Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Erdogan needs to be

locked into a padded cell with no chance whatsoever of communicating with the outside world.
I had a brief email from one of the two aid workers forced to leave Syria. They had arrived in Ankara and were waiting to fly out from there. All they had with them was what they could carry. What little medical equipment they had available had to be left behind.
Would they have stayed? They have been in dangerous situations before and stayed. The situation there was dangerous and they stayed.
But this time it is extreme. Unless cooler heads prevail this could lead to a major conflict. Everyone knows that.
The President of the United States is saying he is doing it to save the lives of US soldiers.
The President of Turkey is saying he is doing it to stop terrorists and build a safe zone for refugees.
Neither of them are addressing the immensely complex problems that exist and will go on existing. Neither of them has considered that, because of their actions, more people are going to get killed.
Erdogan's actions are popular in Turkey. He is appealing to nationalism. Trump's actions are much less popular but still popular enough - especially when he takes the simplistic route of slapping sanctions on Turkey.
A mess? Yes.
And then there are yet more calls to bring home the women and children caught in the camps. I have said elsewhere that this is not as simple as it sounds. Despite the appalling conditions there - and this seems unbelievable - some of the women still support their claimed "jihad".  Bring them out? Bring them back here? Bring them back to what? Leave them free in the community to spread their message of hate? Imprison them and turn them into "martyrs"?
What do you do with their children?
There were three small children, all from the same family, who had lost their parents and some siblings in the fighting. The girl they interviewed was struggling with her emotions, her thoughts and the English language itself. She wanted nothing more than to go "home" to where her grandmother was in England, to visit her and play in the park. It was journalism designed to tug at the heart strings. She couldn't remember her grandmother's name.
They have actually managed to remove those children. They will, sooner or later be in England and will, if their grandmother is still alive, presumably be reunited with her. 
Those three may not represent any danger to England but what of those who have been taught to hate, to believe that only the jihadis right? Can that really be changed?
That's the question - the question we don't know how to answer.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Reduce, reuse, recycle

and yes "rescue, reuse, recycle" too.
I went to a meeting yesterday. It was for the stewards who had worked in the Handicrafts area of this year's state's show. There is always a review of what has happened and an opportunity to raise queries, hear complaints, and think about...next year.
There were a few queries and not too many complaints - and fortunately none of those was serious. The main office had dealt with one issue in a timely and pleasant way as it had nothing to do with the way the stewards had done their job. 
And then we talked about next year. Should there be a focus on something? This year we had done the Queen Victoria Challenge - something that had garnered more than one hundred entries.  Was it a success? Yes, we thought it was. It would have been nice to have a little more media attention but, even without it, people came looking for the displays.
So, next year? I had put up a suggestion to the two Convenors.  I have mentioned it here - doing something for the International Year of Plant Health. 
Were there any other suggestions? Should we go with "the Roaring Twenties" - a century back? That might be fun.
No, we went back to the IYPH. Someone produced some pictures of things that had been made out of recycled objects. Was that how we should approach it - say "by recycling we are helping improve plant health"? 
No. It was a good idea but not quite enough. We need a bit more than that to allow everyone to participate in fully creative ways. The "basketry" people looked smug. They manage to recycle in very creative and environmentally friendly ways. 
    "It's Cat's idea. What have you got to say about it Cat?"
I told people what I had been thinking and explained how wide the concept could be. It need not limit people at all. We could have two extra classes in each section - one to replace the Queen Victoria class from this year and another which made use of "recycling". There were nods of agreement.
 And then it came, "Write something up Cat."
Oh yes, write something up...I'll need to do it today. The Convenors and I need to meet then and get some details out to everyone else so that they can add feedback as soon as possible. 
J...- in-the-office, who deals with such things, will smile in her good natured way and shake her head at yet another idea. I know it is more work for her as well. 
We could leave everything just as it is but surely if we go we with this environmentally responsible theme we will get more people keen to enter?
 

