Tuesday, 30 June 2015

So if Greece defaults today

what will happen next? I don't know. I don't have a crystal economic/social ball with which to see the future.
But, I do know some things.
My sister, Middle Cat, married into the Greek-Cypriot community. Her husband's parents came from Cyprus. Her mother-in-law is no longer with us. Her father-in-law is in a nursing home. They came from "peasant" stock. Her husband's paternal grandfather was a shepherd. 
Middle Cat's father-in-law came to Australia when he was sixteen. He came alone. He worked hard. He brought out his brothers and sisters and then his parents...one by one as he could afford to do it. He built up a green grocery and then a fish and chip shop. The latter was so successful that there would, quite literally, be a queue around the corner on Friday and Saturday evenings. He worked hard. His wife worked hard. They made the most of opportunities they made for themselves.
Their children went on to higher education and so have their children - my nephews and their cousins. There's now a doctor, a lawyer, two accountants, an engineer - and soon, an optometrist and a psychologist in the next generation. They have worked hard and  made the most of their opportunities.
It is said that the largest Greek-speaking population in a city outside Athens is not in Greece but in Australia - in Melbourne. A lot of Greeks migrated there. Many of them have done extremely well. They worked hard. They own property and businesses. They are shopkeepers and factory bosses. They are professionals and private enterprise people. 
Some of them are anxiously watching the Greek drama being played out because they have property and business interests in Greece as well. There are people who import from Greece and export to Greece. It is not, in terms of the national economy, a large amount of business - about $270m - but it will impact hard on people who have worked hard.
The entire population of Greece is less than half the population of Australia. Greece has no natural resources. The geography makes it incredibly difficult and expensive to govern. It depends almost entirely on tourism. It's a mess. 
I have said elsewhere in this blog that I believe the Olympics should be returned permanently to Greece. It would be a source of income. It would bring more tourists in. It won't happen. 
But perhaps the biggest problem of all is not Greece and not what happens to the Greek people. It is what happens to the EU and the euro. Perhaps Britain knew what it was doing when it retained the pound? I don't know.
What I do know is that there are Greeks and Greek-Cypriots and their descendants whom I love. I don't want to see them hurt. 


Monday, 29 June 2015

I was once a member of

a government tribunal. After some years in the role I resigned the position because I moved to another part of the country.
I wasn't sorry because, by then, I had begun to doubt the value of some of the tribunal's decisions. They were made according to the law but I had concerns about the way in which the law sometimes had to be applied. However I have always been glad I had the experience because it taught me a great deal about law, about the way in which it can and cannot be applied, and much more.
The state government recently axed a number of tribunals - although not that one.  Instead it has axed several which probably should have been kept and one which most definitely should have been kept.
They have axed the Guardianship Tribunal. That worries me. I have first hand knowledge of how that one worked as well. I taught children who were under state guardianship. When decisions were being made I would sometimes be consulted about their capacities and what I thought might be the best option for them. I have acted as a communication facilitator for some of those subject to the board's decisions and an amicus curiae for others. 
I remember the wonderful young indigenous woman who approached me and asked if I would help her go to the tribunal for help. She had been awarded a considerable sum in compensation for an accident and, she told me, her relatives would seek to take it from her if she had charge of her own affairs. The Tribunal helped to sort it out for her so that they could not touch it. 
I went with a severely disabled man who, although unable to read or write, was aware that his parents could no longer adequately care for him. There was no other close family. His concerns were heard and, when his father died a few months later,  he was transferred to community housing relatively quickly. His mother died a year later knowing that someone was caring for him. He was one of the lucky ones.
Friends in their eighties have just managed to arrange for their profoundly disabled daughter to go into an aged care complex. She isn't yet fifty but there is nowhere else for her to go. It isn't what they want for her but they can no longer do the heavy physical work of caring for her at home. Her father is trying to ensure that there are some sort of guardianship provisions in place - something the Guardianship Tribunal would once have undertaken because there is no close family.
I know many more people like them. The expectation is that "family" will do it but sometimes there is no family. Siblings may no longer even live in the state - let alone close enough to act.
I acted as guardian for two of my former students. It was the least I could do for their remaining parent. They have all passed away now and I don't want to take the role on again.
It is not because I don't care. I do. I care deeply but I believe that I should be able to be there as a friend and that there should be a Guardianship Tribunal to provide continuity, security and certainty  in their lives.  
All the government is saying is that the new super tribunal will "save money". It won't. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

I have just been reading

a newsletter from the women's shelter in the city. 
As always it makes disturbing reading. It is disturbing because of the stories I know are behind the stories - the violence and abuse that led the residents there. It is disturbing because of the way those things have led some of them to smoke, to drink too much, to experiment with drugs, to lose their children to social welfare, and even to lose all their material possessions.
Oh yes, "we know about those things" - except of course we don't really. We can't possibly know unless we have lived through it. The closest most of us will come is watching someone else live through it.
The other thing which makes for disturbing reading is the constant need for funds. The shelter gets a small amount from the government. The rest has to be raised through community and corporate support. 
For as long as he was able the Senior Cat did voluntary maintenance work at the shelter - the only male allowed on the property without supervision. The women trusted him. Information that he was "all right" was passed from one woman to the next as they came and went. The job was passed to him by another man who had to involuntary retire from his voluntary position. The Senior Cat passed his role on to someone else. I don't know who is there now. 
I do know the shelter is struggling to find funds as always. There still seems to be this curious attitude in the wider community that "these women must have done something" and that odd idea that somehow "it's their fault". 
It isn't. Of course there will be faults on both sides - but that doesn't excuse violence or other forms of abuse. It doesn't excuse the lasting damage done to all involved, including the children.
The newsletter was timely. On my way to the library yesterday morning I stopped to speak to someone who is in an abusive relationship. Her husband was away with his mates for the day. It has taken her weeks of planning but she's leaving him. She made the decision when her son, the older of the two children, told her he thought she should - that both he and his sister wanted her to do it. 
Yesterday afternoon they were on a plane to another state. The fares were partly paid for by money we raised in a small group I belong to. The rest was money she had managed to save a little at a time. None of us hesitated to help because we all knew she had no choice. 
I hope it works out well for them. I know where her husband will go looking for her. He knows where the women's shelter is. She had been there once but he "persuaded" her home with threats about losing the children.
"He's not going to change," she told me again yesterday. I agreed. We hugged and the two children hugged me and the boy whispered to me, 
"Tell everyone thank you please. I'm going to look after Mum now."
He's nine years old. It's not something a nine year old should have to say. I don't think he is going to abuse his partner when he grows up but it doesn't always work out that way.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

I have just seen a dragon

cloud in the sky. It was a friendly, white, feathery dragon - but definitely a dragon. I wanted to keep it.
I do own a simple camera. The only thing I use it for is taking photographs of some of the knitting I do. I have never used it for anything else.
The Senior Cat doesn't own an actual camera at all. His i-pad must have one I suppose - but neither of us know how to use it. Oh no, wait a moment I suppose the mobile phone takes pictures? He would have even less idea how to do that...and so would I. 
There are very few family photographs from when I was a kitten. There was a family camera but getting a film and getting it developed was expensive beyond reason in most of the areas in which we lived. The habit of taking pictures simply did not grow. 
My brother-in-law here is a keen photographer. His children have an extensive record of their childhood. My brother's family also have plenty of photographs and more too.
"Save the photographs. Keep another set somewhere safe." This is advice given to people in bushfire prone areas. More than once I have heard people say the thing they miss not having the most is photographs of their family, friends, past events and so on. I can remember an appeal going out at university for a staff member who  had lost all the family photographs. When the album they made was presented to him he was close to tears. 
What is it with photographs? They do remind of us, of course they do. They are taken as "evidence" of what we did and enjoyed. They remind us of our emotions at the time and allow us to remember what someone or something actually looked like. Or, we think  they do. We all see things differently. Two people at the same event will not remember it in the same way. Photographs and films will allow them to remember it and share those memories. Saying "remember when..." is important.
Photographs allow us to remember ourselves.

