Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The day of events related to each other

Today was one of those rare kind of days in which most of what happens is related to other things going on. In fact, everything today was connected, and that doesn’t normally happen.

Yesterday I talked about placing a couple orders online, one for delivery from the supermarket and the other for pick-up from a hardware/home centre place. Together, these determined how I structured my day.

When I got up this morning, I saw an email from the home warehouse place saying, "we are currently experiencing a high volume of online orders and there may be a delay for fulfillment of your order." That email was sent at 11:55pm last night, after I went to bed. It also said, "please wait for your ‘ready to collect email’, this email will allow you to book a time to safely pickup your order." That email still hasn't arrived, so apparently the order isn't ready.

This affected my day in two ways. First, I didn’t want to get all involved in things only to have to leave to pick up my order (and I was worried it might be ready at the same time the supermarket order was due to arrive, and I thought that could be a problem if I wasn't there at the time because some of the stuff was refrigerated).

The other way it affected me was that they wanted me to print out the order (to show to them, apparently), but I hadn’t yet found the printer that works. I knew where the multi-function printer was, but only the scanner part works (we had the printer part repaired several years ago, so I think there might be a design flaw). Nevertheless, on the theory that a bad printer was better than none, I got it (because I knew where it was). However, I found that the movers didn’t pack everything in the box with it: The power cord and the cables to connect it to the network or to a computer were missing.

I decided to look for the printer that I knew worked, but I had to find the box it was in, and that meant getting some other boxes out of the way first. I eventually found the printer, and, along the way, also unpacked a total of 15 boxes, all up. I printed out the order, as instructed, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use it soon.

I’m beginning to run out of room to unpack anything else because my garage is filled with flattened moving boxes and big boxes filled with newsprint. I can see, and I know, that I’ve made a lot of progress with the unpacking, but it it doesn't look like it, and it frustrates me that I’m (apparently?) not farther along in this process.

I won’t be able to take the boxes to the recycling centre until Alert Level 2 (at the earliest), but when I moved in the movers told me to ring them and they’d collect the boxes. Since they can move people again (with restrictions), I’m thinking that maybe they’ll pick up the boxes as long as they can do it without needing to be around me. That’ll be a subject for the future.

Once it was past five, I had a hunch I wouldn’t get the “ready to collect” email, which was fine since the delivery time for the supermarket order was getting closer. At 5:42pm, a full 18 minutes before the scheduled delivery window of 6pm to 8pm was to begin, my supermarket order arrived. It's not the first time I've received an order from them early, but I wasn't expecting that under the circumstances.

About a half hour after my supermarket order arrived, I received an automated text message to tell me the timeframe for the delivery of the order—the one that had already been delivered. That’s also not the first time that’s happened—in fact, because they're still on my phone, I know that the previous one was in December at the old house, and the one before that was the end of July, a couple months, it turned out, before Nigel died. Still, what matters is that the order was completed, unlike the hardware order.

And now I get to relax for the evening. Technically, that's related to today's events, too, because they wore me out. But those same events also helped me get a lot done. I count that as a win.

This post is a revised and greatly expanded version of something I posted to my personal facebook.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Who am I?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve realised that the question for me isn’t what will I do in my new life, but the more simple, “who am I?” After 24 years of being half of a WE, now I have to find out how to be just a ME. This is a much bigger deal than I could ever have guessed.

For the first seven months, I wasn’t aware of much beyond what I lost: Nigel and our life together. I’m still keenly aware of that—very keenly—but I’ve realised that the real question I need to answer isn’t “what now”, well, not just that, anyway. Instead, it’s “what will MY life be?”

It took a long time to get to this point. Not long after Nigel died, maybe a week or two later, I was afraid I would die. I knew that it really is possible to die from a broken heart, and mine was utterly shattered. That’s on top of it being a bit dodgy, medically speaking.

I eventually got past that initial fear, but the fear of dying persisted, and for the same core reason: The mess I’d leave behind. First and foremost, like Nigel, I needed to make sure our furbabies would be okay. Beyond that, dealing with all the stuff Nigel left behind taught me that I need to do what Nigel never got a chance to do: Pare down.

Getting rid of stuff will be a very, very long process, and there’s not much I can do to speed that up, because there’s a lot of emotion tied up in that job. But the first one was much easier: I drew up a will mainly to provide for my furbabies and to make clear what will happen to them if I die before they do. I don’t actually care what happens to the stuff I leave behind—it can all go to the tip, for all I care. But the furbabies’ welfare matters more to me now than ever, now that Nigel isn’t here to look after them.

It turned out that drawing up a will did more than anything else to reduce my fear of imminent death, and that, in turn, let me turn my attention to—well, I’m not sure what, exactly, but I guess it can be summed up as whatever “me” will mean in the years ahead.

But, who am I?

I have no idea. All I know for sure is that, despite my initial fears, I’m alive, I’m here. Right now, I think that whatever “me” means in the future will be about that—being alive, being here, and maybe trying to leave something behind other than stuff to be dumped somehow or other. I don’t know what all that means, either, exactly, but figuring it out is my key to moving forward.

Right now, though, I know I won’t be able to answer “who am I?” for quite a while yet. That 24 years of being half of a WE makes it hard for me to know how to be just a ME. Like I said, this is a much bigger deal than I could ever have guessed.

‘Lockdown Lite’ begins

Today is the first full day on Alert Level 3, which opens up the country a bit more. But it’s nowhere close to being back to “normal”. If Alert Level 4 can be thought of as a locked padlock, then Alert Level 3 puts the key into that lock. It’s still locked, but it can be opened a bit if we need to.

Apparently about 75% of New Zealand’s businesses are now open. The news reported there were long queues at fast food drive throughs and coffee takeaway places. At the same time, a lot more businesses can now accept online orders, as long as they’re delivered to the customer, one way or another, contactlessly. Sometimes that means delivery, other times it means picking-up the order.

