Friday, 22 June 2018

Breaking the seal of the confessional

is under debate here. There has been an attempt to legislate to force priests to go to the relevant authorities if they hear a confession from someone who states they have committed sexual abuse of a child.
Three of the local priests bailed me up yesterday. They were having coffee in the local shopping centre and I passed them on the way to the bank.
     "What's your view Cat?" one of them asked me. It is the sort of question they don't seem to hesitate in putting to me.
This time though I think I had a response.
     "Have any of you ever  heard such a confession?"
No, they had not. They all thought it was extremely likely that they would ever hear such a confession - so unlikely that they were not aware of anyone who had heard anything like it.
We all agreed it is something a paedophile is unlikely to confess to having committed. If by some unlikely chance such a person did confess to a priest it would not be to one they knew. Does the priest go to the police and say,
    "A paedophile came to me and confessed but I don't know who he is." ? 
Paedophiles get caught. They don't confess. That's the widely held view among psychologists, psychiatrists, and many others involved in dealing with the vile problem.
The three priests I saw yesterday come from different branches of the church. They are good friends and they are, I believe, good men.  It is not unusual for them to get together and discuss common problems. It is not unusual for any of them to stop me and say something like, "Cat, do you know X or Y or Z?" and then tell me that they might need a little more than a friendly hello as I pass. I have a good relationship with all of them. 
More importantly I note that they seem to have a good relationship with their parishioners. People seem pleased to see them. Even more importantly I have noticed children running towards two of them excited to tell them something. I have no reason to believe it does  not happen to the third. 
That has nothing to do with belief or lack of belief. It is about them as individuals, about the way they carry out their duty of caring for others. They have extraordinarily difficult jobs and they are constantly on call. On their day off - usually Monday - the only way to get away from everything is to turn the mobile off and leave the house. People still expect them to be available. They still go to visit the dying on Mondays. They still go to meetings and still hold funerals on Mondays. They attempt to make their own medical and dental appointments for Mondays.
      "You know what it's like Cat," they have told me more than once. They are referring to the fact that, although I am slowly passing on some responsibilities to other people, I can still be called on to drop everything and work on something so that someone else can go and do their job. 
But I don't really know. I am once removed from the situation of saving a life and the danger and the utter physical exhaustion, poor food and appalling conditions under which some of the people I try to help are working. I doubt that two of the priests know either. One does. He's been there and done that in the past.  
It doesn't matter though. They have all seen some of the worst of human nature as well as a great deal of the best.
They were waiting for my answer though and I finally said,
     "I think the answer for me would be to say, "You must go to the police but I will go with you."
I left them talking.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

"Do you want bags?"

the girl at the checkout asked me. 
Bags. I take my own bags to the supermarket. I have done for many years, before the idea of taking your own was considered environmentally responsible.
But yesterday we looked at each other and considered the idea.
    "It would mean I don't need to label the boxes," she told me, "And the bags are potato."
    "And I can recycle the bags to Vinnie's," I said.
The problem was that I had gone into the supermarket to get something for the Senior Cat. I found that and I found that a certain brand of breakfast cereal was on display for less than half price. 
The Senior Cat still goes to church on Sundays. There  is a box kept in the narthex which the congregation fills with tins and packets to go to a food bank. Each Sunday I provide the Senior Cat with something to put in the box. 
This particular brand of breakfast cereal is, as commercial breakfast cereals go, a good one. It comes in the form of compact wheat flake biscuits. They have a long shelf life. They don't require refrigeration or anything other than keep them in a dry place. It is the sort of breakfast cereal the food bank likes to get. At less than half price I promptly bought a half a dozen packets. It meant changing my mind about what we would be eating this week but I knew the Senior Cat would agree with the decision. I also bought a larger than usual bag of potatoes because I thought I was going to have to pay to have it all delivered. It was far more than I could manage to put in the basket of my trike.
I had explained where the breakfast cereal would be going to the girl at the checkout. She is someone I know slightly - one of the students for whom I occasionally read an essay.
       "Would you mind getting a bigger trolley?" she asked me.
I went to get one of the larger trolleys.
As I was coming back I noticed her speaking to the manager, someone who also knows me. He gave me a wave and walked off.
I thought nothing more of it. 
Now of course you pay to have things delivered. I didn't expect to get the delivery for nothing. I paid for the groceries and rushed off to the library to pick up a book I needed. The rest of the morning was a rush too. 
Just after lunch yet another supermarket employee I know turned up with all the bags - the weekly shop and the extras. He left them all with a cheerful,
      "You're welcome Cat."
I checked against the docket after he had gone and then I checked again. They hadn't charged me for the delivery.  I pedalled back to the supermarket in the afternoon. The manager was just leaving for his very late lunch.
     "If that's about the delivery charge don't worry. I.... told me where the cereal was going and D.... just delivered it on his way home," he told me before I could say anything.
The delivery charge will make all the difference to my budget for the week. Is it any wonder that I like the staff in my local supermarket? 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Are there three universities