Friday, 26 June 2015

"A child is missing..."

and each time I hear those words my heart plummets into my stomach where it continues to beat much too rapidly and makes me feel ill.
I don't "re-tweet" things very often but, this morning, I did re-tweet a picture of young William Tyrrell. Apparently it would be his birthday today. He should be home. He should be excited about presents and a party. He should be excitedly telling everyone how  old he is now. He's not.
Nobody knows where William is - except the person or persons who took him. The likelihood that he "just wandered off" and has not been found is miniscule. The likelihood he will be found alive is almost certainly miniscule as well.
I cannot even begin to contemplate what it must be like to lose a child and then not know what has happened to them. I don't know how the parents of Madeleine McCann can keep going - or any other parents like them. Every time the phone rings there must be that heart-stopping moment of wondering - is this it?
I don't have children of my own. I do have a niece and three nephews. My niece and a nephew have five children between them. Losing any of them is unthinkable. 
I know people who have lost a child through illness, through accident and, once, through murder. All of them are apparently "getting on with life" but, if you watch closely, you can see the moments when it all comes back and hits them hard. There are times when I know I need to stay silent and just hold hands - just be there.
The Senior Cat went back to school yesterday morning. He thoroughly enjoyed watching all the youngest children in a local school and observing yet more changes in education. In the afternoon he went to a funeral of an old friend. Her youngest child was not there. It was an occasion where her husband and the other children felt not just one loss, but two. If you don't know what has happened to your child then the loss must happen over and over again. It would be never-ending grieving.
That word "closure" is one that often irritates but if you don't know then you can't shut the door gently knowing what is behind it. It has to stay open - just in case.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Senior Cat is going to school

today. He has had an invitation from the Little Drummer Boy's younger brother to attend Older Persons' Day.
He went to school as the guest for the Little Drummer Boy's Older Persons' Day too.
When I was a kitten it was Mothers' Day and sometimes grandmothers came too - except that they didn't do that for me in the same way.  My parents were some of the teachers so they were never there in my classroom looking at my work and admiring the art work on the wall and the odd things on the nature science table and listening to me caterwaul along with every other kitten. 
If my teacher needed to talk about me (almost never) or my siblings (again, almost never) I assume they did it in the staff room at morning tea time. According to the Senior Cat my worst sin was being caught reading a book when I should have been listening to something else - usually something I already knew or had done. It isn't that I was particularly well behaved but that being well behaved was less bother.
I wonder now about those Mothers' Day and then Parents' Day visits. It was mostly the mothers who came because, back then, not nearly as mothers went to work. Some of them worked part-time. Others went back to work when their children were old enough to go to and from school alone. There were "latch-key" kids who actually went home to an empty house. They were allowed to help themselves to a snack if they wanted it and then they headed out to play in the street or in someone else's yard if it was raining. They knew when to go home because someone's mother would tell them or someone passing would tell them the time. Their mothers might or might not come to Mothers' Day but almost every mother did and I know that local businesses where mothers did work expected to give the mother in question a couple of hours away from whatever she was working at. It was considered to be the right thing to do.
I don't imagine the teachers even knew whether the mothers went to work or not unless something went wrong and the parent needed to be contacted. Then there would be the trip to the school office. The records would be looked up and, if the family had the phone on, then the mother would be called. Where we lived at the time only about half the families, if that, even had a phone. 
Now there are multiple means of contact - landline, mobile, text, e-mail. There is "before school care" and "after school care" and  the "school holiday programme". Children are not permitted to go to and from school alone until they, at very least, are in the upper primary school - and then only if there will be an adult there and the route is considered "safe". We are constantly advised of all the dangers and about how to keep children "safe".
I will be interested to see what the Senior Cat thinks this time. He was impressed with the Little Drummer Boy's teacher last time. He thought the classroom was a good learning environment.
But, like me, he thinks that his generation and mine had a better childhood in many ways. He walked to and from school alone at the age of five - across two quite busy roads and a railway line. He took responsibility for a friend who had petit-mal seizures from the time he was six.  He roamed the streets and went down to the beach with his brother for hours on end. 
My siblings and I were out and about too. I rode my tricycle to school from the start. It was about a mile and a half each way. I crossed many roads and the railway line. We knew about "stranger danger" but there were many more people out on foot too so perhaps we were safer. 
I wonder how the Little Drummer Boy and his brother will remember Older Persons' Day because there is no Mothers' Day or Parents' Day now. It is Parents' Night - and you just, according to the mother of the Little Drummer Boy,  "queue up to see the teacher for five minutes each". 
That's not the same as showing your mother why you had to find the mulberry leaves for the silk worms on the nature science table.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Zaky Mallah is a convicted terrorist

and, as such, he has no place on any public funded television programme. He most certainly has no place on the ABC* criticising the government of the day. 
The programme was "Q&A" - not known for being kind to the government at any time. This time it went too far. The Prime Minister went as far as to call those who work on it, "the lefty lynch mob". That may have gone too far but the anti-government bias is there. 
Governments should not, of course,be above criticism. They should be scrutinised - but they need to be scrutinised fairly. When the publicly funded broadcaster is scrutinising the government of the day it also needs to be done without bias. 
This was not done without bias. It was a deliberate act designed to make news - news of a particular type and bias.  
It was wrong.
I had arranged to meet a young Muslim student yesterday. She needed some help with an essay. We had agreed to meet at the library and she was there before me. She looked relieved when I arrived.
"You will still help?" she asked me.
"Of course, why not?"
"That man Mallah, now he makes people hate us even more."
And yet we give him time on publicly funded media.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

"I had to retire before

I could contemplate it," someone has just told me.
She has in fact just taken on a new job as President of an international organisation. I belong to the same organisation so I have some idea of the enormity of the task she has just taken on. She starts in October and I hope she has a holiday before then because she is not going to get one for the next two years. 
Yes, it is "one of those jobs". It is the sort of job you can only do properly if you don't have another job but it is not one you are going to get paid for doing. 
It is also a job which needs to be done and which you need to be committed to doing. It means travelling and a great many meetings and an international conference and... well, I am sure you have the general idea. 
Some of it might be fun I suppose but there will be very little of that compared with the amount of work involved. It is going to take commitment - of which I don't doubt she has plenty. 
Her appointment has left me contemplating something yet again. How are some of these roles going to be filled when people are working longer?
The "retirement" age is creeping ever upwards. We are told this is essential as people live longer and society can no longer afford to support increasing numbers of "old" people. But some "old" people still work. My paternal grandfather was 86 when he "retired" - and he only ceased to work when his eyesight failed. My maternal grandfather died at 68 - while he was still working. The Senior Cat "retired" from teaching and promptly took up another role and then another. He is still doing some teaching at 92. 
If I am intellectually capable I will work well beyond retirement age. My job is not a physical one.
And that, of course, is the issue in the minds of people. Those people who don't do physical work can, if they are intellectually able and have the necessary skills and training, work longer. Those who do physical work may not be able to work as long. It's a problem which gets discussed but, so far, it has not been given really serious consideration. 
But there is the other issue. If people retire later, who is going to take on the role of president of an organisation like the one I mentioned at the start? If the new president had to wait another five years I doubt she would want to take on the role. Five years can see big physical changes at that age.
Who is going to take on all the other "voluntary" work which is now done mostly by older people? Will they still be expected to do all this and care for the grandchildren? Is  "retirement" going to be a thing of the past for many people? 
Does there come a point where people should not be expected to work unless they choose to do so - or should we just continue to work until we can no longer do so? 


