Tuesday, 30 June 2009

I was prowling through

the paper yesterday and found it was still far too full of Michael Jackson, Utegate (as the Ozcar affair has been dubbed) and other doom and gloom. I do not need doom and gloom. My real life job is far too full of doom and gloom. I do not need to know the minutiae of Jackson's life either. I most certainly do not need to know how our Prime Minister is lording it over the Leader of the Opposition. (They are both people I hope I never meet.)
I wonder why bad news sells and why good news does not sell. Why are so many people vicariously thrilled by the misfortunes of other people?
There is a skin thin line between the need to know, the right to know, a requirement to know and plain nosiness. We need to know when something will directly affect us. We have the right to know when our decision making may be affected by what we know. We should be required to know when others need our help.
Anything else is plain nosiness. It gets in the way of real news. It prevents us from knowing what we need to know, from knowing what we have the right to know and what we should be required to know. Nosiness is used to control us. It is used to divert our attention and misdirect us. It is used to create an illusion.
Perhaps if you can control the media you can control the world?

Monday, 29 June 2009

There are some things you cannot win

and I do not mean the lottery.
There have been two 'fake' e-mail scandals in Australian politics recently. One at state level and another, even more worrying, at federal level.
The state level scandal arose out of an e-mail claiming that certain members of the Labor Party had received funds from the Church of Scientology. Whatever else it is Scientology is not a church. It is dangerous and destructive. The claim is that the Opposition should have been able to smell this as a 'fake' and not use it. The reality is that they were intended to use it. In fact they had no choice. If they did not use it and it turned out to be genuine then they would have been in just as much trouble.
So we move to federal politics....and another 'fake' e-mail. Or is it a fake? Like the e-mail at state level this e-mail exists. Someone has written it. Again the Opposition had no choice. They had to use it for the same reasons as before. It could be genuine. The sources were impeccable.
What is worrying is that the same deceit has been successfully used twice. It is clever politics but it is also bad politics. It is designed to undermine democracy. It makes for a wonderful news story so the media is more than happy to go along with it. After all the media is for the here and now and not the long term. It is what is happening now that sells not what might happen in the future. Those in the media believe they are invincible. Whatever happens to democracy will not happen to them.
The e-mails themselves are not fakes at all. The information in them is. The e-mails have in fact served precisely the purpose they were intended to serve.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

No television, no computers

and no electronic games or other whizz-bang toys and games either. A young friend was sitting there in her favourite chair (it rocks slightly) at our place and frowning at me. She had just read the manuscript of the book I wrote last year. The child I wrote it for had allowed her to borrow it 'just for one night'. Now the second one was telling me what she thought of it. Her comments definitely show she is a child of the electronic age.
"They don't have television or computers or anything like that. You don't even have them going to the pictures. They have bikes but is that because Ruth needs hers and so did you think the rest of them need one too? I mean honestly Cat it's like they don't have things at all but they still do things. I liked it, really, really liked it. I think it would be the most amazing fun to have just a holiday like that - but not all the time - but it is a bit weird that you can write a whole book and not have a computer or television in it and no MP3 or even any CDs!"
"Well remember I am writing about fifty years ago and people did not have those things. They don't even have electricity there, although it is coming. Alastair's working on that."
"I just don't understand that. I mean - well how would you cook and things? You wouldn't have a microwave and we use that all the time. I mean what would you really do all the time?"
"They hadn't even invented microwave ovens - ask your Dad. There are a lot of things they did not have fifty years ago."
"Okay, but it is so weird not to even have television and what about the radio - do they have that? I suppose you will say that do not need that either. They'd have to read all the time. I still liked it though."
"Can you tell me why you liked it?"
"Well, it's because they do things I suppose. None of them are super-smart or can do magic or anything like that. They're ordinary and they do ordinary things, real things. It's like it might really have happened only I don't think adults would really let you go and do things like that now - you know like being out in a boat - by yourself."
"Even Ruth finding the door is ordinary?"
"Well yes in a way but not ordinary either. It's a book, something has to happen. There has to be a sort of adventure in a book like that and, for her, that is a big adventure isn't it? And, it's a good thing to happen because it helps him - Alastair I mean. I sort of really like him. He's grown up but not too grown up like you said. There should be more people like that in books."
It is a curious comment. Adults sometimes do not feature at all in books for children. If they do, they are not always realistic by any means. Does this mean I have managed 'realistic'? It would be good to think so.
There are only two adults who have seen the manuscript and one of them has yet to read it. The first is, rightly, not telling me what he thinks until the second has read it. They may see it very differently. They almost certainly will. The first will be biased. I have used his mother's characters - something that took more discipline than even I first thought - and I added Ruth. Ruth is younger so the adults needed to be more in evidence, another cause for more discipline.
It really does not matter now whether the adults like it or not because, however many faults there are in it, I have had my theory re-confirmed. A straightforward adventure story is still something many children want to read. Books about social issues will be read if there is nothing else to read but, like adults, children read fiction to be entertained.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Feeling comfortable in your own skin

is important. Michael Jackson obviously did not feel comfortable.
I was not a Michael Jackson fan. That sort of music does nothing for me. For me it is just a noise. It was good marketing which sold Michael Jackson. It was also because of what he was originally, not because of what he became. He was a sad individual who wanted to be something he was not and could not be.
Most of us would like to look different in some way. Few of us would, even with the money, go to the lengths he did. Still, there is an enormous industry devoted to 'the way we look'. We are told it matters. We like to look at 'nice'. Our ideas about 'nice' vary from individual to individual and culture to culture but we are always told that 'nice' is 'best'. That's human.
'Nice' also means not too far away from what is considered 'normal'. Deviation beyond this point is not desirable. If you have money and it can be changed you should change it we are told. We are not allowed to feel comfortable inside our own skin, especially if something can be changed which will make us more 'like everyone else'. We really do not value uniqueness.
My mother certainly did not like it. Christian Scientist that she was the fact that her eldest daughter was disabled was a matter of acute embarrassment for her. She tried to make me at least look and dress 'like everyone else'. The problem is that I never did like floral, frilly, pink or pencil like garments. I did not want my hair back combed into an uncomfortable style which required maintenance. I looked utterly ridiculous in a leotard and tights trying to hold on to the back of a chair in a church hall trying (absolutely unsuccessfully) to do ballet warm up exercises because 'all little girls want to learn ballet'. I can never quite forgive her for that and the many other humiliations she put me through in an effort to convince herself that there was nothing wrong. How could I possibly feel comfortable in my own skin when I was constantly told that I was wearing the wrong one?
There is absolutely no hope for me. I have never been 'like everyone else'. My hair is going grey- and I do nothing much with it. I am short. I weigh more than I should. I don't own a dress. The only skirt I own is my clan tartan kilt. Some of my clothes come from the charity shop. I do not wear make up.
I feel more comfortable inside my own skin now though than I ever did when I tried to be someone else.

