*(an occasional (mostly monthly) meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started & my inspirations in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)
April was Month #13 going on 14 of living with the COVID-19 pandemic. In last month's "Right Now" post, I wrote:
The region where I live (near Toronto) came out of lockdown on Feb. 22nd (and there are some businesses in Toronto & Peel regions that STILL haven't been allowed to reopen! -- hair & nail salons, gyms, no indoor dining at restaurants, etc.). However, case numbers are almost as high as they've ever been, including a huge surge from the new, more contagious variants -- and it's almost a certainty that there will be a THIRD shutdown/stay at home order soon... sigh...
(I REALLY hate being right in this case.) I started trying to write a summary of the rollercoaster ride and twists & turns this province has experienced over the past month (alone!), but gave up when it started reaching "War & Peace" length (and I'm only slightly exaggerating)...! It's one of those things that needs to be seen/experienced to be believed.
Suffice to say the provincial government doesn't know what the frack it's doing and basically has been throwing things at the wall to see what will stick. It took months & months of begging from the medical experts before they FINALLY agreed to a paid sick leave plan last week for those workers whose companies don't offer one (just three days, when most experts were asking for 10 to 14, to accommodate the recommended length of quarantine). Daily new case numbers reached an all-time high of 4,812 on April 16th, and the seven-day average only just dipped back below the 4,000 mark again this week. Hospitals are jammed, and ICUs are at capacity. The patients being admitted are both sicker and younger. Tragically, a 13-year-old girl living one town over from mine (one of the hardest hit regions in the country) died at home last week: her mother was already in the hospital with COVID; her father hesitated to take her to the hospital because he was afraid she would get transferred to another hospital far away (a possibility), and because he thought that since she was young, she would bounce back. She didn't.
At the moment, we are under our third lockdown/stay-at-home order of the pandemic, scheduled to last until (at least) mid-May. Almost everything is closed, including all non-essential retail (curbside pickup only). For the first time, however, larger "essential" stores, such as Walmart and Costco, are restricted to selling groceries and pharmacy items only (something other provinces have done, but Ontario had not yet). All schools are closed (at-home learning only again). The provincial government has continued to resist closing down most construction sites and non-essential factory production -- so several local municipalities (including Peel Region and the City of Toronto proper) have taken matters into their own hands and have ordered any business with five or more cases of COVID-19 to close for at least 10 days.
Meanwhile! Vaccination efforts FINALLY began to ramp up (albeit the rollout has been messy). Dh & I happily received our first shots of AstraZeneca on April 5th (and BIL & SIL got theirs the following day). We likely won't get our second shots/become fully vaccinated until at least mid-July (the current protocol is that second shots come four months -- yes, FOUR MONTHS (16 weeks) -- after the first, in order to give more people the chance to get that critical first vaccine, with at least some protection against the virus). As of yesterday (Friday), 32.4% of Ontarians have received at least one dose of vaccine, but just 2.5% have received both ( = fully vaccinated). In Manitoba, my parents and my sister's partner both received their first shots recently (Pfizer), my sister's boyfriend got his earlier this week, and she will get hers tomorrow/Sunday. Yay!!
On top of dh's usual (once or twice weekly) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, this month, we went (together -- with some trips including multiple stops):
- to the pharmacy on April 5th to get our first vaccines!! (see above)
- to the supermarket (after getting our shots).
- to see Little Great-Nephew (oh yeah, BIL & SIL too! lol), twice (earlier in April, pre-new lockdown), including once (maskless, on April 6th)to stay with him while his grandparents got their first vaccines and his parents were at the lawyer's office about their new house.
Otherwise, we've continued to stay close to home (both by edict & by choice).
*** *** ***
Reading: I read 7 books in April (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
- "Do You Have Kids? Life When the Answer is No" by Kate Kaufmann
- "The Bright Side" by Cathrin Bradbury
- "The Princess Saves Herself in This One" by Amanda Lovelace (poetry)
- "I Had a Miscarriage" by Jessica Zucker
- "Lady in Waiting" by Anne Glenconner
- "Shang-a-lang" by Les McKeown (lead singer of the Bay City Rollers, who passed away last week).
- "She I Dare Not Name" by Donna Ward.
