Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The generosity of others

never ceases to surprise me.
Yesterday I had an email from a yarn company. Attached to it were two gift vouchers to be used to buy yarn for a small group of young people who knit for others.
I do not, at their request, say much about these young people. All of them have serious health issues and disabilities. More than a decade ago they were taught to knit by a friend of mine who lived permanently in a hospital. She wanted to give them something to do while they too were in hospital. I became involved when she sought more yarn and more "things to read" from me for them. 
I met these then very young people. They were at the stage where they could knit very simple things and wanted to know what they could make for other people.
By then other knitters had heard of my friend. They sent her knitting magazines and yarn. She made all sorts of things but her socks were legendary and much sought after by surgeons who spend hours on their feet. 
The young knitters thought they could never aim that high - but they could improve. I began to help with their knitting and with helping them keep up with their schoolwork.
When my friend died they asked me to go on helping them. It has been an enormous pleasure to do that. These young people are all at university now, trying to pursue their dreams despite their difficulties.
They don't get out much so they knit. Occasionally they get together in the home of one family which has the space and the access for all of them together. Over the years they have managed to learn a great deal more. They are accomplished knitters now. They can follow patterns, alter patterns, and try new ideas and techniques with a great deal of enthusiasm.
But this year has been really hard. They lost one of their friends in circumstances I cannot talk about. They are missing him badly. Their  health issues mean they simply cannot risk going to classes even if the other students go back. They can do some course work but they can't do it all. It has all been devastating for them.
Enter a very, very good friend to all of us. M.... cannot afford to do this. I know she cannot afford to do this but there were the two vouchers.
I called the mother of one of them. She was as shocked as I was.  
Wisely spent there is potentially several months of knitting there for the four who are left - two boys, two girls. 
We had already discussed what they might make this year - make for others. That is what they have always wanted to do. They can't get out and volunteer the way some young people do. They can't play sport. None of them can drive so they are dependent on their parents. They have some friends but those friends all too often do what they cannot do - a Friday or Saturday night out takes planning for them and things are warming up just as they feel the need to go to bed. So, they have chosen another option - to create something for others. 
Their mothers have scoured the charity shops for yarn - as have I. Friends like M... and H.... have helped. Another friend, now sadly no longer with us, worked for a knitting magazine and she helped immensely. She was also the person who got me the job of reviewing books. There is a wonderful company in England and they, on learning that the then teens were knitting chemo caps, sent out a lot of left over bits and pieces they could not sell. The postage must have cost them quite a bit. Every scrap of yarn has been used.
And this time they will have wonderful new yarn that can be made up into warm garments for those in need.
It is a gift that will spread out beyond the giver and the immediate recipients to those in need - and those who need to be shown what can be done.
M.... I know you read this blog. Thank you. 

Monday, 25 May 2020

The "$60bn blackhole" in the economy

does not actually exist. I am puzzled as to where this idea came from. Even for opposition politicians this seems rather extreme.
This  is  sixty billion dollars which does not need to be spent.
For those of you in Upover and elsewhere this was an estimate of the cost of an initiative the government has put together to try and kick start the post Covid19 economy. There were and are, as there often are, problems with the implementation of the plans and with the form filling and the details and more. 
I have some idea of how difficult it is to do these things. Ms W's father has been peripherally involved in all this as part of his own work. He has been working very long hours and tells me that his more directly involved colleagues are working the same sort of hours. 
Our Prime Minister has been on air saying that yes there was a mistake in the costings. He says it is money that does not need to be spent. Surely we should be pleased about that? 
Apparently not. "Spend it on something else then," the Leader of the Opposition is saying, "Spend it on the people who missed out the first time around."
There are several things wrong with this. While there are people who missed out some  have other income available to them and others are simply not eligible for any assistance under the law. There may be a few to whom financial assistance can be extended  but it won't be everyone - however nice that may be. Any such assistance also needs to have a time limit placed on it. Already there are calls from the Opposition and elsewhere to extend the increased income support well beyond what the government planned.  It is the sort of thing you can say when you are in Opposition or you do not need to be accountable for the way in which taxpayer money is being spent.
And then there is the other little problem, this money is being borrowed.  Governments cannot simply print money. They have to find it from somewhere. Sixty billion dollars does not simply appear in the Treasury coffers. It has to be borrowed - and paid back. A sum that size will be paid back by future generations, as will much other post bush fires and post Covid19 expenditure. 
If the government did do as being demanded then it would be accused of "fiscal irresponsibility". I think we have had enough of that. We have had the program where schools were provided with halls whether they needed them or not. We have had the "pink batts" (roof insulation) program and the "cash for clunkers" (old car buy back) program.
The state next door is planning on borrowing money from China to fund an infrastructure project. This is a very high risk strategy and a very foolish one but the present government believes it will keep them in power for years to come - simply because it will provide work and the economy will appear to be booming. At the present time most of the state's residents appear to be  unaware of the consequences of borrowing huge sums of money - or naively believe that is can be paid back fairly easily. It can't. 
Our federal government realises that money borrowed is money which has to be repaid - and repaid with interest. It is not my generation or the generation on either side of me which will pay for any borrowing. It is the generations below that.
Burdening them with unnecessary debt just so everyone can enjoy our past comfortable life style is selfish in the extreme. We all need to cut back and consider the future. There is no $60bn black hole  in the budget - but there might have been if we had needed to borrow that on top of what we will already need to borrow.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