Today I took advantage of our new Lockdown Lite by taking advantage of both opportunities. I posted this to my personal Facebook:
OMG! I just successfully placed an online order for delivery from Countdown! It'll be delivered during the first available time slot, which is between 6pm and 8pm tomorrow. The delivery fee was only $9, mainly because I may have ordered a little bit more than I'd have bought if I went to the supermarket in person, but that was because it's the first time in some five weeks there's been an open delivery slot, and I *may* have gotten a bit excited. About online ordering. Groceries, no less (yeah, I know…). On the other hand, after five weeks most of my supplies *are* running low, so that's the story I'm sticking with.
I also placed my first ever "click and collect" order from the hardware warehouse store so I can get the bits and pieces I need to finish my "lockdown projects" around the house (including the ones I didn't get a chance to get my supplies for). The rocks I wanted can't be delivered (dunno why not—weight?), and, of course, that's what I most needed. It seemed silly to have the other things delivered (3 to 5 days from now) when I can go get everything tomorrow morning and have no delivery fees (which I technically gave to Countdown, I suppose).
The pick up tomorrow is supposed to be "contactless", but still, I'll be around people. By having the supermarket deliver I can at least avoid being around any more people than absolutely necessary. I'm sure Dr. Bloomfield and the prime minister would approve. Besides, when I go to pick up the stuff tomorrow morning, it'll be the first time in 4 and a half weeks that I've left my property—don't want to overdo it! 😆
It probably goes to show how bloody tedious this lockdown has been that online shopping is so exciting!🤣
I’ll know tomorrow how well those options worked, but it’s also made me more determined to find more New Zealand businesses, especially small businesses, to order from. It will be at least two more weeks before retail shops re-open, and after more than six weeks away from them, who could possibly feel relaxed about going back? I have a feeling many of us will be ordering a lot of stuff for awhile yet.

The only different thing I noticed was noise, including the lack of it. I thought that the builders would start work on all the houses under construction near me, but as near as I could tell, only one of them had workers, and that’s a house that’s probably closest to being done (and it’s the only one that borders my property). However, builders were driving up our street at much faster speeds than they should have, not just in general, but also considering that pedestrians—children and adults alike—have had the streets pretty much all to themselves for more than a month. The police asked people to drive slowly today, but I guess some tradespeople didn’t get the memo.

I’m betting that the builders could be back at work tomorrow. I’ll also find out how well the delivery and “click and collect” options work. After 33 days under lockdown, it’s nice to have something else to experience than these same walls and not much else.

One step—or Alert Level—at a time.

That padlock in the photo above made its first appearance when the Lockdown began.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

A mostly complete project

Considering how much time we have while stuck at home under lockdown, there should be plenty of time to do a lot of projects around the house. There’s a lot of time to be filled, after all. Nevertheless, some of us with so little to do still manage to do very little. Not necessarily for lack of trying, though.

I had a few projects I planned to get done during the lockdown, and did most of them. I added some, too. One of my “big projects” around the house was to put stones in a sort of “trough” between the driveway and the footpath leading to the front door (before and “after” photo is above). Naturally, there’s a story to that.

When I first saw the house, the trough was empty, and the lawns non-existent (the real estate photos had grass photoshopped where the lawns should be, but I saw the house before I ever saw those photos). When I bought the house, the builder offered to put either bark or white stones into the trough, and I wasn’t keen on either.

The problem with bark is that it has to be topped up all the time (and cats, um, like to visit bark…), but I didn’t want that, anyway: I wanted stones. That was so that if anyone accidentally drove onto it, they wouldn’t sink into the trough. Also, the trough is right next to where a car would be parked, and I knew that it would take a little care when getting out of a car to avoid falling into the trough, something I quickly confirmed when I moved in. In other words, I wanted stones, something resilient, but very low maintenance. Just not white stones.

Since the house is white, and at the time the concrete of the driveway and the footpath was new and quite white, too, I felt white stones would be too bright. So I decided I wanted grey river stones, and I also decided to take care of it myself to make sure I got exactly what I wanted.

After the house in Auckland sold, I started getting ready to take care of that among other projects—mere days, it turned out, before New Zealand went under lockdown, so my preparations turned out to be a bit rushed.

I bought the initial bags of base course stones on the Saturday before lockdown, but I could see where we were headed, so I went back out on Monday and bought more, along with bags of the grey river stones I wanted because I was afraid I wouldn’t get a chance to get them before lockdown.

Almost as soon as I got the bags of rocks home I worried that I hadn’t gotten enough—but there was no way to get any more: It was already too late. Partly because of that, I kept putting the project off.

Until yesterday.

First job was to put weed mat underneath, and I had an attack of the stupids, the sort most people would never admit. But, I’m not most people.

The weed mat package said it was 1.83 metres wide by 5 metres long. I pulled it out so I could pre-cut it to the correct width for the trough. “This is not 1.8 metres,” I thought to myself. I cut four pieces to get me started, and went out to place it.

I used some short galvanised nails to secure it; normally very long metal staple-like things are used, but I was concerned there might be a drain under there somewhere, and didn’t want to risk poking a hole in it. I got one piece secured at the far end, then another next to that, but when I started to put the third piece into place, I noticed something: It was folded over. It turned out that, unfolded, it really was 1.83 metres wide. Oops.

I re-laid out the second that third pieces (but not the first), which meant the fourth fitted perfectly. Part one of the project was successfully completed—ultimately.

The washed ex-lawn rocks.
The next job was to put in the base course of stones, but first I had a task to complete. A month ago today, I wrote about “terraforming” the section, and mentioned picking up rocks in the grass, some of which turned out to be bits of concrete from the construction of the house. I washed them off (so I wouldn’t introduce any dirt), then put them into the trough first (in the middle photo above, which also shows the weed mat I'd put in place). I then poured the bags of base course stones into the trough and levelled it off, more or less. It turned out that while I probably could have used a bag or two more, it was pretty good—good enough that I decided to go ahead and put on the bags of river stones.

When I emptied the third bag of river stones, I realised I had two or three bags too few (right photo up top, which also shows the base course at the bottom): The trough is filled from the top, and will gradually slide down the slope, but that will leave the top kind of skimpy.

The top portion of the trough,
more or less what it'll look like
when it's done.
From Tuesday I should be able order more stones, though I’m not sure if it’ll be delivered or if I have to pick it up. In any case, doing the project so close to the end of lockdown means it won’t have to sit unfinished for too long. Still, it’s mostly done, and I can at least see that I’m happy with my choices.

Another lockdown project is (mostly) complete. Something else to (mostly) check off my To Do List, Lockdown Edition. It’s true that with so little to do, I’ve managed to do very little, and so, there are still some other projects waiting. With at least two weeks at Alert Level 3 (“Lockdown Lite”) ahead of us, I just might get a little done on those other projects, too. Maybe.

