Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Marmalade!

Yes, I have written about the topic before. 
I made only one small batch last year. This year our tiny grapefruit tree had more fruit. I picked some of it yesterday and sliced it, left it  to soak and soften overnight and now it is boiling merrily away. 
There was good reason to make it today. 
We have a treasure called P.... who now comes for an hour once a fortnight and does the heavy cleaning i.e. the floors. I poached her from Middle Cat - or rather, Middle Cat and the Senior Cat arranged it without consulting me. I growled but they ignored my growling and I have to confess it is nice not to have to worry about slipping over on a wet floor.
And of course I make a howling mess when I make marmalade. I know. I do try not to spill the precious golden stuff as I bottle it but... somehow. Sigh. 
So P... will cheerfully wash the sticky mess from the floor - and possibly from the kitchen bench as well. She will do it the way I did it for my paternal grandmother. I just wish my grandmother had been fortunate enough to own the slicing device I have. I had the fruit sliced far faster than she ever did it with a knife - and I used to think she was fast. Mind you, Grandma never made the mess I make. 
And, yet again, I will wonder at all the things the Senior Cat's mother taught me. I will wonder at how fortunate I am to have had someone who was patient and willing and able to teach me.
Marmalade smells good. The perfume has gone right through the house.
Purrrrrrrfect. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

The quality of water

apparently needs to be advertised...at some expense. Someone has just been paid no less than $Aus12,000 for drinking a glass of it...for advertising purposes.
Now water is important. Future wars are likely to be fought over water supply. Not enough of it will kill all living things. Too much of it can have also have a disastrous effect. Yes, we all know that. So, why advertise water quality here?
Our water supply is actually not that good. It is better than it used to be, much better, but it is still not good. Right at the moment we need more rain if we are going to get through next summer without yet more water restrictions.
I have a strong recollection of the taste of the water when I was a kitten. It was fine in the first place I lived in. That was the small country town in which I was born. 
People had rain water tanks there. As children we drank copious amounts of water from the tank. My mother had tied an enamel mug to the tap and we helped ourselves. There was no running inside saying, "I want a drink." We knew to turn the tap off properly too. Water was, and is, precious stuff. The school I started at had rain water tanks for drinking too. I remember waiting my turn as the teacher made sure everyone had some.
We moved to the city for a few years and it was a different story. My paternal grandfather had put in a rainwater tank...and then a second one. He also put in a rainwater tank in the house we rented from him. He insisted on the Senior Cat's brother putting in another one in the house he was slowly building. That required some sort of architectural logistic I still don't understand but the tank was too important not to have.
The reason for all this was that the water quality was so poor and tasted so vile that the visiting passenger ships refused to take on water here.  Our water was a joke.
I can hardly blame them. As kittens we would head for the school wash troughs, turn the taps on, cup our hands and try to drink the water. The teachers, lucky cats, drowned the taste in tea. I know some children brought cordial to school but the vast majority of us had to try and drink the water. It didn't kill us but it was not pleasant. 
The water quality has improved since then. I still prefer rain water but I can drink tap water without it leaving that horrid aftertaste. The problem now is the actual supply. There are reservoirs up in the hills. There is river water piped in from the other side of the hills. We even have a desalination plant, built at huge expense. It has not yet been fired up to supply water in a summer drought but that time will, presumably, come.
And there are rain water tanks. We have six sets on this property. They vary in size. The water comes off all the available roof space, the house, the carport, the Senior Cat's "workshop", and the two small garden sheds. 
When the Senior Cat was more active we used the water for the garden and for drinking. It never did get plumbed into the house the way we intended or I would use to for even more.
Middle Cat's husband put in a very large tank behind his workshop and carport. Because he had the capacity to do it himself he plumbed in their entire roof area to the tank. Now that there are just two of them in the house most of the time they use no mains water. The water supply people have changed the water meter three times believing it doesn't work. Middle Cat's husband has switched it off. He has explained this. An engineer from the water supply people came and checked and approved what he had done - but the office people clearly don't understand this.
That does not surprise me...after all, it cost them $12,000 just to get someone to drink a single glass of water and tell us about it. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

I have had enough of the far left,

the far right, indeed the far anything at all. I am fed up with "extremism" of any sort. 
I want to go and live on an island with my like minded friends. It has to be a nice island. It has to have a very good library, a lot of craft materials (yarn for me and whatever my friends want to bring with them) and a nice temperate sort of climate  to help grow things on the soil (which has to be of excellent gardening quality). There will naturally be medical services available. Thank you.
Yes I am fed up.
Yesterday I was accused of being "far left" because I defended a young Sudanese refugee and "far right" because I pointed out that it would cost taxpayers far more if they closed all the "private" schools and all children were in the state system. The first issue was a matter of ordinary basic decent human behaviour. The second issue was a matter of simple economics. It doesn't matter to me what colour your skin is. If you happen to want to be served in a shop and can pay for the goods then, when it is your turn, you get served. End of story. It doesn't matter to me where your child goes to school. What matters is what they are taught when they go there. 
It seems to me that, unless I agree with everyone, I am "wrong". I am not only "wrong" but I am positively evil because how could I possibly believe in basic good manners or the right to receive services when I pay taxes? 
Well, I can't agree with everyone. I am a "middle of the road" sort of cat. Some might say I am a "fence sitting" sort of cat. The reality is that I like to make up my own mind about issues. I don't like being told what to think.
Respect my views and I will respect yours... the only problem is that those who irritate me the most with their extreme views won't read this. Rant over. 

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Parcel not delivered...

and may not be delivered before Monday...which is, of course, much too late.
Why does it take more than a week for a small parcel to travel from one capital city to another within Downunder? 
I posted a parcel last Saturday. It was done over the counter at  our local post office. I know the staff in there and they are helpful. They will have done the right thing. 
I watched the staff member who served me. She taped my typed address very securely to the post bag. I put my paw print on the requisite line...nothing dangerous in here  (unless you can strangle someone with a shawl knitted as a sample). 
I took the tracking number. 
    "It will be off later today," she assured me, "And should be there by Wednesday at the latest". Right. 
I prowled off. I was a happy cat.
I should have known better. 
I sent the tracking number to my friend P... and we  both thought she would have it ready for the stand on Thursday. 
It didn't get there. There was nothing on Thursday. There was nothing on Friday.
On Friday I tried to find out what had happened to the parcel. I had an automated response from Australia Post. I tried a social media site instead. Someone did respond from there. 
This morning, having given them more information, they sent another message. The parcel had been "slightly delayed" and would not be there until Monday.
Sorry, but that is far too late. A "slight delay" would be a day, at most two. Five days is not "slight". 
It is not slight because I had a parcel from a suburban post office in the same state yesterday. It had been posted on Thursday. I got it on Friday. It was not posted "Express" (which is supposed to guarantee next day delivery) but ordinary parcel post.
Now, if they can do it one way why can't they do it another? 

