Outside ASB, Morgs beams and glows his way through a story about his shiny new daughter. She’s feeding well and sleeping well; he couldn’t be happier. We grasp each other’s hands and hug – my first hug in 75 days.
Morgs is, though, a little unsure of his purpose as security for the bank in this new level-one world – his role in keeping social distancing rules intact as redundant as the glaring yellow posters still adorning the sliding doors into the ATM.
Up the road at Artworks, Kashmir’s been inundated with performers intent on embracing the level-one limelight. There’s already a 4 July fundraising party planned and Roger Glutton’s inked in 20 June for a night of hard rock revelry.
Back down the main street, and Nick in Paper Plus hands me a plastic bag of homemade Staffordshire oatcakes and requests a look at Helen’s recipe for Grasmere ginger shortbread as we linger over a lazy conversation in the stationery aisle.
From Tuesday, New Zealand’s level-one status has brought all the trappings of normality back to a wander around Oneroa. Yes, there’s still that Covid testing station down by the medical centre and, sure, I still tracked and traced the time when I popped into Wai Kitchen for a toasted sandwich, but the hugs and chats and glorious thoughts of live music and parties are a blessed release after the best part of 10 weeks shunting between the restrictions of levels two, three and four.
International headlines have been quick to jump on New Zealand’s status with plenty of talk about “crushing the virus” and our “team of five million”. The crowing almost enough to drown out the prime minister’s level-headed comment that “elimination is not a point of time. It is a sustained effort”.
Because, as important as they may be, it’s not just the health implications of that “sustained effort” that’s going to win in the long term. It’s almost certain we’re heading into a winter of uncertainty and deep recession when it comes to the economy – and it will take a mighty effort to get us all through that.
Sure there’s a push to supplement the dollars usually injected into international tourism-dependent places such as Waiheke by spruiking domestic travel, and sure there will be stadium crowds at the rugby, and sure the glow of a trans-Tasman bubble is beginning to rise over the horizon, but many, many Kiwis will not emerge from 2020 unscathed.
And it’s not just Kiwis.
In a story in Gulf News this week Amelia Lawley from Waiheke Budgeting Services warns the plight of the many visitors on the island with holiday and working visas has reached “almost a refugee situation”. Some of those affected tell us they’ve had to resort to dumpster diving to survive.
The sense of community is one of the first things to return now we’re allowed to mix and mingle in a place like Waiheke, but community is also what we now need to rely on more than ever to help each other through the economic turmoil that has emerged from our battle for our health.
So, go on, enjoy your walk around the village; hug your mates again when you see them; go and share obscure olde English recipes with Nick in Paper Plus if you must – but also, while you soak in the spirit of fellowship we revel in on Waiheke, try to work out a way in which you can give back to this community too.
For sure, level one is a wonderful achievement and has righted the ship, but it’s just the start of a “sustained effort” to get her sailing again.
Well, it didn’t take too much searching to uncover who nominated Lloyd and Joan Whittaker as Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Members of the board of trustees at the museum that bears the couple’s name and which is a stunning legacy to their community spirit were happy to “reveal” themselves after our story last week.
Marine Le Minor, one of the trustees, said Joan, 91, and Lloyd, 87, “so deserve this honour”.
“They have done so much for music lovers and music students on Waiheke and all over the country. Their museum is a gem, unique in all the world.”
The board now hopes the publicity generated by the honours list will bring new volunteers and activity to Whittaker’s Musical Museum, now that Lloyd and Joan Whittaker are enjoying a well-earned retirement in Auckland. Anyone who would like to be involved is invited to contact firstname.lastname@example.org
• James Belfield