Day Sixteen


Southern Ocean

Good Friday starts very quiet. The port seems not to be working, though I didn't expect time and tide to be suspended for a religious holiday.

However, by the time I'm at work on the windowsills, Mark Knopfler crooning in the background, DIY in the neighbourhood has cranked up with a cacophony of power tooks. I feel like walking round to see what everyone is doing – cutting concrete? Chipping sticks?

By digging out another rusty paint tin and applying the turps I've gained enough primer to cover all the bare spots I created yesterday. It's easy work. I clean up and go for a run round the waterfront. With no trucks the road is even quieter and families are out in various combinations, including one couple with quite small children, one on his own little bike, the other towed behind her father, who I'm sure I've seen most days when I'm out. The tide's in and the view is lovely as I jog along the path, skirting the pedestrians where I can and running on the road if necessary. A group of cyclists has stopped, oblivious that they're blocking the path and definitely less that a metre apart. I overhear, 'Five ks is just not enough', comfirming my thought about the lycra-clad cyclist I saw on Wednesday.

After a shower and some lunch I call my sister for a chat. Her work colleagues are having weekly meetings which they use inventively, for example with a funny hat competition, while keeping up to date with the next steps. As a lab technician she can't work from home but they will go back to work as soon as they can, in shifts to allow for distancing. In the mean time, she and her husband are getting all sorts of chores done at home.

Later I call a friend and we have the same wide-ranging conversation we would have on one of our Sunday afternoon walks. I'm getting used to this kind of contact. We agree we have a lot of questions, such as has New Zealand's population grown with returning NZers or shrunk with the loss of tourists and how does that affect the food supply?

My evening gets interesting. I discover Slow TV on Prime: Go Further South, a boat trip to Antarctica, filmed without commentary, just the sounds of the wind and waves, a little soft music now and then, and in one marvellous sequence, masses of orca surrounding the ship, breathing. It's hypnotic and beautiful and has been on all day so by the time I tune in the ship is in the Ross Sea and eventually comes to anchor on a still, bright evening. I've been fascinated by Anarctica since I was about 12 and a naval reservist came to show his slides at the Camera Club my parents attended. I don't know how I got to be there but I was spellbound by his pictures of the ice and the animals.

I'd noticed that the movie Lion would be on and after reaching Antarctica I settle down to watch this. I've seen it before and after a short while I realise that I don't want to see that beautiful child lost and bewildered, I just want to see the adult re-united with his mother. I'm staying content and cheerful but I'm aware my bubble doesn't need any unnecessary sadness. I return to the highlights of the Southern Ocean and my book.

When the phone rings at about 9pm I'm surprised to hear my friends in Yorkshire on the line. It's great to catch up and share experiences of recent times. They hope to come back to New Zealand next year and we wonder how things will be by then. Understandably they would prefer to be here with Jacinda rather than there with Boris, although it seems Yorkshire is coping reasonably well. My immersion in the Tudor era suggests the North has always been a law unto itself and probably just as well.