Tag Archives: New Zealand

COVID: Variations on a Theme

Here we all are coming up to 2021 and I find myself looking forward to 2022. 

But, it must be said, with the hope that 2021 could be something still. Still in a good way that is. The last thing I want to do is wish me, my family’s or my friends’ lives away. That is not the plan but right now it’s a tad hard not to make use of the one time teleport option I won at a, ’this is not a Doctor Who’ party many moons and a world away from where I am now.

Today or tomorrow or maybe New Year’s Eve, because Boris Johnson likes high day and holiday announcements (see Brexit agreement), the Astra Zeneca vaccine may be approved here in the UK. We have 100 million doses reserved for us. That’s 50 million people and they way I figure it, I’ll be in that 50 million. And I’ll be having the jab. Yes Sir, yes M’am, yes indeedy. So will Mr Carmichael. So will Carmichael offspring various as and when they get offered the dregs sometime this decade.

 Let’s hope it works.

Let’s hope it and all the other vaccines that are being developed, approved and injected into arms, before approval (yes Mr Putin although I noticed you didn’t have it on your doctor’s advice) and after approval, work too. It’s important they do. It’s important because right now, right here, it feels as if we are under attack. It feels different to the beginning; to the COVID launch; to March. Do you remember March? More importantly, do you remember pre March when we were just living our lives? Ha!

Right now, with COVID-19 and the two variant strains that we and South Africa have managed to breast feed, burp and nurture so well we, here in the UK, had 41,000 COVID cases registered yesterday. That’s 41,000 and that does not include people in hospital or care homes I believe. There are probably quite a few cases in these two types of establishment, don’t you think? The day before yesterday it was around 35,000. 35,000 which is a huge number of new cases but now doesn’t seem so huge because yesterday it was 41,000. 41,000 is huge but won’t seem so massive tomorrow I bet. Tomorrow, we’ll be wishing the number of new cases (that exclude care homes and hospitals) was 41,000. That’s my prediction. For what it’s worth. 

Most of these cases are in the South East of England. And the majority of these cases are the new mutant (just look into my eyes and I’ll give you COVID) strain. The South East of England is where I live. These things, put together are worrying. Very worrying indeed.

What is also worrying is that it’s got personal. I now know people suffering with COVID. I know many, many people isolating because they’ve been in contact with someone for more than fifteen minutes who has tested positive. These people, and this  includes Daughter Number Two who could not spend Christmas Day with us her family, are watching, on their smart phones, a ‘days left to go’ bullseye count down to their release.

 On release, they will be allowed to do very little. We, in the South East are in the newly imagined Tier 4 which is, in all but name, Lockdown. So, they will be able to go for a walk, buy a takeaway coffee, play golf or tennis at Queens and catch mutant COVID because they looked, for a nanosecond, into someone’s virused eye. Their phone will beep and they’ll be back in isolation. Or, of course, they may get sick. I may get sick. Did I mention I now know, and know of, many poorly people?

This is no way to live.

The government’s aim (yes you Matt Hancock of the foreskin pink ties) and you Boris Johnson (on recess but not in the Caribbean on a freebee this year) is to vaccinate one million people a week over the next Lockdown. 

“What?” You scream. “We’re not in a Lockdown. We can still go to the non essential shops and buy shit, we can mingle in houses and we can look people in the eye over a pint in the pub. We’re not in Tier 4. We’re the lucky ones.”

From all those in Tier 4 to all those not. Didn’t you see the boats, trains and stations the night our ‘leader’ and his pink oppo invented Tier 4? Those transporters were headed with eyes steely trained on you, traditional COVID carriers, to all parts not South East for Christmas. I fear you will bypass Tier 4 in the blink of a cough. And we, the already theres, will smile and say, “NOW, we’re all in it together.”

But back to the vaccination roll out. SAGE or some other acronym have warned today that unless you, the small g, government, pull your needles out and do two million a week we’re heading, without passing Go, straight into a third wave. You probably don’t know this Mr Johnson. It hasn’t come out in tomorrow’s paper yet. Buy a copy, why don’t you?

