Saturday, 1 August 2015

I am wondering what it would be like

"not to know". 
When the MH370 flight went missing I heard people who must love conspiracy theories claiming that the Chinese wanted someone on board so they had hi-jacked the entire plane load and were holding them hostage in the Himalaya. There were other wild theories as well, some of them aired in the media.
At the same time there were families who kept waiting and waiting and waiting. They hoped. They hoped the conspiracy theories were true and that the plane would miraculously reappear. 
They will probably go on hoping even after the debris which has been washed up on Reunion Island is proven to be one thing or the other. It is human nature to hope for such things.
It is likely that the debris will be the plane but it may never be possible to work out what happened. The plane was so off course that something either went catastrophically wrong with the controls or it was deliberately brought down in an act of suicide or sabotage. At this point it makes little difference. Lives were lost.
But, people want to know. We know what happened to Flight MH17 too but people, understandably, want to know "who". 
There are people unaccounted for in all sorts of natural disasters too. It is something that is rarely talked about. People go missing under a wall of mud or a giant wave washes them out to see or they get buried in rubble that is never fully cleared away. 
And some people simply disappear. A disaster may give them the chance to move away and start life afresh somewhere. Other people simply walk away from everything they have known never to return. Often they do it without saying anything at all, leaving other people, even family, to wonder "what happened to...?"
I wonder what drives people to do this and how those left behind react. I have been wondering all this because someone I don't know very well complained that searching for the aircraft was a "waste of money". His neighbour is distantly related to someone who went missing on that flight. His neighbour is aware of how, in his words, "not knowing is eating the family up".
And then he said, "Knowing is important."
Yes, it is.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Adam Goodes

is an "Aussie Rules" footballer of mixed race heritage.  He has recently been the subject of what can only be described as vile behaviour by some football match attendees. I won't call them "fans" because lovers of the game don't do anything to jeopardise it or those who play it. Their behaviour is, quite simply, unacceptable. It has to stop.
Two years ago Goodes was chosen as "Australian of the Year" for his work in encouraging indigenous youth, especially in the field of sport.  It should have been a moment to celebrate. He was joining the likes of such great indigenous sportspeople as Lionel Rose, Yvonne Goolagong and Cathy Freeman in getting the award.
There have been some other great  indigenous Australians to get the award too. There are two I particularly admire, native title activist Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Senator Bonner. They were outstanding recipients who did great good. Lowitja O'Donoghue and Mick Dodson are also outspoken but respected recipients. 
But, from the time of his acceptance speech, I felt a mistake had been made with Adam Goodes. He was divisive rather than uniting.
The Australian of the Year is that for all Australians, not just some. You can and should speak out about issues of concern to you but, if you are to be effective, then you need to draw people together rather than divide them. From the first Goodes appeared to draw a line between "black" and "white" - and he drew it despite his own mixed heritage. I felt  uneasy as I heard indigenous friends questioning and then criticising his approach.
      "Goodsey is not helping," they told me at the time. 
I don't know what to think. There must be people in the background who advised him about that speech. What was their reasoning behind it? 
The son of my late friend R was in touch yesterday. He's a youth worker with indigenous youth. His mother was a highly respected indigenous elder. Were she alive today I am sure she would be deeply distressed by what is happening. Her son said as much to me. He is distressed too. He told me the issue is having a negative effect on some of the youth he works with. 
I assumed that they would be sympathetic towards Goodes and what has been happening but, while there is well founded resentment towards those who "boo" the player at matches, there is also anger towards Goodes.
"They looked up to him and now they don't. I have had to show them that there are other respected footballers out there." Of course he means respected indigenous footballers. 
And yes, there are. I couldn't care less about football but I know they do. They've told me about it with great enthusiasm. It's their passion. I don't want to see the Goodes issue spoil it for them any more than R's son does. 
R's son and I went through something he is planning and which I have had a very small part in. At the end of it he thanked me and he gave me his now customary bear hug. We parted at the door and I wished him luck. He smiled and said,
"Thanks. It's our responsibility too."
Perhaps it is.  

