Monday, September 21, 2020

Level One

After five weeks of increased Covid restrictions, we are moving down a level to Level One, outside of Auckland, at midnight on Monday 21st September. Auckland must remain in Level Two for a further two weeks from Thursday, 23rd September. Face coverings on public transport, and checking into places using the Covid tracer app or Rippl (my preferred app), remain in force.

So we’re back to where we were (almost – Aucklanders are still feeling the pinch) at the beginning of June. Events will again be open to the public – we’ll try and get to some Wellington rugby matches when we can, and we’ll be able to go to the theatre, restaurants etc in a more normal fashion from tomorrow. Which is just as well, as our next outing is planned for this Thursday, and we’ve got a few more events lining up for October.

Why does Auckland have to wait longer? Well, for one, that’s where the outbreak occurred, and there are still 33 active cases from that cluster. There are also 29 in managed isolation and quarantine in various locations around the country (but mostly in Auckland). Saint Jacinda announced that they were able to draft the order to bring the rest of New Zealand down to Level One in advance, but had not been able to do so for Auckland. Why this is the case doesn’t appear to be explained. We continue with a two-tier system that can only cause problems and confusion for another two and a half weeks at least.

Flash Gordon

The Roxy Cinema, our local, has a regular event called Eat The Film. This started as a special event during Wellington On A Plate, but has been so successful that they have started to do it regularly throughout the year. The premise is that you watch a classic film, and are fed and watered with food and beverages either featuring in the film, or based on events in the film, interpreted and brought up to date by the chef at Coco At The Roxy - the restaurant attached to the cinema. We’ve been to a similar event before, when we saw Elvis Presley in King Creole.

When The Roxy announced that they would be doing Flash Gordon as an ETF event, we naturally jumped at the chance, and booked tickets immediately. When I say “immediately”, this was in February 1PC (Pre-Covid), for an event initially scheduled for April. But, you know the story from here…

The event has been moved twice, and they finally decided to go ahead with it on 20th and 21st September. As we are still under Level 2 restrictions (although they are due to be reviewed today) they split it into two sessions so that they could distance the seats, having people sitting only in alternating rows.

One of the advantages of the delay is that they were able to use a new, digitally-remastered version of the film, upping the quality (of the image) substantially. Sadly nothing could be done about the quality of the acting, with such luminaries as a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton, Topol, Max Von Sydow, and Brian Blessed amongst the supporting cast.  

We showed up half an hour early, and whilst waiting in the upstairs lounge they screened one of the first episodes of the original black and white serial, starring Buster Crabbe, from 1940. It was hilarious! This was followed with screen images of various comics, books, and other products available through the years, showing the history of Flash Gordon.

At 6:00 we filed into our designated social-distanced seats. Each seat was furnished with Ming’s Magnificent Mezze, and accompanying cocktail of Hot Hail. Whilst we tucked into this, the cinema manager gave us a brief introduction into how Eat The Film works, and also about the film, after first establishing that there was a considerable proportion of people who hadn’t (a) been to an ETF event before, and (b) seen Flash Gordon before. The menu is shown below. As you can imagine, a considerable amount of glassware and crockery build up during the performance, so a bag is provided to stack your used implements in.

Ming's Magnificent Mezze

The film is, of course, completely hilarious, and we were able to laugh, join in at appropriate moments “Gordon’s ALIVE?!” “Open fire! All weapons!” Dispatch war rocket Ajax” etc etc. All good fun, and tasty food and cocktails, as befits Coco At The Roxy’s chef and barman.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Training Day

As the first day of spring has passed, Zealandia is gearing up for the summer season. This is unlikely to be as busy as last summer’s touring and guiding, as there are unlikely to be a huge number of tourists visiting from abroad, and there is still a total ban on cruise ships entering New Zealand waters. However, there will probably be more people about the sanctuary in the summer, and so, in common with previous years, a new cohort of volunteer guides has been recruited and is in the process of being trained. That’s where I come in.

