Friday, 21 February 2020

Bullying doesn't just happen

at school.
I saw an incident of it out in the community yesterday. It was perhaps what should be called "elder abuse". I won't detail it here. All I will say is that two of us stood there and stared in disbelief at the behaviour of the younger woman towards her mother. She saw us staring and tried to justify her  behaviour but it was unjustifiable and she knew it. I felt deeply disturbed by what I saw.
It made me wonder how much more of this sort of thing goes on out there.  I hope it is obvious that I love the Senior Cat and he is my first priority. He is my responsibility. If he does something silly or dangerous and I growl we almost always end up laughing at the same time. If we didn't we couldn't live together. 
Other people seem to think there is something extraordinary about this. There isn't. It is what should happen if it needs to happen - and it does need to happen.
But there are also parents who bully their children. When the woman and her mother had left (with the older woman in tears) the person I was with told me of something she had seen on social media - footage of a young boy with "dwarfism" crying and saying he wanted to kill himself because of bullying at school. His mother has apparently filmed this and put it up on the internet. If that is true then I am appalled. I am appalled (but not surprised) that he is being bullied at school but I am just as appalled that his mother can film it and then show it to the world. Okay, it apparently garnered a lot of support for the child but how is he going to feel about being used in that way? His mother obviously isn't coping with the situation either. I don't doubt that she was sincere but it is still a form of abuse. There are other ways to handle the situation - and what is the child's school doing about it?
I got bullied at school. In the end I retreated into books - until I went to a new school of all girls. I had come from a small rural school to an all girls high school. I was homesick. The class teacher had ridiculed my handwriting in front of the other 52 girls in the class. I would never have dared to try and defend myself.
Something must have snapped in one of the other girls because the first thing she did was say,
    "Come and eat lunch with us."
There were three girls who seemed to sit together. I sat next to them and listened while they talked about "the Beatles". It meant absolutely nothing to me. I had come from a dairying district and cows prefer classical music - seriously. The students in the other school rarely talked about "pop" music. I couldn't join in. I thought, "This is it. They won't want me to sit with them tomorrow."
The girls had organised themselves to see "the film". I was boarding in a hostel and going to a film was not the sort of thing I thought I would be allowed to do. I wasn't even going to ask.
But I did see the film. All the girls who were going - and only the Exclusive Brethren girls were not - all put in a small amount of their pocket money, probably no more than tuppence each. (Yes, this was before decimal currency.) One of the other girls arranged for her father to pick me up and take me back to the hostel. Her mother had obtained permission and Miss G... who was in charge did not consult my mother (who would have said "no")  she simply thought I should go too.
    "Come on. It's all organised. You're going too."
I still felt homesick and the class teacher still ridiculed me but suddenly I wasn't being bullied. It only lasted two terms before I had to move again but it was good. 
It was just one girl to start with - and that's enough. One person can make a difference. 
I've gone on trying to remember that. I hope the boy I heard about gets his one person too...not the adults apparently rallying around him but someone his own age who "just wants to be friends."

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Men's clothing

is normally a simpler matter - or is it?
The Senior Cat's "wardrobe" has to be reviewed. One of the things he hates doing these days is getting dressed and undressed. He finds it extremely difficult to do. It is slow and time consuming.
Yes, I have offered to help. The response I get - most of the time - is,
    "I can do it myself."
Fair enough. He can do it himself - with a little help from me. 
Part of the problem is that he is the ultra-conservative. He still likes to wear white shirts if he is "going out", traditional grey  trousers and so on.
His  "around home" clothing is appalling...and he loves it. His "work trousers" have multiple pockets in them - in which he keeps his pocket knives (the knives which end up in the wash if I am not careful),  pieces of binder twine he uses in the garden, a screw or two, the small screwdriver, a pencil stub, a handkerchief or two and much more. The shirts are no better. I threw out two last year. I threw them out after showing him they had simply shredded in the washing machine they were so old. Could I buy him some more? I said I would look "but they don't make shirts like that any more". He was not happy.
There are glue and paint stains - and other, unidentifiable, stains on the work clothes. These are left over from days spent in the garden and in the shed.
S...., who comes to help him shower, tries to get him to wear something slightly more respectable. She cannot understand that  the better clothes are not there to be worn just around the home. They are still "too good" for that.
It was comforting to read a BBC article about Fair Isle and the fact that one gentleman still owns a pullover which  is at least fifty years old. 
The Senior Cat's older tweed jacket has turned seventy-five. If I had known the exact date I might have given it a party. And yes, he can and does still wear it. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Holden cars