A new guest spot

I forgot to share this at the time it was released, but I was a guest on a podcast, the first time in nearly two years. It’s episode 8 of the recently re-booted “This week in Gay” podcast, and is called “LGBT life in New Zealand with Arthur”, though as is often the case, the conversation was quite wide ranging, with lots about New Zealand in general, too.

I’ve known the host, George, for many years now, and we’re both part of the Pride48 group of LGBT and LGBT-friendly podcasters, so it was like chatting with an old friend. I said that the podcast is a reboot, and as it happens, I was on the premiere of the original version of the podcast back in June, 2011, though the recording is no longer available (I may have a copy somewhere).

In any event, I had a good time, and I’d like to thank George for having me on.

Pizza-ish night

There was a time Nigel and I would make our own pizzas, and last night I revisited those efforts. It was more assembly than creation, but it was nice all the same, just as it was years ago.

When Nigel and I made our pizzas, we used bases from the supermarket at first. Then for a time we made mini pizzas using small flour tortillas, and we even bought a cast iron frypan to use for that.

The photo above is a descendant of those early efforts that I made (well, assembled…) for last night’s dinner. I used 12 inch flour tortillas, pre-made pizza sauce (from the supermarket), some fresh tomato I chopped, some already chopped black olives (in a jar), oregano, and two grated cheeses (Edam and Parmesan, and, yes, I grated the cheese myself). I put them on pizza pans and put them in the oven (200C) until the cheese was melted, maybe 8 minutes.

It was quick and easy, and I’ll do it again.

For some time—years, probably—I wanted to try making pizza completely from scratch, especially the base and sauce. This lockdown experience has led me to try making things I never did before, so maybe I’ll finally make pizza from scratch, too. After all, even after we’re finally out of Lockdown and Lockdown Lite I’ll still need things to do.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Lockdown activities

There aren’t all that many things to do during a lockdown, as so many people have found out. For me, it’s not that there aren’t things to do, it’s that there isn’t anything that I want to do. Still, I find things to do, and not all of them have something to do with cooking.

However, some of them do have something to do with cooking or food, and the photo above is an example of that. It’s of some chocolate fudge I made served with a cup of espresso coffee. As I said in Instagram:
“I made some chocolate fudge last night, and I thought it was time to have some, and a coffee. This was STRICTLY for medicinal purposes, of course, to restock my fuel after mowing the lawns. Oddly, I’m suddenly craving something salty now…”
I nicknamed the fudge “Nuclear Fudge” because it’s made in the microwave. The name is a relic of my 1990s (though I still nickname things…). The basic recipe (adjusted for what’s available in New Zealand): 250 grams each of milk chocolate and dark chocolate, around 200 grams of butter (maybe coconut oil could be a substitute? Dunno.), and one tin of sweetened condensed milk. All ingredients are put into a microwave-proof bowl and nuked around medium for around a couple minutes at most (this will vary depending on power of the microwave). Stir it, nuke it again, repeat as much as needed until everything’s melted and you have it mixed well (I used a whisk for the final mixing).

Pour into a well-greased square cake pan (I lined mine with baking paper instead). Cool a bit then pop into the fridge for a few hours (I chill it overnight). Slice and put into sealed containers and put it back in the fridge. That’s it. Simple.

The chocolate I used is by New Zealand company Whittaker’s, which I love. I used a 250g block of their Creamy Milk chocolate, and a 250g block of the their Dark Cacao, which is 62% cocoa. I made the fudge at Christmas, but used their Dark Ghana, which is 72% cocoa. I thought that was a little too heavy for fudge, which is why I used a different dark chocolate block this time. I much prefer it.

The original recipe called for half a bag of milk chocolate chips and half a back of semi-sweet chocolate chips, but the American-style of those isn’t readily available here, so I changed to real chocolate. It turns out that I prefer it with real chocolate. That’s not the first time I preferred the modified version of a recipe.

I made the fudge because I could, and because it was simple and quick to make. I was also starting to want some chocolate again, and didn’t want to eat up my milk chocolate. This fudge is really good, and rich enough that I don’t have very much in a single day. What I made will last some time.

I shared the photo on Instagram after I was done with a household chore, which I described on my personal Facebook:
Finished mowing the lawns a little while ago, and now the skies are clouding over—apparently I got the timing just right! This is the third time I've mowed the lawns (started the weekend before lockdown), something I haven't done since I was a teenager, I don't think. It's oddly therapeutic.
Today I used the line trimmer around all the edges, so the lawns are now done for a couple weeks—less if the weather permits, because I want to cut it shorter. This mow was a little later than I wanted due to rain.

Today I also did a little blog maintenance: Several photos in recent posts were being shown as missing for some reason. So, I replaced them, and all is well.

There were further food adventures, too. Last week I made bread in the breadmaker, using the basic white bread recipe.,It turned out okay. I needed more this week, so I made another loaf yesterday and it was, um, less successful. I added the “dust” from my All Bran cereal (which I usually throw away), and whizzed it together with some rolled oats. I also used high grade flour I had on hand (which is recommended for bread because it’s higher in protein). I also added a small extra amount of yeast. The result (photo below) was browner than normal, but not especially pleasant: Too dense and oddly flavourless. Back to the basic recipe.

So, I’m keeping myself busy during the lockdown, and that won’t change when we move to Alert Level 3 (which isn’t that much different than Alert Level 4, which is lockdown). I have plenty of stuff to do, and some of it I may even want to do. Some of them may even have something to do with cooking. Or not.

The names of products listed are all registered trademarks, and are used here for purposes of description and clarity. No company or entity provided any support or payment for this blog post, and all products were purchased by me at normal retail prices. So, the opinions I expressed are my own genuinely held opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the manufacturers, any retailer, or any known human being, alive or dead, real or corporate. Just so we’re clear.

The less successful breadmaker bread.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Still cooking

Tonight I made dinner from some of my recent supplies. It wasn’t new, per se, because it was built on what I’ve done before, and yet it kind of was. Basically, it was just dinner, but it was easy to do and worth adapting, so I’m sharing what I did.

