Tuesday, 24 January 2017

"In a crisis, fend for yourselves"

I don't know what happened to the local "Neighbourhood Watch" group but it doesn't exist any more.
When they were first set up in this state a senior policeman, who knew the Senior Cat through their shared interest in conjuring, asked him if he would help with setting up a local group. The Senior Cat duly went ahead. They worked on it. He was involved for about fourteen or fifteen years. We have a rather nice plaque which was presented to the Senior Cat for his years of service.
When it reached a point where the Senior Cat felt he should pass the reins over to someone else another man took over. Unfortunately he was not well...and it was unfortunate because he was a lovely human being and did an excellent job. I helped in a vague sort of way with the newsletter and with delivering the newsletter. 
The Senior Cat stopped going to night meetings. I can't drive a car so I don't do night meetings either. I was also doing my own form of "neighbourhood watch" when I pedalled out. It's nothing fancy or onerous. I just observe. I know most people on my regular route to and from the local shopping centre and the library. With some of the older people I have a system where they can leave a tiny "flag" sticking out of their letter box and I know to look inside and pick up a prescription for the chemist or, once in a while, a plea for some milk or a box of tea bags if they have been ill. 
Not one person has ever abused the fact that, if I am going past, they can ask for that small amount of help. People say it is "good" of me but it isn't "good" at all. It is almost no extra effort. I know it might mean the difference between being able to stay safely at home or go out when you aren't feeling well.
There is someone around the corner who volunteers for the State Emergency Service. He can be called out any hour of the day or night when he's on duty. He's also a teacher and he's done a lot of it over the school holidays because we had some wild weather. He gave me a tired smile the other day and said he thought he was "welded to the chain saw". We both agreed there are people who ask for help who could do it themselves  but they never seem to be the older people. So many of them will wait. They "don't want to be a nuisance".
Both of us had nice little notes the other day. He had one in a shaky hand thanking him for what he had done to help and saying it meant they could afford to get a repair done and thus stay in their own home a while longer. I had one from someone who lives in another country. His father was alone here for some years. He had Meals on Wheels and someone came in once a fortnight to clean his little unit. I know the Home Library service went in and out. I dropped his multiple prescriptions into the chemist on many  occasions. His son said that the combined help he received let him go on living in his own little space. He wasn't a man to seek company and would have hated "aged care". His son actually said, "Dad would write and say how content he was and how the help he got let him be that way."
So this morning when I looked at the little headline in our state newspaper I thought,  "Yes, in a crisis, fend for yourselves - and damn well look out for your neighbours as well."

Monday, 23 January 2017

A head full of ideas

is not conducive to a good night's sleep. 
I came home from the second day of the craft class with "ideas"... other people's ideas as well as my own. 
It wasn't so much my knitting class. They were all so nice - and so kind to me. They probably weren't aware of it but they taught me a lot.
No, it was one of them saying she wanted classes on other things and then my friend S.... wandering in to look at the books I had  brought along and saying, "We could do this...and...or we could do that...and yes, this!" 
I almost never get the chance to bounce those sort of balls of ideas around with someone else. I don't belong to the embroidery group because I can't embroider and, realistically, I'll never be able to embroider. My paws just don't do that sort of thing. I can knit and I can crochet and I am going to have to be satisfied with that - and work within my physical limitations.
But, I can still have ideas and I don't mind the idea of working with someone else to achieve some of them. What is more I would like to be able to share those ideas with a group and see what they make of them. 
There was only one of my students yesterday who didn't get far. She was older than the rest and said she had "never tried anything like that before" but she thought she would be fine when she sat down quietly at home and worked through it again. I hope she is. Everyone else achieved something. I admit I was anxious about two of them but they went off and did their "homework" and, because of that, they came back and achieved something. All but one student turned up early on the second day - so early we could, apart from the missing students, have started a half an hour earlier!
Keen? I suppose they were.
I asked them to fill out assessment sheets - for the people who asked me to run the class and another one for me...both were simple. I wanted to know where they thought my weaknesses in presentation were. And yes, the one of you who reads this on a regular basis - if you ever do another class with me I will give you more to do next time  because you were way ahead of everyone else. 
I have thought of things I could do slightly differently, ways I could add clarity to my explanations - and more.
No, it wasn't that which kept me awake. It was the new ideas. It was wanting to  get on with them "now", indeed "right now". I know I can't do them "right now" for a number of reasons but ...
I am going to take an hour today and put some of the ideas on paper so I can bounce those balls of ideas around with other people later. It might be a lot of fun.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Craft workshop