Monday, 22 June 2015

We have a problem

and it is, I suspect, not one which will be easily solved.
The Senior Cat was out yesterday. While he was out someone we both know phoned and said very brightly, "I was just wondering if..."
Before she went any further I was thinking "No, whatever it is I don't want to know."
She wanted to bring a complete stranger over to our place for afternoon tea, "sometime in the next couple of weeks" because "he's such a lovely man, a real darling - and he would love to meet you and the Senior Cat".
He would? I wonder how he really feels. Does he, like us, feel embarrassed by this sort of behaviour? Does he also wish she would not issue such invitations and wonder if there is any way of avoiding them?
Although we have tried to put her off kindly she has done this sort of thing twice before. On the first occasion there was the excuse that one of the two people she brought wanted to know if the Senior Cat could do a small piece of woodwork for her organisation. He was happy enough to oblige because the organisation does good work. He didn't realise, and neither did I, that it was a ploy this person uses to provide herself with some company as well. 
The second occasion was even more awkward as she brought someone we had not met before but we knew a lot about through a mutual friend and, yes, there had been long term comments about meeting her.
But this time she just wants to bring a complete stranger because she is sure that this person and the Senior Cat will get along.  The Senior Cat is not unsociable, far from it, but he isn't interested in having complete strangers not of his choosing foisted upon him when he has other things he wants and needs to do.
He reminded me yesterday that someone has asked him to do something else for him. He promised it some time ago. It hasn't happened because Middle Cat was in hospital and he spent time he might have spent in the shed visiting her. The person  he promised completely understood but now he wants to get on with the task. 
And, believe it or not, I have work to do. If I take time out to entertain a stranger I am not interested in then I have to do that work later. I have tried explaining this, quite firmly, to this person. Oh yes, she tells me, she understands but... I think she does understand too but she believes that I can simply do the work later. 
It eats into writing time and, I know I shouldn't, but I resent that.
She means well. She is kind. She does do a lot to help other people. I know she is lonely. Neither of us want to hurt her feelings but we really, really don't want her to make a habit of this sort of thing. You see, we are busy people. We have lots we want to do. 
I think she needs more to do - but she says she is busy. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

I had a very curious

experience yesterday. It should have been ordinary enough but it was both disturbing and exhilarating.
I went into a house I had not been into for almost fifty years - and it had not changed.
I was on my way home down a street I often travel along when I saw a friend of more than fifty years. She lives in a house that was her childhood home. I went in and out of it several times in the early years of our friendship. I had not been into since then. 
It was not because we were no longer friendly or because the house had changed hands or any of a multitude of other possible reasons. Her mother had died when she was in her early teens. She went on living there with her father while she was at school. She went on to university, moved away when she got a job.
I moved too. I moved in my teens and it might have been the end of the friendship because we didn't have social media and all the other means of contact then. Somehow it wasn't. It is one of those friendships where, each time we saw one another, we picked up the strands where we had left off and knitted another few rows. We saw each other in other places - at university, in the library, at writing events, and at choir practice.
Recently we caught up in the local bookshop and she said, "Do come in when you're passing. If the car's in I'm probably home." 
I have tried several times but she has been out. She has been caring for an older friend who had a serious road accident. He lives in the "granny flat" at the back.  
But yesterday her car was turning into the driveway as I came down the street. I stopped.  
I went into the house with her. It was just as I have always remembered it. Nothing had changed. I even looked to see if something I remembered was still there - and it is. 
The house is not a museum. It is not a monument to her parents. It is a house which is very definitely lived in. It is untidy. There are cats. The piles of books have changed shape. There are more tottering piles of books in what was her father's study. Her music is still scattered across the piano and on the floor next to the piano stool. There was a mug draining on the sink in the kitchen. It was the mug she used the last time I walked into the house. It is faded now but the "hippie" flowers are still there. I gave it to her.
I had to go home or the Senior Cat would worry it was getting too late for me to be out on the pedals. She had to go out again and had to do some baking to take with her.  I left reluctantly. It was not nostalgia I felt. It was something much better than that.
It was a brief visit and a long one. Almost fifty years long. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

So if we all carry a gun

then violence will be reduced? I don't think so but apparently Senator Leyonhjelm, the misnamed "Liberal Democrat", believes that there is no harm in relaxing gun laws.
Our present gun laws came about because the Howard government put them in place after the Port Arthur massacre where Martin Bryant acquired a gun through an advertisement and then went on to murder thirty-five people and injure another twenty-three. The laws may not have stopped Bryant harming other people but they would certainly have stopped him obtaining a gun with such incredible ease.
Gun laws are not going to stop determined criminals obtaining and using guns. They will do so without reference to the law. Laws may however make it more difficult for them to obtain one. That cannot be a bad thing. Laws can also make it more difficult for some people who should never  be in possession of a gun actually obtain one. 
In other words, laws won't stop gun related crimes and violence but they can do a lot to reduce it. So, what's wrong with that? 
I say there is nothing wrong with that. I am puzzled that a man who says he stands for "gay marriage" can oppose Medicare, our pharmaceutical benefits scheme, the increased tax on tobacco and more - including gun control. He says it is all about "individual freedom" but freedom does not imply the right harm others or prevent others from accessing services they need. 
I was talking with a cousin of the Senior Cat earlier this week. She was telling us about a talk she had been to in her aged care complex. The person talking to them is a woman in her mid-seventies. She has made many trips alone into the outback. She was asked about the safety precautions she took. One of the questions she was asked was, "Do you carry a gun?" Her answer was, "No, because it could be used against me."
That makes sense to me. Why would we want to potentially put ourselves in greater danger?

Friday, 19 June 2015

Grexit? Brexit? Exit?