Thursday, 30 July 2015

We had a small visitor

The Senior Cat came home early from his appointment. I heard him talking to  someone outside the front door and wondered what was wrong. Before I could go and open it though he had the door open and he went on talking. The words didn't quite make sense.
      "No you can't come in. Who do you belong to?"
Then there was a "yip" and the definite sound of toenails skidding on the tiles at the entrance. There was more excited, high pitched barking.
"We seem to have a visitor,"the Senior Cat said. The comment was completely superfluous. We had a visitor and it was letting us know it was there.
It raced around like a dervish. The Senior Cat just stood there. I was frightened it might send him flying too.
I eventually managed to grab the racing bundle of fur as it jumped excitedly on to me in the friendliest possible fashion. It looked at me. I looked at it. 
"It" turned out to be "she"- a miniature dachshund. She was no more than a puppy with wonderful copper brown with ears that flopped at just the right angle for "I am cute and I know it". She wore a blue collar but no identity tag. 
She gave me an adoring, "aren't I lovable and cute and you want to play with me" sort of look. I gave her a stern one and told her to "sit". She sat.
I then persuaded her into the laundry and shut the door. The Senior Cat went out into the street to see if someone was looking for her. No. There was nobody around at all.
"What are we going to do?" he asked, "We can't let her out again."
"I'll ring the council and ask for the dog-catcher to pick her up," I told him.
The girl at the other end was someone I know slightly, "Oh  hello Cat what's wrong?"
I explained. I explained the lack of identifying tag. 
"Hopefully she is chipped," I said.
"I'll send someone round."
I thought we might have to wait for several hours but someone was there about ten minutes later. The little lady had put on a real performance of yips and barks all that time but she greeted him like a long lost friend. 
"You're an easy one," he said as he slipped on the lead. She looked adoringly at him too.
He took her out to his small van and checked her over.
"She's chipped," he told me, "We'll find her owners."
I hope so.
I would have liked them to clean up the mess she left on the laundry floor!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

We had a little alarm clock

"fun" here this morning.
The Senior Cat had to be up early. He has an appointment. It means getting up about an hour earlier than usual. Right.
I am always up at around 5:30 to 5:45am. It is not by choice but by necessity. When I "retire" I may manage to stay in bed a little longer. 
The Senior Cat prowls out at around 7:30am. He has breakfast, as is his right, at a leisurely pace. He reads the paper while he is doing it. (That takes up most of the space at the small table.)
"I'll put the alarm on,"  he told me before he went to bed last night.
"Which one?" I asked.
"Both of them - in case I don't hear one."
I nod. I know I will be up. He doesn't actually need to put the alarm on. By the time he is ready to get up "early" I will have checked the urgent e-mails, put a load of washing in, eaten breakfast, glanced at the paper and... well, you get the idea.
I heard the alarms go off. I checked. Yes, he was up. The light was on in his bedroom. I heard one alarm stop but the other one went on and on and on.
"Turn it off!"
"I can't!"
He brought a little clock out and held it out to me.
"I can't turn it off!"
"It is off," I told him, "It's the other alarm which is going."
"No, it's this one."
"It's the other one." 
"It's this one. It's broken."
"All right but may have a look at the other one?"
"If you want to - but I know I'm right. I can hear it."
He prowls back to the bedroom with me following.
He picks up the other alarm clock - and turns it off. I said nothing except,
"I'll take the sheets off your bed now."

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Does anyone recognise this?

I am, at the request of someone else, putting this up here. I know it is unpleasant and not at all likely but the further it goes the more likely it is that someone will recognise it and perhaps help the police identify the body of the very young girl who was wrapped in it. She was dumped on the roadside in a remote rural location in South Australia but she might come from anywhere at all.
It might be a one off quilt made by someone who actually loved her. It might have been bought by someone at a fete or fair or in a craft shop somewhere. 
It would once have been bright and colourful and in all probability loved by this child. Someone, somewhere knows something.
I have been asked if you are a Downunderite "who has not yet passed it on to people you know please do".