Friday, 26 June 2009

It was still dark

when I went out to get the papers this morning.
It is a strange experience being out there when it is so quiet and there is nobody else around. On some mornings there may be a dog walker or a jogger doing a very early morning run. On others Miss Puss may be sitting on the fence. There will be a light on in the house of the human she owns and perhaps another in a house further along the street. Often there is nobody around at all. Most people in our little street do not rise quite as early. I like those few, small, quiet moments when there are no other people around. I have breathing space.
I need to rise early because, somewhere in the world, people will be up and working. There will often be someone who wants to 'talk' to me. It can be the middle of the day or late at night for them. We seem to work it out. Things get done.
We went out to lunch yesterday. The couple we had lunch with have a daughter in England. Her mother has finally had her way and they are coming to Australia - at least for the present. I suspect her son-in-law is more than a little reluctant and that the situation may not last. Up until this week they have had Skype. The computer has now been packed ready to be transported here and the mother was moaning about the fact that she could no longer have instant, face-to-face, conversations with her daughter.
"You should get Skype," she told me, "People would be able to talk to you so easily."
It is the last thing I want. I can cope with the early morning work schedule for now but I know what would happen. I would be on 24 hour call 7 days a week for face-to-face conferences. This may be why daughter gave in to mother too. They will at least be in the same time zone.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

I want to snarl and snap this morning

because there was still no response from someone I have sent a parcel of work to - work I have done for them that is. At very least it would be polite to let me know it has arrived. When people send me things, even things I do not want, I let them know. Perhaps it has not arrived yet or it has been lost in the post - both things are unlikely. The recipient just needs to get act together and send me an e-mail that says, "It arrived." I don't even want a thankyou. I just need to know my work has not been wasted.
Sue sent me a packet of sock yarn yesterday - for the teen knitting group not me - and I let her know immediately. Apart from anything else it is incredibly generous of her. The kids will appreciate it. They were quite gleeful at the idea that Sue should be introduced to the Christopher Robin poems in return for the last box. They know it is important to acknowledge things in a timely manner.
Then I also want to snap and snarl about the other individual who tends to try an take over. She interferes. She is a spiky sort of individual who will snap at you given the slightest provocation, or even without it. She likes to organise. She likes to have things go her way. She will walk in on the middle of something that is going smoothly and proceed to re-organise things the way she thinks they should be run. She is not empathetic. There is an e-mail from her. I wish there wasn't. There is no pleasing me is there?
It is my check on oldies morning as well. They will need the usual bank, bill paying, post office and chemist run. They will grumble about the cold weather (our winters are like a good Scottish summer's day) and want the things they forgot to get when the community bus took them shopping. I can handle that though with ease. They will all say, "Thankyou". It's a little word and a big word too. I must remember to use it more often.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

One of my favourite publishers

has branched out, temporarily, into art. Fidra is opening an art gallery for a short time before setting up a new bookshop on the same premises. (This will be The Edinburgh Bookshop for anyone living in that part of the world.)
This temporary art gallery will be given over to the world of children's book illustrations. I wish I could go and look. I am a big kit (in more ways than one) but I still love to look at the books intended for little kits. There is something absolutely and utterly magical about a good picture book for children.
Some of them are so simple - like Meg and Mog - that you think "Why can't I think of something like that?" Some are so real, like the books about Katie Morag, that you just know you would recognise her instantly if you went to visit the little Scottish island she lives on. You can go through the back streets of New York with Ezra Jack Keats or the Lake District with Beatrix Potter's animals. There is the wonderfully atmospheric Charles Keeping and Pienkowski's silhouettes. "The picture has to match the text" we were told when I was supposedly learning about children's literature. Really the lecturer had no idea. It has to merge, marry, become a union. Yes, if it is a counting book there have to be the requisite number of items but that is only part of the story. There has to be something more than that. The words and the pictures have to combine to become something more than both of them. It is hard to do.
Adults do not get books like this. Alice asks, "What is the use of a book without pictures?" She has something there.
I have a vivid memory of the day I, quite by accident, came across a group of children in a London library. They were watching spellbound as Orlando, the Marmalade Cat, appeared in front of them on a piece of plain newsprint. There he was, the real cat. He was coming alive in front of them. This was how the pictures in the books they knew were made.
I want to go and look at the real pictures that have been made into the books I know. I envy those who live in Edinburgh or will be close enough to visit for the short time the gallery is open.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

I do not particularly like coffee

I fail to understand the pleasure in 'going out for a coffee' and downing a dark, bitter brew which will leave my heart racing for the rest of the day. Of course it may help if I added sugar. I do not know. I do not like sugar in my tea or coffee - or on my breakfast cereal. (Before you ask I buy sugar-free cereal too.)
One does not ask for tea when going out for a coffee either. The tea is invariably made with something less than freshly boiling water. If you can get it at all it will come as a tea bag sitting in a cup of lukewarm water or it will be stewed to the point where it is bitter too.
I rarely 'go out for a coffee'. It is not part of my lifestyle. It never has been. I might have developed the habit in teacher training college but I did not have the money - and I went on not having money. I see no point in paying more for one cup of something than I would pay for a week's worth of tea at home. It is much the same with meals. My father and I rarely eat out. He prefers what I cook - which is a tremendous compliment.
I know that is not supposed to be point. You are supposed to sit down, relax, and watch the passing parade. You are supposed to chat to friends. "It's not doing nothing Cat!" I am told.
"It does not have to be productive! It's just socialising."
Well, okay but would someone please tell me what's wrong with taking my knitting? I can still pay attention to the conversation. I can still contribute. If one of my friends tells me something really serious I will stop knitting and give them my full attention but if they are just commenting on the passing parade then I think that I would rather knit while I listen.