I am wondering if "Grexit" would be such a bad thing. It might save the Greeks.
I have always had doubts about the idea of a European Union. Possibly it started out as a good idea. You know the sort of thing I mean - freeing up trade and movement across borders. They aren't bad ideas at all but perhaps that is about as far as it should go.
The Euro was an interesting idea but it has always puzzled me. It made assumptions about individual currencies and their value. When the UK decided to retain the pound I decided that perhaps the Euro was not the answer to Europe's economic woes. 
Europe is not a level playing field. It never will be.
There are reports that people are withdrawing money from Greek banks at an alarming rate. They are apparently sending money into France. They must consider this option to be a good deal safer. I suspect I might do the same if I lived there. 
But what if the Greek government decided on "Grexit"? They would need to make an announcement and stop all financial activity immediately after the announcement was made. Presumably they would then have some sort of arrangements in place to allow local buying and selling of essential items until they could get a new currency minted and in place. Would they go back to the drachma? 
It probably wouldn't be worth much for a start but that might not be a bad thing because it would surely boost the tourist industry. Greece would be a "cheap" destination. If they could handle the influx then money would come in. Use it wisely and the country could be back on its financial feet in perhaps a decade or so. It would be an ambitious move.
I doubt the rest of Europe wants this. It suits Germany in particular to have Greece in debt. They want to be paid - but they want to be paid under their terms. Britain must be worried too. There is a fair amount of British money propping Greece up at present - and that is without them actually using the Euro. 
And, if Greece went Grexit then what would happen to Britain? Would they be more likely to go Brexit? That must worry Germany. It has done well out of the European Union, very well indeed. It has made Germany powerful and influential in a powerful and influential super state. But if the European Union disintegrated into individual states again then much of that power and influence would be lost.
There has, in the past, been talk of a common currency between Australia and New Zealand. It hasn't happened. Despite that they seem to get along with each other and the rest of the world. So, does a common currency really matter? 
In one sense it obviously doesn't. Business can still be done. People can still buy and sell and barter. Greece would be "poor" for a while but it might actually become better off.  The International Olympic Committee could do the right thing and invest in a permanent home for the Games in Greece. It would save the Greek economy - and many more besides.
The rest of the European Union might be unhappy though because, I suspect, it's really a power thing.   

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Oh yes, "victimhood"

is back on the agenda.
I have not been watching "The killing season" - the ABC production about the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years in parliament. Quite frankly, I can't be bothered.
One of the reasons I can't be bothered is because of the way they both played the "victim" card. Rudd claimed he was the victim of the media, the unions, his stab-me-in-the-back colleagues - and everyone else except himself. Gillard claimed the media, her sex, her colleagues - and everyone else except herself.
Abbott might do the same with respect to the media. His colleagues have stayed with him even at the low points so that will be harder to complain. He might end up being the victim of his own beliefs - but I suppose one can say he has stayed true to those. We will have to wait.
But then Janet Albrechtson wrote an article about "victimhood" in the Australian and I thought about the idea yet again.  I thought about how often people try to deflect the blame for their own behaviour on to something or someone else. I thought about how they try to do it when that something or someone is unrelated, or should be unrelated, to the behaviour. 
People say, "it's because I am..." and they go on to say they are black, or white, or  brown, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Christian. They will claim discrimination because they are gay, or lesbian, or transgender, or they are unemployed, or part-time, or casual. They will claim the divorce of their parents, violence at home, and sexual abuse as the reason for their own unacceptable behaviour.
Well yes of course those things can influence and shape behaviour. It would be ridiculous to suggest they don't. But does it have to make someone a victim? 
I know someone in Africa. She comes from a dirt-poor background and she has a disability. How she did it I don't know but she is a magistrate and when young offenders appear in front of her claiming "victimhood" for their behaviour she tells them, "No. It was the choice you made. It didn't have to be like that."
I know a man here who has numerous problems, not least that he won't acknowledge he is attracted to the same sex. His background is poor too. He is unemployed and probably unemployable.  I don't admire everything about him by any means but I do admire the fact that he cared for his mother. He cared for her despite the fact that she was intellectually slow and mentally ill. He never hesitated to take her out or hold her hand in public. He was devastated when she died. The purpose went out of his life but he has not resorted to breaking the law because of his background or circumstances. 
We don't hear enough success stories. They don't make good media copy. "Victimhood" is different. Are we supposed to feel some sort of sympathy for the group of kids who went on a spree of smashing windows because they were "bored"? When they appeared in court there were excuses made because of their backgrounds and upbringing. The excuse was made the reason for their behaviour.
The fact that there are hundreds of thousands of other kids in almost identical circumstances who would never consider doing anything like that is apparently beside the point. 
I met a much younger friend from an ethnic background recently. I haven't seen her for quite a while. She has a disability. She's in a wheelchair and she has a severe speech defect. She also has an honours degree. Nobody has been prepared to employ her - something she was, sadly, prepared for. But she greeted me cheerfully, "I decided to employ myself."
And she is. Her plans won't earn her a huge amount but they are well thought out and absolutely doable for her. 
"Oh and I've enrolled for my Master's part-time," she told me.
When I count the things against her she could easily apply to become a member of "Victimhood Inc." but she is too busy getting on with life.
I don't want to dismiss the appalling circumstances some people are brought up in or the obstacles they need to overcome. They can be very, very difficult indeed but I am not sure about "victimhood" as the sole excuse or reason for behaviour. We make choices too.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

There is something very therapeutic

about making something pleasant.
I was given some lemons by my friend R. over the weekend. Yesterday I managed to find the time to cut some of them up for a small batch of marmalade I had not intended to make. Apart from the need to make another half a dozen jars of the grapefruit variety we had enough for the Senior Cat's breakfast toast for the coming year. I had also given some away.
But - these lemons. Oh. They were beautiful. They were large, smooth, unmarked, and that perfect pale lemon colour that tells you there is a good citrus taste inside. They smelt wonderful. I had to do a small "boiling" of marmalade to preserve all this - at least for a while. 
So the Senior Cat brought the preserving pan in from where it resides in the "small shed" and I cut the fruit up and added the water and left it, in time honoured fashion, overnight. I made the marmalade early this morning. There are seven good sized jars there and an eighth half-jar. The Senior Cat had some of that, still warm on his toast for breakfast. He purred contentedly and thanked me.
So, here is the recipe: 
Two pounds of lemons
Two quarts of water
Six pounds of sugar
Cut the lemons very, very finely and place them in the preserving pan.
Add the water and leave overnight.
In the morning bring the lemons and water to boiling point and cook for about twenty minutes. Add the sugar, stir and continue to cook until the peel is clear and a small amount placed on a saucer sets to a jelly like consistency. (Place the saucer in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator for a few minutes.)
Bottle and seal as you would for jam. 
Pounds? Quarts? Well, the recipe is over one hundred years old. It was used by my paternal great-grandmother and, quite possibly, by her mother. 
Thankfully I have one of those "mandolin" thingies that will slice the fruit evenly and rapidly. They had to cut the fruit with a knife.
But, there is something very therapeutic and satisfying about making something pleasant and useful.
I will pass a pot over to R. when I next see her as a second thank you for the fruit. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

So the government is paying

"people smugglers" is it? Well actually both sides of politics have been paying people smugglers for years. 
Of course, at present, the Opposition is screaming at the Government for doing this - but only because someone, somewhere didn't get paid enough to keep his or her mouth shut. If it had not become public knowledge with the possibility of making some political hay then the Opposition would have said nothing.
People who smuggle people do get paid by governments all over the world. The reasons for doing it are many and varied and not all of those reasons are bad. The two chief reasons for doing it are that (a) it saves a lot of money and (b) it saves lives. I have no doubt that, for governments of all persuasions everywhere, the former is more important than the latter.
I was talking to the son of a once "stateless" man yesterday. His father taught me many years ago. He was not young then and he is a very old man now. He has long been granted Australian citizenship but he doesn't know  exactly how old he is or where he was born. He isn't even certain which country he came from.
"Dad still feels lost," his son told me, "Australia has been good to him, very good, but he still hasn't found himself." 
We agreed his father probably never will. He will die not knowing who he is or where he came from. In all likelihood the people smugglers or officials took all the papers and gave people false identities - if they bothered with identities at all. They don't do it for reasons of "safety". It is try and ensure that people can't return or be returned to where they came from. Corrupt officials and people smugglers get more money that way - from desperate people trying to get their documents back, and from governments trying to reduce ever increasing costs and deaths.   
People smuggling is a vile trade. Stealing you from yourself is  unbelievably inhumane. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

