Tuesday, 7 July 2020

One of our most outspoken Senators

has apparently been kicked off one of those television news-chat shows for comments she has made about the residents of some tower blocks.
The tower blocks in question are under a total lock down because there has been a cluster of the Covid19 virus in them. These tower blocks are "social welfare" housing. 
I lived for a year in the city in question. The university I was doing research at has one campus not too far from the tower blocks in question. The tower blocks were newer then but they were still a problem area. Many of the people in them were single parents. Almost all of them were unemployed. Drugs were a problem - although not in the way they are now. Mental health issues were common. Domestic violence was a very serious issue. The police presence there was almost constant. 
At one time I interviewed some of the mothers about the way their children played. Many of the older children played out in the street - unsupervised. 
That was a long time ago now. The population in the tower blocks has changed to include people from a much wider range of ethnic backgrounds. Some of them are refugees, others  hold temporary working visas.  International students who can find nowhere else are crowded into illegal sublets. 
The cultural lifestyle of many people in the tower blocks is often very different from that of people who live in single housing units out in suburbia. "Social distancing" is impossible if you live in a flat with seven children under the age of ten. It is impossible if you have to share the corridors, staircases and laundries with hundreds of other people.  
The tower blocks were known as a problem area before they were placed into "total lock down". People in them might say they know about the "social distancing" requirements. Knowing and being able to adhere to them are two different things. 
Refusing to acknowledge that is another sort of problem altogether. I do not like the Senator in question. Her way of saying something about the problem was offensive and less than helpful. There are issues which need to be addressed.  
A health official likened the tower blocks to "vertical cruise ships". All I can say is I feel intensely concerned for those who live in them.

Monday, 6 July 2020

Who else is going to "run for President"?

I should not comment on the politics of another country. (We have enough problems here in Downunder.) I will however say I was rather bemused to see that yet another individual has put his hand up to have a shot at winning the Presidency of the United States.
Who would actually want the job?
I would not want to be Prime Minister of this one - although the job might be a little easier.
I once came dangerously close to being a member of the state parliament. Even now I breathe a huge sigh of relief that things turned out differently.
I attended a meeting at the request of one of the organisers. It was one of those, 
     "Cat, can you please come along? We have the official registration and X.... is going to stand as the candidate. You know more about how these things work than the rest of us so can you help us get through the hoops?"
Against my better judgment I went. Let it be said that I sympathised with the general aim of the party - an increased awareness of the rights and needs of people with disabilities.  
There were far more people at the meeting than anyone expected - about twice the number.  That didn't altogether surprise me either. I knew that some people had been working hard behind the scenes to get people there.
As they came up I answered questions as best I could. Then someone said,
    "We can afford to put a second candidate up and we should. It will show people we are serious."
    "We should."
    "Yes, good idea. We should have someone in reserve."
People looked at the candidate who would be number one on the ticket. Would he agree? 
Yes, he thought it was a good idea too.
Then the pressure was on me. It was on me because "you know a lot" and "if they see your name there then lots of people know you and they might vote for Number One."
I refused...and refused. Eventually I said, 
    "Why don't you call for nominations for a second candidate and see who is willing?"
They chose another candidate.
Number One died suddenly and completely unexpectedly before election day. The issue got considerable publicity. The party got what had to be a "sympathy" vote from voters and the young girl who had believed there was no chance was catapulted into parliament.  It was something  nobody expected.
She had a strong team and generally good advice behind her so her one term in parliament was, as such things go, a success. I knew it was very unlikely that she would get a second term. She did not. The party is no longer a political party although it is an advocacy group.
I discussed this with someone who raised the issue of a certain "rapper" wanting to be President of the United States.
    "You should have done it Cat. You would have won a second term easily. "
I doubt it. 
I would have hated the job. There were things the party wanted that I could not in all conscience support. I would have been trying to get action on issues I know will never be acted on in the ways party members wanted.  Some things are simply impractical. The money will never be there for others. I could not have delivered.
Outside parliament I can still do more than I ever could have done inside.  

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Two dogs came to visit yesterday

and their human too of course.
J... is a friend of ours. She has always taken on a dog that needs to be "rescued" for one reason or another. Eight years ago she took on my uncle's completely undisciplined dog. My uncle had to go into a nursing home and of course the dog could not go with him. We did not know J.... at the time. How she trained that affectionate but idiotic animal is beyond me. It was an adult dog by then. From all accounts she did a good job and even occasionally travelled a long distance for my uncle to see the dog again. 
She rescued another dog in between that one and the current two. It was very elderly and spent the last years of its life in a comfortable home with slow walks to the end of the street "and sometimes around the corner".  J.... knows how to care for dogs.
These two have come from an elderly couple who could no longer care for two such lively dogs - lively even at the ages of eight and seven. She is still training them into her way of doing things. 
Would the Senior Cat like a visit from two dogs? Of course! He would love to have a dog but it would be completely impractical if not also downright dangerous. 
As I opened the front door they both bounded in without hesitation. So different from humans! 
The quieter of the two spent some time sitting on the Senior Cat but they both had to explore the parts of the house I had not shut off. I had been warned to do this!
There was dog related conversation of course. J... does not believe these two are particularly intelligent but they were definitely alert. They saw our visiting cat outside and barked. (The visiting cat is very intelligent. It simply looked at them and strolled on. No doubt he will tell me later just what he thinks of visiting dogs.) 
After they had gone though I thought that, pleasant though it was, I am glad we do not have a dog. Dogs are work, a lot of work. They are like small children in that they need to be registered, fed, bathed, trained and walked. There are also visits to the vet.
Cats are much more independent. 
No, I don't want another cat either - much as I am very fond of them. It is all too much work if you care for them as they should be cared for. 
I care about them too much for that. 