I’m a New Zealander. How many of you knew that? What I would give to be there now. A month ago, with fewer than 5000 cases a day, I could have gone, been popped into monitored isolation for a fortnight ( who’s kidding who? I’m as good as in it now and for the foreseeable just without the monitoring) and right now be as free as a bird with good eyesight, hugging people, going to friends’ homes, eating out, feeling safe and have Jacinda Ardern watching over me while I sleep COVID free. But no, now, not wanted anywhere in the world, I’m here in COVID Cactus Town and I can tell you, it’s one shit place to be.

Did I mention we had 41,000 new COVID cases yesterday in the UK? How many will it be today? Come on, roll up, place your bets.

Life Saver

Piha, January '67 (mrscarmichael's mother)
Piha, January ’67 (mrscarmichael’s mother)

 Look, I’m eating a tomato. It’s home grown, red and juicy. My mother has shaken salt from a greaseproof twist onto the bitten edge for me. I don’t need salt. I have plenty enough in my mouth already but I say nothing.

Here I am on the bleached buffalo grass with Dad. My feet are still stuck with Piha’s iron sands. There’s black sand all about me; you just can’t see it. My bathing cap, swimming costume and body crevices are full of iron filings. It’s on my tomato as well, sandy, salty seeds and flesh.

My knees are scrapped. They sting. My mother hasn’t noticed and I am not going to mention that they hurt. She wouldn’t be taking the photo if she’d spotted the injury. Instead she’d be mercurochroming me purple. Margaret Bourke White to Florence Nightingale in one maternal pulse. She probably thinks the reddened knees are dotted with tomato juice.

“Please don’t tell Mum,” I begged my father once he’d dragged me from the rip, hauled me from the spin cycle beyond the safe swimming notices and I could speak again.

So far he’s kept his word. But he is quiet and has just refused the frothy foamed lager Derek’s offering him. He hasn’t yelled at me, not even after the life savers told him off.  They shouted “keep a better eye on her” –  especially if he’s going to wear a surf rescue outfit. I wish he wouldn’t wear it. It embarrasses me. There’s even a little moth hole near the left side seam. Maybe he’ll buy new togs* now, now he’s in trouble.

I’ve still got my swimming hat on. I don’t want to hurt anymore and pulling the rubber off my head always hurts.

“Take your cap off, “ Mum says. “Let the sun at your hair.”

I shake my head.

“Are you going back in after lunch?” she asks.

I nod. “Maybe,” knowing that’s the last thing in the whole world I’m going to do.

I catch a glance from Dad, a warning shot across my bows. He wants me back in Piha’s clutches even less than I want to be there.

“I’m going to change, Nola,” he calls to my mum and heads towards the car. She takes another photo.

That morning, as we drove down to the beach, I thought the sea inviting. Blue and deeper blue the water with waves like foaming heads on a coke and ice cream spider. The reality, I’ve discovered, is somewhat different. Blue, in one second, transports me to dark, green, gritty terror and the stuff of Maori legend.

“I saw your cap,” Dad said. “It’s so lucky you had that white cap on.”

We trudge across the black iron sand to the picnic.

Look, I’m eating a tomato. It’s luscious and red. I’ve stained my robe with its juices.

* Swimming costume, trunks, bathers

Weekly Photo Challenge (Window)

On a road trip for one on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island a couple of years ago I stayed, quite by chance, in Rimu, one of  Hydrangea Cottages Punakaiki (photos 8, 14 and 15).

These Nikau Palms were the panoramic view from my lavatory window. What a lucky girl.

palms provide promised privacy (mrscarmichael)
palms provide promised privacy (mrscarmichael)

I am thrilled to see the cottages get a well deserved superb rating on trip advisor and I shall return for the Pancake Rocks, the Hydrangea Cottages and the views from all the windows.

Christmas Past and Present (a Sacred Time of Year)

a kiwi christmas scene
a kiwi christmas tree

As a child my Christmases were sun filled. Yuletide cards might have boasted snow and icicles but this wasn’t a reality for me. My reality involved holidays, beaches, bbq’s and mucking about in boats.

