Sunday, 20 August 2017


is one of those things which makes the world a better place - or it should.
I work with volunteers. I work with professional people who volunteer their skills, their time, and their money to some of the most impoverished and needy  people on this planet. (And yes, I volunteer my time to them.) 
They do not expect to be paid. Sometimes they are not even thanked. They simply go out and do the job they have been asked to do and then leave. 
You don't tell them what to do or how to do it. There will be a request from somewhere. "We have a bridge that needs repairing as fast as possible so that aid lorries can get through..." is a request that has come more than once, "We can supply the manpower but we have a problem and we need an engineer with experience of this sort of terrain..."  Then there are requests like, "Is there a doctor free to do a couple of weeks in a tent hospital in the earthquake zone?" They will know what sort of injuries to expect and, if they  have been talking to colleagues who have done similar work before them, they will know what sort of conditions they will have to work with. "We need two more people able to administer vaccinations..."
and so it goes on. 
I don't need to find those people. All I need to do is make sure they can communicate with people on the ground - if I am asked.
I thought of all that again yesterday. An organisation I belong to is about to have its AGM. There are a number of positions vacant. Once these positions would have been filled  without too much trouble. People knew approximately what was expected of them. Of course there would always be a bit of cajoling required but many people were prepared to take their turn. 
Yesterday "job descriptions" were produced. I read the job description for the position I am most familiar with - the one I  held for over a decade. I read it with a growing sense of unease. It wasn't that the description was that inaccurate. I did most of what was described there but I did a great deal more as well. Doing the job well demanded a good many things that about which the members were not informed. I also did the job differently.  I was not supervised. I did not have to report back or be constantly accountable. It was the same with every other position. It was assumed that people knew what to do and do it. In my case it was also assumed that I had the professional expertise and experience to do the job. I don't know who wrote the job descriptions although I am fairly certain who was behind them and why they did it. 
The attempts to turn a relaxed, friendly organisation into a much more disciplined one may or may not work. I suspect it won't work but those attempting may have to find out the hard way. What I do know is that if I attempted to tell any of the volunteers I work with how to do their job then neither of us could do our jobs.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Simple, effective, deadly

and totally lacking in any sense at all.
What is the point of hiring a van and driving it through a crowd? What is the point of killing innocent strangers who have done you no harm - and may even be of your faith and beliefs? 
Why should a seven year old boy be missing in a foreign city where, I have to assume, he doesn't speak the language. Even if he does speak the language he is only seven. If he is injured as well then what he is going through must be so terrifying that it will affect him for the rest of his life. 
The Senior Cat had responsibility for a very big school once, the biggest of its kind in the state. It was in the middle of a "soldier settlement" - one of those well meant but disastrous social experiments that took place after the war. It was meant to provide employment for returned service men who wanted to go farming - or simply didn't know what else to do. 
There were,  understandably, a lot of mental issues among the returned men. It wasn't helped by some of the local people not being very welcoming at the start. 
When we arrived about twenty years after the war debt was high and mental illness was a real problem. There were many other problems too. 
And yes, it affected the students in the school. It still does. I was talking to one recently. We met by chance at an event which should have been enjoyable. He was looking tense and anxious. His brother, the eldest in the family, was back in psychiatric care - the result of  having been violently physically abused by their father  during one of his many episodes of  mental illness. 
Yes, sixty-three years later someone is still suffering the consequences of the war - someone who wasn't even born before it ended. 
There are plenty of other stories like that. The idea that a war is over when peace is declared and documents signed is nonsense. It is only a start to recovery.
I am wondering about this small boy and the trauma he and all other children present are going through. Even those who are not too badly injured and come from loving, stable homes are going to have "flashbacks". What of those who have lost a parent? What of those who have seen others die?
And all that is just a small part of the terror and trauma  children are going through around the world right now. There have been too many requests for help to set up communication assistance for children who have simply ceased to speak or find it difficult to say anything because of the horrors they have seen or have been found alone without a common language. Some of them will simply never recover to the point where they can be fully functioning. stable human beings again.
Why would you want to do  that to someone else?

