Friday, 20 October 2017

The love affair with the Holden car

is over.
I had to make a trip to the bank on Wednesday - after the trip to the dentist and the problem with the brake cable being locked to the other bike. It was definitely not a good day in that respect.
In the bank an elderly man dressed in a way which shouted, "Urban Aristocracy" was doing a complex transaction to assist his son. His son was buying one of the last Holden cars to roll off the assembly line - and yes, son was apparently paying for it. As I was a mere metre away I could hear all this quiet conversation with the teller. The elderly man actually turned and gave me a smile and shrug at one point. 
Had we not both been supposed to be concentrating on our own affairs I might have told him about my paternal grandfather and Holden cars.
I don't know much about cars so I don't know what sort of car my paternal grandfather had when I was born - apart from the fact that it was also a Holden. It was made in this state and he believed in supporting local industry.
I do remember the next car he bought. It was an "FJ" model Holden. It was cream and had red leather seats - yes, actual leather in those days. 
That car is seared into my memory for more than one reason. The first is a very early memory of my grandfather travelling to the place we were living in, a small town north of the city, to take me and my brother to safety. There were very serious fires in the area at the time. The heat was also extreme. 
I remember the journey to the city as being silent. My brother and I were frightened but compliant. We trusted "Grandpa" to get us to "Grandma" safely. (Our parents were following in our own car with Middle Cat in a crib and anything of importance packed. The Senior Cat told me once, "We didn't know if there would be a house to go back to." There was. We were fortunate, very fortunate. 
And that FJ  Holden got us there. Grandpa used it for another twelve years and then bought another Holden. It was maroon and white and probably an EK model - although I can't be sure of that. It was the last car he bought
The heat on the day he came to get us was so intense that the dye from the red leather seats came out and stained his white shirt.  (Men like Grandpa never wore coloured shirts at that time.) I remember thinking there was blood on his back. My grandmother was not impressed - not that she blamed Grandpa.
Many years later I was at the local shopping centre and someone pulled up near where I had parked my trike. The car was a beautifully restored cream FJ Holden. The driver commented on my trike. I told him, "My grandfather had an FJ that colour."
He told me "I bought it from someone in ...... "  He went on to say that the only real problem with it had been the hand brake. There had been a little card on the dashboard saying "Don't forget the handbrake". It was Grandpa's old car! The new owner was, if anything, more excited by this than I was. We chatted a little more and then I pedalled off thinking of all the trips we children had made in that car.
Grandpa was not a good driver. He did not enjoy driving. He did it out of necessity. His absent mindedness over the handbrake was an indication that he preferred to concentrate on other things - but I think he missed the old FJ.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

There are still gentlemen in this world

as I had cause to discover yesterday.
I had to go to the dentist. To get there I put my trike on the train and, once in the city, pedal to my destination. There is a bike parking hoop outside the building.
I parked and locked my trike to the hoop. I went to the dentist.
When I came out I had a problem. I couldn't move the trike. 
No, not a dreaded flat tyre. There was a bike parked next to mine. When the owner had locked his (no, I am not being sexist here) on the other side of the hoop he had caught my front brake cable as well. I was stuck.
I stood there for a minute trying not to panic. What was I going to do? I had no idea - unless the brake cable could be detached in some way.
There were no police around - although there often are there as a building across the road is used by them. Had there been I might have sought some help from them.
What else was there? There's a coffee shop next to the building which houses the dentist. 
Outside that, just sitting and chatting with empty coffee containers were two men.
I took a deep breath and went up to them.
    "Excuse me gentlemen do either of you know anything about bikes? I have a bit of a problem."
They looked at me and one said, "Not much but..." and then the other one said, "I know a bit...what's the problem."
I explained and he came to have a look. He frowned. Tugged gently and said, "I see. I don't know quite what to do but perhaps..."
He started to fiddle. No, that didn't work. He tried something else and then said, "Ah."
He unscrewed one part and loosened it. That meant he could undo a clip and take another part out. My trike was no longer attached.
I was prepared to take it at the point and go, very carefully  with just the back brake to the nearest bike shop but no he said,
     "Now let me see if I can get it back together."
And he did.
I thanked him profusely and all he said was, "I'm very sorry it happened to you. I'm glad I could help."
I was too. He won't ever really know how much he helped and how much his kindness meant but I hope my thanks sounded as genuine as I gratitude was.
 

