Saturday, 26 September 2020

On "not getting involved"

or "are there times when I should interfere?"

Yesterday, as I was leaving the post office, someone approached me. He wanted to know about my trike. 

It is not unusual for people to want to know about my trike and I usually try to answer them politely.  I tell them where I got it and yes, it has three gears and two sets of brakes and no, it is not quite the same as riding a bicycle and it does not have a motor. 

I have allowed someone to take a photograph of part of it. (He showed me a photograph of his son, for whom he was building something similar.) Some time later I allowed his son to try out my trike. (With modifications he is now riding his own and gives me a wonderful enthusiastic grin of complete joy as he passes me.) 

I like being involved like that but yesterday was different. People here have been pretty good about the "social distance" thing. I was not expecting someone I did not know to not only invade my personal space but to put his arm around me and pat me on the back.

He came out of the doors as I was packing milk and baked beans into the basket and asked me about the trike. As he was standing about as close as he could get without actually touching me I took a step back. He took a step closer and asked another question. I answered rather shortly because he was making me feel uncomfortable. He was an older man. He was not clean. There was definitely something a little odd about him. 

He asked another question and I said, "Excuse me. I need to go."

He then blocked my path and continued by asking the question again. It was a very personal question and I had no intention of answering it. I told him this.

His reaction was to put his arm around me and pat me on the back.

At that point I raised my voice. I was feeling very, very uncomfortable by then. I shook him off and managed to undo the lock. He grabbed my arm as I put my hands on the handlebars and I shook that off too. At that point I shouted at him to leave me alone. In turn he started to get rather angry with me. What did I think I was doing? He was only trying to be friendly. 

I pulled away and pedalled off feeling decidedly shaken by the encounter.

Now I was probably never in any danger but he was behaving in a very, very unpleasant way. (It would be difficult to describe just how unpleasant and intrusive his manner was.) There were other people around. For once there was nobody I knew but there were other people, several of them men who were just standing in a group watching. 

And nobody said anything or offered to help. They were obviously "not going to get involved". I don't know whether the men in the group were all of the opinion that "she's a woman and can look after herself" or whether they had all helped a woman in the past and been abused by the woman for doing it. 

Whatever it was it disturbed me that in the middle of the day in a busy shopping centre someone can be in my position and not have anyone lift a finger or raise a voice to ask, "Do you want some help?"

That question alone would possibly have been enough to make the questioner who was making me feel so uncomfortable move on. It seems though that "not getting involved" is more important than "interfering".  

Friday, 25 September 2020

"The origami book with the flapping bird

is about 'this' thick and it has a hard cover," the Senior Cat told me. Right I thought I can surely find that? 

He is getting ready to do some teaching. He has been working with the "Activities" person in the residence. They are plotting and planning - and she is listening to him. 

The Senior Cat has fiddled with origami for some years now. There were other reasons originally - mostly to do with some conjuring trick or other if I remember rightly...or was it to teach Ms W something about geometry? I can't remember.  Whatever, he still finds it a challenge. 

He has the "boxes" books with him but he wanted the book with the flapping bird in it. He doesn't expect the other residents to make flapping birds. "Some of them might make a box though. I'll need to work out a plan."  He wants the birds for another purpose. 

 I took some spare sheets of card to the Activities girl yesterday. There are about forty sheets altogether - all a lurid shade of pink. The colour did not bother her in the slightest. I also gave her the template I had found while clearing something out. It is for a Christmas angel - a simple one. I was told, "H... (who helps) and I will need to cut them out but we can definitely do things with that!" That was when she told me that she was learning things from the Senior Cat. 

"He still loves teaching," I told her. 

"You have no idea how much it helps," she told me.

Oh yes I do know. It helps him too. He has a purpose again. I hope the two of them can keep working together.  

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Advance Care Directives

are important documents and the issues in them should be given serious consideration.

For those of you in other parts of the world - an "Advance Care Directive" is a legal document giving someone the power to make decisions for you if, and only if, you cannot make those decisions yourself.

It is not a Power of Attorney. It does not give someone the right to make financial decisions on your behalf.  

It is giving someone else the right to make decisions about your future health care, your living arrangements and your personal care if you cannot do this yourself.

It does not allow someone else to interfere if you can make decisions for yourself. It does not allow them to make decisions which are not in your best interest. The person granted the power has to make the decisions s/he believes you would make.

