Everything is in a mess, again and, on the stroke of midday on Wednesday, when lockdown level 3 came into force, I got up and left the house to try to do something about it. I put on gumboots and a pair of old pants, grabbed a rubbish bag and gardening gloves and hoofed it down the street and around the corner to Henderson Creek.
Everything is in a mess, again and probably will be for some considerable time. I don't mean to sound pessimistic but, you know, we're doomed. No one was on the street and no one was at the park on the edge of Henderson Creek. Deserted cities, deserted towns; just one of the various assorted iterations of that lousy state of affairs known as the new normal.
Everything is in a mess, again and it can just feel like it's too much. The stories and pictures on Tuesday night and all of Wednesday, of fights at supermarkets, of Aucklanders trying to escape to the Coromandel, of queues outside testing stations (one woman crying, saying she'd waited five hours and felt sure she was symptomatic) – the team of five million is fraying. There's a stand of pine trees at the edge of the park and their needles were golden in the sunlight.
Everything is in a mess, again and all you can do is toe the line, stay home, shut up, get on with it, do the right and rational thing. God, that's boring and you have to admit that crazy people are at least having more fun in their response to Covid-19, with their accusations and fantasies and imaginative conspiracies. A pox on them, I suppose - but they lighten the mood. A small hill rolls down to a mangrove forest. Henderson Creek is on the other side of this dense and beautiful mangrovia.
Everything is in a mess, again and I'm to blame. When director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and other experts warned New Zealanders against complacency, they were talking about me and everyone else who likewise couldn't be bothered getting a test, who didn't contact trace, who weren't prepared for a second wave of community transmission. I was at the creek not so much to atone but to do a small, good thing. I got out my rubbish bag and started picking up litter.
Everything is in a mess, again, at Henderson Creek. Litter and illegal dumping are an everyday eyesore all throughout Auckland, on motorway and suburban roadsides, at just about every shopping centre and along much of the length of its urban estuarine waterways - the isthmus is dissected with mangrove creeks, their tides shuffling in and out towards the Manukau and Waitematā harbours. The tide had dragged itself in when I got to Henderson Creek. There had been a storm and a heavy rainfall the previous few days, so the water was running brown. But it's never less than a beautiful zone of silence and shadow in mangrovia. Nothing stirred, nothing moved; there was a pleasant breeze but mangroves are too sturdy and squat to bend to the wind. The smell of the mud was rich and tangy. The leaves of the mangrove trees, Avicenna marina, were a pale green, delicate and kind of furry. Yes, so lovely, except there was rubbish, everywhere.
Everywhere, rubbish and litter, plastic and cans, bottles and wrappers, of all the things I like – Coke, chocolate biscuits, iceblocks, Cadbury. The rubbish bag was ripped and kind of useless but I found a bucket and used that to collect litter, taking it back up the hill to tip in a council bin in the park, then returning to fill it up again. A length of hose, a doll's head, a birdcage …You never know your luck in a mangrove creek. Once I found $5! Actually in all my years picking up litter out of mangrove creeks, that remains the highlight. But on Wednesday I found a homemade bong. It might come in handy after this year's referendum.
Everything is in a mess, again and filling up four buckets of litter in Henderson Creek doesn't actually contribute to making the situation any better. It barely makes a lick of difference to Henderson Creek. There's always going to be more rubbish, more litter, more horrible things dumped on the world – it's too much, we're doomed, but sometimes it's enough to hang on to life as a series of small, good things.
Next Week: Siena Yates