This brings me to 23 books read so far in 2021 -- 64% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 12 books ahead of schedule. :)
Earlier this month, dh decided that Goodreads was stressing him out and so he stopped tracking his reading there. Last week, he went back on again. (Recall what I said about his social media use in a previous post...!) By mid-February, he had already blown past his 2021 Reading Challenge goal of 24 books; by the time he stopped tracking, in early April, he'd read 49 (!). He's now at 52 (and likely higher, if he counted the books he read in between).
- "What's Not Said" by Valerie Taylor (our next NoMo/Gateway Women book club pick).
- "Katherine's Marriage" by D.E. Stevenson (my DES group's current selection under discussion, previously read and reviewed here, and a sequel to "Katherine Wentworth," reviewed here and here)
- "Chronicles of Avonlea" by L.M. Montgomery (currently under discussion by my LMM Readathon FB group -- previously read & reviewed here)
Not being counted as an April read, but previously read and discussed at an online/Zoom meeting of my "Clever Name" book club held earlier in the month: "The Vanishing Half" by Brit Bennett. We'll be talking about "The Thursday Murder Club" by Richard Osman (which I already read & reviewed here --and thoroughly enjoyed!) at our May meeting (date TBD).
- "Summerhills" by D.E. Stevenson (for my author fan group, once we finish "Katherine's Marriage" -- a sequel to "Amberwell," which we read and discussed last year).
- "Us" by David Nicholls, which has been in my TBR pile for a while, but has been moved up -- there's a four-part TV version that will be shown on PBS, beginning on June 20th. :)
A few recently purchased titles (in digital formats, discounted):
Watching: I started watching two new shows on PBS on Sunday nights this month:
- "My Grandparents' War," sort of a variation of "Who Do You Think You Are?" in which British celebrities explore the stories of their grandparents' lives during World War II. Unfortunately, there are only four episodes (starring Helena Bonham-Carter, Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott-Thomas and Carey Mulligan). I don't know if they're planning on making any more, but both dh & I thoroughly enjoyed it.
- "Atlantic Crossing," based on a true story about how the Norwegian royal family fled the country after the Nazi invasion of 1940, how Crown Princess Martha and her three children wound up spending the war as refugees in Washington, D.C., and her friendship with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some of it's a bit contrived (e.g., FDR's secretary, Missy LeHand, is jealous and resentful of her boss's relationship with Martha, and Eleanor is a bit of a sourpuss), and some of the details have obviously been embellished beyond historical fact, but I'm enjoying learning about a part of WWII history that goes beyond the usual British/American-centric narrative that we're used seeing and hearing about.
- At the end of episode 2, there's a very moving scene that had me reaching for the kleenex box -- set in a stunning fjord (supposedly in Finland), where a small boat is taking the Crown Princess and her children to a ship that will take them to safety in America. They are trying to hide their identity, but some Norwegian fishermen recognize them, stand up in their boats and begin singing the national anthem. One by one, sailors on the other boats follow suit. Martha acknowledges them by holding up her young son (Prince Harald, the future/current King Harald V), and he waves to the men in the boats as they sing. This really did happen!
- The show reminded me of a children's book I read and loved as a kid -- "Snow Treasure" by Marie McSwigan -- about how the Norwegians managed to smuggle millions of dollars in gold bars from the national reserve out of the country, right under the noses of the Nazis, by using children on sleds as cover. Also based on a true story! Anyone else ever read it?
We also watched Ken Burns's three-part documentary, "Hemingway," about the famous writer, also on PBS this month. (I've never read much Hemingway -- but "The Sun Also Rises" was, I think, the first novel I read in my first-year university English class -- 20th-century literature, I think it was called.)
I stayed up to watch the Oscars (again) -- even after I considered setting the PVR and watching my regular Sunday night shows instead.
We recently stumbled onto (and started watching) reruns of "Soap," which I watched faithfully when I was in high school in the late 1970s... it now comes with a content warning!! lol It was very controversial in its time, and some of the content is politically incorrect these days, but it was a groundbreaker in many respects (for example, the character of Jodie Dallas, played by a young Billy Crystal, was one of the first openly gay characters on prime-time TV).
And the first two episodes of season 4 of "The Handmaid's Tale" aired Thursday night on the CTV Drama channel (formerly known as Bravo -- three episodes were released on Hulu in the States on the same day). Part of me wonders (not for the first time) just how many times June can ALMOST escape Gilead?? -- it's getting a little monotonous. But I've come along this far, so....
