Monday, 10 December 2018

So murder, rape and torture

of others are not enough to deny someone refugee status?
We have a problem here. Let me start by telling you something.
Some years ago now I was asked to help a refugee family. They knew someone I knew. I was asked to make contact and help them through the first few months of their life in a new country. 
Their English was  limited. They had little more than the clothes they stood up in and the husband bore visible scars of horrendous torture. 
He was a doctor. The regime he lived under disapproved strongly of the way he treated everyone who came to see him - regardless of their faith or other beliefs.  I won't go into further details except to say that it led to a series of well documented and horrific events. When things spiralled completely out of control they fled from where they were living and claimed refugee status in one country. It was granted but the regime located them and they had to flee again. On the second occasion they were put on a plane here and granted asylum on arrival. 
It was all done in the proper, accepted way. I was happy to help and they have repaid the help they were given by many people over and over again.
But I remember the first time I went to the place they were living in. The husband was watching the news and called out to his wife.
She went gray.  I followed her into the next room at a glance from her.
All I could see was a story about someone who was calling himself a "refugee"  being interviewed. He was telling a story about how he had been tortured and had to flee.
The husband zapped the set off and sat there looking as distressed as his wife. After a moment though they tried to explain with their limited English. The man being interviewed was one of the people who had tortured the husband. He was also a known murderer and had also brutally raped a number of women. He wasn't a member of the armed services because he had a medical issue but it hadn't stopped him from participating. Nothing had happened to him while he was in favour with the regime. It seemed likely that he was now out of favour and had fled in fear of his own life. He was claiming refugee status. 
And he would almost certainly have been granted it because, in his own country, he would have been put to death. This man had travelled across more than one country to evade justice. The other family had to flee twice simply because the husband, a doctor, had treated "the enemy" and saved lives.
There is legislation that will go before parliament again next year which might make it even easier for people like the torturer to gain asylum. Unless someone is a member of a terrorist organisation it is going to be difficult to deny them the right to seek asylum. We, rightly, don't have the death penalty in this country. 
So what do we do with those who have committed crimes and would face it in their own country?


Sunday, 9 December 2018

Not open

on Saturday afternoons?
I suppose it is because it is December and friends decide it is time to "catch up" for coffee and say things like, "Come on Cat, we are taking you out."
That's nice. I appreciate it. So yesterday I was collected by two friends and we went off to try and find - somewhere to sit and chat for an hour over coffee or tea or whatever else we felt like drinking which was not alcoholic and where it would be quiet enough to chat. 
We avoided the local shopping centre - because there would be people going past saying things like "Hello J...." and "Hello G...." and then, worse, "Hello Cat..." and stopping to talk to us when we wanted to talk to each other.
      "There's one down the road," I said when J... asked where we should go.
We go down there.'s dark. They are closing up. 
      "Right, I know another one," says J... and we are off again in her car.
No, that's closed.  It doesn't open at all on Saturdays. We go on.
There's a likely looking spot. Someone is sitting at a table reading the paper. 
We go in.
    "Sorry, we're just closing."
    "Right," says J...., "We are going to..... I know that's open."
And it is. 
We order. We are served. We sit and chat. It's fairly quiet. 
A while later I notice that one of the staff is gradually closing things up. I catch her eye . Yes, they are closing too.
She comes over to the table to collect our things and apologises.
    "I left you as long as I could."
And I know she has because everything else is clean and tidy. It's a slightly out of the way place but popular - and is it any wonder if that's their attitude towards customers?
But why were so many places not open on a Saturday afternoon? I know it is not always possible but two of the places we tried are in busy locations. They would surely do well then. Are Sunday mornings really busier than Saturday afternoons?
I don't suppose it matters. We found a nice place. We enjoyed ourselves... and I brought home a mince pie for the Senior Cat.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Moving house -

no, not us but our neighbours across the way.
They have been good neighbours, the very best we could hope for. Several years back they even insisted we come to Christmas dinner. (It was very hot and Middle Cat's Greek family was meeting a very long distance away. The Senior Cat and I were going to have a quiet day at home.)
Over the years V.... has shortened the Senior Cat's work trousers, invited us to both their 70th  birthday parties, to afternoon tea on several occasions. I have tried to return the hospitality - largely unsuccessfully. V.... likes to entertain. She knows I find it difficult. They have both checked on the Senior Cat if I have needed to be out for more than a few hours.
Yes. Those sort of neighbours. 
I have taken their bins in and collected their mail when they have been away on holiday. We have a key for their place - never used except by M.... when he locked himself out. They know how to access a key to our place. They are the third people on the emergency call list for the Senior Cat's security pendant.
We won't replace them easily. The young couple who live next to them are people we would trust as much but they aren't at home in the way V... and M... are home. 
But these things happen. They want to go "somewhere smaller". The duplex they live in is already small but V... wants something smaller still. 
What they have found would suit me nicely. It has two bedrooms. I could use one as my workroom. It is centrally located and within easy reach of the train station, the shopping centre (also a doctor and dentist) and the library.  Yes, I am a little envious - but only because I know I will need to move when the Senior Cat is no longer with us. It's something I don't want to happen.
I don't envy them having to pack and move even that short distance - and they don't have a shed full of tools and timber to pack or anything like the same number of books. 
I don't want them to move. It reminds me of the enormity of the task ahead of me when I need to move.
I started to clear some things out this year. I don't do New Year's resolutions -  but I might try to clear some more things out. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

