Friday, 17 January 2020

Writing a knitting pattern

is not easy. It also takes time. I do not like doing it.
I have been writing one of late. It is for a simple "beanie" (woolly hat without a brim) with a pattern of koala bears around the edge. 
I had to knit  the hat of course. This is one of the things that makes writing a knitting pattern so time consuming.
Before that I needed to design the chart I used to knit the koalas. Now I know what a koala looks like don't I? It should be easy shouldn't it?
It wasn't of course. I had no idea where to start. I looked at photographs of koalas. Yes, I did know what a koala looked like. I thought about it as I shifted the hose, cooked meals, pedalled to the library and more. I charted one and knitted a sample. No, not right. Why? 
Koala paws are important. Paws with claws are what help koalas climb to the very top of their gum trees. The paws were not right. I tried again...and again. 
Eventually I managed something I thought would work. I did what I always do and reversed the image. If you do that it will often tell you if something is wrong. This time it told me something else. I needed the koalas to "look at one another". It doubled the size of the motif. Was it going to be too big?
I did the arithmetic. Knitting involves quite a lot of basic arithmetic. (I keep telling the Senior Cat this when he thinks I have done something clever. It isn't clever at all. It is a matter of doing the arithmetic.) I sent the chart off to my friend L.... in Scotland. She played with it and came up with another idea. I liked it but the chart was too wide for what I had planned. We agreed and she set to work to write a different pattern. (It's lovely because she added a kangaroo and a kookaburra - something you can do if the yarn is finer.)
I knitted the hat writing down what I did as I knitted it. I wrote it up. I emailed my good friend W... who knits a great many hats. I asked her, "Could you possibly look at this?"  W....did better than that. She knitted another one.  
I am off to see a friend this morning. She is good at photographing knitting. Hopefully we will have a picture of two hats. 
And we might need it because while I was briefly out yesterday P... left a message with the Senior Cat. I called her back and we discussed something unexpected. It involves using the hat pattern. I had better have it absolutely right.
I think I have said something clearly but it always amazes me how someone else can read it differently.
Pattern writing is not easy.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

"Cash out"

sounds so simple doesn't it?
With the closure of the last bank in our shopping centre we have been left with one "Automatic Teller Machine". The trouble is that there is nothing "automatic" about it. The machine has to be working.
The Senior Cat needed money yesterday. I needed money yesterday. 
Now I know I could pay for purchases at the supermarket, the greengrocer, and the butcher by card. I know that. I really do know that. But....I object. I object strongly. 
I object because it tells the bank precisely where I spend our money. I object because the supermarket would then keep a precise record of who I am and what I spend my money on.  (No, don't tell me it isn't linked - the manager admitted that they can do it.) 
I am also one of those people who automatically "unsubscribes" from mailing lists kept by stores. If I want to buy something then I will look them - or someone else - up again.
So, yesterday the Senior Cat and I needed some money. I went to the ATM. The ATM was not working. The Prosegur man  had just filled it with money but it was not working. He saw me trying to use it and told me,
    "I'll have another shot at it but I think you had better go to the Post Office." The Post Office is now supposed to be substituting for the bank. 
I went to the Post Office.
     "It's too early in the day Cat. We haven't got any cash."
The person ahead of me had just cleared them out of a thousand dollars. 
     "Try the supermarket. You don't need to buy anything."
No, I don't need to buy anything but they will charge me. Knowing what the Senior Cat needed the money for I knew I had to do it. There was no time to spend an hour pedalling to the bank and back.
I asked at the Information desk in the supermarket. 
Eventually the girl monitoring the self-serve check outs helped me work out how to do what needed to be done.
    "This keeps happening all the time," she told me, "We aren't the bank. Why don't you just use a card for the shopping at least?"
I know. I should. 
But it is because that is what is expected of me that I object. I really do object to people knowing what brand of toothpaste I buy. The supermarket has other means of knowing how much they need to stock. 
I went home feeling hot and cross. It is not a good feel for a cat. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

