was previously cheer leading, have all had increases in their daily infection rates.
Paul Goldsmith’s claim this morning that it is the Government’s fault that because of problems at the border trade cannot resume is a joke.  Just look at the rates for China and India in particular.  Do we really want to resume trade with those countries.  And even Germany, who up to now have handled the outbreak with typical determination is facing a second wave of infections.
There is a legitimate expectation that New Zealand is as close to perfection in terms of its response to the Covid pandemic.  So far we are going pretty well.  Ashley Bloomfield deserves much of the praise.  And yes we as a country need to do even better.  There are a lot of kiwis returning home and some of them have the virus.
Can we do better?  Certainly.  Road trips by Covid infected recent arrivals should not happen.  But so far we can still be very grateful that we are doing as well as we are.
I for one continue to be very grateful of the efforts of Ashley Bloomfield.

Friday, 19 June 2020


The ACP still has ACP and is very much looking forward to it being removed on Tuesday.

The anaesthetic is still working its way out of his system and a nap is required each day. I am requiring a nap each day too, but I am not sure what my excuse is ... Age, probably.

Apart from that, and some pretty spectacular bruising across his belly, he is doing really well. For some reason, he does seem very pleased that he cannot do vacuuming and lawns for six weeks.

I can manage the lawns, but the vacuuming is a right pain - I may have to do a room a day so I can avoid wrecking my back!

We have been being quite social lately which has been lovely.

On Monday, Janneke and Nico called in briefly on their way home to Hastings, and as they arrived so did Bruce and Gary. The latter two stayed for lunch, but J&N were keen to get home, so they didn't even stop for a cup of tea, but once satisfied that David was doing well, they headed away.

Cards over FaceTime with Ann and Salvi on Tuesday, and again on Thursday.
Ann and I thrashed them in the team event ...
And on Wednesday I invited us to lunch at Joy and Grahame's - I did take some sourdough bread and cheese scones as part of the fare though. Cards with them (I lost big time!) before I took David home for a nap.

On Thursday my lovely sister Dee came to visit - she had chores to do or be done while Murray was at the hospital. Her chore was to complete their GST return at ours because the internet at the Airbnb is a bit flaky, mine was to apply the hair dye to her roots ...

And yesterday we had a small gathering of some of our Neighbourhood Watch group here for drinks and nibbles. David discovered that one of our neighbours also used to work at The Times Age newspaper in Masterton - she was there some years earlier than David, but the connection was lovely. And she knew David's dad.

Tonight we are going to Bruce and Gary's for dinner, so a nap is required. And before we go there is at least one game of cards with Ann and Salvi, and I have to make an orange syrup cake for dessert.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

ACP with ACP

Let me elucidate: A Certain Person has A Cathetered P_n_s

OK, OK, TMI, I know. But this is part of the process and nothing to be kept quiet about as if it is shameful, now is it?

So a catch up:
David's operation was successful - apparently the surgeon got the prostate out without cutting into any of it and the cancer had not breached the walls of the prostate. He was able to save the nerves on the left side (the continence nerves) and some on the right side (the potency nerves). See how informative I am, and how open ACP is about sharing this biology lesson?
From the window of the Hotel Intercontinental late on Wednesday afternoon. You may be able to see the thousands of birds circling and swooping before roosting for the night near the harbour in the city's trees.

Me - my best side ...

The tug

It is rather a beautiful harbour.
At 6am in the reception area at Wakefield Hospital. David had been told by the anaesthetist the previous evening that he needed to be warm. So he had 4 layers on his top, including a possum and merino jacket, plus possum and merino gloves and beanie.

I had planned to be fully occupied throughout the morning by
  • having breakfast with a friend - I breakfasted alone as said friend wasn't available until 9.30 and I was really hungry by 7.45am when I got back from seeing ACP be wheeled off to theatre
  • going to the osteopath - cancelled the previous day as the osteopath had a sniffle ...
  • doing some shopping - track pants for David that were roomier and softer than jeans - more difficult than you'd think as most track pants have large brand names all over them which is not the ACP's style, but plain and slightly larger than usually required track pants were purchased
  • finishing packing up stuff that seemed to have exploded out of ACP's overnight bag - always does for some reason, and gets distributed far and wide ...
  • checking out of the hotel
  • dropping my overnight stuff at the AirBnB that my sister Dee and her husband are staying at during his treatment at Wellington Hospital, and having a cup of tea with them, 
  • then I headed up to Wakefield Hospital to wait in David's room just after noon.
The operation did take far longer than I was expecting though, so instead of having a wait of about half an hour (expected and already longer than I wanted to be waiting) I was getting very worried when I hadn't heard from the surgeon by 3pm - slightly under 8 hours since I'd seen David being wheeled off to theatre!

When he finally called (at about 3.15pm after I had called his PA to get her to find out what was going on) he told me that David had been in the recovery ward for about 45 minutes already - AAARRRGGGHHH!!! And I had been worrying needlessly for 3/4 of an hour, dammit. I had attempted to take my mind off the wait by listening to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and the Last Word with Laurence O'Donnell. The news from the US does have a way of making me realise how lucky we are here in NZ, that is for sure!