in this state?
There is a renewed debate about the number of universities in this state but it is possible that one of the institutions called a "university" is not a university anyway.
We started out with one of course. It is the oldest of the three. It is the university the Senior Cat attended. I remember going there as a child.  
Perhaps it  was the times when we visited it but I remember times when it was busy with students going to and from lectures. They carried books and talked earnestly to one another. At the refectory you had to show your student identification. At the library - a hushed establishment with students and staff bent over books - you had to show your student identification. I was told to be "very quiet" and was probably the only child ever allowed to enter the library.  (My reputation as a "reader" had gone ahead of me.) 
In my teens I used the same library - illegally. I knew the staff. They would sneak me in and out and ask, "What do you want to know this time?"
In my late teens they were building a second university in what seemed like an improbably remote location on the edge of the city. It was up on a hill. It was bare and unattractive. Unlike the older university it quickly became known as a "very left-wing" institution filled with younger staff. Yes, some of them had very radical views. It was "that sort of place" as a staff member at the old university told me. What was taught there was different.
But yes, it was still a university. It is still a university. Those staff who have not yet retired have aged. The younger staff no longer have tenure and tend to moderate their views because of it.
And then there is the third "university". It was actually an amalgamation of a disparate group of other tertiary institutions, including the teacher training college I attended. It started out with campuses all over the city and suburbs. It still has a variety of campuses. It doesn't have the feel of a university about it. There have been questions asked more than once about the quality of some of the courses offered, courses which were never intended to be university level courses.  The problem was to find somewhere to put some of those things. People took the easy way out and turned certificate courses into diploma courses and diploma courses into degree courses. 
Simply calling something a "Bachelor of...." doesn't make it degree worthy or the institution from which it is obtain a university. The girl next door went to the third university and has a "degree in fine art".  Yes, she produced some interesting art work but she herself admits the course required little in the way of reading or writing.  
My nephews went to the other places, indeed one went to both. I have taught in both the older establishments but not the new one. I have visited the new one, attended some public lectures there and given a couple but I don't know it. All I know is that it doesn't feel like a university to me. 
Now they want to amalgamate the newest one with the oldest one. For administrative reasons it may be a good idea but for practical purposes it may not work.
And they will need to start thinking about what a university actually is.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

And yet more yarn

was given to me yesterday. It was not intended that I should keep it but I still had to deal with it. 
I was stopped in the local shopping centre by a very pleasant woman who said,
     "I have some wool...."
I always wonder whether it will really be "wool" or whether it will be something else. Not so long ago a really experienced knitter showed me some "mohair" she had been given. It was not mohair at all. It was quite good quality but it was acrylic.
     "I didn't like to tell her but wouldn't you think she would read the label?" the other knitter told me. seems not. Some people just go by, "it feels nice" and who can blame them?
      "I'll drop it off sometime for you to pass on," my acquaintance told me yesterday.
It actually arrived late morning. Her husband delivered it on his way to his brother's place of work.
      "L......wanted to get it out of the house."
I thanked him and, after he had gone, took a look. If it was acrylic it would go to one place. If it was wool it would go to another. If L... said it was wool though it would be likely to be wool. 
It was wool. It was old, very old. Some of it was partially knitted. L... is of the "waste not, want not" generation so it didn't surprise me.
But I am not sure how useful it will really be. I have emailed the person who often collects such donations from me and told her that I could deliver it to someone else. It isn't worth her making the trip to collect it but some of it at least should be able to be used as beanies for the homeless. 
Yes, someone will make use of it somewhere - and that's all that matters.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Should place names be changed?