The post office is not

doing the job it is supposed to be doing.
I ordered something from the UK in early March. The company in question dispatched it very promptly and let me know it was on the way. It didn't come...and it didn't come.
Once before a parcel from the same company was delivered to the wrong address and sent back with a "not wanted" on it. I spoke to the Post Office about that. They were full of apologies but said, "there is nothing we can do". 
Nothing they can do? I thought it was their job to deliver parcels to the correct address? (And yes, the address on the parcel was correct.) 
In between two books have gone missing. Nobody seems to have been able to track those down. The are not new books just copies of a long out of print gardening book the Senior Cat wants to give to other people.
A letter sent from a neighbouring state took seventeen days to get here. One posted from the other side of the city took eleven days.
A letter sent to the UK took almost three weeks to arrive and another sent over three weeks ago has not yet arrived. Why?
A very good friend in the US has sent some knitting literature for a group of young people with disabilities. We are both very fond of these young people. I have not told them anything is coming as they would be upset for her that the envelopes have not yet arrived. 
And this last parcel I was expecting did not arrive. I informed the company and we both gave it a little more time. They then offered to send it again - or get a refund.
Something made me say "get a refund". Things are too difficult right now and I had sourced a substitute elsewhere anyway. Then, this last week, the parcel arrived. It had taken eleven weeks and three days to get here. Why?
The company in question has already given me a refund. I have emailed them and informed them that the parcel has arrived and asked them to bill me again so I can pay them. It is annoying and time consuming for them and for me. I have also spent money on a substitute which is not quite as satisfactory.
I know there is apparently an increased volume of parcels in the post right now. I also know that extra precautions are being taken because of the Covid19 situation. The increased volume won't last but it does not account for something sent in early March - before all the additional security measures were put in place.
The volume of letters has apparently dropped so much that deliveries no longer take place every day. Why does it then take so long for a letter to get somewhere? Even allowing for all the measures being taken to ensure staff are safe (and so they should be) the snail like speed of mail is alarming. 
There are important letters not being delivered in a reasonable length of time. The Post Office is simply not recognising that not everyone has access to email and others do not have access while the library computer service is closed. 
I am annoyed about the parcel but I know there are much more urgent letters not being delivered in a reasonable length of time. The CEO of the Post Office is paid a massive amount - perhaps it is time to use some of that on extra postal workers?

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Colour schemes for the bathroom

