Friday, 31 July 2015

Adam Goodes

is an "Aussie Rules" footballer of mixed race heritage.  He has recently been the subject of what can only be described as vile behaviour by some football match attendees. I won't call them "fans" because lovers of the game don't do anything to jeopardise it or those who play it. Their behaviour is, quite simply, unacceptable. It has to stop.
Two years ago Goodes was chosen as "Australian of the Year" for his work in encouraging indigenous youth, especially in the field of sport.  It should have been a moment to celebrate. He was joining the likes of such great indigenous sportspeople as Lionel Rose, Yvonne Goolagong and Cathy Freeman in getting the award.
There have been some other great  indigenous Australians to get the award too. There are two I particularly admire, native title activist Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Senator Bonner. They were outstanding recipients who did great good. Lowitja O'Donoghue and Mick Dodson are also outspoken but respected recipients. 
But, from the time of his acceptance speech, I felt a mistake had been made with Adam Goodes. He was divisive rather than uniting.
The Australian of the Year is that for all Australians, not just some. You can and should speak out about issues of concern to you but, if you are to be effective, then you need to draw people together rather than divide them. From the first Goodes appeared to draw a line between "black" and "white" - and he drew it despite his own mixed heritage. I felt  uneasy as I heard indigenous friends questioning and then criticising his approach.
      "Goodsey is not helping," they told me at the time. 
I don't know what to think. There must be people in the background who advised him about that speech. What was their reasoning behind it? 
The son of my late friend R was in touch yesterday. He's a youth worker with indigenous youth. His mother was a highly respected indigenous elder. Were she alive today I am sure she would be deeply distressed by what is happening. Her son said as much to me. He is distressed too. He told me the issue is having a negative effect on some of the youth he works with. 
I assumed that they would be sympathetic towards Goodes and what has been happening but, while there is well founded resentment towards those who "boo" the player at matches, there is also anger towards Goodes.
"They looked up to him and now they don't. I have had to show them that there are other respected footballers out there." Of course he means respected indigenous footballers. 
And yes, there are. I couldn't care less about football but I know they do. They've told me about it with great enthusiasm. It's their passion. I don't want to see the Goodes issue spoil it for them any more than R's son does. 
R's son and I went through something he is planning and which I have had a very small part in. At the end of it he thanked me and he gave me his now customary bear hug. We parted at the door and I wished him luck. He smiled and said,
"Thanks. It's our responsibility too."
Perhaps it is.  

Thursday, 30 July 2015

We had a small visitor

The Senior Cat came home early from his appointment. I heard him talking to  someone outside the front door and wondered what was wrong. Before I could go and open it though he had the door open and he went on talking. The words didn't quite make sense.
      "No you can't come in. Who do you belong to?"
Then there was a "yip" and the definite sound of toenails skidding on the tiles at the entrance. There was more excited, high pitched barking.
"We seem to have a visitor,"the Senior Cat said. The comment was completely superfluous. We had a visitor and it was letting us know it was there.
It raced around like a dervish. The Senior Cat just stood there. I was frightened it might send him flying too.
I eventually managed to grab the racing bundle of fur as it jumped excitedly on to me in the friendliest possible fashion. It looked at me. I looked at it. 
"It" turned out to be "she"- a miniature dachshund. She was no more than a puppy with wonderful copper brown with ears that flopped at just the right angle for "I am cute and I know it". She wore a blue collar but no identity tag. 
She gave me an adoring, "aren't I lovable and cute and you want to play with me" sort of look. I gave her a stern one and told her to "sit". She sat.
I then persuaded her into the laundry and shut the door. The Senior Cat went out into the street to see if someone was looking for her. No. There was nobody around at all.
"What are we going to do?" he asked, "We can't let her out again."
"I'll ring the council and ask for the dog-catcher to pick her up," I told him.
The girl at the other end was someone I know slightly, "Oh  hello Cat what's wrong?"
I explained. I explained the lack of identifying tag. 
"Hopefully she is chipped," I said.
"I'll send someone round."
I thought we might have to wait for several hours but someone was there about ten minutes later. The little lady had put on a real performance of yips and barks all that time but she greeted him like a long lost friend. 
"You're an easy one," he said as he slipped on the lead. She looked adoringly at him too.
He took her out to his small van and checked her over.
"She's chipped," he told me, "We'll find her owners."
I hope so.
I would have liked them to clean up the mess she left on the laundry floor!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

We had a little alarm clock

"fun" here this morning.
The Senior Cat had to be up early. He has an appointment. It means getting up about an hour earlier than usual. Right.
I am always up at around 5:30 to 5:45am. It is not by choice but by necessity. When I "retire" I may manage to stay in bed a little longer. 
The Senior Cat prowls out at around 7:30am. He has breakfast, as is his right, at a leisurely pace. He reads the paper while he is doing it. (That takes up most of the space at the small table.)
"I'll put the alarm on,"  he told me before he went to bed last night.
"Which one?" I asked.
"Both of them - in case I don't hear one."
I nod. I know I will be up. He doesn't actually need to put the alarm on. By the time he is ready to get up "early" I will have checked the urgent e-mails, put a load of washing in, eaten breakfast, glanced at the paper and... well, you get the idea.
I heard the alarms go off. I checked. Yes, he was up. The light was on in his bedroom. I heard one alarm stop but the other one went on and on and on.
"Turn it off!"
"I can't!"
He brought a little clock out and held it out to me.
"I can't turn it off!"
"It is off," I told him, "It's the other alarm which is going."
"No, it's this one."
"It's the other one." 
"It's this one. It's broken."
"All right but may have a look at the other one?"
"If you want to - but I know I'm right. I can hear it."
He prowls back to the bedroom with me following.
He picks up the other alarm clock - and turns it off. I said nothing except,
"I'll take the sheets off your bed now."

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Does anyone recognise this?

I am, at the request of someone else, putting this up here. I know it is unpleasant and not at all likely but the further it goes the more likely it is that someone will recognise it and perhaps help the police identify the body of the very young girl who was wrapped in it. She was dumped on the roadside in a remote rural location in South Australia but she might come from anywhere at all.
It might be a one off quilt made by someone who actually loved her. It might have been bought by someone at a fete or fair or in a craft shop somewhere. 
It would once have been bright and colourful and in all probability loved by this child. Someone, somewhere knows something.
I have been asked if you are a Downunderite "who has not yet passed it on to people you know please do".