Monday, 22 June 2009

It apparently start out as

a simple query about the 'loan' of a car. In this case the car is a 'ute' or utility vehicle. It has been 'loaned' to the Prime Minister for use as mobile office in his electorate. We all know there is no such thing as 'loan' for such purposes to any politicians. Nevertheless it had apparently been declared in the proper manner. That should have been an end to the manner. It was not. There is the small matter of a car dealership and a massive loan - a complex trail of financial arrangements designed to make it look as if a neighbour and friend of the Prime Minister did not receive preferential treatment.
What was not declared and what may have not been declared as a result is potentially much more damaging for the Prime Minister, his Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition. They will probably all survive the crisis although their reputations will have been given another dent or two.
The person who may not survive this crisis is the public servant in the midst of the affair. He appeared distraught as he tried to give evidence to the Senate Inquiry into the matter of a missing e-mail and a chain of other e-mails. He also looked ill. Almost certainly there will be an announcement shortly that he has been retired (very) early on the grounds of ill-health. The general opinion is that he is a hard-working public servant trying to do his job. In all likelihood he is one of those public servants who does have too much to do when others do not have enough to do. He is probably under pressure from those above him and being jostled by those below him who are seeking promotion to his level. There are also doubts about his loyalty - to the Government.
Governments do not like whistle-blowers. This man is a whistle-blower. He has opened a box which the Government wanted kept closed, locked and hidden away. The Labor Senator leading the Senate Inquiry was well aware of this and acted swiftly to end his evidence before the Senate. No doubt there will be rowdy scenes in Canberra today - not all of them in Parliament.
My sympathies are with the public servant. Politicians can look after themselves.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

I feel guilty because

I was supposed to go to a meeting yesterday - and I did not go.
The meeting itself was not important but it would have been short enough for me to get on with the business of sorting out the library for the knitters at it. I have been trying to get to this for some time but there have been some genuine interruptions at meetings and some unwanted interference as well. It was well intended but the result has been a lot more work for me.
When I made the decision not to go it was raining, windy and decidedly chilly. By mid-afternoon it was blue-ish sky and a bit of sunshine. I should have been there. I should have been fulfilling my responsibilities. I was not.
I did go out - briefly - and collect some more milk. Dad has been having hot milk drinks before going to bed lately and we were in danger of running short before the end of the weekend. I felt guilty pedalling up to the supermarket when I should have been pedalling four times that distance to the meeting.
When I came home I, even more guiltily, took some time out and knitted a couple of rounds on the complex Shetland shawl. My excuse was that I needed to fix the mistake. I still felt guilty. There is housework that needs doing -although I had done the ironing by then - and other work that needs to be done. Knitting is supposed to be fun stuff for when all the work is done.
Other people seem to get in a lot more knitting - and television watching as they do it - than I do. They go on holiday. I am never sure how they find the time. I am not tidy (neither is my father) but I am reasonably well organised. I know what needs to be done and, unless something goes drastically wrong, I get things done in time. I try to plan ahead, especially for things like meals and work responsibilities. Things get done. Things get done. Things get done!
So, why in the heck do I feel guilty about taking time out occasionally?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Do you have to cook this?

The kid is standing there with a bewildered expression and I am wondering if he visits the kitchen in his home.
I had to make a detour to the supermarket for an elderly friend yesterday. I found it had been invaded by a dozen boys from the local fee-paying school. They were supposed to be shopping for their three day winter expedition. It is some sort of 'toughening up' exercise for kids from supposedly privileged backgrounds. They have to walk great distances in the countryside carrying everything they need in backpacks. The teachers follow on behind as a security measure - and hope that the weather is atrocious so that the kids will really learn something. ( I suspect it will teach the kids to hate the great outdoors.)
The kids have to feed themselves. According to them they have not been given any guidance in this matter. (At this point I wonder about a little searching on the internet or a couple of relevant books.)
They are standing there looking at the shelves. They have rejected tins as too heavy and glass as ditto and dangerous. That's a good start. The problem, according to them, is that none of them can cook. I can hear them discussing this earnestly as I hunt for the dinasour shaped pasta my friend wants to make 'dinasour soup' for her young grandchildren. I can also see them eyeing me off. Am I friendly? If they ask a question will I laugh at them?
"Okay guys, what's the problem?"
"Um, yeah, er, well it's like this...how do you cook this stuff? Is it easy?"
They indicate the pasta.
"Dead easy if you have a container to cook in, a fire and a water supply."
They begin to look a bit more hopeful. I explain. One of them takes notes on one of the little electronic devices they all seem to have.
Then I say, "And what are you going to put with it?"
Blank looks and then, "You mean like the tomato stuff?"
Yes, that is what I mean. I watch them survey the shelves. They are completely lost again. I introduce them to tomato paste in neat foil pouches and explain how to use it with the dried vegetable mix. It's not great food by any means but they will probably be hungry enough to eat it. I tell them that, if they start out with frozen minced meat on the first day it will be defrosted and ready to cook by evening. Further explanations about how much and how to cook are necessary.
They wonder about bread. It's too bulky to carry.
"There's an answer to that problem too. Want to know?" They look warily at me and then nod.
I show them the packet scone mix and tell them to pack it in resealable plastic bags. They can make damper.
I suggest powdered milk and tell them how to mix it and advise them that 'Weetbix' or whatever brand of breakfast type biscuit they like is preferable to cornflakes.
They head for fruit straps and chocolate and trail mix.
It is not a balanced diet at all. They will probably be hungry - and cold and wet and miserable. I could shop for less and feed them better. Their damper will probably be raw inside and burned on the outside. Their pasta sauce will probably stick to the pan and the pasta itself is likely to molto al dente. They will try.
As they headed for the checkout and I headed for the fresh milk the school's outdoor coordinator stopped me. He had, he said, been about to intervene when they asked me.
He is holding a pouch of sauce for "Tuscan meat balls" and asks me, "Do you have to cook this?"

