Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year's Eve and

today's headlines are not about the poor individuals who are still without power after three days. Even the media doesn't have a lot to say about their predicament.
We didn't lost power this time. Middle Cat's household did. They were without power for sixteen hours. They are on the same section of the grid as the local shopping centre - which was effectively closed for a day.  We are on the same section of the grid as a local hospital. That means they usually try and get things up and running again as quickly as possible. Yes, we are lucky. This is the third major blackout in the state this year. 
All the government can apparently suggest is fining the power company so that they get the power back on faster. The government didn't even want to to talk about the issue. They were busy talking about a new registration scheme for cats as well as dogs. (We cats approve of the registration scheme up to a point.)
But even the registration scheme didn't make the front page. That was reserved for the story of a boy "forced" to leave his school because he doesn't want to play cricket for it. He wants to play in district matches instead. He's supposed to be a very promising young cricketer.
Middle Cat's boys went to the same school. Neither of them are outstanding at sport but they knew they were expected to play for the school. It is one of the things you agree to when you enrol a child in the school.  There are good reasons for this, especially by the time the students reach the last few years of school. 
It is not actually about the honour and the glory of playing sport for the school. It is about what is best for the student. The school has considered the balance between academic and other activities. Consideration has been given to the time involved. Consideration has been given to the relationships it builds between members of the teams. Yes, it is competitive. It's the nature of the school - and every other school like it. They see life as competitive - learn to live with that now. Middle Cat's boys both turned down other opportunities because their understanding of the work-life balance was that all, not just some, of school came first so that life could come first later.
The school also knows that, however good you might seem to be now, a career in cricket is no certainty - and it won't last a lifetime. Even if this young cricketer said, "I'll teach it when I can't play it competitively" he is going to need formal qualifications to do that. He is going to need a certain level of academic success. 
If this young cricketer is as good as they say he is then the club he wants to play for will wait because he is still very young. In two years time he will be about the age that most young cricketers start playing at this level. He will have completed school. It will be about the right time to make more informed decisions.
I know many people will disagree with this. For many people a potentially glittering career in sport will be more important than any sort of academic achievement that can lead to a lifetime of other employment. High achievers in sport are gods to be worshipped by many. 
The likelihood of this happening is low, even for the most promising of young sportspeople. The school knows this and it is why they have the policies they do. They may cave in to public pressure - but I hope they don't. It won't be in the best interests of the student.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Renewing a passport

is such a pleasure - not. 
My passport needs to be renewed. It is a once in ten year experience I could do without. This time I had to go online. I had to fill out a form online and then print it off and head to the Post Office and have a "passport style" photograph taken.
I hope, this time, it will be relatively simple. They have all my documentation. I am within time to renew it the simple way...without trying to get together all the documentation I needed the first time around - rather a long time ago now.
I remember that well. There was a lengthy form to fill out. I had to get an original birth certificate and the birth certificates for my parents. I had to get three people to certify I was the person I claimed to be and that they had known me for more than three years. There was more, rather a lot more. Part of it was because I was going to be away for rather a long time. At least I was over 21 - the age of majority in those days. I didn't need parental permission to travel. The Senior Cat even agreed to be my Downunder contact address. Now it is Middle Cat - but it would be my nephews who came to the rescue.  They have up-to-date passports and power of attorney.
I am not of course travelling anywhere. That is not why I need the passport. I need it because I use it as photo ID. That proof of age card which is supposed to be the equivalent of a drivers' licence - and is issued by the same government department as a drivers' licence and only with a 100 points of ID - is not considered good enough by some agencies. The ridiculous thing is that I used my passport as some of the points, but only some of the points, to get the PofA card. 
Oh well, I might do some travel in the next ten years . If I do I'd like to think of my passport crammed full of stamps to exotic places.
We once lived next door to two spinster sisters. They travelled - and then they travelled some more. They had multiple old passports in their  possession stamped with some of the most remote corners of the earth. Seemingly the only place they had never been was the Antarctic. They would look back and tell us about the trip they had made to X and what had happened at Y railway station where they had eaten Z - but never zebra. 
One of these days I'd like to have my passport stamped at the beginning of the trans-Siberian railway travelling west, my passport stamped in Vancouver travelling east. I want it stamped in Europe and on my arrival back in the United Kingdom. Maybe, just maybe - at least one of those things. The last is important to me. There are friends I want to see before it is too late - and it has already been too late for some. 
Did I mention I had to have a photograph taken? I do not photograph well. As with most such photographs I look ill...but passport photographs usually do look that way. They don't let you smile. Hopefully though it means that I will be well enough to travel!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Shopping on E-bay

