Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Unsolicited phone calls

are driving me even less sane than usual.
There were three in a row  yesterday. Two were from India. There is not much that can be done about these. The companies which use Indian call centres believe they can get away with anything. It makes no difference to them that you are on the "do not call register" because the call comes from outside the country the legislation applies to. 
I have tried being polite. I have tried just hanging up. I have tried telling them not to call back. I have tried "we don't do business over the phone" and more. I don't like being rude. I know that the call centre job is someone's way of eating something that day. 
But, I want to scream.
And then there was the third call in the row. "Hi, this is Vince from H.... Real Estate. How are you today."
I was in the middle of trying to rewrite a submission. It's an important submission. I need to  get  it to around 500 words but I also need to get a complex idea across. I am working. I do not wish to be interrupted.
I seethed. We have had more than one communication from this real estate company of late. Until now they have all come as flyers and "personalised" letters in our letter box.  We do not want to sell our house. 
Oh but this isn't about selling your house.
I am not interested.
I sent an email to the company concerned. It doesn't matter how they try and dress it up this is about business for them. They are breaking the law. 
When we do need a real estate agent I won't be doing business with them.
And the "Paypal company" which sent me a message saying I had paid a hefty sum to another warned. I have sent your email on to Paypal. They will track you down and deal with you.
Now, may I go back to writing that submission please?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I don't like "eating out"

in fancy restaurants and paying high prices for someone else to do the washing up.
Yes, I know. I am odd. Most people seem to enjoy the idea. They don't mind paying an enormous sum of money for a piece of meat and a dribble of gravy artfully around the edge of the plate. You pay still more for vegetables of course. 
And if it is all given fancy descriptions - often in French.
The Senior Cat will stare suspiciously at menus and then ask me, "What's this mean?"
I explain as best I can. 
I like to know where my food is coming from, what sort of kitchen it is prepared in. I slink off at the sight of vinegar and alcohol. I loathe mayonnaise...and why ruin a perfectly good bit of lettuce with "dressing". It is an insult to the lettuce.
It was "boy's day out" yesterday. The Nephew Cats took their grandfather off to lunch "somewhere". I did not inquire as to what they had in mind. The two of them know eateries all over the city - none of them expensive. It isn't their style either. They don't believe in "wasting" money on fancy service. They want actual food. They want it in reasonable sized portions and well cooked. Their paternal grandmother, a Greek-Cypriot woman of small village origins - "peasant" if you will, was a superb cook. It has taught them to appreciate "proper" food. 
I wondered where they would go this time. I knew it wouldn't be the sort of thing any of them usually eat for lunch. 
Eventually they arrived back here and I waited. The Senior Cat sank into his chair.
     "Well, what did you have for lunch?" I asked. Eldest Nephew Cat smirked.
     "Pizza," the Senior Cat told me.
Oh, right. Maybe there was a change of plan or they had to do something else or the place they were planning to go to wasn't open on a Monday or...
No, it was pizza. It was a deliberate choice of pizza. I looked at Nephew Cat. He smirked again, took the book I was handing over and scurried off.
      "Tell me," I said to the Senior Cat.
      "The place looked like a garage."
I nodded. It sounded like one of the "interesting" places the two young cats have found over the years.
       "And what was the food like?"
The Senior Cat is not fond of what passes for "pizza" in most commercial establishments. 
        "It was good, really good - nice and hot and tasty with  not too many ingredients on it. It was the right size too."
        "Good," I said and started to think about his tea.
And then he said,
         "I think it was proper pizza - like you make."
Now is it any wonder I adore the Senior Cat? 

Monday, 20 February 2017

The school lunch box

contents row just got a little worse.
The note sent home in the lunch box of a pre-school child complaining about the inclusion of home made chocolate slice apparently "went viral" as they say. In other words, a lot of people heard about it. 
What they heard and what they thought varies. Like so many other things it depends on what you believe. Some people believe the story is not true. Others think the day care centre has every right to monitor the contents of lunch boxes.  Still more believe that it is all nonsense and that it should be up to parents to decide what a child is going to eat.
I talked recently to a mother who told me that her child is not allowed to take anything with nuts in it to school - because one of the children in the class has a nut allergy. On the surface that might seem reasonable - except that her child is now in the final year of the primary school. I wonder if they plan on carrying the ban over into the secondary school - and why it doesn't apply to the rest of the school as well? Yes, a nut allergy can be life threatening but is banning all nuts for all children the answer? 
For other children nuts are likely to be a good food, one they should be encouraged to eat.
There is a child in the Whirlwind's class who has a similar allergy. She is a allergic to nuts and eggs and chocolate - and possibly other things I don't know about. The school provides lunch for everyone, even the day girls. Nuts and eggs are often included in the menu. When they are she is simply given something else. There has never been a problem. 
I told the mother of the other child about this and she looked horrified and then said, "Oh, I suppose it's a fee paying school so they have plenty of staff to watch that sort of thing."
I don't think that's the point at all. The staff know but the girl knows too. At thirteen she is considered old enough to take responsibility for asking and for telling. She carries an EpiPen with her. There is another one on the school premises. They have never needed to use it and probably never will.
And they have never cut all nuts and all eggs out of the lunch menu just for her. 
If there is good reason to be very watchful with small children then it is right to be very watchful. Scolding a parent for sending home made chocolate slice left over from a party the night before is not being watchful. It is intrusive and interfering. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Antibiotics may or

