Friday, 9 December 2016

So I went to yet another funeral

yesterday...for a friend of twenty-eight years. 
The day I met her she was kneeling on the floor in the library looking for a book. It wasn't there. The system said it should be there and she was determined to find it. By sheer chance I found it and we became friends.
M... was unemployed and she remained officially unemployed but she was also one of the most "employed" people I have ever known. She helped others...and then helped some more. Walk into the shopping centre and M... would be there making a "cuppa" last seemingly forever while she listened to someone, helped someone, encouraged someone, befriended a stranger who needed "a bit of help".
See her in the street? Yes. She walked everywhere and usually with someone. If not, she would be standing there talking to them. She met more people on buses than most people meet everywhere in a life time.
She helped out serving meals to the lost, lonely, homeless and helpless. She sorted out paper work for the intellectually disabled and brain damaged. She read sociology, theology, psychology. She sang in a group. She went walking in the hills and along the beach - and worried about the environment. She liked humour and comic films. 
The church was packed. There were people standing at the back. There were wonderful tributes to her from family and friends.
M... was 56 when she died of an inoperable cancer. People said she remained cheerful until the end. It sounded as good as it could be in the circumstances.
Nobody mentioned the fact that M....also suffered from depression and severe doubts about herself. Nobody knew that last year, while she was still well, she booked a trip to a place she had always wanted to see - and then didn't go because, she told me, she wasn't brave enough to go alone. 
Yes, there was another side to M... a side that needed the same support that she was so busy giving others. Most people never knew and would never have recognised it. They expected M... to be there for all their lives - not just hers.
The priest gave a short and simple sermon. He started by telling everyone that, one night, M...sent him a text at midnight. She needed to see him there and then. Would he come? He was already, as he put it, "tucked up in a nice, warm bed". Did she really need him? Yes!
He went - and it is clear from what he had to say that he got as much, if not more, from their time together that night. And I will be forever thankful that he went when she asked him because she asked so little of others.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Cutting a 1000 beds

from the hospital system in this state would not be a good idea. This morning's paper is full of "top secret reports" about this. It makes for the sort of headlines that the media dreams about. It gives people something to talk about. Rumours fly around and get drunk in with the morning coffee in the office or eaten with lunch at the local cafe. 
There has even been talk of closing the "WCH" - the Women's and Children's Hospital. That would be a mistake. 
When I was a kitten it was simply a hospital for children. I don't know how big it was. I know they were expanding it. I can remember being taken for "a walk" and being pushed by a nurse across mustard coloured sand being used on the site of the then new building. Nowadays it is an "old" building...and there are two even older buildings on the same site. 
I made numerous trips there when I was teaching. My profoundly disabled students spent far too much time in hospital but the place treated them well. I have been in and out of the WCH since then too - being called in to help children with profound communication problems for the most part. The fact that the hospital staff are not just willing but anxious to get help with such things indicates a different ethos. The people who work there do, for the most part, want to work with children. 
My doctor nephew did a stint there while he was training. He also confirmed my view that the WCH doesn't work quite the same way as a hospital for adults.  He liked working with the children and might even have chosen to go on working with them but was less keen on having to handle over-anxious parents.
Our newest adult neighbour is a paediatrician and I sense the same attitude in her. You have to work with children in a different way. They need adults who specialise in caring for children while also being qualified in their specialist fields. Staff have to be prepared to work with that clown doctor around to distract the child. They need to use language a child can understand. They need patience.
And they need a sense of humour. My first visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children will forever be stamped in my memory by the sight of a young doctor crawling out from under a bed. He looked up at me with a wry smile and said,
"First catch your patient."
No, we can't just close the WCH. It doesn't work like that.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