Friday, 19 June 2009

What is the first thing you would buy

with $50 million?
I do not normally waste my time on such trivia. I am never likely to have that sort of money in my paws.
Nevertheless the topic was under discussion yesterday. It came up because the jackpot in the national lottery has increased to this amount over the past couple of weeks. People are apparently buying tickets like a frenzy of lemmings. Hmmm.
Then the media stepped in and, on page three, they ran a demand from various charities that the person or persons who actually succeed in achieving the 1:45 million odds hand over the lot to them. The message seemed to be that, if you are rich enough to buy lottery tickets you do not need the money you win. Hand it over.
I did wonder what people would make of that demand. I had to attend a meeting of 'carers' who are looking for more taxpayer funds to help care for their children, all of whom have severe disabilities. Before the meeting started one of them asked everyone else in the room to name something that they would buy for themselves - not for anyone else. He stipulated it had to be something substantial and not something we needed. It had to be a luxury type of item. The men went laughingly for things like sports cars, beachside properties and a light aircraft. The women went for jewellry, a room full of quilting materials and one of those massive campervans.
I was last. I was at a loss. I would not want any of those things. I had been trying to think of something. I probably own less than everyone else in the room. I don't have a house but I live with my father so I don't need one. I don't have a car but I can't drive and I have the tricycle. I don't wear jewels or fancy clothes.
At last I said, "Well I would really like the full version of the Oxford Dictionary - you know all 24 volumes."
There was silence and then, "Cat you can't have that. It's work."
Oh. "Well can I just save the money for the trip around the UK when I can eventually go?"
More silence and then, "No, that's not a thing. It has to be a thing, a big thing for now, not later."
I could not think of a thing. It does not matter. Nobody is going to buy me the winning lottery ticket.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Hot soup in winter

should be comfort food so I accepted the two small tubs with alacrity. Jeff, the local greengrocer, was asking me to try them out.
Jeff and I have been friends ever since I wrote a letter to the state newspaper pointing out how a greengrocery should be run...head for Jeff and take a look I said. I meant it too. Jeff's shop is a work of art...not surprising he has a degree in Fine Art. The old, pre-shopping centre fire, shop was pretty good but he went as far as to talk to me about the layout of the new one. "Cat you have a degree in psychology and you know about food give me some help here." He did not really need it. He has an instinctive understanding of how these things work...neat mounds of seasonal fruits in an ever varying display along the front. The staples in easy access locations. Labels which say, "Local grower" wherever he can. The shop is ultra clean and always tidy. It is colourful. There is no irritating commercial radio in the background. The staff are friendly and know a lot of their customers by name because people keep coming back.
Jeff has has to expand his lines and services to keep up with the competition. He sells salads and nuts. There are free range eggs. Various dips and sauces are in the cold cabinets. Real olive oil and other rarer oils appear - and disappear just as rapidly as the customers queue up.
So I was more than willing to try the soup. "One for you and one for your father" he told me.
Last night I emptied the neat little containers they came in and gently heated them. They looked good. Pumpkin, coriander, ginger, chilli and garlic I thought to myself.
I had made bread with a fairly heavy concentration of rye flour, sunflower seeds, pepitas and walnuts. We would have fresh bread and the soup as a light meal.
The soup was inedible. I am not sure what I will say to Jeff this morning. There was so much chilli in it that it was impossible to taste anything else. Dad and I both quite like 'hot', indeed Dad enjoys a curry that would have most older people pushing the plate away, but this was too hot to taste. It burned the mouth.
Sadly I poured the remains into the compost bucket. It will not be wasted. We may yet get a mildly chilli flavoured tomato or bean. I took out the broccoli soup I had made the day before, heated that and we drank that instead.
I will use my time pedalling up to the shopping centre this morning to think of a nice way of telling Jeff that yes, hot soup is comfort food in winter but not quite that hot please.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sam was supposed to come

yesterday. He didn't. We did not even hear from him. I feel hurt for my father. He has put a lot of time into trying to help Sam with his studies.
Sam has never been prompt. He has slept in. He has forgotten before. This is the first time we have not even heard. I don't think Sam is really interested - except in getting help at the last minute. That is not the sort of help he needs. He just is not doing what needs to be done. He's disorganised. Life around Sam must be chaotic. I know Sam will come looking for help again and Dad will give in and give it. He cannot be tough about such things. He's a kind person.
Life around my sister - the one who lives not too far away - is also chaotic. She was supposed to pick up a little wooden tea chest. Dad has made it for her to take to the people she will be staying with this week. She leaves today. The item is still sitting on the dining room table waiting to be collected. She might rush in at the last minute. This is not something you should rush over. It has taken Dad hours to make. The box is, as always, a little work of art. There are three different sorts of timbers in it. The surface is waxed to perfection. It feels good to hold.
He never says anything. Dad is not like that but I know his feelings are hurt. I feel unhappy for him.
Dad has taught me that, when you say you will do something, you should do it. There has to be a major, catastrophic event before there is an excuse not to do it. This is particularly important if you tell a child you will do something. It makes me careful about what I promise to do and, if I am doubtful, I will say, "I may not be able to do that." Is that good enough? I am not sure.
It is all too easy to construe even a conditional statement as a promise if you want what is on offer.
I tell myself. Do not make promises. Do not even say you might do something. Anticipation is nice but just do things. Let other people have a pleasant surprise. Is this right? I just don't know.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Ted's typewriter

was the office joke. Ted was my boss for the short time I worked in the Education Department Office. I liked Ted. He was irreverent. If we needed to see the Director-General he would pick up the 'phone and ask the great man's secretary, "Is God in?" We would then go upstairs and inform the DG about whatever he needed to be informed about. Ted did not ask the DG anything. He told the DG things. The relationship between them was surprisingly congenial.
But the typewriter was something else. It was so old that, by the time I met Ted, he had resorted to buying new ribbons and rewinding them onto the old spools simply because they did not make typewriter ribbon spools like that any more. He had welded part of the typewriter back together. The keys were worn and the type was getting smudgy because it was even more worn. Ted kept on bashing the keys regardless. He loved that typewriter.
Right around him everyone else shared the latest golf-ball jobs with interchangeable typefaces. Ted typed with two fingers. Most of them typed with more. Ted was faster.
When I arrived in the office as his research assistant he called me in for the first morning chat. I sat there feeling distinctly nervous. Was I up to this job? Then, before he even began to discuss work, he made a couple of 'phone calls demanding one of the golf-ball jobs. "I need one," he told the person in Stationery Supply, "Now. Immediately. Straight away. I know you have some there. I saw some yesterday when I was looking for some letterhead."
Was Ted going to give up his typewriter? I had heard about this typewriter. It was legendary. It was revered. Nobody else dared to touch it. I wondered whose typewriter I would share and whether I would have to come in early and leave late in order to use it.
Ted slammed the 'phone down in what I came to learn was his usual style and began telling me what he wanted me to do. He had typed up a long list. It was. to say the least, idiosyncratic. I thought I (half) understood.
"Don't bother me except for emergencies or unless we need to see God. What you do and how you do it is your responsibility," he told me. By this time I was wondering whether I was mad to have agreed to work for him. It looked as if the interview was over but he seemed to be waiting for something. Then there was a knock at the door and the man from Stationery Supply stood there staggering under the weight of a brand new typewriter,
"Where do you want it?"
"That desk." Ted told him waving an arm at the desk he had said would be mine. Then he turned to me and said, "Cat, I do not read paw prints."