A young man has died

reportedly by his own hand after being vilified on line.
If the story is correct he went into a library where "drag queens" were storytelling to a group of preschool children. Along with a group of other he denounced the fact that the drag queens were doing this. It was videoed - and the video "went viral".
Now it can of course be said that
(1) he was a troubled young man and might have taken his own life anyway and
(2) that he had no right to go along to the library and do what he did.
And those things have been said.
But there is also another issue here isn't there? It is the behaviour of those who vilified him. 
It is easy to recognise this but also easy to dismiss it as "it's what you have to expect" and "if you are going to make comments then you have to take the reaction". 
All too often people who are responsible for monitoring the comments on some websites allow this sort of behaviour to continue. 
    "You see Cat we can't really stop it. They will just do it somewhere else so it is better to let them do it here where we can keep an eye on it and filter out the worst."
Really? It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that some of those comments suit your own agenda? Why are you filtering out comments critical of those who criticise?
My own personal view is that we don't need people in drag to read stories to young children. I see no point in it. The reading should be about the story, not the person who is reading it. Even if the author is reading it the story should be the primary focus. 
I was invited to say this on one website - and I did. It was a mistake. I was almost instantly criticised for saying anything at all. I pulled the comment. It wasn't because I didn't want people to know what I thought but because I didn't want to give others the chance to do more damage. 
Comments on social media, indeed in the media itself, can do immense harm. There was the well publicised case of a very attractive young girl who took her own life following comments on social media. When that happened I was told of another case which received no publicity at all but the same thing had happened. The family will never recover from the loss of a very bright and apparently very happy daughter. The media knew about that case but nothing was said. It shows they can keep quiet when they want to or need to do so.
Ms W does not have any personal social media accounts. She doesn't use Facebook or Snapchat or anything like that. Her father suggested she get her own email address and she simply informed him that she rarely sends an email and had "nothing to hide". I don't know how long that will go on. She gets upset when she does learn about "nasty things people say about their friends". I hope she goes on caring about such things. 
If more people did and stopped to think about the possible consequences of what they were saying then perhaps a prince would not feel he had to betray his country for his partner and more than one young person would still be alive. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Visiting the doctor

is not fun. I have to prowl off shortly to see our GP - hopefully it will be just a routine visit.
Middle Cat took the Senior Cat to see the same person yesterday. Getting the Senior Cat there is an effort these days - for him as well as Middle Cat.
    "I wonder if anyone does house visits these days?" Middle Cat said with a sigh. Nobody at the clinic we go to would even consider such a thing. They wouldn't consider it more than twenty years ago. I know. On one occasion I had to bundle both parents into a taxi because they were too ill to drive and really should not even have been out of the house.
There is an expectation that everyone has a car and can drive. It will take me at least twenty-five minutes to pedal to the clinic. Grrrr... and it will be getting warmer  by the time I leave to come home. 
But...at least we can get to the doctor. I pointed this out to the Senior Cat.
    "If you had just been burnt out and the clinic had been too..."   
He nodded and thought of a few more things, simple things.
    "I needed a pencil a moment ago. I just  took it from the desk and that reminds me..."
He handed over some new stationery we had bought recently. I can drop it off this morning along with the new coloured pencils I told someone I was buying for the children in the family she has been helping. 
After all, if  you are just six and eight you can't go back to school without coloured pencils can you? Such things might not seem essential to adults but, if I remember correctly, they are incredibly comforting if you are young.

Monday, 13 January 2020

The media must take more responsibility

for the way they behave.
Perhaps it is partly an "over the summer" thing here in Downunder but our media has been behaving badly lately. It might even be said that they have been behaving irresponsibly. 
Some of the "information" they have been disseminating is inaccurate. There is nothing surprising in that. It happens all the time. It isn't always easy to get the right information.
But there is a difference between that and deliberately misinforming people or manipulating something so that it tells a different story. Yes, many of you in Downunder (and elsewhere) will remember the "not my Prime Minister" clip - a clip which was deliberately shortened in order to put the Prime Minister in a bad light.  It was repeated thousands of times in  both social media and the mainstream. There are still many people out there who believe that the female firefighter who uttered the words was spurning the Prime Minister when all she was doing was pointing out that she was not a citizen of Downunder and her Prime Minister was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 
This sort of behaviour on the part of the media is dangerous. The mainstream media has a heavy responsibility to be fair and accurate and that responsibility only grows heavier as more and more people use social media as a source of "news". 
I had a comment "rejected" by a mainstream newspaper yesterday. I queried the rejection. The response was "it was critical of this paper".  Yes, it was - but I had put it very, very carefully and I later had an email saying, "Cat, we deserved it but we can't publish it."
It seems the media must not be questioned.
Is there bias out there? Yes, possibly there is. That is of concern but it is not surprising. What is of far more concern is the failure to tell people what is really going on and what the consequences of some actions will be.
There have been demands for a "Royal Commission" into the latest fires. There have been previous Royal Commissions. It is unlikely that another one will produce anything new that couldn't be discovered elsewhere in the reports which will be written. But it suits the opponents of the government to see one called. They have been demanding it but they will also condemn it as a waste of money and they will use it for their own political purposes.  It is all part of the political game.
The problem is that it isn't going to solve any problems. The people demanding "action on climate change" and saying "reduce emissions now" aren't really telling us how to take action or what the consequences will be. They are merely saying "renewable energy" over and over again. Renewable energy alone won't solve the problem - indeed it creates other problems. 
The media is not raising all the many and complex issues surrounding this and other problems - such as how the issue of the world's refugees might be handled. They are simply repeating the demands that "something be done".
The media needs to take more responsibility and work a lot harder to inform people.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Catholic Mass