I took the chicken I didn’t cook last night (two boneless/skinless thighs), cut it into bite-sized pieces, and marinaded it. The marinade was dark soy sauce, which can be quite salty, so I added about a tablespoon of honey (lighter soy sauce will also work). I also used a clove or so of finely chopped fresh garlic, a bit of ground ginger, a bit of madras curry powder, and a pinch of dried coriander leaves. I mixed all that up, put the chicken in the bowl, stirred it all, then left it in the fridge for around a half hour. I can’t give precise portions because the amount of marinade needed will depend on how much chicken you’re cooking, but for a couple thighs, I started with around three tablespoons of soy sauce.

I put some frozen veggies in the microwave (peas, corn, and green beans), and chopped a fresh carrot into small pieces (so it would cook faster). Then I fried the marinated chicken in small batches and put the cooked chicken in a bowl to the side. Then I put in the fresh carrot and cooked it, I added a little of the marinade for some liquid. Then I added the microwaved frozen veggies, and a bit more of the marinade. Then I put in some unsalted cashews (as my mother would say, “enough—until it looks right”). Finally, I added the chicken back in, stirred it a bit, then added the rest of the marinade and simmered it all together for awhile.

I served it in a bowl with some jasmine rice (any variety would probably work). It had a little bit of heat (Nigel would say it had none…), but I liked it anyway, and might deliberately try to increase the heat just a little bit next time. It tasted a bit like a Thai or even Korean BBQ, though much cooler than than the latter.

This meal is based on a chicken and vegetable stirfry I used to make for Nigel and me, something I always adapted to whatever I had on hand. It’s not really the cuisine of any particular country, but influenced by various East Asian cuisines—well, as I interpret and adapt them, anyway.

The point of this, really, is that once you get a recipe down, it’s okay to experiment and vary that tried and true recipe. Tonight’s meal still has room for me to manipulate it, and that’s what keeps it all interesting to me.

This meal was also another meal I made from a plan: I made two meals each from the package of chicken breasts and the package of chicken thighs (the last two nights were the only contiguous ones). I have plans for two more groups of meat, plus frozen ingredients to make other meals. And I’ll be making bread every week. I never used to plan out meals as much as I have been lately, but being under lockdown means it’s not a simple thing to go out and get more stuff. Even if I go, there’s no guarantee the supermarket will have what I want. This means it pays to plan out at least a week in advance, and it will for a few weeks yet. The truth is, it’s easier planning for just me because I can base it on what I like and might feel like, and I don’t really care if I’m repetitive. I guess this is the one thing I can point to as evidence of moving toward whatever my life will become. I guess.

In any case, these cooking adventures will continue at least until we get to Level 2, probably beyond. I won’t necessarily photograph and talk about every one (actually, I know I won’t), but if I want to, I’ll post about it. After all, part of the whole point of this blog is sharing what I’m doing. Even when it’s just dinner.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Another lockdown food adventure

Tonight was my first attempt at making Karaage Chicken. I had to improvise a bit, but it was pretty good! I count it as a win.

The recipe has two parts. First, around 300g of chicken is marinated for about a half hour or so, then it’s dipped in a coating and fried.

The marinade is 3T Japanese soy sauce (yes it makes a difference), 1T sake, 5g fresh ginger, 2 cloves of crushed fresh garlic. My substitutes: mirin instead of sake, maybe 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger instead of fresh (probably could have been a bit more).

The coating is meant to be 1/4 cup katakuriko potato starch/flour. I used corn flour (corn starch) with a little ordinary flour added (don’t know if that flour's needed, though, and without it the coating is gluten free).

The oil should get to about 180C (about 350F). Fry in small batches and put on paper towel or a rack to drain.

It's served with Japanese soy sauce and Japanese mayonnaise (also known as yum-yum sauce). It's also supposed to be served with cabbage and a wedge of lemon, but I had neither of those, either. I don’t think that really mattered, but other people might feel differently.

In sum, it was nice, and Nigel would've told me to make it again, which is the ultimate test and seal of approval. I’ll definitely make it again.

As it happens, I didn't use the recipe I mentioned in a post on Friday. The Internet can be useful.

No hugs under lockdown

I posted the above graphic on my personal Facebook. I added:

“It turns out that’s how living alone in this lockdown has hit me the hardest, and it’s made me miss Nigel all the more. I mean, the dogs are sweet, and they snuggle up to me, but—yeah. Just not the same.”

I talk to people on the phone all the time. I’ve used the apps House Party, Zoom, Whats App, and Skype. I even had a brief driveway chat with a family member, as I mentioned on Friday. But none of that allows us to be in the same space, to just sit in nearby chairs and chat, over a coffee or wine, like we used to do—and may not be able to for awhile yet.

So hugs are kind of at the apex of what’s being denied under lockdown. If Nigel was with me, I’d have his company, we could sit and talk about anything, and we could have hugs. I had no idea how much I’d miss that in particular until it was gone from my life completely. It’s making it so much harder to adjust to life without Nigel—as if that wasn’t hard enough already.

Things won’t improve much any time soon, either. At 4pm tomorrow the Prime Minister will announce whether Alert Level 4 (lockdown) will be continued, or if we’re goint to Alert Level 3, which is basically “Lockdown Lite”.

At Level 3, stores (apart from supermarkets and pharmacies) will still be closed, but some more may be able to open for online orders. Bars, cafes, and restaurants will still be closed, too, but those that can offer delivery or contactless delivery will be allowed to provide food. Some people, like construction workers, will be able to return to work, though those that can work at home are supposed to do so. Our border will remain closed. In general, we are supposed to stay at home except if we must go to work, to go to the supermarket, or to exercise close to home. We can have an “expanded bubble” which is a way for people to join another bubble to theirs, providing the two bubbles are exclusive to each other, something that’s similar to a restriction that was in place at Level 4, though that was more restrictive.

In short, there’s a little more freedom of movement, but the country is still mostly under lockdown.

Sooner or later, we’ll go to Level 3, and then be there for a time before going to Level 2, which is a little more like normal. However, “aged care facilities”, which includes retirement villages, will remain under lockdown at Level 3, and virtual lockdown under Level 2, meaning that over 70s are to self isolate. And this bothers me,

It’s possible that it could be weeks, or even months, worst case scenario. before I’m allowed to see my mother in law. At least under Level 2 the rest of the family and I can get together again, and I now appreciate how important that is.

Right now, I miss hugs the most.

