Wednesday, 17 January 2018

I want some publicity!

I want lots of air time to get the message out.
Or do I?
Personally I don't want any publicity. I like to lead a quiet life out of the spotlight.  Some people feel differently. 
One of the regular columnists in the state newspaper is complaining about a neo-Nazi group being given air time.  She is saying that, like the anti-vaccination lobby, they should never be given space to air their views.
I don't like neo-Nazi ideas or the ideas of the anti-vaccination lobby. I think they are dangerous. But, I am not sure that the idea of not giving them any air time works.  It is now possible for them to get their message out there any way and get it out there in an uncontrolled way.
There are plenty of other dangerous ideas circulating out there too. There are ideas about diet, climate, abuse, religion, politics, people, places, and more. Some of them make people do very foolish things.
I can't remember all the details now but I do remember something the late Mel Marshak, told us about in a psychology lecture. She was talking about  how people will follow a charismatic leader whatever they believe. She gave us the example of a Mrs Keech who, if I remember correctly, had her followers convinced that the world was going to be engulfed by a tidal wave. Only by moving to the highest peaks in America and setting up a new community would people be saved. 
It was a long time ago now but Mrs Keech got publicity. Some followed her. Her version of the story would be laughed at now but it caused some people great distress at the time.
Was Mrs Keech's story really so different from some of the stories about climate change? We can believe climate change is real but do we also need to believe the worst we are told about it? Yes, we live on a tiny and overcrowded planet - but didn't Al Gore get it wrong? Isn't there some hope for humanity?  I wonder what Dr Marshak would make of Al Gore?
I don't think I agree with the columnist who said the neo-Nazi group shouldn't have been given any publicity. Someone, somewhere will give them publicity because it makes a "news" story. Groups like that are not going to criticise themselves, nor are their sympathisers. Others need to be given a genuine opportunity to do it.
It's the sort of publicity they are given which matters. It needs to be considered and thoughtful, critical and questioning.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

"What are you going to wear?"

Oh yes, that question.
Middle Cat apparently asked the Senior Cat this question a couple of days ago. There's a wedding coming up in April. My nephew is getting married to his lovely girl. (Yes, she really is lovely - stunning to look at but, even better, kind and caring.)
The Senior Cat warned me the question has been asked. Middle Cat will take matters into her own hands if I don't do something about it.
The Senior Cat still has a suit but he hasn't worn it for years. The last time he wore it was to my mother's funeral in 2000. I doubt it fits him. 
And I don't really think anyone will expect him to wear a suit to his grandson's wedding. It's not going to be a  very formal wedding. While the main participants might wear suits I am sure not all the other men will.
But it made me think about the question of "dress" again. There has been a recent move to have the legal profession cease wearing wigs and gowns in one of the courts. I saw a male doctor the other day and he was wearing a short sleeved shirt and no tie. One of his colleagues was wearing jeans.
I know there is an increasing tendency for people not to "dress" in the sense that their clothes have become casual rather than formal. When I trained as a teacher the female students were not permitted to wear trousers to college or out teaching. Teachers were the same. Male teachers were expected to wear a collar and tie. Now, at least in the state system, they often wear jeans and t-shirts.
I wonder about the effect this has on others though. My paternal grandfather was a tailor. He didn't just "make suits". He was a specialist who made uniforms for high ranking officers, governors of the state and senior military and naval personnel. He made the suits worn by many members of the legal profession too. I grew up knowing that the way people dressed was a part of their job. We still talk about "blue collar" workers - the people who didn't wear suits to work.
Fewer people wear suits to work now and perhaps it doesn't matter as much as it once did. There was a discussion about the change in the legal profession. Most people said, without perhaps giving it too much thought, that this was a good thing. Maybe it is. 
I wonder though, would we have the same view of police officers if they didn't wear uniform? Would we feel the same way about a judge if he wore jeans and a t-shirt?
The Senior Cat's suit probably won't fit him. That doesn't matter. He will still wear a white shirt and his good clan tie, his best trousers and his well polished shoes. It will look as if he cares.
And me? I don't know - yet. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