My doctor nephew has been granted that authority by me. We talked about it. He knows what I want. I have to trust that, should the time come, he will do what he believes I would do. That's how this works. I am fortunate in that I have someone like him that I do trust and he is willing to take on that role. Hopefully he will never need to do anything but it is there if needed.

I can revoke it at any time. That is important too. If something happens to him and he cannot - or is no longer willing to - carry out that role then it is essential to be able to do that.

All this came up yesterday for two reasons. The first was a letter from our local MP.  She had organised a forum with a speaker for "seniors" to discuss  ACDs but the Covid19 restrictions had caused it to be postponed. It can now go ahead in a different venue with the restrictions in mind and she has reorganised it. 

This is the very sort of thing an MP should be doing. She mentioned it to me at another meeting where she had organised an excellent speaker to talk about Alzheimer's and related dementia issues. Did I think it was a good idea? My answer was an enthusiastic "yes!". We need more of that sort of thing/

Then, later in the day, I had an email from our friend P.... telling me that her sister had just had major bowel surgery. Her sister is 83 and has been far from well for some time. I am fond of her sister, as is the Senior Cat. All of us are hoping that M....'s health will now take a turn for the better. In the email P.... mentioned the need to have an ACD.

I have helped more than one older person fill out the form for the ACD. We have had serious, very serious, discussions about their wishes and to whom they want to grant the powers within the ACD. I had the authority for my late friend E....  We had a very long discussion about her wishes. In the end it was simple though, "Please Cat - no extraordinary measures. I am tired of so much pain." 

Middle Cat and I have the ACD for the Senior Cat. His wishes are also simple, "No extraordinary measures." I hope it is simple but I know it will also be difficult.

It would be even harder if we didn't know what he wanted. It's a good idea to let people know, essential in fact.


Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Lost at sea

and the search vessels and air support are out trying to find you. People are risking their lives in the foul weather trying to find a "boatie" who sent a message saying his vessel was taking on water.

I don't know how many people are tied up in this exercise but it must be quite a number - and yes, they must do it. There is no choice in this matter. Those involved will go on doing it until the person is found or a body is recovered or the search is called off after a decision has been made that nothing more can be done.

The problem in this instance is that it is the second time within a few weeks that this particular "boatie" has called for help. His vessel is not seaworthy. 

Last time he was fined for various offences relating to the vessel and safety. It is unlikely that the vessel is seaworthy.  We talk about things being "ship-shape" and, from a photograph taken of him on board, it is clear that there is an extremely untidy mess on board. 

Part of my kittenhood was spent in an area close to the capital's port. It was where my father and my paternal grandfather grew up. We know something about boats, how they should be cared for and the way in which most people do care for their boats. 

The Senior Cat's brother was friendly with a man who was, to put it kindly, accident prone. He had a boat. My uncle's wife went out on it one day. They struck trouble in the gulf. As it was my uncle realised there was a problem when they were late returning and raised the alarm.  If it had not been for my aunt having a bright red beach towel with her they might have gone on drifting but a spotter plane saw the towel.

 My former boss in the Education Department built a boat. He spent many years building it. By the time he had finished it his wife refused to let him sail it. She was right. If he had bought something simpler and spent the time learning to sail it then he might have had the skills necessary. His wife knew he did not have those skills and was not going to learn them overnight.

Sailing is not like driving a car or riding a bike. There are many other things involved. The sea is dangerous. Few people realise how great a risk Jessica Watson was taking when she sailed around the world at just sixteen years of age - even though she had far more experience by then than my former boss or my uncle's accident prone friend. 

The man who has gone missing is not "a bit of a larrikin" but a fool. He should not have been at sea in rough weather in a boat which was not seaworthy. If he needed to move the boat then it should have been transported across dry land.

The last search cost taxpayers around $650,000 and this one is going to cost perhaps as much. It may also end in tragedy - and that is an even greater cost.

"Lost at sea" makes my stomach churn - and not from seasickness.


Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Knitting beanies

should be a fairly mindless task unless the pattern within them is a complex one.

Could I make a mindless beanie? I have done of course. I have even been known to stand in an aisle of the supermarket and give someone else the time to write down the instructions as I dictated them. (Believe me, this is not nearly as clever as it sounds - not for that sort of beanie.)