I saw video clip yesterday from BBC Cymru Wales in which someone called Tudur Owen talks about the way in which Welsh place names are being slowly replaced with "easier to pronounce" English names. He also talks about the way in which, by replacing these names, history and stories are being lost.'
It seems to me that an entire culture is in danger of being lost - not just there but in other places and in other ways as well.
     "Move with the times!" Did I just hear you shout that?
Well, sorry but I am going to remain stuck fast.
There was a point where we nearly lost Scots Gaelic, the language of my ancestors. My paternal great-grandparents spoke Gaelic. My paternal grandfather knew only a little. His son, the Senior Cat, knows none at all. I know only a little. I am entirely self taught. I have almost no idea how to pronounce what little I can read. There is nowhere here for me to even begin to learn the language. 
      "It's a dying language!"  Yes, I heard you shout that too. You are wrong of course. It is making a slow, painful recovery from being beaten almost to death by people who believed (and still believe) that they know better. They will tell you that English is easier to pronounce, easier to learn, easier to this and that and something else. They will tell you that English is the world language and that there isn't any need for anything else.
Sorry, you are wrong. English is a very important language but it is by no means the only language on the planet. Those apparently dying languages are still important, very important. They carry with them an entire culture and all the thought processes which go with that culture. Every time we lose a language we lose a way of thinking. Losing a way of thinking matters. It matters not just to literature, music, art and theatre but to humanity as a whole. It matters because each language brings with it a set of moral values and ways of understanding the world that further human development. 
I don't know a lot about Welsh but I do know enough about the "mutations" to use a dictionary. "Mutations" are changes at the beginning of a word rather than the end of it.  They occur in other languages - such as Swahili - too.
In the same way I know something about prefixes in Bahasa Indonesian  and some of our local indigenous languages. It's the way those languages have developed and the way they still work.
Yes, I have an interest in languages. My working life still revolves around the need to know not the languages themselves but about them and the way they work. I have had to learn more than most people and I don't expect others to be able to do that any more than a  surgeon would expect me to be able to perform an appendectomy. 
But that doesn't mean that you should expect people to give up their language and their culture and their way of thinking simply because you believe their minority language is "difficult". It is no more difficult than some sounds in French, Portuguese, Arabic or Chinese. Nobody is suggesting that those languages should cease to exist because English speakers find them "difficult".
Let's keep Scots Gaelic and Welsh and other such languages alive. They have magnificent literary and cultural traditions from which we can learn a lot. We will be better humans because of it.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

"Rain. We need more rain,"

has been on everyone's lips.
And it has rained...and rained some more. Our tanks are full. This is an excellent thing. It means that, unless a totally unforeseen disaster occurs we should have enough water to see us through next summer and keep the garden alive. That helps to keep the house cool too.
I pedalled out yesterday. I had something that needed to be delivered no later than yesterday. It was one of those "eye-the-sky" days and "dash out in between showers" sort of days.
The Senior Cat said,
      "I hope you don't get wet."
My answer was,
      "If I do  I'll dry off when I get home."
That seems to me to be the only sensible way to think about these things.  I take the view that I might be fortunate and get to my destination dry. If I get wet on my way home then I can change my clothes once I am inside again. I have "wet-weather-gear" for pedalling - a pair of yellow rain proof over-trousers and an ancient navy blue raincoat. Both need replacing but still keep me dry.
Like all cats I do not particularly care for getting soaking wet but we need the rain. I am not going to complain about it. 
The Senior Cat didn't complain either. He spent a short time looking out at the rain yesterday with a rather dreamy expression on his face. Rain is just what the garden needed in his view. A  bit soggy underfoot? So what? It might mean that there has been enough rain to soak in more than the first two or three centimetres.
But now of course there are people complaining about the rain. Yes, of course I am sorry if it ruined your wedding plans or you got soaked through watching your child play football or your plans for a barbecue with friends got ruined but this is rain. It's water. It's precious stuff.  I don't want to see floods but I do want to see the rivers flowing freely instead of being sludgy brown puddles.
Wars have been fought over water. Wars are likely to be fought over water in the future. 
Someone I know in South Africa was saying that some people in Cape Town are  complaining because it is raining. I find that unbelievable. The entire area was so heavily drought stricken an entire city was on what amounted to rations of nothing more than drinking water. They need far more rain than they are likely to get. Rain is nothing to complain about there. 
On my way home yesterday I stopped at the supermarket to get more milk. As I was waiting for a particularly heavy shower to clear before continuing my way home someone I know by sight stood next to me. We listened to some complaints about the rain from two men a little further on. The rain had apparently ruined their afternoon of golf. 
      "A couple of old Hanrahans there," the person next to me muttered. I smiled. He was right.
If you don't know the poem then I suggest you search for 
"Said Hanrahan" by John O'Brien (PJ Hartigan). It should make you smile too.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Going to the bank

is to be avoided if at all possible.
I had to go yesterday. There was a mistake in my account. I would have liked that extra $5000. To be honest I could really use that extra $5000 but it wasn't mine.
Last time I went to the bank it was at another branch. I would not have needed to go in again for a while but I found a mistake when I got the receipt from the teller machine.
I explained this to the teller - someone new to me. She looked startled. She checked. She couldn't find the error in her records. I explained again. She turned the screen around so we could both see it. 
   "There," I told her pointing to the right line.
   "Oh, you're right. Someone mucked that up. If you hadn't pointed it out..."
    "They would have caught up eventually," I told her.
She smiled at me and agreed  it was better to deal with it now.
    "Someone is missing $5000," I said.
    "Mmm.... I'll have to pass it on...funny someone didn't notice but some people do have a lot in their accounts."
I wondered what she meant by "a lot". I know I picked up a receipt one day after someone left the teller machine. Putting it in the bin later on I carefully tore it into small pieces because someone had more than $50,000 in that account. That's surely a very large sum of money in anyone's book? 
Unless someone else buys me the winning lottery ticket I won't need to go to the bank again for quite some time. I know to within a couple of dollars how much money I have to spend. 
I would most certainly know if I had an extra $5000 to spend!