day one is over.
I have eight lovely students - quite enough thank you very much.
They were very kind to me. 
Teaching adults is not the same as teaching children. You can make certain assumptions when teaching adults who choose to do a class. Yes, they will be able to count to 15. Yes, they will all know this basic term or that because a prerequisite of the class was "confidence with the knit stitch" and the term "yarn over the needle" will mean something - even if there is a need to do it in a certain way.
I had made up kits - some yarn in a bag, a folder with some notes - and more notes to be added as the weekend continues. I noted with curiosity that they all looked inside the bag. Not one of them did what my great-nephew did recently and tipped the bag upside down!
I noted which students wandered around the room and looked at the other teaching materials I had put out - and I noted how they looked at them. You can learn a lot from that. 
I am glad I took the pencil rubbers. We all make mistakes when drawing charts. 
And I have  learned a lot. It looks simple but that little "cat's paw" motif involves a lot of teaching. Was I pushing them too hard? Did they want more information or less? 
With adults you can ask these things.- and they can tell you. It is possible to go  back and explain something again to just one person  in a small group. 
And yes, I will go home and write that particular chart again. I thought I was doing the sensible thing but it turns out to be the confusing thing.
It took me almost a year - on and off - to prepare to teach this two day class. I spent time reading and knitting and then writing and drawing up charts. I wrote the instructions for two patterns. I made decisions about what I might include. I contacted two authors of books - one of whom was particularly helpful and extraordinarily willing to go that little bit further than I expected. I can repay her by making people aware of her very good book on the topic.
If I needed to teach the class again it would be much less work. The basic preparation would be done. I can make some adjustments and I might make more when I get some feedback - and feedback is important.
I don't know who is learning the most here - but I am very grateful to my students for being patient and willing to listen!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Mental illness

is difficult to understand. It is something we can't hear or see or feel - although we might hear or see or feel the results. We might hear someone saying "strange" things or see them doing "strange" actions. We might feel the physical or psychological effect of someone lashing out - or even both.
We all tend to be frightened by the idea of mental illness both because it is something we don't understand and because of the fear of "it could be me" and "I might lose control of my mind too". 
Yes, it is scary stuff.
It is the only explanation I can find for the way in which our government is, through Centrelink, treating some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
There are many people who have had a sudden drop in the amount they are getting because of the new pension rules. They were often only just coping financially any way because illness of any sort involves extra expense. If you have a physical disability it is extra equipment - and some of that can be very, very expensive - and the extra medicines. It is the not being able to afford the initial layout to shop in the cheapest possible way and much, much more.
If you have a mental illness you may simply not be able to plan from one day to the next. The relatively simple idea of going to the supermarket for milk and bread becomes a major planning exercise and the stress of making decisions can leave someone exhausted.  I know because yesterday as I was pedalling up the street someone I know - but not well - stopped me and asked if I would do that simple bit of shopping for him. He was close to tears. He's not coping at all right now but he was until recently. He had a letter on Monday telling him he owed money. He's supposed to sort it out but he can't make a decision.
I asked if he had told his brother - someone I do know rather better than I know him - and he said no. I asked if I could contact his brother and he shrugged and said, "I don't know."
I decided he had asked me to get the milk and the bread and that, perhaps, it was a wider request for help. I sent his brother an email and got back a reply which thanked me, expressed extreme frustration and a promise to "drop in casually and see if he wants to go fishing" and see if that will get him to say something. 
We both agreed though that nobody in government should be sending people with a serious mental illness - one that has been documented - a "debt" notice. They have to find another way of handling it.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A major road closure

has caused traffic chaos.
The day before yesterday a cyclist noticed something seriously amiss with a bridge that is used as an overpass by the tram line. The bridge crosses one of the busiest roads in the city. The road carries a lot of heavy goods vehicles.
The cyclist did the right thing and immediately reported it. He or she must have managed to convey concern in a fairly urgent way. There were emergency services on the scene very quickly. The traffic was stopped.
Chaos ensued.  
This is a road which bypasses the city centre but goes a long way in both directions.  A good many buses travel along it. Some of them are "express" buses from outlying suburbs. If they change the last part of the route into the city or the first part out it won't matter too much because the buses don't stop for some distance along that road. But, other buses do. The heavy goods vehicles need to find alternate routes - and that adds to the traffic on those roads. Some of those are already too crowded.
But it was none of that which really concerned me. All of that is just inconvenience. It just slows things down. It is infuriating but it should not be dangerous.
What bothered me was something rather different. There is a train line through the hills behind us. It carries goods trains, goods trains of great length. As the train passes through the suburbs the traffic will build up at the level crossings. It can build up for very long distances. On occasions when something has gone wrong and the train has stopped over one or more boom gates then the boom gates further along are also likely to be down. Even with the police called in to direct traffic it can be dangerous - dangerous because, for some people  up in the hills, there is no way out.
If there had been a fire yesterday and a train had stopped or, worse, derailed, and the crossings blocked there could have been a major catastrophe if the traffic had not been able to move freely in other places. It's the sort of nightmare scenario that, yes you could write a book or make a film. 
I thought of all this because I usually time my journey to coincide with a suburban train. I do this because it means that the traffic has stopped and I can get across the road safely and wait for the boom gates to go up.  Where I wait there is a slight rise. I can look back and see the line of traffic grow.  
I did this yesterday as I waited for one of the extra long goods trains to go through. Another cyclist joined me. We had a "shouted" sort of conversation above the noise of the train. He told me how far he had come and how far the traffic had built up from where he started. There would have been much more by the time the train went through. People were getting impatient.
I changed my plans. I did one thing before another. I wasn't going to get in the way of all those people who wanted to get to work first. 

