The sound of silence

View from our verandah – Wellington Airport, Kilbirne, Evans Bay and Hataitai.

One thing that I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is the silence. Outside at night you can hear – nothing.

With virtually no cars on the roads and even fewer planes coming and going, the constant background city buzz has gone. To be replaced by silence, and at night, the call of our local Ruru.

 

Sentinel at the Gate

Bella loves to bark at people passing our front gate. She sits and waits to hear someone approaching – then when they are level with the gate she lets loose – barking, barking barking.

Every morning and evening people on the way to and from work give her a “target rich environment” but in lockdown it’s different.

Here she is siting patiently, waiting for someone to walk past on Wednesday evening. But no one came.

On a more serious note

I read this article on the CNN website and felt it summed up these extraordinary times very well.

Now I finally understand what my grandparents knew

Opinion by Allison Glock

Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT) March 28, 2020

“Allison Glock’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Esquire, ESPN, Rolling Stone, GQ and many other publications. She is the author of seven books, including the Whiting Award winning Beauty Before Comfort and is presently a senior staff writer for ESPN, a contributing editor for the southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun, and a writer and consulting producer for NBC’s The Blacklist. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)“In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” — Theodore Roethke

“I feel like there is nothing left to look forward to.” My 19-year-old daughter is sitting across the table from me, her eyes heavy with dread. She’s been struggling, like all of us, with the existential purgatory we find ourselves wading through. The not knowing of when this will end, or how, or what we as a culture, a country, a community will be when it does.

Along with her sister, who is 18, she’s moved back home from school, school that is now over in a practical sense for the foreseeable future.

My girls, like countless of the world’s children, have been wrenched from routines and friends, the architecture of their lives dismantled and replaced with a return to the orbit of parents who themselves can’t say what’s coming, our ability to comfort muted and undermined by the speeding train of the virus and the whirlwind of devastating news.

My kids read the papers, the breaking alerts that flash across their phones. They personally know people who are nurses and doctors in the most perilous wards. They know people who are sick. They feel the dismay in the air. Their suffering is not unique (nor does it compare to the horrors unfolding for so many), but it is the suffering in front of me, and so I do what I can to ease it, the only job that feels worth doing at the moment.

I tell my 19-year-old that I understand her feeling lost, empty. I remind her how lucky we are. To be together. To have dogs. To love each other. To be able to hug.

I tell her I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents. How when I was her age, I’d watch them play cards, do crosswords, dance together in their cramped living room, taking care not to topple the miniature, boxy television set that was only ever turned on for baseball games.

My family comes from Appalachia. My grandparents spent their lives in a tiny house in a tiny West Virginia factory town, walking the same sidewalks, sitting on the same porches, their parents only a few houses down. They cooked Sunday suppers, sang as they hand-washed the dishes, groused and gossiped and generally found contentment in the simplest of lives, one necessarily small because of poverty and lack of opportunity.

Small as it was, that life held beauty. And I realize now, that in my own life — winnowed and shrunk into a similar tight routine; taking walks, piecing together puzzles, teaching my girls how to make pie crust, to plant okra — along with that beauty lives profound meaning. My grandfather served in the war. So, too, did everyone he and my grandmother knew. They’d seen death and futility and heroism and loss. They knew what mattered.

We will need to find our purpose in the minor things, I tell my daughter. The moments. Moment by moment. We will need to become more like dogs, giddily hopping into the car when we have no idea where it’s heading. And in those long, vacant hours, free of clutter and busyness and traditional validation, we will have to learn how to sit with ourselves and discover the glory and meaning in that stillness. Or, at the very least, accept that tomorrow was never promised. In some ways it’s no different than it always was, I explain, we just have fewer distractions to hide behind.

“But for how long?” my daughter asks, fighting back tears.

“I don’t know.”

I tell her I’m sorry, that I love her. I ask if she wants me to make her a grilled cheese. She shakes her head, retreats upstairs to cry, maybe. Or smoke and blow the evidence out her bedroom window. To get away from me and my hastily assembled life lessons.

I understand. Am envious, even. I’d like to cry, smoke, ball myself into a knot of grief. Instead, I take a shower, make a coffee, put on lip gloss like it matters. By the time I emerge from the bathroom, my daughters are in the yard, lying on a blanket together, reading.

I watch them from the window, hip to hip, both prone on their stomachs, knees bent and feet circling in the air, like they did when they were still children. Which of course, they still are.

The sun shines bright on their skin. The birds chatter above. The buds bloom on the trees around them. As if to say, we can’t be contained.

