Sunday, 25 August 2019

Someone has apparently written a book

about "milk bars" - and no, I do not mean an American sort of chocolate bar. I mean what we in this state would call a "corner" store  or "deli"  (short for delicatessan).
Not all of them were on corners of course but they were convenient sort of places that sold all sorts of useful things. I have known a few in my time.
There were two nearby when we first moved here. One was about 100 metres around the corner opposite a lone butcher. The butcher's shop has been demolished but the shop is now someone's home instead. I miss it. I used to take my nephews there if we were child minding and they could buy "orange juice ice-blocks" - which they loved. They don't make that sort of "ice-block" any more either. They still had a few mixed sweets on the counter - but not many. 
Long before that though there was "Short's" on the road that led to the beach at my paternal grandparents' place.  It was an enormous treat to visit that shop. It didn't happen very often but if we had been particularly good on a very hot day our grandfather would take me and my brother on a "Short walk" and all three of us would have a single scoop of vanilla ice cream (made by a company no longer in existence).  
The shop also sold milk (in pint bottles) and cream. The cream came from a churn. You had to provide your own container for the cream. If there was milk and cream left over the owner would make "milk ice blocks" for the local children - at a penny each. She would put them into little square wafer like cups. We thought they were very special too - perhaps because we almost never had money to spend. 
Along with that the shop sold things like newspapers, magazines, a few cards, bread, a few tinned goods  and other useful things. We children thought the mixed sweets behind the glass in the cabinet were useful but the adults never did. I remember those - and the difficult choice between the milk ice block and the small block of rock hard "lolly" that would last so long if we weren't caught  with it. Mum did not approve of those and would take them away from us. 
The shop is no longer there. It kept going until about 2001 and then "development" took place and the shop turned into something fancy that failed and then something that failed again. I think it is currently empty and that is sad.
There was the corner type shop in a street near my hall of residence in London. We students found that very useful when we ran out of biscuits for the endless tea breaks! 
And there was the corner shop I went to in Italy. I had a raging cold and I had spent a good five minutes working out how to ask for a box of tissues in Italian. I managed it and the elderly male behind the counter obviously thought I spoke more Italian than I did. He asked me where I had come from. I told him. He beamed. He had relatives there! 
In one of those strange little quirks of coincidence it turned out that the Senior Cat had taught his niece. He took me behind the counter out into the kitchen. I was fed soup and given something else for my raging cold.  Middle Cat went to visit the same couple several years later and, on that occasion, she and the friend she was travelling with slept on the floor in their sleeping bags.
Corner shops? Should we miss them? Of course we should. They are wonderful, magical places full of friendship. The supermarket can never compete!

Saturday, 24 August 2019

We have been burgled

This must have happened while I was out yesterday afternoon.  I was not expecting to go out and, although I thought I had locked the back door I must have left it shut but unlocked although I still feel I did lock it.
I thought it was a little strange that the back screen door was wide open this morning. The Senior Cat cannot pull the catch that holds the spring open any more - and I am too short to reach. 
When the Senior Cat surfaced a little while ago he told me that, when he went to bed last night, he noticed the drawers in his dressing table had been opened. He then found his good watch, the one our mother gave him on the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, had gone. The money from his wallet has gone as well - but the credit cards have been left.
We were burgled once before. I wrote about it at the time. My gut feeling is that it could be the same person. He would know he couldn't use the credit cards but he would try to fence the watch and would use the money. He was extremely resentful that I was "rude" to him at the time - I caught him on the premises.
The money, there was only a little, doesn't bother us particularly. The watch does. It is engraved on the back but that may not help. That someone could take it angers me greatly. It was not hugely expensive in itself but it has enormous sentimental value to the Senior Cat. He is upset, very upset - and that upsets me.