What Tim Hunt said

was silly. What has been said since is far, far worse.
Hunt is, I understand, the product of the English "public school" system. He went to a private, fee paying, single-sex, boarding school. Some people,  usually those who have not been to such schools, say that is part of the problem. Perhaps it is.
It might also be that Hunt does find the opposite sex distracting. He wouldn't be the first male to have that problem. He won't be the last.
I also imagine that there are some females who find the opposite sex distracting. Some people find the same sex distracting. Some people simply find other people distracting.
I find people distracting at times. Sometimes I simply work better alone. I can just get on with it. This has a lot to do with what I am doing.
I don't see what Hunt said as being a hanging offence. I suspect he just said what a lot of other people actually think. Was that perhaps the reason for the outcry? Or was it the "political correctness" police seeing the chance to arrest and imprison a high profile human to further their cause?
It appears not to matter at all that here is a scientist who, whether distracted or not, has managed to produce work considered worthy of a Nobel Prize. I think that's what really bothers me. What we seem to be being told is something like this, "It doesn't matter what this man has done for the world. All that counts is the way he sees women."
Hunt hasn't murdered or raped anyone. He hasn't been convicted of any sort of vile sexual practices. In all likelihood he is the sort of man who opens doors for women. (I know, there are women who find that offensive too. I don't.) 
I think the reaction to Hunt's comments say more about society than they do about him. His words were silly but there are far worse offences committed by scientists every day. There are scientists who falsify data and plagiarise. There are scientists who ignore bodies of evidence which do not fit their pet theories. There are scientists who bully both sexes. Many of them get promotion or more funding.
So, why hunt Hunt?

Sunday, 14 June 2015

"It's a way of remembering,"

a friend told me. 
She is knitting a pullover for her son. He lives in Aberdeen. She lives here Downunder. 
For the past week she has had an upper respiratory infection and it was only yesterday that she felt well enough to phone me and ask if she could come over for some advice. She assured me she was no longer infectious. As she is a retired doctor I assumed this to be so and said, "Of course."
So, she prowled in - bringing with her a most welcome bag of lovely lemons.
We looked at the problem together and cobbled together an answer that meant not undoing it all. She told me how she had given herself a "holiday" that week. She had sat knitting by "the fire" and "most of the time I didn't put the television on. I just sat there. It's a way of remembering things."
And she went on to tell me how she had been making a blanket when some miners were trapped underground. The centre of the blanket seems dark to her. It was made when there seemed no hope. The outer part of the blanket is brighter as the rescuers realise that, against all odds, two of the three men are alive. They have to work out to get them out. And they do - so that, for her, the outside of the blanket is bright. 
"I remember it each time I see it," she told me. It reminds her. It's a visual memory of something she didn't actually see except on television. 
We forget most of what we see and do. We couldn't cope with life any other way. So what makes us remember some things and not others? 
I returned a picture the Whirlwind had drawn me recently. She had done it not long after her mother died and asked me to keep it for her. I did. Recently the circumstances were right for me to return it to her. I passed it back in an envelope and told her, "That's something you might want to keep now."
She looked at it and then said very quietly, "I remember doing that." Thankfully she remembers very little of the events surrounding her mother's death but the bright flowers she drew "for Mummy" are still there for her.  I am glad I kept them safe for her.
It has made me realise, yet again, how important it is to be able to create things and to keep those creations if we can. Passing them on to others can be important. It's a way of keeping cultural memory alive. It's also important for us. We need to be able to remember the past. That doesn't mean dwelling on it but using it to live in the present and look to the future.


Saturday, 13 June 2015

"The remote control isn't working"

The Senior Cat watches almost no television. I only watch the first half of the international news service on a regular basis. Once in a very long while we might both watch a documentary. (The wonderful Global Village programme hosted by the outstanding Silvio Rivier is, sadly, no more.) 
We have had the old remote control for four and a half years. The batteries have never been changed. (I know, I know but we really do not watch very much television.) 
The Senior Cat sighed. He couldn't even work out how to undo the battery compartment. I managed to get it undone by accident. Mmm...flat batteries perhaps? It seemed logical but I was aware that the pressure pad was not working well either.  The Senior Cat closed the battery compartment and neither of us could get it undone again. I even searched the internet for instructions on how to do it - to no avail.
Nevertheless the Senior Cat sailed off on his gopher yesterday morning. There is a specialist battery place about three kilometres away and he took the remote there. They,  with some difficulty, managed to undo the battery compartment. They replaced the batteries with good, long-lasting batteries. The Senior Cat came home and tried the remote. It didn't work.
I said, "It's the pressure pad or circuit board or something like that."
He said, "I hope it isn't the television set."
After lunch I took the remote off to see if I could buy a new one. I went to the place where we had bought the television set. I arrived to discover it was no longer there. It had closed several weeks ago. I went into another shop and was advised to go to another place, "It's just along the road." It wasn't. I found a place which sells things similar to the place we bought the television set from. Oh yes, they sell remotes - universal remotes. I had done enough research to know that was probably the answer. 
They had a really cheap one "but it might not work" the boy told me and a very, very expensive one which had to be hooked into the computer and a programme loaded. I shook my head. 
Try the internet? No. 
I rode to the nearest railway station and phoned the Senior Cat while waiting for a train into the city centre. I told him where I was going. He demurred but I said, "Patience."
In the city I went into the shop I was thinking about. I produced the old remote and told the boy with the wild haircut what I wanted. He nodded and his hand went out to a display of remotes. Without hesitation he took one and handed it to me.
"All you need to do is press a button," he told me. I looked at him. He repeated his remark and then added, "There are instructions inside."
I took the remote thinking, "If I can't do this then I know a couple of people who might be able to help."
I took the next train home and waved the packet in front of the Senior Cat. He slit open the rigid plastic cover and I took out the instructions while he put some batteries in. (And the battery compartment was easy to open.)
It was, of course, not a matter of "just pressing a button". The instructions were in such small print we had to find a magnifying glass to read them. I followed them. It still didn't work. I thought. I tried something different. The Senior Cat was trying to help. Eventually I sent him back to his shed. It was easier to try and work it out by myself.
I searched the internet. Ah. The wrong code perhaps? Because, no you did need to do more than press a button.
I punched in the code from the internet. It worked. We could now turn the television on and off and change the channels from SBS to Channel 2 (the ABC). There is no need for the commercial stations.
I haven't worked out how to get rid of the sub-titles yet. That doesn't matter.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Do you remember chanting

your "times tables"? You know "once two is two, two twos are four..." and so on.
You sat in the classroom and just about shouted them out. You had to learn them by rote - all the way from the "one times" to the "twelve times". They formed part of "mental" (mental arithmetic) tests and you had to use them in "multiplication" and "long division" problems as well as "simple interest" and "compound interest". 
Er,  yes I did maths the old fashioned way. By the time I reached teacher training college there was something called "new math" with "set theory" and other theories that none of us pretended to understand. 
When I went teaching I insisted that times tables had to be part of the maths as well. If I flung a "seven eights" at a child I expected an almost instant answer. The other members of staff criticised me for this. The school inspector thought it was a "good idea" and the parents said things like, "At last he's learning his times tables."
At the beginning of the year the children couldn't see the point. By the end of the year they could. Their maths was much improved. Some of them were teaching their younger siblings.
The following year I moved out of the classroom into the school library. (In those heady days schools actually had libraries and dedicated librarians.) I kept the library open at lunch times. It would always be crowded. I kept games there - chess, Scrabble, Go and other standard board games. I made other "times-table" games as well. They were always in use.
My parents insisted we know ours - my mother would ask us when we were least expecting it. I can remember holding my fingers up at the meal table so as not to answer with my mouthful and accidentally getting soap in my mouth answering when getting my  hair washed. If we got it wrong then precious free time would be spent getting it right. My nephews were taught theirs in the same rigorous fashion by my mother.
I am not a mathematician. I am not particularly interested in maths. I had to do statistics at university and I even helped tutor some students but I didn't care for it. Despite that I could "add up" and "take away", "multiply" and "divide". 
I can still do it. It happens to be very useful. I don't need a calculator.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Direct debit anyone?

