Four o'clock looms, and it could go either way. The Prime Minister could either decide that Auckland stays under the rack and screw of Level 4, or she could decide that… Auckland stays under the rack and screw of Level 4.
No one thinks we have a hope in hell of being given sweet release the Level 3. Ask the primary school kids driving their parents to despair with four solid weeks of their constant company, and they will chant like demons that we don't have a hope in hell. Ask the parents driven to despair (it's next to the liquor cabinet) with four solid weeks of the constant company of their small and delightful demons, and they will stare right through you into the deep abyss of hopelessness.
Four o'clock looms, and you never know your luck in a small town. Unfortunately Auckland is a big town, and our luck has run out, the chips are down, the house always win – we're not even gambling. What does Sky Casino look like when it's closed? Are the one-armed bandits holding hands in the dark? Is the roulette wheel spinning just for fun? Everywhere, closed; hard for the heart to bleed for Sky Casino, but what about all the other businesses, unable to make a red cent these past four weeks?
Four o'clock looms, and the good Dr Ashley Bloomfield is consulting his charts, taking Zoom calls with eminent men and women of science, drilling down the numbers, making Dr Siouxsie Wiles feel better for straying twice as far from home as David Clark, stirring his cup of tea thoughtfully as he wonders what advice to give the Prime Minister about Auckland's fate. He loves Auckland. He only wants what's best for us. He blows on his tea, and reaches for the rack and screw.
Four o'clock looms, and Auckland goes about its business. The weather is kind of awful, again. It rained in the night, it's cold, it's windy, the sky turns dark. The truth is that spring in Auckland is worse than winter in Auckland. It flies into a rage, it turns on the taps, it slams all the doors. It doesn't give af. It's a total bitch, a complete bastard. It swears in our face. It couldn't care less what the Prime Minister will decide. Spring hates Auckland.
Four o'clock looms, and the rest of New Zealand goes about its business, free as a bird. It sends the kids to school. It goes to the office. It sits in cafes. It buys things from shops. It goes for a Sunday drive, any day of the week; it hops on a plane; it takes out the boat. It's really quite unconcerned about Auckland, not in an angry way, or a heartless way, it's just that Auckland doesn't matter to their lives, and it knows it's got it better. It's how Auckland used to feel about the rest of New Zealand.
Four o'clock looms, and the Prime Minister meets with Cabinet. She listens carefully. When people compliment Ardern's communication skills, they only ever talk about how well and clearly she puts things into words, but actually her listening is sharper than her talking. On the 2017 campaign trail, she was given a guided tour of the Pink Batts factory in Penrose. A month later, while waiting for Winston Peters to decide whether he was Team Labour or Team National, she was asked, "What is a Pink Batt made out of?" She said, "Fibre and recycled glass." Correct. From what kind of glass? "Off-cuts of window glass." Correct. What temperature is the molten glass when heated? "Um - 1200 degrees?" The correct answer is 1300. Anyway, she'll listen to Cabinet, and then decide what she was always going to decide, and reach for the rack and screw.
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Four o'clock looms, and the spring wind blows through deserted Auckland. Beautiful, watery Auckland, city of salty mangroves and benign volcanoes, 1,630,092 people lucky enough to live here. Any day now, we shall be released. Just, you know, not today, or tomorrow, but maybe next week or the week after. Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy told the Herald, "Assuming everything else stays the same we will eliminate sometime in the next couple of weeks." Whatever, dude. We'll still be here. Summer is looming.