Friday, 23 August 2019

A lace parasol

is lying open on the trestle table. Next to it there is a single "hand"  holding a dainty little crochet bag and two jugs with beaded covers. Another beaded cover, complete with a tiny crochet "teapot" lies next to them.
These are some of the entries for the "Queen Victoria Challenge" in  the Handicrafts section of the state's Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society annual "Show".
We have been accepting the items people have entered for the last two and a half hours. It's been busy.  People have been moving backwards and forwards putting things in the right places on the trestle tables ready for judging.
One woman  has come in with five exquisite pieces of lace knitting. It's the first time she has entered anything, She hopes they are good enough for display. I tell her "yes". I don't tell her that something will win a prize, possibly more than one thing. What I do know is that the judge is going to be delighted with the standard. 
Someone else comes in without the paperwork. She didn't actually get any but she shows us the email receipt for the online entry and the Convenor organises paperwork and apologies. I take entries from familiar faces. One person who tried last year is trying again and has taken on board all the advice he was given. (Later he gets a Commended which will please him immensely. He knows he is still learning.) 
There is a lovely "squishy" soft toy that everyone wants to hug. (It wins a first.) 
   "What's that?" someone ask and we all look at something for the 100gms or less class in knitting.  It's a belt with a purse and a pocket - to use while walking the dog...and yes, it won a first being both imaginative and well constructed.
The judge arrives and we all head off for a quick mug of tea and the excellent home made cake or scones the Country Women's Association makes. The woman who comes up from the canteen knows me by now and says, "Cheese salad sandwich for lunch Cat?" I tell her "Yes please" because they have to be among the best cheese salad sandwiches in the state. Yes, they do feed  the workers!
And then the judging begins. I leave the judge alone with the other steward for the first class  because I have broken my own rule and put something in this year.  I don't look when I get back from "talking to A... about something" either. I doubt it has won any prizes. There were other reasons to put it in. We all go on. The judge grumbles cheerfully about how hard it is to choose between two items of what she feels are of equal value. 
    "What do you think?" she asks people and explains her thinking about each. That helps her decide and, decision made, she moves on to the next class.
By mid-afternoon we have finished and the judge leaves us to put things in cabinets.
     "Well done," someone tells me. I think they are referring to my own very small entry in the Queen Victoria section. The Challenge was my idea so I felt bound to put something in there. I didn't expect it to win a prize but it has a third. 
     "Yes, that - and your vest. You got a first for that," J.... tells me. I look at her in disbelief and she says, "Come and look."
G.... has already put it in one of the display cabinets. For some reason it doesn't look like my work. I go back to what I was doing. We look for misplaced cards - a mild panic until someone realises that two have been stapled together. 
Things get juggled into cabinets. There never seems to be enough room but, somehow, things do get displayed.
This morning a professional will come in and deal with the big central display cabinet. The parasol, which has won best in section, will no doubt be hung from the top of that. I am pleased as I know the person who made it. I know how much work went into that. 
A lot of work goes into everything. The people I work with keep asking me "How do you do that?" of pieces of knitting and crochet and I try to explain. If they can knit or crochet it is easier  but not all of them can. They embroider, spin, weave, make mosaics or turn timber.  
And all of these are good because people are making things with their hands. 

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Something for nothing?

There is a long tradition in a group I belong to - of expecting people to do something for nothing. I think that needs to change.
There may not be any monetary reward - after all we are supposed to help one another in the group. 
What I do think needs to change is the expectation that there is no need for recipients to put any effort in. 
I am shortly supposed to be teaching something. I agreed to do it and, if necessary, I will. I will do the rest of the preparation. It will involved some hours - probably close to twenty hours by the time I have knitted a graduated set of samples to show a process. 
But, at the moment, I don't feel inclined to do it. Despite claiming an interest earlier only three people had signed up for the class when I looked. (I am told there are now four.) Of those only one person has asked me about (and she has done) the necessary preparation. The other two are inclined to sign up for most things so this does not surprise me. I doubt they will do the preparation.
I thought it wise to speak to the person in charge of such things but she still thinks a workshop can be run.
There is still another meeting in between at which it can be mentioned but my feeling is that I should not be expected to teach less than five  people - and I should not be expected to teach people who cannot be bothered to make an effort. There are other people who feel the same way.
I am not sure what the answer is under the present circumstances. I know what I would like to do but doubt it will even get discussed, let alone implemented.
It is the old story though...if you get something for nothing then you are much less likely to appreciate it. 

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Someone has stolen

the computer which also acts as communication device for a thirteen year old girl.
Jessica has cerebral palsy. Her only means of communication, apart from "yes" (by looking up) and "no" (by looking down) is the special computer designed to allow her to "speak" in a manner similar to the late Stephen Hawking.
It was stolen from her mother's car on Monday.
No, I don't know Jessica but I do know a number of people like her. I have taught them. I know how immensely challenging it is to communicate in the way that Jessica does. I know how hard it is to learn to use such a device. I know how frustrating it is to communicate even with the help of one of those devices. It is very, very hard work. It isn't the free and easy means of communication that most of us enjoy. A communication barrier like that is a barrier to ALL social interaction with other people. When it comes to communicating with strangers the barrier can seem insurmountable. When eye-gaze is all you have your world is minuscule compared with that of those who can use their voice.
So, if by any faint chance, anyone happens to know anything about the rotten low-life who stole Jessica's computer then please do something now.  It's her world. Please!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Today will bring unexpected