is not something I often experience.
The last time I went it was for a funeral. The time before that was also a funeral.
Yesterday it was a celebration of a different sort. Our very good friend P... was celebrating her "diamond jubilee" as a nun.
I have known nuns for most of my life. It is not because I am a Catholic. I am not and never have been. 
My paternal family was Presbyterian. My maternal family Christian Scientist. We children were exposed to both. We enjoyed Sunday School at the former and loathed it at the latter.  
It was my paternal family, in particular my paternal grandfather who introduced us to the Catholics, nuns and orphanages. He was a remarkably tolerant man for someone born towards the end of the Victorian era. His mother, my great-grandmother, was perhaps even more remarkable but I never knew her. Grandpa was the one who knew the local priests and had rare contact with the nuns. 
As children we found the nuns alarming. They wore long black habits and wimples and always went out in twos. Even the Catholic children seemed wary of them and they certainly obeyed them.
Yesterday was different, so different. There wasn't a habit or wimple in sight. P... was wearing white trousers and a t-shirt with a pretty floral over-shirt. The over-shirt was a present from her house mate - for the occasion. Other nuns there were wearing trousers too. The only thing to set them apart were the small crosses pinned like brooches to their clothing.
And the Mass? Yes, there was some ritual but the nuns took an active part - something once unheard of. The priest's homily was fully focussed on the contribution of women to church and family life. At the end of it, in a completely relaxed manner, he called for a round of applause for P... and told the gathered congregation to adjourn for morning tea with the words, "Let's party."
I talked to him about the differences later. We agreed that the present situation is much to be preferred.
But perhaps the real indication of how much things had changed was something else. 
In order to get the Senior Cat there we had to get an "access cab", one which could take a wheelchair. Standing and walking the distances required would have been too far for him. Middle Cat of course knows two access cab drivers. One of them is Sikh and Middle Cat had asked him to help us yesterday. He didn't have any other jobs on during the morning and was arranging to pick us up again. Would it be all right to wait in the grounds if he was early?
One of the nuns overheard him and promptly said,
    "Of course - and if you are you would be very welcome to join with us."
He arrived just as we were leaving the morning tea area at the appointed time but he thanked them again and was told, "Next time."
The gap is narrowing - and so it should be.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Filling out forms

is an occupational hazard in my job. Nine out of ten times I can see no reason at all for me to fill out the form. I am not actually involved in whatever is going on. I am merely providing the means by which people can be involved. 
It is irritating and frustrating to waste time filling out forms. If I had a dollar for every time I have had to write my full name, my date of birth, my sex, my address and more I would be wealthy enough to retire to a centrally heated castle with a horde of servants - well not quite, but...
And now I find myself helping other people fill out forms. They know their full names, their date of birth, their sex ("although what that has to do with it I don't know") and then we get to the hard part. 
The address.
    "What do I put? The house isn't there any more."
His voice cracks. The tough looking farmer is close to tears. We sort this out slowly. The old address, the address where the family is staying until the end of the school holidays and the address they will (probably) be at when school starts again.
I wonder how his wife and "the kids" are coping with all this as well.
Insurance of contents. He has no idea. He needs to phone his wife. He pulls out a battered mobile phone. The battery is flat. Has he got the charger? No. That was on the kitchen table. 
I point to the "land line" and say, "Use that."
He can't remember the number.
     "I love her so damn much and I can't even remember the f..... number!"
He breaks down properly now, apologises. I don't say anything but I, cautiously, put my hand on his shoulder. 
He grabs it, not to push it away but to hold on to it so hard that it hurts.
Someone comes in to see how we are getting on. The sight of him in tears almost reduces her to tears as well.
    "A....'s phone number?" I ask, "He needs to talk to her about the contents insurance."
     "I've got it J....." she tells him, "And I think we have a charger which will fit your phone. Give it to me."
He passes it over. She disappears. Silence. She returns a few minutes later with the number and two mugs of builder's strength tea.
He makes the call, thankfully sounding calm enough. We go back to form filling.
I hate form filling.