In the Middle of Macadamias
Following feedback from various sources I have decided to re-visit this book and re-write it. This has also been prompted by the fact that I am currently recording reading it for audio broadcast on our local radio station, Coast Access Radio (NZ 104.7). The resulting half hour episodes are broadcast on Sundays at 18.00 and repeated on Wednesdays at 15.00. The episodes are also available at any time via podcast on http://www.coastaccessradio.org.nz.
My aim is to have the book ready for re-publication by the end of August 2020. As with Book 1 – ‘In the Middle of Nowhere’ all proceeds will go to Medecins Sans Frontieres.
I hope that you will accept my apologies for any inconvenience this break in publication may cause.
It seems hard to realise that we have been under some form of lock down for nearly 11 weeks. As from midnight last night (8th June) we have moved to Level 1, which means that all internal restrictions have been removed and only strict border controls remain. Even under the 4 weeks of Level 2 we have been able to go to restaurants, go to shopping malls and the cinema. We used the train to travel to Wellington one day and just had to obey the seat spacing instructions to maintain social distancing. Under Level 1 these social distancing rules have been removed and therefore restaurants and transport can revert to full capacity. Hand sanitising will continue to be encouraged and we should continue to record our movements, either by ‘phone app or by filling in the paper logs available at restaurant and store entrances.
Initial reports are that the economy is already making a recovery and certainly the number of people flocking to the shops and spending money seems to reflect this trend. The tourist industry is still reeling from lock down but Kiwis seem to be keen to ‘get out there’ and put money into local businesses and not least the tourist trade. There is certainly plenty to see and do in this relatively small country. Claire and I are doing our bit by going to New Plymouth for a few days.
Meanwhile the rest of the world still seems to be in the thick of it and our thoughts go out to all those who have been much more directly effected than we have.
Following 4 weeks of strict Level 4 lockdown and then 2 weeks of Level 3, we now move to Level 2 as from midnight tonight, Wednesday 13 May. With statistics of just under 1,500 cases and only 21 deaths it looks as if the firm lockdown restrictions are working, although there is obviously no room for complacency. Converted to a level playing field, our cases represent 310 per million of the population and deaths of 4 per million. Compare this to the UK where the figures are 3,330 cases per million and deaths are 482 (!).
Under Level 3 we have been able to buy takeaway coffee and scones at hastily adapted serving hatches at local cafes, but all on a ‘no cash, no contact basis’. Junk food devotees have also been besieging burger vendors like McDonalds.
Under Level 2 most shops and businesses will be open but customers will be carefully controlled in both numbers and personnal spacing. Traders will have to keep a record of customers’ names and addresses for potential tracing in the event of a new outbreak. We will see a big step back to pre lockdown normality but it will still depend upon individuals sticking to the rules, and evidence shows that unfortunately there are always many who won’t.
For us it means that we can have our son and daughter-in-law round for dinner and our local cinema is also opening. Like many people we speak to, we look forward to spending money to support local businesses and services now they will be open again.
If you haven’t been in Australia or New Zealand on the 25th April you are probably unaware of the significance of ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day. It marks the start of the first significant military action undertaken by the combined force in WWI. Troops were landed on the beaches at Gallipoli on the 25th April 2015 with the aim of crossing the hills to the east and taking control of the Dardanelles, thus opening a route for the Allies to the Black Sea. The ensuing battles with the Turkish army lasted until the end of the year, when the Allied forces abandoned the campaign but only after terrible losses on both sides.
Nowadays ANZAC Day is commemorated here much like Armistice Day is remembered each year in the UK. In towns and cities across the country there are solemn dawn services, and much like the UK, each year sees a continuing desire to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom.
With Covid-19 restrictions still firmly in place, all services and gatherings have been banned this year, but tv and on-line programmes have done much to fill the gap. We also normally buy and wear poppies on ANZAC Day but, of course, this year this has not been possible. In true Kiwi spirit many letter boxes and windows are displaying a range of home made poppies, the most effective, perhaps, being those cut out from a certain supermarket’s bright red re-useable shopping bags. In order for the public to pay their respects we were encouraged to stand outside at 06.00 this morning. It was heartening to see many of the neighbours out at such an early hour as the sky started to lighten with the sunrise and the haunting notes of a distant Last Post brought a lump to the throat.
Midnight tonight sees the completion of our first 2 weeks of a potential 4 week lock down. So far, so good here in New Zealand. The rapid imposition of lock down seems to be having the right effect in that our total cases still number only 1,160 with just one death. Yesterday’s new cases fell from previous days. Cautious optimism.
Here at home there is little effect, and that is not to say that we are being at all complacent. We still have our visitors from the UK which means that our food consumption is doubled and that Claire has to make more trips to the supermarket, which is the only place that we are vulnerable to infection. The supermarket has strict controls on movement plus facilities for wiping trolley handles. Direct and indirect contact with staff is avoided where possible e.g. no cash, just cards, ideally using no-contact Pay Wave. After the initial panic buying the situation has settled down and everything seems to be available so far. NZ is fairly well placed as far as self sufficiency is concerned.