Friday, 18 August 2017

Pauline Hanson wore a burqa into Parliament

It was a stupid, idiotic, crass thing to do. The reaction was almost as stupid.
It would have been wiser to completely ignore the stunt. It would certainly have been better if the media had not given it any oxygen at all. 
There are very few women who wear the burqa in my city. It is probably not worn by many anywhere else in the country. It is a ridiculous garment. There is no religious requirement to wear it. In some Muslim countries it is actually against local law to wear it. In countries where it is much more common women have few, if any, rights. 
The hijab - the scarf which covers the head - is seen differently by many women. Most Muslim women will cover their heads and some will not show their hair at all. 
I can remember going to the tiny "flat" of a Muslim friend at university. She had invited me and a Chinese friend - the mother of my godchildren - home for a meal.  As we all walked in she pulled off her hijab and tossed it onto a chair, shook her head and ran her hands through her thick black hair. No, she didn't wear it in the privacy of her own home. Why should she? 
    "I wouldn't bother here," she told me much later, "But it's what my husband and my father expect."  
I didn't say anything but her words have stayed with me. I have wondered since whether she would have worn a burqa if that is what they had told her to do. My guess is that there might have been some debate about that. She was young. She wore jeans and t-shirts to lectures. 
I never discussed the issue with the other hijab wearing students although I taught them. They wore jeans and t-shirts too. 
I also taught several Muslim girls who wore no head covering at all - unless they were going to the mosque.  
We,  the non-hijab wearing girls and I, did discuss the burqa, more than once. Without exception they were opposed to the wearing of it, even in their own countries. Their view was that the women who wore it were doing things like "giving in" to their husbands and other males or "too afraid not to wear it" or "just not educated" and more. They saw no point in trying to ban it but they did believe most women did not wear it by choice. They believed women wore it because they believed that was what was expected of them...and yes, they wore the hijab for that reason as well as because it symbolised their faith.
Yesterday the Senators who are usually vociferous in their support of "women's rights" and "equality" chose to side with a "religious freedom" which does not actually exist. They chose to support a symbol of subjugation rather than ignore a stupid stunt. 
If a woman chooses to wear a burqa so be it but if she wears it out of fear or even because someone simply says she should then there is reason for concern. Choosing to do what Pauline Hanson did is going to encourage a minority of men to insist women should wear a burqa - and wear it for all the wrong reasons. She has done more harm than good. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

If Barnaby Joyce is a Kiwi

then I am a Scot...I think.
Barnaby Joyce is Downunder's Deputy Prime Minister. His father is a Kiwi married to a Downunderite. Joyce was born in Australia. Another citizenship row has erupted because the Kiwis claimed Joyce as one of their own.
I thought about this. I am still thinking about it. My paternal great-grandparents were Scots, from Caithness. They migrated here in the late 1800s. They had eleven children.
Now, if Joyce is a Kiwi because his father was a Kiwi, those children have to be Scots. Right? That means my paternal grandfather was a Scot. He certainly never renounced his Scots citizenship. He was very proud of it. He belonged to the local Caledonian Society and was an office-holder in it. He made sure his children and grandchildren were aware of their heritage. There is a strong sense of "clan" in the extended family - our family reunions are known as clan gatherings thankyou very much. 
Now if my grandfather was a Scot then his children have to be Scots - yes? And that makes me a Scot as the child of a Scot?
You can start to see how awkward all this gets. 
There are vast numbers of people who claim "indigenous" heritage - even where that heritage may be of the order of a single great-great grandparent. At the present time we allow people to claim they are "indigenous" on that basis - they simply need to be acknowledged by others with similar claims as being "indigenous". It completely ignores their other ancestry.  If Joyce had an indigenous mother or maternal grandparent (and, as far as I know, he doesn't) and had claimed indigenous heritage would this issue even have come up?
Two of my nephews have a parent who is the son of Greek-Cypriot migrants. Is their father a Greek-Cypriot although he was born in Downunder? Are they Greek-Cypriot although their "perhaps-Scots" mother was born in Downunder?
Where does this row leave me and my siblings and my cousins? Are we Downunderites or Scots? I would have absolutely no objection to being held to be Scots. My siblings and cousins would not object either  but we have always assumed we are Downunderites.
It's time to sort the issue out. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017


and they fit and they are being used.
I made a friend a pair of "fingerless" mittens recently. They are made in about as simple a form as possible - two rectangles of ribbed knitting seamed up the sides with a hole for the thumb. It's the sort of mindless, beginner pattern that could be used to teach people to do knit and purl.
As I have said elsewhere in this blog my paternal grandmother taught me to knit. For both of us it was a huge challenge - but we made it.
My paternal grandmother also had the good sense not to start me on a scarf. Why do people think that a scarf is a good idea for a  beginner knitting. I do not like knitting scarves. Perhaps it is because I don't like wearing them but they also seem to go on forever. I know other people do like wearing them and I have knitted some but if that had been my beginner project I doubt I would have wanted to go on. No, I simply made a square-ish sort of thing and gave it to Middle Cat as a doll blanket. The next thing I made was square-ish too - a potholder for my grandmother. 
After that I got a bit more adventurous. Now I can think of other things a beginner knitter can make - a finger puppet to start with, a bookmark, a headband/sweatband, a phone cover? 
When I taught the class of 10-11yr old children to knit they made themselves beanies - in the colours of their favourite football team. 
I have made a lot of things for other people since then. I have had the thrill of sitting on public transport and seeing, several seats ahead of me, one of the city's "down and out" men wearing a beanie I have made. I have seen someone in the local shopping centre wearing a shawl I made and had raffled off. No, I didn't rush up and say, "Hey, I made that!" I most certainly didn't want to do that. It was just nice to think that someone was using something I had made. 
And there, in the email this morning, was a picture of A...'s hands wearing the mittens and the message telling me she appreciated them. She quilts. I know she knows about the time it takes to make things.
It makes me very glad that I was able to tell another friend recently, "I am still using that little holder you made me. It's one of the most useful things I have been given." 
And it makes me wonder about all the other things which are made with love and care and given away - and never used. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Doctor's appointment