Hot long summers produced magnificent Pohutukawa flowers. To New Zealanders everywhere and through time these trees represent not just Christmas but lovely long lazy days. Ahhhhh bliss.

Then I moved to London and everything changed. I struggled to produce meaningful work after 3.30pm so dark and nightime-ish was it outside. The icicles and snow became a reality. As did the rain, never depicted on cards I can recall.

christmas a la Oxford Street (mrscarmichael)
christmas a la Oxford Street (mrscarmichael)

But there was something magical about a ‘real’ Christmas and I have embraced that magic ever since. More or less.

Carnaby Street decals (mrscarmichael)
Carnaby Street decals, 2013 (mrscarmichael)

In the West End on a solo shopping expedition recently I hunted among Soho’s little side streets for a café to reenergise without breaking the Liberty diminished bank balance.

Eschewing the Starbucks, Prêts and Costas I found a welcoming coffee house, Sacred that boasted a corner table with my name on it (well, you know what I mean).

Ever conscious of my increased proclivity for talking to strangers I said nothing on realising it was a fellow countrywoman who took my tuna melt and Americano order. Feeling proud of my restraint I sat, checked my cell, reread my shopping list and waited for my food.

This was my order number.

only the best ice cream on a stick in the whole wide world (mrscarmichael)
only the best ice cream on a stick in the whole wide world (mrscarmichael)

“Tuna melt and long black?” another young thing asked me.

Had I fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole? No one says ‘long black’ is this here neck of the woods. She too had a Kiwi accent.

I looked around carefully seeing for the first time Kiwiana everywhere. Maps, tikis, NZ flags, and this framed bus route from Wellington, my home town. It even includes the hood of my youth.

nostalgia central plus a paua shell (mrscarmichael)
nostalgia central plus a paua shell (mrscarmichael)

The long black was off the highest New Zealand barista standard, the vittles yummy and I plan a return visit to try the brie and cranberry panini which is, I am informed, festively topical and to die for.

As pleased as I bet Mary was to find that manger I am delighted to have fallen upon this café, a Kiwi oasis 12,000 miles from home.

Mere Kirihimete y’all.

Link: http://www.cosycoffeeshops.co.uk/uk/sacred-cafe-soho-london/

Travel Theme (Wild)

Mrs Carmichael tries to stay as far away as possible from wild weather, wild water and wildebeest but the wild west has always appealed. I have no idea why!

This was taken in New Zealand’s South Island on my way back from a mini road trip to the West Coast (there is a wildness there too). There was something of the frontier about this town but the public loos were clean and most welcome.

a certain wildness (mrscarmichael)
a certain wildness (mrscarmichael)

For other wild images head straight on over to Where’s my backpack?

Travel Theme (Flow)

So many Maori legends include waterfalls be they giving power (mana), hiding taniwha (monsters) or as a metaphor for tears. Most of the New Zealand national grid is powered by hydroelectricity and as such the obvious is sometimes the best place to start (and finish) the search for images of flow.

For other images of this week’s theme check out Ailsa’s blog at Where’s my backpack?

In Which Mrs Carmichael Takes a Moment To Have a Moment

my uncle's was red but everything else identical to our days at the beach (www.flickr.com)
my uncle’s was red but everything else identical to our days at the beach (www.flickr.com)

This morning, on my way to food shop and on my way from the Post Office Collection Depot in backstreet Rickmansworth, I found myself screeching to a stop, then reversing to check out a car being repaired in a tiny garage that I didn’t know existed. These facts alone are enough for me to have to both take and have a moment. Mrs Carmichael is not a car person as you well know (Is It Just a Car Thing or Are Men Really From Another Planet?).

In the micro sized garage was what looked, to my untrained eye, like a Rover 2000 in immaculate condition. And a mechanic working under the hood in not quite so. He was a bit more, shall we say, grizzled.

A car behind me honked.

“Is that a Rover 2000?” I asked the gnarled engineer.

The car behind me honked again.

“I learnt to drive in that car, ” I said scrabbling around in my handbag for my camera.