There is a mouse

which scampers across Twitter. His name is Minimus...most suitable for a mouse! 
He only speaks Latin but someone provides an English translation - which is just as well. My Latin is terrible. 
I do have some Latin. The Senior Cat once passed me a book called "An intermediate Latin grammar" and told me I was expected to learn it. Amos, amat... mmm. It wasn't actually a love story. I wasn't keen on all the talk about soldiers, spears, shields and other implements of war. I didn't want to know about the battles. 
But Minimus speaks Latin and I try to understand him just as I try to understand people around me who don't speak English as a first language. In our short street there are people who speak one of the many Chinese languages. There is someone who speaks Hungarian, a family who speak Hindi, and a man who speaks German. Our neighbour opposite can get by in French and Italian but her first language is English. Around the corner there is an elderly woman whose first language is Greek. She is losing the ability to speak English, just as Middle Cat's MIL did. 
Yesterday she was outside with a visitor. She waved to me and called out in Greek. I understand the word "come" it sounds as if you are saying "ella". After looking carefully behind me I pedalled across the road. She introduced me - in Greek - to her visitor. Thankfully the visitor, a much younger person, spoke English and interpreted her request. She needed to borrow a "possum trap" and did I know whether anyone had one? (Yes, a possum trap is designed to catch a possum but not kill it.)  I promised to ask the boy around the corner to deliver theirs asap. He will even put it into the best place for her and, when possum is caught, he will take it to school. One of his teachers will take it to a suitable place and release it. He's known for that. 
But I went away thinking that Minimus might actually like the word "possum" because, if I remember correctly, it means "I am able" or "I can"... I rather like it. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

It is one of those "fasting blood test"

mornings and I am not a happy cat. I want my breakfast!
I need breakfast. I can go without other meals if I must but I need breakfast. It doesn't have to be much but I need breakfast!
It set me thinking once again though. Yes, I am lucky that, on other mornings, I get breakfast. It also made me wonder about what other people eat for breakfast. 
The Senior Cat has exactly the same breakfast all year around. That way, he says, he needn't think about it. He can read the paper in peace without wondering what to eat or drink.
Mine are much the same. 
Middle Cat's household is different. My BIL sometimes doesn't bother with breakfast - although he knows he should and tries to do the right thing. He has been known to eat cold pizza or leftover Chinese for breakfast. Middle Cat tends to eat toast laden with Vegemite. (Those of you in Upover may substitute Marmite. It isn't the same but....) She has been known to make French toast, especially at weekends. When their two boys were living at home they had cereal, toast, fruit, eggs and other things...not all at once. They needed breakfast for an active day at school.
There was a farmer I knew. We spent a weekend at his home. He consumed cereal, an entire tin of baked beans, two eggs and six slices of toast for breakfast. I don't remember him as "fat". He probably worked very hard physically.  
I know people who eat yoghurt on the grounds it  is "good" for them. (I am not sure that the "fat-free" but sugar laden sort is.) I know people who drink "smoothies" or just a glass of orange juice. Our late friend B..., whom I mentioned recently, carried her love of cooking from the little French restaurant, to her own home. They would occasionally have tourists to stay on a "bed and breakfast" basis and she would provide home made croissants, fresh fruit, and real coffee along with other things. I think she just enjoyed doing the food preparation because she rarely ate more than fruit with her coffee.
The local shopping centre  is always busy on Sunday mornings. People are out and about and they have "brunch". There is a local cafe which prepares eggs in around seven different ways. There is even "bacon and eggs" on the menu. I suppose people must order it.
But it does make me wonder... does anyone actually cook bacon and eggs at home on a week day morning?

Monday, 5 December 2016

That Brexit vote

seems to be causing more problems again. The three judges who ruled that the matter had to go before parliament were apparently vilified in the press. Now all eleven judges will potentially put themselves in the same position.
The judgment should be unanimous. It should say that the matter has to be put before parliament. 
Yes, yes I know that there was a referendum and I know that a majority of people who voted in the referendum voted "leave" but the referendum result was not binding. The matter still has to go before parliament or, quite simply, why does any country which calls itself a democracy bother to have a parliament.
Referenda are a difficult thing here in Downunder. They are notoriously difficult to get up. They require two hurdles. They require (a) a majority of the people and (b) a majority of the states. One without the other does not work. If however there is a majority of people in a majority of the states then the government must act in accordance with the wishes of the people.  It is how changes are made to the Downunder Constitution.
A "plebiscite" is different. It is intended to seek out what the majority view is and act upon that.  The Brexit vote in the UK was similar to a plebiscite here. It differed in the sense that there is no compulsory attendance at the ballot box there. The vote was not intended to be something that overrode the role of the elected parliament.
I am sure the newspaper staff who decided to make a fuss knew that. They knew full well that the judges were doing their job and doing it well. It was a way of making news, nothing more and nothing less. 
The government there has appealed because it knows it must. I suspect however that the government will also breathe a sigh of relief when the court decides that parliament must be consulted. 
It's how we are governed. 