This morning they are saying the situation could last for months. 
Traffic is lighter than usual at present because school does not start again for another week.
I don't think those at the top have thought about this yet.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

"I hate reading!"

Ouch! I was in the local library yesterday - to pick up a book on inter-library-loan. It is a book I need to read. 
One of the staff greeted me with a wry smile and jerked her head in the direction of a sulky looking ten or eleven year old boy. He was pulling books off the shelves, glancing at them and then shoving them roughly back into place. His mother was looking both angry and anxious.
      "You've had all the holidays to do this!" she told him - probably again - as  he had to pick up a book that had fallen off the shelf.
      "I don't care! I tell you I hate reading! It's a waste of time! I've got better stuff to do!"
      "And I am telling you it has to be done. Mr.... (presumably his teacher) expects it to  be done. If you spent a bit less time mucking around playing games on that damn computer...."
And so it went on. 
Apparently she had already told him he couldn't take anything that "looks like a comic" and that it had to be "for someone your age unless you want everyone to think you are a baby".  I got that information - very quietly - from the staff member.
There was a rather smaller girl at the self-serve checkout. She was checking out six or seven good sized books she looked only just old enough to read.  She glanced in the direction of the boy and his mother, sighed and sat down on the carpet. She opened a book and started to read.
The boy finally found something that met with his mother's approval. She had to remind him how to use the self-serve check out and then she said to the girl,
      "Come on, hurry up. You waste far too much time with your nose in a book."
She picked up her books and followed them out of the library and gave me a sad little shrug and faint smile. 
I think there are mixed messages in that household. My sympathy is with the girl. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Copyright? Did someone mention

I have been writing a list of resources for the workshop. That's fine but I also thought I should include a local contact in a slightly different sort of way. It's not a business organisation but a craft group. 
The craft group has a website. The information on it belongs to the craft group. 
I did the right thing and asked for permission to use it. The response was to give me some information I  already had. It did not expressly give me permission. Now, in law, it might be considered that,  by giving me the information, the person I contacted had given me "implied" permission to use it. 
Given my rather awkward relationship with the group I felt that was not good enough. I really need their express permission. It is for their benefit, not mine, that I am doing this. I had a message back saying what I rather feared. It amounted to "you don't need our permission because the information is on our website". Sorry, I do need your permission.
If the person I contacted doesn't give me express permission I won't include the information. Right now though I am hoping that I will get express permission.
This group has been given information about copyright  by me and by another knowledgeable member of the group. I have written about it for their newsletter and there is information in their library about it.
Some time ago I genuinely misunderstood somebody's intention when she posted something on line. I thought she wanted it passed on so I did. She didn't like it. I made genuine and sincere apologies but she refused to accept them - to the extent of blocking me from all contact without a word of explanation. I only found out from someone else. It's something I will always regret. I did acknowledge her ownership. I didn't intend to hurt her but she was, and apparently still is, upset and angry. It has made me even more cautious than before.
Things I have written have been passed on to other people without my consent. It has happened frequently in the past and I don't doubt it will happen in the future. It annoys me because, if asked, I would probably say "yes, you may" most of the time. If I didn't want it passed on then there would be a good reason for it. 
Late last year I gave a report to the group I need permission from. I wrote it very carefully and, unusually for me, I read it out exactly as I had written. I was asked to give them an actual copy. I have done so on the understanding that it is not and that it is used in its entirety. Why? Because I know there would be a temptation to edit out parts of it. They are not critical of the group but, if not left in, they would change the understanding of what had taken place and why - and I own the copyright.
All this seems to make no difference to the person I approached. She clearly didn't see the problem as a problem... but I know it would have been if I hadn't asked permission. 
Is copyright really that hard to understand? I suppose it is.