So much music everywhere

Thank you gentle readers for the additions to the lockdown playlist. Happy lockdown day 9. And the extended playlist is:

Alone Again, Naturally – Gilbert O’Sullivan

The Chain – Fleetwood Mac

Need You Now – Lady Antebellum

Don’t Stand So Close To Me – The Police

It’s Oh So Quiet – Bjork

I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany

Staying Alive – Bee Gees

Is There Anybody Out There – Pink Floyd

 

 

A funny thing happened this morning

So it’s day 7 of the Covid-19 lockdown. Our medical community is braced for an influx of virus sufferers and I’m ensconced in the safety of my home. What could possibly go wrong?

Quite a bit it seems.

It only took 7 days but I’ve done it – produced a sequel to the “nail through the foot” incident of last year.  All it took was a blown lightbulb and a step ladder – well a kitchen step ladder to be honest.

Yes, another foot injury. This time it’s torn ligaments along the side of my left foot, swelling, pain and embarrassment – in equal measures.

I fell from the bottom step of the ladder and managed to sprain my foot to such an extent the doctor was impressed. “The bottom step? Really? The bottom step, are you sure?”, were his words while examining my swollen and rapidly blackening foot.

One x-ray later and I’m in a moon-boot with enough pain killers and steroids to treat a horse. Easy.

I’ll be spending the next week with my foot elevated, garnering as much sympathy and as many cups of tea as I can.

Top Tip: If you do something silly like this, now is an oddly good time to do it. When Jean called my doctor as I lay groaning on the ground she advised me to visit the after hours clinic (in Newtown for me) as they are “very quiet”. Apparently all the usual maladies that fill the clinic’s waiting room have mysteriously been cured. At 1pm I was the only person in the waiting room and when I had my x-ray I was the radiographers second customer – that day. 

Let there be music everywhere

Day two of the lockdown and it’s quiet out there – too quiet. Time for some music, and what could be better than a curated playlist to suit these odd times.

  • We Gotta Get Out Of This Place – The Animals

  • Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol

  • Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley of course

  • All By Myself – Eric Carmen

  • I’m In Chains – Tina Arena

  • The Walls Are Closing In/Hangman – The Pretty Reckless

 

  • I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free – Nina Simone

 

  • Me & You Together Song – The 1975

  • Mad World – Tears for Fears

  • I will survive – Gloria Gaynor

  • All Revved Up And No Place To Go

 

And, of course, anything by Small Spaces. All suggestions for additional songs are welcome.

 

 

It’s 24 hours from lockdown

We live in extraordinary times. In the next 24 hours we will give up our freedom willingly (for at least 4 weeks and possibly longer) and retreat to the relative safety of our homes, isolated, socially impotent and very likely bored out of our minds.

Today and tomorrow are the days to tidy things up – to sort all that life admin that needs to be done for a month in isolation. Not wanting to appear shallow, but top of my list was to purchase some of the delicious SmokeHouse Salmon Pate that New World stock. Ok, not earth shattering but just something that seemed important at the time.

Of course if I’d thought for another moment I’d have realised that it was possibly the least important thing I could have done in the day. But my brain ended up fixated on this damn pate.

So off I went to Chaffers New World to buy my limit of 2 pots. A llimit we can blame on all those who panic bought toilet paper, hand sanitiser, coffee, chocolate, baked beans and whatever else was panic buy of the day over the last few weeks.

I was expecting the supermarket to be chaos, queues out the door, police in attendance, possibly some tear gas being fired around but – no. It was quieter than any time I’ve been there recently – from a certain angle the store almost seemed empty.

Never one to miss an opportunity, I went in for some good old fashioned panic buying – well as much as you can do with a two item limit. When Jean saw my purchases she said I’d missed the point.

Poor women, she’s now stuck with me for 4 weeks – alone, together.

 

 

Christmas in Colorado

For someone who is used to Christmas being summer days, shorts, a tee shirt and barbecues, Christmas in Steamboat Springs, Colorado was a bit different – as it was for the whole team who travelled from a New Zealand summer to a Colorado winter.

We were treated to a white Christmas with about 3 inches of snow falling on Christmas Day, all of which led to a magical day. Dinner was roasted chicken and duck with all the trappings. Presents were under the tree and the kids played outside building a snowman.

Andre also continued a Christmas tradition of barbecuing the breakfast – despite the temperature.

Skiing? There has been some of that as well. Steamboat is vast with 169 trails spread over 3,000 acres. No matter what your skiing level, there are multiple runs for you.

And when you need to take a break there are bars, restaurants and cafes at the base of the mountain for that whole apres ski thingy.

Today – Friday 27th in the early evening it’s -17 degrees celsius. That’s 17 degrees below zero. That’s quite cold, with more snow forecast over the weekend.

