Monday, 19 February 2018

Revenge is a dish best served

cold - or perhaps not at all?
Last week I attended a very serious meeting. It was, I hope, the first and last time I will ever have to attend such a meeting.
The meeting was to decide how someone would make what reparation she could for the damage she had caused. She has harmed me and my reputation, a group and its relationships. 
To say the meeting was tense would be a gross understatement. It grew from a misunderstanding that could easily have been repaired by someone else. I didn't get any support then and I have still had none. I know I am unlikely to get any.
But, last week there was a meeting. It was informal but it was agreed at the outset that the perpetrator of the acts would abide by the decision the person who was mediating would make. 
He explained the nature of her offences and how I could, if I chose, take the whole thing to a formal court of law. That this would almost certainly result in a criminal conviction clearly shocked her. She had no idea. He pointed out the harm she had done the group and again that seemed to shock her. 
He asked her why she had done what she had done.  Revenge. It was for something she believed I had done. Did she have any proof? No. It was just what she thought. Did she still think that? No. So why had she gone on with her actions? She couldn't answer that.
Her behaviour has been more like that of a confused child than a reasonable adult. It seemed to have given her a sense of power over me.
And what did I want in return? I had thought long and hard about this. If I had wanted to do it I could have taken the matter up with the police. It had even been suggested I should do that. 
Yes, I was tempted - tempted to get my own back - but at what cost? It might well have irreparably harmed a group of people whom, for the most part, I like very much. I could have taken revenge for all the hurt, the harm, the time it has cost me. 
Perhaps I startled those present when I said, "I don't want anything. (She) has admitted what she has done. I think she should make some sort of reparation to (our group) and the fact that she won't be able to apologise to them without doing more harm is punishment enough."
The mediator accepted this. He suggested reparation in line with what would have happened if it had gone to court but there will be no criminal conviction involved, no public humiliation. She agreed. 
I've now signed an undertaking that this is an end to the matter.
It's enough. I prowled home slowly thinking that I could have taken revenge. But, revenge is a bitter dish and I don't care for the taste of it.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The date of the election

was set long ago. It was set when the politicians decided to give themselves a fixed term.
Fixed terms, so they tell us, give certainty. Perhaps they do. 
It is something the voters in this state may yet have further cause to regret if there is a really messy outcome on March 17th. Imagine finding ourselves with an unwilling coalition of politicians. They will be people who have been able to retain or obtain power only by going into coalition with a group who will effectively be able to call the shots without any of the responsibility. It's not a happy thought.
There is also a long-standing coalition at federal level. The Prime Minister from the major party and the Deputy Prime Minister from the smaller party have been having a very public spat. Can they go on working together? It would have been better for the country if they had both maintained silence and not allowed themselves to be goaded into comment.
I have been thinking about this as there are a couple of organisations I belong to where the leadership is well past the use-by date. People should go. Other people have simply allowed them to stay. At election time they simply announced they would be going on with their roles. It wasn't put quite like that of course but it was done in such a way that some people were unaware that the positions were actually vacant. Some believed there was still another twelve months to run and that they had to wait until then for the chance to appoint someone else.  Others were simply too cowed to speak up. Fortunately there are time limits on how long positions can be held in these organisations. Things will change, hopefully in time for the groups to be revitalised.
Perhaps it is time to consider the same sort of thing for politicians? No, you can't be Premier or Prime Minister or President forever. Somebody else needs to take their turn.
Yes, I am feeling a little anxious about the outcome on March 17. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

"You can't make me!"

