Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Give some people the smallest amount of power

and some of them will abuse it.
I had to go to the Showground yesterday. It was the day we dismantle the display and hand back the exhibits to the competitors.
I had to be there before eight in the morning and I was. I was also wearing the compulsory yellow safety vest - something not necessary a couple of years ago but now "essential". I had my label. It was very obvious that I had come there to do a job. The official (not a member of the Showground staff but an OHS official) did not want to let me in.
And I most certainly was not allowed to ride my tricycle in although there was not a large vehicle in sight - the reason given for not allowing me in.
I explained politely that I had come in this way when we setting up prior to the Show.
"Not through my entrance," I was told. Notice that possessive "my"?
As I was expected to be available at a certain time I gave the OHS official a look and said,
"Thank you for your concern. I will find another entrance."
"You won't get in anywhere."
It was said gleefully.
I knew there would be at least four entrances open yesterday morning. I had just tried to use the one closest to the railway station - the obvious one.
I went on around to the next entrance. There was another OHS official there. He was chatting cheerfully to a couple of workers piling equipment into the back of a van.
He saw me and waved me through with the words, "Mind how you go."
The law does allow me to ride in and I could have argued with the first individual but it was not worth the confrontation. It would just make it difficult for everyone else who wanted to enter for the rest of the day. I recognise this sort of officialdom. They enjoy their power - and should never have been given it. 
I have to admit though - I was very tempted to ride out through that entrance when I left.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The small matter of sub-titles

came up in the Clan Cat house last night.
The Senior Cat watches very little television - even less than I do. I watch the first part (non-sport) of the international news service and that is about it. We both watch a small documentary programme when it is not supplanted by more sport. The Senior Cat refuses to watch the news anymore. I don't blame him. Most of it is miserable sort of stuff.
But there was a short science item that he happened to stop and watch on his way through the room. I had to turn the sound up and then, as usual, "interpret" what someone with poor speech had said. Yes, the person was mumbling.
The Senior Cat is rather deaf these days. He refuses to wear hearing aids. He can hear me. He can hear most individual people. He can manage in some group situations. He tried hearing aids and they irritated him more than they helped. I can understand that. I had children at school who would sometimes pull them out. They were not being naughty. They just wanted the relief of not wearing them for a bit.
I could have turned the sub-titling on but that irritates the Senior Cat too. He knows it can't be so but he wants the text in full. Sub-titles for that are not the same as the sub-titles when something is interpreted from another language but neither is "complete". Most people speak far more quickly than other people can type in text - or read it!
We get quite a few sub-titles on our Special Broadcasting Service. It is supposed to be our multi-cultural broadcaster. It actually runs programmes in dozens of different languages. They also use sub-titles for some news items - often when interviewing someone who is speaking another language. I imagine it is faster and easier than finding someone to speak a translation.
It doesn't bother me. I am often just listening and looking at some knitting. If I know the context I can often understand enough of a European language to make sense of the item. It is not that I have the ability to speak multiple languages. I don't. It is because English sounding words appear in almost everything. Listen carefully and you will hear them.
Reading the subtitles irritates me for another reason - the translation will often be inaccurate. Yes, it is intended to give the general meaning of what someone is saying but it will give the general story rather than the words. What the speaker is saying may have a different meaning altogether.
And all this makes me wonder, over and over again, about words and meanings and what we lose in translation - and how easily we misunderstand each other.

Monday, 15 September 2014

David Haines was

murdered. He was brutally murdered after being humiliated in the most public way possible - on the internet.
The internet has changed war. You can do immense harm from the safety of your laptop in an anonymous setting. You can send out the most vile, menacing and outrageous messages to the world without moving from your chair. You can "encourage" young men - and even young women - to believe in martyrdom through violent murder-suicide with a reward of virgins in heaven. Of course you won't send your own children to do these despicable acts. They will be somebody else's children.
Well, David Haines was somebody else's child too. Unlike those being encouraged to indulge in the ultimately selfish act of murder-suicide or the games of murder of innocent children who happen to believe something different, David Haines was genuinely trying to help other people.
David Haines, like many aid workers I know and admire was taking risks to help others. He was not out there for the fun of it. Oh yes, there might be the occasional adrenalin rush - of relief -  but it was not something he looked for. Aid workers like David Haines go in with a purpose and that purpose is to help, genuinely help.
I don't know precisely what David Haines did. I never had any contact with him but I know what people like him do. Too many of them have to put their lives on the line everyday. They have to take risks to make sure that the limited food and shelter and even more limited medical supplies actually get in there and get distributed. More often than not it is chaos and they have to do their best to handle that chaos. All too often it is violent and they have to handle that as well.
The men - and they are mostly men - with guns don't care. The man who so brutally and violently murdered David Haines was almost certainly one of his fellow countrymen. He undoubtedly enjoys being violent. Murder almost certainly comes easily to him.
But, he hides behind a balaclava just as those who send out the other vile material hide behind their laptops and the internet. David Haines and his fellow aid workers, the ones I know and trust and admire, are brave people. Their killers are cowards.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