have definitely changed over the years.
Yesterday I had cause to go into the bathroom of one of the older residents of the district.
    "It's in the shaving cabinet Cat," he told me. I picked up the said item (and took it with me to try and get a replacement) and I said nothing about the orange and green colour scheme. How long ago did people decorate their bathrooms with colours like that?
Our bathrooms were always cream. It was the colour the Public Buildings Department had decided on. Indeed internally our house was almost always cream. You can tell departmental housing by the colours used. The colours are neutral I suppose.
The present bathroom is cream too, apart from the tiles on the floor. They are brown. My mother chose them for their non-slip quality. The tiles are small and hard to clean. Forty years on they make bigger  non-slip tiles.
Our house would never make it into something like "House and Garden" - except perhaps as an example of what not to do.
My paternal grandparents' bathroom was as old as the house. It had one of those old claw footed bath tubs. The only thing which had been added over the years was the shower over the bath tub. It was all neutral too. In summer my grandfather would often shower outside in cold water in an enclosure of hessian. He would empty a bucket of water over himself and then vigorously soap himself down before turning on what was was basically the garden hose.  The water would then run into the garden as well. Cold water did not seem to bother him. (He was also a year round almost daily swimmer until the last couple of years of his life.)
My maternal grandparents' bathroom however was a different story. I remember them "upgrading" it from a "lean to" at the back of the house. They did it at the same time as they "did" the extension for the kitchen. The old facilities were the same as those throughout the district at the time. Nobody thought of spending money on kitchens and bathrooms when the houses were first built - even in what was considered quite a "posh" area.
My maternal grandparents however upgraded - to pink. My maternal grandfather knew someone who had a new pink bath that could not be put in somewhere else because it has a tiny chip in it. My grandfather bought it at a greatly reduced price, repaired the chip so well it could not be seen, and had their bathroom upgraded. It was not just the bath which was pink but the shower cubicle and the wash basin and the tiles.
I do not like the colour pink and I liked it even less after that. My mother thought it was "too much pink". We later lived in the house. Nothing was done about the bathroom but I know my mother longed to do something about the pinkness of it all. Perhaps that is why we have that neutral cream now.
But the orange and green bathroom was something else. It is of course in keeping with the rest of the house. Orange must have been the colour the year it was built. The lounge room has brown carpet and deep orange upholstery. The curtains are brown and orange and cream. The wall paper is bamboo patterned. In the kitchen there is other wall paper - brown and orange and onion patterned. Nothing has changed and nothing will change because "that's the way my wife liked it". I didn't say anything of course but I suppose he guessed anyway because he smiled and said,
    "Didn't care for it myself."
I think I may stay with neutral throughout - and decorate with pictures and books.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Altering clothes

is not something I do. I do not have a sewing machine. I cannot thread a needle without extreme difficulty - and many muttered curses.
I am also a very short cat. If I buy trousers of any sort they invariably need to be taken up unless they are of the "capri" variety - on me those look almost long length.
In general I do not like to have to bother about clothes. I have said elsewhere that I will buy things in the local charity shop if one of the staff there tells me, "Cat, we have something that might suit you if you still want... "
But sometimes even I will buy something new. The other day a catalogue arrived. I had bought the Senior Cat a woollen cardigan from this same company a couple of years back. They still send the catalogue.  There were jeans in the catalogue. They were exactly the same sort as those I am wearing. The current pairs are getting thin at the knees and generally looking in danger of having the sort of "air conditioning" that teenagers seem to think is desirable. I don't need holes and tears in mine. Mmm....I ordered two pairs. This means that I am covered for another couple of years. They arrived and of course they need to be taken up. I put a safety pin in the relevant place and I prowled off to the dry-cleaner.
There is a lovely lady in the dry-cleaner who does alterations and repairs. She took up the previous two pairs.
I did not even need to open my mouth and miaou piteously at her. She smiled and said, "For me? You want them taken up?"
I nodded, "Yes, please."
She took them and smiled even more when she saw I had put a pin in at the correct point on one leg.
     "Easy and two pairs the same makes it even easier." She quoted me a charge much less than I was expecting. I know what she charged someone else for a similar alteration. He's a grumpy "old" man at about the age of fifty. He complained to me about the cost.
I must have looked pleased as well as surprised because she said,
    "I can knock a bit off for two the same - and you always say thank you."
This woman sits all day in a cramped spot, hunched over a sewing machine. She has to repair clothes as well as alter them. It is not a pleasant job but she does it cheerfully and well.  I want to say thank you. I expect to say thank you. Apart from paying her it is the very least I can do. It doesn't cost anything to say thank you - and this time it turned out to be cheaper.