Friday, April 17, 2020

A good and weird day

Several things happened today, despite my cold laying me low. One thing was good, and another—well, it was weird.

As I said earlier today, I received my order of stuff for the furbabies this, and that included a new bed for Leo, to replace the temporary one I made for him. The bed is a smaller version of the bed he has out in the lounge (and he’s been in it for several photos over the years) because the available space next to my bed is too small for the same size. In the photo above, Leo was trying out his new bed and, as I said on my personal Facebook, “he appears to approve”. Yeah, about that…

I put the bed I made for him in another part of the bedroom so he wouldn’t feel I was taking something away from him. When I went into the bedroom earlier this evening (maybe three hours ago), he was sleeping on his old bed, not the new one. When I went back an hour or so later, he was under the people bed (I call it “the Leo cave” because he’s often there). When I went in just now, he was back in his new bad. So maybe he does like it?

That was the good part of the day. Then, things got weird.

This evening I was watching TVNZ’s Seven Sharp and they were talking to “celebrity chef” Josh Emett who’s been doing cooking lessons on his Instagram account. Apparently, his Karaage Chicken (Japanese fried chicken) has been a popular post, and that’s what got my attention.

So, I logged into Instagram, and, as usual, there were notifications, and I checked them first, as I always do. The top person it suggested I follow was Nigel, who, Insta told me, followed one person and I was curious who that was (I knew it wasn’t me). I clicked on Nigel’s name, then who he followed, and that one person was—yep—Josh Emett.

Now, I know Facebook (which owns Instagram) listens to what’s going on around you and your phone, so it could be as simple as that (or mere coincidence, if you prefer). But the coincidence of seeing Nigel’s name and that the only person he was following was the very same person I went to Insta to follow was, to say the very least, really, really weird.

Remember what I was saying about unexpected reminders? This is pretty much the best possible example. But at least it made it easy for me to follow Josh.

And that was my good and weird day. I hope tomorrow is all good, including how I feel.

Resupplying under lockdown

It’s now been three weeks since New Zealand went under lockdown. Supermarkets were declared “essential services” and allowed to keep operating, but with restrictions. At the same time, people who are older or with “underlying health conditions” were urged to stay away from the supermarket. Online ordering was overloaded. What to do? I found ways to resupply under lockdown.

I last went to the supermarket on Sunday, March 22, the day before New Zealand’s lockdown was announced (I talked about my pre-lockdown shopping adventures the day before my solitary confinement began). Since then, I’ve been using what I bought, plus things I had on hand—fresh, frozen, or in the pantry. It was only in the past few days that I’ve started to run out of things, and that was what led me to try making soda bread: I ran out of bread a good week or so earlier.

I had a dilemma, as I explained last week:
There will come a time when I’ll need to go get more groceries, and that presents a challenge. I meet the criteria for people who should, when possible, avoid going to the supermarket in person because of my high blood pressure and heart issues (arrhythmia). However, those conditions are also under control, and there are people who are far worse off than I am, which makes me want to leave the available support for those who need it far more than I do. And yet, it’s scary to think I could be more vulnerable, or have a worse outcome, than others due to my my “underlying health conditions”, as they always put it.
The problem is that the supermarket chains’ online ordering system was instantly overwhelmed, and even the system they’d set up to give delivery priority to vulnerable people often had no available delivery slots. So, I had a choice between braving the supermarket or finding another way.

My decision was made when I came down with a cold (yes, it appears it’s possible, even in a lockdown). I didn’t want to risk going to a supermarket when I could be considered “vulnerable” and while already fighting (an admittedly not serious) virus. So, I looked again at “a restaurant supply company [that] sells large packages of stuff for homes, too,” even though “they greatly exceed my needs as one person living alone (in some cases, I could never get through it all before it’d go off).” My specific motivator is that one of the cafes I go to had organised to get a commission for any online orders from their referral, meaning they could get a bit of cash while they’re closed. So, I placed an order on Monday (I waited because of the holiday weekend).

The order arrived yesterday. The photo above is of the delivery truck from my perspective under lockdown; I didn’t open the front door until after the delivery guy had walked back to his truck to leave. The quality is good, as you’d expect from a company supplying the restaurant trade, but that also means it was more expensive than I’d ordinarily buy (mostly because the produce is all/mostly organic, but the meats are also high grade or organic and/or free range). I didn’t have a lot of options, other than having a family member shop for me, and that—well, I’m not ready to be that dependent on others. Not yet, not while I’m this “young”.

The only real downside of my order was that their only bag of flour is 10kg (a normal supermarket on is usually 1.5kg), and the yeast came in a 500g package (which is basically a US pound; the store-bought yeast I’d buy is in a MUCH smaller bottle). Still, I wanted ot use my breadmaker more, anyway, so I can use a lot of it up, maybe even all of it.

So, I’m now stocked with food for at least a couple more weeks (and several months for breadmaking…), and hopefully by then we’ll have moved to Alert Level 3. However, that’ll really be a sort of “Lockdown Lite”, with most of the same restrictions still in place, but with a little easing. The preliminary guidelines for what that will mean were released yesterday, and will be put into place whenever we exit lockdown (and a decision on that date is to be made next week).

I said last week that I’d placed my first online order for supplies, and it was for the furbabies. The package was picked up here in Hamilton on Tuesday, so I expected that the order would arrive the next day, Wednesday, but it didn’t. It also didn’t come yesterday. It arrived at 9:12am today. That delay resulted in a small problem: Among other things, I ordered a resupply of their morning treats, but I ran out of them on Wednesday morning (I had to improvise Thursday and this morning). I think, but don’t know, that the delay in delivery may have been due to higher volume of packages being delivered because people are ordering in supplies they can’t go and get.

Meanwhile, the “hoarding” of the dog food I did on my last trip away from the house on March 23 turned out not to be that: I opened Jake and Sunny’s food this week, and will open Leo’s soon. So, it turned out I bought the dog food at most a week earlier than I otherwise would have (because I don’t want to run out, I always buy new well before we get too low). If these severe restrictions continue into Alert Level 3, I can order their food online, too, if I need to—I’ll just have to allow extra time for delivery.

Yesterday I added one more “contactless” delivery: Family. My sister in law was going to the discount chemist and asked if I wanted anything. As it happens, I was running low on toothpaste, and, in fact, had already resorted to using the small samples I got at the periodontist.

