Sunday, 23 October 2016

I was supposed to meet

someone yesterday. Let it be said that I wasn't very keen to do so and, in that sense, I was not sorry when she did not appear.
I am however annoyed that she did not bother to send a message to say she was not coming as she was the one who asked to meet. Yes, it was rude. Did she just forget, or did she have a good excuse.
I don't think I have ever "just forgotten" and failed to turn up somewhere when someone was expecting me. I don't think I have failed to tell someone if I couldn't be somewhere I was expected to be. If I have been late then it has been unavoidable and outside my control. 
I know people who are chronically late. In my teens, in order to earn enough "pocket money" for my fares to and from teacher training college I used to baby sit one night a week for a family with four children. (The other six nights were spent working as a "junior housemistress" in a boarding school.) The father of this family had a lecture to attend at university. The mother of the family went to orchestra practice. We knew them well. If you wanted the mother to be somewhere on time then you had to try telling her that an event that started at 8pm was starting at 7:30pm. Her husband would do this. Sometimes that would work, more often than not they would still be late.
"What did she do to be so late?" the Senior Cat has asked me more than once. I couldn't work it out then and I still can't work that out. She was always busy but I would arrive at just after 4pm and, for the next three hours, there would be a frantic rush for her to be ready to leave. I'd have the children bathed, fed and ready for bed by then. Her husband would have the washing up from the evening meal done and several other things as well...and he would have been home for about an hour.
She was, and still is, a lovely person. I am very fond of her but I know she won't be early.
Back then, when the car went off down the road, the eldest two would look at me and give huge sighs and there would be a plaintive demand for "Please can we have a story now?"
They came with their eldest daughter to an event recently - and yes, they were late.
But their daughter reminded me of those nights and said, "You know the thing I remember most about that time is you reading to us. It was always so good to snuggle in and just be quiet and listen."
I am glad I never forgot to go and read a story to them.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

There is a wall calendar

in our house. I make one every year. I buy a very large sheet of thin card, cut a strip off so that it will fit into the designated space on the side of the cupboard next to the 'fridge, rule the lines and paste on the months and days of the weeks. The numbers get, sort of, written in with my atrocious paw marks.
My mother used to make one of these calendars - but of course hers was all done with beautiful "infant school" printing. We have a collection of them from the last few years of her life. The Senior Cat has kept all the calendars for about the last 20 years - on the grounds that "we may need to look at them some time". Perhaps. 
I admit that keeping one is useful because it provides the ruler marks for the calendar I am drawing up. Occasionally we have referred back to the previous year.
At the beginning of each year the calendar looks fairly empty. All I have put in are the regular events such as birthdays and "last Tuesday of the month" type meetings. Over the year the calendar gradually fills up. If an appointment needs to be made or someone needs to know if we are going to be home then a glance at the calendar will tell us if the time doesn't clash or we will be home.
"Hold on a moment, I'll have a look at the calendar," I can tell someone.
I have a calendar associated with the email too of course. I also keep a small diary for the purpose of meetings and appointments and essential reminders.
     "You don't need all those things!" I have been told - and told by multiple people many times. "Why don't you just put it all in your phone?"
I have no idea how to "put it into (my) phone". I am not even sure my phone - which my youngest nephew kindly described as "pre-dinosaur" can do anything like that. I still can't send a text message - but that also has something to do with the size of the  buttons on the thing and my clumsy paws.
I may learn to do these things but there is something to be said for not doing them. The old technology doesn't require batteries. I also have the information in more than one place. If I lost the diary the information would be in the computer calendar or on the wall calendar. 
It also means that I still tend to remember things.  I am not relying on the computer or my phone to remind me. As I find it difficult to write the very act of writing it onto the wall calendar or into my diary helps me remember.
I think I'll go on remembering in this way as long as I can.

Friday, 21 October 2016

I have been arguing with someone

I would like to say it has been a discussion but it has really been an argument. 
It began with me offering a group I belong to the opportunity to give some feedback.  In another role I could take that feedback off to a meeting and, hopefully, any alterations would meet the approval of the first group. Let it also be said that I was not opposed to returning with some information. I actually offered to give some feedback.
I offered to meet two members of the group. I even suggested that I'd buy the coffee. The offer was turned down. If I was going to give feedback I was told I should present myself to the committee. 
(In this context the word "suggestion" sounded more like an order.) Sorry, no.  I can't get there at the time the committee meets - and even if I could it is not an appropriate way to handle the situation.
E-mails went backwards and forwards for two days. In the end I gave in and agreed I would give some feedback to the group as a whole. I am not happy about doing that for a number of reasons. It's a group where people tend not to listen. Most people in the group are not in the least bit interested in participating in the other activity. I am laying myself open to very public criticism about things over which I have no control.
Nevertheless I am going to do it. I am going to do something I would normally never do. I am going to write something and I am going to read it out.  That way when someone says, as they are bound to do, "but you said..." or "Cat told us..." I will be able to point to exactly what I said.
I know it won't be popular and I know, unless I am very careful, it could backfire on me too. But, I have been following the progress of a couple of political spats and it seems to me that exact written records can be a good thing...and not just in Hansard. 
It seems to me that it is quite likely the previous Prime Minister didn't know something. There was no reason for him to be told. If he was told then would it have been anything more than a passing remark? It's made no difference of course. Assumptions have been made and there is the suggestion that he should have known anyway.
But the senior most member of a certain Commission most certainly would have known and would not have forgotten what she said. It is her business to remember such things and it is not the first time she has been caught out. Unfortunately for her there was a written record this time. She can be heard saying what she claims not to have said because there is an actual recording.
There won't be an aural record of what I say but there will be a written one. I'll try and keep it short - and to the point. I'll try to make it as clear as possible.
And I am going to - politely - say just a little more than the person making the demand has bargained on. I won't scratch but I will growl - just a little.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