Anyway, back to the main event: ACP's prostatectomy was performed using a robot named Da Vinci, and it was only the third time the surgeon had used it, so he (and his two trainers) took it very slow. Not very slow, but very very slow ...

As I have noticed before, David takes a fair while to come around after anaesthetic, so it was over an hour from when I heard from the surgeon before David was wheeled on his bed into his room. He was awake but pretty spaced out. Not surprising as more than 6.5 hours of anaesthetic would take some recovering from; plus I think he was full of local anaesthetic around his belly too for the six wounds and muscle wall punctures where the robotic arms were inserted.
The first photo ...

I can smile, he said, and so he did. Hey, Mr Spaceman!

I left him after about 3/4 of an hour and walked back down to where Dee and Murray are staying. Dee had the chardonnay cooling and a yummy dinner was ready soon after I arrived. Only one glass of wine as I was exhausted - only about 4 hours of sleep the previous night, so the couch was pulled out, my foam topper pad unrolled and spread out and my yummy cuddly snuggly giant sleeping bag was so inviting I got into it and felt instantly relaxed.

Just as I was going to sleep my phone rang and it was David. But could I hear him speaking? No. about 4 calls between us, still with my not being able to hear him speak, and I gave up using his number and called the hospital reception, who put me through to the nurse on the ward, who put me through to the landline phone in David's room and then went in to answer it and hand it to him. We had a lovely chat and he was feeling pretty good and very chatty (still a bit spaced out I think), but he did not remember that I had been there when he came back from the recovery ward! He made me promise I wouldn't tell Kirsty, as she would organise for him to go straight to the home ...

He made me laugh by telling me that it was my turn for hospital next and that I would definitely be going to Wakefield as I deserved it. I know what he meant, but I am not planning on needing surgery any time soon.

Lunch on Friday - note the plastic container with cheese scones that Dee and I made that morning. We gave one to David's nurse that day.

He improved in leaps and bounds (metaphorically speaking) over the next 36 hours with multiple walks accompanied by the nurses, and went from feeling like he'd like to stay in hospital for a week, to feeling happy to come home yesterday. The surgeon and the nurse were both satisfied he was ready, so after I'd helped him shower and dress, and packed his gear, and we'd had the discharge briefing on how to change the catheter bag if needed, how to operate the night bag (attaching and emptying and removing) and how to clean it, it was time for a very slow walk along the corridor to the lift, then out to the car.

It was a gentle drive home and even though the prescriptions had been faxed through to the local pharmacy, the script wasn't ready, so it was home and into bed for both of us - I knew David would need a lie down. But I hadn't realised just how tired I was - emotionally drained, I think.

Today has been peaceful and restful. The trick now, given he is feeling so good, is to remember to take the paracetamol every 5 hours or so.

I did think we might go and see a couple of friends today but decided to take it very easy. So we played 5 Crowns and he thrashed me 23 - 112, bastard! There'll be no mercy next time, I tell you!

David did offer to take out the rubbish bins, but I had already done that job. He is off heavy tasks for a few weeks. It is a bugger that I didn't get him to do the vacuuming and lawns before the operation, dammit!

However he did get a platter of crackers and hummus ready for a dinner snack (we'd had dinner for lunch), and he cleared the kitchen bench and started the dishwasher, so he is clearly on the mend and ready for small tasks to be assigned. I am planning on him being on making the first cup of tea in the morning. Shall I warn him or just make the request at 7am?

By the way, it is so nice having him safe at home.

Monday, 8 June 2020

In 3 hours it's Alert Level 1 for NZ

Yay!! Restrictions have ended and the only remaining constraint is that the border remains closed.

Well done, Team NZ and well done, Jacinda,  our wonderful leader!!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

A certain person is costing EVEN more money!

Those of you who regularly (at least over the last year or so) read this blog will be aware that last April was the start of fixing a certain person's (ACP's) issues with his eyes - some treatment was free, some we paid for.

Because we were so focused on ACP's eye issues last April in the weeks before we flew out to the UK, he didn't get his usual annual general health check.

That check generally includes a PSA blood test. Do you know what PSA stands for? Nor did we specifically. It is Prostate Specific Antigens. What is an antigen? - it's a toxin. What counts as normal in the PSA reading is anything up to 6.5, but the Ministry of Health's guidance for GPs states that no referral for investigative work should be made until the reading is above 10, unless there are other factors present. Other factors are generally found with a DRE - Digital Rectal Examination.

ACP's PSA reading had been increasing gradually up until 2018 but always the doctor's comment was N for normal. (We are interested to know why any reading for an antigen/toxin counts as normal, but more about that some other time.)

So, this year (with nothing to distract us apart from a global pandemic) ACP had his general medical check in April and asked for a DRE. And good thing he did, as apparently the prostate has grown and there was a nodule that the doctor could feel - nodules are not good! And the PSA test came back as 7.4. So that qualified him for a referral to a urologist for further investigations.