Monday, 27 July 2015

"I nearly forgot and then I

saw you and then I nearly remembered but I forgot my knitting so I had to go and get it and then..." J stopped and then went on, "I forgot what I was going to say."
She announced all of this in a loud voice which could probably  be heard all over the library.
"And I forgot my hearing aids but now I remembered about knitting."
"Right J. Are you going to sit down?" I ask.
"Yes, I am going to sit down because now I remembered."
"That's good. Now, where's your knitting?" M, who knows her  best, asks.
"I've got it here. I remembered  it."
"Yes, you did. Now let us all have a look at it." M tells her.
"It's not very good."
"That doesn't matter," I tell her.
And so the conversation went on until J had her knitting her out and showed us the sad tangle of uneven, dropped and lost stitches. 
And no it doesn't matter. J has arrived. She is with us. J has a CBI - a "closed brain injury". She is tall. She is overweight. She is not clean. She is loud.
She is often confused. She will stop mid-sentence because she forgets what she was going to say.
M, the one who knows her best, has told us that J was  involved in a road accident and had severe concussion. That has undoubtedly led to many of her problems. I suspect from other things she has said that she had some problems before that as well.
Her life is now full of confusion. She lives "independently" in supported accommodation. What it really means is that someone watches out for her. They check on her daily. They tell her when to clean her living space and help her shop and prepare simple meals.
The women in the local charity shop try to ensure that she has clothes that fit but have admitted to me that they have ceased trying to get her to dress appropriately. She was wearing a cotton waist petticoat as a skirt recently. She thought it was "pretty because it has lace". When told it was a petticoat she was not in the least put out. For her it will continue to be a skirt. She was wearing it with short "rubber boots because they are shiny" and men's woollen socks "because it's cold on my feet". 
Yes, we watch out for J but we don't always succeed in getting her to understand what is appropriate. 
She could knit before her accident. The skill has stayed with her in the sense that she can still do the basic knit stitch. If her comments are anything to go by she knows her knitting is not good. She tellsus that the sad mess is going to be a "cardigan" and that the small left over balls in the tatty plastic bag are "enough". I know that the women in the charity shop have put aside those small balls for her to  use. It isn't enough for a scarf let alone the cardigan she will never knit. My friend P, a tireless worker in the charity shop, has told J to come to her for some more when she has "knitted all that". I wonder if J will ever reach the end of that.
She sat down and knitted a row. Then she put her knitting away.
"Is that all you are going to do?" I ask.
She looks confused and says, "I finished."
"J, you can knit more than one row. Look, I've done all this today," M tells her. 
On her other side R says, "And I have done this. Look that's fifteen  rows."
"Oh. I can do another one then?"
"Yes, of course you can."
She takes out her knitting and does another row. There is silence while she does this because it requires some concentration on her part. It is the lapses in concentration which cause the problems. 
I have tried to put myself into J's position. Her world must be constantly shifting in ways she does not understand. She cannot orient herself in the mist caused by her brain injury.
But she still needs companionship. She needs it more than ever so the rest of  us need to go on telling her,
"You can do another row J."

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Mobile phone, mobile phone, mobile phone!

It's urgent, urgent, urgent! 
I am the reluctant owner of a mobile phone. It have used it just three times in the past three years. On each occasion it has been used to inform the Senior Cat that I will be later than I first told him. He worries if I am much later than I expect to be.
Yes, he is a worrier and, at almost 93, I am not going to change him. He will call me for the same reason. I don't worry quite as much as he does. At his age I am merely conscious of the fact that anything could happen. He worries that I will be worried.
I am grateful for mobile phone technology which allows him to have a little extra peace of mind. His phone however is so old that he will need to do something if it is to continue working. Brother Cat has informed us that he will "do something about that" when he comes to visit next month. There is no urgency. It works but it needs frequent charging. New battery? Probably.
Middle Cat wants the Senior Cat to have a new phone. "You should get one that does more," she told him. She has said the same thing to me. 
Middle Cat is firmly attached to her phone. Apparently she can't handle life without it. When she visits us her phone will ring. It even has a variety of ring tones so that she knows whether it is family, friend or stranger calling her. She appears to spend hours on the phone. Her phone is also filled with photographs and video clips and appointments and...well, you know the sort of thing. 
The Senior Cat's phone will, apparently, take a photo - as will mine - but neither of us know how to do  it. They are however the most basic of phones. They don't take videos or search the internet or keep appointments or...well you know the sort of things phones do.
I watch other people using their phones too. They walk along and do it. They almost bump into you. You are the one who has to take evasive action. They don't watch the traffic. And yes, it is against the law to use a handheld phone while driving. Does it stop people? Of course not. It's urgent isn't it? 
The library is filled with ring tones and the sight of people frantically searching for their phones. They will drop books on the floor to reach that vital phone call. 
The supermarket? We have all seen someone prowling the shelves talking to their partner about what else they might need. I'd write a list before I left. I guess they find it easier not to but they continue to talk at the checkout. They barely acknowledge the person serving them if at allbut using a staffed checkout allows them to go on talking. That call about who said or wore what really is terribly urgent.
I had to go into the supermarket on Friday. It was an extra trip to get something that had been unavailable the day before. One of the staff was just putting down a "closed" sign for her aisle but she saw me and said,
"You've only got that? Want to come through?"
"Thank you."
"That's okay. You always talk to us."
And some people don't.
Isn't it time we stopped ignoring people and started talking to them?

Saturday, 25 July 2015

You know those lists of things you must

do or go to or see or hear or read? The "100" sort of list that you look through and think, "I haven't heard or seen or been or read..." any of those?
Lucy Coats complained over on Facebook that there had been one of those sort of lists in the Guardian with respect to children's books which should be read. She complained (quite correctly) that the content was old-fashioned.
I was going to make some disgruntled miaous about something else this morning but I won't. Instead I was reminded of a conversation I had some time ago. It was with someone on my regular pedalling  route to the shopping centre. 
I stopped to speak to him because his mother was ill and I wanted inquire if she was any better. Did she, I asked, want anything to read. He shrugged and told me, "I haven't opened a book since I left school."
Oh. Right. He is about my age. I doubt he was exaggerating - at least to the point where he won't have read a book. His wife was a teacher. She was the one who read the bed time stories. 
"Why?" I asked.
"Not interested."
There was not much I could say to that. 
"You know all that stuff we had to read? It was so boring."
He was never in the academic stream. There were still technical (secondary modern type) high schools around when he was that age. He would not have had Shakespeare or Wordsworth or Dickens or any of the other "classics". He would have had the "modern" literature which was considered to be simpler. Perhaps it was. I don't know. I "did" the classics. "Doing" them just about killed them for me. When I left school and began teacher training I had to choose from a range of subjects in my first year. I assumed I was going to do English. I wanted to write - or rather, go on writing. I thought doing English was going to be the right thing to do. 
Fortunately for me one of Australia's leading poets, a family friend, told me otherwise. She advised me to do History instead. For once in my life I took advice. She was right. The English course was filled with things I had already read. I would be required to think about them in a certain way - not in the way a writer needs to think. The course was old fashioned in the extreme. I know that now. It had much less to offer than the equivalent course at the university. 
I knew I would get to university when I could afford to go but it wasn't right then.
And when I did get to university I did psychology instead. It probably taught me just as much about people as doing English. I also read widely. Our poet friend kept sending me suggestions. Other people I met offered more suggestions. 
I didn't read them all. I still haven't read them all. I started some books and did not finish them. They didn't interest me. 
All of that has taught me something though. I have a TBR (to be read) pile. If I come to a book on it and it doesn't grab me immediately I will "skim" further. If it still doesn't grab me then I will cease reading it. 
I will cease reading a book which does not interest me simply because there are so many books I want to read, or think I want to read. I don't need lists of one hundred classics. I don't have to read War and Peace or anything else. 
I am much more grateful for people like Lucy Coats who will enthuse about a book that I might otherwise have missed. 
It is individual books which matter - not lists.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Okay so the GST (VAT) is