There was an appalling accident

not far from here. It occurred some days ago now but this morning's paper has a front page feature about the impact it has on the family of an innocent victim. 
She had just dropped her daughter off at a friend's home when a 15yr old boy speeding in a stolen car crashed into hers and killed her.  
It is the sort of senseless tragedy that should never occur but does occur too often in this country. Learning to drive a car, owning a car, getting caught for speeding at least once in your life is all considered to be a "rite of passage".  Any suggestion of raising the age at which people are legally allowed to drive brings about howls of rage. How dare anyone even suggest it? Think of all those poor young things who won't be able to get to work and sport and, perhaps, school.
We need to stop thinking like that.
I went past one of the local high schools yesterday. There was the staff car park. There was the student car park. I don't know a lot about cars but there didn't seem to be a lot of difference. There were some "old bangers" in the student car park but there were also what looked to be like some good cards.
The school has a fairly ordinary middle class catchment area. There are about 800 students in the school. At least 600 of those students are too young to have a licence. There were at least 55 cars in the student car park.  That's 55 cars for 200 students...say around one in four of them has a car.
I don't own a car. I have never owned a car. I do know a car is expensive to run...and that an "old banger" can be even more expensive to run. How do the students afford it - even if they have a part-time job? They don't of course. Their parents have to be helping. Why do they do that? The excuses are things like "going to work" and "going to sport" and "lack of public transport" and "it's safer".
My brother got a low powered motorbike when he was in his third year at university. He was on his own financially. Our parents didn't contribute a cent towards it. They didn't approve of his purchase either.  By then most of his mates had similar vehicles. A few of them had cars but most of them had bikes. They were considered to be cheaper to run and yes, they used to go to and from late lectures  at university or when they left the library at closing time - 10pm. My brother never gave anyone a ride. He never had a spare helmet and neither did they. He got caught "speeding" once. The police pulled him over one Saturday night and booked him for, they claimed, doing two and a half miles an hour above the speed limit. The magistrate threw it out because, he said, it wasn't possible to be that accurate from the speedometer of the police car. He told my brother to "be careful". Were the cops just trying to teach a young man a lesson? Probably. If my brother has been caught speeding again then we have never heard about it. Somehow I doubt he has been. 
And we were all slightly bemused when my father's cousin was caught speeding. The speed camera took the photograph and, in due course, the fine arrived. Puzzled and very annoyed his cousin challenged the fine. He produced his passport and showed them he was on the other side of the world at the time...and no, the "old banger" was not his - that was a "3" and not an "8" on the licence plate. We often wonder whether the driver of the old banger paid a speeding fine or not. Did it teach the driver a lesson?
But nobody has ever taught the 15yr old. He wasn't considered to be old enough to drive. It's too late now. The damage is done. He has to spend the rest of his life knowing he has killed someone. I wonder how he will react. Will he lose sleep over it? How long will it be before he is released from detention? He's a minor so it won't be too long. How long before he will be back behind the wheel? It won't be too long - even if he isn't doing it legally. It means the rest of us have to be extra vigilant.
We need to stop thinking there is a "right" to drive though. There is no such thing. It's a privilege and a responsibility. Nothing more.
I don't think the young daughter of the woman who was killed will be caught speeding.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Our gun control laws