ACP and I had a discussion about the benefits of waiting to have the investigatory appointments done in the public system or paying to have them done significantly faster. While prostate cancer is slow moving, ACP does not like uncertainty and is in fact quite stressed by it. So it was easily agreed that we would go the private route, at least until the results were known and prognosis explained.

So our only outings during Level 4 and 3 lockdown were visits to clinics, one at Bowen Hospital for the MRI, and one to Wakefield Hospital for the biospy. We could do the required exchange of money on the internet ...

The diagnosis was that he has a stage 3 cancer of the prostate, and we agreed that of the two treatment options, the only one we were both comfortable with was surgical removal of the prostate. Neither of us was at all keen on him having 42 days of radiotherapy (apparently known coloquially as Spray and Pray ...), followed by a year of hormone treatment - our reluctance is so hard to fathom, don't you think? 

We also agreed that we were neither of us prepared to wait for surgery in the public system - in the main because elective surgery was on hold during Alert Levels 4 and 3 lockdown and the waiting list from pre-lockdown will necessarily be attended to first; and a stage 3 cancer is not as severe as a stage 4 or 5; and he would inevitably (and rightly) be moved down the list for more urgent cases.

So I am no longer retired! Not because we cannot afford this (we can), but because we need to make sure there are some cash reserves for if I get sick in the future. ACP I live with and love dearly has been informed he has used up his quota of our self funding insurance ...

The operation is scheduled for 11 June, and earlier this week he has been for a pre-op blood test and ECG. The day before the operation he has to take the godawful bowel prep to clean him out - so we won't be moving far from home then, will we?!

I am amazed, by the way, how phlegmatic and relaxed he is about the whole thing in the main, now that the uncertainty is over. As soon as he had the diagnosis he grew very calm. As I noted above, uncertainty does not become him.

We have told both our kids, and our families, and most of our friends. ACP has spoken with a few guys who have had prostate cancer with different therapies, and he has listened to an audiobook about saying goodbye to your prostate.

He is on a strict vegetables-only diet as instructed by our friend Lesley to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. It has worked for her so is definitely worth doing - it has been surprisingly easy to give up eating anything with a face!

ACP and I discussed whether I should write this post - we both believe that if it was fine for me to write about his eye issues then it is fine to write about this. And as we have let people know about it, we are finding how very prevalent prostate cancer is. So if this post encourages even just a few men to get into regular screening for PSA plus DRE once a year from the age of 35 (even if you have to pay for it) it is worth it to be more public.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Alert Level 2 today!

And we had friends around for dinner - just two of them, as the rules state no more than 10 may gather together at the moment, while we wait and see if our low infection rates continue with more and closer contact.

So Simon and Jane came for dinner. There was lots to catch up on and it was hard to resist the automatic urge to have hugs all round - we did resist though, and did elbow bumps instead. Amazing how warm and friendly an elbow bump can seem when hugs are not allowed!

Dinner was yummy!

We had beetroot and carrot salad (courtesy of David), a green salad, a kumara and orange salad with bacon and toasted slivered almonds, and a filo quiche thing made with sauteed onion, silverbeet (swiss chard to UK people), smoked fish, salmon, parmesan, eggs and cream with tasty cheese grated on top. It was all extremely yum.

Dessert was poached pears (a Jamie Oliver recipe that I adapted slightly - 3/4 of the sugar stated, probably about 1/4 cup chardonnay added to the syrup, and the syrup quoted for 2 pears/2 people was plenty for 4 with some left over awaiting the next guests on Monday).

I had declared that filo was too much faffing about, but it tasted so good I will have to keep using it, I think. There is enough left over for David and I to have it for tomorrow's lunch. I may even be able to do another pear each ...

By the way, we are not going to be exercising much of the new-found freedoms that come with Level 2 until we see how the infection levels pan out. We have had several days in the last week where there have been no new cases, and the Director General of Health is fairly confident we have no hidden cases waiting to pop up. But the counsel is to be careful, so as I noted above, we will be - waiting and seeing are the watch-words.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Alert Level 3

We continue in Alert Level 3 here in NZ. Zero new cases on COVID-19 here yesterday and no new deaths. That is excellent news on both fronts - my fear is though that it will be used in 2 ways:
  • the opposition party will say (as they already are) see, you overreacted!! And we can open up all of the economy right now, everyone can go back to work and we can all suffer while we repay the debt you have put us into with this blatant and obvious overreaction;
  • the public (or enough of them) will relax their vigilance, stop social distancing, forget their bubbles, and set off a new wave of infection, and set us all back to the beginning.
My fingers are crossed that the latter doesn't happen - it's too late for the former and they are already on their high horse, trying to destroy the government's good work, and spreading misinformation and lies - or to be more charitable: half-truths, or quarter truths.

And we have had people openly criticising the government for ruining the country by providing funds to businesses to pay workers and keep the businesses afloat - and then in the next sentence writing about how they have applied for and taken the money for their businesses even though they say they didn't need it and could have coped without it. Irony, dishonesty, lack of integrity.

I spent the last two days on the verge of vomiting since reading that stuff: I know it was despair and anger that was making me feel nauseous.