The ‘Bear in a Window’ idea has really caught on and many homes now have a furry toy peeping out of a window, for the amusement of passing children (and adults).
Fortunately the weather has been perfect. Sunny days with no wind and just ideal for walking. We are going out for at least a 1 hour walk each day in our local neighbourhood, which means that we can just reach the country and walk along roads that are very, very quiet now. We are also taking our 14 1/2 year old Labrador, Roxie, out for her twice daily but now very slow walks.
There is good news in that our two guests have managed to book confirmed seats on an Air Malaysia flight to the UK, leaving Wellington on an initial Air New Zealand flight to Auckland on Monday 13th April. They are obviously very keen to get back home. Full marks to UK Trailfinders for a first class service.
The grass still needs cutting and Claire continues to potter in the garden, so all normal there. Plenty of stuff on the TV.
Once again we sincerely thank those people in essential jobs who are out there in the thick of it, working to keep our lives running so normally.
As the world closes its doors and we all face serious restrictions on our movements, an opportune time to communicate with other countries.
Here in New Zealand it is Friday 27th March and we are in our second day of a potential minimum 28 day lock down. What does this mean? Our situation has been aptly described as living in a bubble which includes those we are living with but excludes other bubbles of people. Generally we should stay at home although we are free to walk and cycle as long as we always stay at least 2 metres away from other people. Travel is restricted to essential trips to the supermarket or pharmacy and each house should have it’s designated shopper, ideally a younger person under the age of 70 if you are a family of older people. This task falls to my wife Claire who meets the criteria, whereas I don’t! Shoppers are carefully controlled at the supermarkets to avoid crowding and close contact. Payment by card not cash.
Our situation is rather unusual in that for many months we had expected a couple of friends to visit from the UK, arriving last Sunday morning – which they duly did after two weeks touring the South Island. They are now stranded with us for the foreseeable future! A bit of a test of friendship. Absolutely no problems so far. Like many a family/group isolated together we have agreed a few guidelines to ensure that we have time to ourselves and don’t end up killing each other. Otherwise it is interesting to discover the food fads of people when it comes to selecting menues.
Despite being in the vulnerable older age group, in many ways we have some advantages. We are used to not going out to work and keeping ourselves busy at home, and not least we have a regular income in pension form. Not so for many people who have lost their jobs, although the NZ government is doing stirling work to maintain incomes for everyone.
Finally a thought for all those who are employed in essential services from the medical staff to transport staff and certainly supermarket assistants. We will all owe them a considerable debt of gratitude.
I will update our NZ situation as and when.
This is a totally new subject but it is very intruiging. It goes back to WWII and concerns an Australian man in the RAAF, an Englishman in the Royal Artillery and a set of military dog tags.
For the story go on-line to BBC Radio Wales and find the podcast of a programme by Lynn Bowles which was broadcast on Sunday 28th August.
Why am I mentioning it? Well, the Australian man is my wife’s father – my father-in-law. Sadly both men are now dead and so the mystery will probably never be solved.
Can anybody add anything? Has anybody come across ‘double use’ dog tags before? You can message me via this website.
The mystery is compounded by the fact that they are stainless steel and the information is engraved. Common dog tags were stamped out of thinner material and were, in fact, usually made of a fibre material for UK servicemen. One tag was green and octagonal and the other round and red. Procedure was that the round one (red, blood) was removed from a body for later record keeping. The octagonal one (green, grass) was left with the body.
I think I may finally be learning what to do with a website! This is possibly due to finding more time to play about with it. Anyway, I have updated it and will try to blog a bit more often. Somebody might be interested!
I am currently seeing book sales experience a noticeable surge since the start of broadcasting of “In the Middle of Nowhere” as a ‘speaking book’ on http://www.coastaccessradio.org.uk.
Just transferred another £63.00 of royalties to Medecines Sans Frontieres, bringing the total donated from royalties etc to £724.00.
Sales continue at about 12 a month.
I recently gave a talk on ‘In the Middle of Nowhere’ to a local group which resulted in the sale of 1 paperback. As the group consisted of the visually impaired I thought that 1 copy was good! I am currently recording the book at our local community radio station and this will be broadcast in some 24 weekly episodes starting in (hopefully) August. This will also mean that a ‘talking book’ will be available on CD.
For the convenience of overseas listeners the weekly broadcasts will be available as podcasts from http://www.coastaccessradio.org.nz, as is my current weekly music and entertainment programme.
You will all probably think “What a miserable website, nothing very interesting”. Well, yet again this is just another boring update on book sales and donations to MSF. Christmas saw a big increase in paperback sales, a total of 29, easily beating the previous monthly record of 10. Overall sales of paperback and ebook combined are now averaging 9 a month. The latest result is another £66.00 to MSF bringing the total donated to £661.00.
By the way, you can now tune into my radio programme on-line at any time at http://www.coastaccessradio.org.nz. Look for ‘Great Tracks and Side Tracks’, broadcast every Wednesday lunchtime 12.30 to 14.00 or at any time via download. Requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or via the Coast Access Radio.
By the way, here is a pic of myself and Claire at the recent Napier Art Deco weekend.