Sunday, 23 November 2014

No power at the library

There was knitting class at the library yesterday. I didn't want to go but I had to be there.
I didn't want to go because of the weather. We had already had thunder, lightning and a nice amount of rain. As we desperately needed the latter I had no objections to that - even if it meant trying to get two loads of washing dry indoors.
I managed to pedal to the library in between the showers. Only five people came to knitting. There are usually eleven or more - crammed into a small room intended for ten people. I don't blame the others for staying home. The weather was not kind.
Knitters, as long as they can see, can manage without power. The book group, which meets next door, can manage without power - just.
The rest of the library? Well, yes and no.
Nobody can return a book or borrow a book. Nobody can use the catalogue. Nobody can work at the bank of computers. The free Wi-Fi was down. The automatic doors didn't work - fortunately the old swing door on the other side did. All the other things depend on power.
One of the staff thought about making tea. No, that meant putting the electric kettle on.
The books had all been put away. The workroom is internal and it is impossible to see in there without the light on. There was nothing else that could be done by the Saturday staff - unless they had power.
So, people did what people should do in a library. It was light enough to see near the windows. People read. The staff talked to the readers. I went on teaching someone to knit.
Eventually of course power was restored and the library went back to being the way it usually is. But, just for a short while, without power it was a very different place.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

"You've lived on an island?"

someone asked me yesterday evening.
The answer to that is, "Yes, my father was posted to a school on an island. We lived there for four years."
Living on an island is different. Downunder (Australia) is the largest island on the planet - or the smallest continent. Take your pick.
The island we lived on was much smaller - but still a large one as islands go. If you have a look at a map of Downunder you will see a leg in the centre of the lower coastline. If it is a big enough map you will see an island close to that which looks rather like a piece of jigsaw puzzle. We lived on that.
It is called "Kangaroo Island" and, in old measurements, it is about 120 miles long and 80 miles across at the widest point. Yes, a good size.
The capital of the state was nearly put on the island. If there had been a good supply of fresh water that would have happened. When discovered by the early explorers there were no human inhabitants, just the kangaroos which give the island its name - along with a great variety of other wildlife.
There is a strip of water between the island and the mainland which is called "Backstairs Passage". It has the reputation for being one of the roughest stretches of water in the world. The island itself rises steeply out of the water on the southern side - and there is nothing between it and the Antarctic winds. It can be very cold in winter. My brother once broke a sheet in two. He went out, at my mother's request, to take the sheet from the line. It was frozen there and just snapped in two. My mother was not impressed. Clothes on the line would often fly out horizontally.
When we lived there the population was about 3000 in two main groups. There were the old settlers who lived and worked in a community around the coast. There were the soldier settlers who lived in the centre and who had been there for only a few (by island standards) years. The two groups had very little to do with one another. Other, very small communities also existed.
The school in the centre, the one my father was in charge of, was the largest. It had over 600 students, almost all of whom came on one of the big yellow buses lined up at the gates. The school had the most buses and the longest bus runs in the state. Some children travelled a 76km to school and another 76km home. The school buses were driven by the teachers - often driving into the sun in the morning and into the sun in the evening. There was a spare bus if one broke down - which they did occasionally. It was the job of the deputy principal to keep the buses running. The teachers lived in small caravans at the end of each route. The caravans were parked near the house of a farmer and most teachers ate with the farmer and his family.
All this was discussed last evening because someone else had said she thought she was too gregarious to live on an island.
Yes, it was isolated. I know 3000 people sound like rather a lot - and most people knew each other and certainly knew us - but many were on farms a considerable distance from each other. Living there was expensive because most food and all other services were imported from the mainland. Electricity had to be generated on an individual basis. (The school had a big diesel unit. If it failed there was no electricity. We had a tiny 32v unit which was only set to run when absolutely necessary.)
Medical services were limited. Accidents were common and it was often faster for the local "crop duster" (a tiny plane that sprayed the crops) to be used to transport a patient out. The plane only had room for the pilot and the patient. (One night the pilot flew five times between the mainland and the island.)
Was the community close knit? In the area we lived in it was not. The people were too new to island life. It takes generations for that sort of closeness to be achieved.
It was interesting but I have no desire to go back there. I am not particularly gregarious and, if you were, it would not be a comfortable place to live.
All the same the beaches, when we got to them, were magnificent!