I knew that kind of greed and entitlement existed in the US and the UK, but I thought New Zealanders were better than that.

Apparently some are not.

Fortunately they are a small minority. However I do hope when borders open again that they bugger off and live somewhere else - I don't want to have to see them polluting this place.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Alert Level 3 - fingers are crossed!

Tuesday was our first day on Alert Level 3 and I gather that some people queued at McDonald's for hours to get one of their plastic breakfasts ... Why would you, I wonder? And BurgerFuel is in trouble for not having a sensible system to keep people in their cars and wait till texted to come and collect their burgers et al. Photos circulated on social media and news outlets of one franchise with heaps of (young) people waiting in a mass outside the shop. The police were called by a passerby, I gather. Please note, I have posted a comment for them asking them to get it sorted for the sake of the parents and grandparents of their customers and staff ...

For David and me and for most of the rest of the country, nothing much changes at AL3 - we are still required to maintain our bubbles but we can allow one more person into it if necessary, we are still required to stay home as much as possible, only going out for supermarket shopping, pharmacy and doctor's visits. We can shop on line or by phone and have deliveries or click and collect - but it all has to be contact-less.

About 400,000 people have gone back to work but need to maintain social distancing, safe work practices from a COVID-19 non-spreading pov, and any business they do with the public has to be contactless.

We are happy to stay at home - it's lovely here. And now that the frustration of the sourdough starter has been overcome, I am dead keen to keep making bread - we just aren't eating it fast enough!
The second loaf - even yummier than the first, but not as crusty because I hadn't put the oven tray in to drop it on to after the first 15 minutes or so.

Doesn't that look great?

I have discovered two ways that I love this bread though - both toasted: one with baked beans, and the other which I did on Tuesday, is with creamy mushrooms (garlic and mushrooms sauteed in butter until tender, then add a teaspoon or so of powdered vegetable stock, some chopped parsley and thyme, and a bit of salt; then add about 100ml of cream. I thickened the sauce with a couple of teaspoons of flour shaken up with water in the empty cream bottle. Yummo!! It was even healthy (almost), served with beetroot and carrot salad and a green salad.

Note to self: put mushrooms and cream on the supermarket list.

I have got rather brave - foolhardy perhaps - and gave my hair a trim with the clippers a week or so ago - only took off a 1/4 inch using the method of doing it a section at a time and holding the hair out between two fingers to just have the requisite 1/4 inch showing above my fingers and then trimming that off. Worked quite well and looked reasonable all round. Thanks to big Neil in Cornwall for sending me the youtube video on how to cut your own hair (if you're a guy ...)

Then on Saturday I decided that it needed doing again and I got a bit bold. I used the clippers with the 1" measuring comb on, and managed to take a bit much off on one side behind my ear ... It looks fine from the front and that is all that counts really ... And it's not like I'm going out anywhere, is it?

It's all in how you hold your mouth ...

Sally our gardener came on Tuesday and did a big weeding job (with appropriate social distancing) in the rose garden beside the driveway and from the side garden she took out a stack of liriope, planted some beside the trellis by the motorhome, handed some over the fence to Jillian and delivered some to my friend Jane on her way home. There is still a lot of it in situ... Rob planted it a few years ago as a border/skirt around the ponga, but the ponga died a couple of years ago when the summer was just too hot and it had no shade. Now the liriope skirts nothing but hosts lots of grass, bugger it. So it had to come out. I think I am going to fill that area with canna lilies, camellias and hydrangeas. And the camellias will get regular haircuts so they don't grow to 30 feet which they tend to do here in Waikanae!

While in lockdown, I have been re-reading my blogposts from when we first came here. I remember Grahame from over the fence telling me not to worry about pruning hard because he said everything grows madly here. He was so right! I have quite a bit of it to do as soon as I can get my arse into gear...
Those camellias had been trimmed down to below the level of the fence when Luke and Rob first attacked that piece of the garden. They now need another severe trim. The sapling on the front left with the big long leaves is a native fushcia - it is self sown and probably about a year old...

Not a single one of these shrubs was in situ when we arrived. The big tree was, and was much bigger and has been severely pruned - it's hardly pruning when it requires chainsaws and ropes though. This is the piece of garden that Rob and Luke cleared of 12 trees, multiple elephant lilies, 6 woolsacks of tradascanthia.  The rest of the big plants have been in place probably 3 or 4 years or so, apart from the grape vine (the yellow autumnal one on the left) which has been in a couple of years. The smaller ones were planted just before lockdown.
And I am not posting photos of the camellias in the front or the side garden as that will give you the idea that Waikanae is triffid country!

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Family stuff in lockdown

Our son Tim and his partner Dana are living on nb Waka Huia at the moment - they are at North Kilworth Marina which they tell us has the most wonderful facilities. They have planted some of the salad greens seeds I had left over in a drawer in the galley and they are coming up nicely in the warm spring sunshine. They have done a giant clean of the vinyl on the floor throughout the boat - I have always hated that vinyl: it is a woodgrain look and was laid cross ways so the ridges in it are across the narrows, so to speak. That makes it impossible to keep really clean unless you do it on hands and knees, which is exactly what Tim and Dana have done. I've done that once, but then decided that sterilising and bleaching the dirt was easier and less painful a process. But Tim is going to replace the vinyl for us which we are delighted about. I do need to see what he thinks I would be happy with though before he purchases! Got that, Tim?