Friday, 23 June 2017

It isn't a tax on the banks

but a tax on us.
Our state government has just brought down the last major budget before the election due in March of next year. In it they have hit the major banks with another tax...except of course that a tax like that on banks is actually a tax on those of us who must deal with banks.
Now I admit, I am not fond of banks. They always seem to take money away from me, my money. They use it but the interest I get never seems to cover inflation. 
If I had a bank loan they would be taking even more of my money.
Banks do very nicely thank you.
But that doesn't mean that governments can look on them as a sort of piggy bank for their own purposes, especially the purpose of getting re-elected. Nevertheless that is precisely what the present state government is doing. They also plan selling off the Lands Titles Office - $400m please from the entity foolish enough to buy it.
All this is coming from a government which is seeking to get re-elected for a fifth term. They actually lost the last election in the sense that they did not get a majority of votes. It was the electoral boundaries which won them the election. 
Still, they think they can do it again. It's a smart move. Tax the unpopular banks to look as if you are creating jobs. 
Look carefully at the policies though. Look carefully at where the money is being spent and how it is being spent. That cut in health was unpopular? Let's reinstate it with "new" spending.  That project was halted? Let's get it moving again as a "new" initiative. This seat is  under threat from the Opposition? Not a problem. Here's a nice little project. It's not really needed but it will be popular.
Pardon my cynicism...after all, the present Opposition would do the same. 
The Senior Cat is an OM (Order of Merlin) in the world of conjuring. He says conjuring has absolutely nothing on politics. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

So Sir Paul McCartney won't

be coming to my town?
There was a piece in the paper this morning about the former Beatle "snubbing" my capital city on his Downunder tour. I think the word "snub" is probably unfair. I doubt he makes the arrangements. They will be made by others who will look at things like the availability of a venue. The likely crowd of attendees, dates, costs, and all sorts of logistics will also be included in their considerations. He probably hasn't even asked what he would prefer.
And anyway, he did come here once...a long time ago. I remember the occasion. I was at school. 
As a family we do not, with the exception of the Black Cat, listen to the radio. We had also been living in a dairying district. Cows, I am reliably informed, prefer classical music while being milked. The local children knew about classical music. They knew very little about "pop" music, although they knew more than I did. 
I had just come to school in the city. I was lonely, homesick, miserable, and more. 
And I had no idea who the Beatles were. Everyone else did. I remember the Latin teacher, close to retirement, coming into the classroom with an alarm clock. She put it down on the teacher's table and said something like, "Girls, the alarm is set for touch down." There was a cheer. What she meant was that she had set the alarm clock for the moment when the plane carrying the Beatles was due to touch down.
The school had been strict. There was roll call not just at the beginning of the day but at the beginning of each lesson. Nobody was going to skive off school. I really didn't understand the fuss. Why would you miss school for nothing more than possibly a brief glimpse of someone?
Each girl in the class had their own Beatle. They talked about the songs, and more. It meant nothing to me. I sat there silent and miserable.
At the end of the school day there seemed to be an excessive amount of homework - except from the Latin teacher. Other teachers seemed determined to keep the girls away from the crowd outside the hotel the Beatles were supposed to be staying in. It didn't work of course. After school, along with what seemed like every other student in the city, they swarmed down to the hotel near the railway station.
I hate large crowds. I hated them even then. I crept the long way around, still wondering what the fuss was about. I caught the train at the usual time, perhaps the only time I ever had an approving nod from the English teacher who told me I would never be able to write anything.
But the girls eventually decided that I needed to be educated. They got together and decided that I needed to see a film. I don't know which one it was but it was the Beatles doing something or other. The entire class, apart from the Exclusive Brethren girls, was going - and I was going too. They had all contributed and bought me a ticket. One of the parents was going to pick me up and take me back to the hostel  I was boarding in. It was all arranged. 
Bewildered, I accepted. They wanted me to go out with them? The film meant nothing to me. I have only a vague memory of something sepia coloured. I didn't like the music they thought was so wonderful. (I know - but I still prefer Beethoven and Bach to the Beatles.)  
All that made no difference. I was then, and still am, grateful to Paul McCartney and his fellow Beatles for being the means by which I was included. That did make a difference.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

"Where's the telephone book?"

the Senior Cat asked me.
He meant the small blue book in which we keep a personal list of telephone numbers.
It is the third such small blue book since my mother died. The Senior Cat has written each of them. His handwriting, as he freely admits, is appalling. He has printed in the books...not much better but at least reasonably legible.
Not so long ago he cleared out the small drawer under the shelf on which the landline sits. He came across the first blue book - put away "in case we do need it some time" and then the second blue book as well. They were, not being the most robust of books, falling to pieces.
He sat in his chair and went through them. When he wrote the first book I know he just copied everything from the much larger red book my mother had written. That was a mess. Names had not been crossed out but addresses had been ruled through and new addresses added. Telephone numbers had been changed. My mother never removed a name from the personal telephone book. There were people in there who were no longer alive but she never ruled them out. 
The Senior Cat and I did not know most of them. He copied them into the new book anyway, "just in case". I suspect it was one of the ways he coped with his grief. We never used most of those numbers. 
The second time he wrote the book some of the names went. They certainly went if people were deceased  - and, sadly, some were. Other names had been added - like the specialist plumber who put in the new hot water service and the numbers for several more hospitals where, as his friends get older too, he might need to visit or be visited. There is the name of a taxi driver who needed English lessons and the name of the family whose son he taught conjuring too  -  until they left for Israel.
He looked through the books and occasionally asked me, "Who is..." and "Do you remember..." and "Was this....".
This third one is now falling to pieces too. It will be up to me to do a new one. I plan to do one on the computer  - and print it off for him. 
Why? It can then be updated as necessary. 
There is one name that is at the very beginning of the first book. I remember the Senior Cat asking me, "Who...?"
And I remember saying, "C... was Mum's cousin." It brought back a faint memory of going to visit them with my maternal grandparents. I must have been about four at the time. The entire family went to visit for some reason. I suspect that my maternal grandfather's sibling, father of C...., had died because I remember tears and my brother and I being sent outside into a back "garden" and told to "be quiet".  
I hadn't thought of them in years although I remember Mum talking about them, sending C... a card at Christmas and visiting her perhaps twice in fifty years...but the number was there in the first book. 
Then, yesterday, I remembered them again and wondered if either of them was still alive. Why I thought of them I have no idea. I wasn't looking at the phone book. I was outside.
This morning there is a death notice in the paper. C...'s husband has died. He was a very old man. C....is noted as "deceased."
And I thought of the difference between my mother's family and the Senior Cat's clan. We have had almost no contact with my mother's family over the years. She had almost no contact.  We see my aunt by marriage - a woman not much older than I am. We hear from one cousin at Christmas. That's it.
The Senior Cat's clan is a different story altogether - and I am thankful I belong to it. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Public telephones

are apparently going to be a thing of the past. The telecommunications people are advising they want to be rid of them.
You do remember public telephones don't you?
I have childhood memories of telephone boxes. They were bright red boxes. The paint was shiny, fire engine red. The inside always smelt of stale cigarettes - and worse.
As a "Brownie" I had to learn how to make a telephone call from one. I was barely tall enough to reach. Putting the coins in was a major achievement, so was dialling the number. I passed the test, along with a good many others. 
When we moved back to the bush there were no Brownies so my mother gave away my uniform (or, more likely, sold it) and threw out all my badges because "you won't need those again". I can't remember which badge I had to do the telephone test for.
There were no public telephone boxes in the bush. If you wanted to make a telephone call and you didn't have the telephone yourself you went to a neighbour who did or you went "down the shop" which was also the Post Office and telephone exchange. Telephone calls were also, relatively speaking, very expensive to make. 
By the time we returned to the city the old red telephone boxes had disappeared. There were metal and glass monstrosities in their place. They had "swing" doors that you had to push hard on to get in or out. They were definitely not "disability friendly". I had to make more than one phone call for a friend in a wheelchair who could not access a public telephone. There are still a few of those around. One is outside our local shopping centre. I suspect it has been left there because, once in with the door shut, some of the heavy traffic noise is cut out.
The swing door sort have largely disappeared in favour of a sort of hooded affair. You have the option of coins or cards. Not all but some have been lowered for small people and those in wheelchairs. 
But all these things are disappearing and now they want to remove them all.
     "People have mobile phones now."
Really? Yes, perhaps many people do. You can be "got at" all the time. The telecommunications people see them as a goldmine. They have encouraged us to believe we need to constantly accessible. It isn't "safe" not to be accessible or to be able to access. We need, they tell us, to have expensive "plans".
A small fortune awaits the company which can provide a very  basic mobile phone which (a) cannot be lost or stolen or go astray, (b) does no more than allow people to phone each other , and (c) does not cost the earth to use.
 I just wish they had kept all those old red telephone boxes - and cleaned them thoroughly each day.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Obituaries