 

It never rains in Positano?

As we move from August to September the weather in Positano shifts slightly. The temperature is still late 20s, the days can be humid and “close” but there is a bit of rain about.

Since our arrival the locals have been bemoaning the lack of rain. Too dry for too long is the general feeling. Well that has changed in the last few days.

We have seen some stunning displays of lightening and thunder in the evenings – but with no rain – until Tuesday afternoon when it rained. Not just a few spots here and there, it was a full blown tropical downpour.

It lasted about an hour and then normal transmission resumed – the sun came out, the water dried up and we went to dinner, sitting outside under the stars.

Back to Arienzo Beach

Yesterday we went to our local beach – Spiaggia Arienzo. I blogged about it before in 2011 when we last visited it. In particular, the blog mentioned the number of steps from the road down to the beach – 239. Easy on the way down, not so much climbing back up.

Although the price for a lounger, umbrella and place on the beach at the Arienzo Beach Club has gone up from 9 to 20 Euros in the last 8 years, it’s still worth it with table service to your lounger being a winning idea. Lunch at the beach club was great and it is still amazing they can produce such good food, in such quantity, so quickly for lunch from a kitchen the size of a closet.

At the end of the day the 239 steps up to the road felt a lot steeper than 8 years ago and this old man needed a couple of stops along the way. Ideal breaks to grab a glance at the luxury villas that cling to this part of the coast.

 

Moon over Positano – Take 2

As often happens here, last night was a repeat of Monday night with the moon appearing above the sunset. This time I managed to capture the event crisply without the use of a tripod.

I simply took the shot about 20 minutes earlier. The shot is not quite as dramatic, but it’s all there. I also took a shot with a different camera which provided quite a different look.

A slightly blurred moon over Positano

If you have ever wondered why a tripod should be part of a photographers travel kit – here’s the reason.

Last night there was a fingernail moon over the bay as the last of the evening light faded. A perfect shot – but without a tripod it was a succession of ever so slightly blurred shots. No amount of ISO pushing or aperture opening could bring the shutter speed down to avoid camera movement.

The camera was braced, I was braced, but the result was always the same.

Note to self – next time pack the damn travel tripod.

Positano watching

We have been in Positano for a week and life has now settled to a gentle ebb. As yet we haven’t done any Superyacht spotting – but that changes now.

Last evening what can only be described as Darth Vader’s Superyacht slid in the bay and moored up. In the twilight it was dark and slightly menacing. This morning it left but not before I grabbed some pictures.

A quick check on Google showed the boat – call Main – is owned by Georgio Armani. It was built in 2008 and cost around $US60M to build. This article provides some details.

From the sublime to the ridiculous – yesterday also saw the arrival of Roma 9902. It looked like a converted tugboat and has no listing anywhere that I can find. So maybe not a Superyacht – more a Supertug if there is such a thing.

Finally our favourite. Nameless because we haven’t been able to read the name on the side – but with its classic lines and retro feel, it would suit us to a tee.

 

 

Time for lunch and a little shopping

Thursday was a day out for us. We hired a driver through the hotel and went to lunch. But this was not just any ordinary lunch. A friend (thank you Te Rina) recommended a restaurant called Relais Blu which is located just outside Termini at the tip of the Amalfi Peninsular. It has a clear view of Capri in one direction and across the Bay of Naples to Napoli and Vesuvius in the other.

It is a magical place.

The restaurant (which is in the Relais Blu hotel) boasts a Michelin star and was also the venue for one of the meals in the movie “The Trip to Italy” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.

We took this as an opportunity to go all in, selecting their 7 course dégustation menu with matching wines. It was a perfect way to spend 3 hours and to taste the best that the coast has to offer. We are in no way food bloggers but we attempted to document the meal for all to see – you may notice the occasional photo fail but that’s only because some courses were just too tempting.

We also had the restaurant to ourselves which made the whole thing surreal as the entire waiting staff fussed over – well, just us.

After lunch we went to Sorrento – just a few minutes drive down the road from Relais Blu – to do some shopping. We always shop best after 7 “glasses” of wine each.

For us Sorrento is special. We’ve been there in summer and winter. We’ve seen it grow and change as more and more people visit – the blessing and curse of tourism. Last year the town turned it’s main street – Via Corso – into a pedestrian zone which, contrasted with the smaller streets and alleyways either side has made a huge improvement to the town.

We spent two hours there visiting some favourite shops we know and some new ones we didn’t. When our driver collected us and was storing the shopping bags in the boot, he thanked us personally for our contribution to the local economy.

Happy days.

The Relais Blu website is worth a visit. Having seen a little of the hotel we will definitely stay there for a couple of nights next visit.