Friday, 21 November 2014

There are apparently going to be some cuts

to our ABC and SBS. For those of you in the northern hemisphere the first is the approximate equivalent of the BBC and the second is the so-called "multi-cultural" channel which provides a more ethnically diverse content than other television stations.
There is, of course, a wailing and gnashing of teeth about these cuts - and claims of broken election promises. I know a lot of people love their television programmes too.
But, I am less concerned than I might have been. First, there are now multiple other stations - all competing with each other for an audience. There is also a duplication of services. The ABC set up a 24 hour news channel but Sky already had one. Did they need to do it or was it to try and compete with Sky? Who watches it? What's the content really like? I am told it is highly repetitious. I suppose there is only so much news at any one time.
There is also a tremendous amount of sport on television. It is sometimes impossible to find a major network not showing some sort of sports programme on a Saturday afternoon. That's fine if you like sport - and television channels seem to assume that everyone is interested in sport. (The Senior Cat and I have no interest in it and I know others who feel the same way but, clearly, we are in the minority.)
And there seem to be a great many "repeat" shows. Television stations sometimes claim there has been a demand for a certain programme to be repeated. There has been one shown in the last few days which will be repeated. We will be told that there has been a demand for it. The reality is that (a) it was expensive to make and (b) it is giving a message about how people can change racist attitudes. 
If the latter is true then yes, it will be worth repeating - but the real reason for the repeat will be the expense of making it and the complex politics of the message.
Oh yes, politics. The ABC has been accused of a "left" bias. SBS has also been accused of the same thing. The "commercial" stations are apparently more inclined to pander to public opinion. I don't watch enough television to make an informed comment now.
Yes, I have pretty much ceased watching television. I have too many other things I want to do. I know I am missing out on some experiences, that my "cultural literacy" probably needs to be improved. I have never seen Game of Thrones or any similar programme.
So I am not too concerned about the cuts to the ABC and SBS. If they can cut some of the sport and bring on some decent documentaries or something genuinely funny then - mmm....I might be interested.
The only thing that bothers me is that they might cut the wonderful Global Village programme. Those short multi-national documentaries about people, places, animals, festivals and other things have taught me so much. I have been to places I will never get to in real life and experienced so many things I will never experience in real life. That is television worth watching.
Could we have some more of that please?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

There is currently one of those thrilling

family sagas being played out in the courts in this country. It has been going on for some time. The media has been making much of it. I suspect most Australians are aware of it - and many of them are taking an interest in it.
I am aware of it. I have taken little interest in it. I am just aware that the ultra-rich are not necessarily happy.
I am with the mother on this occasion. She has worked hard, very hard. She has amassed a fortune. Yes, she inherited money from her father - although not nearly as much as people often believe - but she went on to use it and make a great deal more.
I don't think I would particularly like her if I met her. Her business methods may or may not be good but they are successful. I know very little about her.
What does interest me however is her comments about "sense of entitlement" and her older children. They are also wealthy but they have not worked for it. Rather like the American woman who has claimed a billion dollars from the mega-rich man she is divorcing they claim their inheritance from their grandfather is not enough and they want even more. The younger child does work for her mother - although the older children claim she isn't really working. I suspect she does work. Her mother is not the sort of person to pay idle people.
But, should the older children be paid to be idle? Are we better off without having them in the workforce? The son at least claims lost business opportunities because of a lack of finance. Really? Many people start without anything. They work hard instead. It is clear that his mother does not think he would have succeeded even with money behind him. She apparently looked at the "business opportunities" and concluded they were no more than "get rich quick" schemes. She offered them opportunities to work inside the business - from the bottom up. They refused.
I know other people, often in my generation, who say they are "spending it now" and that their children won't be left with much. All too often however those same children do expect to be left a substantial amount - on top of the "loans" they have already received and the child-care services now being provided.
My sister and my brother each have two children. They have given their children most of their inheritance already - in the form of supporting them through school and university. It is a sort of family tradition I suppose. My paternal great-grandparents had almost nothing when they came here but they worked hard and gave their children an education. In turn my grandfather's generation gave their children a chance to educate themselves and so it has gone on.
My sister married a man whose parents were Cypriot-Greek peasants. They worked hard too. They didn't have much of an education themselves but they saw to it that their children did and now their grandchildren are also getting an education.
It is, I think, a magnificent inheritance - and one we are all entitled to if it is at all possible. It is perhaps the best sort of inheritance as well because it is one for which we need to work.  

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Prorogue parliament?

Our state Premier is about to prorogue parliament. The state went to an election on the 15th March this year so of course this is now totally essential - not.
The Premier says it is all about a "clean slate" for the coming year. It allows them to "start afresh". (If you prorogue parliament all the outstanding legislation on the agenda gets wiped and has to be resubmitted.) That should not be necessary.
Yes there are two by-elections coming up. One has been caused by a death and the other by a complex set of family circumstances the member does not wish to make public. Neither is likely to change the make up of the 47 seat Lower House.
So, why prorogue parliament? The only answer is that the government is trying to avoid scrutiny. There are issues coming up that the government does not want debated. They will, once again, go to the bottom of the legislative agenda. The government hopes they will go away - or that circumstances will change. Maybe they will.
I was discussing this with the Senior Cat. He is about to make a new will or, perhaps, update his old one. A number of things have changed in the last few years and he is anxious to ensure that his will is scrupulously fair to everyone concerned. Our immediate family is close and he wants it to remain that way. So do we.
He can, in a sense, also work on a clean slate but he is making reference to what is written on the old slate. It is an occasion on which it is right to look back - and then look forward. I am doing the same.
We are often told "don't look back" but it seems to me that there are times when it is right to look back because, unless we do that, we can't look forward. If we don't look back then we might also repeat the mistakes of the past instead of learning from them.
We also need to make sure we deal with unfinished business. Some things won't go away. Some things won't change.
Parliament isn't going to change either. The Premier's tactic is not going to work. It might seem to buy time but our state has fixed-term elections so he has time anyway. It leaves me wondering what else he is trying to hide - rather a lot I suspect.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I wad given some rayon