For a while, until he went back to work as an essential worker, they had the boys with them. But a couple of weeks ago now, Tim took the boys back up to Dalry to their mum, Marta.

Even though both of the boys are very social animals and are separated by 5 years in age, they have kept busy quite happily together. I understand that they have been cooking meals, and when I saw Olek this morning on his bi-weekly maths session with David, he didn't look like he was malnourished ...

One day Olek apparently asked his mum if she needed the timber in the basement, because if not, he had an idea... Karol has long had the desire for a treehouse, and Olek thought they could make one. So a couple of phone calls for advice and to score some coach bolts, and away they went. Marta said it took 4 half days. As Marta described it: Olek had the idea, Karol had the desire and Marta had the materials. And the three of them did the planning and construction.
The first crossbar/support is up and Olek is clearing the branches that are in the way of construction.
Three crossbars are in place. Marta said the first one took a couple of hours but once they got the idea, the others went up much much faster. Olek still on trimming ...
Framing in place - look at that beautiful blue Scottish sky!!

Marta using the multi-tool to trim

The flooring is going on and Karol is going up to check it out. And Olek is off to fetch something else.

Karol carefully using the saw to cut the platform pieces - I am sure Marta was within a couple of feet to effect a rescue if required!

Platform on, support struts bolted in place, one happy boy. See how the branch comes through the platform?
I understand that a guard rail is the next step as Karol wants to be able to sleep out there on summer nights - rolling over could be disastrous. However they could reposition the trampoline, I guess...

What a great thing to do during lockdown!

David and I had a call with Marta and Karol after the construction project and somehow I managed to touch a function on the screen that allowed different faces to be attached to those on the call. I started out with a dragon face that breathed fire - excellent! But we didn't know how to do snapshots of it at that point. We did get these though ...

Marta and Karol at the top, David as Pizza face and me with the quiff (?!?) - it was in the morning for us and we were still in bed ...

On Friday last week David turned 71 - hard to believe but it's true.

I made this cake for him - banana with lemon cream cheese icing, sultanas and toasted pumpkin seeds. Very yummy!

Ann made a cake for his birthday too and they put up decorations! So we celebrated by FaceTime. Lovely friends. They had to eat the cake themselves though - Ann deliberately made it only half-sized to save them from themselves, sensible woman.

David and I had cake and bubbly with Bruce and Gary by FaceTime later that day.

The following day would have been David's dad's 93rd birthday.
Cake for breakfast to celebrate John's birthday on 18 April. This photo was for Ginny.
To save us from eating half a banana cake each in this time of social distancing with Cafe Rata closed, I did a swap with Bruce and Gary - a large chuck of the remaining cake for feijoas; plus I took a slice over to Kay. That just left a decent sized piece each for dessert.

Today I sampled the latest lot of tomato soup that I made a few days ago with the acid-free tomatoes delivered by Penray Gardens late last week. It was so yummy I rang to see if they still had some. Yes, they do, so 3 boxes are being delivered tomorrow and more soup and probably more chilli chutney and possibly some capsicum chutney will be made.

Life under lockdown is plenty active enough, I reckon, and there is still heaps I could do out in the garden when the desire to weed and trim and plant overtakes me - yeah, right! Like that'll ever happen!

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

A science experiment - spoiler alert: better results than hydrochloroquine

As those of you who know me can attest, I am not a science nerd by any stretch of the imagination. I am married to a boffin and it is his role to be the one who investigates/trials/experiments.

My role is to be the action woman and just get things done.

However, in the climate of Alert Level 4 and being isolated in our bubble, as well as being pissed off at failing in the sourdough starter stakes, I got a bit caught up in chasing success.

Pip from nb Oleanna had suggested adding a red cabbage leaf to the starter. I did, and after a couple of days, success was mine!! I feel a bit like Billy Connolly - I should be proclaiming this loudly and with lots of swearing from a stage. But you will have to do as my audience. Of course, I have emailed photos to Bernice the Mean, and she has been suitably and kindly encouraging, providing me with much needed positive reinforcement. So I am in the process of changing her name by deed-poll to Bernice the Okay Really...
Very few bubbles
So back to the experiment:

A few nights ago (I am losing track of time), but quite late for me, I sent Bernice an email requesting urgent advice - the red cabbage leafed starter had expanded exponentially in its jar in the airing cupboard, so I needed to know if I could take it out of the cupboard and leave it overnight. Yes, she replied immediately (further changes to deed-poll application: Bernice the Prompt and Okay Really). So out it came and sat on one of the hall bookcases overnight.
A red cabbage leaf and lots of bubbles!! Yay!! Back on went its paper towel cover and it sat on the bookcase overnight.
Late the following morning, I decided to split the starter instead of discarding half of it before feeding. So I divided it roughly into 3 and fed each portion the same amount of flour and water, but two of them had room temperature water from our filter jug and one had tepid water from the tap. One of the two had a new cabbage leaf stuck in it. The others were autumnally deciduous.