Monday, 15 June 2009

Katy says she would like to learn

to knit - at least I think she does. Perhaps she was just a wee bit jealous that I got to spend the day near a bookshop? I would be happy to teach Katy how to knit. It is one of the great achievements of my life. I am happy to share my passion for knitting with others.
My paternal grandmother taught me to knit. She taught me a lot of others things too. My grandmother and I were very close. I think this was because she was the person who kept saying "You can". It is important to tell children that they can do things.
By all academic and intellectual reasoning my grandmother should have been a lousy teacher. Her own schooling was limited to three short years before her father made her stay at home to work on the farm. There was no economic need for this. He just did not like to have his children out of his sight. Grandma had seven brothers and a sister. It was the same for all of them.
So my grandmother with three years of schooling and not much self-confidence should not have been a good teacher - but she was. She was patient. She would have been a very wealthy woman if someone had given her a half-penny for every stitch I dropped or accidentally jerked off the needles. She would wipe the tears of frustration and hug me when I finally managed to make it to the end of the ten stitch row. "You can do it."
Grandma taught me to cook too. This was the no-nonsense sort of cooking, the useful sort of everyday cooking. It was things like the Saturday roast. (Sunday was cold meat day because of church.) There was apple crumble and apricot jam or fig jam from the apricots and figs off the trees in the back garden. There was the yearly 'boiling' or making of marmalade, the scones and the cakes. Porridge was my grandfather's responsibility. My grandmother did not eat that. Her breakfast was never more than tea and toast. Grandpa showed me how to make porridge and eat it without sugar.
When I think about the education my grandmother gave me I am grateful. It is useful in caring for her son, my father. It keeps us fed. The knitting keeps us warm. I admit we drew the line at sewing. My manual dexterity has never become that good but that no longer matters to me. What does matter is that my grandmother kept telling me, "You can."
Katy, if you read this one...you can learn to knit. When I get back to the UK I will be happy to give you the first lesson.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

KIPper Day

was celebrated yesterday by those of us who appreciate the finer art of knitting. KIPper day you ask? A lot of people asked too.
It was "World Wide Knit in Public Day" (KIP? - Knit in Public? - yes, you are right.) We local knitters in the know headed for the local bookshop. We normally knit inside the bookshop - in full view of the passing parade. Yesterday we huddled outside, after all we had to Knit in Public. Sam, the boy who works in the bookshop on Saturdays, had to go and get more chairs from their storage space there were so many of us.
The youngest was 9 yr old Harry. He came last year as well. He can knit quite well. He had a male companion this year. The sight of two males knitting was enough to cause a lot of people to stop and comment. We had to spend quite a lot of time explaining that knitting was orginally a male occupation, that it was a seven year apprenticeship in mediaeval times and....well, quite a lot of other information as well.
The oldest was a woman of 85. She has been knitting for 81 years. She still wins prizes for her socks.
I decided on some plain knitting and multi-colour yarn as the shawl has reached the critical point where I need to think about what I do next. (This is always a problem as I am foolish enough to knit without a pattern. I do not like being told what to do when I am knitting anymore than I like to be told what to do anywhere else. ) I also have enough problems without trying to do something as manually complex as that in public. It needs quiet and concentration.
My father was supposed to have a day to himself in the shed. My sister was calling in to check at lunchtime. Instead she dropped by the knitting group to tell me that he had been invaded by someone who does not know when to go home. His visitor was one of those people who simply do not know what to do with themselves. They assume other people do not know what do with themselves either. They visit in the belief that others have nothing to do and will welcome several hours of unannounced company.
Now, if they would only say they were coming, I might make cheese scones.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The small boy from next door

came in yesterday. He had a page of 'stickers' shaped like stars in his hand. He looked me up and down and asked, "Have you been good?" I had to think about that. Had I been good? I could not think of anything I had done wrong so I said, "I think so. I have done all the work I was supposed to do this morning."
His face took on an even more earnest expression as if he was considering my response. Apparently he was satisfied because he announced, "Then you can have a star." He carefully peeled one off and stuck it on my hand.
"And has Uncle Jim been good?" This is my father he is talking about.
"Oh yes. He's been good. He's busy in the shed making something for someone."
"Well, give him this."
He peels off another star. "That one is green. Yours is pink."
He rushes off before I can say any more. I am left standing with two tiny stars.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The words 'geometry of three dimensional objects'

would remind most of us about those geometry lessons in school where we had to calculate the surface area of a cube or a sphere. I would struggle to do either these days - think I could still manage the cube but I do not remember the sphere. It is simply not important to me.
I thought about this when I saw a piece in the paper this morning. Terry Tao is coming back to Adelaide for a brief visit and is giving a lecture on Poincare's conjecture - the geometry of three dimensional objects. I will not be attending.
I have no doubt that the lecture will be well attended. Adelaide mathematicians and others will be curious to see what the winner of the Fields Medal has to say about this important topic.
Yes, it is important. I can see that. I have no doubt at all that an understanding of such things is important to science. There are undoubtedly times when it is vitally important to be able to calculate the surface area of an irregularly shaped object for example. I will leave that up to Terry. He's smart - one of the smartest people on the planet. He is to mathematics what Stephen Hawking is to theoretical physics. What they do is completely beyond my understanding. They might try and explain if I asked nicely but I doubt I would begin to understand the answer. Does it matter?
Are these people lonely? What is it like to be so deeply into your subject matter that even your colleagues have trouble keeping up with the calculations? Most people have never heard of Tao and most people would never have heard of Hawking if it were not for the fact that he is physically incapacitated to an extraordinary degree.
I am nowhere near as smart as Hawking or Tao. I know where I sit on the Bell curve of intelligence rating. It's a privileged position but nowhere near that privileged.
I no longer feel any surprise when people express surprise or lack of understanding at what I do. It is just something that has never occurred to them. It is not something they have ever needed to think about. They know that people need aid in emergencies. They have no knowledge or understanding of how that aid works - or, more often, does not work. I think emergency aid is just as important as the geometry of three dimensional objects. I cannot say it is more important because I do not know enough about mathematics and physics.
In the end I wonder whether it all comes down to the way in which everything is marketed. We can buy and sell ideas as well as objects.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

