Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Jehovah's Witnesses turned up

yesterday. Those of you who know me at all will know that these people and their proselytising make me see red. I have no time for them.
I have no time for them because, when my parents first moved to this house, the elderly couple next door had a daughter who had converted to the cult. She refused to let her son have a life-saving blood transfusion and he died. Her husband had earlier needed another life-saving blood transfusion. He also refused to have it and died.
The husband was an adult and, while I think his decision was mistaken, he could be said to have the right to make it. The child was given no such right. The law has changed since then and the mother's wishes would almost certainly be ignored in favour of saving the life of the child.
What I do know though is that the grandparents were deeply distressed by what happened. It contributed to the further mental decline of the wife - and that added further stress. As neighbours my parents did what they could to support the old couple but it should not have been necessary.
The daughter actually tried to convert my parents - and then me.
Then, when my mother died, the Jehovah's Witnesses called. I don't know what they do in other parts of the world but here they read the death column in the state newspaper and call on at least some of the grieving families. The daughter of our neighbours admitted as much.
What is more they tried more than once. I wrote a letter. They phoned. I wrote another letter and asked them, firmly but politely, not to bother us.
Last year they called again and I sent yet another letter asking for no contact at all. They were not, I told them, to enter the premises, phone or leave any material for us.
I saw them out and about this morning and, on looking out our window to see if the car which had arrived was someone we were expecting, I saw them grouped at our gate. One of them was consulting a folder. Oh yes, they know our property is private. To enter it is trespass.
They saw me watching - and left hastily.
I went out a little later to greet our visitor and pick up the mail.
In the letter box there was a flier from the Jehovah's Witnesses.
This afternoon I put it in an envelope along with a letter and sent it back to them. No contact means no contact. It does not mean trying to come through the letter box.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Community nurse came to see

the Senior Cat yesterday. No, there was nothing wrong. This is part of a project designed to save money by keeping older people safer in their own homes.
It has been going for some years now and this is the second time the Senior Cat has been visited. The last time was, from memory, about five years ago.
A lot can happen in five years. A lot can happen to anyone, but particularly if you are very old - or very young.
I was out when the nurse was supposed to arrive. She, like many others before her, got lost trying to find our small street. She phoned the Senior Cat and said she would be late because she was lost. Could he give her directions?
He asked her where she was and said, "It would be easier if I came and showed you." He then dashed off in his gopher and led her through the streets!
I heard about this when I arrived home. The two of them were sitting at the dining room table in fits of laughter. The table was littered with books ("which might be useful") and a conjuring trick.
I looked sternly at the two of them and asked if they had actually done anything? Er, no. She had only been there almost an hour.
Right. I put the kettle on because the Senior Cat needed a cup of tea.
I made tea and kept an ear on the conversation. The Senior Cat is still mentally agile and, if slower and more unsteady on his feet, physically able despite using a walker/wheeler.
I think the nurse was surprised to find a senior who still eats three proper meals a day. I see to that. He also eats well. I also see to that. We both know it is good for both of us to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit and, at least in the way I shop and prepare food, it is cheaper.
I think she was also surprised when I said, "He gets up every morning with a list of things he wants to do that day."
The Senior Cat reeled off a list of things he still has to do for other people.
He knows he is lucky he can still do things. If it worries me sometimes that he has taken on too much I remind myself that, like his father before him, he does not believe in "retirement". Even if the weather keeps him indoors he is planning and doing. I would worry far more if he sat there and did nothing - or watched television.
The nurse eventually left and, as she went, whispered to me, "Isn't he marvellous?"
Yes he is - and I know it. I also know I am fortunate. I know so many older people who would be much harder to care for.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