I know this "direct debit" bit is supposed to be an "easy" way to pay your bills.
The Senior Cat does not like it. He's old fashioned. He still uses a cheque book. The closest he comes to paying bills in the modern fashion is to do so over the counter at the bank or the post office - places where he can get a "paper" receipt and keep those filed away. 
Although he gets me to check ("so that you know what's going in and out") he likes to do the bill paying for household utilities, his medical insurance - and the newspaper.
We recently had a paper letter from the service which supplies the paper. It said that the credit card details needed to be updated. As there was no direct debit in place we ignored it. A second one came. I sent an e-mail explaining there was no direct debit. Oh. Right then we will update your details came the reply. 
Yesterday there was no paper delivery. Growls from the Senior Cat. I called the number for "missed" deliveries and left our name and address. They are supposed to deliver if you phone before nine in the morning.
They phoned while I was out. When I got home the Senior Cat gave me a number to call. I spoke to someone at the other end. She said "there's a problem with the credit card". I said we don't do it by credit card. She explained that they were just the delivery people and this is what they had been told. She was perfectly pleasant, said she thought it sounded odd too, and gave me another number.
I rang. I pressed buttons. I was determined to speak to a human, not a machine. Eventually someone did answer. I explained the problem. 
No, she told me, I had to be wrong. Our subscription was on direct debit. I told her no, it had never been on direct debit. Oh. She would have to speak to someone else to see what could be done.
Unfortunately for her and the person she spoke to she left the line open instead of putting me on "advertising hold". I heard the conversation. 
I won't bother to repeat it here but it amounted to "that's right. They aren't paying that way but tell them they were and try and get them to go onto direct debit". She came back to me and repeated all this. I didn't tell her I had heard the conversation. I just said politely, "No. We were not paying on direct debit. We don't pay bills that way. Can you please arrange for a bill to be sent in the normal way."
"I don't know if we can do that," she told me.
"I know you like people to pay by direct debit," I told her, "But it isn't going to happen. My 92 year old father will not use direct debit."
Silence and then, "I'll have to ask."
She put me on "advertising hold" this time. I heard the pseudo earnest and cheerful voice telling me about "world class journalism" (it isn't) and how easy it was to subscribe and how much sport and gossip we could keep up with. 
Eventually she came back and said, "We'll send you a bill. Delivery will start again on Friday."
It had better.  The Senior Cat likes to know the state news. 
Thankfully I subscribe to a press site on line - and not by direct debit.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Tourist attractions Downunder

are many and varied but are largely concerned with "the great Outdoors", "sport" and "food and drink".  
You need to travel what most non-natives consider to be vast distances to see any variety. Sport, in some parts of the country, is about that strange game known as "Aussie Rules" - but they do play "rugby" and "soccer" in other parts. Cricket is a national sport -  in more ways than one.
The food and drink part depends on where you are too but wineries are high on the agenda in the south. In the northern most reaches you might get offered a crocodile steak or something else "native" sounding. 
Tourists head off to "the Rock" (Uluru) and visit the opal mines in Coober Pedy on the way there or back. They "do the Ghan" (the train which runs through central Australia or the "Indian-Pacific" which runs across the country from Perth to Sydney. They go along the "Great Ocean Road" or into "the Blue Mountains". 
Many of them probably see more of Downunder than I ever will see or want to see. 
You see, my family has seen bits that most tourists will never see. Some of them are rather like the bits they will see and others are quite different. We lived in "the bush" so we know about semi-isolation, lack of water, heat, dust, snakes and the expense of getting any fresh fruit at all. We went to sheep stations. They were not the sort the tourists see with the organised demonstrations of sheep shearing but the lonely working  stations where people struggle to survive and visitors are rare.  We travelled lonely coast roads with isolated light houses and tiny cemeteries where infant children are buried.  The tourist buses don't go to those places. There is "nothing to see". It's wild and, in its own way, beautiful. It won't appeal to many tourists although there are the occasional intrepid travellers who go.
Tourists go to the wineries where they can get meals and take away wine they have seen being produced. They go and look at displays of "Aboriginal culture" which, hopefully, will teach them something but are scarcely authentic. They prowl the streets of tourist towns with their shops filled with souvenirs and sheepskins. It's the tourist thing.
So yesterday I suggested to some tourists that they go and explore the port area. I explained what they could see down there - much early history of the state. It gets a brief mention in the guide books but there is more to it than many people realise. The people at the Maritime Museum would help I told them.
Last night they contacted me again and said, "Had a fascinating day. There was so much to see! Why don't they tell people about it?"
I don't know.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A "Bank Holiday"

occurred in Downunder yesterday. The official reason was that it was the "Queen's Birthday". Her Majesty's birthday is, of course, on an entirely different date.
"Republicans" in Australia mutter that the holiday should be scrapped - and then take a day off. The rest of the population gleefully decides on a weekend away in the country or along the coast or entertaining friends. They have plans to get the lawn mowed or to go out to "brunch". There is that "whole day" to "do things" in.  Right.
And then there are the grandparents who work that day. I had occasion to be out for a bit. Along my regular route I know the grandparents who do the "babysitting" and the "childminding" and the "before school" and the "after school" care of their children's children. They seemed unusually busy yesterday. 
Children were being delivered like parcels to be minded for the day - if they were not already there for the entire weekend. Parents were going  "out" and taking "time off". 
Some of the grandparents are still working themselves. It isn't always full time and it isn't always both of them but some of them are in paid employment.  Apparently though that doesn't count. 
One harassed looking grandmother told me,
"Their parents have gone off to some sort of do at that winery..."
I know which one she meant. It has a restaurant attached and it is very expensive to eat there. 
"If it fines up we'll take the kids around to the playground and get them to let off steam around there."
Another set of grandparents were loading two grizzling children into their car. They were going to the garden centre (which was open) and the children didn't want to go because it would be "boring".
I don't know what the other three sets of grandparents were doing apart from the fact they were looking after the children while the parents were out doing other things.
One of them however complained to me in a resigned sort of way, "I don't like being used like this.  I don't know what the answer is but wouldn't you think their parents would want to look after them when they can?"
It is an interesting question. I am not sure what the answer is either.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The Human Rights Commissioner

