Tuesday, 28 March 2017

"Activist" groups who use innocent

third parties in an attempt to push their agenda need to be held to account.
I am not in the slightest bit interested in a certain brewery's products. I don't drink alcohol. I don't eat a certain brand of chocolate either. It's simply too expensive.  And that lovely range of jams, sauces and other products produced in the hills behind me is also, on the whole, out of my price range.
But all three companies are in no way associated with a government decision or the implementation of that decision. It isn't even remotely connected to their businesses.
That apparently hasn't stopped the "activists" from urging people to "boycott" their products so as to put pressure on the state government to do something. 
These so called "activists" apparently have no care or consideration that they might be putting others at risk. They don't seem to think there is any harm in causing financial damage or even potentially having people lose their jobs because sales go down - and perhaps, in a worst case scenario - a whole business folding. It won't be the fault of the "activists" of course. It will be the fault of the business which has been the target. "You didn't support us. You should have put more pressure on the government" they will be told.
This is nothing more than bullying.
The businesses will just be told "You should stand up to them?" How? Do they advertise? What do they say? And why should they be forced to spend money advertising? My guess is that all three companies have already donated to the cause for which the activist group wants support. What else are they expected to do? The government isn't going to do anything differently if a managing director picks up the phone and says, "We want you to..." or even if, "Are you aware that our sales are going down because you..." The government might act if the MD said, "We are going out of business..." but it might not be in the way the MD would want.  
This is not good activism. It is an abuse of the power of the internet and the media. It might make headlines but it helps nobody. It is bullying. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

"She's not eating properly"

our neighbour told me.
She was watching her younger grandchild attempting to turn cartwheels on our front lawn. The cartwheels were not wildly successful but the child and her sister were having fun.
"She's been off school for ten days being treated for constipation."
I waited for some more. I knew I'd get the details.
To my mind neither of the girls eat properly - not for want of trying on their grandmother's part. The sort of food we ate as kittens doesn't seem to be considered "normal" now.
I know things have changed. Pizza was unknown when I was young. There was one sort of lettuce - iceberg. We didn't know what "broccoli" was - although we certainly knew "cauliflower". A zucchini/courgette didn't appear on the table until I was in my teens - and it was "new" to most people then.  We had never had a "stir-fry" and fish always came fried in batter.
Compared with the modern child our diets were really rather monotonous and boring - stew, mince, chops, roast, fish on Fridays (even if you weren't Catholic), the very occasional BBQ at a picnic, and chicken at Christmas. 
We ate it all - largely without complaint and with voracious appetites. The holes were filled with fruit and, occasionally, slices of bread or "weetbix" and the Downunder version of Marmite known as "Vegemite". We rarely had jam - and if we did it was homemade. We drank water and milk. Lemonade was something we had on Christmas Day. Ice cream was a treat.
I know our diet has changed - and changed for the better. So why should a small kitten from a good middle class family with well educated parents not be eating properly and suffering the consequences? I know she isn't the only one. Her sister is rather the same. There are other children I know that age. They "won't eat" this or that or something else. 
Middle Cat's children ate almost everything which was put in front of them. There are a couple of things they really didn't like. They tried them because they were told they must at least try but she didn't force them because there were sensible alternatives. They were told, "If you really, really don't like that then you must eat this instead." She explained why.
She found time to do it even though she was working full time. Perhaps it helped that their paternal grandmother was a superb cook of Greek-Cypriot origin? She knew how to feed small children - and big ones too. 
My brother's children were a little "fussier" but they ate most things. My niece and her husband resorted to one of the best encouragements ever. They have had their three girls grow some of their own food.
But these other two kittens and too many more like them "don't like" this and that and the other thing. They seem healthy enough but I wonder what nutrients they are missing out on and what effect it will have in later life. 
I know another child too. She is on a restricted range of foods because of a life-threatening medical condition.  She is now old enough to be aware of what she can and cannot eat. We were talking about this and she said
     "Maybe their mum should just tell them they can't eat all the things which are good for them because you know something I'd really, really like to try all those things they don't want to try."
It's a thought - but I suspect it's a bit late now.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The community centre at the library

