Saturday, 27 August 2016

What you remember and

what actually happened may be two very different things.
Even two people at the same event and from almost exactly the same vantage point will see that event differently. It's the way we are programmed. We can all look at the same picture, or read the same book, observe the same person and more and we will see it differently. We see it through the lens of our own life experiences. The Senior Cat, who still likes to think about such things, was trying to remember a sequence from Ulysses yesterday. How, he wanted to know, does a writer write that? 
He remembers studying Ulysses as part of his degree in English literature. I remember him reading part of it to us when I was at school and he was teaching us. I was still only a kitten in the primary school when he did that. I reminded him that he had done this and he claims to have forgotten...but it had an enormous impact on me. 
"But I couldn't have done that," he told me yesterday, "You wouldn't have understood it."
Actually I think I did. I went inside the thoughts of another person for a moment. It was a very strange experience. I haven't forgotten it. 
Why my father read it to us I don't know. It must have had an impact on him at the time. There was only one other child in that little school who would have had any understanding at all of what the passage was intended to convey. He and I would have seen it in an entirely different ways. If I met him again I wonder if he would remember it? It's unlikely. 
But yes, it happened.
Perhaps it was good to be reminded of that because this week I had to face a rather difficult situation. I have been told that something happened. I have the paper work but I wasn't present at the event. I know what the paper work says. Three people have given me three slightly different but closely corresponding accounts of what happened. A fourth person has given me an entirely different account.  There will be a meeting next week to try and resolve the problem. Everyone - except me - will try and remember what happened. I am inclined, for more reasons than one, to accept what three people have said rather than just one.
It does make me wonder though what happens when we "remember" something? How does a writer "know" this? Even if they are writing in the present tense do they "know" what has happened or are they "remembering"? If they are writing in the past tense is it "knowing" or is it "remembering" - and what effect does that have on the writing?
I'll put the idea to the Senior Cat this morning - and let him think about it while he weeds his flower pots.

Friday, 26 August 2016

"Look at this!"

Someone holds up yet another item being delivered for judging.
"Really lovely!"
"How do they do that?"
"What's this?"
And then, inevitably, "Cat will know. Ask her."
I don't actually know the answer to all things knitting but I do know the answer to some things so I explain where I can because this  time of the year is a craft learning experience for all of us.
Yesterday was one of those days. I was doing my turn as a steward at the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society pre-show preparations. I know I have explained elsewhere in this blog that I go along and collect the entries, put them out on trestle tables, help the judge who does the knitting and crochet, and then help to put them in the display cabinets.
They are fortunate to have an excellent judge. She is very thorough and scrupulously fair. She will tell us why she is giving a prize to one thing and not another. She will show us what she has noticed.
And she takes delight in not just excellent workmanship but she enthuses over things like the delightful "tiger" soft toy. He was straight out of "The tiger who came to tea" and any small child who knew the story would recognise him. More than one person cuddled him and the bears who won the first prize. They all had character.
This year there were a couple of new classes. While I had told the knitting guild about them I had not said a lot. But, they attracted quite a bit of attention. The items in the 100g challenge were not particularly imaginative but we will keep the class and I think there will be more entries next year. It's a difficult one for the judge because of the potential diversity but the sort of thing she feels will encourage more people to enter items.
And then there was the "amigurumi". This was the suggestion of a judge from a neighbouring state. We all wondered what sort of entries it would attract and, this year, the decision was to be fairly flexible with respect to whether or not it could be classed as "amigurumi". What won  first prize was genuine "amigurumi". A tiny suitcase full of even tinier clothes in the most exquisite detail. It also won  "best in show" for the crochet. I know who made them and I hope she will show them to everyone in the guild she belongs to because they are an absolute delight. 
I had very tired rear paws by the end of the day and was absolutely surprised and very grateful when one of the convenors told me her husband was coming to pick  up me and the trusty three wheeler so that I didn't need to catch the train and then pedal home. 
Next item on the to-do list is a thank you note to him!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