Professor Gillian Triggs, is under attack again.
This does not surprise me. She has been speaking out against plans to strip dual citizens of their Australian citizenship if they do something like head off to fight with terrorists. 
Citizenship is said to define "who we are". Citizenship is said to give you a passport and the ability to travel beyond the borders of the country you call "home". It is said to give you the right to vote and to participate in society.
Some countries allow "dual citizenship" and others don't. Some countries allow "dual citizenship" with some countries and not others. 
The question of loyalty to one place or another is always going to be a difficult one. Australia actively encourages "multi-culturalism" - or the acknowledgment of where your ancestors come from. At least they do if you come from what is perceived to be a non-English speaking background. (Those of Scots ancestry need not apply. We have been told that our ancestry does not qualify under any of the multi-cultural programmes. Oddly, the Irish and the Welsh do qualify.)
I actually have no problem with denying dual citizenship to anyone who goes "back home" to fight a war - whichever side they are on. If you have fled here in fear of your life and been granted Australian citizenship then you have surely got what you wanted - a safe place to live. If you don't want that then please don't claim you are a refugee because there are plenty of others who will be more than happy to take your place. Is that fair? I think it is.
Of course it is not a decision we should take lightly but it is a decision that should be able to be taken. Who takes the decision is another matter but my own view is that it should not be left to a government minister or a legal body acting in isolation. It should be a joint decision. This is one area where the "separation of powers" needs to be, in a sense, overcome because the courts may not be aware of "intelligence" information available to the government of the day.
Denying someone citizenship does need to be done with care. There is a need not to render people "stateless". They need to be able to go somewhere and call it "home". That is a basic human right.  The government, supported by the Opposition, has no such plans. Professor Triggs knows that. In speaking up she has failed to recognise something important about citizenship.
The Senior Cat's closest friend is a migrant from the United Kingdom. He and his wife went back to the UK several years ago. They could have travelled on UK passports. They travelled on Australian passports and entered the country of their birth as "foreigners". Their passports were stamped without restriction on entry but, had I been in the queue behind them, I would have been subjected to questions about the purpose and length of my visit and I may or may not have been permitted to enter. Citizenship  is an accident of birth. It is time to acknowledge that too.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

"Ooh, like that...

"Where did you get that from..." "Is it for you..." and "Those colours are...."
There were more comments yesterday on the Japanese yarn I am knitting up for a friend. The younger members of the guild I belong tended to know where the yarn might have come from. The company in question does produce a rather distinctive line of yarns. The younger members are also more likely to travel to places where these yarns might be found, have the money to buy them and be willing to use them. I can understand the caution of some of the older members of the guild, particularly those who rely on the pension.
It was the question about whether it was for me and the remarks about colour that I found more interesting. No, definitely not for me. It is not the sort of thing I would wear at all. My taste is rather more conservative than that.
And the colours would not suit me at all. I simply couldn't wear them. 
One of the best knitters in the guild - and she is a master or mistress of the art - gave me a quick smile behind someone who was asking me the same questions as several others in quick succession. She was well aware of what I was using, who it was likely to be for and that the colours did not suit me. I let her have a closer look. 
It's a vest. The design is very simple because the yarn is what needs to "speak". It also needs to be simple enough for "the general public" to feel confident they could knit it, finish it, and wear it. The yarn is not cheap.
I know that, even if I design something simple, not everyone will want to spend that amount of money. They will go for something they already "know". I don't blame them for that.
It gave rise to another thought though. I suspect it is rather the same with books. People tend to look for the same authors in the way they look for the same yarns. I know. I have heard people in the library asking for more of an author and have had them tell me they have read "all" of a prolific author. The local library has little posters on the ends of the shelves suggesting authors who are "like" other authors. Yes, I have been guilty of reading those little posters and then at the authors they suggest when I have been short of time or tired or just in need of a comfort read. I do try to read widely but sometimes it is nice to have a new book by an author I know, like, and respect.
There is comfort in familiarity.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Was Alan Bond a

sports hero or a corporate villain or both?
He was actually named as Australian of the Year in 1978 - along with Galarrwuy Yunupingu. As far as I can work out the reason for that honour was solely because he put up most of the money for the America's Cup challenge. Oh yes, Australia once won the America's Cup. Much of the money came from "Bondy" - as he was widely known. 
His business dealings led to bankruptcy and a conviction for fraud. He served four  years in prison - and then bounced back to the point where he could have been described as "financially very comfortable". He divorced and remarried. His second wife committed suicide after battling with depression. He also lost a child to an overdose but that was considered an accident rather than suicide.
He was an odd man in many ways, a man who left school early and yet leaves a private university (Bond University) in his name after  helping to fund the beginnings of it. He said he had "over-reached" himself  when asked about his bankruptcy. Perhaps he had. Thousands of people lost money because of his actions.
But Australia's love affair with sport is so great that he kept his "Australian of the Year" title and, reporting on his death last night, much was made of the America's Cup win. It didn't matter that the real work of winning the cup was done by the designer of the boat and the crew who sailed it. Bond put the money up. Bond was seen as the hero. The collapse of his empire was mentioned and passing reference was made to those who gained  from his activities (Kerry Packer) and those who lost (Sotheby's). The university was not mentioned.
All this surely says something about the way people in Australia view business and the wealthy. It says something that merely providing financial support for sport is considered more newsworthy than providing some of the financial support which began a university.
I didn't admire "Bondy" for his support of sport or for his business dealings but, if I had ever met him, I would have wanted to thank him for his contribution to education. That will do the greater good.

Friday, 5 June 2015

There is something wrong

with our public transport system. No, wait. There is a lot wrong with our public transport system. And now things are being made rather worse - by selfishness. 
The city has something called an O-bahn - a "guided busway". It starts about two kilometres out of the CBD and goes out to the northern suburbs. 
I used it several times when an elderly friend lived on that side of the city. It's fast. Yes, note that. It is fast. Once you reach the guided section of the busway there are just two interchange stops before you reach the northern interchange at a very large shopping centre. 
But apparently it is not fast enough. The government wants to spend an enormous sum of money bringing the guided section into the city centre. This will cut the journey time - by three and a half minutes. It also means digging up an area of the parkland surrounding the city which is frequently used for events. The parkland would be lost.
Now the parkland surrounding the city was deliberately designed to be there. It is supposed to be immune from that sort of development. It is not supposed to have permanent structures of any size built on it. The government has been forced to use "temporary" stands for an annual city car race. The time taken to put them up and take them down makes them almost permanent - and the cost is ridiculous. Eventually however the car race will, as it should, be consigned to history.  Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.
The guided busway lane is another story. It is unlikely to be consigned to history any time soon. The parkland will be lost - and lost forever.
Do people really mind that extra three and a half minutes? Do they believe it is more important than parkland? The government is telling us that this three and a half minutes is very important.
They tried telling us the same thing about the two minutes they used as an excuse to close stations along our local railway line. Since then they have had to reopen one at considerable cost. (They had to rebuild the platform.) Trains on our local line are consistently late by more than six minutes but it has nothing to do with the stations which were closed and the one which was reopened. It was the "single track working" which did the damage. They knew it was going to happen and closed the stations rather than admit it. People still use the train - but they do get annoyed by the delays which could have been prevented if they had, as they were advised, built a third passing loop.
The money they want to spend on the O-bahn extension would be better spent on a third passing loop and reopening the stations. It would save the parkland. More people would use the train. It would ease congestion on other roads and, eventually, allow money to be used to extend the O-bahn at the other end instead. That's where people want it. 
So, why does the government want to dig up the parkland?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Half the roof is off