are strange things. They also vary greatly in quality.
There was an obituary for the Senior Cat's cousin in the state's weekend newspaper. I was expecting it to go in. I had actually contacted the staff about one being written.
It was, as newspaper obituaries go, rather a good one. The Senior Cat read it and approved. Several people mentioned it to me, also with approval.
The information in it came from interviews D...  had done with the paper over the  years. He donated a lot of money to medical research and equipment over the years. He also helped others to raise money for similar causes.
It began when his wife, whom he loved deeply and strongly, became ill with a brain tumour. She did not survive. I knew M... well. When they lived in first the UK and then Canada we corresponded regularly. When they returned here they lived not far from a school I was teaching at and I would, at M...'s invitation, "pop in". I was away in London when M... died. D... was devastated. He never really recovered.
But he did have a relationship of sorts with another woman H.... They never lived together but they went out, went away on holiday, and shared social occasions. Yes they were good friends, very good friends. The relationship cooled a bit when she decided she no longer wanted to go on  the sea cruises he enjoyed. He didn't want to go alone so he asked a life-long friend whether she was interested in going with him. Yes. She went with him but insisted on paying her own way. 
It led to tension of course and that was sad because there was really nothing in either relationship. D... was still in love with his M....
Yesterday I had an irate email from the son-in-law of D...'s first friend. He couldn't understand why H... was not mentioned in the obituary, indeed why H... and her children were not mentioned. He thought it was "poor form" not to mention them.
I had to point out that this was an obituary. Obituaries are written about the person who has died. In the state newspaper the most that will be said is the "s/he is survived by her/his partner X... and their children A...B...and C...".  Those people have to be related in law to be mentioned.  H...and her family were not. I also pointed out that D... himself had never mentioned H... or her family to the paper when being interviewed.
My response was not appreciated. I was told that dealing with the estate was a "thankless" task that H.... and her family had taken on. They benefit greatly under the will too. I responded to that by pointing out that the whole thing could be handed over to a solicitor and asked him not to contact me again.
I doubt he will. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

"What a waste of time!"

I was told.
I have recently made 60 sets of decorated snap hair clips - you buy the clips with tiny glue pads and add the decoration to that - and 20 sets of "scrunchies", otherwise known as elasticated hair ties. Yesterday I passed these on to someone else to sell as a fundraiser. 
And someone else told me, "What a waste of time!"
Really?
Yes they did take time. No, I didn't particularly enjoy doing them. I found them rather fiddly. They won't raise a lot of money.  That is not the point. 
I did them for several reasons. One is that it means I am contributing something. Another is that they can be sold cheaply at an event where people will be looking for something which is cheap and cheerful. I hope they are the sort of thing that a small girl, given a dollar or two to spend, will want to buy. They are, I hope, potentially useful and practical.
A third reason for making them is that it will raise awareness that crafting does not need to involve expensive materials. Even if you have very little to spend a packet of hair elastics, a ball of cheap of cotton, and a crochet hook can produce quite decent results - results that will last the life of the elastic at least.
A fourth reason is that I hope some people will look at them and think, "I could make that too."
Yes, most people go to a craft event because they are interested in making things or, at very least, seeing things others have made. 
So why did a member of the group think I was wasting my time? Yes of course I could knit beanies and blankets for the homeless - or a new "leftovers" pullover for the Senior Cat...I am not re-knitting the cuffs for a third time! I could have made another shawl or vest or done the Christmas tree decorations too. All of those things might have been "more useful" - or would they?
I think I have done the right thing here. I can knit the two tiny, tiny pullovers/sweaters I have promised for the Christmas tree in the next couple of weeks. I am planning a new vest - the idea may or may not work but, even if it doesn't, I can use the pieces I create for something else.
It isn't "wasting time" to create something simply because it is small and cheap. I am hoping what I made will actually be used.
 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

It was a very large bill

and not one we were expecting at all.
The Senior Cat's mobile phone "plan" is supposed to cost him $20 a month. The bill was for $122. 
Something was not right. I looked at the second page of the bill - where the items are detailed. That looked really strange. 
The Senior Cat had no idea what to do about it so I searched on line and sent a message to his provider.
Message back. They cannot deal with me for "privacy" reasons. 
I told them I have Power of Attorney. They want to see it. I had to get it scanned and sent. Done.
I then get a message asking for yet more details. Sent.
Then I get a message that the bill is correct. I send a message back saying it isn't. This is a $20 a month plan and he hasn't changed anything.
Another message back saying that "data" must have been turned on.
I tell them it has not been turned on by him. He has no idea how to turn it on - neither have I. Middle Cat doesn't know either. We look at the bill again. 
Middle Cat takes the phone back to the provider's shop  in a nearby shopping centre. It was taken there several weeks ago when there was a small problem with it. The "data" charges start  on the day she did that. Yes. The shop assistant turned "data" on. There was no reason to do this. The phone is used simply as a phone - the Senior Cat uses it as a safety precaution when out and to talk to Brother Cat and the Black Cat . He has no idea how to do anything else and does not wish to learn.
Meanwhile I had sent another message to the provider telling them that this was done without the Senior Cat's knowledge or consent. The provider is responsible for the bill, not the Senior Cat. 
There is a text message for the Senior Cat. Fortunately Middle Cat is with him at the time and knows how to get to the text message and send one back. No, please don't try and talk to him - phone his eldest child on the landline to sort it out.
Ooh...I get the Complaints Manager calling me - and at the time they said he would. No, he didn't admit they were liable in as many words. Yes, he did agree to waive the charges.
The billing pattern was such that they knew the "data" should not be showing up.
The  interesting thing though is this, if the Senior Cat had been paying by "direct debit" he would not have seen the bill until after he had paid it - and by then it would have been much harder to argue the case. Maybe he has a point about the dangers of direct debit after all. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

School uniforms

have been in the news here. One secondary school has been dealing with a "uniform revolt". Other school principals say they don't want them.
We always wore a school uniform of one sort or another. My first "uniform" was a box pleated tunic made from a spare length of brown serge. It was horrible. I hated it. I hated it because school uniform was not compulsory in that particular school and every other female child had a grey box pleated tunic. No, uniform was not compulsory but children wore it anyway. 
My brother went through the primary school in grey shorts. My sisters did not have to put up with the indignity of the brown box pleated tunic. They had the regulation grey box pleated tunics.
That was the winter tunic of course. In summer we girls wore shirt waist dresses. Boys went from grey flannel to grey drill shorts and then, in the secondary school. long trousers. 
My siblings and I went on through navy, bottle green, maroon, navy again, grey, and brown variations. We haven't kept any of them. My brother and I haven't even kept our prefect pockets and badges - our mother threw those out when we moved on. She wasn't sentimental. Uniform was just that, uniform. It made for equality and prefects were just equal to everyone else.
Most state schools had the same thing with variations only in blazers, pullovers, and ties. The fee paying schools had further variations on the theme of box pleated tunics and one school we all envied had Black Watch tartan kilts. They still have Black Watch tartan.
To my American friends these uniforms seem alien. And yes, they are a left over from another era in many ways. Clothes are also much more expensive here so uniforms make even more sense.
But there are other things to be said for uniforms too. It means there are no arguments about what is to be worn each day. It means there is no competition about clothing. As Ms W has put it, "When you put on your uniform you put on your work for the day."
I remember my mother going to a new school where there was no uniform. The previous head of the school had not been particularly interested - in not just the issue of uniform but many other things. The parents actually asked if they could have a uniform. They came up with something simple and practical and almost every child in the school wore it because it was also cheap. Almost every school in the state now has something similar for junior primary and primary school children. It isn't compulsory in state schools but most children wear it. Parents prefer it. For the most part so do the children.
There are arguments for and against uniforms for older students but the "for" might be said to outweigh the "against". If I had the responsibility for a school I would be pro-uniform. I would try to make it practical and easy to care for but I'd want to provide students with that certainty and sense of belonging that can come with a uniform.  
I would also want to see the thrill on the faces of the youngest students donning their uniforms for the first time and showing them off. It's the tangible start of the big adventure that is school even if it just a t-shirt with the school logo.
Isn't that all worth something?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The National Disability Insurance Scheme