As an experienced volunteer and guide, I have been co-opted on to the Visitor Experience team to help with training these “newbies”. Last Saturday, I turned up at the sanctuary at 8:45am, in time to start welcoming the new volunteers to the sanctuary. The first week is a general introduction to the valley, and a walk around the “Red Route” – a misnomer as it’s no longer marked red on the maps – which is the main route where we walk and interact with visitors. Before setting out, I thought I’d gauge how familiar they were with the valley.

Volunteer #1: “I’m a foundation member”

Volunteer #2: “My parents are foundation members”

Volunteer #3: “I’ve been coming here for several years”

Et cetera. All were from Wellington. This is to be expected, but is different to previous years as obviously some people were here from abroad on working or temporary visas, looking to gain experience by just working the summer. There’ll be none of that this year, methinks.

Out we went into the valley, and walked along the main Lake Road, observing the wildlife and generally familiarising them with what we need to point out, where the signs are kept, how to spot a tuatara, that kind of thing. The two hours flew by, but fortunately my experience last summer as a tour guide came in handy as I’m used to being able to get people back to the Visitor Centre in time for the bus, so we were back pretty well on the button at 11:00. The next stage of their day was to listen to Jim Lynch’s presentation about the founding of the sanctuary, which I stayed on for to hear.

In the afternoon, I was on duty as usual as a volunteer guide, so I had my lunch then signed in to do my shift.

Next week: Health and Safety.



Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Split Level

Here we go again.

Almost inevitably, I suppose, a case of Covid-19 has been found outside the quarantine facilities. OK, four cases, in one family; origin unknown at the moment. Auckland has been moved to Covid Level 3, and the rest of the country is moving to Covid Level 2. But it’s OK, because the restrictions don’t come in to effect until midday, and the virus is well known for its patience when it comes to implementing plans. Also, the Level 3 restriction is only until Friday. Wait, whut?

This will have international repercussions, no doubt. People have been holding New Zealand up as a shining beacon of how to eliminate and quarantine against further infection. Now that the virus has re-emerged here, there will doubtless be calls saying “if even New Zealand, with all its controls, is seeing the virus re-emerge, what’s the point of us doing anything to try and stop it?” We shall see how this latest outbreak develops. Our Ministry of Health have managed to reach new levels of incompetence in managing the quarantine…let’s see where this one goes.

The day before yesterday, cabinet were discussing the possibility of opening up a "Pacific bubble" with the Cook Islands. this is almost certainly going to put the kibosh on that.

More soon.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Ngū Kīoro…Harikoa Ake

Wellington City Council are being extremely generous with ratepayers’ money at the moment. When we reached Covid-19 Level 2, they announced that Zealandia would be free for General Admission until the end of June. They recently extended this to 19th July, i.e. the end of the school holidays. This is only possible by paying Zealandia a subsidy to cover their lost revenue.

Similarly, they announced a “free” concert by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, to celebrate the return to levels of normality. As Wellington ratepayers, it was our duty to attend. 

Starting at 6:30, and with no published duration, we considered it wise to dine beforehand, so headed along to Field & Green – a Wellington hostelry that we had supported during the lockdown, by ordering their take-out menu (which was yum!). It was nice to be able to go back and be in the restaurant again. Their food is modern New Zealand-influenced bistro, and changes often. We were in a bit of a hurry but managed two courses, and decided to have an ice cream at the Michael Fowler Centre for dessert.

We duly headed out at 6:15 to get to the Michael Fowler Centre. We had a bit of a kerfuffle trying to get the QR codes for our tickets, as I’d forwarded them to Nicola, but she couldn’t get them to come up on her phone, and mine insisted that as I’d forwarded them, they were no longer available. Or something. Anyway, we went to the box office and got cardboard tickets, old-stylee.