the house next door. It was tiled with unglazed terracotta tiles. They apparently needed to be replaced so the owners are having a different type of roofing put on.
So,  yesterday they started on the job. There were two men walking all over the roof. I could see them from where I am now sitting. The sight of them casually walking around on the roof made my chest feel tight and my knees feel weak.
They had brought in one of those large industrial bins they call "skips" in which to put the tiles and, for the next few hours, we heard clatter, bang, bump, thump, and clang as the tiles were thrown into the skip. No doubt they will do the rest over the next day or so. 
They talked to one another. They talked on their mobile phones. They talked to the owner and to the Senior Cat and told me about the need for morning tea. (No, I was not expected to provide it. One of them went off to the local bakery. He went again at lunch time.)
At the end of the day they put a roof size tarpaulin over their work. 
It was quiet.
And then, last night, after a fine and sunny day, the weather changed. It has rained during the night. There was enough wind that the tarpaulin flapped and kept me awake. 
I know that can't be helped and I am certainly not going to say anything to the neighbours. After all, they are enduring something rather worse than that.
But, what bothers me is the tiles. They are simply being thrown away. They break as they fall into the skip. 
The Senior Cat shook his head over it and said, "They could have been used. They might not have been any use on a roof but they would have made good garden edging."
Once  upon a time he would have used them that way or in some other way. Middle Cat's husband would have used them too. When I was out picking up the paper this morning a dog walker from the next street was looking at them.
"Pity I didn't know about these. I could have used them. If they get in before seven-thirty could you get them to give me a call?"
No, they aren't here and so all the tiles will be thrown away.
In any neighbouring country they would have been recycled in one way or another. It's a waste.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Barry Humphries is

reported in this morning's state newspaper as suggesting that if the arts were labelled "sport" they would receive more funding. He is right. They would.
He went on to mention the money our state government spent on "upgrading" the city's main oval  in the CBD and the $40m they spent on building a footbridge to get to it. It is by no means the only money the present government has spent - or will spend - on "sport".
Arts funding gets a tiny fraction of that. It scares me because yesterday I was reading Diane Hofmeyr's post on "An awfully big blog adventure". She was writing about an exhibition she had seen in London - an exhibition of Australian indigenous culture. It reminded me, yet again, of just how fragile cultural inheritance and cultural memories are. 
Before white settlement indigenous Australians relied on art and story telling to preserve their culture. They had no books and no written language but they "read" pictures and they passed stories from one generation to the next. These were designed to make sense of the physical world and give stability to the physical and social life of the tribe. There were stories for everyone and stories told just to women and just to men. 
It is likely that only a small proportion of the stories for everyone have survived in anything like their original form. Indigenous Australians were not often prepared to share these stories with non-indigenous Australians   - may not even have shared them all with other tribes. There are some common stories but others differ greatly. The land mass is large and travel was only by foot. Many groups remained virtually isolated. Language differences also reduced the capacity to communicate.
So, indigenous Australians have lost many of their languages and the culture which goes with it. Efforts to preserve what is left have been hampered by a lack of funding, an unwillingness to pass the knowledge on to those who might have the means of preserving it and much more.
There is a belief that this cannot happen to cultures who have the means to read, write and thus preserve their culture. That's wrong. It can happen. Languages are still being lost. Attempts to keep them alive are often ridiculed. People ask "What's the point of keeping Cornish or Breton or Gaelic alive when 'everyone' speaks English these days?"
But yes, there is a point. A language is another way of thinking. It is other stories and other ways of telling the same story. It is other music, art, craft, and drama. 
And it just might be that the other way of thinking will transfer to a breakthrough which helps all of mankind or the environment. 
Language matters. All languages matter. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

There was nearly an accident

yesterday. A car had passed me rather too fast in the short street I turn into from our short street. There is a "T" junction at the end of it. 
Now the normal driver will, at very least, slow almost to a stop. The good driver will actually stop and look for other traffic before proceeding. 
This idiot did not. There were cars parked on both sides of the next street and it was sheer good luck that a woman coming at a much more reasonable speed was able to avoid those, mount the footpath and avoid the idiot. He sped on along the wrong side of the road. She came to a halt and rested her head on the steering wheel for a moment before going on. She was within a few inches of hitting a "stobie" pole - our local concrete and steel poles which carry power. Had she actually hit it the damage would have been severe and she might well have been seriously injured.
I travelled with even greater care than usual for the rest of the journey wondering if the idiot would have even noticed an accident. Somehow I doubt he would have stopped.
I want to know why people "hurry" so much. It is something that genuinely puzzles me. I like to be "on time" if I have an appointment or have arranged to meet friends. I try not to be late. Middle Cat is notorious for being late. Youngest Nephew says there is "Ordinary Time, Greek Time and Mum Time" - by "Greek Time" he means the general delay in his extended paternal family, all of  whom tend to be "late" rather than "on time". That his mother is worse than this is, as she admits herself, true.
So,  if you need to hurry, what have you been doing? Are you just trying to do too much? Is there something you didn't need to do but did anyway? Was there simply something you wanted to do first because it was more pleasant - or did you want to get something unpleasant out of the way?
I know. I am guilty too. We all are at some time or other. I really don't understand the apparently almost constant need to hurry on the part of some people. 
As I have been writing this I have been able to see a workman on the roof next door. He has been removing the solar panels prior to replacing the roof altogether. He has been working methodically, carefully and steadily. The panels are now down safely. I wonder whether he would have completed the job in a shorter time if he had tried to rush it? I doubt it. He might also have damaged the panels - or had an accident. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Australian of the Year

Awards have been made by the National Australia Day Council since 1960. In that time the Award has been given to a sportsperson on fourteen different occasions. It has been given to an indigenous Australian on nine different occasions.
The Nobel Prize winners appear in the list, along with people who represent classical or popular culture - Joan Sutherland, Robert Helpmann, the Seekers and Johnny Farnham. There are even a couple of times where entertainment or sport and indigenous culture have coincided - such as Mandawuy Yunupingu, Cathy Freeman, and Evonne Goolagong.
Lowitja O'Donohue (1984)  and Mick Dodson (2009) were indigenous leaders honoured. Along with Senator Bonner (1979) they were people who had worked extremely hard for their fellow indigenous Australians and they used the honour to do even more to help.
In 2014 another indigenous Australian, a footballer named Adam Goodes, was given the title of Australian of the Year. This year it was a campaigner against domestic violence, Rosie Batty.
Yes, the award is often "political" in the sense that it is as much used to raise issues as it is to honour an individual. The appointment of both the last two people raised some concerns. I admit I was disturbed too. I was disturbed by the tone set by Adam Goodes acceptance speech. It seemed a little confrontational to me. I happened to see an indigenous friend in the city some time later and he expressed concern as well. My friend is a youth social worker. He is highly intelligent and politically astute. He would not have said something lightly. "He's using it, of course he is, but he needs to be careful how he uses it." I agree.
Subsequent events would appear to prove him right. Goodes has proved to be a divisive figure in some circles and that can make it harder for others in his beloved football.
Rosie Batty is not an indigenous Australian. She is a victim of the most unimaginable horror. Her son was killed by her estranged  husband after years of domestic violence. Yes, he was probably "insane" but that makes no difference. There was a lot of publicity. She spoke out. She found herself catapulted into the position of representing other domestic violence victims. Looking at her  occasionally in news items I suspect she finds her role difficult.
I looked at something else. The awards have been made since 1960. In that time at least forty-six of the recipients have been males.
So yes, Australian of the Year awards are not always a blessing or an honour that can easily be handled - and they would also appear to be sexist.