There was a letter for my brother

yesterday. Yes I do mean for my brother and not from him. My brother lives in another state. He has done for about twenty-five years. He has never lived at this address.
His complete name (he has three given names) was on the envelope and the letter was official. It was from the Public Trustee.
I sent him an e-mail at work and told him I had forwarded it to him at home. He sent a message which said, "Thanks but !!!???".
I think he almost wished I had opened it and let him know what was inside. He will have to contain his patience but I sent him a likely explanation.
He married here in this state. His wife at the time has long since died but I suspect they had made out wills in favour of each other and deposited them with the Public Trustee. They moved on to another state. They had two children. They made new wills accommodating those children...and so it went on. They failed to inform the Public Trustee here of those facts.
Somewhere along the line the Public Trustee's office has caught up with his wife's death (after years) and they are wondering why the will has not been activated. In their usual style they would not have thought to look up the registry in other states to see whether another will has been lodged. Yes, you could say they are being careful - as perhaps they should be - but after all this time?
So, I have told my brother what the likely scenario is and said, "Sorry, I don't think anyone is leaving you a fortune."
I made a very simple will and left it with the Public Trustee when I first went away to university in London. It was not a pleasant experience but I had no time to do more. The young man who made it refused to do as I requested and told me, "Just write a letter telling your parents what you want done."  That is a fairly typical attitude of the Public Trustee's office. They dislike anything except the sort of will which says, "I leave everything to X". Even then, as the letter will undoubtedly show, it can take them years to get things done. (And yes, they do charge for the service. It is not cheap. A solicitor can, in the end, be cheaper and faster.)
But, although I think I am correct about the content of the letter, the Senior Cat was still puzzled as to why the letter should come here. I think I have an answer to that too. My father would have been named as a beneficiary in the event of my brother's death after that of his late wife. Someone has done a search of the electoral roll.
It is probably all, if you think about it, very ordinary detective work.
What puzzles me however is that this is the long way of going about it all. A phone call could have saved a lot of time and work.
Oh well, I suppose it is what they public servants to do.

Monday, 25 August 2014

He is a very old man now

- or it seems that way. Actually he is only 80 but he seems older than the Senior Cat who has more than another ten years on this man.
This man is my sister's father-in-law. There was a party to celebrate his 80th birthday yesterday. We were invited to the inevitable barbecue and, as always, far too much other food. (Yes, I confess I contributed to that excess but one cannot go to such a party empty handed.) It always amazes me how much food disappears at such an event. The Greek-Cypriot community knows how to celebrate in style. The men cook the barbecue and, in this case, they do it very well indeed. After all they have had a lot of experience.
Yiannis is a widower now. His wife died just before Christmas last year. His children are constantly in and out. One does his washing, another cleans the house. My sister's husband does all the paperwork and any maintenance. My sister is usually the one who takes him to medical appointments - and there are a good many of those. There is one more sibling who will help if asked. He is perhaps the only one who is not fully involved on an almost daily basis.
It hasn't stopped the depression Yiannis has felt but perhaps it has kept it somewhat under control. Yesterday was obviously difficult for him. Physically he is a mess. He has not, like many men of his background and generation, taken care of his health. He is overweight. He needs heart surgery. He walks very slowly with the aid of a stick. His English is still good but the occasional Greek word will be slipped in. He will often speak Greek to his children - and sometimes to my sister or even to me. In context we usually guess what he means - and answer him in English. I always greet him in Greek. The Senior Cat speaks no Greek. Yiannis does not expect that of him. He does expect it of me. I am, he tells me, another child of his - just by virtue of being the sister of his daughter-in-law. Even my brother - who lives in another state and barely knows him - is considered another son.
It is a different concept of "family" - one my family understands in the sense of "clan".
I have tried explaining this to other people but they cannot comprehend it. For them it appears there is "family" and "other relatives" and then "other people".
But yesterday, after we had sung "Happy Birthday" and he had managed to say a single sentence before being overcome, his eldest granddaughter hugged him and he reached out for my hand and held it tight as well. He wanted us close.
        "Family," he told us in Greek, "Family is everything."


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Yesterday there was the small matter of

buttons. Yes, buttons. You know what I mean don't you? They are used to hold things together.
The Senior Cat has been known to sew on a button- he is, after all, the son of a tailor. (I won't say his efforts were wonderful but the button stayed on.)
I keep a box of "might be useful" buttons - most of them are old shirt buttons. I also have a lovely, carefully and lovingly crafted timber box made by the Senior Cat. It has my "good" buttons in it - the buttons that I have collected or been given and that I use from time to time on something I have knitted. Like any craft addicted individual I know there will always be the need for buttons which match the project. That's all right. I can always look for more.
But then there are other people who are not craft addicted and thus lack such supplies.
One of these people lives around a couple of corners from me. We know one another because of his dog. The dog is an elderly cocker spaniel which walks at a leisurely pace. That suits his younger but still retired human. They live alone.
I came across them yesterday as I was pedalling home from the library. The human was urging the dog to go a little faster than usual and he was clutching at his waist.
They stopped on seeing me,
"Cat you don't happen to have a button do you? I've gone and lost the b....button off my trousers and it rolled off and I can't find it and the b....trousers keep falling down."
I couldn't help it. I laughed. Fortunately the human in question has a sense of humour. He laughed too.
"I'll bring one back for you in a moment," I told him.
I came home, found a button of the right sort - the same as the buttons on the Senior Cat's work trousers - and then hesitated. Mmm...I looked in the box with the cotton and found some thread. I added a needle. I returned.
I handed them all over. He thanked me. He looked at them as if they were foreign objects but I said,
"I am sure you will manage."
I am wondering how long it took him to sew the button on.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Nicola Morgan has an excellent post on