going to be added to all on-line shopping as well. The Premiers of the states agreed to this yesterday. The GST is also likely to rise from ten to fifteen percent. I suspect the Medicare levy will also rise. Downunder is running out of money.  
The Opposition is well ahead in the opinion polls, likely to win the next federal election and planning to spend a great deal more. They have to fund it somehow.
Until now Downunderites have been able to do some of their on-line shopping GST free. I know, it seems unfair. We should all pay our taxes.
But it is genuinely a little more complex than that. Downunder has a relatively small population. It is around twenty-four million. The United States of America is around three hundred and twenty-four I think. (Correct me if I am wrong.) China has more than a billion people. We just don't compete or compute. 
Most Downunderites live along the coastline. Yes, the middle is mostly desert of a sort. Even our state capitals are small by world standards. It doesn't stop Sydney being one of the most expensive places in the world to live but even there you won't find all you might need. 
I know what online shopping does to local business but our population just doesn't allow local businesses to stock all that people now want - or even need - in a global world. Trading hours are limited and employing people is becoming increasingly more complex and expensive.  It also takes time for goods to arrive  Downunder.
If I want to order a book from my local independent bookshop then there is a tortuous process to go through. I want to support the shop. It's a particularly good shop. I know the staff. They know me. We work well together. I often suggest other people use it. But, sometimes I buy books online. I have to. 
If I buy a book from my local indie then, unless they have it in stock, it can take six, eight or even twelve weeks to arrive. Six weeks is a short time. I can order a book from an overseas supplier and have it within a week. The book may cost anything from half to two thirds of the cost. If I am working on something and I need the book in a hurry that is where I am going to get  it from. It's not the fault of the local indie. It is the way they must do business.
If I want knitting yarn I can go to the local haberdashery store and buy from the limited range there - or I can go to the big variety type store and buy slightly cheaper yarn, most of which is produced in Asia. The quality is not good. Nowhere can I buy the more specialist yarns used in books and magazines. I stopped trying to design for a Downunder magazine for that reason. It wasn't worth the hassles involved. I have been given good yarn from other sources and the difference is extraordinary. The group of students  I have worked with for some years know and appreciate the difference. Yarn online? Of course I will because the quality counts.
We should of course be producing and exporting the very best yarn ourselves. 
Adding GST to all online purchases is designed to boost local sales - or so we are told. My guess is that this won't happen. Local prices will need to be not merely the same but significantly cheaper. The variety will need to be there. The goods will need to the goods people want. Shops will need to be open longer hours because online shopping is done after hours.
Or, there is another alarming scenario. If they have to collect Downunder GST overseas business will not do business here. It won't be worth their while. If the post office has to collect it they will have to add another charge as well. Downunder will become a dumping ground for remainder items. 
So, the Premiers have decreed this will happen - but have they really thought it through? What sort of mechanism do they propose? 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

You know those gifts you have

to give "the teacher" when you are a kid? It's that end of year ritual when you are supposed to tell your teacher they are the "best ever" and hand over something your Mum has bought. You don't really want to do it because you like your teacher so much it's a bit embarrassing or you hate your teacher so much that you don't want to give them anything at all.
It is the end of the school year in Upover and the gift giving thing was being discussed on social media. I glanced at it because someone I know mentioned what her children were giving their teachers. 
And I remembered what had happened to me and my brother when we were kittens. Oh yes, we were expected to give presents to our teachers. I can't remember what I gave my first teacher. I gave the second one a plant in a pot. I had grown it myself. It probably died  during the long summer holiday. I don't remember what I gave my third teacher either. It was probably much the same as the other children. Teachers got a lot of handkerchiefs in those days.
I hated my fourth grade teacher with a passion. She would roam around with a ruler in her hands and come down on your knuckles with a crack if she didn't like what you were doing. It was not the only thing she would do either. Nowadays she would be accused of assault and removed from the classroom. Back then we were expected to tolerate it. 
At the end of the year my mother told me I was expected to give the usual present. I refused. I "forgot" to take the present to school.
I worried about what my mother would do when she found the "forgotten" present.  
I soon discovered I was not the only child who had "forgotten". One of the boys had been given a small box of chocolates for the teacher. He shared them out instead. Of course my mother arrived and gave the present to me and stood there while I handed it over. I was, perhaps rightly, punished. 
I remembered all this years later. I had taught a class of children for just part of the year. They were a great bunch of kids. We got on well together even though they were football fanatics and I couldn't have cared less. I taught them all to knit, boys as well as girls. (We also looked at the way men had knitted in the past.) They made themselves simple beanies in their football colours. Every kid bar one had finished theirs. He was the only boy who kept insisting he wasn't interested.
On the last day of school we decorated the classroom. We had a party and shared the food they had brought in. Some of the mothers were Greek and Italian and we had to share out the excess food with the class next door. Nobody grumbled about clearing up afterwards. I was going to read the last chapter of the book we had been reading on Friday afternoons. 
Everything was cleared away and they were quiet after the party buzz. I read the chapter. There were about ten minutes to go before I knew I would have to make sure they were cleared out for the last time. I knew something was up.
And then one of the boys stood up and said, "Miss we have something for you."
They all opened their desks and put their beanies on, even the boy who had insisted he wasn't interested was wearing his - although I suspect he had help to finish it. The boy who had spoken handed a small parcel over to me. Inside it was a beanie. They had all had a hand in making it. 
Every single one of them gave me another small present at the end of the day. I can't remember any of them but I wore that beanie the next year. I wore it until I left the school at the end of the winter term. It was far from perfect but that didn't matter. They had made it for me.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

There was concert in the

street  yesterday. It was a solo performance not a group one.
I went out to bring in the bin from the street and there was a plumber of some sort doing something with a drain.
He was singing.  He was singing a rousing and well known piece of Handel - "Thine be the glory" from Judas Maccabeus.
Or is it well known? 