Listening: I caught up on the last couple of most recent episodes of The Full Stop podcast -- including one with author Kate Kauffman, one with Jody Day, celebrating Gateway Women's 10th anniversary, and one with just the three hosts chatting, which is always fun to listen to!
I follow supermodel Paulina Porizkova on Instagram, and I listened to an interesting (and very frank) conversation she had recently with Ashleigh Banfield about aging, the death of her estranged husband Ric Ocasek of The Cars (and the fallout from that, including finances), and more. (I gather it was aired on TV; there are video clips available, but this link is a sound file of the entire conversation -- or almost the entire conversation; it cuts off rather abruptly at the end.) I was thrilled to see her at the Oscars as Aaron Sorkin's date, looking gorgeous as always!
Following: Bruce Arthur's columns in the Toronto Star about the pandemic and how the Ontario government is (not) handling it. Unfortunately, they may be behind a paywall, but if you can read them, they are excellent. (And scathing, lol.)
Buying (besides books, lol): Ordered some (more) essential oils from Saje to replenish my supplies (I previously ordered some, including some Christmas scents, during from the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales last November. Haven't been to a store in more than a year now, and probably won't be for a while still.
I also ordered a nifty squeegee/window cleaning kit, as recommended by my house cleaning guru on Instagram, @gocleanco. ;) It was on back order when I ordered it, but should be here in a few weeks. I can't wait to try it out on our balcony doors, and maybe even on my nemesis, the shower cubicle!
And I ordered some chequebook registers. I don't write many actual cheques these days, but I still keep track of all our debits & credits/deposits -- what's going in and what's coming out -- in a paper register (and balance it every month or so). (Hey, my dad was a banker! And I worked as a teller at a credit union one summer while at university, too -- at a time & place when we were still using paper debit and credit slips...!)(And yes, I CAN get it to balance! -- sometimes... lol...) When I was working, I would just go downstairs to the bank branch and request one from one of the tellers. Even before I lost my job (summer 2014), it was taking longer and longer for them to hunt one up for me.
Then we moved here in April 2016. I went to two different branches of our bank here, trying to explain what it was that I wanted to clearly bewildered young tellers, raised in the age of Internet banking, who had never heard of such things. Thank goodness at the second branch an older teller overheard me and came to my rescue. Apparently the branches no longer stock them (!), but she was able to order me a bundle via the bank's website. The last one from that batch is almost completely filled in... I found where to order new cheques on the bank's website, but not the registers. I wound up ordering some from (guess!) Amazon. Hopefully they'll last me at least another five years. Apparently some people now use Excel for this purpose, but I'm not very well versed in that program. Sigh...
Celebrating: Dh's 64th birthday, mid-April :) -- his second during this pandemic. This time around, I managed to buy him a proper birthday card (pre-lockdown) and (Eating/Drinking) we baked a chocolate cake (from a mix we had on hand in the cupboard, with icing from a can... it was still pretty good!).
Mourning: The death of yet another one of the Bay City Rollers, the boy band of my youth -- my sister's favourite, lead singer Les McKeown, at the way-too-young age of 65 (on top of bassist Ian Mitchell last fall, age 62, and founder Alan Longmuir in 2018, age 70). See my recent post, here. Humming: BCR tunes in the shower since then!
Enduring: A last blast of winter, with snow flurries two days in a row last week (followed immediately by temperatures in the high teens)(Celsius = mid-60sF). This past week has been mostly grey & rainy. Gotta love Canada in the spring...!
Smelling: Cannabis. :p It's nice to be able to open the balcony doors now that the weather is starting to be nicer -- but some people are obviously using the opportunity to sit out on their balconies and indulge. (More noticeably so than the previous springs that we've been here since the stuff was legalized.) Sigh...
Wearing: Brought out the short-sleeved T-shirts when the weather turned warmer -- only to have to add a cardigan when it got cold again. (Soon! Soon!!)
Trying (and failing): To get up the motivation to start walking again regularly...!
Wondering: If and when things will ever return to some kind of normalcy. :( It's been a very LONG winter/year!
Wanting: The people I love to stay safe while the new virus variants run rampant and vaccines slllloooowwwwwlllly roll out...
Loving: That I seem to have found my reading mojo again. (For now, anyway...?!)
Feeling: Like I'm languishing. Not looking forward to (eek) Voldemort Day. The ads and emails have been flooding my TV screen and email inbox for a few weeks already, since Easter.
But, it's May! Yay!!