I had a lovely letter

from someone in the bookshop knitting group, the woman who is going through the physical, mental, and emotional trauma of chemotherapy.
I wanted to tell her I cared in a practical sort of way so I made her a "chemo-cap" from some soft cotton. I made it in a cheerful sort of colour that I thought she would like. It's not a colour I would wear but, for her usual colouring, it will be good and it won't drain any colour she might have in her complexion. 
I really didn't care whether I got an answer or not because, in a selfish sort of way, doing it was for me as well as her. It made me feel better. 
I probably have an over-active imagination but I thought of her being frightened, angry, and confused about why it had to be her. 
What she was knitting the last time I saw her had been a chemo-cap for herself. The colours she had chosen were angry - and she had, perfectly understandably, broken down when she had told us what was going to happen. I felt as guilty as  all out. She could tell us but she could only share the fact. We couldn't take  on any of her pain. Pain is incredibly personal. 
And then I got her letter. She thanked me. Then she told me how fortunate she was - fortunate because was so much older than some of the people she has now met.  I had never thought of cancer in that way. It is still frightening and I don't doubt she is still angry and frightened but she has channeled that into a much more positive way of thinking. 
I wonder if I could think that way? 
Today I am off to be a "steward" for the knitting and crochet at the showgrounds for the annual RAHS show. I'll listen to the judge as she makes decisions and help to put things on display ready for the opening at the beginning of September. It will be an interesting day but I will think of my fellow knitter. I might even suggest she aims to put something in next year. Her work is excellent - and surely she will be here. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

"I never tell them what I really think"

my acquaintance told me.
We were standing in the shopping centre. She had just been bailed up by someone with a clipboard - someone who was doing a survey. Apparently it was some sort of "environmental" survey this time. Of course I had not been stopped. I am never stopped. 
It is a curious thing. Charity collectors never seem to mind asking me for money but people doing surveys never want my opinion. 
I wonder if I would give them an honest answer if they did ask me?
During the election campaign we were phoned more than once, mostly with automated messages from politicians. I just put the phone down on these - something I suspect most people did. But there was one phone call from the national broadcaster wanting me to answer some questions for Q & A. Before the young man  at the other end had a chance to ask me any I had to regretfully tell him I couldn't answer them. I was regretful because I would like to have known precisely how he would have phrased the questions.  I already knew what sort of answers he would be looking for. I know what sort of material they can use in a program like that. They don't want the sort of answers I would give and they couldn't use them. Unlike the person who had stopped me to ask something else I am not prepared to give them the answers they want - to lie. 
But people do lie, especially when they are face to face with the interviewer. They may simply believe they should answer in a certain way or they may not want to share their opinions or they feel they will be criticised for holding a different opinion from the socially or politically acceptable one.
And of course the questions can be designed to elicit answers that the surveyors want. I once had a long conversation with someone who was responsible for the Morgan-Gallup polls in Downunder. He admitted that questions could be crafted in this way - and used in an effort to change public opinion. I asked him how many people he thought lied when they answered. He had no idea but said he thought most people told the truth and that had to be good enough.
I was left wondering just how valuable surveys and opinion polls are. Presumably they are sufficiently valuable to keep on doing them.
I remember asking once at a disability advocacy meeting how many people in the room had been stopped and asked for their opinion by a person with a clipboard in the street. There would have been well over a hundred people at the meeting - a day long conference. The only people who put their hands up were people who were not disabled or did not have a visible disability. We agreed that, in general, people with disabilities won't be asked. Perhaps people with disabilities are not supposed to have opinions?
I wondered whether I should chase up the young man with the clipboard and demand to give him my opinion. If he had stopped me would I have told him what I really think? I don't know because I don't know what the questions were. I would probably just have said "I can't answer that" if it was a question I didn't want to answer.
But out there in the street they will probably never get my opinion about anything because I will almost certainly never be asked.  I make up for it here instead.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


and more SABLE...
Anyone who knits, crochets, quilts, embroiderers, sews, carves, scrapbooks, or does wood work - or any other craft will know what I mean. 
Yes, that Stash Advancement Beyond Life Expectancy.
I was left yet more wool over the weekend. I came home to discover several bags of it sitting at the front door and a note, "Clearing out. I am sure you can use this Cat."
Well actually no, I can't. I contacted the person who had left it and there was an exasperated sigh at the other end of the line, "Well, look at it and see if there is any you want to keep and then just give it to someone else who can use it. I don't want it!"
The last four words were a positive wail. Right. She doesn't want it. I contacted the person in the guild who looks after such things. No, she didn't want me to  bring it to her. (She lives fairly nearby and it would have been convenient - just something which would have involved several trips on the trike.) I could, she said, get someone to pick it up and take it to the guild.
No, actually I couldn't. It would mean someone going out of their way to do it and I know she will take some of it home anyway. I told her by email I would bring it as much as I could carry each time over the next few months.  It just meant it wouldn't get sold on the trading table to raise some funds. If people there don't want it then it will go to the knit-for-charity group but someone will be at the guild to take it and won't mind doing it.  I copied the email to the secretary of the guild - who lives some distance away. Yesterday there was an e-mail from the secretary offering to pick it up when she is next over  in this direction. Thank you. 
I hope it doesn't clutter up her place too much until the first Saturday in September but it is nice of her to offer to help and I do appreciate it. 
Now if we could just do the same thing with all that timber the Senior Cat has stashed in his shed....
And no, books are NOT stash!