Sunday, 4 December 2016

I went to a "Christmas party"

yesterday. It was a mistake. I should have stayed at home, out of the heat and the noise. 
Nobody was drunk. It wasn't that sort of party.  It was one of those "bring a plate to share" and chatter sort of parties with silly hats and a competition. I just wasn't ready to cope with it.  
My tail didn't get trodden on. My fur didn't get ruffled too badly but I felt out of place.
I  usually do at such events. I am not much good at shouting. I like to "miaou" quietly. There is not much pleasure in struggling to make oneself heard.
A friend was absent. Her husband and daughter are both in hospital. She still found time to bring someone else I know and like - and then come back later to pick her up. I wish she lived closer. I might be able to do something to help. 
I did not "take a plate" as I had to feed the Senior Cat first. He's been gardening in the good weather. It's slow but he's enjoying the gardening he is still able to do. I want him to go on doing it for as long as he can. I can look out the window now and see the tomatoes, capsicum, lettuce, and strawberry plants. They are all in pots and the pots are on trestle tables. 
A bit further along are the gladioli I put in outside the Senior Cat's bedroom window. There is one white one out - and it is beautiful. We don't cut them and bring them in. We leave them there. The birds come and peck at insects from them and the two apple trees. 
It's busy but peaceful.
I suppose the contrast between that and the "party" was just too great yesterday. It hasn't been a good year. There's another funeral to go to this coming week. 
But there are good things which happen. Yesterday someone slipped a jar of fig jam into my bag - for the Senior Cat. We didn't have enough figs for me to make any this year. He doesn't eat a lot of jam but this was welcome, very welcome. 
On my way home I saw someone I knew. I stopped briefly to speak to him. His wife came out and asked if I wanted a drink - and then saw the water bottle in my hand. Their daughter is expecting a baby. It hasn't been an easy pregnancy.  I asked about her.
      "Baby's due on the 25th," I was told.
Even if it doesn't arrive then, if it just arrives safely, we will have a little Christmas miracle. That will be something worth celebrating, a party worth having.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

"Is it all right if I give you some money?"

is not a question I am usually asked. It is usually the other way around.
Yesterday I was asked this question. I went and "volunteered" for an hour in the local shopping centre - to collect for the Christmas Bowl Appeal. 
It isn't something I particularly like doing. I hate being harassed by collectors in the shopping centre, particularly those who are there all week and are being paid to do the job.
But, people who collect for the Christmas Bowl Appeal are always volunteers and it is only ever done on the one day in the year. The Senior Cat can't do it so I do. 
And there are advantages in me doing it. A lot of people know me. They may not know my name, although some of them do. They do know my tricycle and I suppose they associate me with it.
So, I prowled off and took over from the previous person - an older man. The collecting tin was almost empty. I knew there had been two other collections during the week, one of them particularly aggressive. Perhaps people had simply had enough of giving.
I waited. I watched. People went past and ignored me. I expected that.
Then I heard the words, "Is it all right if I give you some money?"
The person asking me  is Muslim. I know him only slightly. He and his wife asked me for some help once  in the library. They are both very young. He's a student.  We have acknowledged one another with smiles since then, nothing more.
He put a donation in the tin. His wife smiled at me and they went on. They are struggling on a student allowance.
The collection point was near the shop which sells things like ice cream and hot dogs and milkshakes. It's a shop which is popular with the students from the secondary schools - and the younger ones when they can persuade their parents that they are "hungry".
I watched people come and go from there too. Then a couple of boys turned up from a local secondary school. They walked up to the counter but the girl was busy serving someone else. They turned around and saw me. One nudged the other. They looked at each other and then walked over and put money in the tin. Then they walked off. It was clear they had "spent" their money as a donation instead.
And then a couple more secondary students turned up.
"Hi Cat, what's this for?"
I explained. They looked at each other and produced a few coins. It might not have been a great deal in the scheme of things but I know that the two of them don't have a lot of money. They both work part time jobs. 
They were followed by a man who folded a note and stuffed it in as he stared at their departing backs. 
     "I've been watching," he told me, "And I think I just saw real Christmas."
I know he did.