I know it. I was brought up on a musical diet of the classics and light opera and folk songs. "Pop" music was not heard in our house.
The singer went on to Bach and then back to more Handel. He had a good voice. He wasn't overly loud or intrusive. It was certainly more pleasant than the incessant bass beat of music we can sometimes hear from a considerable distance away.  At least, I think it was.
I wonder what the neighbours thought? I doubt they even heard him. They probably had their radios on inside - if not the television set. It is unlikely that they would even know the music. Our neighbours on one side are Chinese. They sometimes listen to Chinese opera. I don't understand Chinese opera at all. I don't really care for most Chinese music. I suppose I might if I understood more about it but that is not likely to happen.
On the other side we have younger neighbours who grew up with popular music. Classical music is a closed book to them. The Little Drummer Boy and his brother are not getting music lessons. 
The rest of  our short street was out. 
When this house was built  it was done mostly by two Italians. They sang opera while they worked - the lighter operas. Both men sang in a group which each year produces an opera for the Italian community. I wasn't around to hear much of it but my parents heard them occasionally as they came by to check on progress. 
My brother-in-law worked to Greek folk music when he was renovating the house they now live in. I never heard him sing but he preferred that music to the incessant chatter on a commercial radio station.
I find people's musical choices interesting. I often wonder how people can handle working with a background of commercial radio, "talk back" and advertisements and songs which all sound the same to me. I wonder why workmen, often making a noise, bother with the radio at all. It would seem some people cannot endure silence. 
I know there are writers who have music playing as they work. It would distract me. 
I know I am not particularly musical. I can read music - just. I cannot play an instrument or sing in tune (but I do know that I am  not in tune). If people ask me what sort of music I like I can give them an answer. Sometimes though I find music physically painful. I simply cannot tolerate it. I have to leave. When I was a child my mother had a recording of Beethoven's sixth symphony. It was emotionally more than I could handle. She didn't understand that at all.
"Don't be so silly. It's just a piece of music. You'll get used to it."
I never did.
Perhaps that is why I still prefer silence - and the music in my thoughts?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Bob Ellis has

liver cancer. It is something I would not wish on anyone. I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone.
When the news of Ellis's illness appeared in the Guardian there was a vile comment from someone suggesting that people would be glad if medical science allowed Ellis to give his cancer to the Prime Minister. I wonder what Ellis thought of that. He will have read it. I don't doubt he is still reading such things. He will until he can no longer sit up and read. When that occurs  his partner, Anne Brooksbank, will no doubt go on reading things to him. 
I first met Ellis many years ago. I was in my teens the first time. Another Downunder author introduced me. Ellis ignored me. He ignored me the second time too. That was over a decade later. 
The third time - was it third time lucky or unlucky? - he was forced to have a conversation with me and several other people. Well, we had an argument. He didn't like it when two other people told him he had lost it. He didn't like losing arguments. I suspect he still doesn't. I know I said very little on that occasion. Ellis was doing his best to ignore me.
Several years later we met again. We had to endure a week in the same hall of residence. He was at a conference. I was doing some research. He appeared in the dining room and was about to sit down at a table with people who clearly admired him. He saw me and asked,
"What the hell are you doing here?"
End of conversation. Well, I thought, at least he recognised me.
At the time I was still working on the literacy project. There were several people at the same conference as Ellis who were very keen on the idea. They would bail me up to discuss it and seek me out at mealtimes. 
And then Ellis bailed me up a couple of times. Once he came and banged his tray down at the table I was sitting at. I was with two other authors and the wife of a former politician. We had been having a lively conversation about something else when he barged in with,
"This bloody silly idea you have..." 
We argued. We argued several times that week. It seemed we didn't agree on anything. If we met now I doubt we would agree on anything. Our politics are different. Our literary interests are different. I hope I am a great deal more even tempered and polite. He has been politely described as "irascible" and "rude".
I suspect he argued with me because he didn't like the attention I was getting from people he wanted to have talk to him. 
At the end of the week he didn't bother to say goodbye. I didn't expect it. I doubted I would even see him again.
But I did see him again. It was some years later at another writers' event. He wandered past, then stopped.
"You again."
I agreed it was and wondered what he would find to argue about - my letter to the editor in that day's paper perhaps? I was surprised he had even bothered to speak to me.
He didn't say any more. He just wandered on. A little later one of the visiting VIP type overseas authors came across. I thought he would want to talk to the author I was talking to and was about to make my excuses and leave them to it. But then he said to me,
"Bob Ellis told me to come and introduce myself."
It was, I suppose, a typical Ellis way of paying a compliment. I never had a chance to thank him for it - and he would not have wanted thanks.
I know now I won't see him again. I haven't seen him for years. I didn't much like him or even respect him - it is difficult to respect anyone who is deliberately rude - but he has been an influential figure. 
And, at least once, he thought enough of me to ask someone else to introduce themselves. That was a conversation I really did enjoy.

Monday, 20 July 2015

If you have a blog

then how often do you post something on it?
Yesterday I had to wait for a short time before I could go on with what I was doing so I looked idly at the blogs in my reading list. I was curious about when some of them had last been used. I knew I had not seen a post in a long time but I was startled to discover that several had been dormant for years.  They may even be extinct. I don't know.
Several more have not posted for months or there may be months between posts.
Others post more often. Some, like "An Awfully Big Blog Adventure", are written by more than one person. 
Blogs with multiple posters tend to come out on a regular basis. People know that it is their "turn" and that it doesn't occur too often. They can write it when they have time. They can schedule it to appear at the right time. 
I have, on rare occasions, scheduled a blog post to appear on a day when I have to leave too early to reasonably expect I will have time to write one. I am not sure why I bother. Is it a good thing? Should I allow people to expect a blog post? 
There is a blog I follow called "Jean's Knitting". The writer is someone who once, pre-my-blog days, sent me a pattern for a pair of kilt hose. We "know" one another in the virtual sense. She is elderly. Her husband is even more elderly. They have children and grandchildren - and now they have a kitten as well. Oh, she also knits. I suspect if I physically met her we would get along just fine  because her family sounds interesting. They have lived in far flung places. 
On the surface her blog doesn't sound as if it should be interesting but she has a good number following her. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that she writes well and she writes on a regular basis. Certainly when there was silence for a few days her son had to finally post a short piece to say she had been admitted to hospital and would resume her writing on her return. Comments streamed in.
I may be wrong but I suspect it is "regularity" which matters. People need to know that there is going to be another post.  If  you post on a daily or weekly basis then that is what people will expect. If you only have something to say once a month but you do post once a month then that's fine. I suspect that is about as big as the interval could get for a "regular" blog. 
There may be other blogs which are irregular but still welcome. I suspect they are more "advertising" than "blogging". They are there for the purpose of making an announcement of where someone was or where they will be. They serve a purpose but are they really blogs?
I am still not sure what a blog is really intended to be or what the world thinks it should be. I really don't know why I bother except that I look on it as a daily writing exercise. If I don't do any other writing then I have written something. It keeps my mind alert when I don't have the luxury of daily physical contact with people in a work setting. I have to find something to write about.
I have written all of this because someone who occasionally seems to find time to read these witterings has said she is considering a blog post publication of a book. I admire her for considering it at all. She will have an immediate and immense following. 
Blogs seem to be about who you are, what you are and even where you are. (I follow one blog from a fellow knitter who travels often and another from a fellow writer who lives in Israel. They are interesting people.) But I still suspect the thing that keeps a blog alive is posting regularly.
If you have thoughts about what makes a blog something people want to read then is "regularity" one of these? 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Finding people