or "NDIS" is supposed to be there to provide essential support for people with disabilities.
It is being rorted. I have known this for a long time. So do many other people. This morning there was a small piece in the paper saying this.
It won't be popular. Some of the people who are currently getting assistance are taking from others who need it the most. Those who don't need assistance but are getting it will not want to give it up. 
The article said, and for once I have to agree with the reporting, that some of the children being provided for are within the "normal" range. I suspect many of them are children who have been conveniently diagnosed as "autistic" or "on the autism spectrum". You don't have a badly behaved or poorly disciplined child now. Instead you have a child who is "autistic".
There was a psychologist here that I knew well. I worked with her for a while and we met quite frequently after that. She spent much of her working life with autistic children. They were children who, without exception, behaved bizarrely. They very definitely had serious problems. Their parents very definitely needed support, sometimes a lot of support.  I taught one of those children. Her house was like Fort Knox, perhaps worse than that. Everything was locked away - and I mean everything. If anything was left lying around this child would put it on the floor. An open drawer? Everything would be removed and lined up on the floor. She was heavily drugged in an effort to stop seizures as well. Nothing much helped. I still have no idea what was going on in her head as she never spoke a word at school or at home. She was not one of my success stories. Her family could have done with more respite. It wasn't available. That though is the sort of family the NDIS was intended to help.
It was not intended to help a local family who have a child who is, if the school and others are to be believed, simply out of control. He's an only child. He is indulged to a frightening degree. If he isn't given his way he will throw things. He has broken more than one window. He is disruptive in the classroom and doesn't finish his work. He's been tested but there is no evidence of a learning disorder and he is a bully rather than being bullied. No, not a nice child but it may have something to do with poor parenting skills. He has been diagnosed as "autistic" and his parents are getting funding from the NDIS - so that someone else can take him to football training. In the same class at school is a child with a progressive medical condition. At the moment he is on his feet - just - but his family was told to buy him a walker to keep on his feet a bit longer. That came out of limited family finances - only the father works so that the mother is available to care for the boy and give some classroom assistance when needed. 
If NDIS money is to be used to support both these families then I would be inclined to say that money should be spent on providing parental skills counselling for the first and, at very least, a walker for the second family. They will need more assistance in the future as the child's condition progresses.
They are not the only examples I know of which concern me. What worries me even more is the potential for the whole scheme to fail simply because it becomes too expensive. There are thousands upon thousands of people who genuinely need a little bit of extra help and thousands who are giving it.  There are people who provide each other with support who could apply for help but haven't even considered it.  Far too many people have been told they are "not eligible" when they desperately need help.
And there are others who have simply boarded the "disability" bandwagon in order to access a little extra money rather than admit their child is poorly disciplined or not quite as bright or willing to make an effort.  I wonder what happened to, "You can do it", "Do it again" and "You can do better than that". What happened to, "I think you can do it if you try it this way" and "Try this instead"?
Aren't those things more help than the "something for nothing" mentality of some who are accessing help they don't really need while far too many others are missing out?

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

"It took a long time to make,"

Ms W informed the woman who had just looked at her favourite pullover. 
     "No, I didn't make it. I can't knit but Cat can and she made it and it took forever to do."
And no, I won't make another one for a complete stranger who probably has absolutely no idea how much work is involved in making anything.
Ms W helped me with the snap hair clips. She is a gloriously neat fingered individual who does do all sorts of craft work - but she doesn't knit or crochet. Ask her to turn out an origami elephant or a model of a building or "one of those useful baskets" and she just does it. 
She has taught herself these things. I think it may have something to do with being an only child in a single parent household. That household has a television set but there has to be something very special for it to be turned on.
      "I get to see less television than you," Ms W informed me some time ago.
It is probably true. I watch about three hours a week - the first half of a news program. Actually I don't really watch that much. I am listening. I look if I think it is important - and I do something else as well. Usually I knit. It is about the only time I get unless I am in a group  which knits. Knitting groups are important for me. It is the way I can relax without spending too much money.
Because yes, knitting takes time. Ms W says she doesn't have the patience - yet. I have pointed out she does have patience for other things. She also learns vocabulary while working on some of those things. She is not one to waste her time.
But the pullover is her favourite at the present time. Her old "favourite" is too small. She wore that until it grew too tight to be comfortable. She has it stored away, "in case I do get married and have a girl to wear it".  I am not sure that any future child will want to wear it. The re-knitted cuffs and the darned elbows may not be quite the thing.
It is a joy to make something for someone who appreciates the work that goes into them. It is a joy to make something for someone now in her teens who doesn't turn up her nose at something "home made".  Her friends don't mock it either. They are, she tells me, "jealous". 
Well yes, it was good wool. It is a little too big for her yet - deliberately so - but I don't think it will go out of fashion any time soon. 
I hope not. I don't want to knit another complex Aran for a while yet. 

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

"You're going to hate me, really hate me,"

the Senior Cat told me.
What now?
"You know those things you've been making? I've been thinking about it. You can't sell them."
"Why not?" I asked.
"They're the wrong size. They're too small."
"Darling that's the size they are supposed to be."
"No, they're too small."
We are talking about "snap hair clips" here. Most readers will know what I am talking about. They are the modern version of old fashioned hair or bobby pins. They are sold in their millions in an effort to keep hair tidy, hair out of the eyes of big girls and little girls - and even perhaps some boys. 
You can buy them in supermarkets, variety stores, chemists, hairdressers, and on-line - and probably in one hundred thousand or more other places. 
The Senior Cat has made hundreds of toys in his life time. There is a standard size for the safety of parts for children under the age of three. That size is that it must not be able to fit inside an old fashioned film canister. Anything smaller than that is a "NO" when making a toy for a child under the age of three. 
I agree. It's a toy. Small children should not be playing with electronic devices that depend on button batteries or single unit Lego bricks or any number of other things. Yes, small children do put things in their mouths. Yes, they do have to be watched.
Buttons on clothes? Tags on zippers? Gravel? All sorts of other household items? Children need to watched.
But, snap hair clips? 
I disagreed with him. I made him look at  his i-pad. We brought up image after image of snap hair clips - all intended for "little girls". I showed him the sort that are sold with the intention they be used on the hair of "toddlers".  I told him he could find them in the local supermarket.
I bought some snap hair clips on the internet. They have a tiny "glue pad" at one end. They are intended for craft work. I have made tiny flowers out of yarn and glued them on. It is fiddly work and not the sort of thing I am normally interested in but they will likely sell on a craft stall. They are cheap to produce and colourful. Little girls of around the ages of four and five with a dollar to spend can buy them if their parents allow it. If mothers and others buy them for younger children then that is their affair. The flowers have been stuck on with jewellery glue. They should not come off. The tiny buttons Ms W helped me put on some have been tied in and glued. They should not come off either.
The Senior Cat sighed. He doesn't agree. 
Middle Cat got annoyed and said, "They are perfectly safe for the intended age group. It's up to the parents."
Oh well, at least the Senior Cat thinks that "those round things you are making with the hole in the middle" are safe. He means hair scrunchies. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

One language or many?