may not survive overuse. The last lot of antibiotics I had was many, many years ago - and I needed them. I was a rather poorly sort of cat.
But the Senior Cat is on antibiotics at the moment. He probably got a small seed or burr under his skin while gardening. It has come up as a red lump with a nasty, messy looking centre - well, it was that way when he finally got around to showing me. Things are now improving but back then I growled and said, "That needs attention - more attention than I can give it."
He has now had several trips to the medical centre while the thing is cleaned out, monitored and more. As he is now 94 they are not taking risks. 
Nephew Cat turned up yesterday to look at it - having been told by our GP that she would like him to monitor the situation over the weekend.  It was interesting to watch him change subtly from being "grandson" to "doctor". His partner, a nurse, actually dealt with changing the dressing. 
We all agreed antibiotics were necessary in this instance - and that they are too often overused. 
This bothers me because I know how much I needed them when they were prescribed for me. I am also aware of how some people have less capacity to fight infection than other people. Over prescribing antibiotics puts the very old, the very young, and those with a range of diseases and conditions at risk. The antibiotics they need will be less effective if they are over prescribed for other people. We all know that. It's selfish to want antibiotics just in the belief that they will help us "get better quicker" and because we don't like being ill. Is it selfish of me to want the Senior Cat to recover?
     "Now don't get that dressing soaking wet," the partner of Nephew Cat told the Senior Cat.
Hmmm.... I taped a plastic bag over the dressing so he could have a shower. He yelped when I pulled it off again. The Senior Cat still has a lot of fur!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The SAS is

supposed to be the Special Air Service I think? Is that right? It is also the Scattered Authors Society and probably other things as well. 
I know that yesterday Nicola Morgan made a comment about getting her balaclava out for the SAS meeting. She meant the Scattered Authors Society of course. I suggested it should be the Serious Alternative Strategy society. Nicola replied with an "of course. Erm...." 
I know that the members of this SAS will have a good time together  but it will also be about more than a good time. It is about supporting each other.
It is the same about some other groups - or it should be. I belong to three knitting groups. It sounds like a lot but two of them only meet once a in the library, and one in the bookshop. They are small groups. Some people come and go as they need help. There are a few "regulars".  As I am the "leader" of both groups - or the "go to" person I see them as a form of community service. I'll teach. I'll help. I also try and make sure that the people who come on a fairly regular basis are not in need of other help. 
One of the bookshop group has been going through treatment for cancer. We sent her a card and included a chemo-cap when she started - and had a lovely thank you note back. I sent her a note recently. I haven't heard back. I hope she is making steady progress but I don't know her well enough to feel I can phone her. A note lets her respond if she wants to.
There's someone who occasionally comes to the library group - when she remembers. She had a CBI or "closed brain injury" some years ago. She's loud. She has all sorts of problems. We've tried to include her and she tries to knit - which is all that really matters. 
They are just two of the people I know need those groups when they feel they can or when they remember to be there. 
But there is someone else who was coming to both groups and she has  stopped. We included her. We made her welcome. I thought she liked coming - and so did other people. So, I inquired and received an abrupt, "They're just casual groups. I didn't have to tell you I'm not coming any more."
As I had been including her in group emails about things like a slight change of location or the new times for this year I was startled, taken aback. Yes perhaps they are "casual" groups and perhaps she didn't need to say she wasn't coming anymore but it would seem to be polite to send a message and say something even if it was just "Please take me off your list."
Of course it's up to her whether she continued to come or not. I would have replied to the email myself and anyone else in the group would have done the same thing.
Obviously she feels differently. I wondered as I was sorting out something for another member of the library group whether she recognised these groups as anything more than "some people get together and knit" groups. Did she not see that they were also there to offer some companionship and - more importantly still - support? Did the idea of  perhaps having to support someone else - even if it was just a "What do you think this abbreviation means?" - too much for her?
I also thought of Nicola and others heading off to their SAS meeting in high anticipation of not just a good time with friends but the all important support they could give one another.  That support is as important, if not more so, than anything else which might happen at an SAS meeting or anywhere else. A good group is also a  support group.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Studying English