Monday, 14 October 2019

Clothes shopping

It had to be done - not for me but for the Senior Cat.
Now I love the Senior Cat. It is only because I love him that I can even contemplate the problem of going shopping for his clothes. I hate, loathe and detest clothes shopping for myself and it is every bit as bad going clothes shopping for him.
There is no realistic chance of getting  him to do it for himself. Even if he could get to a shop by himself - and he can no longer do that - then he would have no idea what to get. My mother bought most of his clothes. When we grew old enough we stopped my mother buying things we knew (not merely thought but knew) he would not wear.
Now I know that anything new I buy may not get "worn out". The Senior Cat tends to keep clothes long past their "use by even in the garden" date. 
He was going out with Middle Cat yesterday. It wasn't a very "dress up" sort of occasion but he did need to look tidy. 
    "I need some new cotton trousers," he told me.
    "I know," I said and also knew I had been putting off the evil moment when I would need to go shopping.
But then I thought to myself, "The Senior Cat is going out with Middle Cat. I don't have to think about lunch. I have done the maintenance housekeeping. I can knit on the train there and back and get the day's quota done so..."
    "I'll see if I can get you something today," I told him.  I measured him to be certain of the size.
They left. I went and caught a train. I went to the most likely shop in the city. I hunted through the menswear section. An older woman in a wheelchair was doing the same. I reached up for a couple of items for her. We commiserated about male clothes shopping. Another woman was shopping with a blind man. They were feeling fabrics and discarding them.
   "I want cotton if you can find it. It's cooler."
   "There's cotton here," I said, "But I want something that shape."
We huddled together and examined more clothes.
   "Here."
   "And what about this one."
   "This one is the colour of beach sand."
I bought a pair of trousers. I also went into the bookshop and spent the book voucher the Senior Cat was given by the Black Cat last Christmas. It hadn't occurred to her that he had no way of getting into that particular shop. Fortunately they had the book he thought he wanted. I might have lingered there but I really wanted to be out of the city. 
I missed one train. I caught the next train. It was raining by the time I started to pedal home from the station. Ugh. I managed less knitting than I hoped.
But, the trousers fit. I am thankful for that. They are too long but I expected that. But, they fit. I don't need to go and exchange them.
I'd love to think that one day I might need to go and buy yet another pair because the Senior Cat has worn this pair to shreds. 

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Bullying at school

is  apparently growing worse, not better.
There is a report in this morning's paper about the research being done by two of the staff at one of the state's universities. If accurate then there is an alarming rise in the way in which adolescents wish harm on one another - and think it is funny.
I already know that Ms W does not find such things funny. There was a short spate of severe bullying at her school several years ago. She was still in the junior school but one of the senior school students made a serious suicide attempt because of the bullying of another.  The girl doing the bullying was removed from the school and the other girl will now finish this year. She should do well because the other girls in her year rallied around her. It wasn't done because they were asked to do it by adults. It was done because they genuinely like the other girl and were upset, angry and confused that it could happen. It took a near tragedy for the girls to really understand how harmful bullying really can be.
I won't say there is no bullying in the school. That would be ridiculous. What I do think is that it is not common. It gets called out pretty quickly if it does occur. There is an anti-bullying awareness program and it seems to work.
There is a girl in Ms W's class who is moderately deaf. She has occasionally been the subject of some teasing. Ms W tends to be fierce about such things.
     "It's not nice!" and "I hate it when you do that!" were common cries when she was younger. She knows that everyone gets teased occasionally and, although she doesn't like it, she will tolerate it if she considers it not likely to harm someone. She has been teased herself. I've dealt with tears over someone "not being nice" on more than one occasion but it hasn't been the sly bullying that does so much harm. And yes, she has probably teased others in return.
Ms W will see the report in this morning's paper.  I have no doubt at all that she will raise the subject with me before she goes back to school tonight.  Her form teacher may well use it as a topic for their weekly discussion.
Even if she doesn't I know that there is no girl in the class who would find it "funny" to tell one of  the others "I hope you get murdered" or "I hope you die in a crash". The school knows it doesn't have to be that way. It's hard work and they have had to devote time to "mutual respect and caring for each other". 
But, as Ms W's distressed form teacher told me when the attempted suicide occurred, "Teaching them to care for each other is more important than maths."

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Leaving a Syrian refugee camp

is not easy. It is also something you would think most people would be only too glad to do when given the chance.
Yesterday though I had a short email from someone.
   "Don't start work on it Cat. We had to leave last night. God only knows what will happen now."
It was news I expected. I know the two aid workers in question are now somewhere relatively safe. Tomorrow they will probably be  somewhere which is considered even safer. 
This husband and wife team have been working in a Syrian refugee camp for almost two years. They have volunteered in other places too. They are doctors. They know what they are going into and they have faced the most horrific situations apparently with a sort of quiet calm. 
I can't imagine that.
This time the organisation they work for is pulling them out. The situation on the ground is far worse than what is being shown on the televised news services. Seeing the news last night I know that the rest of the world is getting a sanitised version. It is yet another case of what TS Eliot put as "Humankind cannot bear very much reality".  The world at large certainly could not bear this.
The government here has been criticised for not going into such places and bringing back people who are still citizens of this country. The media makes it sound simple. Just go in, find them and bring them home.
It doesn't work like that. It is actually an immensely complex process involving the governments of more than one country and a lot of detailed research and planning. 
    "Can't you just kidnap the children and bring them back?" I have been asked.
No, you can't. 
That refugee camp was already one of the most dangerous places in the world. It is now far worse.
I shouldn't criticise the leaders of other countries but I have to say here that the President of the United States has absolutely no idea  how bad it was...or surely he would not have deliberately made it far worse?

