Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Pay for a parcel to be delivered?

Ummm....hang on a moment. Didn't the person at the other end pay for it to be delivered?
Our postal service is getting worse, much worse.
As a kitten I remember there were eleven deliveries a week. There would be two each weekday and one on Saturdays. You knew if there was something in your mailbox because the postman, on an ordinary pushbike would blow his whistle. 
As small children we thought all of this was interesting. It was fun. We liked to go and pull the letters out of the box and give them to our parents or grandparents.
Then deliveries were dropped to one each day and none on Saturdays. The "postie" came around on a lightweight motor bike. In this district our old postie had to cease deliveries. He had epilepsy and he was not allowed to have the necessary licence to ride a motor bike.  
I know all about this because one of the jobs I was once offered was that of postie. The Australian Public Service knew I did not have a licence and that I had no hope of "maintaining" any motor bike issued to me. It was why I was offered the job. They could then claim I had "turned it down". (Another job they offered me was that of "customs officer" - where I had to prove my fitness to climb up and down ladders in the hulls of ships and carry parcels up to 10kg in weight before I could be considered. They knew I would "turn (that one) down" too. )
And now they are thinking of dropping deliveries to three days a week. I suspect they are already trying it out in our district because some days we get no mail. On other days we get more mail than usual. We don't see the postie some days and we do on others.
And then there are the parcels. They get delivered  by van of course. There seem to be more of those these days. People do more shopping on line. 
The parcel delivery service however is not efficient. More than once we have found a card in our letter box telling us to call and collect a parcel at the Post Office. 
We knew the old parcel delivery person. She was lovely, really lovely. On one very, very hot day she rang our door bell and  held up her empty water bottle and asked if I would mind her filling it from our tank. I made her come in, gave her a cold drink and colder water from our fridge. She knew to give the Senior Cat or my mother time to get to the door. I think everyone in the district was sorry when she retired because she always went the little extra way to make sure people did get their parcels. 
Since then we have had a seemingly endless variety of people. None of them last long. They don't like the job. The notes in the letter box suggest that they haven't even bothered to try. I saw one of them simply write three cards one day without even bothering to get multiple parcels out. He simply placed the cards in three different letter boxes and went on. I wonder if he delivered anything that day?
Now they want to charge people to pick up parcels at the Post Office. You will have a few days grace but many Post Offices are not open on Saturdays and if you work all week?
I wonder about all this. Does Australia Post want to keep running or doesn't it? Isn't a postal service a necessary requirement? Not everything can be done by computer.
I suspect they may find the public will say, "Stay and deliver."

Monday, 2 May 2016

I have been breaking the law

for years - and I have been encouraged to do so by the police. I have sometimes had to explain to others that I have their permission to break the law. Well, that was true until recently. I no longer need to break the law because the law has changed.
Until recently it was not legal to ride on the footpath in this state -unless you were under the age of twelve. I stopped being under twelve a very long time ago. 
We also had very few bike paths or bike lanes. Bikes had to mix with traffic - all too often with disastrous consequences in a state where there are too many people intent on going too fast in their cars. 
I had come back from Canberra, the nation's capital, where there were 186km of dedicated bicycle track. It was legal to ride on the footpath - but not within ten metres of an open shop. I pedalled happily there. I had lived in another state too and the area I lived in had similar arrangements. I was, as they say, "a happy camper" or cyclist.
It was different here. I set out in trepidation having been told that,  unlike the years before I left the state, the police were now much tougher on footpath cyclists. They had once happily ignored me and any other tricycle rider. But, I had been warned, "Don't go on the footpath Cat. They don't like it now."
I went on the road, a busy main road. I had no choice. It was terrifying. There were  huge vehicles thundering past me, close enough to touch - or so it seemed. 
And then, inevitably it seemed, a cop car pulled alongside me and a worried looking  policeman looked out at me and said, "Get on the footpath!"
I got on the footpath wondering if I had done something wrong. The car pulled in just ahead of me. Two of them got out and came up to me.
     "Don't you think you should be riding on the footpath?"
     "I'd be breaking the law," I told them.
     "Then break the law. We aren't going to pull you over for it."
They investigated my tricycle (all in order) and asked some questions about it. We parted in a friendly fashion.
I have since had police pull their mobile radar equipment out of the way to let me through.
And, at the end of last  year, it became legal for cyclists to travel on the footpaths. This has not been well received  by many people. It is taking time for people to get used to the idea. Many cyclists still use the roads (legally) but I have noticed older people and women using the footpaths. I have noticed more parents teaching their children to ride. 
I hope they are being careful. I have had years of riding my tricycle on the footpath. It takes an even greater degree of care than riding on the roads. There are cars coming from driveways and all sorts of overhanging vegetation to avoid. Things get dropped and dumped on footpaths. They have to be avoided - especially the advertising stands. There are pedestrians - and pedestrians with dogs. There are also pedestrians with mobiles. 
It is these last who complain most bitterly about cyclists on the footpath. Why should that all important text conversation be interrupted by the need to look at the cyclist coming towards you?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