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Telecommunications Ombudsman

is clearly in need of more staff to help her. She is overwhelmed with complaints about the state of our phone and internet services.  There are reports that these are up 41% nationally and 51% in this state in the past year.
Yes, I know people are now quite unable to go about their daily lives without being constantly in touch. 
And yes, I am one. I work from home. The internet is my work life-line. 
Yesterday I added to that growing list of complaints the Ombudsman has received. I tried not to do it. I really did try not to do it. 
The problem is that my internet service provider is not even meeting the basic contractual obligation - to provide me with a service. It keeps dropping out - not just occasionally, not just once a day but many times a day. On Monday it dropped out eleven times altogether. Yesterday it was only seven...yes, only seven. 
Each time I have to go through the process of trying to get it up and running again. It has dropped out as I am typing this which means that, before I can post anything, I have to go through the process again. 
I have been told I can get a "better" service if I pay more but why should I? This service is advertised as the one which meets my needs. If it worked as advertised it would more than meet my needs. I don't play games on the internet. I don't watch movies. I download documents. I upload documents. I do a little searching and (horror of horrors) I write a blog. That's about it. So why should I need to pay for a premium service with features I won't use - and which, from all accounts, is not much better than the service I am now supposed to be getting? 
I was also told I could go with another service provider if I wasn't satisfied. Hold on a moment that's not meeting your contractual obligation to provide a service - not just to me but to everyone else who has complained. 
I know the NBN is a problem but it is not the only problem. Internet service providers are using the problems with that to make an additional profit by simply cutting back on their own costs and not providing as much service.
Sorry but it simply won't do. I have complained. If they had bothered to answer my registered letters and apologised in any way I might not have done it...but I have had enough. Now to see if I can get the "service" up and running again so I can post this.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

"The judges decision is final

and no correspondence will be entered into" is usually how it is worded but people still want to know why their  undoubted masterpiece didn't win first prize.
I had an email from someone yesterday. I had asked for "feedback" about the knitting and crochet section in the state's major show. When I asked the Secretary of the organisation I belong to I said, rather bluntly perhaps, that I didn't think the group deserved to be allowed to give any feedback. They had barely participated. But, if they wanted to say something then I would listen.
It took a while and the response on their behalf came from the Treasurer rather than the Secretary or the President. Still, it was a response.
There was a complaint that the website is not user friendly. Fair enough. I didn't try it myself as I don't enter things - being a steward makes that impossible.  Still, if it is a problem then it is likely to be a problem right across the event. They can do something about that.
Then there was a complaint that the judging "lacked transparency". I can guess what that means. "We don't know who the judges are. How can we complain about the judging if we don't know who they are?"
More than once I have been asked who the judges are. My answer has always been that I have been asked not to divulge that information. It isn't a popular answer. I get criticised for not telling people but it isn't something I can do. If people disagree with the decision of the judges they can do one of several things. They can complain in writing - but please give some valid reasons for your complaint. They can offer to do the judging. Yes, that will involve some work.  Or they can improve the standard of their work.
But, hang on - the complaint about the lack of transparency was coming from people who didn't even enter anything. Why are they concerned about the very professional standard of judging?
There was also a complaint about the size which was allowed for something. If the class allowed for a little larger would more people actually enter? I doubt it but, give a good reason, and those responsible for the schedule might come at it.
And there was also a complaint because the schedule had not kept up with modern trends in knitting and crochet. I did some homework on that one. I looked at other, similar shows in other parts of the country. I couldn't see anything that was different that should be considered - in fact the local event seems to be much more flexible and allow a much wider variety of items to be entered. I came to the conclusion it wasn't the schedule but those who enter who are not keeping up with current trends. The judge would have been delighted to see some really up to date and interesting work. 
I have responded to the person who emailed me asking for more detail. I will be very interested in the response - if I get one. 
THIS IS A POSTSCRIPT written on 18/10/2017
I have been severely criticised for writing the above post and for a general failure to help. Perhaps I could have been a little kinder but I did think I was being fair. It is sometimes easy to be misunderstood when writing something like this. I genuinely believed I had helped when asked and I don't believe I should be criticised because I refuse to divulge information I was asked to keep confidential. Cat

Monday, 16 October 2017

Activity packs for children

are essential. 
We are being "invaded" in mid-November - or that is the plan. My brother is bringing his family over from another state to see  the Senior Cat.
They were here last year. The Senior Cat was delighted to see them but the experience was exhausting. He is noticeable frailer this year so it will be even more difficult. He is looking forward to seeing them but also feeling a little anxious about how he will cope.
Last year I provided "activity packs". They were large brown paper  bags with handles and, inside, a variety of things to do. The Senior Cat's five great-grandchildren swooped and the contents kept them occupied for some time.
I have planned the same this year. I have bought new paper bags from the "cheap" shop. (They won't last but that doesn't matter.) There are mini coloured pencils and a colouring book. Those are essentials. There is a clock face they can colour in and, with some help, attach hands that will move. (Might as well provide something mildly educational was my thought.) Then there are some foam stickers - because they were bright and shiny and glittery and feature dinosaurs! There are sheets of stickers. There are some cardboard stars for making their own Christmas mobiles. And there are some hats they can decorate. These are smallish boater hat forms. I understand the material they are made from is called "sinamay" and that the forms themselves are actually supposed to be used to make "fascinators" but I found a pack of five on the internet. Five? How could I possibly resist? It was just the right number.  Middle Cat and I went to a rather odd shop that I thought  might have something to decorate them with - and found just the right thing. They can glue the decorations on and we will add some elastic to keep them on their heads if they want to wear them - and they might.
And then of course there is food. There are chocolate frogs, jelly garden bugs, and Smarties - and there are bear shaped biscuits which I have yet to pack into individuals packets. 
I am also making the girls fancy snap hair-clips. They are just a token gesture in the "make" department.
Now, dear readers, I need to know what I can make the six year old male. Any suggestions. It has to  be small - or do I go sexist and give him a miniature car instead?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Gardening is not my