My sister in law bought the toothpaste and drove over to my house, left them at the front door, then backed off. That meant I was able to come outside and we could have a brief chat—separated by more than the minimum two metres. She was the first person I know that I’ve seen in some three and a half weeks, and even from a distance it was nice to see a friendly, familiar face. It was the best medicine my cold could get. I guess allowing family to help me resupply wasn't quite as embarrassing as I'd thought—there are benefits.

So, the furbabies and I are well supplied, and I found ways to get more supplies without having to take the risk of going out and queuing up at the supermarket like someone in East Berlin in 1962, and the health risks that may pose. I found a way to resupply under lockdown without having to take any real risks. Hopefully, I won’t need to do that again.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Today’s lockdown adventure

Today I tried making soda bread for the first time. I needed to make a "quick bread" because I don't have any yeast. It kind if reminds me of a giant scone, which I guess it basically is, really.

The recipe I used adds sugar, and a bit too much, in my opinion. I didn't have any buttermilk (and never do unless I make a special trip), so I used cream of tartar to acidify ordinary milk, and the texture of the bread turned out about right. Actually, all things considered, it's surprisingly okay!

My original plan for lockdown was to make bread at home in the breadmaker, but I couldn't get any yeast beforehand because the supermarket had already been ransacked (just kidding, kind of—actually, they were completely sold out of flour, too). I placed an order today for delivery of a rather huge bag of flour and more yeast than I'd normally buy, so I'll definitely be using the breadmaker!

I had to prop it up on the bread knife because I couldn't cut it straight. Of course.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Unexpected reminders

None of us can control what will remind us of something, nor the timing of those reminders. When it’s a good thing we’re being reminded of, we don’t care, but when it’s a bad thing? Well, reminders are there, regardless, and they can come in the most unexpected ways and times.

On Monday I made myself a roast chicken dinner, which I blogged about yesterday. The chicken and potatoes were in the oven and I was sitting watching TV. My phone was on the table next to me, so I saw it when I received an alert (photo above). It was enough to make me want to cry.

Every weekday, Nigel would ring me on his way home, often somewhere around 5:30, and ask me, “what’s for dinner?” He might text me with the same question if he was free in the afternoon, or if he was held up for some reason. So when I saw that alert, particularly at the time it came through, I was instantly carried back to those betters days, and reminded yet again of how much I’ve lost.

Such reminders are common, and probably more often than not they’re equally simple and even banal. Their ordinariness doesn’t in any way reduce their impact, though.

I might hear a song, see a TV commercial, unpack a moving box with something that, like those other things, reminds me of my loss. I may cry, or I may not, but either way, I’m there. Again.

And that’s the thing about profound grief: It’s absolutely impossible to avoid or hide from reminders of our loss any more than we can hide from the loss itself. This is probably why it’s so common for people to try to avoid talking about the person lost in front of the one grieving, but that’s the worst possible thing they can do.

I’ve talked several times about how no one needs to know the “right” words to say to a grieving person, that it’s enough just to listen. There’s one more thing that I think helps, and it’s something that becomes more important the farther we get from the moment of loss: Talking together about that person we’ve lost.

I’m lucky that many people in my life have (correctly!) gathered that I’m open to talking about Nigel, my grief, and pretty much anything related to those. If someone asks me a question, I answer it, as best I can at that moment, because I work under the assumption that anyone who doesn’t want to know won’t ask questions. I have no problem with people who don’t ask questions for whatever reason, but I hope it’s not out of fear of upsetting me: Silence upsets me, not talking.

I absolutely love it when people tell me anecdotes about Nigel, the sorts of things I can’t necessarily know about because I wasn’t there. It may be a work story, or maybe about randomly running in to him one day, or stories about stuff before he came into my life—literally anything. I love such stories because it adds even more depth and dimension to the man I loved so dearly. Since I can no longer add such things, those stories actually give me more of Nigel, and I’m grateful for that.

I also hope people will continue to share how they’re feeling and dealing with the loss of Nigel, about when they have bad patches and how they reacted and coped with it. When they do, it’s a transcendent moment for me: A burden shared is a burden halved, and all that, and as I’ve often said, being concerned about and interested in the welfare of others helps to lift us out of ourselves.

I have my own realities, just as other grieving people do, but for me hearing stories about Nigel helps me to step out of my grief over losing him, and back into the warmth I had with him, and it helps me to focus on the good and the happy, and not on the one unimaginably bad thing. People sharing their own struggles reminds me I’m not alone (and, I hope it reminds them of the same thing). That’s why I call it a transcendent experience, something that’s pretty rare in these days of grief.

Right now, while we’re in lockdown, the opportunities for such sharing are minimal. That means that the effects of unexpected reminders like I had earlier this week can be greater than usual. Still, because I’m in a different space than I was six months ago (literally and figuratively), I’m not always as affected by such reminders as I was back then. Sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they don’t. I don’t actually need any reminders to remember my grief, so whether I have any reminders or not is kind of irrelevant to how I feel at any given moment.

In any case, reminders are there, regardless of how they affect me, and they often come in the most unexpected ways and times. And that’s okay. I don’t need a reminder for that fact, either.

Papatūānuku is breathing

The video above was posted to Facebook today by Auckland Tourism, Events, and Economic Development (ATEED), an organisation controlled by Auckland Council. In normal times, they promote Auckland as a place to visit, play, and invest, but things are different now, and this video reflects that. It finishes:
“Sit at a distance, stand as one. When the time is right, we welcome you. But for now, listen. Papatūānuku (our earth mother) is breathing.”
They note in their Facebook post that this video doesn’t break any of the lockdown rules—something that’s sadly necessary to point out these days. They said:
  • All footage captured prior to lockdown. Voiceover and editing completed at home.
  • Bird sound recording source: Department of Conservation. [Link in the original]
A lot of people have been commenting on how much bird song can be heard now, and I’ve also seen people say that some rare birds have reappeared near people. I’ve certainly noticed how quiet things are at the moment, and that’s very welcome.

This lockdown is a struggle for everyone to varying degrees, but the earth itself is having a reprieve, which is good in itself. Maybe when this is over we could try a bit harder and not return to our bad habits. Papatūānuku would appreciate that, and so should we all.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Cooking under lockdown

New Zealanders are doing what they need to do to get through this lockdown, and that includes decisions about food and shopping for food. I’ve made my choices, too, and so far that’s working well.