Monday, 22 August 2016

There has apparently been another "racist attack"

at the "footy". 
This puzzles me. I would have thought the uproar last  time was so great that nobody would even consider it.  I suppose, in the heat of the game, someone let loose with language and an  act they might normally keep under control - whatever they might think.
In our family  the Senior Cat can remember his paternal grandmother, my great-grandmother, and her relationship with the indigenous community along the banks of the River Murray. My great-grandparents moved to a community there after my great-grandfather retired from his maritime role. They set up a dairy farm and, not long after, my great-grandfather suddenly dropped dead at the farm gate. 
My great-grandmother, being a "tough old Scot, a crofter's daughter", continued to run the farm with some help from one of her daughters and a son-in-law - and some of the local indigenous community. The Senior Cat and his many cousins spent time on the farm and mixed with the children from the nearby "camp". He can't remember race being mentioned among the children. Perhaps things were said among the adults. I have no doubt that my great-grandmother's wisdom in employing the men was  questioned by some but the children all knew where to look for slices of "bread and dripping".  They were handed out in her abrupt way and with a strong Caithness accent all the local children almost certainly didn't understand - but they knew to say "thankyou Mrs.... ".
My paternal grandfather took his mother's attitude. He didn't employ any of them as he didn't take on apprentices in his tailoring business but he knew  many of the indigenous people in the area around the port where he had his shop and workshop. He was often seen chatting to them - and no doubt, in his Victorian era style, telling them what to do. The Senior Cat and his brother just accepted this as normal.
And then there was R.... with whom my grandfather worked closely. She was married to a man who had become the station master at one of the nearby railway stations. (This in the days when we had station masters at such places.) They were both members of the Kaurna clan.
They lived in a railway house not far from the station closest to my grandparents' home.
R...was,  until her death, one of my closest and best friends.  I suppose I was conscious of the colour of her skin but not, I hope, in a racist sort of way. R....was just R... as far as I was concerned. She was simply the person I went to when I couldn't go to my paternal grandmother about a problem. R.... was an untrained social worker. Everyone  in the local indigenous community knew her. They went to her for robust advice, and for help. You took your shoes off when you went into R....'s house - and you minded your manners.
Her son is the one who gave me a bear hug in the middle of a busy city footpath. Yes, people stared. Neither of us cared but we were aware of it. I saw his daughter on the way home from a meeting a couple of months ago. She was outside her local library after "Story Time". I had the pleasure of  holding her toddler on my trike seat and giving him a "ride" - just as I had given her more than one "ride" at about the same age. 
After I had done that and waved them on their way someone else asked me, "Do you know them?"
I nodded and held my breath but then the other young mother said to me, "She seems awfully nice. Do you think she'd mind if I talked to her?"
So I explained about R... and the way she  had brought her family  up to include everyone and went on my way. But it saddens me because the question displayed a different sort of racism.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

"I know you think you understood

what I said but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."
I know I have quoted  that in my witterings before now - and I may well quote it again one day. I may even, as today, have to change the wording slightly and say, "I know you think you understood what I wrote but I am not sure  you realise that what you read is not what I meant."
Perhaps I wasn't clear. Maybe you really didn't understand. Did I  use the wrong words? Was there a better way of putting them?
I know writers worry about these things. So do people in professions like the law - where even a misplaced comma can be a disaster.
I had to explain something to someone this week. It related to a long and complex piece of legislation that I understand only in a general sense and that, in all likelihood, they had not heard of until I had to mention it. I hope she did understand. She is apparently doing as I suggested needed to be done so perhaps she has. I have done the best I could.
But another piece of legislation also came under discussion this week and I, foolish cat that I am, joined in the discussion. I should know better but I don't seem to be able to help myself. It would be wiser of me not to read that particular paper on-line - or perhaps at all. There is always the temptation to comment on an article that can be commented on, especially when others are making ridiculous comments - and often getting away with things the moderators most definitely should be pulling down. Yes, I know that particular paper is known for its left-wing, anti-government readership. Perhaps I should try just reading the articles? Some of those are heavily biased too of course. It's the nature of the site. All the same it is useful to know what is being said there.
The real problem however is the often wilful misunderstanding of what has been written there. It won't matter how carefully crafted a comment is if someone else disagrees with what  you have said or - and this is the more important thing - what they think you have said or - and this is the even more important thing - what they want you to have said, then you are in trouble.
And, for the record. I am not opposed to the existence of something like sec 18C of our Racial Discrimination Act. I am opposed to the way it exists as present but I do believe there has to be some workable legislation that allows people to be prosecuted for deliberate incitement to hatred. 
"Free speech" does have limits but deliberately misunderstanding other people in an attempt to shut down debate is censorship and not to be condoned.