Saturday, 30 May 2015

I pulled out the manuscript

yesterday and my main character gave me a stern look. It had been much too long.
I have not been working on this since Middle Cat went into hospital. She will, if all goes according to plan, be home today. That is nine weeks and four days in hospital. It was supposed to be a week plus two weeks "rehab". There is still more to go of course. It will be several months before she is prowling around in her usual manner. And yes, because she lives not too far from here, I will have to prowl backwards and forwards. It is going to take time. I still have to do other work but the writing needs to be done too.
I have written of course but I have not been able to write. Does that make sense?
I wrote blog posts. I dare not go back and read them. I assume - from the occasional comments - that people have been reading them. I have even written a couple of letters to the editor when people have stood menacingly in front of me in the supermarket and demanded that I do so. I sent off a submission of a completed manuscript. No, don't hold your breath. I know it's more than good enough but I am not sure the publishing world will think it is.
But, I have not written. For me, writing demands being able to bury yourself inside the characters. You need to know everything about them. That takes time and energy. All I have been able to do is keep putting down ideas. I have tried talking to the characters as I pedal out - fine if nobody wants to stop me and inquire after the Senior Cat or Middle Cat or nobody wants to tell me their woes or ask me to do something. Those things do rather stop conversation with characters.
In the middle of all the chaos of recent weeks and the anxiety of not knowing whether Middle Cat was going to make it I did plant some bulbs. This is something the Senior Cat would once have done. He  would have preferred to do it this time but, realistically, he cannot do it. He decided where they were going and I did it. 
In the past few days some of them have begun to climb slowly through the soil and make the slightest appearance on the surface. I can actually see, from my bedroom window, the green tips of the hyacinths the Senior Cat did plant in bowls and I know that further along there are the almost invisible beginnings of daffodils in the patch near the big rainwater tank. 
They will take time to grow. My characters will too but I know that, like the bulbs, they will surface and talk to me. 
I just need to keep them weeded. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Move over Sepp Blatter

because I am coming to take your job. 
I know nothing about football or soccer or whatever you care to call it but I still think I could do a better job of it than you or any of those over-fed and over-paid people around you. Somewhere along the line you forgot that this game was supposed to be just that - a game.
Downunder put in a bid to host the World Cup under the previous government. I think it cost them about $45m to put the bid up and am I right in saying they got just one vote? Whatever, they didn't win and probably never had any chance of winning. It was an expensive publicity stunt for the government of the day and the money would have been better spent on buying soccer balls for the kids. 
The cost of putting in a bid should have had alarm bells ringing a long time ago. How much money does it really take to make a bid? Who's involved? Perhaps it is time to put a limit on the costs and the number of people involved? You don't like that? Why not?
Now, that great big fancy building you have in Switzerland...yes, that's the one I mean. You don't need it. I run a global project from home  - from a desk in the corner of the room I sleep in to be exact. I am sure that you can manage on less - after all, aren't the boys outside playing with a ball?
Oh and all those meetings around the conferencing? 
On site visits? Employ some back packers? They can send some pictures on their phones and i-pads in return for a couple of nights in a youth hostel. 
Sponsorship? Strictly to help those who actually need it, not to house someone's cats in a New York apartment all of their own. (The cats would prefer a place on a farm.) 
And that is just a start Herr Blatter. I am sure I can think of some other savings. Corruption? Any evidence of it and you will be banned for life.
You see Herr Blatter, this football/soccer thing - it's just a game. I'll come along and take over and sort this thing out. 
What am I charging? The basic wage plus the cheapest accommodation near the office will do nicely thank you. 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Same sex marriage

is back on the agenda here. Well, it never really went off the agenda but the Leader of the Opposition has used the vote in Ireland to make some political hay. He has put on notice his intention to introduce a private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage. His move is political opportunism, nothing more and nothing less.  
There are already two other bills on the same issue awaiting the consideration of parliament. We didn't need a third. 
Some will consider it a political masterstroke. It will give gay and lesbian couples what they want and the issue will divide the current government which does not, at present, have a conscience vote on the issue. It will show the Leader of the Opposition to be - well, a leader.
It all sounds simple so I was surprised when a friend who is in a long term relationship with his partner said,
"I don't like being used in this way."
We have discussed the issue of marriage at length. As I have mentioned my cousin, who does not live here, is married to his partner. They have been together since university days - more than  thirty-five years ago. 
I am assuming that both these relationships are what people would call "stable". They appear to be happy. (I certainly hope so because I am very fond of my cousin's partner. He is one of the nicest people I know.)
But are they being "used"? The friend I was talking to feels the issue of same-sex marriage has become a political and divisive one. Legally recognised partnerships which would allow the same rights as married couples would, according to him, be enough for all but a minority of same-sex couples.  He acknowledges that the length and stability of his relationship is unusual among same sex couples. 
When I suggested that nobody was suggesting that people were being forced to marry if the law changed he said, "But there will be questions won't there? It will be, "When are you going to get married?" and "Don't you love him enough to get married?" - that sort of thing. There will be expectations."
I had not considered that. Perhaps there will be. My own view is that it is entirely the affair of each couple. If marriage becomes possible, as it probably will, then it is up to them and nobody else.
I wondered whether things like the "Gay and Lesbian Mardi-Gras" will remain and whether "coming out" will still be an issue if marriage becomes the law. 
He shrugged but then he said, "I wonder if the divorce courts are ready for the extra work too."
It's a gloomy view. I hope the future is more of a rainbow than that.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