There was an accident

in the next street  yesterday....except that it wasn't an accident at all.
It's a long street on a bit of a slope. I know about the slope as I have had to pedal up it more than once. At weekends in particular there are liable to be cars parked on either side.  It doesn't leave a lot of room. There are also cross streets where drivers need to be aware of other vehicles crossing or entering.
People need to travel along it with caution.
And some people like to travel along it at well over the speed limit. They particularly like to do it at night. We can hear them increasing speed at the top of the little hill and - sometimes - the squeal of brakes. We hear laughter and loud music emanating from the cars of these drivers too.
Yesterday, just after the Senior Cat had been picked up by a friend, I heard a car coming down the street at great speed. I heard a horn blare - and then a bang.
I didn't go to investigate. The speeding car had gone on without stopping. If anything it had gone on at increased speed. 
This morning, as I was picking up the paper from the front lawn, someone I know slightly was walking his dog past. He stopped and said, "Time you wrote another letter to the paper."
   "What about?" I asked.
He told me he'd had an accident.
   "Except it wasn't an accident at all. It could have been avoided.  It could have been much worse but I hit the neighbour's car because I had to swerve suddenly to avoid a head on collision with an idiot coming down the hill at somewhere near twice the speed limit."
Fortunately for him the neighbour saw the incident and was more concerned for him than either of the cars. Neither of them managed to get the number of the speeding car. The perpetrator won't be held to account at all.
Two men now have to get their cars repaired. It's going to be costly. It's going to be time consuming and an all round nuisance. It could have been avoided.
There is a piece in this morning's paper asking what can be done with people who drive in ways which cause others to have "accidents". There was an horrific accident in another state recently. Three members of the same family died and another has had her life support turned off but still clings to life. The driver of the other car also died. He had such a lengthy list of driving offences against his name he should have been banned for life - and measures should have been taken to ensure he couldn't access a vehicle illegally. 
Recently I said somewhere else that a licence to drive a car is a privilege, not a right. I said it comes with responsibilities. There were people present who didn't like that at all. They see driving as a right. "If I pay my taxes I have the right to drive."
Really? No. It's a privilege.
And yesterday I was very aware that, a minute or two earlier, the Senior Cat's friend was driving along that street to come and get him. If his friend had been involved in the "accident" the Senior Cat would have felt dreadful that someone doing something for him had been involved in such an event. 
Perhaps we need a new word to describe the "accidents" which are not accidents at all but the result of a deliberate, illegal act on the part of someone lacking any sense of responsibility. 

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Chasing the dog

is not something I do.
Yesterday I was minding my own business and pedalling quietly back from the library thinking about writing. (I do a lot of thinking about my writing when I am out pedalling.) 
I crossed the road next to the play ground on the corner of one of the streets I use after waiting for (1) a man with a stroller, (2) a small boy on a bike with trainer wheels, and (3) a dog on a leash.
And then, as the man opened the gate to the playground, the dog somehow managed to break free of the leash.
He was off!
I stopped. There was no point in me trying to chase the dog. 
     "Go on!" I told the man, "The children know me. I'll wait with them."
He gave me a panicked look and ran.
The child in the stroller was too young to understand so it didn't bother him too much. The small boy however was almost  hysterical. 
       "That's our dog. He's new....and he's really, really naughty but I don't want him to be hurt!"
He looked at me.
      "I don't know you!"
      "Yes you do," I told him, "You come here sometimes with your mummy in the red car.  I threw your special ball back the other day."
This was perfectly true. His mother had made him thank me. It was stretching the issue but, for the purpose, it would do. 
He looked at me through his tears.
     "What if my grandpa can't catch Spot?" (Spot by the way is brown all over without a spot in sight.)
     "He will tell the dog catcher. The dog catcher is a person who knows how to do it."
      "But what if a car comes first! He's too little to be by himself."
      "We just have to hope that doesn't happen. Look, there he is. He's stopped by that fence. There must be something interesting there."
I felt a small hand reach for mine. Small boy was trembling with fright. The tears were still rolling down his face. 
The dog, no more than a pup, was caught a moment later.  I held it firmly by the collar as the leash was examined, adjusted and reattached. 
      "I told my daughter this was not a good idea," the man told me breathing heavily, "Thank the heavens you were here. Thank you so much."
We calmed the small boy. For another calming treat he "rode" my tricycle up and down the path at the playground and I left him climbing the "monkey" bar while his grandfather strapped his brother into the smallest swing.
The dog sat mournfully firmly attached to the post intended for such things. 
      "It serves you right," I told him as I left. 
I think he knew it did.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Alzheimer's disease