can be easy or difficult or even impossible.
There was one of those "human interest" pieces in the Guardian yesterday. It was about an Irish postman who had managed to deliver a letter with an arcane address.  Reading it through I realised the story was not quite as remarkable as it first appeared to be. Nevertheless is was amusing enough to write about delivering a letter to a PhD student from Queen's University to his home village based on nothing much more than his surname, his glasses and his student status at the university. It would be easy enough to do the same here.
But someone else I know is also looking for an old colleague. She has put out messages on Twitter and Facebook and looked at Friends Reunited and no doubt other things. (And, if you happen to be reading this and you know the whereabouts a Diana M Legg ex-army from Northampton please let me know. I will pass it on to my friend so she can invite her to the reunion.)
And the police are still looking for "a man with a suitcase" in an attempt to solve the violent murder of a child. Someone has to know. In all likelihood the person who dumped the suitcase was a stranger to the area. The man with the suitcase was noticed because people didn't know him. 
When we lived in rural communities people knew people. They knew where to find each other. The telephone was a "party" line. The Postmaster was also the storekeeper. The switchboard was in the Post Office section of the shop right by the front door. He could tell at a glance whether X was talking to Y. He took messages and  passed them on. He wasn't one for listening in but he was also aware of the need for people to be safe. When an elderly man who lived alone didn't answer one morning he told the local policeman who went to investigate and probably saved his life. 
The telephone exchange in the next place was much the same. There was a bad accident along one of the roads lined with dairy farms. The farmer who came across it rang the post office and left the contact to emergency services to the postmaster first telling him to "tell A to get his big tractor down there with a tow rope". And A turned up on the tractor with the tow rope. 
The last rural community we lived in was on an island. The telephone system was connected to the mainland by an undersea cable. We saw a piece of this cable and it was big. My father could not hold his hands around it. It was also heavy. In the days before satellite communication it was the lifeline between  the island and the mainland. The exchange, on the coast, was semi-automatic by then but this did not stop people using the post office to exchange messages.
The island had a doctor but no vet. My father needed to call the doctor one because one of the teachers needed to have his finger stitched following an accident. It was a very nasty cut. My father rang the surgery but got the exchange. The doctor had switched her phone through to the exchange because the receptionist was also the nurse and she was elsewhere.
"I'll let her know. She's out your way seeing to a cow," my father was told.
An hour or so later she turned up at the school having dealt with the cow. She was still dressed for vet work - muddy boots and a khaki cotton coat - but stood in the staff room and put in the necessary stitches abruptly telling the young male teacher not to be "a wimp" when he yelped.
School had finished for the day and I had been sent in to make her a cup of tea. She gave me a stern look, "And you Cat, you will keep your mouth shut."
I did but I still marvelled at the way people were found.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Daft or dyslexic?

Someone has just posted a very positive view of her son's learning difficulties on Facebook. The overall thrust of the piece is that (a) he's smart, (b) he works hard, and (c) he's been given help from some experts.
She forgot to add (d) his parents  have supported him - his sibling too.
I would say all those things are important, very important.  The maintenance man in one of our local shopping centres is dyslexic. He has extreme difficulty in reading or writing anything. When a directive comes through from the owner of the centre he still has to find help if he needs to read a long document in a hurry.
He wanted to learn to read but he had gone through school without learning to do so. Everybody told him he was dull, stupid, an idiot and more. He didn't get the help he might once have got in a special class. Nobody took him out of class and gave him any extra attention. He just got lost in the cracks. He could easily have ended up in trouble but he was smart enough to realise he wasn't "stupid". He got the job as a maintenance officer because he can turn his hand to almost anything. He works hard too.
When I first met him he could recognise emergency words and not much more. He barely knew his alphabet. He certainly couldn't read fluently. He wasn't unfriendly but he was definitely reserved. 
One of the former staff in the bookshop introduced me. She had already told him what I had once done. In a very embarrassed way he told me he couldn't really read.
"Still want to learn?" I asked. He nodded but didn't look too confident about it. He was prepared to work at it but... oh yes, it was a big "but" because his school and even his family, particularly his parents, had always called him "stupid".
So a group of us got together, shop assistants and me and another teacher with expertise in the area. I gave him a simple test. He squirmed through it but it told me what we all needed to know. He could do it. The teacher took him on as a twice weekly evening challenge. I added my time on a less regular basis and so did bookshop staff. 
Reading will probably never be a pleasure for him. He reads too slowly for that but he has greatly improved. He now borrows graphic novels from the library - a place he didn't dare enter several years ago. He borrows DVDs and magazines too.
Late last year I saw him in the bookshop. He had some tools in hand and he had just fixed something. He gave me a cheerful smile as he left and told me quietly,
"This place doesn't frighten me now." It only took fifty something years.