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

Are all men on the Asperger scale of literal comprehension? Don’t answer that.

He did not invite me in for a cuppa and a sit in the driving seat so, photo opportunity abandoned, I drove off to purchase ingredients for one daughter’s going away meal.

But I was stuck in the moment.

they don't build 'em like this today (www.motorbase.com)
they don’t build ’em like this today (www.motorbase.com)

I had my first few lessons in a car identical to this. Shark’s front, black leather seats, a minimalist interior designed to include an oversized steering wheel and an arm rest to be fought over in the back seat. Oh and no power steering. This was the early 70’s after all.

My mother learnt to drive while she was pregnant with me and they (my parents) bought their first car to celebrate my arrival. It was a VW Beetle, light blue like the Rover and the height of coolness then and not because it was ‘retro’. It was brand new, back to front engineering and they were truly proud.

concentrate now, the VW's in the garage (mrscarmichael's mother)
concentrate now, the Beetle’s in the background (mrscarmichael’s mother)

That car had indicators that stuck out, phallic-like from the sides of the car when manually activated, no central locking, airbag smherbag, and, of course, nada in the seat belting arena. Until the end of her driving days my mother would hurl her left arm hard and vigorously across any front seat passenger while breaking. Habits are difficult to kill off particularly where safety and my mother were concerned.

photo taken while driving excuses quality (mrscarmichael)
photo taken while driving excuses quality (mrscarmichael)

Driving up the Finchley Road last Sunday, I found myself behind this Beetle. It’s newer than my childhood means of transportation but not by much. The young things within will own it because it’s retro but to me it was another time-sucking moment.

That’s two then.

I did not learn to drive in the beetle, not the racing green Morris 1100 they owned afterwards. No, I had my first lessons in the Rover 2000, down Karori South aways with my father when I was fourteen.

But my favourite car of my New Zealand childhood belonged to my uncle B…… It was a 1964 Holden Station-wagon, red and white with round tail lights and vast expanse to play ‘corners’ with friends on the way to the beach. There you are, another thing that cannot be done in our seatbelt safe world today. ref: photo top – placed thus because I wanted this pic to show in the reader.

I completed my driving lessons in a 1971 Holden, three gear column shift, bench seat and woefully poor clutch pad. My friend S…… and I burnt it out on the eve of our tests. Smoke billowed up from the well and the smell of scorched car stays with me still. Clutch replaced and tests passed we were fifteen year old free agents. Have wheels will use them. And we did.

first car I drove legally (Chris Keating)
first car I drove legally (Chris Keating)

To this day I have no idea how J…. (my friend’s father) managed to teach two teenage girls to drive at the same time and stay remotely sane. If he didn’t he hid it well.

We never owned a Holden ourselves. My mother kept that light blue Rover for many years (in memory of my father I’m sure). In that time I managed to damage most panels on its body, various tyres and both front and back shiny bumpers. It was a good car until it almost killed her.

This morning I read about some poor soul crashing off a hillside in Wales whilst driving a vintage MG Midget.

And that allows me to segue straight into my third car related history moment.

I lived, albeit briefly, right under the Wellington Airport pylon that flashed red lights on and off, on and off into my curtainless bedroom window. It was at the very top of Mount Victoria in Roseneath.

My mother dropped me back at my flat one day, had a cup of tea and headed off down the hill home. What neither of us knew was that break fluid was pouring from the Rover’s undercarriage and her breaks had stopped working.

My mother was diddy. Five foot two with a following wind and those with a retentive memory will know the Rover had no power steering.

Thankfully, I knew nothing until a stranger brought Mum back to my house. She looked very worse for wear.

Apparently she tried to crash the beast into the hill a number of times, swerving to avoid oncoming cars as she gathered speed. Her final attempt caused her to ricochet from the bank, across the road and over the cliff to her death or so she believed. But, being Wellington and gradients no obstacle to the city’s homeowners, the Rover came to rest half on half off a wooden suspension driveway with 180 degree sea views beneath.

“I want a new car,” she told me when she regained her power of speech.