There were three children

here yesterday afternoon. The eldest is the one learning conjuring tricks from the Senior Cat. The younger two, twins, do some old-fashioned craft project.
The twins are a boy and a girl. The boy is like a jack-in-the-box. He springs out of his chair. He is constantly on the move. He talks - a lot. His sister is much quieter. Give her something to do and she sets about it quietly and methodically.
I get out of the house while they are here. It is not because I dislike them - I do like them - but because they have come to see the Senior Cat. They don't want me in the way. They never want to leave and the question at the end of every time they are here is, "When's next time?"
Their mother says they look on the Senior Cat as their grandfather - and yes, he spoils them the way a grandparent would. They get biscuits and cordial for afternoon tea instead of the usual piece of fruit. There is always something to take home = something they have made themselves. They are not aware of it but they have managed to learn a new skill.
"You're not really old are you? I don't want you to be old," the boy twin told the Senior Cat.
Most grandparents of children that age are much younger than the Senior Cat. Many of them are more like parents. They are taking on the responsibilities of parents. They sometimes see children to school. They often pick them up in the afternoons and ferry them to after school activities, supervise homework, provide the after-school snack and even the evening meal. They will baby-sit and childmind so that the parents can go out - and not always because they want to do it but because there is an element of emotional blackmail there, "If you really loved me then you would look after the children."
That's bad enough at times but, this morning, I came across another way of abrogating your responsibility as a parent. There is a suggestion that the "clubs" could provide child care services in return for a tax break on their "pokie" machines.
Pay for your childcare by gambling?
I think not. It is an appalling message to send to parents, to the children when they are sufficiently old enough to understand and to the community at large.
I can't help wondering what will happen to some of these children. Their grandparents are more like parents to many of them. Their parents are the people they see briefly - and the people who are already indicating that they have no intention of doing what their parents do for them.
Most of these children will never get to really know a Senior Cat. I think they need one.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Diversity in children's books

has been under discussion in a number of places recently - largely because of some comments made by the current UK Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman.
She made the comment in a tweet that the lack of diversity in children's books means "some of our children believe they can't be in stories. It was followed up by a comment from Roopa Farooki, "We find ourselves in fiction."
We find other people too - or we should.
I tried thinking back to the books I read as a child. Someone said "yes, mostly white and middle class I suppose".
Actually, no. I remember books with working class characters - Eve Garnett's "The family from One End Street" stands out. So does Blue Willow by Doris Gates and Lois Lenski's Judy's Journey. The Road to Agra by Aimee Sommerfelt was another.
And there were Australian books by Nan Chauncy, Hesba Brinsmead, Ivan Southall, Colin Thiele and Eleanor Spence. Working class characters appear in books by all these writers and many other writers as well - and they appear as themselves, as a natural part of the story.
Perhaps there was a point where we forgot about these books. They went out of print. People started to write about other things - about "issues" rather than the characters.
A refugee I know who was used, in part, as the basis of a character in a book which has been published told me, "(the author) thinks it is right but it wasn't like that at all". The book was praised as "realistic" - by white, middle class people. What would they know?
It is the same with disability. There are many more books about disability than there are about race, religion or nationality. Far too many of them are sentimental tripe - all too often with the character miraculously recovering. Perhaps that is why they get published so often when books about race, religion and nationality don't get published as often.
You can't "recover" from race, religion, nationality or most disabilities. Perhaps it is time to celebrate these things instead.

