Thursday, 2 July 2015

I am fortunate enough

to be able to go shopping this morning - one of those supermarket expeditions. 
It is a regular Thursday morning chore - Thursdays because that is the day that the local independent supermarket chooses to discount "seniors" a little off their purchases. 
I also shop in the same supermarket during the rest of the week. I don't do multiple trips by choice but by what I can carry in the tricycle basket. If I could drive and owned a car I would probably shop just once a week.
I would however still shop in the independent supermarket. I like it.
There is a larger, dimmer chain supermarket within a hundred metres - as the crow flies. It is filled with "own brand". You are "encouraged" to use the self-serve checkouts and it is deliberately laid out so that you have to traverse the entire store to get to essentials such as milk. The store recently put in a "sushi" bar - so as to compete with a tiny business in the shopping centre.  
I do not go to the chain supermarket unless there is something I cannot get in the independent one.
Competition between the two is fierce. The chain supermarket sends at least two staff members in to check prices each morning. It would love to be rid of the competition. 
But I want that competition to remain. I don't want that independent supermarket to die. It deserves to be there. It employs students and two people with disabilities. The people who work there are friendly. 
There are occasional complaints that it is "more expensive to shop there". Is it really? They, like the greengrocer I favour, source as much local stock as possible. It's their policy. Last year a campaign by them saved a small business from going under. The larger chain was sourcing an inferior product from abroad - and charging just two cents less. It now charges the same price - for the inferior product. The same can be said for many other things. The "own brand" appears cheaper at first but size and quality can make it just as expensive or even more expensive in the end. You buy more or you buy more often.
Both places will soon have more competition. There are plans to build a new, German based, supermarket on the opposite side of the road. The chain supermarket has complained about "unfair" competition coming into the area. The independent one is worried but the manager has said the owners don't want to change their policies of employing students and sourcing locally. 
I hope they don't have to because I like it that way too. Today I will pedal out in the cold and damp and be glad that I have a friendly supermarket to visit that actually cares about the customer.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

So is it nine out of ten or

nine out of every ten. You do know what I mean don't you?
There was an advertisement for some sort of toothpaste once - when I was kitten - which used to claim that "nine out ten dentists recommend..." I can remember reading it and then asking why we didn't use that sort of toothpaste.
The Senior Cat explained the advertisement to me. I was about six at the time but it was a valuable lesson in reading comprehension. Of course I have not read and understood everything I have read since then. Like everyone else I have sometimes read what I wanted to read into something. I still hope that the lesson the Senior Cat gave me reminds me when I most need to be reminded.
Among the many things I read now are a number of news and commentary websites. I don't read them for pleasure but because I need to be informed about what people are saying about situations that may affect my work. 
Journalists are not known for accuracy. They may try but one person "on the ground" has to rely on information given to him or her by officials who may or may not have an interest in telling them what is actually going on. The officials themselves may not know. Sometimes it is necessary to rely on non-official sources. Opinion is represented as "fact".
Research, especially "scientific research" is another issue. Remember that myth about autism being caused by vaccinations? It is still believed by many people - people who desperately want to believe it. Cancer "cures" abound, as do other many other cures the desperate want to believe in.
I know that, if desperate enough, I might well believe in something like that too. I might believe despite now being trained to read something critically.
Presented with a position  - even solid proof - to the contrary people will go on believing what they want to believe about controversial issues. Yesterday I tried explaining to an otherwise intelligent person that a piece of research was based on a badly biased sample. I might as well have saved my breath. He didn't want to hear that. The sample gave him the results he wants to believe in. 
His thesis is going to come tumbling down and he will probably blame me. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

