The Year that was…



CLAIRE PLAISTED PROFILE IMAGEI returned to New Zealand in March 2019. A changed New Zealand, though one still filled with hope, love and togetherness. As a country we didn’t break, though we cried and grieved with each other. A terror attack in New Zealand. The loss of 52 innocent people which brought the country and the individual communities together once more. It seems you can throw anything at us and we’ll handle it.

The country changed. I remember exactly where I was when the attack happened. I was working as a live in carer when on the morning of this tragic day I received a message on my phone via Facebook.

“There are police everything telling us to stay inside. Not sure what is going on.” It was from a close friend, Mandy, who lived in Christchurch. I turned on the TV and was horrified by what followed. How could this happen in our beautiful country, who the heck… etc. When we found out the man was Australian, fury erupted in both countries. Even today, I feel for his parents and the horror their son created. Pure hate and murder on a minority group. Muslims of all cultures, heritage and colour. The majority were Kiwi’s. Our own people.

I arrived home about 12 days later and even though this attack changed New Zealand; it was still home, and a weight lifted off my body. The darkness that had hit me in England evaporated. A healing moment in my life. I was so pleased to be back home. My country, our strength of character, helping each other. Obviously, not everything is good here. I doubt there is a country without negativity. Even so, home is where the heart is and even though we are a family split into two, we hold together like the people of New Zealand do, each and every day.

A year and two days after I arrived in New Zealand, we were hit again—this time with COVID-19 and a lockdown for seven weeks. Once again, we stayed strong, working together for our communities. People were tested voluntarily, we self quarantined when a test became positive, the majority of people cared for each other as every business closed down except for essential services – Supermarkets (who did online shopping as well) Hospitals – though some services were cancelled or reduced. Petrol Stations—and more. All restaurants, cafes, retail, hairdressers, schools, universities—closed for close to six weeks as the country changed emergency levels. By the time we were on level two, people were getting eager to get back to another new normal, and supporting their local shops. Thousands on small online businesses appeared on a new Facebook Group. It was amazing to see all the support for each other grow.

The negative was the loss of business, which looked like a 12% loss. By the time the second lockdown was over due to several community cases in Auckland, the results came out as a loss of 3% because Kiwi’s were still spending money and supporting each other. Another negative was the loss of jobs and an increase of at least triple of people using food banks. Once again WE SURVIVED—I’m sure there were many more negatives, though I prefer to find the positive in life.

All our community cases came into the country via Kiwi’s returning home, bringing the virus with them. Our government closed the borders to all except returning Kiwis. All returnees had to go into MIQ quarantine for fourteen days. They had two tests, one on day three and one on day twelve. Most of it was great, until several selfish people decided they didn’t want to quarantine and escaped, going to supermarkets which resulted in shutdowns and deep cleans, testing of staff. Those who ignored quarantine rules were arrested and charged. This is still ongoing today. 2020 ended with the whole country going into level one lockdown, where we would stay until a Delta case was found.

Though the country knew there was Delta Virus in MIQ Quarantine, we all hoped it wouldn’t get into the community. Sadly, it did. One person’s test came back positive for Delta in the early hours of the start of lockdown levels rising. Within twelve hours, we locked down to level four for the entire country. Auckland locked down for 5 weeks on level four, and 2 weeks on level three with over 1.3k cases, though most have recovered. Today we see if levels will drop of stay the same. Everyone was hoping they would drop, however… 

Some people like flouting the rules, which may affect this decision. It has left a lot of Kiwis Angry. First case was a funeral. Only ten are allowed to attend in Auckland at this stage. Fifty cars plus motorbikes later and we have a possible rise in positive tests. If this wasn’t enough another so-called leader of a church decided to do a protest two days prior to today’s decision, in an area of Auckland where they didn’t live, where motorbikes destroyed grass where families picnic is the good times and by a war memorial for those we’ve lost in war. 2K protestors…few wearing masks or social distancing. To add to this there are two more cases in Waikato which they haven’t connected to the first man and also a truck driver isolating in the city i live in. Apparently, he is the only one in his family not vaccinated. His choice, of course. As far as we know, his family are or have tested negative so far. Lucky for me and my husband, we didn’t actually go to any of the same places as the truck driver… we were there three days prior. We also both now fully vaccinated. Our choice.

On top of this, our daughter got stuck in England, though they will be home next month with their cat. It’s been a long time between hugs and I know there will be a lot of tears when we finally get them in our arms.

Health wise, has been up and down. Since I’ve returned home, I’ve hurt my right shoulder and had to stop my hospitality work. Also in 2019, I injured my left shoulder, tearing a muscle. Yes it was bad, no I didn’t do anything. It took me a year to get X-rays done and even then (as with my other x-rays) nobody did anything. No physical therapy, nothing. Didn’t even get the x-ray results until I asked what was going on.
For the first time ever, I also had a Friday 13th accident in September. Fell and hurt my tailbone. No x-rays, no real therapy, though it is noted on file. I have a walking stick these days for the bad days. I hate not been able to walk as well as I used to. I hate carrying the extra weight as well. Never mind. I’ll get better, still not quite there yet.

During the last six weeks, I’ve done a lot of knitting. I knit with round looms and make beanies or scarves. I’ve decided to set up shop and see what happens. My publishing business is also going well this year, and my writing is picking up. It’s been a challenge, though progress and moving forward is better than any negative. 

My time in England is another story…one I’m not sure I’ll ever tell.