is such a strange thing.
Our friends K and B came for lunch yesterday. K is one of the Senior Cat's oldest friends. Once K was a highly articulate man, quick to make a pun and recognise one. He had a prodigious memory and never needed prompting on stage in the theatrical productions he loved.
All that changed some years ago. He seemed to occasionally forget things or get distracted. Then he couldn't remember his lines in a production and stopped participating in plays. Other little things happened. 
At first they put it down to "old age" but it gradually became obvious that the problem was more than that. Tasks would not be completed. K would go to do something at the other end of the house and "forget" on the way there what it was he intended to do. He went to check the water pump which supplies the power to the small dam on their property - vital water for fire protection - and just stood there not sure what to do.
Eventually he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. That was some time ago now. 
He had to stop driving. B now does the driving. They need a car because there is no public transport where they live. 
Although the Senior Cat has talked with both K and B on the phone they had not seen one another in over twelve months. The transport issues mean they have to come us  rather than we go to them. It had been months since the Senior Cat had talked to K... without B listening in and talking as well. 
     "K... doesn't seem too bad," the Senior Cat told me.
I wondered. I had talked to B.... and I knew she was worried.
Yesterday I could see why she was worried. On the surface K... still appears almost normal. The casual observer might not think anything was wrong.
But there is. His constructions are sometimes awkward. It is clear he can no longer remember a word and searches for something else.  He couldn't remember the word "dam" - "that water thing at the bottom of the hill". The dam is something he constructed and has carefully maintained for years. He has always seen it as being of vital importance. Other little things came  up. None of them were of any great importance in themselves. It was the cumulative effect on his ability to communicate that was obvious to me. 
     "What do you think?" B... asked me anxiously as we were returning  used plates to the kitchen.
     "I can see it," I told her, "But a lot of people won't yet."
     "Yes, that's what worries me. They don't think there is anything wrong."
I can understand that. 
When they had gone the Senior Cat said to me, "K...doesn't seem too bad but he missed some words."
I agreed and then I said the other thing that I had noticed,
      "And he didn't initiate any of the conversation."
The Senior Cat thought about that for a moment and then said,
      "You're right. I hadn't noticed it but now you mention it... it's as if he has stopped asking questions."
That makes it very serious indeed.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Catherine Deneuve has made