Friday, 17 July 2015

Asking questions is an

an acquired art. If you doubt me think of that irritating (to some) habit small children have of asking, "Why?"
In most instances it is entirely possible the child really wants to ask more than that or more specifically than that but doesn't have the vocabulary or the capacity to ask a different question. 
Most of my short teaching career was in two schools for profoundly physically and intellectually disabled children. Almost all of them had severe communication problems. Those who had speech had limited vocabularies and some of them had no speech at all. Every day was a constant challenge of trying to understand them and trying to make them understand. It was not unusual for a child to have a temper tantrum in sheer frustration at not being understood.
I asked questions. I asked hundreds of questions every day and thousands every week. Other staff would say, "Cat's asking questions - again." They would come and ask me to see if I could solve a problem with a child by asking questions. Of course they could ask questions themselves - and they often did - but perhaps they thought I had some magical power they did not have. I don't know. Certainly I failed to get answers some, perhaps even most, of the time.
When I left teaching and was back at university doing research I asked not just one question but many more questions. I proved, at least to myself, that the way you ask the question is just as important as the question you are asking. 
Being able to ask questions matters to all sorts of people. My present work often involves providing other people with the tools to ask questions, particularly people in the medical profession. Asking the right questions there can be vital for diagnosis and treatment. It also matters in the court system - and where the death penalty still exists the right questions could mean the difference between life and death. When people need to report even apparently simple things like weather observations there is a need to ask the right questions if the necessary information is to be obtained.
But we don't teach people to ask questions or how to ask questions. We assume that this is "something everyone knows". It isn't. 
Recently there have been articles critical of the way refugee claims are being viewed and reviewed, the way in which a government service which is there to protect children is operating, and the way in which some emergency services at a hospital have been operating. In all of them there has been a failure to ask questions in the way which will elicit the required information. Although they should not need to all those services work to a budget. Money gets wasted because of a lack of questioning skills. 
Isn't it time we taught the art of questioning again? 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

There have been reports of a child's body

being found next to a rural highway.  The child has, according to reports, "clearly been murdered". There is a suitcase with scattered belongings nearby.
Little more is known at present. The police apparently have no more information they can give. 
That is perfectly reasonable. If there is little more than a skeleton and the child is young enough then it may be impossible to even tell the sex. The police were not even able to offer any information about how long the skeleton may have been there.
I don't know that particular road but I know others like it. Disposing of a body would not be difficult in the remote areas of this state. Stories like this one make me all too aware of that. I wonder how many times it has happened - because it must have happened. 
People disappear. They "go missing". In the early days of the colony it  would have been very easy indeed for murder to take place and nobody would have been any the wiser. Someone might simply have been considered "lost" and never found again. Even if people had their suspicions it would have been difficult to prove. This colony was not a particularly lawless one. It was not settled by convicts but life was harsh. Some of those who came were, inevitably, people whose relatives were happy to see them go.
But, a child in the present day? Was the child reported missing? What if the child has not been reported as missing? How is it that nobody has noticed the child was missing? Did the mother move? Was she harmed too? How could anyone give birth and not report their child as missing?  
And the child? What did they know or feel? 
Someone left the body there in a remote area. They just dumped the body, apparently not even bothering to bury it. Were they in too much of a hurry? Were they afraid? Didn't they care? What? 
All those questions go through my mind. My imagination asks many more. The writer in me says, "story".
The person in me says a child tossed out like a discarded toy in a lonely place. Someone should have been able to rescue that child.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird

is one of those books you expect to find on your reading list for an English Literature exam in secondary school. It is that sort of book. You "do it" - along with Austen, Dickens and Shakespeare,
I actually missed out on studying it (and Austen) but I doubt I suffered much. It meant I could read them without having to do a character assassination in the manner critics and teachers wanted me to do it.
I have always felt slightly sorry for Harper Lee. The success of Mockingbird really stopped her publishing anything else. "To Set a Watchman" was written before Mockingbird. Perhaps it would have been better not to give in to demands and publish it. It is being treated as a sequel. It isn't. It is being treated as another version of Mockingbird. It isn't. People expect it to be Mockingbird. It isn't.
It is a book the author happened to write. I suspect it is also a book she wrote while trying to understand what to write. Mockingbird came with that understanding of what to write. It's a painful process authors, at least good authors, have to go through.
If publication is any guide then I am not a good author. Despite that, andI may be wrong, I think I have a tiny (very tiny) understanding of what Harper Lee was doing. I thought back to the first book I tried to write. 
I was in my teens. It was dire. I threw the partly written thing out years ago.  Even then I started out with one thing and ended with something entirely different. 
I have gone on and actually written other books - none of them published and perhaps never will be published. What I have started with has never been there at the end. Things change. My understanding of the characters change. I'll get things wrong and the characters refuse to cooperate. It sounds odd because I am supposed to be the writer. I am supposed to be in control of what they do but there are times when it seems that the characters do in fact tell me very firmly, "No. You're wrong." I know I have to listen then.
Perhaps that is what happened to Harper Lee. She wrote a book in order to write another book.
I can remember listening to a discussion between a group of established authors at a writers' conference. I was only in my teens but I had been invited to sit in and listen. They were discussing their approaches to manuscripts. This was prior to the use of so much as a word processor, let alone a lap-top computer. 
Patsy Adam-Smith, an Australian writer,  asked whether people kept all their drafts so that other people could refer to them in the future.
The question coming from Patsy was particularly interesting because her work is largely non-fiction. She kept hers because she thought people might want to see how she had written up her research. I wonder if her estate kept her drafts or whether they got thrown out on her death?
Ivan Southall had just won the Carnegie Medal for "Josh" and he said, "No." In relation to Josh the birth of the character had been too painful for him. Keeping multiple drafts was a reminder of that pain. He kept some things of course but not those multiple, painful drafts.
There were other writers there of course and they gave other answers but those two have remained with me. Patsy's notes and drafts may well be interesting to someone who researches and writes non-fiction but I doubt they would tell the writer of fiction much. She said as much at the time.
I also doubt that early drafts of "Josh" would really tell another writer much. "Josh" is too personal for that. He's close to autobiographical. It probably isn't the sort of thing even a writer wants to lay bare. 
I haven't read "Go Set a Watchman" yet but I am wondering whether it is, in a sense, a draft for a much bigger book?

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

I have been reading the Letters to the Editor

in our state newspaper with a growing sense of despair. 
The state now has the highest unemployment rate in the country. It has overtaken the smallest state, an island, which has long been the bearer of the wooden spoon.
I am not surprised by the unemployment rate. It will get higher before it gets lower. When the last of the car industry folds and all the subsidiary jobs go with it the official unemployment rate may rise to above ten percent. It's not good. I am genuinely concerned for people who want to work and don't have jobs,
To read the letters in the paper however it would seem it is "all the government's fault". Reading some regular columns in the paper it would also seem that "it's all the government's fault". Of course it depends which side of politics you favour whether it is the fault of the state or the federal government - or both.
It's never our fault is it?
I was talking to a bus driver yesterday. He was on his break and he asked me about my tricycle as I pedalled past. 
Bus drivers have a very stressful job. There are no conductors any more so they must sell tickets or ensure that people validate their multi-trip tickets or passes. They must tell inquirers where to go. They need to stop and start, pick up and set down passengers, handle abuse when late, put the ramp down and up on an accessible bus, and do numerous other things apart from driving a hulking great vehicle through traffic. 
It's not a nice job. It can be quite dangerous, especially at night. He told me that the union was thinking of strike action so that the drivers could get "more pay and better conditions".
And then he went on, "Fine. The fares will go up again. More people will go back to using their cars because they think it's cheaper. The job will get harder as the traffic gets heavier. Routes will be cut. Timetables will be "adjusted" again further adding to our stress. You know what? There comes a time when it's not worth it. We should stick with what we have. It might be a bit less but it will be a  whole bloody lot more."
It was the reverse of what I expected him to say. I wondered how well it would go down with his union mates. I remembered the complaints in the paper that morning. There have been more complaints this morning. They are still asking for "more pay and better conditions". I can understand it. For some people it must seem as if everyone around them has more than they do. It doesn't matter that possibly those people are even more in debt than themselves. The only thing that matters is that they have "it" whatever "it" happens to be. No wonder they want more with better conditions.
But perhaps the bus driver is right and a little bit less would actually end up being a lot more - for everyone. 