The experiment is comprised of three starters all of which are labelled - good grief, I sound like David ... The bowl has the cabbage leaf in it.
Fast forward (but not really - nothing in this bloody bread-making process is fast...) about 28 hours, having checked a few hours before that all portions were active and rising, I pulled them out to do the float test. Yay!!! The first one was floaty-ish - the biggest part of the spoonful stayed on the top, but the strandy bits sank. But I counted that as success.

So on to the second portion - sank without protest to the bottom.

And then on to the third vegetated portion - AAARRRGGGHHH - I had left it too long, a skin had formed over the submerged part of the red cabbage leaf, and underneath it, the leaf colour had leached into the starter. Down the sink with that one, leaving two to be fed and watered again and back in to the airing cupboard for the night.

In the early afternoon of the following day (the next one after the one I wrote about - 4 paragraphs back) I checked again, and the one that had floated the previous day was even more floaty, so I decided I should be able to start making bread sometime in the next millenium. So I fed it, put it back in the airing cupboard thinking I would wait till the following day to make the leaven (poolish is what Chris Verburg calls it). But my patience was running out, so that evening, and quite late for me, I decided that the starter had foamed and bubbled enough in the few hours since I'd fed it for the umpteenth time, and so it was on to making the leaven.

I should not really do stuff late in the evening that I have never done before and that I am nervous about. I tend to hit the wall tiredness-wise and I get tetchy (OK, tetchier ...) and only able to focus on one thing. Being given instructions from the sidelines by someone who never uses the scales but apparently knows exactly how they work is not conducive to my completing the task with any degree of equanimity. Enough said. So a portion of the floaty starter into a bowl; flour weighed, water weighed and added and stirred to mix. Shower cap cover fixed on top and the whole thing put into the airing cupboard. The remaining starters fed again (I am hedging my bets and continuing the experiment in case the floaty one decides not to work); starters placed beside the hopefully-about-to- burgeon leaven.

An apology given to the scales expert and off to bed I go with a calming cup of chamomile.

Yesterday morning, I cautiously peered in to the airing cupboard to find that the leaven had really and truly done its thing in a big way, so on to the bread making I get - excited, but nervous. And I tell you it is difficult to do any kind of kitchen stuff with your fingers crossed! And the kitchen was a bit Piccadilly Circus-like yesterday as I had tomato and chilli relish (cooked the previous day) to reheat, blitz, then reheat and bottle; a huge amount of vegetables to chop and juice; and mushroom stroganoff to prepare (task assigned to David).

I decided that it was probably better if I printed out the sourdough instructions so that when David comes to use the laptop with the stroganoff recipe I am not also wanting it ...

So the next first of countless steps in the actual bread-making task is to mix in the carefully weighed flour and the carefully weighed (yes, weighed!) water that is at a specific temperature. So actually the first job is to find a thermometer. OK, found, but not that useful as below about 30 deg it just says Lo (without a w). Request follows to David to find the one he uses to register room temperatures. Yay, he finds it, once he knows what it is I am asking for - somehow my functioning use of language diminishes when I am in a hurry and his understanding reduces when I am in a hurry ... So the water is weighed and has its temperature taken.

The water is added to the leaven and stirred to mix, then the flour is added and squidged in with my hands, swapped in to a bigger bowl because I realise that if any expansion is to take place the smaller bowl will be overflowing, and the dough is turned and stretched a few times; shower cap put back on and into the airing cupboard.

There follows a process that is more demanding than a wakeful baby - wait for an hour to add the salt, turn, stretch and fold: turn, stretch and fold.  Then every half hour for 4 hours: turn, stretch and fold several times, replace the shower cap, place back in the airing cupboard. Then leave it for at least 30 minutes to relax - WTF??

Before we played cards with Ann and Salvi, the dough was ready to be shaped, so out it came on to a floured bench and I hoped that I was doing it right, having been taught a couple of years ago by Sarah and in October last year by Chris. You have to put your hands on the far side of the dough and then pull it gently towards you, repeatedly. It looked and felt pretty good, so back in a floured bowl I put it and left it to rise in the airing cupboard. Instructions said 2 - 3 hours or overnight.

After cards and yummy dinner, I checked the dough and it had risen hugely, so I decided to cook it even though it was getting late for me (see note above re me and hitting the wall...) I turned on the oven, put in the cast iron pot to heat for 30 minutes, and waited.

Then I realised that Chris uses baking paper in the pot, and I hadn't put baking paper in the shaping bowl - could I tip it on to baking paper before I put it into the pot? Quick email to Bernice (I must get her phone number!) and a quick reply yes I could. So I did, but bugger and deep depression: the dough sort of squoodged and lost its shape. But in a fit of "well, F*uck it if it doesn't work" I lifted it up and put it in the pot, sprayed it with a bit of water, put the lid on and grumpily closed the door.