I was planning on writing something else this morning but this has come up in the state newspaper and I would be interested to know what other people think.
Apparently an email was circulated in one of the major hospitals asking people to speak English in the staff room. The email has been criticised with people saying it is "disappointing" in our "multicultural" society.
Most regular readers of this blog will know that my job involves providing communication resources between people from diverse language backgrounds.  Most of those people are medical staff. There is no way that some of them have any hope of speaking the language of the people they have gone in to work with and some other form of communication is not merely desirable but essential. It is much, much easier when they have even just a few words of the other language, have heard it spoken, are able to read the alphabet, and so on. 
People I work with are conscious of the fact that failure to communicate accurately can prove fatal - was 5mg or 50mg? Let's not go there. 
This country's official language is English. It is the language used to communicate in parliament, in the courts, and public places. It is, with very rare exceptions, the language of instruction in schools. 
It is also good that we have people who speak other languages. Diverse languages provide us with diverse ways of thinking and understanding the world. 
My own feeling however is that if you are in the staff room and people are present who do not speak Greek or Vietnamese or Urdu or whatever you happen to speak then you should use English. Yes, you may be talking about the birthday party for your child or the birth of your nephew but it might lead to a work related comment and fact that everyone needs to know.  If you are speaking another language you might simply forget to translate for everyone, indeed it may not occur to you. 
The request to speak English in the staff room when other other people are present is not being anti-multicultural or biased against speakers of other languages. To me it is sheer commonsense. It is an issue of safety. 
It is also polite. 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

I bought a new toy

yesterday - and didn't get to play with it.
Our old guillotine no longer cuts it. It must be almost as old as I am. I remember it from my early childhood - being told to stand well back while the Senior Cat brought the blade down with a sharp thump. I suppose he was making teaching aids. You did make all your own back then. You made them out of whatever you could find. 
The old guillotine has had a lot of use. The blade was sharpened more than once, many times in fact. The tray is marked out with "inch squares". They were probably accurate enough for anything the Senior Cat ever wanted to make. He was never too worried about accuracy down to the last millimetre. 
But now the blade is blunt again, a little rusty if truth be told. The guillotine is too heavy for him to lift - or for me to lift comfortably. It no longer cuts as accurately as it once did even if the blade is sharp.
I went off to the Untidy Shop and bought a new one yesterday. It is a completely different affair. It is made of plastic and it claims to have a blade made of titanium-steel. The blade is not much bigger than the head of a small nail. You slide it through the paper or cardboard. The guide allows you to measure units much smaller than an inch. They may not be millimetres - or even centimetres - as the thing was made for the United States but still the smaller units are there.
I brought it home. The Senior Cat pounced on it immediately. It was a new toy! Something to play with! 
      "I'll help you,"  he told me. He undid it from all the plastic packaging. He investigated it closely. He slid a piece of paper in and moved the cutter. He purred.
Yes, it cuts. The cuts are clean and accurate - far more accurate than the old one.
I  handed over the sheets of card that need to be cut. They were to be put into the cellophane envelopes to pack the little items I have made for a craft fair.  The Senior Cat measured and then cut. I could hear him purring happily to himself. He even put the card into the little envelopes as he finished.
      "Don't you want some more done?" he asked  hopefully.
It was my new toy but it was lovely to see him playing with it.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Election, election....

oh yes, election.
This state is due to go to the polls in March next year. The government has a "fixed term" until then. We were told that this is a good idea because it leads to "certainty". 
Mmm.... maybe. 
I know a lot of people will, after the events in the UK on Thursday, say that such "certainty" is a good thing. Perhaps it is. Every one knows when the next election will be. The government can, presumably, concentrate on "getting on with the job" and the opposition can concentrate on trying to undermine the government and prevent them from doing the job.
Pardon my cynicism please.
It seems to me that it is mostly the wrong people who want to go into politics. However "nice" some of them may seem there is something about then wanting to be a politician which makes me just a little cautious. 
And yes, I do have friends who were politicians - from more than one political party and whose beliefs are diametrically opposed. As people I like them. As politicians? That's something else again.
It seems it could happen in any position of power though. I belong to more than one organisation. One is looking for a secretary at the moment. I work from home so I don't have the necessary resources to do that job. (Yes, it really does require someone who is actually in the open workforce with access to someone else to at least take the occasional message and a bit more.) Nobody else appears to be willing to take it on. They all say they are "too busy". The President's position was filled easily enough - by someone who enjoys talking to the media. 
And there is the organisation which has caused me so much angst in the last eighteen months. The AGM is coming up in September. Nobody knows whether the President will put a hand up for a second two year term - possible under the constitution. Nobody knows whether anyone else will be prepared to take on the job. It is a job I would take my turn at - but only because I believe that, if you belong to a group, you should be an active member of it. The problem is that, quite genuinely, I would find it very difficult to anything like that right now because of the Senior Cat. I don't get to meetings on time. Going to the Committee meeting held before the meeting would be even harder.  It would mean finding someone willing to casually check on the Senior Cat. He hates that but, these days, he lets it happen. 
My personal belief is that there should be no need for a Committee meeting before every meeting. My late mother could run her church guild on one morning meeting in January at which the program for the year was decided as far as possible and then another meeting before their "Sale of Work" later in the year and, apart from those two meetings, a very short - 5 or, at most, 10 minute meeting - if something urgent came up before a meeting. Perhaps it helped that two members of the committee were used to running schools. 
I suspect though that a little bit of power has gone to the heads of those who have taken on positions. We have been reminded, more than once, that they are "volunteers" and how hard they work - and yes, they are volunteers and they have worked hard. The same has been true of many other members of the same organisation but they never felt the need to remind people of it.
Maybe reminding me of their hard work has been a good thing. It has also reminded me of all those people who have just been quietly getting on with the job - like the woman who still volunteers one full day each week in the local charity shop,
    "I'm only 91. I can go on for a bit yet."
She started there when she retired at 60. Now that is service worth talking about. 

Friday, 9 June 2017

Freedom to be violent

because you disagree with someone?
The CEO of Qantas was attacked with a lemon meringue pie recently. The attack was well publicised. His attacker has faced court on some very serious charges.
It is clear that the CEO, Alan Joyce, is determined to get his attacker the maximum penalty possible. The police seem happy to go along with this.
It should not be difficult to get a conviction. The whole thing was filmed. They know who the attacker is and what his motives were.
In addition to the court processes Joyce has been able to ban his attacker from using Qantas and its affiliate airlines. Joyce says he is "sending a message" that this sort of thing is unacceptable.
Well yes, it is.
Except that another well known figure was attacked a couple of days ago. He was about to launch a book at a restaurant when he was attacked with a mixture of shaving cream and glitter. It was, apparently, done with a good deal more force than the attack on Joyce. 
Yes, it was caught on film too. Indeed someone who appeared to be supporting the attackers was also shown filming it. The attackers apparently wore "hoodies". So far they have not been caught. Yes, the police will "look into it" but more than one person has suggested that they may not get caught. 
Andrew Bolt, the columnist and commentator who was attacked, fought back. He has been criticised for that. 
He may infuriate people - he often infuriates me - but, as he pointed out himself, he has the same right to speak up as someone like Joyce does. Simply because his views are more conservative, not of the left and not as politically correct, does not give others the right to try and silence him.  The media has tried to do it. He has been attacked before in other ways. He has been taken to court. He and his family have been threatened. 
On saying he is fed up with it the response has been, "Well shut up then. Don't say the sort of things you say."
Is that really the answer? Is it right to try and silence someone simply because you disagree with what they have to say? Violence does need to be silenced. Violence is never acceptable. He isn't advocating violence so why should he be silenced? Is it simply because people disagree with him?
Don't we need to get over the idea that only those people we agree with have the right to speak out and speak up? 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A free library