We were invaded again

by the six children, their mother and their grandparents. It was good. I am still recovering.
When they did not come last week I froze the pumpkin soup. Yesterday morning I defrosted it and added more stock to bring it up to a soup like consistency. There were (almost) two loaves of 'pizza bread' waiting. There were chocolate biscuits and custard cream type biscuits, bananas and mandarins. It has to be party sort of food when they are here but I also need to be sure that they eat well - after all, a day with us is a sort of party day.
The 'almost' two loaves of pizza bread is because someone else had to sample it the day before - along with his mate Neville and my godfather. That's fine. It is not hard to make. You buy the cheapest sort of white bread from the supermarket - the sort of icky, stick to the roof your mouth white bread that has no other place at all in a balanced diet. You put the merest scraping of decent margarine sort of spread across the top. It needs to be barely there. You add grated cheese in good measure (buy it pre-grated to save time if you must). Then you can add other things...bacon if you want to eat meat, a little dried tomato or olive slices work fine...but you really just need the cheese and then sprinkle with pizza topper herbs bought in the spice section of the supermarket. Shove on trays in the oven and leave at about 100-125'C until cooked - how much cooked depends on the impatience of those waiting. It can take a while if you let them crisp to an almost rusk like state. If you do this there will be crumbs everywhere - but does that matter?
There was the obligatory time in the shed. Bookends were finished. Pencil cases were finished.
The youngest made amazing architectural works with the large set of coloured blocks my father made years ago. The boys made equally amazing structures from Meccano as they waited their turn in the shed. They want to know - what can we make next?
We will see them once more before they leave for Manila. Then it will be a long wait - three months while they are there and then their quarantine time back here....quarantine to protect my father who is too old to get some tropical disease. I hope they do not get any either.
I know my father will soon be too old to handle such invasions but he loves children - after all he is just a grown up child himself.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

My godfather

called in yesterday. Dad had accidentally left the ‘phone off the hook – again – so we were not expecting him. Dad was out inspecting a sale of woodworking tools with mate Neville (Neville claimed he needed a band saw) so I made my godfather a cup of tea and let him talk about Tom. Tom is his grandson….the black sheep according to Tom’s father….the mentally off-balance young man in need of help according to his grandfather. I am inclined to his grandfather’s view. My godfather is a kind man, a very kind man but he is not under any illusions in respect of Tom. He knows Tom is not going anywhere in the world and that Tom is not going to get the sort of help he needs.
I do not know what you do with the Toms of this world. He should be taking medication. When he is feeling fine he does not take it. He does not understand that, because he takes it, he feels fine. If he is feeling bad then he will sometimes more than the recommended dose so that he does feel fine. At other times he will lash out or simply go back to bed. He does not persist. He needs a minder. He needs to feel good about himself. None of it is going to happen. But, at least Tom communicates after a fashion. There are no services for people like Tom. We have closed those in favour of 'integration' into the community - the 'dump them and leave them and, if we are lucky, their families will take responsibility' policy.
I blame disability activists for these policies as much as government. It is what the articulate minority wanted - and got. It is fine for them. They can communicate. They can handle the world. They can get aggressive and demand their 'rights'. The biggest problem among people with disabilities is an inability to communicate and, all too often, a fear of even trying. That does not matter to the articulate minority. That is what they are there for - after all, they claim, they know best. Do they?
After my godfather had left I headed for the library to pick up a book. It was a cool 12’C and showery with it. Despite that the girl is sitting in the rotunda in the park. Nobody else is likely to be there today so she at least has shelter. Early in the morning she heads for a local coffee shop. She buys the iced coffee that comes in cartons that she can choose for herself. That way she does not need to make any sort of contact with the people behind the counter. She buys chocolate in the supermarket. I think the chocolate is her lunch. Terri, who runs the coffee shop, has tried to make contact. I have tried to make contact. Nothing works. She spends her days wandering around or, more often, sitting in the park next to the library. She always sits alone. If anyone esle sits on the bench she has chosen she will move. Once, when she could not get into the rotunda because other people were there, I tried to get her to come into the library because it was pouring with rain and she was soaked through - but she looked so absolutely terrified I backed off rather than distress her more. I think she lives in a "group house" somewhere. It is run by a warden. The girl gets sent out at 8am and told not to return until 5 pm. She spends almost her entire day just sitting and staring into space. I find it frightening. I am frightened for her. I wish I could do something to help but she does not seem to want help or be able to accept it. She cannot relate.
I have talked to some members of the articulate minority about this situation. They insist "she is better off than she would be in an institution". I just think she is becoming even more vulnerable.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Yesterday was the Queen's Birthday

holiday weekend here. I suspect that, as usual, all the Republicans took the day off. I glanced at the Honours List. My name was not there. Nobody is ever likely to honour a cat but I do like to know if there is anyone I know on the list. There has been in the past.
It would be embarrassing to fail to congratulate them.
There were some Republicans on the list. They do not seem to mind that bit of the monarchical past they so object to. As Australia is, technically, a republic it does make me wonder what they really want. I suspect it is more power. They probably see themselves as President. "Governor-General" does not have the same ring to it - and there are plans for the President to have more power. I do not like it. Things work well the way they are now. I know, I know there are problems in Britain. The Westminster system is under fire. Reading carefully however I suspect that it is not the Westminster system which is the problem but some of the people who were elected to be part of it. We have the same problem here. We may even have a bigger problem here because we have what is called 'compulsory voting'. There is in fact no compulsion to vote but there is a compulsion to attend at the ballot box and most people believe that is the same thing.
I am opposed to such a system. People should be encouraged to vote but they should not be compelled to attend at the ballot box. It is a system that allows politicians to be lazy about policy as well as the people they are supposed to serve. They know most people will vote the same way for life. They only need to concentrate on the small number of 'swinging' voters - those who can essentially hang the politician in question. It also discourages political education.