Parliament was a mess

yesterday. It was the last sitting day of the year. Instead of getting things done and tidied up before going "home" for the holidays they were abusing one another again. 
There was legislation that needed to be passed and didn't get passed. There is legislation that will probably never be passed by this government but it will reappear in a slightly different form under the next government. They oppose it now but they know that they will need to do very much the same thing. 
I am going to endeavour to cease worrying about such things for now because it is time to start drawing up the calendar for next year.  Remember? I do one for the entire year on a large sheet of light cardboard.
Middle Cat said to me, "I've put some appointments on the 'fridge". (Our 'fridge is old enough that it is metal and you can still use magnets.) 
I know what she was really saying, "You lazy cat. You still haven't  made a new calendar and there are things that need to go on it."
Yes.  I know that. 
I looked at this year's calendar. There are actually blank days on that. When my mother was alive there were almost never blank days. She filled them with meetings, groups, visiting, visitors and baby sitting/child minding. Her "retirement" was as busy as her working life. 
The Senior Cat was busy too - although he spent more time in the garden and in the shed. He made things. He still does when he can.
Not that long ago he admitted to me that, even if he could, he would not want to do those things again. He's had enough of meetings and being the President of this and the Secretary of that or having to get things finished or having to entertain people my mother liked but who did not really interest him. I think he would have liked a slightly quieter retirement and more time in his beloved shed.
And I thought of all those politicians. Will some of them regret the time they spent in parliament? Do any of them feel they have "had enough" and move on? Has the job ceased to really interest them?
Could we possibly be rid of some of those who have been there for years but are really contributing very little?
Many groups have limits on the number of years people can hold positions within them. Perhaps it is time we limited the number of years people can sit in parliament? Would they then get on with the job?

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Christmas shopping

and how many "sleeps"? I don't dare count.
I went shopping with Middle Cat yesterday. We went off to one of those large shopping centres...and actually managed to find a park. I suppose that was something.
We went because we knew there would be one of those "pop-up" type shops in the centre of one of the aisles and that it would be selling calendars. These are not just any calendars but a particular type - the sort where you tear off a page each day and, hopefully, laugh at the next caption or cartoon or joke. 
We prowled in from the car park, found a small shopping trolley abandoned by someone (in the wrong place) and took it with us. We went up two lots of "travelator" and nearly caused the elderly woman in front of us to fall over. No, it was not my fault. The elderly woman had simply stopped at the bottom and was digging into her purse. She was in the way. It meant the people behind us bumped into us as well. 
This is the sort of thing that puts me off completely but we continued on. We found the pop-up place. We bought the calendars for the people to whom the Senior Cat gives small gifts. Then Middle Cat said,
      "I need trousers for S...." 
My BIL hates shopping as much as I do but I trailed after Middle Cat. I stood there. I stared at the passing parade. I saw three people I know. 
No, nothing in that place...or that one...or that one. I suggest another place. We go in the wrong direction. Middle Cat asks at "information." We trail back. We stop for a drink on the way because Middle Cat has not had lunch. We find the other shop. I find a shirt for the Senior Cat - much needed and a very reasonable price.  Middle Cat finds trousers and a shirt for S... We buy them and I am thinking we might be able to go home. No. Middle Cat finds another present she needs and then sees something that "might be useful". I wait. I wait. I wait. I see two more people I know. This city really is a very small place.
       "I think we should go," Middle Cat tells me. I cheer silently and follow her. Stop. She is looking in a window. I wait again.
       "They are cheaper at..." someone tells her. 
We backtrack. I wait. Middle Cat comes back shaking her head and saying, "Similar but not quite the same and not such good quality."
We go back to the previous shop. I wait..
Middle Cat buys something. I must admit it is nice and it will suit the recipient. 
We get to the car and put things in the back. Middle Cat returns the trolley to the right place. We head home and into the house. It's hot and the Senior Cat hasn't been sure how to turn the cooling system on. I do it and wave Middle Cat off after she has consumed two glasses of water. All I want to do is flop on the mat and sleep.
I am going to finish my Christmas shopping by going to the local bookshop. It is so much simpler.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Shoe polish