from books other people have thrown away sounds like a very sensible idea to me.
One of my "Upover" friends sent me a news snippet about a Colombian dustman/rubbish man who has been rescuing books that other people have thrown out. He has turned them into a library for the poor in Colombia - giving them a chance to read.
We have libraries here in Downunder. They are "free" to use - paid for by taxes and council rates. I can borrow a book from anywhere in the state through the on-line catalogue. It will get delivered to my local library. I get a message via email (or it could be text if I was text savvy) and then I can go along and pick it up, read it and return it the same way. It is an amazing system and one for which I am constantly genuinely grateful.
I suspect that most people who use the library do not avail themselves of the state wide catalogue. They probably don't feel the need to do it. They enjoy browsing the shelves and dipping into books until they find something they think they will enjoy reading. That's good too.
But, what if you couldn't do that? I was delighted by the story of the Colombian man and his efforts. And I know of other efforts to get books to people that would amaze many. There is a small library in the high Andes that takes books to people by llama. It was set up in International Literacy Year.  It was the idea of a Roman Catholic priest and started with just a handful of books. Now there are several llamas and they go to places other transport cannot reach. (Well yes, a human goes with them!)
There is a library in Africa which transports books by canoe - the only way some villages can be reached. It gets used and used, especially by the children.
There's the "Book Bus" - well more than one bus now - which transports a small library to schools and communities by bus. It allows limited numbers of books to be shared among far more people. 
When my friend Z... was living here and had contacts he could use we were sending things packed into whatever space was left in shipping containers. It required a lot of work to get things sent to our friend who was running the centre for unaccompanied children in East Africa. When there were books in the loads the children would send me messages that absolutely quivered with excitement. Discarded library books here? We can use them! At night C... would read to them all  or one of the oldest would read to the youngest children.  When email became available C.... would send me weekly messages telling me all sorts of things and what they were reading was always mentioned. I had to answer many questions about the contents which were  often culturally strange to them.
Not so long ago there was a request from a local church. There was space available and they wanted to send books to Africa again and no please they didn't want Bibles and hymn books they wanted books for the children and young people. Someone bailed me up in the local shopping centre about this initiative and asked me, "Don't they have television?"
No, they don't have television where the books were going. They don't have electricity. They want books. They need books.
If there is an appeal out for books to other places - even just down to the end of the street - please consider what you can give. Children need them.
They need a free library.

 
 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Queuing out the door?

It is the sort of opportunity which should have my fellow knitters queuing out the door - well, not quite but almost.
I was approached recently about finding someone to teach a young boy to knit. That in itself should be something people simply want to do. Let's pass such skills on to as many people as possible is my view.
I know the family. I know the boy. I have been involved in other ways and I can't do this. 
He's a nice  boy, a very nice boy. He is also extremely physically fragile - so much so that he is home-schooled. Teaching him will be a challenge for a number of reasons but not because of a lack of capacity to learn. He is intelligent, very intelligent. He wants to learn all sorts of things. One of the challenges for me has been to help his family find ways of giving him the maximum experiences possible in his limited world. We are still working on it.
His grandmother taught him to crochet but he can't knit. He wants to learn. It will be a good activity for him. It won't matter to him that it takes time to produce something knitted. I think he will pick it up very quickly and any teacher is going to be challenged by his need to know more.
I am assuming that the secretary passed the information on to the general meeting before I got there. Nobody mentioned it to me but that's not surprising. I know another group has been approached too. We have been trying to think of other people who might be interested and who will be both willing and able to fit in with the unique circumstances of this family. Someone out there will help. I am sure of that.
But it also made me think of how essential it is for the old to teach the young such things. The middle generation, the parents of the young, don't seem to have the time and now the older generation seems to have less time too. 
Who is going to teach the household skills, the knitting, sewing, woodwork, mechanical, and other skills? Or, don't they really matter any more?
Are they going to become rare skills? 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A job offer? I have been selected for interview?

My internet service provider used to be very good at removing spam mail before I ever saw it.  Not any more.
Since that small but excellent company was swallowed up by a much larger one I have been getting all sorts of job offers. I have been selected for interview more than once - the nature of the role has never been specified but never mind. They like me. I could earn thousands each week. 
Oh and there are the offers of reduced price flights, holidays, and other items. There are the offers to tell me my fortune and provide me with a soul mate. Solar panels have shone out.
I drop them all into the "junk" folder and block the senders. It doesn't seem to make a lot of difference. They get a new email address and continue their attempts to get me to part with what little money I have.
And it all makes me realise how frighteningly easy it is to use the internet to commit crime and to encourage others to commit crime. No, this isn't about social media and actively and openly encouraging people to commit acts of terror. That's all too easy too but it is the much more subtle attempts that are, for me, even more frightening.
If I was looking for a job then one of the emails that popped up this morning might well have had me making more inquiries. It addressed me by name. It knows something about me that could have been discovered by trawling the net - and it is something I have no control over. The information belongs to another organisation - a list of past scholarship winners. It is years old but still, in their terms, relevant. It is just the sort of information a scammer likes to latch on to and use - except that I am not looking for a job. 
You don't even need to be able to program a computer search these days. Other people have done all that for you. All you need to do is type in some search terms and away you go. If you are younger or smarter or both then you can sneak in back doors and steal information you have no right to have. You can sell it on to people who will use it to make more money.
And all this makes me realise how terribly, horribly, frighteningly easy it must be to recruit people. All you need to do is offer them something they want and give them a good reason to want it. All you need to do is offer them a few virgins and tell them it is what their god wants. You can sit back and watch them kill themselves or get themselves killed and cause all that terror and distress. You can watch taxes rise and smile as leaders in the community give in and do just as you ask - after all if they don't there is always another young one willing to give all. 
These aren't job offers. Indoctrination isn't interviewing.  Reading with understanding is something which requires constant vigilance. I hope I can remain vigilant.
 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Is there a link between immigration and

terrorism?
The jury is out on that one - and likely to stay out. Even talking about the issue puts one at risk of being labelled "racist".
It is however an issue I have been thinking about a good deal of late. 
My paternal grandfather was a good man, a very good man. He was staunch Presbyterian, an "elder" of his church. He often went to church twice on Sundays. He supported church activities. He helped other parishioners in need.
Unlike many of his fellow church goers he also supported those of other faiths. The local Roman Catholic orphanage of the day knew him as the man who bought cases of fruit from growers in the hills behind the city. He would then put them at the front door of the orphanage, ring the bell and then walk rapidly back to his old FJ  Holden and leave before a nun could appear and thank him. 
He didn't actually want to be thanked. He only rang the bell to  be sure they knew it was there.
Three nuns came to his funeral - in the days when nuns didn't normally leave the convent - except in pairs. They most certainly didn't normally attend a Presbyterian funeral service.  
My grandfather's tailoring business was in the port area of the city I live in. It was where he had grown up. His mother, my paternal great-grandmother, often had homesick sailors in for a meal, a bit of mending, a chat. They came from all over the world. My paternal great-grandfather, a ship's pilot and maritime cartographer, would "bring back strays" - often men who didn't want to go and get drunk on shore leave. Of course some of them were Muslim - and other faiths too. 
I never knew my great-grandparents but I knew my paternal grandparents extremely well. They taught by example with my grandfather bringing home occasional strays - but not without first asking my grandmother to put extra potatoes on. As a child I met people from a wide variety of backgrounds. They were just people to me. Some of them "looked different" but I saw them as people. They might believe something different but I don't remember those being mentioned. My grandmother would talk to them about their families and their childhood. She had just three years of schooling before being withdrawn to work on the farm but she knew more about the world and other beliefs than most women of her day. Both my grandparents simply accepted people for what they were - even if they privately strongly disagreed.
The Senior Cat is the same - and I hope his children and grandchildren are as well. We try to accept people as people not as what they believe. I have friends of every conceivable faith and belief and I hope it stays that way. I don't necessarily believe what they believe but that doesn't stop us enjoying each other's company. 
But it is getting more difficult. I sense a growing wariness and unwillingness to communicate between my Muslim friends and other people. Some of them are tending to isolate themselves. They don't stand and chat the way they once would have done. One admitted to me that there is increasing pressure to attend Friday prayers, wear the hijab, and be outwardly much more devout. Another agreed. Things are changing.
I don't know whether there is a link between immigration and terrorism but some of them believe there is, at very least, the potential to develop one. 
If they isolate themselves then yes, it could happen. I'd rather keep my friends.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Group bus tours