will no longer be/people prefer an SUV.
Yes, it does rhyme.
More seriously the "iconic" Holden is apparently not  going to be produced any longer. It comes as no surprise. The manufacturing plants in this state closed some time ago.
As a kitten I remember "Holden's" on the Port Road. Back then it was a "real traffic jam" if you happened to be trying to get somewhere when there was a shift change. I don't know whether we would look at it like that now but we children were always amazed by the sight of what seemed like thousands of men pouring out of the factory gates. In reality it was probably only hundreds but it was a very big workforce. Get a job there and you had a job for life back then. Men worked there for their entire working lives. All that went long ago. 
Things moved to the north, to the satellite city named after Queen Elizabeth. Men still thought they had jobs for life, indeed many of them did.
But things changed. Asia industrialised. The unions here priced the workforce out of contention with their ever increasing demands for "better wages and conditions" while Asia used (and often still uses) what amounted to almost slave labour. 
The federal government started to prop the industry up, a loan here and a loan there...more money and then more money. The unions kept flexing their muscles. It became more and more expensive.
And then something else happened too. People began to want something different. A standard Holden car was no longer the thing. It became possible to buy not just the rival Ford but many other sorts of cars. Vehicles like Mitsubishi and Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Kia, Lexus, Audi, Subaru and many more became much more readily available. There were all the 4WDs that people seemed to think were essential for merely suburban driving.
A friend of mine at university had a 4WD. It was a battered thing which had done a lot of serious travelling on rough terrain. He retained it simply because, as a mature age self-supporting student, he couldn't afford to replace it with anything else. He was not impressed by people who bought the same sort of vehicle with no intention of doing more than a limited amount of suburban travel.
If C.... was still alive I am sure he would be saying that the loss of the Holden is as much to do with the fact  that people have bought themselves a "Land Cruiser" as the cost of manufacturing it here.
I had to go past the local high school the other day just as school had ended for the day. There were no less than eleven of those huge vehicles picking students up - students who could probably walk or ride home.
No wonder the Holden car has ceased to be produced. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

