Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Please stay fine for the ANZAC Day march

I think to myself. It rained at a crucial moment early this morning - just before the dawn services were due to begin.  At the moment it is fine but cloudy and the forecast is for more rain later. Please, make it later.
The last thing I want to do is glorify war. There is nothing glorious about war. Most of the people we label as "heroes" were terrified young men doing as they were told, terrified in a way that the rest of us will never know about.
The men of WWI have gone. The men of WWII are getting older and fewer.  Each year I remember the time we spent living in a "soldier settlement" area - one of the farming communities set up by the government after WWII to try and give returning servicemen some form of gainful employment. The ANZAC Day dawn service was one of the most important events on the community calendar. Everything else stopped for it. The wildest teens in the community - and there were a few - didn't put a foot out of line. Every school child turned up to the service. We had gone through all the usual hymns at school the week before - no nonsense about religious sensitivities as the Methodist minister and the Catholic priest and the Anglican priest and my father as headmaster organised the service with the head of the Returned Serviceman's League. Men wept. 
It was strangely quiet in the early morning.
Later there would be "the march" and we children would stand in our Guide and Scout uniforms or our school uniforms on either side of the road they came down. When it was over the men would disappear. They would go and drink beer, play "two-up", and perhaps reminisce. I say "perhaps" because most of them didn't want to remember and their dreams were often full of their war experiences. 
The youngest member of the library knitting group is in the state's school choir and they were singing at the main dawn service in the city. It meant getting up at 4:30am to get in there on time.  I wonder what sort of impact it will have on her. She is about the age I was when I first really became aware of ANZAC Day.  She is a creative, thoughtful child. 
It is something MsW has done in the past - and the experience made her a fierce pacifist. It is as well her father was there to support her afterwards. It caused a leap forward in her emotional maturity.
I rather suspect there will be some "bored" children today, children for whom the events of today will have little or no meaning. But, for those who do understand something of the emotions behind the events it will perhaps be a good thing. They may help to at least reduce the conflicts of the future. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

French politics has apparently

seen a seismic shift away from the major parties. 
At this hour in the morning Downunder it looks as if the French will be heading to a run off vote between Macron and Le Pen. It won't matter who wins out of those two. They will  need to work with a hostile government and they will leave the country divided. I don't envy the French.
What puzzles me though is the number of people outside France who can vote in the election. I don't mean those people who live in the French territories like Noumea but those who live in places like Downunder.
Last week a friend here flew to Canberra. He timed an important meeting so he could also vote - and yes he timed the meeting so he could go and vote. He hasn't set foot on French soil for the last how many years and has no intention of ever going back - but he voted in the French election. He will vote in the next one too. He sees it as his right. 
Perhaps it is. I know he isn't the only one to feel that way. I know other people who vote in elections for their home countries, people who have no intention of ever returning. They still want to shape the future of the country they left.  
The French Embassy has apparently said they are expecting at least 15,000 French to vote in Downunder. In a tight race even that many could make a difference. I wonder if it has made a difference in other elections, whether people who don't live in a country and ultimately won't be affected by the outcome will make a decision that affects others. 
The electoral boundaries here have just been redrawn. We are now in a "new" electorate. I missed an opportunity to meet one of the candidates recently. I hope I meet her soon. I knew my old Federal candidate well and I have met the new one. I need to meet the person who is likely to represent me at state level. To me this is important as I want to know not just what policies they will supposedly support but what sort of person they are in themselves.
It seems most people never bother. There is research to suggest they vote the same way all their lives. Do people who vote from outside their country of birth for elections in their country of birth do the same? Or, are they people who take a genuine interest in politics?
It is difficult enough to vote here. The responsibility weighs heavily on me. I look at the policies. I look at the candidates. How on earth do people do it from outside the country?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