Monday, 13 July 2015

Friends of mine have a profoundly

disabled daughter. She can do nothing for herself. Her "guesstimated" mental age is around that of a two year old. She cannot speak but she will smile at people she recognises. Ask a simple "yes" or "no" question and you may be lucky to get an answer by her efforts to look up for "yes" and down for "no".
K and I actually get on rather well together. I have known her since she was at school. She seems pleased to see me.
K appears to like going out. She likes to watch people. They don't have to interact with her. She appears content to just watch them. 
Her parents are now both in their eighties. They have been caring for her for more than forty-five years. Only in the past few years have they had any physical help. That only happened when her father went into hospital and it was clear that her mother could not manage alone. 
Oh yes, despite their requests for help, it took that to happen. They knew the next step was going to be difficult but it had to be taken. They made renewed efforts to find K accommodation that she could settle into before they can no longer care for her at all. 
Several months ago they had  it sorted. K was moving into a "group house" not far away. They could ease the transition with frequent visits and showing the staff how things like feeding and dressing are done - and yes, people need to learn how to do these things when an adult cannot chew or swallow easily and cannot assist with dressing in anyway. 
All was going well - and then another resident was introduced to the group house. He's intellectually disabled. He's mobile. He's violent. He doesn't fit with the rest of the group. He attacked K. He attacked K more than once. There are physical marks on her.  He's attacked the other residents and the staff too.
Fearful for their daughter's safety K's parents tried to negotiate changes. They are not people who make complaints easily. Over the years they have had less help than many other families because they have been willing to put up with doing things for themselves.
They were offered a choice this time, put K in solitary confinement or take K home again. 
K's entire waking day is made up of watching and listening to people, of interacting in her limited way when they have time to stop and talk to her. Solitary confinement is cruel at any time and for K it would be inhumane in the extreme. Her parents have brought her home again. They don't know when or where she will have another chance to begin a new life away from home.
The violent boy is still there. He is still disrupting the group. He apparently has some understanding of right and wrong, certainly knows that attacking K was wrong. He's been allowed to get away with bad behaviour for years. They are now supposed to be trying to "train" him out of it but the staffing of those group homes is not constant. The staff don't have the behaviour modification skills that are needed to handle him. He will go on being disruptive. Other desperate parents will move their children out.
It is the boy who needs to be isolated for a time. He needs intensive one on one training to at least reduce his behaviour to manageable levels. He needs to be introduced gradually to group living. 
It won't happen. The resources aren't there. K's parents have been told "the money isn't available". That it will cost more in the end is not a consideration.
K's happy back at home. Thankfully she doesn't understand what the problems are but her parents are sick with worry. What happens next?
We closed the institutions - and yes, some of them were dreadful places - but we have made some people even more vulnerable than before.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

We had snow yesterday.

It was a mere dusting of snow in the hills behind our house. I couldn't even see it from where I was standing but people still got excited about it. Snow doesn't often happen here.
It made the evening news. There was a small snowman sitting bravely on a plinth outside the shopping area in the hills. He would not have lasted long. 
There may be more snow this week because the weather is forecast for such events. There is an icy blast coming up from the Antarctic. China is experiencing a typhoon of massive proportions. It makes me wonder about global warming and those extreme weather events that are apparently part of it.
It also makes me wonder about other things. The homeless sleeping rough concern me at any time but how do they manage this weather?
I was talking about this to someone else when we met in the library. She had been trying to get her children to think about it but even she said, "You'd think they would try and find somewhere to live or go to a shelter or something."
No. Some of them won't. They are mentally ill. They don't want to be indoors. However bad the weather is they are frightened of "inside". They might shelter under a bridge or in a shelter they have made for themselves but they won't shelter in a building made by someone else. 
I don't like enclosed spaces. I will use lifts but I dislike them. I loathe going into the underground car park in our local shopping centre. The roof is low for such a building. The place is dark. When it was being built there were problems with flooding. It is probably perfectly safe now but I just don't like it. It isn't the same thing as not being prepared to go into a building at all. I hope I have a glimmer of understanding about how some people must feel. In all likelihood though I haven't.
The Senior Cat will prowl off to church this morning. Before he leaves I will give him the weekly food contribution collected to distribute to those in need. That food will go to people who are, in some fashion, housed.
During the week I will pass over some more to the local charity which has a van which heads out into the evenings to feed the homeless. There has been a request for tins of soup or the sort of soup that comes in packets and only needs boiling water added to it.
They will hand it out in throwaway cups. There will be bread to go with it, bread left over from the local bakery and the occasional contributions from other people. 
I know people who shrug and say, "It's a waste. They just spend what money they get on alcohol and cigarettes or drugs. They aren't going to make anything of their lives."
No, some of them won't but there are exceptions. I know of one man who now volunteers his time at the local charity. He has his problems but someone there helps him take his medication each day - at his request. He's functioning reasonably well. At his request I helped him fill out a form recently. He's applying for housing instead of the hostel he's been living in since coming off the streets.
"Don't want nothing fancy," he told me, "Just a room to sleep in and a bathroom place."
I asked if he wanted a little kitchen. He thought about it for a moment and then said, "Nah, just one of them microwave things. You can do soup in that. Soup's the best when it's cold like."
I don't know how he'll go but he's trying. Soup helps.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