On this day last year

the man we voted in as our local member of parliament defected. He stood beside the Premier of the state and said that he was no longer a member of the party that had worked so hard to get him into parliament. He was taking up a Ministry in order to support a weak government which had, by sheer good luck, managed to get not the most votes but the most seats. In doing so he talked about what was "best" for the state and that it was a move for "stable" government.
I have spoken about that elsewhere in this blog but his defection has had a personal impact on me. I am sure I am not the only one but I am one of the people now doing the job our elected member is supposed to be doing.
"Cat, I'm wondering if...."
"Oh Cat, I'm so pleased to see you because..."
"You're Cat aren't you and X said...."
"You're the person who writes the letters..."
"I hope you don't mind but..."
And so it goes on. In the past twelve months I have been approached numerous times by people looking for the sort of help they might normally get from a local member of parliament. 
I can't always give that help, nor should I have to. I have advised people of alternative sources of information and help and I have, on occasions, written letters for people to send themselves. Those letters will not have the same impact as a letter written by their local member of parliament.
The reason for all this has been two fold. One is that people no longer trust their local member of parliament. Even some of those who voted for another candidate and support the present government will not seek his help.   
The second reason is this. He is simply not available. He is supposed to be in his electorate office one afternoon a week. Theoretically you can make an appointment to see him. Realistically that is not possible. He has been on fourteen overseas trips in the last twelve months. He is rarely there. His electorate secretary is new. How she is coping I don't know. I have met her once. When I need a JP - as I sometimes do - I look elsewhere now. I know what would happen if I went in. It would be, "Cat, can you tell me...." and "Cat, how do I..." or " Cat, who do I..."
I did it for the previous girl when she was working for the previous member because he knew I had extensive local knowledge. He would come back to the office each evening he was in the state too.
The new girl admitted on the day I met her, "I hardly know what he looks like."
It's not representing the electorate. I know I am not the only person helping out. Perhaps someone could enlighten me though. What are we paying him for?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Jen Campbell is one of my

my favourite humans. She wrote the "Weird things customers say in bookshops" - and if you have not read it then you should.
But it is the other "weird things" people say that was getting to Jen yesterday. She put some of them up on Twitter.
"Did your parents consider abortion?"
Who for?
"Would you consider yourself normal?"
Now what sort of question is that? 
"I was going to ask for this book to be gift wrapped but I'm guessing that's beyond your physical capabilities."
Do you worry that it'll be difficult for someone to fall in love with you?"
"Do you think you did something bad in a previous life?"
Previous life?
Those are my answers - not Jen's. She has dealt with questions about her EEC syndrome in her own way. She is more than capable of handling them but, like me, she gets tired of idiots. 
I have had the question about whether I consider myself normal.
Yes thank you I am normal and no of course I'm not. Nobody is normal. We're all different. Difference makes the world interesting. It is essential to the functioning of the world.
People with disabilities are expected to be something other humans are not expected to be. We are expected to be always polite, always good tempered, always friendly, kind, and grateful. We are expected to "set a good example" and accept help whether we need it or not but never to ask for help either.
There was an article in the Guardian children's books section recently. It was by a teenage book blogger who just happens to be in a wheelchair. She bemoaned the fact that there are almost no books which include characters who have a disability. By this I understood her to mean books which were not "issues" books but books about other things in which one or more of the characters happens to have a disability - just as they might in real life.
I agree with her. It doesn't happen often. Far too often the book is an "issue" book or the main character has a disability and there is a miraculous cure or the disability is treated in an otherwise completely unrealistic fashion. 
"It's what people expect," I was told by someone who should have known better than to say it to me. I am not interested in what people "expect". Sometimes they need  the unexpected. 
Good books do give you the unexpected. Good books give you something new to think about or a new way of thinking about something - or even both. Good books won't tell you that people with disabilities are always polite, always grateful, always a genius, always something we are not.
We just happen to be human. The important thing is to try and be a good human. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