We are making a Christmas tree

at the knitting group in the library. Yes, I know it is MUCH TOO EARLY to think about Christmas but one of the group thought it would be a good idea and... we have started.
It is based on an old umbrella. She has removed the tatty cover and the spokes are being covered in long lengths of twisting green crochet. It looks good.
Of course it needs to be covered in decorations as well. G...., the owner of the umbrella, began by making a tiny knitted bag with even tinier balls of wool and some toothpicks for knitting needles. 
The knitting needles were out of proportion. We've been thinking about that.
Other people are working on other ideas. I tried a knitted heart but didn't like it - undone. There's an angel coming up. I've found a nice idea for little parcels and someone else has found a new pattern for a knitted heart. Crochet? Yes, that will be fine too.
And I have knitted a very long piece of i-cord (French knitting, tomboy stitch, Knitting Nancy cord) to go around the lower part of the spokes and hold them out. 
But yesterday the miniature knitting needle problem came up again. The youngest member of the group hasn't been there for a couple of sessions - birthday parties and school camps tend to get in the way. She arrived full of smiles and eagerness - and saw the problem with the knitting needles. She didn't say anything but settled down and took out her things. It wasn't knitting and I was about to say something when I thought, "No, she's obviously doing something important to her."
She had brought out jewellery wire, snips, pliers, and some tiny beads from her beading kit...another of her crafts. She fiddled for a bit, shook her head and tried something else. We all went on knitting and asking one another about the work we were doing.
There was more snipping, some straightening, a look at what it produced. A second one was made. Then the youngest member of the group quietly and calmly handed over an almost perfect pair of miniature knitting needles and asked G...."Would these be a better size?"
This girl has just turned twelve. She saw a problem and also saw an almost instant solution to it. She designed it and made it and had the confidence to do not just that but pass her work on, What is more she passed it on to an adult with the confidence that it was not only good enough but that it would be welcome. G... responded with the words, "Yes! Can you make another pair too?"
So a second pair was made. Then things were put away and she went back to trying to master the tricky business of knitting into the front and back of every stitch across a row so that she can make a small pink pig. 
I have no doubt that she will keep trying that until she has it right.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

'Flu vaccination....growl

I hope it works because right now I have a very sore arm. It always happens.
I prowled down to the clinic yesterday - well, pedalled down. It is a 25 minute ride down there. I need to be feeling reasonably fit to get to the clinic.
There is a clinic closer than that but, when we returned to the city, it was overflowing with patients. Middle Cat knew someone at the other place. The Senior Cat was still driving a car and... well, we go there.
So, I pedalled down and made sure that I was on time. Of course the doctor wasn't. Usually she isn't too bad but yesterday she was running late, very late. As it was still reasonably early afternoon I hope she didn't have too many patients before the end of the day. She had a student in with her. 
C.... and I educated the student into the difficulties of taking my BP. "Come on Cat...relax... breathe in deeply, now out slowly, keep your eyes closed..." 
All the usual things. She showed the student it is no good trying my right arm...switch to left...yesterday it wasn't much better. Eventually she got a reading - elevated.  She looked at me.
I could have told her it would be.  
She knows me well enough not to say anything in front of the student. She sighed and said, "Come and see me in a month Cat."
The student won't be there then. She will distract my attention and she might get a reading she feels is accurate. She knows I am stressed at present -  but that the situation will resolve itself. We both know that.
Right now though it is hard to live with - and I hate having my BP taken at any time because if you tell me I have to keep still I can't!

Friday, 21 April 2017

They have just closed a mental health facility

for older people in this city. It  was not a good place and some truly dreadful things occurred there. People generally approve of the closure.
The problem is, where do older people in need of long term mental health care go now? Where does anyone in need of long term mental health care go now?
However hard we try it isn't always possible for people to stay at home, especially if they are on their own. Even if there is someone at home with them it may not be possible for them to cope. 
A close friend of the Senior Cat was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about eighteen months ago. I suspected it some considerable time before that and his daughter did too. The diagnosis came as no surprise to us but it shocked his wife. She thought he was "just forgetting things" occasionally. He has deteriorated since then. At present his wife is coping with him at home - coping but not really managing the situation.  He isn't at the point where he is considered to need "care" but that doesn't need the family doesn't need care. They do.
I have seen all this before. I have seen it with several older people in the district. They have families who should be looking out for them but their families live in other places and, more often than not, they don't want to know. They leave it up to the neighbours or the authorities have to step in.
One son, who hadn't spoken to his mother in over a decade, simply said, "It's not my responsibility."  He passed her care over to the Public Trustee. They sent in a local charity to clear the house and put the old woman into a care facility far away. I saw a death notice for her a few months later.
Recently someone contacted me. She is a friend of a friend. She lives in Canberra. Her mother had died a short time earlier and the house had been shut up. She was now going through it. There were knitting things there and our mutual friend had given her my name. Could I use it? She would like to give it to me personally as our mutual friend thought I might actually use it.
Neither of them have any idea how long it takes to knit something but I accepted. I knew I could always pass it on. I thought there wouldn't be much there.
It arrived. Bags of it - and it wasn't the usual mess of cheap acrylic. Some of it was really lovely. 
     "I don't know what Mum was thinking of. She just kept buying all this. Oh, there's some fabric too. Can you use it?"
I don't sew. I left it for someone who does sew and told her to take what she could use and pass the rest on. 
There were garment amounts there. Even if I had owned no yarn at all there was too much there for me. I sorted it. I arranged for someone to pick up some for a group which does charity knitting and for someone else to pick up more for the knitting guild I belong to. 
The woman who brought it all to me was almost pathetically grateful.
     "I didn't want to just dump it at the charity place. It's too good for that.  I think Mum was getting a bit odd. I don't know what I would have done...."
And that's the problem. What would she have done? She is still working. Her husband is still working. They work long hours. Even if she had taken her mother to live with them the house would have been empty all day. It would have been unfamiliar. Her friends would not have been there and, if she was "getting a bit odd" the problem would just have become worse.
I hope Middle Cat and I can go on caring for the Senior Cat for as long as he needs it. He knows this house. His (also elderly) friends live within a reasonable distance. We are fortunate that his mind is still acute - even if he does occasionally forget to do something! We have good neighbours. 
I just don't know what to do about age and "getting a bit odd". How do you help people?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