On Monday, I made a roast chicken dinner, the first time I’ve ever made roast chicken for me only. I knew that I’d get three or probably four meals from that, and that’s what’s happened. I had a chicken in the freezer from before lockdown, and I had a few potatoes that weren’t far from going, and that was the motivator for my timing (and, as an aside, those were among the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever made).

There will come a time when I’ll need to go get more groceries, and that presents a challenge. I meet the criteria for people who should, when possible, avoid going to the supermarket in person because of my high blood pressure and heart issues (arrhythmia). However, those conditions are also under control, and there are people who are far worse off than I am, which makes me want to leave the available support for those who need it far more than I do. And yet, it’s scary to think I could be more vulnerable, or have a worse outcome, than others due to my my “underlying health conditions”, as they always put it.

I’ve explored online ordering, but supermarkets are facing such heavy demand that no slots are available. They do have a “priority” list, which I’m not keen on joining for the reason above, and, more practically, it’s every bit as much overused as for regular retail customers. The companies I’ve found so far that could deliver at least some stuff aren’t really suitable. For example, a restaurant supply company sells large packages of stuff for homes, too, but they greatly exceed my needs as one person living alone (in some cases, I could never get through it all before it’d go off). I also explored companies that deliver all the makings for meals, but one isn’t taking new customers, one doesn’t provide meals for one, and a third one’s web system couldn’t recognise me as being in Hamilton. So, for the moment, at least, I’ve given up on all those ideas.

Instead, I’ve been both more attentive to what I have on hand (like, for example, making sure that I used those potatoes while I still could), and a bit more creative about making stuff. I was reasonably well-stocked before the lockdown began, but the Sunday before it was announced, I topped up with a few things I would soon run out of, and I’m still going. I should be able to go for at least a week without needing to venture out to resupply, and the lockdown itself may well end a week after that (although, even when it does, shopping restrictions, like queuing up for food like an East German in 1962, will remain for quite some time).

I also have some challenges with healthcare. I intended to register with a doctor here in Hamilton the week that lockdown began, and there just wasn’t time to do that: From Tuesday access to doctors was restricted. I have enough of my prescriptions left to last me three weeks and five days (I did an inventory today; I have much more of some medications). When we move from the Level 4 lockdown back to Level 3, there will still be restrictions on face-to-face consultations with doctors, which means it still won’t be time to change. So, I’ll probably have to have my doctor in Auckland fax my prescriptions (a story in itself…) to a chemist here in Hamilton, and continue to wait to change doctors.

Related to that is one of my biggest pre-lockdown regrets: I didn’t get a chance to get my routine blood tests done, and now it’s impossible to do that. On top of that, I now live in a different area of the country than I used to, and the testing company here is different than there, so I have to go back to Auckland to get the tests done (if I had a doctor here, they could order them here). I simply didn’t have the time or strength to get the tests done that final week before lockdown, and now I have to wait.

Still, challenges aside, and ignoring my reluctance (for a lot of reasons) to go to a supermarket, I’m still coping reasonably well. I have some of my pre-lockdown projects to finish, plus a few more I’ve added on, so I’ll be able to keep busy for quite awhile.

I think it’s about time to do the one thing I haven’t done yet: Baking. Everyone deserves a little something nice, and if I can cook a roast chicken dinner for myself, there’s no reason I can’t make a batch of cookies, or whatever. Cooking under lockdown doesn’t have to mean self-denial, after all; we have the lockdown itself for that.

Update: Tonight I placed my first online order for supplies. It was for the dogs. Of course.

Monday, April 06, 2020

The Queen’s broadcast to the UK and Commonwealth

Today the Queen delivered a special message to the UK and The Commonwealth, one of only five time that she’s made an address apart from her annual Christmas message (the others were in 1991 during the Gulf War, in 1997 after the death of Princess Diana, and after the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, and in 2012 to mark her Diamond Jubilee). The video was recorded at Windsor Castle, where she and Prince Philip are riding out the self-isolation, something that’s prudent for a 93 year old.

The Queen’s been around so long that she offers a unique lived experience relevant to these times. I’m not exactly a royalist, but gotta admire the ol’ gal’s fortitude, attention to her duties, and the sort of comfort coming from the continuity of her presence.

This post is a revised and expanded version of something I posted to my personal Facebook today.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Jake is 13

This year Jake turned 13. Understandably, I wasn’t exactly in a mood to celebrate, but I made a fuss of Jake all the same, pretty much the same way I have most years: I gave him extra pats and cuddles, and his dinner was his usual dry food, with some tinned dog food (both the same premium brand), with a little bacon fat drizzled on it. He loved it, of course, and also enjoyed the extra attention.

We sang “Happy Birthday” to Jake, and when I say “we”, I mean me and Leo. For some reason, Leo always “sings along” with that song, and only that song, something that Nigel first noticed when it was used in something he was watching on TV and Leo started “singing”. We sang it many times afterward because ti made us laugh, and sometimes Sunny joined in a bit. Jake would just wag his tail; he’s not much into singing.

Yesterday, Jake didn’t seem to mind his serenade, and Sunny was nearby smiling. At least, I think that’s what she was doing—it could have been a grimace of pain from the singing.

Jake’s still a happy and active boy, though getting older and moving slower, of course. (a bit like me). I have no idea whether Jake feels Nigel’s absence, but I think/believe that because I made sure that they saw Nigel after he died the furbabies understood in whatever way dogs grasp such things. He certainly hasn’t seemed depressed or in mourning, though I’m not exactly sure what it would look like if he was. Basically, he just seems the same as always.

Two years ago I said that Jake “came to live with us at a sad time, and made the sadness go away.” I hope that I’ve spared him sadness. My own sadness continues, of course, but life is definitely brighter than it otherwise would be if he hadn’t been in my life over these past six months. As I said last year, magic powers, indeed.

Happy Thirteenth Birthday, Jake!