No, it wasn't true

and it wasn't fair either.
I had to keep an eye on the Twitter feed yesterday because I needed to know what was being reported about an incident elsewhere - and whether I would need to take action.
But there was something else that caught my eye too. It was the story of a man called "Paul Parker".  
Now Mr Parker is to be admired for volunteering as a fire fighter. It's a dirty, dangerous job and I would be among the first to support a fire fighter who was dismissed from the role simply because he had criticised the Prime Minister in some strong Anglo-Saxon language. I don't doubt that there were many other fire fighters who cursed the Prime Minister, every MP, the federal, state and local governments and a great many other things as well. That wasn't the problem.
The problem is that the story, which was repeated over and over again, simply wasn't true. The fire fighter in question had not been dismissed. He wasn't telling anyone that. People were buying him drinks at his local pub thinking he was some sort of hero for criticising the Prime Minister and being wrongfully dismissed for doing so.
He even raised the question, "How can a volunteer be dismissed?" (It is possible to dismiss a volunteer who brings discredit on an organisation - and so it should be.) 
Mr Parker however had not been dismissed. He was using the situation and so were a great many other people. Among them was a particularly high profile media commentator. Even after he must have known the story was not true he kept repeating it.
He kept repeating it until it was discovered that the fire fighter in question was not the far left wing Labor supporter or the Green that everyone had supposed him to be. He is apparently a supporter of the far right instead.  There has been silence from the high profile media commentator and silence from some of the usual suspects. 
It doesn't change what Mr Parker has said but apparently it changes their opinion of him. 
I am not really surprised by this. The high profile commentator (for my Downunder readers this was not Andrew Bolt for once) has not been silent for long. He is back this morning - this time criticising the Prime Minister for not continuing to subsidise the ailing Holden car industry.  What he is simply ignoring is that Holden has already had millions of dollars of taxpayer money and, despite that, people were not buying Holden cars. Why should the government give taxpayer money to a company which is making a product people no longer want to buy?
It is convenient of course for the commentator in question to simply forget this awkward fact. He's not in the business of facts. He is in the business of trying to bring down the government. The worrying thing is that he also teaches politics and journalism at one of Downunder's more reputable universities. It is worrying because, as an academic, he should be more aware of the dangers of what he is doing. 
But yesterday was a good reminder to me. "Don't believe what you read on the Twitter feed. check your facts." What I needed to know eventually came up - with a link to something I read quietly and carefully. Having done that I sent two emails. Something was done and a potentially serious situation was averted by someone who had taken the trouble to check with me and several other people. It felt good to have a small part in that process. I just wish everyone was as careful as the person who alerted me and the others involved that something needed to be done. 

Monday, 17 February 2020

"You can't take that to school"

seems to be said more and more often.
There is a piece in the paper this morning by Andrew Bolt, a writer of whom I am wary.  Is he correct in saying that a school in another state has banned "cupcakes"?
Now I am not particularly fond of cake. This is probably because it rarely appeared in my school lunch box. When I was too small a kitten to make my own lunch I would find (1) a Vegemite (sort of Marmite) sandwich and (2) a piece of fruit already peeled or cut up or something. If I had been "very good" there might be a biscuit. I would eye off with envy the jam sandwiches, peanut "paste" (not "butter" back then) sandwiches, the cheese sandwiches, egg sandwiches and so on. The other children seemed to have cake and biscuits on a regular basis. I don't think they had as much fruit. We all ate white bread because brown, grain, rye, seed etc was almost unheard of. 
But, back to the cake. There was plenty of cake around. If you bought your lunch from the school canteen then it was likely a pie, pasty or sausage roll and a bun of some sort. (Oh how I envied those children who, on a cold winter's day, were tucking in to a hot pie or pasty.) Nobody considered that the "cream bun" - a stodgy white dough like affair slit diagonally and filled with a dab of sweet red "jam" and ersatz cream - was bad for you. Home made sultana cake was common too. I remember watching other children consume that and leaving crumbs everywhere.
When I was old enough to make my own lunch things didn't change much. They didn't change much because my mother would tell me and my brother what we could have -but we had to do it ourselves. There wasn't any cake to be had. Cake was something that appeared on birthdays and when we went to visit our grandmothers. Our mother would occasionally make a batch of biscuits. This would likely happen when visitors who needed more than a batch of scones were expected. The remaining biscuits were a treat. We only had "bought biscuits" in other people's houses and the strict rule was that we could only have one - even if we were offered another one.
I suppose our mother thought all of this was good for us. Perhaps it was. I do eat fruit in preference to cake - or is it that I am too lazy to make cake? I do buy biscuits occasionally but neither the Senior nor I eat much of that sort of thing. 
But, it doesn't mean that I would stop other people eating that sort of thing. I wouldn't police what goes into a lunch box to the extent of banning "cupcakes" or "muesli bars" or anything else. I can remember the day one of the children in the Year 6 class I once taught brought cake to school. It came in a huge tray, enough for the entire class. His grandmother had made it. She was Greek and spoke not a word of English but she knew that one of the other children in the class had a birthday and that his mother would not be able to afford anything at all. Her grandson and this boy had often done small things to help her and she wanted to repay the boy. 
The cake was divided. We all had a piece. It was magnificent cake, moist and lemony.  We discussed how it had been made. There was no nonsense about gluten free vegan diets or anything else. Even the boy in the class who was diabetic had a small piece  after we worked out that it was within his allowance for the day. 
Sharing food is a way of showing our care and concern and pleasure in the company of others. Yes, there are some issues to think about but an outright ban on cupcakes is probably doing more harm than good.
 