Saturday, 4 July 2020

The importance of creating things

has been occupying me of late.
One of the Senior Cat's friends rang a couple of days ago. She was wondering if it was possible to get a piece of timber from him. Her daughter wants a shelf. She thinks her son-in-law can cope with making this.
The timber is not a problem. The Senior Cat still has a timber stash like the yarn stash of many knitters of my acquaintance and the fabric stash of many quilters of my acquaintance. 
He even has a few church pews left. They were given to him when the church on the main road merged with the church up the hill. They are made from a species of oak specific to Downunder.
The rest of those pews were turned into toys and other items for two church fetes and a local women's shelter.
I answered the phone and told the Senior Cat what the call was about. He sighed.
    "Plenty there. They can help themselves. There are still a couple of the longer pews there. They might be ideal. If he isn't much of a woodworker I can tell him what to do."
The son-in-law may appear some time today to investigate.
We also have two visitors coming early this afternoon. One of them is a spinner, knitter and crocheter. Her work is beautiful. It is not simply well done but also imaginative. She likes to try things out, to experiment. 
The friend she is coming with likes mosaic work. To me this is incredibly fiddly and hard on the hands but the potential textures and colours and lines still fascinate me. I don't think she has had much time of late but I am sure she will also have something to show me.
The Senior Cat is looking forward to all this because, although he no longer prowls out to his beloved shed he is still wants to make things. The floor around his desk and office chair was a mess of paper again yesterday. He is trying something new in origami and the related arts. I have not inquired too closely. He doesn't like to be bothered until he has worked things out. I know he will talk to the mosaics person while the yarn person and I look at dyes and plies and more.
The Senior Cat often talks to other people about the importance of creating things. He has done it all his life. He encouraged us to do it and the students he had in schools to do it. The most content people I know are those who create something. It doesn't matter what it is - a meal, a garden, garments, objects, poems, books, sculptures. They aren't always happy because we all have down times but even when they are unhappy there is something lurking there that gives them hope for the future. 
There is timber here the Senior Cat will never use now. Brother Cat will take some of it with him. We will eventually find a home for the rest. I have more yarn than I can use too - much of it given to me. I will find a home for that too one day.
But I intend to use as much of it as possible - because we need to create things.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Transmission of the corona virus in schools

keeps coming up. 
A certain professor who seems to spend a lot of time on social media and in the press keeps posting news of outbreaks saying , "Schools are safe. I can't be any clearer than that."  The irony is probably lost on many people. 
I know too many people who believe that (1) children cannot catch Covid19 and (2) if they do then they only get a few mild symptoms and (3) that any child who does had to be sick before that.
I am not sure where all that "information" came from - probably from a source similar to the one that stated getting your childhood vaccinations  causes autism.
When I was teaching there was a folk-theory floating around that teachers developed a sort of "natural immunity" in relation to the worse of the colds, coughs and 'flu like illnesses. We taught children didn't we? The little darlings didn't cover their faces when they sneezed, blow their noses in a hygienic manner, came to school when they were not feeling well and much more.
Of course teachers, like everyone else, had days off because they were sick. They didn't want to infect everyone else. 
I actually left the teaching service with all but one of my "sick" days still intact.  It wasn't because I was a particularly healthy sort of person. I was simply fortunate. 
In one school I taught at we had a teacher who was, quite literally, dying. She had cancer. She came to school right up until the end of one term. A week into the school holidays she died. How she managed those last few weeks of school I will never know. I don't think the other staff had any idea how ill she was. It was purely by accident I found out. I needed a child's walker from her classroom and she was in there alone.  The pain and exhaustion was obvious although you would not have thought she was so ill when she arrived that morning.
    "Don't say anything please Cat. If I can see it out to the end of term that will make it so much easier for everyone, especially the children."
I said nothing. I don't know whether it was the right thing to do or not. The other staff were shocked by her death. Some of them had actually believed she was recovering. Others had no idea she was as ill as that.
Her group of physically disabled and intellectually retarded children would only have been, at best, vaguely aware of her not being there the following term. It was a kindness to them that I won't forget. 
I often wonder though what would have happened if she had, perhaps a few weeks before, caught some virus or other. Would she have continued to try and come to school or would the excuse that "Mrs L... is sick" have been enough?  Quite possibly it would have been.  
Now she would have been considered to be "highly vulnerable" and nobody would have expected her to be at work.  We might have been better informed about her cancer too. 
School was not a "safe" environment for her to be in. She was not going to make others ill but they might well have made her even sicker than she already was. 
Possibly it is that way for many other people too right now. We just don't know. Do we put life on hold because of the corona virus? Or do we take measures to minimise, as far as possible, the potential harm?  Do we simply make schools as safe as possible?