"John died this morning,"

Middle Cat informed us bluntly. She was referring to her father-in-law. 
We had been expecting it. He was not well. Middle Cat had voiced her concerns to me the day before. He had a chest infection, probably bordering on pneumonia. With all his other problems it was just too much. 
I am glad for him. He was not comfortable - or happy. 
He was ten years younger than the Senior Cat and, in many ways, their lives could not have been more different. 
John was a Greek Cypriot peasant by birth. He was born in a house without electricity or running water. He was the eldest of eleven children. 
At the age of sixteen he migrated to Australia - alone. The war had only been over a few years. John was heading for a better life in a different country.
And it was a better life. The food was better. The housing was better - yes, there was electricity and running water. 
And John worked incredibly hard. He brought out all his siblings and their families one by one. He "sponsored" each one of them. And, when they had all arrived, he brought out his parents for the last years of their lives. 
The old couple was still alive when Middle Cat married. I remember them well. They were small in stature. Both of them had had rickets as children. John avoided that - but only just - because his father managed to get and then keep goats and the children were given the milk.
John worked for others at first and then bought a green grocery business when he married. He built that up, sold it at a profit and then bought a fish and chip shop. It was so popular there would, quite literally, be a queue around the corner into the next street in the evenings. He knew his fish. He had no time for bags of semi-cooked frozen chips. 
He worked into his 70's. 
And therein lay the problem. He worked. He worked and he worked. He never developed any other interests. His working hours were odd. He usually did not get home until midnight. (The shop would close at 10pm but then they had to clean and scrub to the standard of cleanliness he demanded.) 
When he took time off it was to visit or be visited by family - or watch the soccer on television. Once in a while he would go fishing with his brothers.
He saw his children grow up and go on to tertiary education - something he could never have thought possible as a child. He provided  a  solid home for his wife with all the modern conveniences - and the same for his parents. He saw to it that his siblings had help when they needed it.
But he never developed any interests of his own. He was depressed when he retired. It was made worse by  the death of his wife. He sat there staring into space.  He had medical problems. There was major heart surgery last year.
And so it went on.He was old before he should have been. He should have been treated for depression but, like so many others for whom English is a second language, it wasn't recognised by his family.
The last time I saw him he didn't respond to a greeting in English. I tried Greek instead. I got a faint smile and "Caterina". He always called me that, made me use my few words of Greek. He held on to me tightly when I hugged him. I could feel his uneven breathing - and it wasn't just his heart condition. 
RIP John. You deserve it. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Diabetes doesn't help

the emotions. It is even less help if you have "brittle" diabetes.
I spent part of yesterday afternoon with the sister of my late friend. She has "brittle" diabetes - uncontrolled diabetes where the swings in her sugar levels can be sudden. It is not common now. Most diabetics are able to keep their condition well under control. She does not.
My late friend and I knew there were going to be problems and I promised to do my best to help. It has been tough for her sister. They have some cousins but no immediate family. Even with family it would be hard. 
My sister's friend lives alone. She has never married. More than once, she has been hospitalised.  More than once I was called on to go around there when she was not answering the phone. Now it is even more difficult. If it is evening and I can't rouse her I have to rely on the neighbours in the little set of "units" in which she lives. She doesn't know they are watching out for her. She would hate it if she did. She would see it as a gross invasion of her privacy. On the two occasions an ambulance has been called at night the doctor who lives in the last unit has made excuses as to why he was knocking on the door. 
She is extremely reticent about her diabetes. She believes that everyone else in her set of units, apart from the doctor, is unaware of her condition. I am perhaps the only person to whom she will talk openly about the problems her diabetes causes. She will eat meals with us because she knows that I will provide what she needs and when she needs it.
But  yesterday I went because someone else needs to talk to her. She has not been responding to them. The estate is not yet settled. She is emotionally confused and anxious about it. "I don't need the money," she told me. And no, she doesn't. She lives frugally. Her life style is rather limited now. Even when she went to work she didn't indulge in many luxuries. It just isn't her style.
And so, we talked for a bit. It wasn't easy. I know she is not taking things in. She has always found it hard to make decisions. 
Her diabetes gets in the way. She is afraid to make decisions, to make plans and, although I was there, she still felt horribly alone. 
So many lonely people need someone who is just prepared to listen but she needs more than that.
I hugged her and I hope that helped a bit. I know things aren't going to change now. She is too old for that, much  older than I am in more ways than one.  I just wish I could find a way of helping her get more out of life than she does now.