We were unexpectedly

invited to afternoon tea yesterday. Former neighbours invited us. When they lived here we would feed their dog and cat and water the garden if they were away for a weekend. They returned the favours with other help. We talked occasionally and met her parents, his brother and so on. Even the children's birthday parties did not disrupt the street. We still miss them.
They have not moved far. They have moved into a new and much more modern house. The kitchen in it has been designed for her work as a cook providing a number of local businesses with all sorts of delicacies. 
Oh yes, going to afternoon tea there is a treat! It was simple but very pleasant indeed.
But, as we were talking, we both agreed that something has happened to morning coffee and afternoon tea. It doesn't often happen in the same way - at least, it doesn't often happen among her generation or mine. Perhaps older people still do it?
You know what I mean don't you? You set the table properly with matching plates and cups and saucers - never mugs. You make "proper" coffee - not instant. You make tea in a teapot - with loose tea and not tea bags. You make scones and cake and put out some home-made biscuits. The milk comes in a jug and the sugar has a spoon all to itself.
The Senior Cat likes a cup and saucer - he has milk and sugar in his tea and it gives him somewhere to put his teaspoon. He likes loose tea in his little pot. It's easy enough. I don't mind.
But the milk comes in the "crystal"(plastic) milk jug in the normal way. We use mugs and the biscuits, if we eat them at all, come from the supermarket. That all seems pretty normal in the houses I have been in over the years.
And people go "out for coffee". They meet friends in a local cafe and they drink coffee and eat cakes or biscuits with fancy names.
Our erstwhile neighbour saw this happening and she has found outlets for a small range of home made goodies. They sell. The prices still shock her and, as she says, she and I would never pay those prices for a biscuit or a piece of cake. But, some people do.
Somebody else boils the water, makes the fancy coffee, serves it and does the washing up. Oh yes, it is nice.
But, there is something missing from it all. It is not the same. 
As we were leaving I was given a cake recipe she had been talking about. I almost never bake cake. We simply don't eat it but she would like me to try this one. I must.
Then I can invite someone to proper afternoon tea.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Is this Eurovision

thing actually important? 
There has been an even bigger fuss about it in Downunder this year. The reason for this is that Downunder, despite not being part of Europe, had an entrant in it. Please don't ask me how Downunder suddenly became part of Eurovision. I don't know. I suspect that (a) money and (b) (media) politics were part of it. 
I had actually heard of Guy Sebastian. For a cat with no interest in "pop" music this  is not the achievement it would appear to be. You see Guy Sebastian originally came from my part of Downunder.  
At the time he made his "debut" on the national stage he was a member of a charismatic, fundamentalist church on the other side of the city. On Sundays they attracted large crowds of young people for what amounted to a free rock/pop concert. Yes, the "message" was there too but the music is, I suspect, what brought many of them in. It would be interesting to know how many of them still go to church - or whether they have been replaced by other young people.  Here's hoping that, even if they no longer go to church, some of the good in the message that came with the music has stayed with them.
But, I digress. Guy Sebastian was part of that group. There was/is a television show called "Australian Idol". I don't know much about it except that people vote in it. 
Before that happens however there are auditions. I do know about these because, the year Guy Sebastian entered, my nephews did as well. It was the first year of the event. They went along to the auditions for the experience, to find out what they could learn and to see if they get a song on air. They achieved all these things.  It was as far as they went.
I happened to meet one of the judges a couple of years later. I had no idea who he was but he made a point of seeking me out at another function and introducing himself. 
"I just want you to know," he told me, "that your nephews are very, very good. They were better than the winner but we thought they were too young."
Then he asked me, "Would you mind telling me what they are doing now?"
I told him they were both at university but they were still doing gigs. He nodded and said, "That's good. It means we made the right decision."
Yes, it was the right decision. My nephews would not have had the same voting power behind them. Guy Sebastian had a massive support group who mobilised even more support. I assume he also has talent but I don't presume to understand his sort of music - or that of my nephews. Those contests are about politics and people and being able to market yourself and gain the support. They may require some talent but they are not - as far as I can see  - about talent.
I am also glad for other reasons. We now have two caring, professional, and personable young men in the family. If they lived in the same state they would still do gigs together and give the money to charity. They won't make millions. Guy Sebastian might but I think my nephews will be more satisfied with their current careers.