Monday, 5 December 2016

That Brexit vote

seems to be causing more problems again. The three judges who ruled that the matter had to go before parliament were apparently vilified in the press. Now all eleven judges will potentially put themselves in the same position.
The judgment should be unanimous. It should say that the matter has to be put before parliament. 
Yes, yes I know that there was a referendum and I know that a majority of people who voted in the referendum voted "leave" but the referendum result was not binding. The matter still has to go before parliament or, quite simply, why does any country which calls itself a democracy bother to have a parliament.
Referenda are a difficult thing here in Downunder. They are notoriously difficult to get up. They require two hurdles. They require (a) a majority of the people and (b) a majority of the states. One without the other does not work. If however there is a majority of people in a majority of the states then the government must act in accordance with the wishes of the people.  It is how changes are made to the Downunder Constitution.
A "plebiscite" is different. It is intended to seek out what the majority view is and act upon that.  The Brexit vote in the UK was similar to a plebiscite here. It differed in the sense that there is no compulsory attendance at the ballot box there. The vote was not intended to be something that overrode the role of the elected parliament.
I am sure the newspaper staff who decided to make a fuss knew that. They knew full well that the judges were doing their job and doing it well. It was a way of making news, nothing more and nothing less. 
The government there has appealed because it knows it must. I suspect however that the government will also breathe a sigh of relief when the court decides that parliament must be consulted. 
It's how we are governed. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

I went to a "Christmas party"

yesterday. It was a mistake. I should have stayed at home, out of the heat and the noise. 
Nobody was drunk. It wasn't that sort of party.  It was one of those "bring a plate to share" and chatter sort of parties with silly hats and a competition. I just wasn't ready to cope with it.  
My tail didn't get trodden on. My fur didn't get ruffled too badly but I felt out of place.
I  usually do at such events. I am not much good at shouting. I like to "miaou" quietly. There is not much pleasure in struggling to make oneself heard.
A friend was absent. Her husband and daughter are both in hospital. She still found time to bring someone else I know and like - and then come back later to pick her up. I wish she lived closer. I might be able to do something to help. 
I did not "take a plate" as I had to feed the Senior Cat first. He's been gardening in the good weather. It's slow but he's enjoying the gardening he is still able to do. I want him to go on doing it for as long as he can. I can look out the window now and see the tomatoes, capsicum, lettuce, and strawberry plants. They are all in pots and the pots are on trestle tables. 
A bit further along are the gladioli I put in outside the Senior Cat's bedroom window. There is one white one out - and it is beautiful. We don't cut them and bring them in. We leave them there. The birds come and peck at insects from them and the two apple trees. 
It's busy but peaceful.
I suppose the contrast between that and the "party" was just too great yesterday. It hasn't been a good year. There's another funeral to go to this coming week. 
But there are good things which happen. Yesterday someone slipped a jar of fig jam into my bag - for the Senior Cat. We didn't have enough figs for me to make any this year. He doesn't eat a lot of jam but this was welcome, very welcome. 
On my way home I saw someone I knew. I stopped briefly to speak to him. His wife came out and asked if I wanted a drink - and then saw the water bottle in my hand. Their daughter is expecting a baby. It hasn't been an easy pregnancy.  I asked about her.
      "Baby's due on the 25th," I was told.
Even if it doesn't arrive then, if it just arrives safely, we will have a little Christmas miracle. That will be something worth celebrating, a party worth having.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

"Is it all right if I give you some money?"