But then there are other beanies that have patterns. The patterns can be simple or complex. Beanies are the ideal place to "try things out". I have explored the mysteries of charted Japanese patterns by making beanies. I have explored different Fair Isle colours by making beanies. I have also explored other textures and colours and stitches. 

I was asked to make a beanie recently and there was a specific request. Would I make one with dinosaurs on it? I thought about this for less than five seconds before saying "yes" because the person who asked me told me that it was for a young friend who is seriously ill.  He is now recovering from major brain surgery and he is going to need beanies for a long time to come. 

And so I am making the beanie, rather I am making two beanies. I am making one for him and, rather than waste all that design effort, I am making one for another young person I know who also happens to be very interested in dinosaurs. She knows far more about dinosaurs than I do. 

I looked for dinosaur patterns on various knitting sites. As always none of them seemed quite right to me. I am not into the business of knitting other people's patterns. It is simply too much bother to follow them exactly as they are written. But I found things I could use. I have put them together and charted the result.

I think it works but there is no rhythm to this sort of knitting. Each round requires concentration. I knit one round on one and then one round on the other. That way, while I don't have the pattern memorised, I have some awareness of what comes next on the second beanie.

The friend who asked me to make the beanie asked me what I was going to knit after I had finished them. I said, "Something simple" but I know it won't be. I don't want to do any more dinosaurs but I am thinking about something else. I might have to make another beanie to try the idea out. 


Monday, 21 September 2020

One of the best "thank you" notes ever!




 This was written by a child in a refugee camp. She  is nine years old and does not speak because of physical and mental trauma. She is "unaccompanied" - meaning she has no family or friend to care for her. I have been working with one of the aid workers there to try and give her a means of communication so they can, if possible,find out just who she is. 

Last week she was given a thick woollen pullover knitted by someone who knits for AKWAK (Aussies Knitting for War Affected Kids).  This "thank you" note was the result. It is the first time she has tried to communicate anything without being directly asked.

She  is using Blissymbols and she still does not have very many of them so she has tried to combine the symbols she does have to say what she wants to say. (This is really excellent as it suggests she is actually highly intelligent.)  

The usual symbol for "home" is the outline of a building and a  heart. Some of the children refer to the tents or shelters in which they live as their "tent-homes".  She has combined tent and heart apparently to indicate the home of the animal which is a big jumper. It is likely that she has seen pictures of kangaroos and that someone  has told her that the pullover comes from the home of the kangaroo. 

We think that she is then trying to tell us that the pullover is hot now and will be warm in winter. (Like most of the children she refuses to take it off even in hot weather for fear of losing it.) 

And, she cried when she was given it because she was happy.

I have no idea who knitted the garment but to all AKWAK knitters - thank you. You have absolutely no idea how much it means to me to see her trying to communicate like this and for such a purpose.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

GetUp has been rumbling again

- or at least someone in the local group wrote to the paper saying they were "robust" in their opinions.

I wrote another letter saying that, in their case, "robust" meant "rude" - and sometimes frightening. 

This was the group that trespassed on our property - and refused to leave when I told them to go. (They refused on the grounds that they were working on the election campaign and had the right to enter the property for that purpose. They had no such right, not even an implied right.) And there was the delightful member of the group who harassed me in the street. It is most unlikely that I will ever want anything to do with them again.

There are other ways of getting your opinion across. Some of us write letters. I probably write too many letters but I do write letters. What is more I give an address and I sign them with my name. It is what you should do if you are going to express an opinion.

There are other people who write newspaper columns, become politicians or media celebrities of another sort and people listen to them. Sometimes people should not listen to them or, if they do, they should roundly condemn their opinions. There was an opinion piece last week by someone making fun of someone who has just taken some "mental health" leave. It should not have been published but I suppose it would be too much to ask a radical left winger to refrain from having a dig at the stress a slightly right of centre MP was under.   

And there are other people who are in positions of great power who have opinions. We may not always agree with them but their opinions will be scrutinised down to the last comma, the last full stop. They include people like heads of government, the Dalai Lama, the Pope, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and High Court Judges.  

Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one such person. She will be missed. Unlike GetUp her opinions were considered and carefully constructed and, while firm, she was able to pronounce them without breaking laws or breaching the peace.