I understand Edinburgh has

a tram line again. I wonder what people think of that? Do the locals use it or is it seen as a sort of quaint thing for the tourists?
We have a tram line here too. It goes from a beach side suburb to the CBD and then a little further on to something called "The Entertainment Centre".
Although used it is not beloved by many of the locals. Downunder drivers tend to dislike anything they perceive as "getting in the way" of them getting from A to B as fast as possible. 
So why is the state government even considering extending the tram line to other places? The lines were there once of course. They were ripped up when buses became more common and were needed to travel to far flung places. 
Add to that the state government wants to extend the O-bahn, the guided bus track, a short distance into the city. It will, they assure us, save about three and a half minutes on the journey from the northern suburbs. The three and a half minutes is unlikely to eventuate because of problems with the traffic at the city end. Commuters are not interested. The O-bahn is not accessible to anyone who needs a mobility ramp and the extension would ruin a  much loved and well used section of parkland.
Because of the access issue I sent off a very short "submission" in the form of a question to the parliamentary committee which is investigating why and how the government made the decision to extend the O-bahn. I can see now I should have waited a couple of days and added the access to trams issue as well.
You see, the trams are supposed to be accessible. They are in some places but not in others. Trams simply should not block traffic for the time it takes to lower the ramp and allow one or more people to get on or off.  People with vision impairments do not want to step out into the traffic unaided. With buses it is different. Buses pull into the curb. People don't have to worry about traffic as they get on and off. 
I have already had requests to "say something" from a range of people with mobility and vision disabilities. But why should I have to say anything at all? Why is the government so  hell bent on making it more difficult for everyone to get around? 
I just wish they would do the sensible thing and extend the train lines. Everyone can use those, including me!

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Royal Commission into the

trade union movement may or may not be a "witch hunt". It may or may not depend on which side of politics you are whether you believe that or not. 
I don't really believe that governments spend $80m on a Royal Commission just to conduct a "witch hunt" against their opposition. It is possible I suppose but I think it is unlikely.
So far this RC  has uncovered less than was expected. Those opposed to it say this proves it has been a waste of money.
But has it? 
The Opposition Leader in the Federal Parliament asked to appear in front of the RC. He was, he said, going to clear his name. He was going to show he had done nothing wrong.
He has spent the last two days in front of it "answering" questions. His appearance has been an excellent lesson in how to "answer" a question without actually answering it at all. I won't go into details but, like many other politicians (of all persuasions) he is a master at the art of not answering questions he does not wish to answer.
While he was still at it yesterday afternoon someone arrived to pick up some things I had been keeping for her.
"I wish you were there asking the questions Cat," she told me. I must have looked rather startled because she added, "I think he might find it rather more difficult to obfuscate."
It is of course my job to ensure that people are communicating with one another. I am supposed to know how to ask a question. Teachers, and I was one once, are supposed to know these things. 
Would I be any match for a street-smart politician though? Probably not. He would be even more determined not to answer questions he did not wish to answer. His answers were carefully crafted. He had obviously been well briefed by his extensive legal team. (I find it interesting that people need extensive legal teams to appear in front of a RC where they are, supposedly, merely providing information.) When an unexpected question came up he took his time answering and did so in convoluted language.
I suspect that any politician at all, of any persuasion, would do exactly the same thing. It is an art successful politicians learn before they go into politics. It is why they belong to the debating clubs at university or are active in unions or local government before they head for the bigger debating chamber. 
The head of the RC was  not impressed by  the Opposition Leader's performance. He put it carefully but it was clear that he was rather more than mildly irritated by it. I suspect he wanted to thump the bench and demand the questions being put were answered. They won't be. The Opposition Leader may be recalled at a later date. If he is then he now knows what to expect. His legal team will be well prepared and he will be ready for the tricky questions. 
It's a game, a serious game but still a game to people like him.
You can't stop people lying by avoiding the questions put to them.
Maybe it would be fun to try and trip him up?

Thursday, 9 July 2015

The sort of food we ate

when I was a very young kitten is very different from the sort of food I eat now - or is it?
I was reminded of this yesterday when our friend Polly sent me a thank you note and, with it, this:


Pasta was not eaten in Australia.
Curry was a surname.
A takeaway was a mathematical problem.
A pizza was something to do with a leaning tower.
All potato chips were plain; the only choice we had was whether to put the salt on or not.
Rice was only eaten as a milk pudding.
Calamari was called squid and we used it as fish bait.
A Big Mac was what we wore when it was raining.
Brown bread was something only poor people ate.
Oil was for lubricating, fat was for cooking.
Tea was made in a teapot using tea leaves and never green.
Sugar enjoyed a good press in those days, and was regarded as being white gold. Cubed sugar was regarded as posh.
Fish didn't have fingers in those days.
Eating raw fish was called poverty, not sushi.
None of us had ever heard of yoghurt.
Healthy food consisted of anything edible.
People who didn't peel potatoes were regarded as lazy.
Indian restaurants were only found in India.
Cooking outside was called camping.
Seaweed was not a recognised food.
"Kebab" was not even a word, never mind a food.
Prunes were medicinal.
Surprisingly, muesli was readily available, it was called cattle feed.
Water came out of the tap. If someone had suggested bottling it and charging more than petrol for it they would have become a laughing stock!!

But the one thing that we never ever had on our table in the sixties ..... "
Elbows or our phones.

And I was reminded of some other things. We lived in the bush so meat was provided by one of the local farmers. We had a "hind quarter" of mutton one week and a "fore quarter" the next in one place and much the same everywhere else. Lamb? What was that? I remember one of the farmers killing a steer once - but only after consulting everyone around him as to whether they too would like some beef. Bacon was only available from the butcher - an hour or more away by car. Most people never ate pork unless they kept pigs and slaughtered the pigs themselves. 
Every morning my brother would go to get the milk from the closest farm. It came straight from the dairy. It was not pasteurised. My mother would put it in big flat pans on top of the wood-burning Metters No. 5 - a bit like an Aga for those of you in Upover. It would cook gently. The cream would rise and she would skim it off so that we always had cream - and rather a lot of it.
We ate a lot of "stew" and chops with mashed potato, carrots, pumpkin, beans or peas. My father grew those because buying them all the time was far too expensive and you had to ask the only local "general store" to order them.
Bread was delivered to the store only on Fridays. All bread was square and white and my mother would ration it out so it lasted until the next Friday.  We rarely saw cake or biscuits in our house. My mother didn't have time to make them because she was teaching full time as well and she also had to clothe us because you couldn't just go into a shop and buy something. Even in the city there were limitations on such things. She knitted our jumpers and cardigans as she patrolled the school yard during playtime.
And there was that incredibly special treat if you travelled to the nearest place of any size - ice cream. The only available flavour was vanilla. It came in a round metal can which must have been a gallon in size. The shopkeeper would scoop it out into "single cones" and we would lick it at just the right speed to be sure it lasted a good long time but didn't melt.
I wonder about all this now. There is "no time" to prepare meals from scratch or make clothes. People are always on the move - and in a rush. It is all rather sad.
But there is something even worse. Ice cream isn't a treat any more. It is something harassed parents buy to keep the children quiet while they rush around the supermarket. I find that very sad indeed.