In my last post I promised you a review of Andrew Miller’s Now We Shall Be Entirely Free. Here it is.
But first, a digression …

I paused by a doggie bin on my constitutional with the dog this morning, to dispose of the little green bag with her doings. I then took my hand sanitiser out of my walking pouch, as habitual after handling anything public, and read this on the label:

Liquid Hand Sanitiser
Ngtea Pharmacy
20 Orchard Road West 3503
Anna Hewitt MPS

Despite the familiarly English name of the pharmacist, I was immediately transported to the other side of the world – 13000 miles west to east, top to bottom. To a very small roadside town south of Auckland.


We stopped into the pharmacy-cum-cafe for face masks, the minuscule bottle of medical-grade hand sanitiser, and coffee – not necessarily in that order. It was March 3, 2020, the day before we were due to fly home after a month DownUnder slowly mooching round NZ and visiting our Wellington-based son and daughter-in-law. Huge semi-trailers thundered through the little town, casting pale clouds of dust over us as we sat outside the shop drinking our flat white coffees. I haven’t had a flat white since.

It was our third attempt in as many days to buy face masks. The knowledgeable Anna told us we were lucky, as she’d just a few minutes earlier had new stock delivered after selling out. We were mildly surprised; what was to become the plague of our times seemed very distant still. There were no coronavirus cases in NZ, and very few anywhere except China and then Italy, at that time. It all seemed an undue panic.

I carried the face masks in a brown paper bag all the way to Auckland airport. They were way too big for me, extending halfway up my eye sockets, and flapping breezily under my chin. I surreptitiously removed my mask whenever my Darling One wasn’t looking. He got increasingly tetchy with me as we wended our long way home via Brisbane and Dubai. At Birmingham Airport we alone were masked. I felt so silly, as I tried to see round the edges of my uncomfortable mask.

How the world has changed! I’m now onto Gen3 of masks, having found an English supplier who sews at home, efficiently supplying funky floral masks perfect for petite ladies, sturdy and easy to wash. I would no more venture outside without my mask now than leave my knickers at home. As for the hand sanitiser, like you probably, there’s a bottle in every bag I use, right next to the tissues and lipsalve.

That tiny bottle is one I am reluctant to use up. I feel as if once that’s gone, so will be the world in which I bought it. One in which you can fly across the world, go to crowded pubs and theatres, sit cheek by jowl with strangers if you so desire, and live a freedom we now can only long for.

And New Zealand? I so wish you well, and envy you your stalwart intelligent leader, your calm friendly people, and our new grandson, not yet born. I’m profoundly grateful that he and his parents are 13000 safe miles away, west to east and top to bottom.

See my travel blog, with full coverage of our 2020 trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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