An Awfully Big Blog Adventure: Why I don't want to self-publish again: and there are some interesting responses in the comments as well. 
More than once I have been asked why, if I want something published, I won't do it myself.
"It's easy Cat!"
No it isn't. There is an enormous amount I do not know about the world of publishing. I wouldn't know where to start. 
"You could buy a package from one of those companies who do that sort of thing."
No I could not. I could not do it even if I could afford to do it - which I most definitely cannot. I wouldn't know what I was buying. I wouldn't know if it was good or bad or right or wrong for me. 
"And you could advertise yourself on your blog and Facebook and Twitter and all that sort of thing."
"NO!" For a start I get really irritated when other people advertise themselves that way. There is a difference between an author letting you know they have a book coming out and people flinging advertising at you. The former is fine, the latter makes me want to stop seeing their name. 
And those things apply to a Kindle version - or any form of e-book publishing as much as anything else.
But, for me, there is another problem too. My work would need editing. All writing needs editing. It needs the fresh eye of someone who is not emotionally involved. It needs someone else to pick up the split infinitives, verb-noun disagreements, other grammatical errors and the spelling errors. Oh yes, it happens. I cannot proof read my own work. 
Good editing costs money too - as it should. I would have no idea where to find a good editor and I suspect that cost is very high.
Our local indie does try to support self-published authors. They will help them with a book launch and stock a few copies on the shelves. It is very generous of them. One of the staff told me, "And most of them are pretty awful. At very least they need editing." Kindly, they have told me my writing is "much better than that" but, for me, that is not good enough. My writing has to be as good as I can make it. 
I could not advertise myself unless my work had the professional endorsement of a publisher - someone else who had said, "I think this is what I want to publish."
People look sadly at me and shake their heads and say, "But start out doing something yourself and they will find you and want you."
No they won't. They don't look. Even if they did they would think, "No, it wasn't good enough. If it had been we would have been interested."
I think I am being realistic . It is better not to be tempted.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Breaking the law

is, it seems, easy to do. Most of us break the law at some point. Some do it deliberately. Others do it without meaning to do it and without intending any harm to others.
Readers of my witterings who live in other places are probably completely unaware of a woman called Maggie Beer. She lives in the Barossa Valley and runs a food business which employs about one hundred people. She has a property where it is possible to eat and buy her products. She makes much of the fact that she lives in the Barossa and has appeared in a television series called "The Cook (herself) and the Chef (a rather interesting young man)."
She has recently been hauled over the coals by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission because four of her approximately two hundred products are not made in the Barossa but are made in (a) Victoria and (b) Queensland. No, they are not made overseas - merely in other states - but the ACCC did not like this because the labels suggested to them that the products were being made in the Barossa Valley. They prosecuted.
Yes, you may well ask what is going on. Just before I wrote this I also read a comment on that notorious Facebook site saying that the EU is intending to regulate the size of vacuum cleaner motors. Apparently they are too powerful. Something has to be done about that. I don't know whether there have been people killed using powerful vacuum cleaners in the correct manner. I doubt it. This is surely just regulation gone mad?
Add both those things to the increasingly crazy rules and regulations that govern our lives. I read labels when I go into the supermarket. "Made in Australia" does not mean that the ingredients or components are made here. They can be grown or manufactured overseas and then combined or assembled here. I would be much more interested if the ACCC turned its attention to some of those who mislabel their products in this way. They won't. The law will allow people to get away with saying "Made in Australia".
Is it time we started to ask why organisations like the ACCC and the EU regulators are so concerned with the minutiae of life. Is it because they believe that these things are the most important? Have they simply ceased trying to fix the major problems? Do they believe there are no answers to the long term issues or that they can only be dealt with by interfering with every other aspect of life?
It is all about how you read the label.

And, talking of reading "labels", it is worth noting that there is a big difference between "innocent until proven guilty", "no case to answer" and not proceeding with a case because it is "unlikely to lead to a conviction". The ACCC seems to have forgotten that - as have others.