So if Greece defaults today

what will happen next? I don't know. I don't have a crystal economic/social ball with which to see the future.
But, I do know some things.
My sister, Middle Cat, married into the Greek-Cypriot community. Her husband's parents came from Cyprus. Her mother-in-law is no longer with us. Her father-in-law is in a nursing home. They came from "peasant" stock. Her husband's paternal grandfather was a shepherd. 
Middle Cat's father-in-law came to Australia when he was sixteen. He came alone. He worked hard. He brought out his brothers and sisters and then his by one as he could afford to do it. He built up a green grocery and then a fish and chip shop. The latter was so successful that there would, quite literally, be a queue around the corner on Friday and Saturday evenings. He worked hard. His wife worked hard. They made the most of opportunities they made for themselves.
Their children went on to higher education and so have their children - my nephews and their cousins. There's now a doctor, a lawyer, two accountants, an engineer - and soon, an optometrist and a psychologist in the next generation. They have worked hard and  made the most of their opportunities.
It is said that the largest Greek-speaking population in a city outside Athens is not in Greece but in Australia - in Melbourne. A lot of Greeks migrated there. Many of them have done extremely well. They worked hard. They own property and businesses. They are shopkeepers and factory bosses. They are professionals and private enterprise people. 
Some of them are anxiously watching the Greek drama being played out because they have property and business interests in Greece as well. There are people who import from Greece and export to Greece. It is not, in terms of the national economy, a large amount of business - about $270m - but it will impact hard on people who have worked hard.
The entire population of Greece is less than half the population of Australia. Greece has no natural resources. The geography makes it incredibly difficult and expensive to govern. It depends almost entirely on tourism. It's a mess. 
I have said elsewhere in this blog that I believe the Olympics should be returned permanently to Greece. It would be a source of income. It would bring more tourists in. It won't happen. 
But perhaps the biggest problem of all is not Greece and not what happens to the Greek people. It is what happens to the EU and the euro. Perhaps Britain knew what it was doing when it retained the pound? I don't know.
What I do know is that there are Greeks and Greek-Cypriots and their descendants whom I love. I don't want to see them hurt. 


Monday, 29 June 2015

I was once a member of

a government tribunal. After some years in the role I resigned the position because I moved to another part of the country.
I wasn't sorry because, by then, I had begun to doubt the value of some of the tribunal's decisions. They were made according to the law but I had concerns about the way in which the law sometimes had to be applied. However I have always been glad I had the experience because it taught me a great deal about law, about the way in which it can and cannot be applied, and much more.
The state government recently axed a number of tribunals - although not that one.  Instead it has axed several which probably should have been kept and one which most definitely should have been kept.
They have axed the Guardianship Tribunal. That worries me. I have first hand knowledge of how that one worked as well. I taught children who were under state guardianship. When decisions were being made I would sometimes be consulted about their capacities and what I thought might be the best option for them. I have acted as a communication facilitator for some of those subject to the board's decisions and an amicus curiae for others. 
I remember the wonderful young indigenous woman who approached me and asked if I would help her go to the tribunal for help. She had been awarded a considerable sum in compensation for an accident and, she told me, her relatives would seek to take it from her if she had charge of her own affairs. The Tribunal helped to sort it out for her so that they could not touch it. 
I went with a severely disabled man who, although unable to read or write, was aware that his parents could no longer adequately care for him. There was no other close family. His concerns were heard and, when his father died a few months later,  he was transferred to community housing relatively quickly. His mother died a year later knowing that someone was caring for him. He was one of the lucky ones.
Friends in their eighties have just managed to arrange for their profoundly disabled daughter to go into an aged care complex. She isn't yet fifty but there is nowhere else for her to go. It isn't what they want for her but they can no longer do the heavy physical work of caring for her at home. Her father is trying to ensure that there are some sort of guardianship provisions in place - something the Guardianship Tribunal would once have undertaken because there is no close family.
I know many more people like them. The expectation is that "family" will do it but sometimes there is no family. Siblings may no longer even live in the state - let alone close enough to act.
I acted as guardian for two of my former students. It was the least I could do for their remaining parent. They have all passed away now and I don't want to take the role on again.
It is not because I don't care. I do. I care deeply but I believe that I should be able to be there as a friend and that there should be a Guardianship Tribunal to provide continuity, security and certainty  in their lives.  
All the government is saying is that the new super tribunal will "save money". It won't. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

