The politics of photo-editing and an unexpected spot of home dentistry. Kim Knight on week two of the second national lockdown.
It's the little things you miss. Barista coffee. The beach. A wisdom tooth.
We were lying on the couch watching Downton Abbey when my fiance started wiggling the tooth his dentist had advised to watch and wait.
"Don't you pull that out," I said.
"Oh," he said. No sign of infection or the tooth fairy, yet. Ditto Brussels sprouts, beetroot, mushrooms, tinned peaches, olive oil and instant noodles, all of which failed to arrive with our supermarket grocery delivery.
Also on hiatus: My eyebrows. They are faded to the same soul-sucking grey as the clouds that hung low over Auckland most of last week. Remember that lockdown we drank quarantinis in the sun? This time, @TweetOfGod asks: "Anyone know where I can get some 'shrooms?" (Answer: Not Countdown.)
It's two weeks since the Government decreed the country was in level 4 lockdown, following the discovery of one community-based case of Covid's Delta variant. By yesterday, the outbreak had grown to 562 cases, but still none in the South Island where the Mayor of Westland is unhappy with health officials and their one-size-fits-all response. Tomorrow, when he wakes up in level 3, he'll be able to buy McDonald's. Progress.
Did you see the printout of the heat map showing all the locations of known contacts linked to the current Covid outbreak? Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held up the A3 page
and, within minutes, the scene from the press conference reappeared on social media.
A non-authorised, nationwide game of "Edit That Heat Map" included Ardern holding signs that read "Die Hard is definitely a Christmas movie" and "Due to Covid 19 Hawke's Bay gets to keep the shield for the season". My personal favourite came courtesy of @BenThomasNZ, who wrote: "The true location of interest is the part of yourself you're afraid to acknowledge."
Faʻafetai, malo 'aupitoto and thank you to the Director-General of Health who, on Wednesday, looked directly into this country's rotten core. Dr Ashley Bloomfield declared the racism directed at people who did nothing more than go to church the Sunday before anyone knew Delta was here, as "disappointing and frankly gutless".
"It is our Pacific communities that have had the highest testing rates of any ethnicity," said Bloomfield. "And particularly in our outbreaks we see the testing rates go up very high, they're incredibly responsive."
The second week of our second national lockdown was all about the numbers. Swabs taken, contacts traced, vaccinations received and booked. Numbers to calm, obfuscate and justify. On Friday, Ardern wore a Cancer Society daffodil on her lapel and told Auckland to start thinking about two more weeks at level 4 - a decision confirmed yesterday afternoon. I realised we were totally going to run out of MasterChef Australia episodes before lockdown ended and burst into tears.
A friend rallied the troops for online drinks, but my mood was akin to that of Te Papa's chief executive, who had earlier declared a "particular kind of PMS" that her comms manager described as "Alert Level 5". Schoolteachers around the country reported zero Zoom attendance; a minister posted a prayer in praise of coffee.
By the weekend, everything was making me cry. Broadcaster and word man extraordinaire Max Cryer had died and so had British comedian Sean Lock and so would Lee "Scratch" Perry. Susie Dent, another celebrity who is good with words, posted "a reminder for those of us in need of a smile" that eggs used to be called cacklefarts and sausages were "bags of mystery". Across town, my British friend who hasn't seen his family for more than two years had bangers and mash for his birthday tea. Daily case numbers hit 82, then 83. On television, Ardern announced more money for welfare and told people to leave their bubbles if they were in danger and to call 111 and, if they could not safely speak, press 55. No two lockdowns are ever the same.
Less screentime, more projects. I walked longer and more often. Listening to the sheer glee of a kid whose dad moved into the middle of the street to take a running start at a traffic-calming speed bump made me wish we never needed cars again. Outside, the birds are getting bolder. Myna fuss on the footpath and, at night in my neighbourhood, you can hear ruru calling. In Christchurch, sea lion sightings have increased. In Wellington, police advised driving to see a pod of close-in orca was not considered essential travel.
I'm reading Meg Mason's Sorrow and Bliss. It is supposed to be funny but my throat catches when a character says this: "Nostos, returning home. Algos, pain. Nostalgia is the suffering caused by our unappeased yearning to return." It helps me understand why I can't turn on the radio in case I hear a song from a time when none of this was ahead of me.
My newest project is a tablecloth made from vintage scraps handed down through matriarchal linen cupboards. The stitching on the lace edging I am unpicking is very old and impossibly small. I wonder about the woman who took all this time and care and what she was thinking as she slowly but surely did the work that would last the distance.