That was the end of the Rover. My mother bought a sensible Toyota (with seat belts and power steering) which outlived her.

I am not a car person but memories are funny things and whether it’s a garaged car in Rickmansworth, a North London road, the thought of driving lessons or a newspaper article it behoves us to take a moment to have a moment. Mine just happens to be car related this time.

My Five a Night – A List

I know all about the importance of consuming an eclectic collage of fruit and veg amounting to five separate portions per diem (not including potatoes [which are tubers anyway]) to maintain my body’s perfect contours. Alright yes, my fingers are crossed as I write that but will trust in the well worn cliché, ‘perfection’ is in the eye of the beholder and, yes again, I do have a long overdue optician’s appointment on Wednesday but what I need to list today, what is equally critical are my five necessities for potential hosts and hostesses to abide by when putting me up on my solo travels.

Some are more obvious than others but bear with.

1) mrscarmichael needs to sleep.

If I am to bubble and sparkle and amuse, if I am to get to my next overnight destination I need to be well rested. When one is 12,000 miles and thirteen hours away from Greenwich mean time I need a room of my own, a comfy bed (preferably double or larger), clean sheets, a fan if it’s humid (thank you Auckland, S……) and I need drugs.

a perfect welcome pack (mrscarmichael)
a perfect welcome pack (mrscarmichael)

Melatonin is my friend and I have no idea why the UK and New Zealand refuse to supply the sleep inducing, sunshine replacing, time clock regulating bottled sweet meat. Nil desperandum, a bit of forward planning and stock control is all that’s required.

NB: there is no pharmacy at Melbourne Airport once you are processed through passport control.

2) I want to wake up with a smile on my face.

There are a number of ways to achieve this end but a nice cup of tea (lemon and ginger) brought to me at an agreed time is always a winner in my eyes.

or peppermint, but I'd prefer that the night before (mrscarmichael)
or peppermint, but I’d prefer that the night before (mrscarmichael)

3) Mrsc likes a view.

I am not hard to please. I will take any worthy aspect be it the sea, lake, river (water based),

what more could a girl want? (mrscarmichael)
what more could a girl want? (mrscarmichael)


who needs curtains? (mrscarmichael)
who needs curtains? (mrscarmichael)

attractive sports venue,

I fought for this view but was relegated to the guest suite (mrscarmichael)
I fought for this view but was relegated to the guest suite (mrscarmichael)

or cityscape.

foreground, background, my home ground (mrscarmichael)
foreground, background, my home ground (mrscarmichael)

This is very easy to achieve. Just pop me in the best bedroom. I will reward you with complements, gratitude and I might even stay an extra night!

4) I want to have the best breasts in the bedroom.

Once this was an easy thing to achieve and I will still challenge any woman of my age (and younger at my discretion) to the pencil test but I am not going to be outdone by an armless mannequin.

I rest my case (mrscarmichael)
I rest my case (mrscarmichael)

5) I wish to be treated as if I am a paying guest (without the price tag).

And this, dear readers, is easy to do when I stay in Wellington’s compARTment, Vivian Street. My oldest friend in the world (years as friends not age) has upped sticks from the ‘burbs and moved to the centre of Wellington. Her apartment is fab with 360 degree views of my previous life. One corner of it is now the funkiest b and b in town and I got to stay in it (even if I did have to iron the sheets).

I ironed those -badly (mrscarmichael)
I ironed those -badly (mrscarmichael)

Here are some more professional pics (with sheets ironed to perfection)…..


There is nowhere better to stay in this fine town.

Thanks to all my wonderful friends who put me up and put up with me on my recent trip ‘down under’.


Travel Theme (Pale)

Ailsa Where’s my backpack?, just to be contrary, is taking a different trajectory to WordPress this week and going pale but not, I’m certain, wan.

New Zealand must now produce delicate pics. I’m sure it’s up to the challenge.

Weekly Photo Challenge (Colour)

Wonderful theme…..I was going to try and stick to red (the photographer’s friend) but I couldn’t. All pics are taken on my latest outing in Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne or in between.

Somebody stop me……………….