Friday, 11 October 2019

Soap, soap and

more soap.
   "Expect an arrival of soap," I was told.
Soap? 
    "For soap bags."
Oh, right. Remember? I am making soap bags. I haven't managed to get around to any fancy knitting stitch bags yet. I am simply making plain bags with flowers. Mm... I hope they will sell.  If they do then the proceeds will go into the scholarship fund. 
But soap itself?
My first acquaintance with soap was almost certainly Johnson's Baby Soap. It was probably the only thing available to the mothers of babies back in ancient times. I think it is still around. It was supposed to be "gentle on the skin".  What do they use now? I haven't bathed a baby for a long while now.
I moved on to Velvet I think. It was what my mother used for clothes and kids.  Our necks were scrubbed as firmly as the collars of the  Senior Cat's shirts.
Occasionally there was Lux or, much more rarely, Lifebuoy.  Lux is still available.  I have been known to buy it in moments of desperation. Lifebuoy seems to have disappeared completely. Perhaps we should have bought more of it?
There was Solyptol too. It was green and smelt vaguely of eucalyptus and other such things. It was regarded as the sort of soap you used if  you had been gardening or - perhaps -  cutting up onions.  I think that is still around.
And then there was Solvol. Ah yes, Solvol. It was used by the Senior Cat and both my grandfathers to remove grease from their hands. It was like washing with sand. You can still buy it. 
I think I was in high school before I actually saw an amber cake of Pear's soap.  Oh I had seen it advertised but English friends had a cake in their bathroom when we went to visit. They gave me a cake later. The Senior Cat likes it now.
I can remember my maternal grandmother having a round pink cake of soap. It came with a small spray bottle of perfume that was supposed to be like apple blossom. We were not permitted to use it although we were allowed inhale the scent.
And I remember my paternal grandmother having similar round cakes of soap. Hers were usually scented lavender. When we were small she would help use wash our hands with that soap. It was something special.
    "Give it a little rub. It will clean your hands and it will smell nice too."
It did smell nice. It felt good too. It was smooth and soothing. Washing your hands felt good with that soap.
On occasions I have had soap given to me. Fancy soaps given to me in fancy boxes. It always seems a shame to use it when it often smells so nice...especially the lavender or the rose scented soaps.
Now we use Pears or environmentally responsible vegetable based soap that comes in a variety of scents. I bought a dozen of the latter at half price and it will take a while to work our way through it. They are 100gm bars.
And, in my underwear drawer I have a round cake of lavender soap which smells just as it did when my grandmother helped us to wash our hands.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion

held a protest here yesterday. It was, from all accounts, a bit of a damp  squib. There were apparently only about one hundred people at it.
But, it did annoy other people. 
There may be more people annoyed today as they are moving on to other parts of the city. Their aim is what they call "peaceful disruption". 
In other parts of the country people are actually aiming at getting themselves arrested. 
And then we had the media with a "graph" showing that Downunder is almost at the top of the list for per capita emissions. It doesn't look good. Downunder is doing a terrible job at reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
The rest of the world, apart from Saudi Arabia, should be castigating us.
Or should they be castigating us? Should Extinction Rebellion be doing what it is doing here? 
     "I don't know Cat. It seems to me there is something wrong with all of this," an Elderly Man told me as he parked his bicycle next to my tricycle, "They aren't taking into account that we are the largest island or the smallest continent. We have this tiny population and these huge distances. You know what I mean? If that Extinction mob would go out and actually do something for the environment instead of making pests of themselves we might get somewhere."
Mmm...
The  Elderly Man has a point. Downunder has a population about the same size as New York state in the US.  It is spread across a vast area of land - and about 90% of the population live around the coastline. Cities have been built out and out. One of them covers more square kilometres than any other city on the planet. (It once had the largest Greek speaking population outside Athens too.) People do travel long distances too and they use cars to do it. 
Now I don't think that is a good thing. One of the problems has been that, for many years, people wanted their own quarter acre block of land and their own house sitting in the middle of it - isolated from everyone else. It is perhaps a peculiarly Downunder  thing.
That's changing. Urban "infill" is growing rapidly. People are complaining that houses are now being built with an "upstairs" - once almost unheard of. There are complaints about "overhang" and loss of privacy and much more. Even with all that though there are plenty of opportunities for people who still want to have a free standing house on their own little block...and they are prepared to travel to and from work to live in such a house. 
That may have to change, almost certainly will have to change. People will have to get used to using public transport too. We do need to reduce our dependency on the car - but public transport has to be cheap, reliable and available to everyone before that happens.
I wondered about "the Extinction Rebellion mob" that Elderly Man was so concerned about. How many of them used a car to travel that day? How many of them would give up a day of their time each week to go out and clean the environment up and plant the trees the planet needs in order to survive? How many of them have environmentally irresponsible hobbies that use up fossil fuels or create plastic waste?
Apparently Downunder produces 1.3% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. It's not good and yes we can do better but we also need to take into account many other things.  If Extinction Rebellion really want to get the message across they need to be demanding more be done about mass transit options and terrace housing perhaps?