- you know what I mean?
It's that sticky sort of stuff you dab a brush into and then all over your shoes and then, supposedly, rub it up to a nice shine.
When I was a very young kitten it was the Senior Cat's job to clean all the household shoes. He would line them up each morning and go down the line in order of size and then send us off to practice the complex business of tying our laces.
As we grew older it became my job and then my brother's job to clean the shoes. All our "school" shoes were heavy "lace up" or "Oxford" type shoes. They were called "Pathfinder" and made by Clarks. My sisters and I had brown. My brother had black. We all wanted the sort of shoes that had t-bars and that you only needed to buckle up but my mother did not like those. I never found out why. The only "proper" shoes we had were those heavy lace up shoes. My sisters and I  envied the other girls who had black patent leather shoes (with a single strap) to wear on Sundays and white sandals to wear out of school.
We also had what would now be called "sneakers" for around home in the summer. We called them "sand shoes". Mine were passed on by a mother whose daughter was "delicate" and who never moved far. Those sand shoes were barely worn by her. I put holes in the toes very rapidly. Because of my propensity to kick the toes out of all footwear I don't think I had a new pair of sand shoes until I reached the second year of the secondary school. Those sand shoes were cleaned with a sort of white, chalky liquid. Cleaning them was a waste of time but of course our parents didn't think  like that. 
Over the years, as a little more money came into the house, we eventually had "school shoes" and "best shoes" and "sand shoes". My siblings had "thongs" (flip-flops) too. They were cheap and lasted an entire summer.
Shoe fashions changed and there was "light tan" and "dark tan" as well as "black" polish in the cupboard.  I can remember we eventually had a tin of "navy" in the cupboard. Oh, we had to  buy a new brush for that tin! The odd thing is that I cannot remember who had navy shoes. It must have been my mother but I cannot remember her shoes at all. I know exactly what my father wore. I know exactly what my siblings and I wore.
Yes, there was a limited range of shoes available - far more so than now. And yes, we were short of money - although not quite as short as my mother made us believe. She simply didn't see the need for us to wear anything else.
Yesterday I went to a "boot maker". He has a tiny little shop in a side street between two halves of a local shopping centre. I needed shoe polish,  blue shoe polish. I was told he had some. Yes, he did. He had  pale blue, mid blue, dark blue, navy, dark red, bright red, tartan green, khaki green, grey and more. He had the sort you brush on and the sort you sponge on. He had other cleaning materials too. I looked. I picked up the right sort of blue. He approved. I paid for it.
The polish was, as such things go, expensive. But these are my summer shoes. They are not brown. They are not lace up. They are blue. They are t-bar in design. But, they don't have a buckle - they have velcro fastenings. Hmmm....that may be even better.
I doubt my mother would approve but I like them.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

I am all for more women in parliament

indeed I would say we desperately need more women in parliament. It would be a very good thing indeed.
But...they have to be the right women. There have been some women elected to parliament who have not been right for the job. You need to be tough in politics. Some of the women have not been tough enough. 

I know two former female Senators very well. Both are former Ministers - on opposite sides of the political fence. I know my local and federal MPs -  both women. I have worked with other female MPs as well as male MPs. 
Women bring something different to the job. I went to law school with one of the Senators.  I don't think anyone will forget the occasion on which the lecturer was discussing a case and saying "The Minister made the decision on..." He went on to try and explain the law behind the decision. 
I was sitting next to the Minister. She grew restive and finally said,
    "The Minister is present and the Minister made the decision on her experience as a wife and a mother. The law just happened to fit the decision."
Perhaps it wasn't quite as simple as she made it sound but she left politics with a reputation for being caring and compassionate as well as practical. Would that have been possible if she had not had the experience of bringing up a family? She wasn't trying to undermine the lecturer, be funny or smart.  She simply wanted people to know that there was much more to the decision than simply following the law of the day.
Yes, you also need to bring maturity to politics. While it might seem good to have young, new blood come in there needs to be an understanding of what can be done. I often wonder how many people have entered politics with genuine good intentions - only to discover that you can't do what you have said you will do. All sorts of things get in the way. The law may not allow something. The money won't be there. A committee blocks it. The party you are with decides to change the policy or drop the idea.  The public servants subtly refuse to cooperate so no progress is made. The legislation proposed gets knocked down.
You need experience to handle all of that - experience many people simply don't have. It doesn't need to be in politics itself but it does need to be in areas where policy or the law or both is being made if you want to reach the top. You also need time...and time is also in short supply in parliament so it is best to arm yourself with experience first.
I am aware of moves to give young people of sixteen the right to vote. I am opposed to that. Too many don't have the experience or maturity necessary even if they seem to be well informed. I think eighteen is too young to be compelled to attend the ballot box.  It also means we could potentially end up with someone not much older than that in parliament. I think they would struggle - and that we would struggle with them. 
Being in parliament is also a full-time job. It isn't a 9-5 job or even a 9-5 job plus some night work. It can, if done properly, be twelve hour days and 70 hour weeks.  It's stressful. It doesn't leave much time for the proper parenting of small children. Perhaps that is why some of the more successful female politicians have been older women?
Perhaps it is older women we need in parliament, women with experience and maturity. It really would be good to find some. Parliament might be a very different place.