It is the second time I have heard a child say this to a teacher in the past week.
On the first occasion the child was one of a group of those in their first year at school.  They were on their introductory visit to the local library. 
He was clearly familiar with the library. He had raced off to find books to read. The teacher was trying to haul him back to be told about something he already thought he knew all about. There was a discussion between the two and he sat down in the group. A bit later he was "helping" the other children. The teacher had probably handled the situation well.
There was a second group of much older students going somewhere yesterday. One of the boys was deliberately walking out into the road when he should have been walking along the footpath. The teacher told him to get back onto the footpath. He refused.
    "You can't make me."
The teacher stopped the rest of the group. There was apparently a train to catch somewhere because I heard something about "miss the train" as I waited to pass the group.  
He stood in the gutter and refused to move. I could see the other children getting anxious. 
      "You can't make me!"
      "If you don't get back on the footpath this minute nobody will be going anywhere."
There were mutterings among his classmates by now. 
      "All right everyone, turn around. We are going back to school."
There was, rightly, an outcry.
At that the boy in question turned around and walked slowly to the end of the line and up on to the footpath. He was smirking as he did it.  The class went on to the railway station. I hope they caught the train.
I wonder how the teacher followed the incident up. Would he have followed the threat up if the child had refused to move? What if the child had still refused to move from the gutter? 
Someone else waiting to pass said to me,
     "He deserves a thrashing but you can't even touch them now."
The boy obviously knew what he was doing. He seemed to know exactly how far he could go. He was handling the teacher rather than the teacher handling him.  
I wonder what I would have done. 
When the Senior Cat was a headmaster it was still legal to "cane" a child. He reserved it for two offences. One was throwing stones and the other was gross insubordination to a teacher. He hated doing it, so much so he would come home with a violent headache. The occasions on which he did it were very rare. I can't remember him doing it when we lived in rural areas. It happened perhaps three or four times when he had his city appointments. 
I never had to send a child to the head. On the one occasion one of them was extremely rude to me his classmates let him know what they thought immediately.
     "You should apologise right now!" he was told. 
There was a mumbled apology and I let it go. The next morning he turned up at school with a single flower he had bought from his own pocket money. I never said a word to his parents or the head of the school.
That was a long time ago. The male teachers wore a collar and tie to school and only took their jackets off if it became too hot. The female teachers, including yours truly, wore skirts and dresses. It is unlikely the children even knew our given names. The parents addressed us by our surnames as well.
It isn't the same now. I keep wondering how I would have handled that boy yesterday.

Friday, 16 February 2018

""Good food is expensive"

or so I have been told more than once. 
The issue has come up in the state newspaper very recently and is being debated.
We also have a small glut of peaches right now. We have more than the Senior Cat and I can possibly eat so we are sharing them with other people.
"Who's going to use them?" was the question the Senior Cat asked as I brought in yet more.
And that's the question. It shouldn't be a question but it is a question. There are people I know I could give them to but they simply wouldn't be used. One person I know doesn't eat fruit at all apart from the occasional apple. It seems that even peeling a banana is too much work for him.
It seems that this is the problem. Preparing food has become too much work for some people. They simply don't want to do it. They see it as faster and easier to buy food which has already been prepared or at least partially prepared. 
I know that what I can buy in the supermarket has changed over the years. It is one reason why I favour one local supermarket over another. The one I favour has less space devoted to frozen "meals" and other such items. 
I don't doubt that there is some good food among those boxes and packets but it isn't what I want to use every day of the week - or even once a week. And yes, of course I will buy items from the frozen food section. If you want to eat peas at any time then it is almost essential - and a lot cheaper - to buy them frozen. I don't make ice cream or yoghurt because I don't have the equipment to do it. Instead I choose the brands I buy with some care.
Someone asked me about our food expenses recently. I told her the approximate amount I spend on food for the two of us. She shook her head and said, "You can't be eating that well." I told her what the menu had been for the week and she thought that was impossible. It wasn't. I had prepared almost all of it from "scratch". 
As for who is going to use the peaches? I took some to three different people yesterday. One was not home but I left them by the door. I know she will find them and use them. The others were very pleased to get them.
Last evening I was picking up yet more peaches which had fallen when I saw one of the neighbours. There are two small boys in that house. Their mother is a paediatrician and knows the value of good food. I offered some more to them and had an enthusiastic response. I know she will find time to remove the rather furry skins and the boys will be happy to eat the rest.
Good food doesn't have to be expensive but you need to invest time and thought in the preparation of it.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Politicians fighting one another?

I don't think there have been any news stories lately showing pictures of politicians physically assaulting each other. I have seen them doing it on the floor of the parliamentary chamber in other places.  To the best of my knowledge it hasn't happened here - yet. 
It could. 
The state election campaign took a nasty turn yesterday. The man who wants to be the kingmaker took the first step towards suing the present leader of the opposition.  
He is alleging that the claim he has already done a deal with the present government is libellous. The leader of the opposition has 28 days to respond. 
It's a smart tactical move. It puts pressure on the leader of the opposition. There is a deadline to respond just before election day.
It has cost almost nothing but has given the would-be kingmaker plenty of free publicity. He also knows that he will almost certainly never have to go to court over it. 
The would-be kingmaker's previous voting record in the Senate is all over the place - or so it would seem. He voted with the present federal government over some issues and against it on others. He voted both for and against the government on some issues. 
He also avoided voting on some of the really controversial issues like refugee policy and the cashless welfare card. His "absences" make interesting reading. They are something I find disturbing.
I most certainly would not condone a physical battle on the floor of parliament. I do not condone physical violence at any time.
But, is what this man is doing any better? He appears to want power without responsibility.
That is very dangerous indeed.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

