Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Rolling Stones are in town

and a great deal of fuss is being made about their presence.
They were, I believe, supposed to be here earlier in the year - something to do with the re-opening of the city's central oval. I was not interested in the re-opening of the oval. I have never been to a football or cricket match there. (Yes, I know - I am a sports' heathen!)
I am not terribly interested in the Rolling Stones either. I know who they are - something which had to be explained to a friend of the Senior Cat. (The Senior Cat - who detests "pop" music - actually managed to explain that himself. I won't say the description was particularly accurate but it did give his friend the general idea. I was proud of the Senior Cat.)
Would I recognise a song by the Rolling Stones? Um... I think "Ruby Tuesday" was one of theirs. And that is about it. I know. Appalling. Dreadful. Disgraceful.
Now, ask me about the Beatles? I can, I think, name "the Fab Four" and perhaps a half a dozen of their songs...I might even recognise more.
That has nothing to do with being wildly fond of the Beatles. I wasn't. I grew up in a family where my parents did not allow that sort of music to be played. We grew up with Gilbert & Sullivan (whistled out of tune by the Senior Cat), Mozart and Bach, English folk songs and Wesleyan hymns. I just had more to do with people who liked the Beatles and they tried to "educate" me.
But people are currently hanging around the establishment the Rolling Stones are apparently staying in and trying to catch a glimpse. Why?
I remember the year the Beatles came to Adelaide and it seemed "everyone" (except me) was trying to catch a glimpse of them too. (The alarm clock went off in Latin lesson at the presumed moment of their touch down on the tarmac. We knew better than to be absent at the great moment.) I couldn't understand the fuss. I still don't understand.
I once shared a lift with a very, very VIP. He came in on the floor after me. There were just the two of us. He looked at me in a resigned sort of way as if to say, "Here we go again. I suppose I'll have to...."
He has a reputation for being very polite and pleasant to everyone - including his staff.  I took a risk. With a smile I said, "It's all right. I don't know who you are if you don't want me to."
He actually laughed and we had a brief and perfectly pleasant conversation about something entirely different - but not the weather.
I met him again later, in another context altogether. Someone was about to formally introduce me but he stopped them and said, "Thank you. We've already met."
He didn't explain where and neither did I. Out of all the thousands of people he had met in his lifetime he remembered a brief and very ordinary conversation in a lift.
I suspect that this is what celebrities sometimes crave - a little bit of "ordinary". It seems "ordinary" can sometimes be "extraordinary" - and I won't be hanging around for a glimpse of Mick Jagger.

Monday, 20 October 2014

There has been an interesting contribution

posted to another blog site over the weekend. It raised the question of whether it is possible to feel "ashamed" as a nation.
It brought back memories of one of the actions that angered me most about one of our former Prime Ministers. Kevin Rudd presumed to give an apology on behalf of others to indigenous Australians for the treatment they had received. It was seen as a great moment in the history of Australia.
For me it was anything but a great moment. I cringed. The way many, indeed most, indigenous Australians were treated (and often are still treated) was wrong. I don't deny that but Mr Rudd had no business apologising for it. He should not have said "sorry". Some indigenous friends found it insulting. They felt Mr Rudd should simply acknowledged that the past was, by our current standards, wrong and then said every effort would be made to do better. Yes, as the saying goes, the past is another country and things were done differently there. We can acknowledge that and, if we were wise, we would learn from the experience of others.
As adults we are presumed to know the likely consequences of our actions and we have to take responsibility for them. We cannot take responsibility for a past over which we had no control. We can disagree but we cannot feel an emotion on their behalf or on a nation's behalf. Emotions are personal things. I believe they are what we feel. We can empathise with others and sympathise with others of course but I also don't believe we can apologise for others over whom we have no control.
So can a "nation" feel "ashamed"?  No. People within it can but a nation is an idea not a person and people differ on every subject under the sun.
I might be wrong of course. I am undoubtedly wrong about a lot of things.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

I succumbed to more

book buying yesterday...but this time I promise you that the books are presents for small humans. Small humans need books.
The day before yesterday I had the totally delicious experience of snuggling up with the youngest granddaughter of the neighbour who acted as Florence Nightingale when I sliced my thumb. We read a picture book together.
A...is "three and more than a half" and already passionate about books and words. On the days that her grandparents care for her she gets at least a half a dozen books read to her but, given half a chance, she will come over to me and ask me to read with her.
Her grandparents read to her. They do it well too. Her grandfather is particularly good at making the appropriate noises in the appropriate places. Her grandmother talks about the pictures and helps her to read them.
But A... is getting ready to read. She almost knows the letters of the alphabet. She can read her own name. She can read her sister's name. She recognises several other words without hesitation. And so, if we read a book, we read it together. I let her choose the pace and try to make sense of those strange squiggles on the page. I let her tell me about the pictures because reading the pictures is an important part of reading the story. I'll tell her that a word like "elephant" is one she knows already. I have to judge whether she needs me to tell her, guide her, encourage her or let her go her own way.
     "You're reading her, aren't you?" her mother commented when she came to find us all.
Yes, I suppose I am reading a small human. It's a difficult task. I don't always get it right either. She will tell me, "I do so know that word!" Oops!
But reading her is like reading a good book. Her plotting is unexpected and exciting and I want to go on reading.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