for the Senior Cat again. Middle Cat arrived in the middle of yesterday morning and took him off. This was the monthly appointment with associated blood test. (He is on strong antibiotics because of his shoulder problem.) 
Fortunately the Senior Cat likes our GP - and she seems to like him. 
They arrived back almost three hours later - having also been to the chemist and the bank.They'd had coffee too. Middle Cat had even done some shopping.
When was the next appointment? Middle Cat had it all lined up. There is a row of medical and associated appointments for the Senior Cat, a row of appointments for her. 
I consider myself fortunate that, most of the time, Middle Cat can deal with these things. I can get on with feeding the Senior Cat and caring for him in other ways. Middle Cat has more medical knowledge. I have acquired more than the average over the years but hers far exceeds mine.  It also means that I don't have to worry about getting the Senior Cat into a taxi. At 94 he is not comfortable about using them. He worries that foreign born drivers will think he is being rude when he simply doesn't hear them well enough and also fails to understand their accents. It's a little more difficult to get in and out of cars these days too. And, I would need to go with him. Would anything else get done?
But, we get appointments for him. They happen. We have a medical system that, for all the criticisms, gets there in the end for him. 
I thought of this while he was out. Someone phoned me to ask for some help in writing a letter. Their disabled sister, a non-speaker, had been rushed to hospital. Her communication device had not been sent with her. Nobody from her group house had gone with her.  
In the emergency department nobody knew how to communicate with her. They couldn't ask the questions they wanted to ask of this woman doubled over with pain. They tried to get someone from the group house. Yes, they'd send someone - when they had time. How does she communicate? Oh, there's something here. Well, can you send it by taxi perhaps? When we get a moment. It's busy here right now. Is there a relative we can contact? She has a sister somewhere. We'll have to look it up but you'll have to wait until the person in charge gets here.
And what had happened to calling me? It is one of those occasions I would have dropped everything, called Middle Cat and told her what was going on, and gone in by taxi to help. Her sister lives several hours away by car. I am supposed to be the first in line in an emergency requiring communication assistance. They didn't even bother to contact me. The first I heard about it all was when her sister asked for help with the letter, well two letters. One was going the appropriate authorities to make a formal complaint. The other was going to the hospital staff to thank them for trying their best. Someone should have made a doctor's appointment before it was too late.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Do you know any dragons?

I am trying to design a dragon portrait. I would really like to talk to a dragon. What do they think is important about themselves? What would they like me to emphasise? How do they want me to set about this?
I am not sure if I consciously design things or whether they just happen. At the present time I have a project and - unusually for me - there is a deadline which has to be met. It is also important I do the project very well indeed. I will be teaching a class. People will be coming along to learn. I regard that very seriously indeed.
The general idea that I had to design a dragon came out of somewhere in the middle of the night - as such ideas are inclined to do. It was not my idea - at least I don't think it was. There's a dragon out there somewhere trying to tell me something. 
The problem is that I don't speak "Dragonal" or whatever it is that dragons speak. I am not even very good at "Universal" - that curious language non-human living things use to  communicate with each other. I just understand a little of it now and then. I have some basic phrases in Feline and Canine - most of which are of very little use here.
But, the dragon is there - somewhere - in knits and purls and twists and cables. (No he or she is NOT lace...this class is about cables and previous dragon portraits have been carved into stone.) I think I have a dragon head and a dragon body - all curves and cables.  It is the tail which is bothering me. Dragon tails are important. They are used for balance. Dragons cannot fly without their tails. At present I don't understand the aerodynamics of dragon flight... human aircraft tell me nothing about dragons. 
Today I will simply have to try again... cable two right, knit one or purl one? - cable two left? 
Somewhere out there a dragon will tell me what needs to be done! And yes, dear dragon, I promise you a nice bright beady eye to watch I do the right thing.