I had a very abrupt email

sent to me yesterday, abrupt to the point of being rude. I had, somewhat reluctantly, offered to do something. The offer was made in the belief that I was expected to make it. As it has been turned down it will mean less work for me but it does mean that a group of people will miss out on potentially valuable information. That can't be helped.
The person who sent it is usually very polite though and I can't help wondering what would happen if she went back and read her email again. Would she phrase it differently? Perhaps she was simply in a hurry and is unaware of how it would sound to the recipient.
It made me aware yet again of the dangers of email and social media. Blogs may not be quite as much of a worry. You can go back to a blog and made alterations. I removed something once because, although there was nothing offensive about it - indeed the opposite, someone told me she had decided she would rather it was not there. It didn't take much effort and I was willing to do it if it had  made her feel uncomfortable at it being there.
But emails are different, once sent they are sent. They are easy to dash off without too much thought...and they can just as easily be misunderstood. You don't get all the clues you get when you are communicating face to face or even just hearing someone on the phone. 
Some people will also endeavour to keep their emails short too. If the Senior Cat wrote emails (he doesn't)) then they would be very short. He is a "Columbus-method" typist - i.e. "discover and land". On the other hand I do so much keyboard work that I am a lot faster than he is and tend to write more. I am, I hope, less likely to sound abrupt.
But the email of yesterday came from someone who is definitely not a Columbus-method typist. I can only assume it was sent in haste and without thought as to how it might sound - or what the consequences might be.
Emails are not like letters. Once you hit "send" that is it. There is no chance of reconsidering your words as you prowl off to the letterbox.  

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Knitting at the starting line

to keep your nerves in check?
A friend sent me a photo yesterday - taken from somewhere off the internet - of the coach of the Finnish snowboarding team at the winter Olympics. Yes, he's knitting. 
Apparently the team is making a blanket for the newborn son of their president. They made a scarf in Sochi four years ago.
Obviously most of them - if not all - can knit. I think it is still a skill taught in Finnish schools.
About ten years ago I took over teaching a small group of young kittens to knit. A good friend of mine who lived permanently in hospital had started them off. 
M.... had a range of medical conditions. There was nowhere she could live apart from hospital but she made the most of her all too short life. Each morning the staff would settle her into her specially designed electric wheelchair and she would "speed" around the hospital. At the request of various members of staff she would sit with nervous patients, visit those who had no visitors. "Find M...." and "Is M... available?" were common. 
And she took her knitting wherever she went. She made socks for the surgeons and things for the hospital shop. She taught people to knit and crochet - and she taught them about life. 
There were varying numbers in her "kitten" group. It started with one child who wanted to learn to knit. He had seen M... knitting and didn't know what it was. She showed him. He was fascinated. While she was showing him another child was watching and wanted to try too. It went on. The fact that knitting is a slow activity didn't bother them. Their lives tended to be slow.
When M... died there were seven children who wanted to continue. They were all going in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. They all knew each other. Their parents knew each other and had the good sense to realise the children might benefit from seeing one another occasionally. The friendships grew - and so did the knitting. M... had started something. She had long since made me promise that "when I'm not here you will go on helping". 
It's been an easy promise to keep. There are five of them now. One of them is sadly no longer with us and another moved away. It has left three boys and two girls. They have knitted their way through primary school and secondary school. They have met on a regular basis. I've taught them not just to knit (and started them on crochet) but helped with schoolwork when they missed school. One of the fathers has helped with maths and science. Other parents have fed and transported them. People in the UK and the USA have become their friends and sent them yarn to use that they would otherwise never see. The mother of one still scours the local charity shops for the yarn they use to make things for charity. 
They are all at university now. This year they won't be meeting regularly. Their varied schedules make it too difficult. They will be meeting when they can though because they tell me that knitting has got them through some tough times. It's always there, tucked into the bags S.... in South Dakota made for them before she died.
Yes, there have been some tough times. Yes, there have been some moments when they have had the usual teenage fits and moods. But, those moments have been rare. They have grown into thoughtful and caring young adults who have already contributed a lot to the community.
I sent them the photograph of the man at the starting line and another of one team member helping another. They all responded with enthusiasm and one of them said,
       "Knitting at the start and all the way to the end!"
This year they are all teaching someone else to knit too. Each of them is teaching someone who is at the starting line of something, someone who needs to keep their nerves in check.
M...knew what they needed at the starting line.