things. I already know that. I also know that there will be some beautiful things.
Yes, I am off to be a steward in the Handicraft section of the state's annual show again. I'll be down at the showgrounds several times this week.
It's hard work but it is also interesting in a way I never expected. As I was making sure I had all I needed last night I was thinking about the first time I did this.
I had no idea what to expect. I felt as if I was an absolute nuisance. Everyone else was rushing around and seemed to know exactly what they were doing.
I gave a piteous miaou, "What do you want me to do?"
Someone took pity on me. I did what I was told to do it. It was simple. I watched. I found out what else needed to be done. We were actually ready when the judge arrived for the section I was working on. I knew her and that was fine too.
The thing that I still remember most though was how much I managed to learn from watching the judge. She homed in on the first class, picked an item up and - before she had even apparently looked at it - she had turned it inside out and run her fingers along the seams. Then she shook her head and put it to one side. The process was repeated. There were seven or eight garments there and she put them in two piles. Then she went back to one pile and laid them out, right side out. She looked closely at each one and said, "The stitches could be better picked up along the neckline or I'd give that a first. I like this one because...." 
And so it went on. Occasionally she would scribble a little note to the exhibitor on the back of the entry card. 
The other steward was writing the results on the sheets provided. I folded things neatly, ready for later when we would put things into cabinets. 
And all the while I was learning...I was learning to pay real attention to detail. 
This morning I will take some items I have already been given down to the showgrounds. They will be locked into a cabinet ready for  Thursday - the day the knitting and crochet get judged. I have not looked at them yet. That's not my job. I'll wait until the judge is doing her job - and then I will learn some more.
Has my own knitting improved as a result of doing this? Yes, definitely. I've been very fortunate to be given the chance.  

Monday, 19 August 2019

Shopping silently

or how to do a supermarket shop without speaking to anyone is the subject of a column in today's paper.  The writer, a now semi-retired columnist, described going into his local supermarket. He did his shopping, used the self-service checkout and spoke to nobody at all. I could do that too - if I bothered to learn how to use the self-service checkout. 
Our local library has self-service checkouts. It is possible to walk in there and speak to nobody.
I went into the "cheap" shop recently. It's a good place to buy things like glue and cheap wrapping paper. The person who served me in there told me she was in danger of losing her job because a "secret shopper" had reported her for not trying to push the stale chocolates on the counter.
I went to the local "untidy" shop - the one which sells everything from manchester to knitting needles and craft items. The woman who served me in there was clearly upset and close to tears. I asked, "Are you okay?"
No, she wasn't. Someone had been incredibly rude to her while she was serving him. He told her to "just shut  the f... up" because he was looking at his phone.  
I don't use the self-service checkouts in the supermarket. Instead I try to know the staff. I do know some of them. I call them by name. I occasionally help the university students who work there. The more permanent staff have told me about their children and grumbled (in a cheerful sort of way) about early starts.  When I am served by one person in particular she will ask, really wanting to know, "How's your dad?"
When I go into the local greengrocer I often get a hug from one of the women. The owner will tell me things like, "Don't bother with those yet Cat but try the...." 
The assistant reported by the "secret shopper" happens to be rather good at her job. A rough diamond? Yes - but she is kind and caring and good with the elderly (of whom there are many).
And when I went back to the  untidy shop the following day to get something for the Senior Cat the same assistant served me. She remembered me from the previous day.
I don't see shopping as a social occasion. I don't particularly like shopping - unless it is for books or yarn. Despite all that I think it is probably a pleasanter experience for me than it is for a lot of people. 
The fishmonger insists on me asking for the fish in Greek. It's a joke between us. I get teased by the boys in the butcher. The boys who work for the greengrocer will give me a wave when they are out and about in the van. The woman who works in one of the dress shops stopped me the other day and told me her mother was about to have an aged care assessment.
How does all this happen when other people can do their entire weekly shop without saying a word to anyone?  I am not particularly friendly or outgoing. I don't like being the centre of attention. I am always nervous about teaching - because I don't want to waste someone else's time. 
I could go on - and I know it might surprise some people who like to think I am a confident, outgoing sort of cat who is absolutely certain people like me. I am not certain about that at all and, in the last three years. my self-confidence has taken another battering that I am still trying to overcome.
But, I know people for one simple reason. I try to be polite. I say "hello" to the people who serve me in a shop. I ask them how they are feeling - and I listen to the answer.  It's not hard to do. It does take a bit of an effort at times but it is worth doing. I've had people about to close their till and go for a break. They have seen me coming and say, "Hello Cat, I'll put you through before I go."  I appreciate that more than I can say.
And at Christmas I'll make them biscuits - just because I want to say "Thank you." 
You have to pay for service with more than money.