The concert contained a mixture of New Zealand composers and singers, and other works including Verdi, Puccini, Bizet and Strauss. It started with a Māori chant, and then went into a New Zealand-based work, From The Depths Sound The Great Sea Gongs. The full details are here.

It went on until about 9:00pm so our decision to eat first was vindicated. A jolly good night out, and now I feel all cultural.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Artist

Circa Theatre has reopened, and their first show is a short season (four nights) of a one-man show that was interrupted by the covids, called The Artist. It features Thom Monckton as the eponymous…er…eponym. We took our first opportunity to get some actual culture under our belts, and headed out on Thursday night.

The show was at 6:30pm, so we decided to have dinner later, and therefore parked up the Cuba Street end of town in order to be able to make a quick getaway after dinner. The show has been moved into the main theatre, but was sold as General Admission, so it was a bit of a scramble to get the good seats. However, we found places about halfway back, with good sight of the stage (there aren’t any *bad* seats, but some of them are a bit sideways-on). 

At 6:30 the lights dimmed, and The Artist, who had been on stage whilst people came in, showed us what he’d been working on as we took our seats – which brought the first laugh of the evening. Yes, this is comedy, physical comedy and sight gags mixed up with mime. There’s no actual words apart from some mutterings about “banana, banana”, “nyet banana” when the apple and pear try to get into the banana nightclub. I know, it makes no sense. You had to be there. During the course of the show, some paintings are painted, some are assembled, and one is completed (spoiler alert!) by a member of the audience. At the end of the show he assembled all the various paintings on stage, and took a final drink of wine and a bow. It was all good fun, with some laugh-out-loud moments.

Afterwards, we headed up Cuba Street to dine at Loggy B’s, as we call it. We haven’t been there in a while, but have been cooking their Logan Brown At Yours meals, delivered by Steve Logan, during the lockdown. Steve was on hand to greet people as we entered the restaurant so we were able to have a quick chat, tell him how much we’d enjoyed LBAY, before settling down to dinner. The format here has changed slightly as they get back into the swing of things, with the menu offering a three-course meal for a fixed price of $70. We started off with a cocktail – French martini for me – then had pāua ravioli (their signature dish), cured salmon, gnocchi, venison, and finished up with panna cotta and chocolate cremeux. Yup, they’re still the best.

That was our first “proper” night out…more to follow!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Covid-Free Since 8th June

Today’s announcement of the current Covid-19 numbers reached a new milestone today. For the last 17 days there have been no new cases. Today, the final person showing symptoms has officially recovered, so there are no active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. Woohoo!

Shortly after 3pm, the prime minister Saint Jacinda acknowledged this, and said that New Zealand would move to Covid-19 alert Level 1 with effect from midnight tonight. There is no requirement to give 48 hours’ notice, as there had been under previous changes to the alert level, as there were no preparations which needed to be put in place to go to Level 1.

What does Level 1 look like? The borders are still effectively closed, with only specific movements of people in and out, and 14-day quarantines remaining in place for people entering the country. The recent arrival of film workers to start the Avatar sequels project are an example of this, and still need to stay in quarantine a further week before they can begin. Otherwise, businesses can open up as normal, and city centre workers are being encouraged to return to offices, in an effort to support those other businesses – hospitality and retail, for example – that rely on office workers being at their desks. People are still encouraged to maintain good hygiene, coughing etiquette, stay home if they feel ill, and record their movements in the event of a further outbreak – the government’s Covid-19 tracer app and Wellington’s Rippl are both still available for use.

We went back to pub quiz last week under level 2 for the first time, but this week we’ll be able to actually order at the bar, and mingle with other teams and our host, Andy.

Over the coming weeks we should hear more about extending our national “bubble”, both across the Tasman to Australia, and into the Pacific, when it is prudent to do so. It will probably be some time before we can return to normal travel to the rest of the world, though. For the time being it looks like we will be holidaying in New Zealand,  and we will of course be doing our bit to support local businesses and tourism.