Related posts:
Jake is 12
Jake is 11
Jake is TEN
Jake is 9
Jake is 8
Jake is 7
Jake is 6
Jake turns 5
Jake is four
Jake turns three
Jake’s Birthday 2-day
Jake is one year old!
A new arrival

Friday, April 03, 2020

2Political Podcast 129 is available

2Politiical Podcast is back with another episode: Episode 129 is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

This episode was recorded on the first of April (NZDT), but Arthur spent most of the next day fixing the 2Political website, which had “issues”. Oh, well.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Solo survivor

I spent two and a half decades as half of a couple, and we faced everything together—the good, the bad, and also just the boringly ordinary. Facing a major international crisis like Covid-19 is something none of us could have anticipated, not really, and facing it alone is nothing I could ever have imagined. This whole thing has given me yet another reminder that this grieving process is far from over. In fact, in some ways it’s just beginning, but in a very good way.

The government announced we’d be going under lockdown three days after our house in Auckland changed owners. Three days after that, we were under lockdown. So much happened so quickly that it’s kind of hard to keep track of time—and we’re all finding that to be true. For me, though, the increased Covid-19 response happened hard on the heels of the very traumatic two weeks before that.

In early February I said about moving to Hamilton that “for the first time, I truly had time to properly grieve.” That was true, but only just: I still had our last house together keeping me tied to everything that happened there, especially losing Nigel. That weight was taken off of me just before New Zealand went under lockdown.

This state of affairs presented an entirely unexpected situation for me, added on top of everything else I’d been dealing with. As I said last week at this time,
There’s a personal irony in this situation: I moved from Auckland to Hamilton so that I wouldn’t have to be alone all the time, and now I will be anyway. Someone’s “got a sick sense of humour”, as the Depeche Mode song put it.
I haven’t seen anyone in the family—or anyone I know—for a week and a half. I also haven’t seen my mother-in-law in two and a half weeks. Sure, I talk to all those people on the phone, but I did that in Auckland, too. The difference is that I can’t go see them, or vice versa, or even talk to the neighbour over the fence. I don’t know anyone in the area where I now live, and seldom even see anyone. When I joke that I’m in “solitary confinement”, all of that’s what I’m referring to.

And yet, I’m not alone: I have my furbabies. I can talk to them as much as I want to, and I do, and they don’t seem to mind at all. In fact, they’re what’s getting me through this weird time. I don’t know how—or if—I’d cope if I was literally all alone, not this close to everything else I’ve been through.

If Nigel was still with me and this happened, I may not have seen much of him. He had an important senior role with Auckland Council, and they would have needed him to work. He would have done so from home, as he often had, but because he was also an emergency (civil defence) controller, he’d have been called upon to help with Auckland’s response to the pandemic. Part of him would’ve loved that—the excitement, the seriousness of the situation, making a difference, all of that. But it would also have exhausted him, and, no doubt, other people in Council would have frustrated him. He’d have had trouble turning off and relaxing and resting. I’d have helped by making no demands on him and ensuring he was fed and given cups of tea, all so he could concentrate on his important work.

If that was the reality I was in, there would be large stretches of time when he’d be gone doing Council work, and I would have been home alone. But, as had always been the case, I’d have known he was coming back home. We would be facing everything together, just as we’d always done.

But that’s not the reality I’m in. Nigel’s gone, and I’m facing this all alone (with the furbabies). However, this has led me to see that things have changed since the first few weeks and months after Nigel died.

At the beginning of this journey, a lot of my grief was centred on, “WTF do I do NOW?”, about facing the world alone, dealing with absolutely everything in my life all alone, and finding some sort of purpose in that life alone. However, after the house sold and the lockdown began, I realised there’d been a subtle shift: I still can’t answer that question, and I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll ever be able to. But now, for the first time, really, I’m working through my loss, feeling the searing pain of no longer having Nigel in my life, and not even thinking about what may be ahead. This lockdown, by forcing me to be alone, has given me the chance to really face being alone. Through that, I have a chance of finding some peace with this reality I’m now in; I’ll worry about “WTF do I do NOW?” later (I can’t do much about that at the moment, anyway).

So, as we remain in lockdown, I find things to do, when I feel like it, I cry heartily, when I feel like it, I sit around watching TV, when I feel like it—in short, I’m feeling it, this new life, for the first time since this journey began. This solo time is the most significant thing yet to help me toward finding peace. That’s been a very good thing; there had to be one good thing about it.

Small projects

I have a lot of projects to help keep me busy during the lockdown, including several I haven’t been rushing to do so that I don’t run out too quickly. And then there are the small projects I add on, too. Like this one.

I posted the photo above to my personal Facebook on Sunday, saying “Apparently, when this is over, I’ll need to buy Leo a dog bed for the bedroom.” I added in a comment:
He’s sleeping on my shirt from yesterday and t-shirt from last night. I am NOT in the habit of leaving my clothes on the floor! Well, unless a furbaby’s sleeping on it, of course.
Since I’d be picking up my shirts to wash them, that would leave Leo with no “bed” in the bedroom, apart from the one we all share, of course. So here’s what I came up with:

I posted that to my personal Facebook last night, and added this:
Day 6 Achievement: I made Leo a temporary dog bed in the bedroom using a cushion for an outdoor chair, an old mattress protector (folded in half lengthwise and wrapped around the cushion), and an extra big dog towel on top of it all. I rolled the mattress protector and the towel together to make a raised area at the back because Leo likes sleeping up against things (including me…), and because sometimes he likes a pillow.

To be honest, I wouldn’t have mentioned all this if I hadn’t seen him in his new “bed” (pictured) as I was going to mine. Or, if he hadn’t used it at all. As it happens, he’s been sleeping on it most of the evening (he goes to bed much earlier than the rest of us).

Clearly, I’m mad about my furbabies, but they keep me from going mad during this lockdown, so it’s a fair trade
This was a small project for a small guy, and he clearly loved it: He’s been using his temporary “bed” a lot since then, including much of this morning. When this is all over, I really will get him an actual dog bed for the bedroom, in addition to the larger one he has out in the lounge.

And that was one small project that I completed yesterday. I still have a few more small projects (in addition to more unpacking), but this one at least was appreciated by someone other than myself.

Neither Jake nor Sunny have shown interest in dog beds—or sleeping on my shirts.

2Political Podcast 128 is available

2Politiical Podcast is back with another episode: Episode 128 is now available from the podcast website. There, you can listen, download or subscribe to the podcast, or leave comments on the episode. The five most recent episodes are also listed with links in the right sidebar of this blog.

This was from last week, and I forgot to share it here. There’s a new episode on the way, so I’d better announce this now!