Friday, 12 September 2014

There is a new railway

station associated with the Showground. It replaces another station on the other side of a major highway. That station was inaccessible for many people. There were only steep stairs to the platforms.
This station has three platforms - three because the line I use is a single track. It is a single track due to the lack of forethought by past governments and the unwillingness to spend money by the present one.
I had not tried to use the station until yesterday but I decided it would be wise to investigate it while they were plenty of people around. If something went wrong then there would be someone to help.
Access should be good but there are some issues. Yes, there are stairs again. If you are able to use stairs then access is probably fine. The stairs are steep so elderly people, people in wheelchairs, parents with baby buggies and cats on tricycles need to use the lift. Oh yes, the lift is quite a good size and I can fit the tricycle in there along with another five or so adults or a few more children. They had to put up a paper sign telling people to push the button which says "go". Right.
We went up. There is a covered walkway here - over the part which crosses the lines. That's fine. Then there is a long u-shaped ramp which goes to ground level. No riding down that.
I eyed off the sign - and I broke the rule. Safety comes first. I rode at less than walking speed and right to one side - behind the father with the baby buggy.
The railway man at the bottom just nodded at me. He is only there on a temporary basis for the Show.
I went from there, as an experiment, a considerable distance up two side streets to see my friend in the nursing home. I needed to deliver some documents to her. She was dozing in bed. There have been issues with pain relief and oxygen delivery in the past day or so. I did not stay long.
I thought about it as I prowled back to my pedals. Yes, I would try the journey back by train as well. It would take about the same amount of time as pedalling if I had the time of the train correct.
I pedalled up the ramp on my return. The man at the bottom actually waved me up saying, "Just take it slowly."
I did and then it was into the lift and down to the platform again.
Yes, it's fine but I am still wary. If there were people around it would not bother me but the station will not be well used in between events at the Showground.
I have visions of being stuck in the lift or the lift being out of action. I have visions of spending the night there.
Is this foolish of me? Did anyone think it might be nice to put in proper emergency access - or was it considered to be "too expensive"?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

There were a lot of people

at the Showground yesterday. I am not fond of crowds, especially not the sort of crowds intent on looking at things rather than where they are going. I dislike being at risk of being knocked over or having my rear paws trodden on or run over.
But, I had promised to be there. I pedalled off and went through the back streets. They are always interesting. Watching other people leave for work is interesting - so much grim determination to get the day over and done with is rather alarming.
There is supposed to be a new bicycle rack in the car parking area I needed to use. I asked the man at the little sentry box. He smiled and shook his head and told me, "No, you put that one up there - where I can keep an eye on it."
He indicated a railing just behind the sentry box. Very nice! I was not arguing with that. (I later discovered the bicycle rack a considerable distance away.)
And then, before I had reached the area I was working in for the day, I met three people I knew - all separately.
"Gidday Cat!", "Hi Cat!" "Hello Cat, what ya' doin' here?" Yes, it is a small city.
The entrance I used is the one closest to the area I was working in but you need to go through part of Sideshow Alley. I avoided the bubble blowing machine but I must admit great soapy rainbow bubbles are rather fun!
Inside the big hall - and it is very big - I met two more people I know by sight. One person is working there all week.
"Very quiet yesterday Cat. Today should be much busier."
Right. This is the business end of town, mattresses, beds, chairs, spa baths, felt hats, t-shirts, coffee machines and more.
And on into the atrium.
The quilts look good. I have a sort of love-puzzlement relationship with quilts. I can see no point in cutting up fabric just to sew it together again but I do admire the end results. I can appreciate the hours of work and skill that goes into making them. I do not understand making these things just to fold them away into drawers. If I made one I would want it to be used.
I put the knitting out and prowl around the space to make sure I know what is where. I didn't help to put these up. It requires men on ladders to lift some of them.
Some women who belong to an "egg artistry" group arrive. They settle themselves at a table and begin work. I understand that even less than the business of quilt making. At least quilts can be used.
My friend turns up a little later than expected. She looks harassed. The train she intended to catch was running late and it was over-crowded so she, sensibly, waited. We knit. We watch people coming into the area. No, this is a no food or drink area. You may not come in with four children all eating. Yes, that was made by a group. That one over there was made by a group too - yes, young people. The pattern on these? It's a pre-war pattern from the old Chronicle newspaper.  We explain. We put on white gloves and lift them so that quilting enthusiasts can "see the other side".
My friend shows someone a knitting technique. I take off the vest I am wearing so that someone can have a "proper" look at it.
The Convenor for the area arrives after her morning brunch meeting with the other convenors. We talk about next year's quilt challenge and what alterations might be made to the knitting section.
Next year? Oh yes, there will be a next year - or so she tells me. You will be available?
Mm - I suppose I might be. A lot can happen in a year. I hope the Show is there.