Sunday, 16 February 2020

The power of the internet

or the "world wide web" is not to be underestimated. And, when it acts as a force for good, it can be very good indeed.
Yesterday one of my knitting colleagues, who lives in far off Kirkwall, put up a notice on her Facebook page to say that the beanie pattern we designed between us had raised A$750 to donate to a GoFundMe page for the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. Add another A$75 "tip" to that and  there is $825. 
It is perhaps only a "drop in the ocean" when you consider what is actually needed but it is a start. 
And yesterday afternoon I had a short conversation with one of the islanders. He was over here briefly for a long standing medical appointment - from which there was some much needed good news. 
Of course I asked how things were going. He was one of the fortunate ones who did not lose his home.
    "Still clearing debris Cat,"  he told me, "S.... reckons I look like something out of a coal pit each night."
S....is his partner. I went to school with her mother.
    "How is she coping?"
    "Don't know how she is doing it. She has the kids off to school and then she is just hard at it. We're both absolutely knackered at the end of the day."
The fire came to within metres of their house. They consider themselves "one of the lucky ones". And yes, in a way they are. I know some of that "debris" will be animals that did not survive and whose carcasses now need to be buried. There are trees that need to come down because they are no longer safe. S....has been out there wielding a chainsaw to help him and his brother.
He asked after the Senior Cat. His father was taught by the Senior Cat. He's been out there too - out until it is too dark to be safe most days. 
I told him how the shed clearing had started. 
   "Piddling little job,"he told me with a wry smile.
I know.
And the good news from his point of view?
   "We found a little cluster of koalas on Tuesday - moved them to a new location on Wednesday - took us half the day to do it."
I wondered how they had done it. Turns out his eleven year old son had done some tree climbing - before and after school.
They are working incredibly hard - but they will get there.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

"Are they the biggest ones ever?"

T.... wants to know. He is looking at the knitting needles my brother made. He has picked them up and pretended to knit with them.
    "That's really hard to do."
I go to hand over two smaller needles. He is not interested. He takes the two big needles to his mother,
    "Look Cat  has two ginormous ones for doing knitting."
His mother has already seen them but she dutifully looks at them again.
     "Cat's brother made those."
     "How?"
I explain as best I can without the machinery there to show him. His father is not a "hammer and nails" man.  He nods and then asks,
     "Have you got any really, really little ones?"
I show him a pair of 1.5mm needles.
     "No, they aren't the same."
     "They do the same thing. They are still knitting needles," I tell him.
      "No. Those are different."
      "Yes. They are smaller."
      "No, not different like that."
      "What do you mean?"
He frowns. Eventually after a long silence he says,
      "They are made from different stuff. The big ones feel nicer."
He's right. There is a difference. Wood does feel nicer than metal here.
      "You are absolutely right," I tell him, "They do feel different. I like the way the wooden needles feel too."
      "They should always be wood ones then."
Do I try to explain why some knitting needles need to be metal?
In the end I didn't but I thought how wise T...'s mother has been. He has almost no plastic toys. His parents have bought wooden toys and asked his close relatives to do the same. His father may not be a "hammer and nails" man but T... is still growing up to appreciate the feel of timber and the pleasure of holding it.
I might even teach him about the pleasure of knitting real wool on real timber needles one day.