are not something I have much experience of doing.
They came under brief discussion yesterday  when someone suggested a group outing to a farm which sells....yarn. 
Yarn? Did someone mention yarn? Nobody in the room needs more yarn! But, yarn?
It's the 30th Anniversary of the founding of this group and they want to do something to celebrate. So, yarn? Yes, of course. It sounds like a good idea to visit the place. There might be a chance to see a sheep or two and...buy yarn.
The questions are, do they go in a hired bus or do they do it in a convoy of cars and do they go for lunch or after lunch?
The question for me of course will be do I go at all? I don't need yarn. I have probably seen more sheep than anyone else in the room - and seen them shorn and crutched, dipped - and even dyed. I actually rather like sheep. They produce yarn. Some of them produce beautiful yarn - Merino, Blue Faced Leicester, and Polwarth to name just a few. I have just been knitting a lovely Polwarth-Alpaca-Possum blend for my friend P... It's soft and squishy.
It won't be up to me but the bus would seem the sensible option. Everyone will get there at the same time. Nobody will get lost - unless the bus driver does. If the bus driver gets lost then everyone gets lost. People could knit on the bus - after all it would be an outing for knitters. I suspect they should go for lunch as well...so that the day is not rushed. Almost everyone would find it more relaxing. 
It wouldn't need to be like those awful bus tours where people are herded on like sheep and then driven around for a superficial look at this monument and that museum. People might even get a chance to ask questions...about sheep and yarn. 
I remember the school bus trips we took. I loathed them. I always felt vaguely bus sick. If the teacher didn't have us "community singing" the noise level was something I could barely tolerate. We went to look at things like the pumping station on the river. That was full of engineering talk none of us understood. We went to look at a flour mill - only they wouldn't let me go further than the door because you had to climb something. We didn't need to go and look at sheep. We all knew about sheep! 
I haven't spoken to a sheep in quite a while. The sheep at the show tend to be uppity sort of creatures who don't respond. It might be fun to talk to a sensible sort of sheep again. 
I'm not sure I'll get the chance but I'll try and persuade other people to go if that's what they decide to do. After all there might be yarn. Yarn is always interesting.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Climate change?

My dear American friends I wonder about the sanity of your President.  His decision to pull out of the Paris Accord makes no sense to me.
It isn't a matter of whether you believe in climate change or not but it is a matter of economic sense to stay in. It makes sense simply because, if you don't, everyone else who stays in is going to shun you. You will also be shunned by those people who are victims of cyclones, hurricanes, floods, droughts, and any other event that can be laid at the door of "climate change".
Now I admit I have some doubts about some of the claims made - but even scientists, when they are being honest, say they don't know either. Is that ice-sheet, Larsen C, which is threatening to break off the result of climate change or something which would occur in the natural scheme of things? I just don't know.
What I do know is that we have just one tiny little planet in the vast universe to care for and we are not doing a particularly good or careful job of it. We have wasted vast resources and we are wasting still more. We have polluted it with all sorts of rubbish. We haven't cared for the life on it. As individuals we always seem to think that we come first and everything else comes after that even while we go out and protest about climate change.
It was chilly yesterday, distinctly chilly. It was officially the second day of winter so I was not surprised. I wore wool top instead of a cotton one for the first time and, because my paws were cold, I wore my red wool mittens as well. I like warm paws to have better control of the tricycle - to avoid idiots who reverse at speed without looking for the most part. 
I had to go to the post office to pick up a registered item. (We had been out when the postman called.) As I was locking the trike up someone said to me,
       "Don't you wish you had a car on days like this?"
No, not really. It would of course be nice to "just be able to hop in the car" but I wouldn't get any exercise that way. I would be adding to the consumption of fossil fuel. (Yes, those solar panels are made with fossil fuels.) It wasn't raining. If it had been raining I would have been dressed for it. It wouldn't be pleasant but it would be bearable. 
Of course there are times when it would be nice not to have to spend thirty minutes pedalling when a car would get me there in five. It would be nice to be able to go to all the places I can't reach by tricycle and train. Of course there are times when I accept a ride in a car belonging to someone else - but I try to remain conscious of the fact that cars are expensive and even more expensive to run. 
Planet Earth is expensive to run too. Reducing the cost of running it seems sensible.
But it means that people like the President of the United States of America would need to do more pedalling and I am not sure they really want to do that.

Friday, 2 June 2017

We have an ICAC or an Independent

Commission Against Corruption  in this state - or do we?
The problem is that the legislation allows inquiries to be conducted in private. The present government never wanted an ICAC in this state. They always said it was not needed, that there were other ways of ensuring matters were dealt with. The legislation only passed reluctantly and only with the provision that ICAC inquiries would be held in private. The ICAC Commissioner has said his view is that, after the last inquiry, inquiries should be public not private. I wonder how long the Commissioner will last?
He's right. Inquiries into corruption need to be public. There may be some, a very few, aspects which need to be kept private. They would relate to things like the personal safety and well being of those giving evidence or the personal safety and well being of the victims. Privacy should not extend to politicians attempting to keep their jobs. 
My local member was voted in to serve the electorate as a member of one party. Two months later he declared himself an "independent" and took up a Ministry with the government instead. It is therefore scarcely surprising that he voted with the government to keep ICAC inquiries private. 
There has since been a redrawing of the electoral boundaries and, annoyingly, I am in a new electorate. I was looking forward to helping to vote my local member out of office and, hopefully, out of public life. 
His attitude towards ICAC, and the attitude of his colleagues who voted in support of the secrecy provision, is indicative of all that is wrong with government. I know that when you are a politician your chief concern is about staying in the job.
We have had just one politician in recent years who was better than that. It was a very sad day when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and, not long after, died. He was a real "independent". He would consult his electorate on the issues that concerned them and vote accordingly.
While he was never my elected member I talked to him on a number of occasions. The first time I met him someone had pointed me out as "the person who wrote the letter" (to the state newspaper) and he walked the length of the railway carriage and accosted me to ask about it. After that, if he was on the train, we would chat occasionally -  usually about something he was interested  in knowing more about. He would talk to other people too - no hiding behind a newspaper or documents for him.
I wonder how he would have voted over this need for ICAC to be open. My guess is that he would have voted for it. He had little time for failures to communicate.
The ICAC needs to be open or it won't be independent. It can't be. The government can simply fail to release any report. There are too many other reports that have failed to see the light of day. We know far too little.
The present problem relates to a mental health facility. It is one I know something about. What has been going on there needs to be made very public indeed. 
Which is precisely why the government wants us to know nothing. 
 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

They are victims of victim politics

and they will continue to be victims while those seeking power allow the situation to continue.
I don't always agree with the columnist Andrew Bolt. He irritates the h.... out of me a lot of the time.
This morning though he had a point. He was talking about the outcome of the latest indigenous recognition talks at Uluru. In his column he suggested that the demands being made would lead to racial apartheid and greater rights for one group rather than another.
I thought again of my late friend R.... and her family. 
I have mentioned R... in my witterings before. To remind you though, R... was a "full blood" Aboriginal woman who was, in many ways, a mother figure to me in my teens and who remained a good and close friend until she died. I was extremely honoured to be not just be invited to her funeral but invited to speak at it.
      "Cat," her son asked me, "Will you say something about not being a victim?" 
Yes, it was one of the many things R... taught me. It was one of the many things she taught her family.
Life may throw some nasty balls at you, catch the ball and throw it back - hard.
R...and her husband were good people. He had a steady, responsible job with the railways. She was an untrained social worker. Her children went on to be a nurse and a trained social worker. Her grandchildren work in similar professions. One of them tried kicking over the traces briefly - he skipped school for a day - and was quickly brought into line. As a family they are still known as "setting an example" of what indigenous people can do. 
Yes, they have had to deal with many of the negatives. It hasn't been easy. R...'s son has had many a long talk with me about the problems they have faced but none of them have been in trouble with the law and they have finished school and gone on to further study or been apprenticed. They have found work. 
R...'s son tried a cigarette at school. His mother found out and verbally thrashed him. He tried alcohol at a party given for a friend of his. He was underage at the time. Both his parents verbally thrashed him for that. 
      "It wasn't loud Cat. It was the disappointment that did it. I'd broken their trust in me. It took months for me to feel comfortable again."
He hasn't touched alcohol since. I assume his children don't either - it certainly isn't a problem if they do.
They are all just ordinary, decent, hardworking citizens getting on with their lives.
And their view on the demands being made by those recently at Uluru? 
       "We don't need it. That isn't the way to go," R...'s son told me the other day, "We are the victims of victim politics. It is doing immense harm. People have to get over the idea that flinging money and power at them is going to solve the problems. Money has been there for years and it has been largely wasted. It's wasted because people want outcomes without working for them. It's like dieting. It isn't just about eating the right foods for a short while.  You have to go on doing it and you have to exercise as well."
I listened to him say that and I heard his mother saying much the same thing all over again. He's right of course. It's going to take a change of attitude, not a change of voice. 
R...'s husband got a job with the railways because he went looking for work. He told me about how he put on his best clothes, polished his shoes and made sure he looked the best he could. He wanted a job, any job. He was looking for a manual job believing that, if he was lucky, he might get one. Yes, he had a "lucky break" some years later when they needed someone to sell tickets at the local station for a couple of hours one morning while his local station master was absent. Could he do it before coming in to his regular job? He'd try. He was a success. They trained him. He ended up as a station master himself.  Of course it wasn't really a lucky break at all he had already proved his worth by being at work on time and proving himself to be reliable and trustworthy. 
Perhaps it is more difficult to get a job now - but it is more difficult for everyone. Still, his and R...'s grandchildren succeeded. They aren't victims of victim politics. 

