Tuesday, 14 August 2018

An Obituary for "the death

of Common Sense" is once again being passed around.
It did not, as many people believe, first appear in "The Times" but in an American newspaper, "The Indianapolis Star". There are various versions doing the rounds. 
The one I received is still worth reading

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- And maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
- Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

I mourn his loss but that is not the reason for repeating it here. There was an "accident" yesterday. A car went into a much larger stationary vehicle legally parked in a rest bay on the side of one of the major highways going north. 
The police spent all day at the scene. They will no doubt be back there today. The marks will be there for some time to come. Two families will be mourning the loss of the two men travelling in the car. The owner of the other vehicle will be facing a loss of income and one of his employees will be wondering whether he has a job.
There will be many other people involved. They will all be involved in cleaning up the mess, not just at the scene but in other people's lives.  It will  be a long, slow, complex process. It may be years before it is all sorted out and there are people who will never fully recover from the loss of a child, husband, father, brother, cousin and so on. 
The rest of us look on this from afar. We behave as if it doesn't have anything to do with us - although we should be far more aware of the cost to the taxpayer. (The cost will run to several million dollars.)
When I read that "obituary" again I thought about it and realised there is "stepbrother" missing. His name is, "It's Not My Responsibility".
Worth thinking about? 

Monday, 13 August 2018

There is no doctor

available in more and more rural communities in Downunder.
I saw a letter written by a young girl yesterday. I even did something unusual for me. I posted it on social media and asked,
"Anyone want an adventure?"
Actually it would be a very stressful adventure. Being a doctor is stressful enough. Being a lone doctor in a rural area is extremely stressful.
There are complaints in this morning's paper that those doctors who are there are reluctant to treat mental health patients too. I can understand that.
Before anyone condemns them for not wanting to do that I'd ask you to consider the stress these doctors are under.
When I was a kitten and we lived in a remote community there was no doctor. The nearest doctor was almost an hour away on an unsealed road. We were considered fortunate because there were people who were much further away than that.
The doctor lived in a small "town" - a village by Upover standards. He was the only doctor and his practice spread over hundreds of square miles. He was in charge of not just his practice but the "hospital" - a few beds in a house that had finally been built for the purpose. He was expected to be able to perform emergency surgery.  He had to do all the paper work with a limited amount of assistance from a part-time nurse/receptionist. 
My mother had to have a medical examination to return to teaching full time so we met the doctor. When we met him he was performing outside surgery on the plumbing - so he could wash his  hands and go on being a doctor.
The local community considered him slightly "barmy" and willing to try anything to save a life. He once did a major medical procedure on the roadside at night under the light of car headlights and lanterns. The man he performed this cardiac surgery on lived to tell the tale.
But it all took a toll on the doctor. He died relatively young. 
Nowadays doctors and their "union" are more aware of the likely problems and doctors often last only a couple of years in rural areas. They simply cannot cope with needing to be available 24/7,  often without a nurse/receptionist to back them up. The paper work has increased, internet connections are poor or even non-existent. There are no back up facilities within a reasonable distance. They are no longer permitted to do some of the things that the doctor we knew performed as a matter of course.  That means making decisions about the urgency of a matter and considering the logistics of getting a patient to where they can be treated - which might mean travelling hundreds of kilometres. Patients in rural areas often don't have any private health insurance and doctors are sometimes not getting paid anything for seeing patients with mental health issues - and waiting months for what the government gives them for seeing other patients. If they suspect a patient is suicidal they can do nothing more than get a relative to take them to a hospital in the nearest community with a mental health facility - and those facilities are few and far between.
There is also something else that they have to cope with and that is the internet. Almost all schools have some sort of internet connection - even if it is not particularly good. Communities now use the school libraries as community libraries, including computers. People can and do "research" their illness on line. They have their own ideas about how they should be treated. It puts doctors under even more pressure. There is an increased fear of litigation.
The Senior Cat remembers another young doctor in another isolated community. He misdiagnosed a patient. While he was away another doctor saw the patient and changed the diagnosis. With new treatment the patient began to improve. It wasn't fatal but the young doctor was devastated. He thought it would be all over the community. (It was - but the community was surprisingly sympathetic with comments like, "You can't be right all the time".) Despite that it nearly broke him because, left untreated, it could have been fatal. 
I have immense sympathy and concern for young, inexperienced doctors who are expected to work alone. They have to make so many serious decisions every day. There is no let up. They can't discuss their patients with their colleagues the way city doctors do. They don't have the resources city doctors have. They don't have the same support services.
And on top of all that they know we need a healthy rural community because it is the rural community which feeds the rest of us.
Rural doctors need support just as much as the farmers they are supporting. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

I am preparing to teach a class

at a summer school. (It is in Downunder so the class is in January.) As usual I have my concerns about being well prepared, very well prepared. Recently I was reminded - yet again - that teaching adults is quite different from teaching children.
Yes, there may be the occasional child who will say, "You're wrong". That child may go on to show they have done the research and can tell you from reliable sources that  they are indeed right and you are wrong.
With adults it is a different story. They will look something up. Some of them will look at the source of information and judge whether it is reliable or not - others won't. They will simply say, "You're wrong. I read this on the internet. It has to be right." (Yes, I know it used to be "I read it in a book.")
In beginning to prepare for the class I went back to my original sources.  These are books, leaflets, patterns, old duplicated sheets and a few letters from people  who were - and sometimes still are - working in the field. There is no reason to suppose that they always had everything right when they committed words to paper. What I am relying on of course is that the information they have given me individually is information they would generally agree on with each other. 