boucle yarn by my friend - the one I was helping at the craft fair. She has asked me to make something as a sample. It is hand dyed in various shades of green.
There are two skeins of it - yes, skeins and not balls.  I have to wind this stuff!
I have a "swift" - one of those strange devices that look like a merry go round lattice fence or a moving yurt frame. You put the skein of yarn over it and then, hopefully, wind merrily away.
The Senior Cat made this for me some years ago. He also made one for the knitting guild I belong to. It was a fiddly thing to make.
But, you need the right tool for the job and this was it.
Unfortunately one of these skeins was tangled - played with perhaps by a customer who wanted to see what the colour progressions were like.
It is sometimes hard to imagine these colour progressions in actual knitting. Unless you are a knitter it will be hard to imagine this but try to imagine a circle of yarn with rings of colour around it. It will not knit up looking like that. Knitters talk about "striping" (obvious I think) and "pooling" (blotches of colour caused by the same colour coming together) and other colour variations. Experienced knitters have some idea how something will turn out but even they can be surprised. And no, I am not talking about the fancy, so called "fair isle" sock yarns made by commercial companies. That is something entirely different. They are designed in a different way.
No, this is hand dyed and hand painted - literally painted with brushes. It means that no two skeins are ever exactly alike and, if it is difficult to match dye lots in commercial yarn, it is impossible to match dye lots here.
But these two skeins were, I imagine, "painted" at the same time. They are very close in pattern and colour. I will still alternate the yarns. That should vary the colours nicely - from pale green to dark and back again mixed with dark to pale. We will see.
I often look at colours mixed together in gardens and wonder how they would translate into hand painted yarn. The colour of the jacaranda flowers against the rough texture of their mouse brown-grey bark would make a wonderful combination - perhaps with a hint of sky behind? Or what about the darker lime green of nasturtiums with all the brilliant yellows, oranges and even reds peeping through at intervals? I don't do much dyeing but I love colour.
But, what to make with it? I have to design a top. It will be interesting to see what happens. I can "see" a top - perhaps with spaghetti straps. It is not in the least the sort of thing I would wear but the rayon feels like silk and should drape nicely. It is, I think, the sort of thing a teenager might wear if dressing up for the evening - although Ms Whirlwind was not impressed by the idea. No, it isn't her sort of thing either. "But A.... would wear it," she told me. A.... is one of her friends who manages to look elegant even in school uniform.
I may get A... to model it if the idea in my head turns into reality.

Monday, 17 November 2014

After four days of

standing on my rear paws I am, once again, in awe of those who do selling for a living.
If people want to buy something and I am there to do the job of taking their money then I will, of course, do it. But, unlike my nephews, I am not a natural salesperson.
I have one nephew of the "could sell sand to the Arabs and ice to Eskimos" ability. His job involves vast sums of money in anyone's terms - other people's money. I could not handle that. Another nephew is also good at selling if he has to but it is not his job to do that. They have peculiarly modern skills when doing these things.
I am happy to offer help rather than advice. There is a difference I think. I can help by explaining what a certain sort of yarn is and what the properties are, what it is normally used for and why. I am happy, as an example, to explain why sock yarn normally has nylon in it.
The friend I help also does a lot of that. We also had someone come looking for a certain type of yarn to make hats for a children's charity. My friend sells yarn which would be suitable but it is expensive and really intended for another purpose. We looked at each other and then at the would-be customer and gave her the name of a very well known on-line company here in Australia. They make a product which is half the price and will be ideal for her purpose. It didn't make my friend a sale but perhaps it bought her goodwill. Other people might hear about her attitude. I hope they do.
There were several people who mentioned they had come simply to come to the stand I was working on. I can understand why. It's a brilliantly coloured display of very high quality yarn unobtainable anywhere else - not even in the few specialty shops left interstate. Yes, it tends to be expensive - until you consider the hours of entertainment a project might give you.
One woman brought her project from last year so we could see it. She had bought a skein of lace-weight silk. It is very fine. It is smooth. It is slippery. It has hand dyed. It is very expensive. 
This woman bought it not to knit with but to embroider with. I thought she was setting herself a huge challenge. Yes, she was. She rose to the challenge and showed us what she had done. It is exquisite work.
"I know it seemed like a lot to pay but, so far, I have been entertaining myself for about fifty cents an hour and that will drop even further when I finish the skein."
Looked at in those terms it is cheap entertainment and, unlike some other forms of entertainment, she will have something of lasting value to show for her pleasure as well.
A teenager happened to be there while we were looking at this woman's work and she admired it too.
"It's not my thing but I'm learning to crochet and so far it has been a heap more fun than a rock concert. A whole lot of us are teaching ourselves and helping each other. We still go out and stuff but we take stuff with us to do. It's awesome because you can hang out and still do things."
Not the most elegant way of describing it but I am more than happy to sell her the pleasure of making her own.