Friday, 29 April 2016

The trains were not running

again yesterday. 
You would think it would be a fairly simple thing to keep our small rail network running - and running on time as well. Apparently not.
I had pedalled over to the railway station to catch the train to a meeting and was greeted with a morose, "Trains aren't running again."
The commuter who muttered this to me was heading back to his car. 
An elderly couple came out of the underpass. I could hear them wondering how to call a taxi so they could get to a medical appointment. I offered the use of my phone - accepted.
My own situation was a little more difficult. I didn't want to leave my trike at the railway station and get a taxi. It was damaged once and stolen on another occasion (I got it back). I also didn't have enough money for a taxi. I don't carry that sort of money with me unless I absolutely have to. 
So, I headed home. I phoned the leader of the meeting. He was sitting at another railway station. It is an odd one, only accessible on foot. He thought the train was just delayed. I explained. He swore fluently and said,
      "I'll call my wife and get her to get me again and pick you up as well."
The initial problem was on another line. There have been numerous problems on that line since it was "electrified". Our line still runs on diesel trains. It makes no difference though. If one line is "out" then the whole system goes out for some reason. It seems that the computer system cannot cope. 
There were gates down at level crossings. That added to the chaos.  There were roadworks somewhere else. More chaos. 
Nobody appeared anywhere. There was a brief announcement about an "unexpected delay". It advised people to "make other arrangements". Fortunately yesterday was still inside the school holiday period or the chaos would have been even worse.
I know there will sometimes be problems, problems that nobody can foresee and that cannot be helped. I do wonder though that a modern computer system can't be programmed to take into account a failure on one line and keep the others running.
Is that really so difficult? Can someone please explain?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Manus Island Detention Centre

has been declared "illegal" by the PNG Supreme Court. Perhaps the only surprise is that the declaration did not come earlier.
There are about 850 men being held on Manus Island. They are asylum seekers. 
There are two things to note. Firstly they are men. Secondly they are seeking asylum. They are not women and children, not the very old or the very young. They have not yet been classified as refugees. 
There is also another thing to note. They want, quite specifically, to come to Australia. 
I can't comment on their claims to be refugees. I haven't met any of them.
What interested me was the comments of a former refugee. He came to Australia after the war. 
      "I was in the camp when the war ended. I had no family left. They told me I would be going somewhere. I didn't know where. I didn't care. All I wanted was to be safe, to have food and to be warm when it snowed. I would have gone anywhere with those things."
My belief that he would be sympathetic to the situation those on Manus Island find themselves in was soon dispelled.  It isn't that this man doesn't care about refugees. He does. His family has been some of the strongest supporters I know of refugees in our community. They have fed them, housed them on a temporary basis, clothed the children, taken them to medical, legal, and social welfare appointments, been at their side during job interviews and more.
He just has no time for people who are trying to bypass recognised routes and demand they be given asylum in a specific country.  It wasn't what I expected. 
His comments made me wonder. If this man, who was a refugee and came here, has worked hard and done well, does not support the Manus Island Detention Centre asylum seekers coming to Australia then who does? Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was naturally outspoken once again. People have come to expect it from her. Each time the issue arises she is in front of the cameras saying the same things.
        "What," he wanted to know, "would the Senator do with thousands of such men?"
I suppose it is possible to believe that he is prejudiced. He sees them moving into ghettos of a sort, mixing only with other people from similar backgrounds, and becoming disaffected through lack o employment. Certainly there is some evidence that can happen. Taking in refugees is not a simple matter of housing them, feeding them and then trying to find them a job.
His comments left me wondering whether anyone has any real understanding of the depth of the crisis in Europe and the likely impact on the way of life there. As I have said elsewhere I am deeply concerned about the impact the loss of so many young men will have on the countries they come from. 
It seems we will end up with more than one set of disaffected people. There are  those who want to settle somewhere else. There are those who want to help them. There are those who want to help but without affecting their own way of live. And, there are those left behind who must resent seeing their more fortunate neighbours resettled in countries where the streets appear to be paved with gold.
So, I'll ask again, "Isn't it time to start thinking more about temporary protection, skills training, language learning and the sort of help that will allow those who have fled to return and rebuild? Won't that do more to help everyone? Is it selfish?"

It seems this is not a popular idea. I wish someone would explain what's wrong with it.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Twelve submarines are to be built in

my home state. Everyone in the state, or so it would seem, is cheering loudly. 
Or are they?
Yes, on the surface, it seems like a great thing. There are jobs involved.
The French, the Germans and the Japanese were all bidding for the contract. The French won. The Germans bowed out gracefully enough. (They will probably get some spin off anyway.) The Japanese are furious - and I mean furious. It is couched in polite diplomatic language but  they are very, very angry indeed. They see it as "loss of face". It is a major embarrassment for them.
The previous Prime Minister actually favoured the Japanese. The subs would have been smaller, lighter, less expensive to build and run and, apparently, capable of just as much.  Other interests took over. And, like it or not, there are still residual security concerns about allowing the Japanese to know too much about our affairs. I rather suspect that they never really had a chance.
The present plans mean that the current Collins class submarines will have to be around a good deal longer than planned. That's an expensive business too. They need to be maintained. The new submarines won't be around for  years yet - 2030 perhaps. The Senior Cat reckons he won't see one anyway.
There will be employment resulting from building the submarines (and also the frigates) here - but it won't make up for all the other jobs which have been lost in this state. We were too dependent on the car industry. We are still in trouble. It isn't going to solve the state's economic woes.
So I wonder about all the excitement. What are we really getting excited about? 
I even wonder whether we will need submarines in 2030.