Bernice's instructions say not to open the door for 15 minutes, so I followed that instruction then when the time went off I gingerly looked in. Yay!!! It had risen in the intense heat. Lid off, loaf taken out of the pot, a roasting tray with water in placed on the rack below the bread and the timer set for another 25 minutes.

And here is the result:
I didn't succeed in cutting clean slashes across the top once it was in the pot unfortunately, but who cares?

Once it had cooled on the rack, I cut a couple of slices for late night taste testing - verdict: very yummy indeed. This morning we had it toasted with baked beans - delicious.

I think sourdough bread making is a bit like giving birth in that you forget the pain (or it recedes in your mind) once your eyes light on the loaf or baby, whichever ...

I'll give it another go. And I am giving one of the starters to Bevan today - it'll be left in their letterbox along with a jar of chilli tomato relish when I get up and go for a walk.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Is this what friends are for, I ask??

Yesterday I received an email with the subject line: Just to annoy you. The content was this:
The caption under the photo in the email was: My starter this morning.
I emailed back: You are a bitch!

I will leave you to guess who sent the photo - she has a blog which is how she and I connected and how we came to invite them to come and stay on the boat with us, and how we taught them 5 Crowns, and took them on a jolly cruise down to the top of the Tardebigge Flight of locks and suggested they stay on the boat while we went off for David's eye operation in Birmingham.

And that is how she repays me! Talk about insensitive. As I said: bitch.

Here is how my starter has looked:
Quite lively after the first couple of days

Fed and it seemed happy enough to me
But then it did its flatlining thing.

Pip from nb Oleanna (she has a blog too) suggested putting in a red cabbage leaf. Did that yesterday afternoon, as noted in the previous post.

I sent Bernice (the mean one) this photo last night:
And I headed it: Still life with vegetables
You may note that the container behind the jar is magnesium capsules - of which I think I may need lots if this streak of failure continues...

PS Bernice (corrected the spelling, because that is a kind thing to do) has said that as soon as post shops open again, she will send me some of her starter, so she isn't totally mean, just mocking. 😈

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

In went the red cabbage leaf

OK, this is its last chance! That bloody sourdough starter has been fed and watered, stirred, patted, checked on - it has had more attention than David has, and still it flatlines.

But today, a day earlier than expected, our vege market people have delivered the vegetables and fruit, and in one of the two boxes was a red cabbage.

Pip from nb Oleanna commented on the last post and suggested adding a red cabbage leaf to the starter. So I have.

Watch this space ...

Monday, 13 April 2020

My patience is running out

No, not about being in lockdown - that is fine. What's not to like? We play cards with friends every day or so by FaceTime or WhatsApp; our supermarketing is done by our friend Wendy, and there is almost unlimited opportunity for blobbing and reading.

The busiest times of course are the afternoons when we need to watch the COVID-19 updates from Jacinda and/or Ashley Bloomfield or the Commissioner of Police or the CEO of Civil Defence or the Finance Minister, always followed by some good questioning and some crap questioning by the media reps.

For David in particular there is a clash at 1pm now because he likes to watch Rachel Maddow and that is when Jacinda is on ...

So, back to the topic: my patience is running out on developing a sourdough starter.

It is now 6 days since I faithfully followed Bernice's instructions and put the requisite flour and water in a  jar and squidged it around with my hands, covered it with a paper towel and left it on the bench. Each day I have checked it for bubble development, and there have been some, but never enough.

I consulted Bernice again, sending photos and asking questions. Ditch some of it and refresh it with more flour and water, she counselled, and be patient.

Instructions followed, hopes risen, but that's the only thing that rose - the sourdough starter has flatlined. Refresh again, stir again, wait again. Put a rubber band around the jar at the level it is when you have just refreshed it - mine was refreshed an hour ago and it is already a third bigger, she says. Well, bully for you, Bernice, mine is increasing marginally, if that. And it's probably just the bits on the side of jar using osmosis to settle next to friends.

It will be ready for use when a spoonful of it floats if dropped into lukewarm water, she says. Quite a few bubbles, so maybe it is ready, Nope, sank like a stone.

Yesterday I got another message from Bernice saying there is a woman on the radio who now has a baking blog, and her starter took 12 days to be ready for baking.

As I said to Bernice, I am going to have to give up soon, as my supply of white flour is going to run out - I only have about 15kg left!!

Bernice wanted to send me some of hers, but the post office is only delivering essential mail and I don't think a sourdough starter counts somehow!

I'll give it 12 days, just for the fun of it, but I have no expectation that it'll ever turn into a viable starter. Perhaps pessimism is the best response as I won't be disappointed ...

Update on Tuesday: Last night before coming to bed, I put an additional spoon of flour and water and stirred, as instructed. This morning, no growth, easter's promise has not been fulfilled, it has flatlined once more and there were absolutely no bubbles at all. So I emptied out a couple of spoonsful of it, put in a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of water, stirred and put the paper towel back over. No need to move the rubber band as no change ...


Sunday, 12 April 2020

NZ's pandemic response

I posted this on fb just now in response to a comment about the science NZ is using in its response to the pandemic. It was too well thought out 😆😏😚😜 to languish on facebook so I thought I would post it here too so those of you not living in NZ can see what is occurring here and why it is working (so far, fingers and toes crossed).