used to be compulsory. It seems it isn't any more. Even if you do a subject called "English Studies" you don't seem to really study any literature. 
The new English course allows for the study of just one novel and one play. It allows for the study of two films and various forms of "short" communication...perhaps a bit of poetry, a short story  but please include "visual" and "graphic" communication. Apparently this is "studying English".
English was compulsory when I was at school. We "did" Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Joyce, Yeats, and Eliot...and much more.  
The Senior Cat taught English, along with being school principal. It was the way things were in rural area schools. And, it can hardly be said that many of the country students were interested in Shakespeare or Dickens or Austen or anyone else like that - until the Senior Cat got hold of them. Some of them were still not enthusiastic but they managed to learn enough to do well in the exams that followed. 
Almost everyone read books because television was difficult to get, reception was poor. You had to generate your own electricity. 
Yes, I know it is different now. Teenagers do not read as much - unless you count text messages. There are other things to do.
The idea of studying English, of having to read, of having to actually think about a text is all too much it seems.
I can remember one of those lists floating around a few years back. It was something to do with the one hundred books everyone should read. I know I had read most of them.  Middle Cat looked at it and shrugged. She had not read more than three - all required reading for school. She does read but "not that sort of stuff". There was another list of some sort where you had to try and recognise the last lines from novels. They made it easy enough I suppose. You were given the last line and three books to choose from. I got most of those too. I recognised some and I could guess others from the style. 
Yes. I read. I read a lot. I don't read all the things I "ought" to read. I am not likely to read "Crime and Punishment" for instance. I started it and decided it wasn't something I wanted to read - but I did look at it. 
The Senior Cat read a lot to me. He read to me from the time I was old enough to sit on his bony knee and follow his finger along the black squiggles on the page. I progressed rapidly from simple picture  books to "chapter" books, to other books. He saw to it that I was introduced to classics like "Wind in the Willows", "Peter Pan", "Alice in Wonderland", "Five Children and It", and "The Princess and Curdie". Later he read bits of James Joyce, the poetry of Yeats and Eliot, and much more.
My last English teacher at school added to all that. There were books she enthused about - and I was the only student in the class who shared her enthusiasm for reading. I was, she told me years later, a "joy to teach". Really? She was a joy to have as a teacher.
Later still the late Judith Wright introduced me to more and more. "Read this Cat", "here's something else you need to read", "you need to know about this Cat". Oh yes, she made me read. 
      "What's the point?" asked the person I know who proudly claims not to have read a book since he left school. 
Is there any point to reading? Does it matter if people don't? What if people simply stopped writing? Aren't there enough books in the world?  Yes, I have heard all those questions and more.
My answer to that is a passionate, "Yes, it does matter. It matters a lot. If we don't read then we miss out on so much.  Television and film are fleeting."
One book, one play is not enough. Reading connects us to the rest of humanity.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The culture of blaming other people

seems to be endless. Oh yes, I am as guilty as the next person. It is always nice to think that someone else has caused the predicament in which I have found myself. 
I got myself into a small mess yesterday...nothing serious. It was soon sorted out and things were back to what passes for "normal" around here. Someone else asked about it and I said, "It was my fault." They looked rather startled so I explained. We actually laughed about it. That felt good.
But there are times when other people need to share the blame. There was the news story about the former Olympian getting arrested. He has mental health issues. He needs support and understanding. Yes, he still needs to take responsibility for his own actions if he can but perhaps others do too in those circumstances. I can imagine few things more lonely than spending hours and hours upon hours staring at the bottom of swimming pool as you push yourself to go faster and faster - forwards, backwards, forwards,  backwards. You win a race? Good. You lose a race? Shocking! You are the darling of the media one moment and ridiculed the next. I wonder how many people ever consider the pressure on such people?
I also remember my late friend R... saying to me, "Don't you ever take all the blame on yourself Cat. We are just as responsible."
We were talking about the way many Australians blame the "white" population for the state of the "indigenous" population. Yes, bad things were done. We both knew that. I still know it. But R.... insisted that it didn't have to go on being that way. Her family was not like that. Her husband had a steady, responsible job. Her two children went to school - and wouldn't have dared to skive off for a day. Her house was clean. She worked hard too. No, it wasn't easy. The family faced prejudice but they kept going. 
I know they were exceptional. I know there are barriers but they didn't blame other people. R...simply tried to find ways around instead. 
I have another problem coming up. In this case someone else did do the wrong thing. She isn't likely to acknowledge it. Blaming her isn't going to help. I need to look at my own reaction and work out how best to handle it. 
If I let myself by a "victim" by blaming another person, even if they should take on some of the responsibility, I am not going to be able to move on.
"Victimology" is interesting but it isn't helpful.