The Honours list was interesting too. The men (about 370) outnumbered the women (170). Does this mean that women contribute less to public and voluntary life? I doubt it. I suspect that women contribute at least as much and, quite possibly, more. Some people also get honoured for strange contributions too....like their contribution to the Carbine Society. I do not know what that is. I need to go and look. It might be worthy...and then it might not.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Jane had a pitch party

over on her "How Publishing Really Works" blog. I went prowling among some blogs that I had not looked at before. I have even added one to my list of blogs I think I should read. Jane was very kind to me. She added my tiny pieces about how cats write to her blog. Thankyou Jane. I feel honoured.
All the activity and prowling around made me think again about blogs and the purpose of blogging. The blogs I visited were many and varied. They varied in content and quality. I liked some and I did not like others. I left 'paw prints' on some and not on others.
Thankfully not one of the blogs was anything like the blog I was directed to earlier in the week. I felt uncomfortable looking at that blog. It should have been fine. It's written by someone who is committed to her faith, her husband, her six (home-schooled) children and her other activities. Most people would say all of these things can be, or even are, good in themselves. Taken in combination and with a 'bare my soul' style it was too much. I squirmed.
Perhaps it was not really a blog. Perhaps it is a vehicle for proselytising instead. I am not sure how she sees it. I am sure she means well - but meaning well is not suffficient.
Blogs are curiously both private and public places. There are people who collect long lists of blogs. I am not sure what they really do with them. I would not have time to read them and I am not sure I would want to read many of them.
There are blogs which get thousands of hits. If I reach a thousand I think I will have done well.
My blog is mine. My posts are my daily training session. I tell myself it is good discipline. A writer needs to write even when they do not want to write. That may be when they do the best writing of all.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

My world is still round

this morning.
Vanessa is still there so her world must be round too. That makes me feel better. I will prowl around Jane's world later. She's throwing a pitch party over at How Publishing Really Works.
If anyone heads here from there please say hello. I am friendly. I do not scratch visitors. I will visit you.
All this will make a nice change from trying to work out something which is still puzzling me. My job is to write communication boards for what are technically known as CHEs or 'complex humanitarian emergencies' - disasters, natural and manmade. There always seem to be more of the latter. They are always made much worse by the blinding stupidity and intransigence of some of the protagonists. I try to be neutral but this is difficult. It is especially difficult in the face of an apparently complete lack of logical thinking. If someone can explain the following I will be grateful.
"A woman's place is in the home. She does not need to learn to read and write. There is no need for a girl to go to school. A woman most certainly cannot go to university or work outside the home."
That's bad enough but then comes the next bit.
"No, a woman may not be examined by a male doctor."
Logic says that this means that a woman may not be examined by a doctor. We get around it by having other women present and witholding something the men need. Even then I am told that asking something as simple as "Are you pregnant?" or "Have you been violated? (Raped.)" can be dangerous. Doctors need to know. Women are fearful of telling them. They are suspicious of everyone. They do not trust other women to interpret for them, especially to interpret accurately. Many of them cannot read or write and the marks on a communication board are meaningless. Even some of those who are there to interpret are not really able to read and write - or only a little. It makes the doctor's job almost impossible.
It's a power thing of course. The men who run the displacement camps and refugee centres are using disasters to impose more disasters on the most vulnerable. Writing communication boards for these situations is like treading through a mine field. I await the day that someone puts a fatwa on me for adding something that should not be there or accidentally misspelling something in a language I cannot read, let alone speak. Or perhaps they will put a fatwa on me simply because I can read and write.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Is the world flat?

When nine out of ten people tell you that you are wrong it is tempting to believe them. It is much easier to be part of the majority. It is comfortable. Most of us like comfort.
If you belong to the majority then other people help to do the work too. That's nice. It adds to the comfort and the 'feel good'.
Why then do I have to go stirring up trouble? Why do I have to be in the minority? I should know better. I tell myself, "Cat, you are already in the minority why do you want to add to the difference?" Then I add to the difference anyway. I keep telling people the world is round. They keep telling me it is flat. Round is harder to stay on. Flat means you just need to stay away from the edges. That way you cannot fall off. Round is a constant balancing act.
This morning I told Vanessa the world is round. If she bothers to answer me she will probably tell me that the world is flat. Flat is better when you are upset. I think I understand that although the world has never been flat for me.
I wonder what the flat world is like? Does it exist?

Friday, 5 June 2009


If you are interested in what British booksellers have been contemplating as an advertising campaign then head for the Fidra blog. Vanessa has plenty to say on the issue and I have to agree. I do not like the idea of associating the reading of books with addiction for marketing purposes. Addiction is much too negative. It reeks of illicit drugs, tobacco, and an over-indulgence in alcohol. The idea of bookaholism is not even a starter in my book.
My cat like self has other views on marketing books. I can see cats of all shapes, sizes and colours curled up around books, paws neatly in place on the pages, whiskers twitching with laughter, eyes in narrow slits with anticipation or wide with pleasure, tail tips flicking at the foolishness of human behaviour.
I might even allow a dog or two in on the act - if they can behave themselves and learn to read.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Remember that glue at school?

When I was at school (and I admit it was a very long time ago) we had glue called, "Clag". I believe you can still get it. It was, and probably still is, a thick glug of paste. You had to put it on with a little brush that looked a bit like a witch's broomstick.
I suspect it was made of starch. I had to make something similar yesterday. Late in the day I sent off the necessary work via the wonders of computer and decided that I should tackle the hat.
The hat is cotton. It is knitted. It is destined as an entry into the craft section of the "Royal Show" I mentioned some days ago. It has to be what we knitters call "blocked" - in this case put over a mould, stretched to shape and then - somehow - kept there. This is where the "Clag" part comes in.
I had to find starch - good, old fashioned starch and turn it into a mixture as thick as the glue was. Thankfully I rescued some boxes of this rare and precious commodity when the local supermarket stopped stocking it. (I remember the check-out girl Brenda saying to me, "What are you going to do with all that? Nobody starches anything these days.") I mix the paste. I pour on the boiling water and mix the glug. It gurgles in a rather satisfying way.
When it is cool enough to handle (and it needs to be warm to soak properly into the cotton) I dunk the hat and squeeze and squelch. It is rather fun. I should probably have saved it for Ciaranne to try over the weekend. She would really have enjoyed playing "glue pie" - after all, she is only ten.
Eventually the bit of cotton is thoroughly soaked and I manage to get enough glue off me to pin it out over the plastic form I rescued when my friend Georgie was throwing it out.
As I pin out the brim I realise I could not do this unless my paternal grandmother had taught me how to starch a detachable collar. I know she told me at the time that, "It will come in useful one day." She was right. I wonder how many people know how to starch a detachable collar - and whether they have done it recently?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