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Playground safety and the playground police

are in the news again.
This time it is because a child apparently got stuck under a "train" in a playground in a country town.  The train has apparently been in the playground for the last thirty-three years. The playground is named for the train. 
Children have been climbing over, around and under the train all that time. There must have been more than one accident in that time. It is likely that a child has fallen off it and broken an arm or a collar bone, and more than a few knees have been scraped as well as heads banged. 
But now it has been declared "unsafe". Children can no longer play on it. They can no longer pretend to be the driver or the guard or order their passengers around. They cannot use it to go anywhere in their imagination.
For my third "birthday and Christmas" present I was given what I had been calling a "train toy" set. It was a Hornby clockwork train with two carriages and tracks that could be set out as an oval or in a figure of eight. It was a present from my paternal grandparents.
It is also my first memory of actually being able to read something. I read the instructions for putting the track together to my father. (We set it up under the big table in the dining room of my grandparents' home.) I still remember the thrill of doing that.
I loved that train. I turned the dolls' house my father had made me into the railway station and I went everywhere I could think of at the time. My brother came with me. We had to wait for the weather to be bad enough outside to play with it inside of course. Our mother sent us out of doors, unsupervised, when the weather was good - and even not so good.
Outside, across the road that led to a farm, there were some enormous (to us) concrete drainage pipes. They had been left there by the roads or water supply people while work was done. They seemed to stay there for months and months - and probably did. All the local children played in them. We raced our little tricycles (with the trays at the back) through them making train noises as we went. We called out to each other. The older children climbed on them and ran along the top. All sorts of games were organised around them.  Of course we should never have been anywhere near them, let alone played in them. Somehow though the workmen just left us to it, even asking occasionally where we were going that day if they heard the train noises. 
We caused no harm to those pipes. Nobody injured themselves very badly although I know there were a few scraped knees and elbows and some bruises.
Now of course if such things were left waiting to be in put in place there would be notices up on cyclone safety fencing saying, "Do not trespass." All the fun we had would not even be contemplated. I doubt children the age I was then would even know how to play in them.
The playground safety police have stopped all that. They are stunting imagination and physical activity and independence and so much more. I am waiting for them to say that the "whale" in the shopping centre, much loved as a piece of climbing equipment about one a half metres in height, is unsafe. It won't be long. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

So the Chinese authorities don't like

Downunder "spying" on them? 
It is of course perfectly acceptable for them to spy on Downunder. It is perfectly acceptable for them to spy on everyone,  indeed vital for them to do so. 
Anyone who is going to do business with the rest of the world, and do it to their own advantage, needs to spy on those to whom they are supplying goods and services. What they don't want is other people spying on them. They want to control the flow of information.
We all know that. Everyone accepts a certain amount of that. 
There is also "intelligence gathering" - the other sort of spying. It is almost nothing like the world shown in espionage movies. Most of it is very dull stuff. It is nevertheless vital to international business and international relations.
A man I know in the wool trade has interests in China. He put a lot of money into developing a business there. It employs a lot of Chinese people. About eight years ago he was warned not to return to China. He was told that, if he returned, he would be arrested. Why? Intelligence had picked up that he was not paying the necessary bribes to the local party officials. They had decided he needed to be apprehended in order to send the "correct" message to others. His mother, who was telling me this, was philosophical,
   "It's the way business is done in China but he wanted no part in it. It's still going to cost him in other ways."
I am sure it will. 
A family I know here were exporting other goods to China. The business seemed to be doing well, indeed very well. It was doing so well that the Chinese business offered them a "free" holiday in China - for both parents and their two adult sons. Intelligence gathering alerted them to the dangers of accepting the offer. They now find it impossible to do any business at all in China but, as the father put it to me, "We still have our business. We would not have kept it if we had accepted that so-called free holiday."
And there is the sort of intelligence gathering which China (and other countries) regard as "interference in our internal affairs". The Chinese are so sensitive about issues surrounding Tibet  and others around the Uighur community that they do not even want these things mentioned, let alone their handling of them questioned. 
   "It's about controlling that huge population Cat," I was told, "They fear dissent because it could cause the country to break apart."
It is why the "one country, two systems" policy for Hong Kong has never really worked - even when it appeared to do so on the surface. It was barely tolerated while there was no dissent but now it cannot be tolerated at all. It might break the country apart.
Yesterday I was asked whether I would take on a Chinese student for help with his English. I refused because I really do not have the time to give the sort of help he would need. He needs intensive English classes. I really want to stop doing that sort of work. He may have done me a favour.