was busy yesterday. Yes, I do mean the community centre at the library and not the library at the community centre. 
Our local library, as I have said elsewhere in this blog, is at the centre of a great many activities.
Yesterday there was plenty of activity  yet again. The Scrabble group had the meeting rooms - the dividing folding door had been opened out to make one big one. The knitting group had to meet in the main area.
We had some newcomers. They had been thinking about coming for a little while, a young mother with two girls in the lower and mid primary school. The younger one had some "French knitting" or "tomboy stitch" or "i-cord" - whatever you want to call it.  She had already done a considerable length. We asked what she was going to do with it. She didn't know. She was just doing it. One of the regulars suggested plaiting it into a head band. 
Her sister was learning to crochet. She is making herself a small "blanket". It will be about a metre square. All she needs to do is go backwards and forwards working double and treble crochet (single and double to my US readers). 
Their mother was working on a slightly more complex blanket. It looked good.
I am always curious how it is that children apparently want to do these things - and so are other regular members of the group. We discovered that the family had, until recently, been living in another country with a very different culture. They had only recently returned here. 
Yes, there was television there - and yes the children were going to local schools there so they would have understood any suitable programs. Books were not quite so readily available so they were using digital versions. They were reading.
What the children were not doing, and still aren't doing, is looking at a computer screen and playing computer games. Their mother said "there's a strict 20 minute limit each day". That is probably long enough to do their homework. It's how the children get time to do their craft work and to read.
It showed too. After sticking to their work for half of the two hour session both girls went off to the children's section of the library. They went without any sort of  fuss or demand that their parent accompany them. I don't know what they were doing down there but I assume they were looking at books. 
The older one came back with a craft book and two cookery books intended for children about her age. There was a casual conversation between her and her mother about something she thought she would like to try and cook.  Her mother didn't suggest it would be "too difficult" or "maybe" or "if there is time" or "no, you might waste the ingredients". Her child's request was considered and agreed upon. I sensed that she was teaching them to cook as well.
Her husband had gone off to do something with their son - another low cost, non-screen based activity. I sensed that was deliberate father-son time too.
I wonder how long they will be able to keep these activities up in this country. How long will it be before the children realise that so many other children do things differently? How long before they realise that so many parents cannot or do not find the time to do things with them? How long before they realise that other children are spending far more time in front of a screen?
But yesterday the two girls could go to the other end of the library on their own. They were independent but completely safe. They could explore books. They could make decisions. They could dream of making this or that. Even more important it seems they have parents who are encouraging that sort of behaviour. 
I hope they come again - and again.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Handwriting skills are