headlines for appearing to support the right of men to "hit" on women.
I have been thinking about this and about something else. It is simple and yet not simple.
When I started law school the first lecture we attended had nothing to do with the law - and yet everything to do with it. The lecture dealt with things like the standard of behaviour and dress expected of students. 
Many years down the track that may seem outrageous to some people. What right did the Dean of Students have to tell us how to behave and dress? 
Once law students, like medical students, were expected to dress much more formally than other students - the men wore a collar and tie and the women wore skirts. Suits were worn in court by both sexes. They were sober suits too. I remember going into the magistrate's court to provide communication assistance and hearing the magistrate inform a young radical female lawyer that he could not see her because she was inappropriately dressed for court. (As she was dressed in a way that was more appropriate for the beach this was hardly surprising.) He told her, "You are doing your client no favours."
So what the Dean had to say to us was sensible. He pointed out that certain standards of behaviour are expected in the courts. These are, he told us, essential if the legal process is to function properly and the law be upheld. Of dress he said no more than he hoped that students would, when they had to visit the courts, "dress appropriately" as "future careers may depend on such things". 
Manners however were something else. He well knew that there were a group of women who called themselves "rad-fems"  - radical feminists. They were there to do a degree in law but they were also there to stir up a little trouble. A man opening a door for them was considered to be insulting.
      "No," he told them, "It isn't insulting. It's a basic courtesy. You will do the same for a man if he is going into the library with a bag in one hand and an armload of books in the other."
They didn't like it. I remember there were many furious comments in the canteen.  They went right through law school feeling angry about it and avoided the situation whenever they could - something that was often just as insulting.
I went through law school, walking stick in one hand and bag in the other, and men opened doors for me. The most senior male members of staff opened doors for me. I always thanked them. Occasionally I managed to do it in reverse for them. It made life easy and pleasant.  At the end of my first year when I had done far, far better than I had expected to do one of the male staff came in to the library the day before I left for a few weeks break. He put his hand briefly on my shoulder and said quietly, "Congratulations. See you in the new year."  I hadn't been one of his students but I would be the coming year.
No, I didn't regard that hand on my shoulder as sexual harassment. It was nothing more than a friendly gesture from a confirmed bachelor who wanted to express his genuine feeling that I deserved his congratulations.   
I wonder what he would do now if he was still alive? He probably wouldn't reach out like that. He might not even dare to offer his congratulations to a student. Is that the right way to do things now?
Rape is always wrong. It is vile. It is the most demeaning of acts. It should never ever be tolerated. Unwanted advances have no place in relationships. 
People have to learn to say "no" and others have to learn to listen and respect that. Learning to say "no" is hard, especially if someone feels intimidated by the position or power of the other person. 
But I wonder if Catherine Deneuve, even though I may not agree with her, hasn't given me something to think about. 
How should I show respect?

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Hospital food is under

is under scrutiny again. This time it is a lead letter in this morning's paper. 
It's timely. An elderly friend has just come out of hospital. She spent five nights there. Nobody informed me she was there or I would have been in to visit - with food. 
The Senior Cat spent three nights in the same hospital last year. We both had "the 'flu" at the time or I might have been more alert to the appalling state of the food service.  He isn't one to complain. He thought the staff were lovely, caring and very kind to him. He thought the food was appalling.
This is the grand-new-state-of-the-art-very-expensive  hospital that is supposed to be so good. Yes, the one I talked about without anywhere for the staff to sit down for two minutes with a cup of tea.
My elderly friend, definitely not one to complain at any time, told me,  "I lost a bit of weight dear. I suppose they know what they are doing but the food wasn't very nice. I couldn't eat it."
Coming from her it had be one of the understatements of the year so far.  
As my friend is also a little under weight at the best of times losing weight was hardly helpful. 
     "Is it that difficult for them to provide just a sandwich?" she asked me in a genuinely puzzled way, "I would have thought it was easier to do that than give you two hot meals a day."
I don't really know much about mass catering but I suspect that sandwiches may be more labour intensive. Machines can peel and chop vegetables, dump them in massive pots, stew any nutrition our of them, drain them and then place precise amounts on a plate. 
     "I think I might get some of that nice grain bread from the bakery," my friend said, "If they have any of those small loaves today. Then I can make a proper sandwich."
I hope it was a day on which the bakery makes the small loaves. The bread is, as commercial breads go, very good. It would never see the inside of a hospital. 
I wonder how much food gets wasted in hospitals that have outside catering?  Maybe it would be cheaper to provide sandwiches. Or is all this a ploy to get people to go home as fast as possible?