It started out

with an 8am meeting. The idea behind this is that other people have to go to work. Note I say "other people". I do not go to work. People who work from home do not work. It's simple. I do not know why I do not understand this. Everyone else does.
I did not even have to make the effort to get there. I arrived by magic carpet. Pedal power does not count. The meeting was only about 5km away. The traffic is not heavy. It is not yet peak hour. We will forget the extra traffic because they have pulled up the railway line. That does not count. "Oh, sorry Cat. I could have picked you up. You should have asked." I do not ask for rides unless it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale and I absolutely have to be somewhere. They know that.
And no, I am not doing the work they are paid to do. I explain this nicely, kindly, patiently. I tell them I have just been asked to do another round of unpaid work for some UN workers and some micro-aid workers who are volunteering their time for people living in tents. The faces around the table are not pleased. I am, after all, there to work for them because I do not work. I have lots of time. They go to work.
I pedal home telling myself I am not being un-nice.
Dad has been waiting anxiously. This time it is not because of me but because the elderly woman I check on twice a week has rung. She is in a state because her daughter is not answering the 'phone. I 'phone her and then go around to the next street to see if her daughter is there. She is not. That does not help much. She still thinks her daughter has had another seizure and is lying helpless on the floor. Her daughter always talks to her every morning.
Her daughter's husband is a teacher. I do not know what school he works at. It has never been an issue before. I do know what school her granddaughter goes to. I 'phone that and explain the problem and say that I am aware that privacy, security and all that goes with 21stC safety awareness will probably prevent them from letting me talk to the child and I do not wish to alarm the child anyway. The child is sensible but this is a school. There is silence at the other end of the'phone and then the voice says, "Tell me something about yourself that I can ask her."
Easy, "Ask her if she knows the Cat on the Tricycle." There is a laugh. "I know the Cat on the Tricycle. Hold on and I'll see what I can find out."
A little later there is a voice at the other end of the 'phone, "Cat, is something wrong?"
I hastily explain I do not think there is. "Oh, tell Granny that Dad has taken Mum to the hospital. It's about the skin graft from last time. They did tell her. She's forgotten again."
Thank goodness for clear headed twelve year old girls. I 'phone my elderly friend. She is almost in tears. I tell her to go and make herself a cup of tea.
There is no time for a cup of tea but I pedal off to the other meeting wondering why the school secretary knows the Cat on the Tricycle? I really should have asked her.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

It was just as well I took

some work with me. I went shopping with my sister. I do not like shopping but this was 'essential stuff' - food not stocked by the local shops.
Shopping with my sister is an experience. She inevitably arrives later than she says she will. I am prepared for that. I always tell Dad we will back much later than she says we will be. That way he will not worry quite as much when she is delayed.
She arrived only half an hour late and we took off for Gaganis. This is a warehouse on the other side of the CBD. It stocks bulk food - a lot of it Greek or otherwise Mediterranean in nature. It is (dis)organised according to a Greek male's idea of how to cook. (Do not get me wrong. Greek men are brilliant at barbecues - if you like meat.)
We have to pull over twice on the way for her to have a conversation on her mobile. Hers is hands free and she can use it in traffic but she has the sense not to. Yes, I would much rather wait for her to finish talking!
We arrive and, wonder of wonders, discover a parking spot near the entrance. All I have to do is get out and move sundry shopping trolleys and then use one for us.
We go into the barn. There is a security guard at the door. This is new. There was an attempted robbery a couple of weeks back the guard tells us. He lets us in. We are apparently not a threat. (Not a threat?)
My sister goes hunting for the haloumi. She buys this cheese by the bucket load for her family. I go hunting for pumpkin and sunflower seeds, barley and almond meal. We then both go hunting for other things that Helen needs. She really does buy in bulk. There are two growing 'boys' in her family - aged 20 and 22. They still eat a lot. So do their friends. The friends seem to descend regularly. There is blue gum honey on special so I succumb and buy some of that.
They do not stock rye, wheat or barley flakes. You cannot make muesli without these - not according to my father. Helen informs me that we will head for the natural food shop in the Central Market - after she has picked up "the signs".
I never did find out what the signs were or what they were for. We find the place after a detour to a greengrocery so she can get a banana. It is 3pm and she has not had any lunch. I was wise enough to eat something before we left. I wait in the car and do a little work. We arrive at the sign place and I wait in the car. I wait in the car. I wait in the car. She eventually returns forty minutes later. The job had not been finished so she had to wait. I had an entire page translated by then and had started on the second one.
She starts the car and her 'phone rings. She switches off. I translate some more while she talks.
We then head into the market. No car park spaces. "I should have dropped you off," she tells me. Well, yes that would have been a good idea. It would have saved time. I walk back while she tries to find somewhere she can park for more than the loading zone allows. She has a disability sticker which means we get 20 mins in a loading zone but we are both conscious it IS a loading zone.
I race frantically around the shop gathering up the things I need. She saunters in having another conversation. "It's all right. I found another park." Ah yes, all right for her. I sneak a peek at the time. Dad will be wondering - no worrying. She sees me, sighs and rings to let him know we have been delayed. I think about getting work e-mailed back to people who will soon be starting to head into their various offices on one side of the world or leaving their offices on the other.
We make it back. I load up the work I have done and send it off. There is more waiting - but I consider I have the right to put the kettle on first.

Monday, 1 June 2009

I am not an economist

or a mathematician so I fail to understand how paying some people more, a lot more, will be a good thing for the economy.
I am perfectly happy for people to be paid adequately. They should be paid well for doing a good job - whatever that job happens to be.
There are other things that can get in the way of being paid more than that. Can your employer afford it? Is paying you more going to put someone else out of work? Is it going to put you out of work because your employer can no longer afford to pay you and your workmates the extra you have so blithely demanded? Does it mean that your employer, who has taken all the risks and done the really hard work of building up a business so that you can be paid, must lose everything for your short-term gain?
Australian unions seem to be thinking this way. They are back in power. The ACTU is a loud voice at Labor Party conferences again. They claim to be standing up for "workers' pay, rights and conditions" and for Rudd's "working families". They say that the previous government's "Work Choices" scheme had nothing good about it at all. It seems the ACTU has all the answers. You pay people more. You give them more rights. You impose more conditions on employers. When the employer goes under it is never the fault of the employees - after all employees have rights.
Yes, there are bosses who have been greedy, excessively greedy. They have mismanaged their businesses. Their faults are many and, if press resports are to be believed, their virtues are few. I suspect they are in the minority. Most bosses want to do the right thing by their employees. They want to do it because it is the best thing for them as well as their employees. Everyone benefits. Bosses and workers have mutual obligations and responsibilities.
So it is sad to learn that a thriving small business here which employs just eleven people is in danger of closing because the union movement has now threatened to make it impossible for them to carry on. They have been harrassing the employees for months. The employees do not want to join the relevant union. With just eleven of them they are in close contact with the boss all the time. They work hard. They work together. They get well paid. They get the same conditions as union members and more besides. The union does not like that.
Unions had their place. They still have their place. They do not however have the right to interfere in a well run business simply because people do not belong to the union movement.