Thursday, 21 May 2020

The stress of loneliness

features in a piece in this morning's paper. The writer is saying that the stress from loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking and obesity.
One of the Senior Cat's rare complaints recently has been that he misses people coming into the house - and thus having someone other than me with whom he can have a conversation. He has talked to several friends on the phone but it is "not the same thing". He is not getting out, not even outside some days. (I admit that I now hold my breath as he negotiates the back door despite the little ramp and the grab rail.) If it is fine enough and warm enough and he is out then I use his other walker as a tea trolley and take his morning or afternoon tea outside. That way he can at least watch the birds and, should the neighbourhood cat happen to call, they will have a conversation of sorts.
And, as the Senior Cat has said, he has me as some sort of company. Some people have none at all. I have been anxious about some of the older people I normally keep a watch on. They seem to have coped but they have needed reassurance that at least I have not forgotten them. One has a son living less than five minutes away in a car. He has not even spoken to her in over a month. She phoned him recently but his wife said he was "out". He has not bothered to return the call.  I have met him and he strikes me as simply not interested. If I asked him whether he loved his mother he would almost certainly say "yes". He just doesn't see communicating with her as important.
I was talking to someone else yesterday. She stopped me to say that they could not find the Power of Attorney for the man who recently had a stroke. I had to say, "There isn't one. I downloaded the form and did all the necessary preparations but C... never got around to signing it." I suspect he did not want to do it. He never saw himself as being in the position where someone else might have to manage his affairs. Now there will need to be a guardianship order instead. 
"And I know when he started to go downhill," I said, "It was when the dog died. He didn't have to get out and walk the dog."
She agreed. Getting out and walking the dog had brought this man into contact with other people. I first met him through the dog - the dog having escaped the back garden and having been firmly returned by me. Without his dog this man was not simply alone but lonely. 
He would not have recognised that. I am certain he saw himself as self-sufficient and not in need of the company of others. The woman who went in once a fortnight to clean for him stopped me one day and said she was worried about the way he just sat there and said so little. All I could do was talk to him when I saw him. He seemed to welcome that. He would go as far as to wave to me and stop me as I passed - but what is a few minutes of conversation in a lonely week? He was depressed. Depression is stressful, often incredibly stressful.
There are other lonely people around here. I know I can't care for all of them. I know some of them have family who could help - and all too often don't. There is someone I know who lives a short distance from me. She has three sons but sees very little of them. In more normal times she does get out a bit because she belongs to several groups. Right now that isn't happening. We might be able to go to the pub for a drink but we still can't go to a special interest gardening or craft group. I hope people like her will be able to go back to their groups - and that those groups will have survived. Until then - family matters.
My extended clan has been in touch with one another - "just checking". We won't see one another as we are scattered across the globe but, somehow, it seems important to keep a watchful eye on each other. The Senior Cat's equally elderly cousin will phone me tonight. I will inquire about her day - she will tell me what book she is reading and whether anyone has called in. It will give me news of a slightly younger cousin some thousands of kilometres away. I will tell her that a cousin in London called "just to check" and that a very distant cousin in Canada has sent an email. 
As a clan we are fortunate, very fortunate - but we have also worked at it. Such things do not come automatically.
It is easier than ever to make contact with others but "liking" a tweet or a post is not friendship. Friendship requires an effort - something we are not always prepared to make. Laziness is contributing to loneliness.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

They want to open the pubs

again. This is headline news in our paper this morning. Why? They claim that 20%  of our pubs could go to the wall unless they reopen now. While I am genuinely concerned about the people who would lose their jobs as a result my answer to that has to be "there are 20% too many pubs then". 
Some other businesses will go too - if they haven't already gone. They will usually be businesses which were struggling to survive anyway. Our local shopping centre is small. It had six clothing shops for women -  too many. There was also a shoe shop for women. One clothing shop has gone and the shoe shop has gone. Another clothing shop has not yet reopened - although there are signs that it might. One more is operating on reduced hours until June. The "nail parlour" and the "facial and eyebrow threading" place are still closed. The travel agent and the "flight centre" are still closed - nobody is going anywhere. The "gift" shop is open again - but it only employs one person.
Thankfully the bookshop has survived, indeed it has done well. People seem to be reading books and that is a good thing. Their problem is getting stock in. 
That pretty well covers the shops apart from those that sell food or alcohol or places like the chemist, optician and other "usual" services. It really isn't a big place. I suspect that something else someone has poured their money and soul into may well fold as well. 
A little further down the road though there is the "pub on the corner". They have their drive through sales and they have added to that with a takeaway menu. They are agitating to be open. They want people in there spending their money on alcohol and the poker machines.  But, how much money do people have for that sort of thing right now? There is always a problem with people spending more than they can afford on these things but if they reopen the pubs and people go back to old habits in there then more people outside pubs will lose their jobs - because right now even more people don't have that sort of disposable income. Spend it in the pub and we are going to have even more problems than before.
I do wonder whether politics will win over public health and people and I know I am not the only person to wonder about this.
If I cross the road I can get to our local library. It is open but under very strict guidelines. It is a very good library, one of the best in the state. There are four meeting rooms - none of which can be used right now. There is a very big area for the books and the computers and seats for people to read. Some people spend all day in there. Right now though they only allow ten people in there at a time - including the two staff on duty. You can stay for a maximum of ten minutes  - just time to return a book and find something else to read. They plan to reopen to full services slowly because the staff know how important the library is to the entire community. While a few users are impatient most have been more than willing to wait - because they don't want to risk having to close everything down again. 
I wish the pub going community would think the same way.