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.