Monday, 27 July 2015

"I nearly forgot and then I

saw you and then I nearly remembered but I forgot my knitting so I had to go and get it and then..." J stopped and then went on, "I forgot what I was going to say."
She announced all of this in a loud voice which could probably  be heard all over the library.
"And I forgot my hearing aids but now I remembered about knitting."
"Right J. Are you going to sit down?" I ask.
"Yes, I am going to sit down because now I remembered."
"That's good. Now, where's your knitting?" M, who knows her  best, asks.
"I've got it here. I remembered  it."
"Yes, you did. Now let us all have a look at it." M tells her.
"It's not very good."
"That doesn't matter," I tell her.
And so the conversation went on until J had her knitting her out and showed us the sad tangle of uneven, dropped and lost stitches. 
And no it doesn't matter. J has arrived. She is with us. J has a CBI - a "closed brain injury". She is tall. She is overweight. She is not clean. She is loud.
She is often confused. She will stop mid-sentence because she forgets what she was going to say.
M, the one who knows her best, has told us that J was  involved in a road accident and had severe concussion. That has undoubtedly led to many of her problems. I suspect from other things she has said that she had some problems before that as well.
Her life is now full of confusion. She lives "independently" in supported accommodation. What it really means is that someone watches out for her. They check on her daily. They tell her when to clean her living space and help her shop and prepare simple meals.
The women in the local charity shop try to ensure that she has clothes that fit but have admitted to me that they have ceased trying to get her to dress appropriately. She was wearing a cotton waist petticoat as a skirt recently. She thought it was "pretty because it has lace". When told it was a petticoat she was not in the least put out. For her it will continue to be a skirt. She was wearing it with short "rubber boots because they are shiny" and men's woollen socks "because it's cold on my feet". 
Yes, we watch out for J but we don't always succeed in getting her to understand what is appropriate. 
She could knit before her accident. The skill has stayed with her in the sense that she can still do the basic knit stitch. If her comments are anything to go by she knows her knitting is not good. She tellsus that the sad mess is going to be a "cardigan" and that the small left over balls in the tatty plastic bag are "enough". I know that the women in the charity shop have put aside those small balls for her to  use. It isn't enough for a scarf let alone the cardigan she will never knit. My friend P, a tireless worker in the charity shop, has told J to come to her for some more when she has "knitted all that". I wonder if J will ever reach the end of that.
She sat down and knitted a row. Then she put her knitting away.
"Is that all you are going to do?" I ask.
She looks confused and says, "I finished."
"J, you can knit more than one row. Look, I've done all this today," M tells her. 
On her other side R says, "And I have done this. Look that's fifteen  rows."
"Oh. I can do another one then?"
"Yes, of course you can."
She takes out her knitting and does another row. There is silence while she does this because it requires some concentration on her part. It is the lapses in concentration which cause the problems. 
I have tried to put myself into J's position. Her world must be constantly shifting in ways she does not understand. She cannot orient herself in the mist caused by her brain injury.
But she still needs companionship. She needs it more than ever so the rest of  us need to go on telling her,
"You can do another row J."

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Mobile phone, mobile phone, mobile phone!

It's urgent, urgent, urgent! 
I am the reluctant owner of a mobile phone. It have used it just three times in the past three years. On each occasion it has been used to inform the Senior Cat that I will be later than I first told him. He worries if I am much later than I expect to be.
Yes, he is a worrier and, at almost 93, I am not going to change him. He will call me for the same reason. I don't worry quite as much as he does. At his age I am merely conscious of the fact that anything could happen. He worries that I will be worried.
I am grateful for mobile phone technology which allows him to have a little extra peace of mind. His phone however is so old that he will need to do something if it is to continue working. Brother Cat has informed us that he will "do something about that" when he comes to visit next month. There is no urgency. It works but it needs frequent charging. New battery? Probably.
Middle Cat wants the Senior Cat to have a new phone. "You should get one that does more," she told him. She has said the same thing to me. 
Middle Cat is firmly attached to her phone. Apparently she can't handle life without it. When she visits us her phone will ring. It even has a variety of ring tones so that she knows whether it is family, friend or stranger calling her. She appears to spend hours on the phone. Her phone is also filled with photographs and video clips and appointments and...well, you know the sort of thing. 
The Senior Cat's phone will, apparently, take a photo - as will mine - but neither of us know how to do  it. They are however the most basic of phones. They don't take videos or search the internet or keep appointments or...well you know the sort of things phones do.
I watch other people using their phones too. They walk along and do it. They almost bump into you. You are the one who has to take evasive action. They don't watch the traffic. And yes, it is against the law to use a handheld phone while driving. Does it stop people? Of course not. It's urgent isn't it? 
The library is filled with ring tones and the sight of people frantically searching for their phones. They will drop books on the floor to reach that vital phone call. 
The supermarket? We have all seen someone prowling the shelves talking to their partner about what else they might need. I'd write a list before I left. I guess they find it easier not to but they continue to talk at the checkout. They barely acknowledge the person serving them if at allbut using a staffed checkout allows them to go on talking. That call about who said or wore what really is terribly urgent.
I had to go into the supermarket on Friday. It was an extra trip to get something that had been unavailable the day before. One of the staff was just putting down a "closed" sign for her aisle but she saw me and said,
"You've only got that? Want to come through?"
"Thank you."
"That's okay. You always talk to us."
And some people don't.
Isn't it time we stopped ignoring people and started talking to them?