are some of the strictest in the world. They were brought in by the then Prime Minister, John Howard, after one of the world's worst mass shootings - known as the Port Arthur Massacre. If anyone reading this wants to know more about that incident they can search on line. I don't want to revisit the horror of it.
Yesterday the extension on a "temporary" ban on the import of the "high capacity Adler shotgun" (brought in by our previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott) was under threat.  It was under threat because of the numbers game in politics. The government needs the support of cross bench senators to get legislation through parliament. Even one Senator deciding not to support a piece of legislation can threaten the success of legislation.
In this case the legislation was not about gun control itself but about the  legislation to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission.  The legislation is widely supported in the community but opposed by Labor - who see it as "anti-union".  
One Senator is also using or - perhaps more accurately - abusing his power in an attempt to weaken gun laws. His support for the legislation is said to depend on the ban on the Adler being lifted. 
Nobody in this country needs to own a high powered shotgun like that. It is an appalling thing, capable of killing many living things in one burst of gunfire. The only people who need to own guns outside the police or the armed services are farmers who have livestock or those responsible for the welfare of wildlife in the environment. 
I know there are people who go "duck hunting" and "roo-ing" (hunting kangaroos). I know there are people who shoot at targets. If they want to do these things  (and why they want to puzzles me) then, at very least, their guns should be locked away in some central and very secure storage area. They should have to sign them out and then in again - and they should need to maintain a completely clean record.
Guns are not toys Senator Leyonhjelm. They are not something people need. If you don't understand what damage private gun ownership in a modern society can do then look at America. Many of my American friends would be very happy if the "right to bear arms" was struck out.
That Senator Leyonhjelm is prepared to put workers on building sites at risk from unionists who believe they are above the law in order to also put the community at risk by allowing the importation of those guns is unbelievable.
Will he sleep at night if someone is killed by his actions?

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

"Oooh one of those long lunch meetings?"

my neighbour asked as I told her I was just back from a meeting which had included lunch.
Um...not exactly. First of all I was expecting it to be just "coffee". Second, we actually did a lot of work.
I was collected by one of the two people I was meeting with and we went to a nearby cafe for the "coffee". Knowing that I would at least be late back I had left the Senior Cat with very careful instructions about how to heat his own lunch.  I also told him, "I might be back in time to do it but it is more likely to be later than that."
It was just as well because the person who had collected me said, "Let's make this lunch." The other person agreed so I made the proper noises and we pulled out notes and pens and set to work.
It is said that "two's company and three's a crowd" but the three of us do work well together. We went through each item and made a decision. We ate and made more decisions.
P...asked about including something new. We agreed it was a good idea.  There was another new idea too.
"I'll type them up and let you have the changes," A.... told me as she dropped me off at my gate again, "Can you read it through and get back to me?"
Of course. I prowled in. The Senior Cat was finishing his lunch - and reading of course.
     "I thought it would take you longer than that," he told me.
No. We got on with the job.
This was the knitting and crochet schedule for the state's main agricultural show next year. For years it never changed. People knew exactly what to expect. The items looked as if they had not moved from one year to the next. Nobody was very interested - or so it seemed. 
And then involved. Her husband was already heavily involved in other areas. He knew something needed to be changed. The event needs variety. New ideas have to come in. It has taken a lot of work to change this area - and there is still a lot of work to be done.
I know what is going to happen when I mention the changes to other people who need to know and need to be involved. They will grumble. They will ask why anything needs to change. I will be told that their "favourite" class, the one they intended to enter this year, has been removed from the schedule. It will be, as always, an excuse for them not to enter anything. 
It doesn't really bother me. There will be other people who will enter - and hopefully some of them will be people who have never entered anything before. They will do it because there is something new there, something which has caught their attention and imagination. 
Sometimes "long lunch meetings" can reach a long way.

Monday, 17 October 2016

There are "mini board games"

being promoted by our state newspaper. I am sure you know the sort of "deal". You buy the paper and you get the item for a reduced cost.
For once I may succumb. It is not that I am a great fan of board games. I'm not. The Senior Cat does not play them and, even if someone else lived here, it is unlikely I would have the time. 
I have played Monopoly and Scrabble and things like Snakes and Ladders. I once knitted a chess set. I know the basic moves for chess and it won't be long before the grandchild of our neighbour will be better at the game than I ever was.
I used to keep board games in the library at school. It was frowned on by some people. They thought the library was "just for reading" but in wet weather the library would be crowded with children - so much so that some of them would be sitting on the floor. 
It probably went against all the modern rules about occupational health and safety.  They read. They played board games. They talked and drew things. They groaned when the bell signalled the end of the lunch period. 
I watched them go back to class - and relished a few minutes to myself before the first afternoon class appeared. The room was always tidy. The monitors saw to that. There was a table in the corner near my tiny "office" where the serious chess players could leave their games set up. There was room for three games but usually only one or two were left there.
When we had the state wide loss of power a couple of weeks back several people mentioned that they had brought out "old games" and used them to entertain grandchildren. Some commented their grandchildren had "never played anything like that". Their own children had not played too many games like that either.  Instead, they had the "Game Boy" device and similar "toys".
      "It was a mistake," one grandmother told me, "They didn't learn to take turns in quite the same way."
      "And they didn't learn the same sort of strategic skills," her husband told me.
I don't remember having to teach the children in the library those things. They taught each other to play the games I had there. Of course they could come and ask me if an explanation was needed. Disputes were something they had to resolve themselves - and disputes were rare. They knew the rules.
But, in a few short weeks, Brother Cat is bringing his family over to see the Senior Cat - six adults and five children will be descending for a weekend of mayhem.  I have eyed those mini board games they are promoting. How would the three eldest react to some of the simpler games - like "Chutes and Ladders"? It doesn't have quite the same ring to it as "Snakes and Ladders" but...
There is just one major problem that I can see - these games come without batteries.