I have just been reading

a newsletter from the women's shelter in the city. 
As always it makes disturbing reading. It is disturbing because of the stories I know are behind the stories - the violence and abuse that led the residents there. It is disturbing because of the way those things have led some of them to smoke, to drink too much, to experiment with drugs, to lose their children to social welfare, and even to lose all their material possessions.
Oh yes, "we know about those things" - except of course we don't really. We can't possibly know unless we have lived through it. The closest most of us will come is watching someone else live through it.
The other thing which makes for disturbing reading is the constant need for funds. The shelter gets a small amount from the government. The rest has to be raised through community and corporate support. 
For as long as he was able the Senior Cat did voluntary maintenance work at the shelter - the only male allowed on the property without supervision. The women trusted him. Information that he was "all right" was passed from one woman to the next as they came and went. The job was passed to him by another man who had to involuntary retire from his voluntary position. The Senior Cat passed his role on to someone else. I don't know who is there now. 
I do know the shelter is struggling to find funds as always. There still seems to be this curious attitude in the wider community that "these women must have done something" and that odd idea that somehow "it's their fault". 
It isn't. Of course there will be faults on both sides - but that doesn't excuse violence or other forms of abuse. It doesn't excuse the lasting damage done to all involved, including the children.
The newsletter was timely. On my way to the library yesterday morning I stopped to speak to someone who is in an abusive relationship. Her husband was away with his mates for the day. It has taken her weeks of planning but she's leaving him. She made the decision when her son, the older of the two children, told her he thought she should - that both he and his sister wanted her to do it. 
Yesterday afternoon they were on a plane to another state. The fares were partly paid for by money we raised in a small group I belong to. The rest was money she had managed to save a little at a time. None of us hesitated to help because we all knew she had no choice. 
I hope it works out well for them. I know where her husband will go looking for her. He knows where the women's shelter is. She had been there once but he "persuaded" her home with threats about losing the children.
"He's not going to change," she told me again yesterday. I agreed. We hugged and the two children hugged me and the boy whispered to me, 
"Tell everyone thank you please. I'm going to look after Mum now."
He's nine years old. It's not something a nine year old should have to say. I don't think he is going to abuse his partner when he grows up but it doesn't always work out that way.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

I have just seen a dragon

cloud in the sky. It was a friendly, white, feathery dragon - but definitely a dragon. I wanted to keep it.
I do own a simple camera. The only thing I use it for is taking photographs of some of the knitting I do. I have never used it for anything else.
The Senior Cat doesn't own an actual camera at all. His i-pad must have one I suppose - but neither of us know how to use it. Oh no, wait a moment I suppose the mobile phone takes pictures? He would have even less idea how to do that...and so would I. 
There are very few family photographs from when I was a kitten. There was a family camera but getting a film and getting it developed was expensive beyond reason in most of the areas in which we lived. The habit of taking pictures simply did not grow. 
My brother-in-law here is a keen photographer. His children have an extensive record of their childhood. My brother's family also have plenty of photographs and more too.
"Save the photographs. Keep another set somewhere safe." This is advice given to people in bushfire prone areas. More than once I have heard people say the thing they miss not having the most is photographs of their family, friends, past events and so on. I can remember an appeal going out at university for a staff member who  had lost all the family photographs. When the album they made was presented to him he was close to tears. 
What is it with photographs? They do remind of us, of course they do. They are taken as "evidence" of what we did and enjoyed. They remind us of our emotions at the time and allow us to remember what someone or something actually looked like. Or, we think  they do. We all see things differently. Two people at the same event will not remember it in the same way. Photographs and films will allow them to remember it and share those memories. Saying "remember when..." is important.
Photographs allow us to remember ourselves.

Friday, 26 June 2015

"A child is missing..."

and each time I hear those words my heart plummets into my stomach where it continues to beat much too rapidly and makes me feel ill.
I don't "re-tweet" things very often but, this morning, I did re-tweet a picture of young William Tyrrell. Apparently it would be his birthday today. He should be home. He should be excited about presents and a party. He should be excitedly telling everyone how  old he is now. He's not.
Nobody knows where William is - except the person or persons who took him. The likelihood that he "just wandered off" and has not been found is miniscule. The likelihood he will be found alive is almost certainly miniscule as well.
I cannot even begin to contemplate what it must be like to lose a child and then not know what has happened to them. I don't know how the parents of Madeleine McCann can keep going - or any other parents like them. Every time the phone rings there must be that heart-stopping moment of wondering - is this it?
I don't have children of my own. I do have a niece and three nephews. My niece and a nephew have five children between them. Losing any of them is unthinkable. 
I know people who have lost a child through illness, through accident and, once, through murder. All of them are apparently "getting on with life" but, if you watch closely, you can see the moments when it all comes back and hits them hard. There are times when I know I need to stay silent and just hold hands - just be there.
The Senior Cat went back to school yesterday morning. He thoroughly enjoyed watching all the youngest children in a local school and observing yet more changes in education. In the afternoon he went to a funeral of an old friend. Her youngest child was not there. It was an occasion where her husband and the other children felt not just one loss, but two. If you don't know what has happened to your child then the loss must happen over and over again. It would be never-ending grieving.
That word "closure" is one that often irritates but if you don't know then you can't shut the door gently knowing what is behind it. It has to stay open - just in case.