is not a question I am usually asked. It is usually the other way around.
Yesterday I was asked this question. I went and "volunteered" for an hour in the local shopping centre - to collect for the Christmas Bowl Appeal. 
It isn't something I particularly like doing. I hate being harassed by collectors in the shopping centre, particularly those who are there all week and are being paid to do the job.
But, people who collect for the Christmas Bowl Appeal are always volunteers and it is only ever done on the one day in the year. The Senior Cat can't do it so I do. 
And there are advantages in me doing it. A lot of people know me. They may not know my name, although some of them do. They do know my tricycle and I suppose they associate me with it.
So, I prowled off and took over from the previous person - an older man. The collecting tin was almost empty. I knew there had been two other collections during the week, one of them particularly aggressive. Perhaps people had simply had enough of giving.
I waited. I watched. People went past and ignored me. I expected that.
Then I heard the words, "Is it all right if I give you some money?"
The person asking me  is Muslim. I know him only slightly. He and his wife asked me for some help once  in the library. They are both very young. He's a student.  We have acknowledged one another with smiles since then, nothing more.
He put a donation in the tin. His wife smiled at me and they went on. They are struggling on a student allowance.
The collection point was near the shop which sells things like ice cream and hot dogs and milkshakes. It's a shop which is popular with the students from the secondary schools - and the younger ones when they can persuade their parents that they are "hungry".
I watched people come and go from there too. Then a couple of boys turned up from a local secondary school. They walked up to the counter but the girl was busy serving someone else. They turned around and saw me. One nudged the other. They looked at each other and then walked over and put money in the tin. Then they walked off. It was clear they had "spent" their money as a donation instead.
And then a couple more secondary students turned up.
"Hi Cat, what's this for?"
I explained. They looked at each other and produced a few coins. It might not have been a great deal in the scheme of things but I know that the two of them don't have a lot of money. They both work part time jobs. 
They were followed by a man who folded a note and stuffed it in as he stared at their departing backs. 
     "I've been watching," he told me, "And I think I just saw real Christmas."
I know he did.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The infamous "Sec18C" is back in the news

and it isn't looking pretty.
For those of you in Upover this is the section of the Downunder Racial Discrimination Act that makes it an offence  to "offend or insult" someone on the basis of their race.
There has been a long running saga involving several non-indigenous university students who tried to use computers set aside for indigenous students at a university in Queensland. The computer room was apparently empty at the time.
The sensible thing at the time would have been to say, "Indigenous students have priority but while the computers aren't needed please go ahead." That didn't happen.
The case has been badly handled from the start. The complainant took offence at something written on Facebook. The words used there would not seem to be designed to "offend or insult". I have had much, much worse said to me. 
Not that long ago I saw the son of my late friend R... in the city. R... was one of my closest friends when I was teenager - a mother figure. She was indigenous. She was common sense. She was competent and caring. I loved her. We remained friends until she died. I am still friendly with her children. Her son, a former youth worker, will always give me a hug when he sees me. He's dark. I'm light. He's tall. I'm small. 
We'd probably look odd hugging because of the size disparity alone. He's a big man. I feel absolutely safe with him. Nobody is going to harm me while he's around. 
We hugged on the railway station concourse and I heard someone say something far worse than anything written on Facebook - and it was said about me for hugging him.  It was designed to insult me. He is a little hard of hearing so I doubt he heard it. I hope he didn't. I don't want to stop hugging when we meet.
I wonder what would have happened if I had known the other person who spoke, if they had posted it on Facebook and I had taken them to the Human Rights Commission? Would it have taken fourteen months to reach the "conciliation" stage? Would they have been given three days to prepare their case? Would conciliation have failed and the whole thing headed for court? Would the result have been accepted or would an attempt been made to put an appeal in place?
Of course I did nothing. There wasn't anything I could do. And, realistically, had I tried I would have got nowhere. I would have got nowhere because, again realistically, the law does not work both ways. It's really designed to protect a minority.
Minorities can need protection. They should be protected from harm brought about by belonging through a lack of choice. 
I think there was a choice here. Abusing the law in this way harms the minority it is intended to protect.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The mouse has died