being lost apparently. Children can tap and swipe a keyboard even before they can buckle their sandals and long before they can tie their shoe laces. They can "type" on a keyboard but they apparently have difficulty in writing anything - because they no longer "need" to do it.
Or do they? There is a piece in this morning's paper about this but I was actually thinking about it yesterday. Today there is the monthly knitting group at the library. I face two challenges. One will be working with the now 11yr old and teaching her to read a pattern - with all the abbreviations. I am not expecting too many problems. She is an intelligent and able child and, by choice, she does a lot of craft work. What is more she does it to a very high standard, often better than adults. Her handwriting is neat and tidy and I suspect she has no difficulty in writing a page - or two, or three.
The other challenge will be to help an adult who is left handed to learn to crochet. I will be interested to see if she turns up and, if she does, whether she followed my advice and looked at some instructional video material on line. She's a teacher so she should be able to find things like that without my help. 
But it all made me think about things like learning to write, use a pair of scissors, use sticky tape, wrap a parcel, tie a knot and more.
"Craft work" in school seems to be rather different now. When I was a kitten we had "woodwork" for the boys and "sewing" for the girls in the last part of the primary school. 
Now I am hopeless at sewing. My paws just cannot manage a fine sewing needle or the fine motor movements which are required to sew nice, neat seams. It is not for want of trying on my part and, as an adult, I have simply ceased to try. Friends step in and take up my hems and re-attach buttons. I do things for them in return. 
But, I can knit. It took me a long time to learn to knit but I can knit and I can crochet too. I am not quite as good at crochet but it is something I taught myself. My paternal grandmother, who had more patience than any saint, taught me to knit. It is still one of the best things that ever happened to me. It helped in a lot of ways.
I went on to teach an entire class of children to knit. We talked about it first. I told them knitting took a long time. It wasn't something they would be able to do in one or two weeks of craft. Did they want to stick at it? There were other things we could do. If someone didn't want to do it then there were other things that could be done. My plan was that they would develop sufficient skill over a several weeks to go on knitting while I read to them in the last lesson on Fridays. It worked. Only one boy was not that keen and in the end he shrugged and muttered, "Might as well try." They all knitted football beanies for themselves - smaller than scarves, not too expensive to make and potentially useful for themselves or someone they knew. 
And I noticed something else. As they were learning to knit and gaining confidence at it there were other things that improved. Their handwriting improved and their general book work was neater. Those of them who were learning to play a recorder seemed more confident too. Other people noticed as well.
I wonder then if it is time to think about these things. Not all children will want to learn to knit - although it is part of the Waldorf schools curriculum.  Not all children will want to learn to crochet either. But shouldn't we be encouraging children to make things, use scissors, nails, hammers, screws, and screwdrivers, bits of timber, glue, paper, craft knives, yarn, string, and much more? I know I banged my fingers more than once making "boats" to sail. 
Of course it all means taking the child away from the screen and the keyboard and unplugging the device that gives instant feedback and "entertains" then without effort. It means recognising that there are other valuable skills which are being lost and making time to regain them.
I know G.... will arrive this afternoon eager to get on and learn a new skill.  She knows there is a lot to learn - and she wants to learn it. I want to teach her...and I'd really like to be teaching many more children like her.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Running towards danger

and putting your own life in danger in order to save your own children is something I think I can understand. I am not a mother but I can imagine some "instinct" kicking in and doing it. That's something to do with the preservation of the species isn't it?
But when strangers are involved - adult strangers who "should be able to look after themselves"?
What really makes people want to join the police force, the armed services, the fire brigade, or the ambulance service? Do they like the high speed race to a scene or the hospital, the arrests, the noise of the fire, the danger? Do they like manhandling a suspect or entering a still smouldering  building? Do they get an adrenalin rush from that sort of behaviour?
I confess I question the reason some of our local police have joined the force. I suspect they are natural bullies and they positively enjoy pulling over drivers for the slightest infraction or confronting a kid doing no more than mooching down the street. There are many others who actually care about people. How soon before they "burn out"?
The MP, Tobias Ellwood, who tried to save the life of the police officer has reportedly said that "training kicks in". You just do what needs to be done. Perhaps you do. Is it any different, at one level, than me grabbing the child I don't know as they are about to dart out into the road? I am not sure it is. I didn't think about that - and his mother probably didn't think before giving him the resounding whack on his well padded backside. 
Perhaps there are times when you just "do it" but the difference between merely stopping a child as I did yesterday on a quiet suburban street and trying to save a life is enormous. Mr Ellwood will live with that for the rest of his life. In a year from now, unless someone reminds me, I probably won't remember the incident with the child.
What I am going to remember is the email from the friend who works in Westminster. It was just a very short note.
"Just to let you know Cat that we're all shaken but safe."
I don't want to know any more. I am too much of a coward to run towards danger. 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The terror attack in London