I have no idea how to

prune a citrus tree - or indeed any other tree. I don't know how to prune a rose bush either.
I am told the rose bushes don't matter much. You just lop them at the likely looking points. Yes, I know "experts" who make their living out of pruning rose bushes will not agree. I was however given that information by someone very senior in a large, rose growing society. He assured me we could not kill off the roses that easily. It's true. The rose bushes are still alive.
The lavender bushes are still alive too. I hacked out some dead wood last year and they seem to be flourishing. The French lavender is a mass of colour. The English lavender is looking as if it might be too.
But, the citrus trees. We have an elderly grapefruit tree. It lives next to the side fence. That is probably a rather warm spot for it. Then there is the lemon tree we had to rescue and another lemon tree (small) which was given to me. We have an orange tree (also small) and a cumquat tree. We don't eat the cumquats but we do use the fruit supplied by the others.
And yesterday a friend of the Senior Cat, former teacher and now retired priest, turned up. He chopped pieces off the grapefruit tree and the larger lemon tree and then told the Senior Cat,
"They need to be painted."
Painted? I thought the Senior Cat was joking when he told me this but apparently not. The trees are going to be painted. Their trunks are going to get a coat of white paint - so that the heat from the metal fence will be reflected.
I never thought of tree trunks as naked.

Friday, 17 October 2014

I managed to do something

very foolish yesterday. I sliced my thumb open while cutting some cucumber.
Of course I was the only cat in the house at the time. There was blood everywhere - except on the cucumber.
I managed to grab a tissue and get myself to the bathroom where I gave the wound a thorough wash and sprayed it with antiseptic. It kept dripping. I tried to keep pressure on it while I took out the pesky little sticky strips that seem to stick everywhere but the place you want them to go.
Eventually I managed to get a strip on that at least stopped the blood dripping. It did not look good but the floors no longer looked as if murder had been committed.
I managed to finish getting lunch for the Senior Cat. I even managed to finish making the Christmas cakes and put them in the oven. The sticky strip was keeping things under control but I was not a happy cat.
And then a neighbour called in. The Senior Cat is doing something for her. I asked,
"How squeamish are you?"
"Try me and see if I faint," was her reply.
I explained. She looked. Then, with all the experienced efficiency of motherhood she removed the strip and applied two more just where they needed to be applied. It was neat and tidy. There was no blood seeping through the little pad. My thumb felt much more comfortable.
The Senior Cat said, "I could have done that for you."
No, he couldn't - although I greatly appreciate his willingness to try. He is not good with sticky strips. I know. I have watched.
I thought about this later. I can never remember my mother doing this for any of us. I am sure she did not do it. If we needed a sticky strip she was not foolish enough to deny it but she would pass the packet over and tell us to do it ourselves - or do it to each other. I can remember neighbours doing it for me when I was a pre-school kitten.
The neighbour who helped me yesterday is a particularly nice person, helpful without being intrusive. In the nicest possible way she made me feel like a kitten again. Everyone should feel like that sometimes.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Richard Flanagan

has just won the Man Booker for his book, "The Narrow Road to the Deep North".
I have not read the book - and I am not sure I want to. I won't be buying a copy. I won't add to Mr Flanagan's prize money. I don't think I like him enough for that.
Mr Flanagan was, quite naturally, interviewed after winning the prize. That was to be expected.
In the course of that interview Mr Flanagan made it clear that he does not like the present Prime Minister of Australia or the government he leads. There are many other people, particularly in the media, who have expressed the same point of view.  Mr Flanagan then went on to say that he was "ashamed to be Australian".
Well, I am sorry Mr Flanagan but the government is not Australia and it is not all Australians. In saying you are "ashamed" to be an Australian you are insulting all Australians. You are insulting the memory of your father and all men like him. They are the men who were forced to work on the Burma railway - the very thing you are writing about in your book. Many of them gave their lives so you could live in Australia as it is now and not under Japanese rule. They made it possible for you to write that book - and win that prize. 
I have no strong nationalist feelings. I don't feel, and never have felt, strongly about being "Australian". I don't talk about it. It is just the way I am. Nobody in my family could be accused of being "flag wavers". However we are happy to associate with the country which houses us, feeds us and cares for us. We have all tried to acknowledge that and do something in return.
It doesn't bother me if Mr Flanagan has no strong nationalist feelings. What does bother me is that he is saying, "I feel ashamed at my association with the country which houses me, feeds me and cares for me."
You don't need to be a flag waver Mr Flanagan - but telling people you are ashamed to be Australian is rejecting a lot more than the government of the day.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sorting, tossing and packing words.

I have been sorting, tossing and packing my friend's personal belongings has not been a happy experience.
It is the one thing that needed to be done fairly quickly. Nursing homes give families (or friends) very little time to clear things out. We packed everything in a great hurry and then, having no time to arrange storage anywhere else, had it stored at the home of my sister's father-in-law. Things could not be left there too long. Even though he now lives alone we felt it was improper.
My friend had made a list - or rather, I had made a list at her direction. We have now dealt with the list to the point where everything is sorted, tossed or packed and ready to pass on. Right. I will be glad when it is done.
And that made me start to think about sorting, tossing and packing words. I need to do some of that.
My own writing has been on hold for far too long. No, the morning blog-post does not count. I need to be writing other words. I need to sort them into neat piles. There will be words I need to toss out and words I want to pack together in the hope they make something worth keeping and sharing with others. Recently I had not even been sure I could do it again. I still wonder whether I am just wasting time that would be better spent knitting blanket squares and handing out those blankets to the homeless. I wonder whether it is just self-indulgent to write.
But....I have come back to the need to write. There are words that need to spill out of me. Words are funny things. They are "just" sounds or marks on paper or on the screen. They can mean nothing - and everything. I have been neglecting them. They need to be collected together, dusted off and oiled. They need sorting. Some will need to be tossed aside. Some will need to be packed carefully into sentences - and, oh yes, they will often need to be rearranged to fit. It's a big job - but all writers know that.
The only problem is that I don't know to whom I should give the words when I have packed them. Who will want to take them out?