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

"No dogs allowed.."

the notice says outside the shopping centre. 
There are exceptions of course, guide dogs and other "assistance" dogs...and, it seems, the dogs belonging to everyone else as well.
I tripped over a dog yesterday. It was not a guide dog or an assistance dog or even a guide dog or assistance dog in training.
It was one of those "Heinz 57" varieties, a perfectly pleasant animal but not  fully under control. It was a very young dog, barely out of  early puppy hood.
Neither it, nor the young owner should have been inside the shopping centre. They most definitely should not have been coming out of the bakery.
I told them that. I said it politely as the young owner was being obedient to a parent. The parent should have known better. The young owner did know better.
Then the mother of the young owner started to tell both the young owner and the dog off.
At that point I didn't need to say anything. Someone else did. It was someone else with that unmistakable air of authority. 
I looked round. Oh yes, I recognised him. He walks three large, perfectly behaved dogs. They are the sort of dogs who sit at street corners and wait until they are told they can move off.  I have talked to them on occasion outside the library.
The young owner was gently reminded of the "no dogs in the shopping centre" rule "whatever your mother might say", the mother was reminded of the reasons for the rule, and then there was the offer,
         "Your dog will be happier and you will have a lot more fun playing with it and walking it if it is properly trained. I run obedience classes for dogs..."
And then this man offered to help train the dog free of charge.
I prowled off, unlocked the tricycle, went and did the next thing.
On the way home I saw the three dogs and their owner. I thanked him for his interference.
They have accepted the offer of help but, as he said to me, "What sort of adult gives a four year old charge of an untrained dog in a shopping centre?"
I just hope he can train the adults as well as the dog.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

"You suffer from tsundoku"

a friend told me. His son has been working in Japan for some years and M.... has been to see him twice for extended periods. He has come home with some "polite phrases and interesting words".
One of these is "tsundoku" which is apparently the Japanese word for the habit of buying more books than one can read.
I find it fascinating that there is a word for such a concept. It must be a serious habit in Japanese society. 
There are a great many books in this house. They sit double and triple stacked in shelves which take up all the available wall space. We parted with some recently - rather a lot of them - and it is hard to see the difference. Most of them were gardening and woodwork books belonging to the Senior Cat. Some of them were yet more cookbooks belonging to my mother. There were other craft books, such as quilting and macrame books, that I knew would never be used. There was even some fiction that did not rate as "worth keeping".
I did not give away any of my carefully collected samples of children's literature. They form a library the local children can use when they tire of what the local library has to offer. Yes, children's literature is different now. Ms Whirlwind has read almost everything and so have a good many of her friends. The boys around the corner ignored a few of the more "girl" books but they went through the rest. 
More than one person has walked in and asked, "Have you really read all these?"
My answer is, "If it belongs to me then I have read all the fiction, I have read some of the non-fiction and I have used the rest as reference material."
Yes, I  use the books I buy.  I do not suffer from "tsundoku".

Monday, 29 May 2017

John F Kennedy would be

100yrs old today were he still alive.
I remember how I heard the news of his death. My brother had a "crystal set". He had made it himself, probably with some help from the Senior Cat. We weren't the sort of family to listen to the radio but my brother would listen to the 6 am news bulletin before getting out of bed.
That morning he came rushing in, white faced, and gave me and then our parents the news. It wasn't that we were particularly interested in American politics. We weren't. We were not even interested in local politics at that age. But my brother had been looking at the United States and Canada in what was then called "social studies" and his teacher had told the class about one of the things which was said in Kennedy's inauguration speech.
The full quote goes, 
     "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
As Downunderites we have ignored the first three words of course but the rest of it was something that my brother's teacher and other teachers in the school asked us all to think about. Over the rest of our time in that school we were occasionally reminded of the words. I suspect the Senior Cat was behind the idea but it had the support of the staff. As "the head's kids" we often knew far more about what was going on than the teachers realised. The teachers would occasionally quote it when someone had done something foolish or selfish.
And that quote was something important. It still is. It might sound hackneyed now but, when we first heard it, the idea was a big one for impressionable children.
I wonder now whether learning that then influenced the lives of the other students? It was almost the end of the school year and, for my year group, we had to make decisions about the subjects we would study in the following year. Those decisions would influence the rest of our lives. I had no idea what I wanted to do or would be able to do. I know there were girls who were thinking of the traditional service occupations of teaching and nursing. Did they do it? I don't know. We moved on a year later to yet another school.
I came to consider the entire world "my country". I admit I haven't always wanted to make the "right" decision, the decision that would benefit my world-country rather than me. I'd be a lot better off financially if I had made decisions in my favour.  But, somewhere at the back of my mind, there has always been the image of my brother's white face and the sound of his breathless voice, "They've shot President Kennedy".  Then the other words come back too.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

"Can you mend it?"

my youngest nephew asked.
He dropped a mustard yellow coloured cardigan into my lap. I had been told about this cardigan the last time he came to visit from interstate. 
     "It's her favourite cardigan," he added.
It is Aran weight cotton-acrylic mix. 
      "I said I'd ask you," he tells me.
It has been worn - a lot.
      "It doesn't matter if you can't."
I rather suspect it does.
I do not like mustard yellow as a colour. It suits nobody I know, not even my Indian friend P.... who can get away with wearing yellows most people cannot wear.
I do not like that sort of cotton-acrylic mix. To be honest I do not care for acrylic.  Yes, I am a "yarn snob". I like natural fibres. 
But, this is obviously a much loved garment and it does matter to the owner.
Just how many of these garments did they make - and in this colour? I wonder what it cost. I suspect it wasn't cheap. It has clearly had a lot of wear so I suppose it was a good buy for the owner. If she divided the number of times she had worn it into the cost then it is probably very little per wearing. I have garments that are down to a few cents per wearing if I  think in those terms. The Senior Cat's Harris Tweed jacket, made by his father 70yrs ago, must be down to a few cents per wearing as well. It is one way to think about how much a garment has really cost us.
I wonder too whether there is something more in the relationship than "just a friend, someone I work with". I keep that thought to myself but Youngest Nephew knows what I am thinking and says, "She really is just a friend, someone I work with, but she likes it and I said I'd ask."
He shares my opinion of the colour. 
I have found some silk/linen mix - a scrap of  yarn leftover from a leftover sent to me. It is not as dark as the original garment but it might just do for mending. The job won't be perfect but, if I can do it, then a favourite cardigan can be worn again.
It's just a pity about the colour.