We don't have it perfect, but the response here is a great example of what can be achieved with a great leader - thank you, Jacinda!!

I think there are a number of countries doing reasonably well by, as Jacinda said 'Going early, going hard' in locking down the borders, locking down movement within the country so people stay in their bubbles and only essential businesses remain open (effectively only supermarkets and pharmacies - there has been some loosening for a few companies' online sales of essentials, but not the full range of goods) and by making sure that people have certainty of income, not 100% of it but enough to cover costs, a variety of mortgage holidays, a freeze on rent increases and evictions, small business protection. In terms of income protection it is a high trust model the government is using, i.e. businesses have to commit to passing on the money for wages to staff and sign that their details can be made public. So when people report that they have not been paid, MBIE (Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment) investigates and business owners can be named and shamed ... In addition, the police have an increase in powers to arrest people who breach the social distancing/gatherings instructions. They are only doing so for repeat offenders. They are turning people back at roadblocks who were 'just out for a drive' and a number of people who thought they'd take their motorhomes away for Easter (not us, by the way) and sent them 300kms back home ...

Re the science, the NZ model is to eliminate the virus here, to have it naturally die out as the infected people recover and do not pass it on because they have stayed in their bubbles during lockdown. That will mean until a vaccine is available either the borders remain closed or the continuation of strict at least 14 day quarantine is imposed on people coming in (as it is now for returning NZers who are the only people allowed in - it's amazing how many NZers were overseas when this broke out about 40,000 returned in the first couple of weeks, were allowed onward travel to their homes and went into self isolation. Now that the number has slowed, people are accommodated in Auckland hotels at the government's cost and self isolating or quarantined, depending on whether they are asymptomatic or symptomatic. Re the 40,000 Jacinda was asked a few days ago why early returners weren't isolated or quarantined in Auckland and Christchurch, our international airports. Her response then was about the 40,000 and she explained that we don't have 40,000 hotel beds across the country let alone in those two cities, so that would have been impossible - and it was a risk that had to be managed in a different way.)

As we understand it, the government had a pandemic plan in place prior to this kicking off, and is taking advice from NZ's chief health scientists who are garnering information from across the globe, and constantly assessing it based on outcomes and modelling, etc. They are taking advice from the police, from physical and mental health professionals, educators, heads of government departments - the All of Government team who get input from all spheres of NZ society, from primary industries and businesses. So the planning is massive and all encompassing - but people's welfare is at the heart of the response.

I think one of the key things that has made a huge difference here is the quality of communication with the public - we have daily briefings from Jacinda (until Easter she fronted every day's press conference but has had a couple of days off) and the Director General of Health (Dr Ashley Bloomfield - we are on first name terms with him now ...) or the National Director of Health (to give Ashley a day or two off), plus the Police Commissioner and the CEO of Civil Defence, The Finance Minister was on most days at the beginning giving details of the financial aid packages being implemented, then the Minister of Education was on to set out the plan for providing the tools for home schooling. They have all been patiently and expansively answering questions (even the same ones every day ...), setting out the thinking, being encouraging, being straight, being compassionate and attending to everyone's needs, even those of kids with Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy being deemed essential workers. 

There was a mail-drop in the first days of the lockdown with a poster for every household setting out the Alert Levels and their conditions and the expectations of us (ours is on our fridge). There has been guidance for supermarkets on physical distancing, safety for staff ... Now, more than halfway through the minimum 4 week lockdown, guidance is being given for the conditions for moving from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 - which businesses will be allowed to open, under what conditions, what do businesses need to be putting in place, how will they attend to the H&S needs of their staff, customers, supply chain, ...

The police are doing their job as upholders of the law and as well as that, making and posting funny videos, receiving and posting funny videos made by kids, visiting kids having birthdays with no presents, delivering groceries to the elderly. Their brief is to deal with the outliers who are sure the rules don't apply to them, while commending those abiding by the law and putting a human face to law enforcement.

So the science only goes so far, whatever the science is that is being attended to. (Check out thespinoff.co.nz)
But the keys to success are:

* having a well thought through plan that addresses the priorities in risk order, and sticking with it
* making adjustments as required - in project management speak we call that 'eating the elephant one bite at a time' 

These two are achieved by:
* having an excellent team in place where everyone knows their role, is trusted to get on with it, and expected to deliver incrementally and overall
* having a gifted leader who picks the team, delegates appropriately and leads from the front, the side, behind - wherever is appropriate for the moment

Their job is:
* making sure people are protected and cared for, physically, financially, emotionally
* being honest with the public - and being firm, being clear
* making sure that all of us know we are stakeholders in this, engaging us and aligning us in the job of eliminating the virus
* being clear that there is a plan for coming out of the other side of this and putting the country back on its feet, and acknowledging that there will be some hard yards ahead
* communicate, communicate, communicate

So there you have it - my brief essay on NZ's response. I am very pleased to be here, in the capable hands of this government and its amazing leader. Thank you, Jacinda and team!