I have looked up the same sources on the internet if they have a presence there. Are they still saying the same thing? Who else is saying this now?
I have emailed some contacts in the area. What's their view on a certain issue? They'll get my class notes later and, where appropriate, a mention in the class of a name to look for in the area. 
Yesterday a visitor looked at the beginnings of my preparation and asked me, "Why are you bothering with all that? Why don't you just show them how to do it and let them get on with it?"
She went on to tell me "it isn't worth it" and "they won't be interested in  all that history and stuff".
I disagree. Of course I could simply show them something but that isn't the same at all. If people understand what they are doing then they will be able to repeat it later when I am not there. I might also have been able to teach them something they can use again or which will help them understand something else. 
It isn't just because people will be paying to do a class. They won't be the only people paying to do a class at the same event. It is because people will have signed up to do a class because they do want to learn something. 
Almost two years ago I taught another class at a similar event run by the same group. There was a very elderly woman in the class. She struggled and I wasn't sure I had actually managed to teach her much at all. I told her that she could have some extra help if she needed it. Her daughter promised to make arrangements if it was necessary.
Not so long ago I saw them both. No, she hadn't finished the project but she was still working on it and was, she thought, about two-thirds done.
     "I went home dear and when it was all quiet and I could think again I realised I had managed to learn such a lot."
She was relying  heavily on the notes I had prepared. 
     "I couldn't have done it without those. I'm so glad I did do the class."
That's why I'll do the same sort of preparation again. That's why it is worth trying to do the best I can.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

"Did you make it?"

"How can you tell?"
"It has side seams."
The Senior Cat looks at me in an even more puzzled way. He has just removed a pullover I have told him is something he most definitely cannot wear "out". It is a "house" one.
"But it is nice and warm."
"Yes, I know. You have others which are just as warm. That's a "h.o.u.s.e" one...and I know I didn't make it because it has side seams and I only knit things like that in the round. It is also the wrong colour to go with your trousers and it has a glue stain there at the bottom."
He sighs. I hand over his  heavy blue cardigan. It is much easier to put on (and off) and it is probably warmer. (It has a zip up the front which means it does not have that "wind gap" feature of so many cardigans.)
The Senior Cat has a number of hand knitted pullovers. Most of them were made by my mother. They were mostly made out of "left overs" and their "house" purpose is obvious. They are striped and the stripes don't match. They are every colour imaginable - one of them even has a pink stripe in it. They are not pretty garments, simply warm garments - or they were. They are getting thin. I have mended them more than once. One of them is on the third set of cuffs. 
And then there is the "vile green" one and the "sort of beige" one.
My mother bought the wool for those from a yarn shop going out of business. It was cheap. She didn't like the colours but she thought they would "do". I remember her knitting the green one because she attempted to put a cable pattern into it - which merely added to the awfulness of it. I had to undo it a number of times and correct the cable before she could go on knitting it. This is why the cable only appears on the front of the garment. Yes, my mother could knit but she did not care for it as a craft. She was impatient and wanted it out of the way. This may be why both garments are in heavy wool.
The "sort of beige" garment has an odd neckline. She ran out of wool and insisted we fudge the result, "Because if it is all one colour he can wear it for best." 
And therein likes the problem. The Senior Cat was told it was "for best". His father may have been  a tailor but the Senior Cat has very little idea about clothes. A pullover "for best" means that it is always "for best" even when you have much better pullovers or cardigans. 
I am going to tie multiple pieces of yarn into the back of the neck and remind him they mean "house". 
And if I needed reminding that he doesn't really notice clothes as I was about to leave the room he said to me,
     "I like the one you have on. Is it new?"
     "No. I made it - about thirty years ago."
We make things that last in this house. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