on my computer. I am not happy. 
We had a power cut last night and the mouse seems to have departed with the power. I am currently on the lap top. The lap top is strictly "back up". It is nowhere as easy to use.
I know. I know. I am a conservative cat. I like my working tools to stay the same. I like them to go on working as they always have. I don't like change. I have to think about it.
This morning, instead of doing what I planned to do, I will need to prowl into the city and catch a new mouse. It means taking the old mouse and saying to one of those boys - they never seem to be girls - in the shop, "I want another one like this please" and hoping that they have it or that they can provide a substitute which will actually work.
My problem is that I do not know a great deal about computers. I tend to chase the mouse around the screen rather than have the mouse obey me...well, sometimes it feels like that. 
A friend called in yesterday and complained that the hard drive had gone on her computer. It was, she told me, like being without her handbag. I don't carry a handbag but I could still understand what she meant.
Twenty something years ago I was relying on entirely different means to do my work. Everyone had to wait much longer. We thought the fax machine was an amazing invention. It saved a lot of time - even though I had to travel in and out of the university each day to use their facilities. Now I seem to have more work and less time.
But there is an "up" side to all of this. I can do a little Christmas shopping. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Trying to "kill" someone's attitude

with kindness is difficult. 
There is someone I know who is not an easy person to get along with but I need to get along with this person. I do get along with about 99% of the human population. We might not be friends but I am civil to them and they are civil to me.
There have been a few, a very few, people who have been rude to the point of being thoroughly obnoxious. I have avoided them where possible.  I have been fortunate to count among my friends people from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds and beliefs.
There are many others I consider as casual acquaintances. We rub along like most other casual acquaintances. We say hello or exchange a remark about the weather or even just nod an acknowledgment.  I talk to their dogs tied up outside the library or where I park my trike at the shopping centre. We might have a slightly longer conversation waiting for a train. 
And then there is this lonely person. I have mentioned her before. We both belong to the same group. I have written about her before. Lately she hasn't even been ready to acknowledge me, indeed has gone out of her way to ignore me. I don't know what brought it on and neither does anyone else. We have a theory she may have forgotten something she was told months ago and found herself in an embarrassing position because of it.  As we both belong to the same group it has been difficult. It has been difficult for everyone, not just for me. 
As regular readers of witterings know, I did some baking on Sunday. I made the Christmas cakes. I wrote about giving this person a small one. And I did. I packed it  up with some shortbread and something I hoped she might enjoy using. I put in a little note saying we would like to see her yesterday. She didn't come and I will admit I was disappointed. Perhaps I expected too much. She hadn't even left an email to acknowledge she had received what I left for her. I tried shrugging and telling myself I had tried - and trying is surely what counts?
This morning I removed some advertising literature from the letter box and, underneath it, there was an envelope with my name on it. Inside the envelope there was a proper little note card with a very  brief message. 
It's a start. Perhaps we can move on from there.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The microwave oven and

the Senior Cat have a love-hate affair. He has been using it for years. He uses it once a day to heat the milk for his breakfast (instant) coffee. (We are not real coffee drinkers.)
There are days when he gets it right and days when he gets it wrong. I think it has something to do with whether he is trying to read the paper at the same time. He needs to concentrate on one job at a time.
I remember the first microwave we got. (This is the second one.) My mother was interested. In her usual style she investigated rather than rushed out and bought one. She thought it "might be useful" and took the Senior Cat off to a class about how to use one. He was more interested in how they worked than the cooking side. I was elsewhere at the time but I heard about "shorter cooking times" and other things.
The microwave was duly bought. My mother experimented. It was not always successful. The recipe book which came with the oven promised all sorts of wonderful things. It should have been had up for false advertising. Some things simply didn't work. The texture of others changed in ways we didn't care for.  The pastry was always soggy.
An acquaintance of theirs swore by them. She had not one but two. She didn't use the conventional cook top or oven at all. 
      "Don't need them," she would say, "You can do anything and it tastes just the same."
It didn't. Her pastry was always soggy. 
My mother never quite gave up on the microwave. She would read the two recipe books she had bought that promised time saving microwave magic and try again...and again.
Eventually it reached the point where she couldn't cook. I took over. I eyed the microwave and said to myself, "I'll get you to work for me."
And it does. It heats most things very nicely. I even occasionally give it something to cook but I know it is a fussy little thing.
I never give it pastry.