has left me questioning yet again, "Why?"
Terror attacks like this don't make sense to me...well, no terror attack does but these make even less sense.
Can someone please explain why it makes sense to go out and kill innocent people going about their daily business? Why kill people who are not doing harm to anyone else? Why get yourself killed?
It makes no sense.
A long time ago now I answered the phone in our home and, before I could say anything, a terrified voice at the other end said, ".....my Dad is trying to kill Mum."
No, it wasn't a joke. We lived in a "soldier settlement" at the time. One of those areas set up by the government where returned servicemen were given parcels of land to farm. It was a well meant but crazy scheme, particularly in that extremely isolated area. The rate of mental illness among the men was particularly high. 
On this occasion the farmer in question was chasing his wife across a paddock (field) with a red hot poker in his hand. He thought she was the enemy. 
The Senior Cat didn't hesitate to believe the child. He made a couple of phone calls, the farmer on a neighbouring property went with his teenage son and restrained the man until other help arrived and the poor man was taken off for a spell in psychiatric care. He had done no physical harm and no charges were laid. But of course it harmed his family. The marriage eventually broke down. It wasn't the only incident while we lived there but it was perhaps the most dramatic. 
It affected me too. I was only a young teen at the time.
I look at the news now, at the teens and the children going through the most horrendous experiences. Their apparent calm is not real. Underneath they have to be living in a constant state of fear as well as coping with a lack of food, of shelter, and of all the things they should have as a right. Their experiences and that of the young boy on the farm are far worse than the one I had.
I don't understand why any human being would deliberately put another human being through something like that. It makes no sense. What sort of "god" do these people believe in?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Are Australians "racist"?

No, I am not going to attempt to answer that question. It is unanswerable anyway.
It is being debated again though. Yesterday was "Harmony Day" and yesterday was also the day the government announced some proposed changes to Sec 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act - that section of the Act which makes it an offence to insult, offend or humiliate anyone on the basis of their race.
I have always though that section was a mistake. That is not because I think it is right to insult, offend or humiliate anyone. I don't. The problem, as I see it, is that it sends "hate speech" underground. Yes, I have said that elsewhere. I will probably say it again somewhere in the future. 
Hate speech has no place anywhere.  Encouraging it by attempting to forbid it by law is simply going to make the problem, if there is a problem, worse. 
And there is another a problem. That section of the Act does not apply equally to all people. Oh  yes, in theory it does. It should. It doesn't. It is there to "protect" minority groups.
There are other minority groups in the community too and they are not afforded the same protections.
I had to go into the local supermarket yesterday. There is someone who works in there part time. She is grossly overweight, unattractive to look at, and not a particularly happy person. That is due in part to her multiple medical conditions.  She also happens to be very good at her job. She knows what the supermarket sells, what sizes the products come in, where to find them, the names of things, the prices of fruit and vegetables, and much more. 
We have a relationship of sorts. When there isn't anyone behind me in the queue she will sometimes chat a little to me. I hear about how she went to the football with her Dad or something else. She will ask me about something I am buying and how I cook it. It's all just casual chat - but a little more than "have a nice day". There are times when she will be almost abrupt. She's in pain and is best left to herself.
It takes courage for her to front up to work. It is difficult for her to stand there. She is fully aware that many customers avoid her. They would rather wait longer in another queue than be served by her.
Yesterday though she served someone who was, to be blunt, extremely rude to her. It wasn't the all too common rudeness of a thoughtless customer. It was directed at her as an individual. It reduced her to tears.
I was much too far back to in the queue to intervene in time. I couldn't physically reach her then but she was still fighting back the tears when I did reach her. All I could do was put my hand over hers. She gave me, ever so slightly, the faintest hint of a smile blew her nose and went on with her job. Nobody else had shown any interest or sympathy.
I know. It's hard. You don't want to get involved. It's none of your business.
But I came away thinking that it is that sort of behaviour which is the really dangerous sort. It's not the insulting or offensive behaviour. That's bad enough. What is worse is simply allowing it to happen when you see it happen, when the person on the receiving end of such vile behaviour can't defend themselves. As the shop employee she just had to take what was given to her. She couldn't be rude to a customer.
She has as much right not to be offended or insulted as someone from another minority group. 
We don't need legislation. We need thought for each other and the courage to speak up.