Our neighbours

are back.
They have spent the past seven weeks in Europe, in the country in which S.... was born. It is one of those former Communist countries and from what S.... has to say it is still suffering the consequences of having been one.
I wonder how many generations it is going to take to move away from some of the excesses of Communism? According to S.... officials still need to be bribed. Older people have expectations of the state - expectations of both good and bad with which they grew up.
They didn't bother to send the boys to school there. Although it might have improved their second language skills the time was too short. According to S.... there would have been other issues too. Education there is run along quite different lines.
I know when I see S.... she will tell me that she is glad to be back here even while she misses her family there.
Each time she has done this it has made me wonder about the way people migrate. I have an Italian friend who came here when she was twelve. She is now seventy-six and she has never been back to Italy. Would she like to go? I think she would but she won't. It isn't a journey she could physically make now.
I have English friends who have been backwards and forwards many times but don't want to live there any more. I have Vietnamese friends who went once about eight years ago - and came back "home" early even though they talked of going "home". Vietnam was not  home any more. They didn't like it there. 
My BIL's family migrated from Cyprus. Yes, he and his siblings were born here but they are the first generation to have been born here. 
I have other friends from other places and they all have their own views about where "home" is. 
We say things like, "I'm going home" and "I'm leaving home". We mean the place where we will sleep that night or where we will no longer sleep in the future. But is that all "home" is. It seems to me that "home" is more than that.
For other reasons I was reminded of Chapter 5 in Wind in the Willows - "Dulce Domum". Somehow Kenneth Grahame has managed to portray the essence of the word "home" in that chapter. I went and reread it again - and it made me feel "homesick" again. It is not a comfortable feeling. My second cousin's wife once described it as "the worst feeling in the world". It is. It is also one of the feelings which make us human. 
I think "home" is memories.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

So Boris is in trouble again?

I am not sure what to make of Boris Johnson's latest comments on the clothing of some Muslim women. It is even more confusing for me now because two of my female Muslim friends agree with him. They may not have put it in quite the same way but they tell me they have "had enough" of the dress codes that they are expected to abide by at home.
They are students here and they revel in the freedom to wear what they want to wear. 
    "I don't want to stand out," one of them told me yesterday. 
I know the feeling. 
    "And our clothes there are so stuffy Cat! You have no idea. My father insists on at least the abaya because his father tells him we must."
When M.... arrived here she was wearing a long dress with long sleeves and her hijab. I remember seeing her like this the day after she arrived. Eighteen months later she is wearing jeans, a fleece top and a scarf that only partially covers her hair.  It isn't my influence but the influence of her housemates.  
They dress "properly" only to go to the mosque. The rest of the time I suppose they endeavour to blend in. It reminds me of the time when women used to go to church on Sunday wearing a hat and gloves. I suppose there are women who still do that but even our friend P..., a nun, doesn't do it any more. She might even be wearing trousers "because there's no heating".  She doesn't own a traditional habit any more.
I have been asked my view about the various Muslim dress codes more than once. My feeling is that nobody - male as well as female - should deliberately dress provocatively. I don't think it is appropriate to wear your bathers but nothing else on the train even if you are going to the beach or - worse - coming home and they are still damp. At the same time I don't think burqas are healthy or necessary. They certainly aren't required by the Koran.
Those things are extremes. 
The Senior Cat and I once knew someone, now deceased, who made his living by repairing rental properties.  He would doors, windows, locks and other "small" jobs. On one occasion he had to go to a property to repair a window. The woman who answered the door was wearing a burqa...because she had answered the door to a man she did not know.
There was one problem with this. R....was getting very deaf by then. He relied heavily on being able to see what people were saying to him. He explained this to the woman.
Later he told us,
     "She stood there and just stared at me. I was about to tell her I would come back when her husband was home when she invited me in with a gesture."
He went to do the job he had been asked to do. When he had finished and was about to leave he went to find her. He found her waiting for him. She had made him tea and offered him home made biscuits.
And she had taken her burqa off. She was wearing the hijab but otherwise was dressed in a way he considered normal. She apparently offered her apologies to him in her limited English.
I often wonder what she did later, whether she told her husband, whether she continued to answer the door wearing her burqa and so on. 
And it made me think. A dress code shouldn't cut you off from other people. 


Wednesday, 8 August 2018

You know those DNA tests

the sort you can take that will tell you a bit about your family and your ancestors?
Somebody I know just posted her results up - and she's happy with them. That's good.
Not so long ago I was talking to someone who was shocked by hers. 
Earlier than that a relative by marriage told me about her mother taking - and discovering that the man she thought of as her father not being her father at all.  That had been a shock too. Her mother's parents died some time ago so  she can't talk to them about it.
But things were even worse for this woman. She discovered that neither of the people she viewed as parents were related to her. Then her two brothers took tests as well. No, they were not blood related either - to their parents, each other or her. All three of them had been adopted and never told about it. Not only that but the information about their adoption had been successfully kept from their extended family because they were living in another part of the country when the adoptions took place. 
      "It's not so much the adoptions," this woman told me, "We can live with that. We were given everything we needed. My birth mother died long ago and I certainly don't want anything to do with her family. They are not nice people. It's the same for B...and R... We have families, just not the families we thought they were. It's the same for our children and will be for their children.  What bothers us is that our mother went on and on about how hard it was to conceive us and how difficult each pregnancy was - and she still keeps saying it. She keeps telling me that the tests are wrong." 
Yes, they had the tests done again at even greater expense. The results did not change. 
This woman wonders what her adopted father thought of all this. He died some years ago.
How their parents kept three adoptions secret is a mystery. Her mother won't admit to anything - even when faced with the paperwork. 
When I was told all of this and asked to write something on my blog I said, "Are you sure you want me to do this?"
The answer was, "Yes, just tell people to be prepared to be told something they would rather not know if they take the test."
That's not bad advice.