my favourite occupation.
Middle Cat brought some peas around on Friday. The Senior Cat swooped on them.  He didn't particularly want to eat them but he was enthusiastic. 
      "Next year I must grow some more too."
Mmm....maybe. 
Middle Cat and I went off to the hardware-garden centre when he prowled off to have his afternoon nap. We bought enough plants to fill the gaps in the front garden - where we had the winter things. The Senior Cat likes petunias so I bought, among other things, two more punnets of petunia seedlings. 
      "You know you'll have to plant them don't you," Middle Cat told me.
Yes, I know. The Senior Cat's gardening is limited to pots and planter boxes at waist height these days. He loves to fiddle with them. He has been passionate about gardening for, at very least, all his married life. I remember the garden in the house where I was only a toddler. I can remember being severely scolded by my mother for accidentally running my tricycle  into a garden bed.  She had no idea how hard it was to learn to both pedal and steer at the same time. The Senior Cat righted the stake holding up the tomato bush and I headed on my way.
The Senior Cat is an "organic" gardener. He "companion" plants and uses a lot of mulch to keep things moist - or that is the theory.
It doesn't always work of course.
Last  year I did a lot of the watering in summer. I know I will do even more this year.
And I planted all the things in the patch by the front water tanks. There are hollyhocks to - hopefully - hide the lower part of the tanks and the impatiens at ground level. The petunias have gone out into the full sun. 
Our garden is definitely not "landscaped". It just happens. The Senior Cat decides he wants to try and grow something. There is a space. He has always put something into the space. We have eaten the produce or enjoyed the flowers. (I tend to leave them outside so they last longer.)
But, it is the Senior Cat's garden. I hate having to interfere in the sense that I am doing the planting and most of the watering and some of the weeding and feeding. It just seems wrong to be doing it.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Hospital food

is currently a news item. There is an article in this morning's paper and it was apparently discussed at length on a "talk" show yesterday. (The person who came to help the Senior Cat shower was telling him about it.) Another local resident who had been  in hospital was telling me about her experience - not good.
Now I know it is difficult to supply food to a lot of people at a very low price. When I was in my teens I spent some of each summer "holiday" going to a camp for disabled children. I was a Guide and we would take 60 disabled children to camp. The Army provided and (thankfully) pitched  the tents but the rest was up to us. Each child would be paired with a Guide and there were some senior staff as well. There would be about 140 people to cater for altogether - at the lowest possible cost. We didn't pay for the workers of course - that was part of our job. Some food was donated. There were children on special diets. There were some who had feeding problems. 
I don't quite know how we did it  - but we did. The first couple of years I went I didn't know too much about it. I scrubbed potatoes, set out plates and cutlery, washed up - and helped to feed children who couldn't do things for themselves. 
Yes, there was a lot of help and we worked hard but I am also aware that we did not have what would now almost certainly be available. We actually had to slice the bread. Sliced bread was available in the city but, in the little rural community we were camping in, it was not available. (It actually took them some years because the local baker and the community were of largely German descent and did not see it as a way of treating bread.) Still, we managed to make toast! We had limited refrigeration. 
And somehow we managed to produce breakfast, a main meal and a light meal for everyone and supper for some of the older children and the Guides. From memory we ate pretty well too. The children were enthusiastic about the food - and usually ravenous as we had them doing all sorts of activities. (I still hold my breath at the day a boy without arms decided to climb a tree...he managed to get about eight feet up - and down again safely.) But even hungry children can't eat the inedible so the food must have been edible. There was even roast lamb on the Sunday in the middle of the ten day camp.
Now, if we could do it under the most difficult and basic of conditions why can't a modern catering service provide the same?
The woman I was talking to told me that she was given breakfast one morning but there was nothing to drink apart from the milk with a little packet of cornflakes. (There was nothing else on her meal tray.) She smiled as she said it and told me, "At least that was better than the chap who just got cornflakes, no milk and no spoon." 
There is no excuse for that sort of thing. I suspect the company with the contract has discovered that it is not going to make a profit and is trying to cut corners.
But, if you are in hospital, it is quite possible you don't want to eat because you aren't feeling hungry or it is just too much of an effort or even - just maybe - you feel ill. (Oh and what if you can't actually reach the tray delivered by robot or undo the containers the food is prepackaged in?)
It is a pity  our late friend B.... is no longer with  us. She was the person who could "make something out of nothing". A little advice from her might go a long way. 
And people might get better more quickly.