Day 45 and the whole world appeared to be out on Narrow Neck beach today. We’d been gifted a day from the heavens. A smooth cerulean canvas stretching to the horizon, sun shining bright from the blue expanse and throwing a warm light over land and sea. On the sand it was jam-packed with people and dogs. There were toddlers sitting in their shorts and overalls in the lapping water at the tide’s edge, picking up clumps of wet sand and looking at it, and there was a woman in a bikini with a long cardigan thrown over the wet garments, because after all it is May and although the sun was lighting up the world, turning the water into sparkling diamonds, the air temperature was definitely cooler. This reminded me of another day in early February at Home Bay on the other side of the harbour. We were having a heat wave then and the small sliver of sand between the pohutukawas on the cliff and the tideline was so jammed with people we had to walk in the sea first and then make a beeline to a patch smaller than a bathing towel in size, among a seething mass of sunscreen covered humanity. On the way I remember lifting my feet high as I stepped over prone bodies, saying, excuse me, excuse me until I reached the folded picnic rug. Even in the luke-warm, grey-green water you had to steer around bodies floating feet up, faces turned to the light. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the heat and the dazzling light and the press of bodies and thinking this is awful. It’s not New Zealand the way I remember it. Get me out of here.
I think I am right about this. There seems to be a rising trend amongst parts of the population to get out and exercise. Perhaps the period in lockdown has made us tighten up our intentions, firm our resolve to make exercise an integral element in the daily routine. But some are overly intense and spoil it for others. These people assume that just because they are jogging and have worked up a sweat, and just because they are dressed in fancy slinky gear and are wearing fit bits and apple wrist watches, telling the world that a serious programme is in progress, they can career past the rest of us and almost collide. There seems to be no attempt to observe the two metre social distancing rule that will keep us safe. I get quite cross about this.
The tide was way out today. You could virtually walk all the way to Rangitoto. Around the rocks, at the southern end of the bay, the departing sea had revealed crevices and shallow basins brimming with fresh sea water. Here the surface was still, like glass and seeming to heighten the colours in dusky purple seaweed and ochre sediment. When my eye notices these things I want to stop talking and have the rocks all to myself. I want to kneel down with my hands together, bowing slightly and say thank you.
Back home I read in a-Sunday-afternoon-with-the-papers-fashion, although this was on a screen, jumping from article to article, only reading three-quarters of the way down, even less, to discover what was going on in the world. Of the 3.7 million recorded and reported cases of coronavirus (it is likely the numbers are far higher than this) there have been 264,000 deaths. The highest numbers are in the US with the UK, Spain and Italy not far behind. Next there was a study of people’s compliance in lockdown and the reasons for this. Unfortunately I failed to absorb the discussion. My attention was diverted by an unsettling online advertisement at the top right of the screen — a photo of two rats, their faces peering out of a small hole in a wall. They each had a dark pink rim, that looked like blood, around the edge of each eye. Utterly disgusting, yet frustratingly when I scrolled back up hoping they would disappear or be replaced by something better, they stayed put. I tried putting a piece of paper over the image but it showed through. It was as though the internet knew that today when I emptied my food scraps in the black compost bin beside the garden gate, I had disturbed a rat. The creature made quite a noise as it dived under the rotting kelp and out through a hole in the side. I saw the body and tail disappearing through the gap, and a flicker of movement as it sped under the fence into the neighbour’s back garden. I stayed quite calm. My heart did not jump.
Then this evening on a phone call to my son, in Sydney, we discussed the big event of tomorrow. He is collecting an eight-week old Scottish Fold kitten from its breeder. This winsome creature, a female, has a cuddly round face, black with a white nose and tummy. Its two front paws are white as well, eyes pale grey-blue. We went through a hundred French names for girl cats. Enchanting, a delightful diversion and a very happy way to round out and finish day 45 in alert level 3 in the time of coronavirus.