An affirmation of "citizenship"

for all Australians?
When citizenship ceremonies are held around the country the new citizens are asked to say, "I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey."
Those present at the ceremony who are already citizens are asked to affirm the same in return. 
Perhaps it is a good thing but I don't feel comfortable with it. I have never felt comfortable with that sort of thing.
I was barely four years of age when I started school. You could begin school in the year you turned five. My birthday comes at the very end of the year. Most parents would have waited until the following year but my mother, with two more small children at home and a child who could - annoyingly - already read, wanted me to go to school. I went to school.
At school we had "assembly" and in assembly we learned to say, "I am an Australian. I love my country.... " and more - as a pledge of allegiance to Downunder.  Even at four years of age I didn't like doing it. My dislike of it grew stronger and stronger. There were arm movements that went with it and, if I could have gotten away with not making them I would have done it. I would mouth something else instead of the words.
The idea that I was supposed to feel good about being Australian and proud of my country was something that I could never come to terms with. I still don't feel that way.
Now please don't get me wrong. I know that Downunder is a good place to live. It is, as countries go, safe. People are, on the whole, well housed and well fed and "free". It is a country with a reputation for friendliness and a relaxed life style.  I acknowledge that and I would never do anything that might make it less safe or cause people not to be housed or fed. I just don't feel the need or the desire to make a fuss about it. I want to belong to the world, not just part of it.
I know that will shock a lot of people. It's like barracking for the "wrong" football team - a sin. I just don't see the need to vote for any football team at all. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Those 457 visas have been

scrapped - the visas that allowed employers to bring in workers from overseas to fill positions in a variety of occupations that Downunderites could not or would not fill. 
Of course Downunderites could have filled most of the positions. There was work they simply didn't want to do and places they didn't want to go. Some people would rather be unemployed in the city than employed in a rural area. Some people think that jobs like cleaning the hospital or shopping centre is beneath them.
Our parents were teachers. One condition of their employment was that the Education Department had the right to send them anywhere in the state at a moment's notice. We children simply had to follow them whether we liked it or not.
In reality of course most teachers were moved at the end of the school year. The long summer holidays saw the removal companies around the state hard at work moving teachers from one place to another. (Yes, it was hard work. Teachers tend to have books. Books are heavy. That was in addition to all the other household goods and chattels.) 
You could "apply" for various schools. This was part of the "promotion" process as much as anything else. You had to know where the vacancies were likely to be and what sort of competition you were up against - and much more.
I can remember the Senior Cat sitting at the kitchen table (no office in those days) discussing each option with my mother. In the end he wasn't actually given a choice. He was considered to be a "trouble shooter". He was sent to places to "sort things out" and set the school up or back on an even keel so that someone else could move in and go on running it while he went on to the next set of problems. 
Now he would probably be given more help to do such things and might even be given a pay increase for the added responsibility. Then he just accepted that this was what was required of him. One of the places he was sent to, the one where my mother went back teaching full time in the little two teacher school, had no running water and no electricity.  The house was so badly built that Middle Cat and I had to sleep on mattresses on the floor. You couldn't get beds into that bedroom. My parents slept head to toe in two single beds in a room where you had to sit on the bed in order to open the wardrobe door. My parents didn't like it but they accepted it. Teachers wouldn't put up with that now.
So I wonder whether they will be able to fill the vacancies left by scrapping the 457 visas. Will they find people who are prepared to do the sort of thing my parents, and many more like them, did? Will they find a "local lad" to do the work the Sikh trolley collector is doing in the local shopping centre? I was talking to him the other day. He unhitched a trolley for me. He's studying to become an accountant. Will he work here? He probably won't get the chance now.