is infuriating. I do it sometimes simply because there are things I need which are no longer readily available in a physical shop which is convenient to access. 
The Senior Cat needed something recently. It was not available locally. There might have been another brand which was suitable but the place selling it was located on the other side of the city - more than an hour away. I looked it up and found it on E-bay. I bought it. They posted it as they said they would. 
Now I am being asked to not only fill out a little form about my experience of buying it but to review the product. Why?
Yes, competition in the e-market is fierce. I would be happy to just click a box which said something like, "I was satisfied with the customer service". It's a way of saying "thank you". More than that I do not want to do. I don't feel I should have to do more than that. I don't want to write gushing reports about "great company to deal with" or "fantastic" or....well you can imagine what some people write. Companies should not have to depend on what amounts to free advertising but they are being forced to do just that. Some beg people not to give negative feedback - "contact us first" they say. I wonder what would happen if you did and said "the customer service was lousy"? Would there be a grovelling apology and a plea not to put up anything negative? I can't imagine there would be anything else. It would surely be a stock apology.
Recently I bought something else too. It came from Hong Kong. I had a polite note asking whether I wanted exactly the same item in different packaging. In a shop I would have recognised both brands as being made by the same factory. The company I bought it from did not ask me to review the product. They haven't demanded feedback - but I'll give them a tick of approval.
All this reminds me of people who wander around wearing t-shirts advertising a company or a product. I like my clothing to be anonymous. I don't want to pay a company so I can advertise for them. 
They tell me that internet shopping is "different", that the sellers "rely" on this sort of feedback. Why? Surely what they should be relying on is nothing more than good customer service and a tick of approval as thanks.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Dear 2016

do you suppose you could possibly stop it? Yes, I know there are only a few days left but you have had 361 days of "fun". It has been, as HM Queen Elizabeth once elegantly put it, an "annus horribilus" for the rest of us.
Today is hot and humid again. It's still raining on and off and it is still blowing a gale out there. The CFS time line is a mass of red incident reports - over two pages already of "tree down" messages. It's lousy, rotten weather to be out there endeavouring to clear trees from roads so that people can get through safely. I can be almost one hundred and one percent certain that the vast majority, if not all, of those trees will be gum trees. This is the worst sort of weather for them. They don't have the deep roots of some trees. They may be "native" trees but they should never be planted in urban areas.
Yes, someone left me an email to say that she won't be picking something up today because their driveway is currently blocked by the neighbour's gum tree having blown over. The SES will get to it eventually but it isn't blocking a road. It hasn't damaged the house and they can get in and out on foot so it will have to wait. She is just thankful nobody was hurt and that their houses are intact. Still, it happened in the middle of the night and they have been awake since then.  She is hoping it will make her son rethink his plan to plant lemon-scented gums along the edge of his property.
Many years ago my maternal uncle and his wife lived on a small property just out of the city. They "developed" it by planting several thousand gum trees. At the time they thought they were doing the right thing. They left the property forty something years ago and it has since been burnt out twice. The gums have sometimes "exploded" as the fire passed through. Now my aunt tells me they would rethink the whole plan and plant something different. There might be some gums in the mix but they would look at other trees as well.
Don't get me wrong. Big gums can be very beautiful in their own way but they need space and distance. The one that has fallen on to the driveway of my friend's home was too big for two or even three of us together to put our arms around the trunk. 
I wonder if it grew tired. It was old, very old.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Being famous must be

awkward to say the least. 
There was a short clip on the news of an interview with George Michael. It seemed he liked the success - but not the fame that went with it. 
I suspect a lot of other people feel the same way - after they become well enough known for people to recognise them. They reach a point, perhaps very quickly, where they just want to be able to go out without being recognised. The constant recognition puts stress on them. "Be nice to your fans!" their agent warns them, "They're your bread and butter - jam too." 
Other people, even their friends, begin to treat them just a little differently. "Is s/he going to think I'm being friendly because I want something?" runs through their mind. The person who has become a celebrity wonders too, "Does this person like me or do they like what I am?"
I have known an extraordinary array of people - I still do. If anyone has been fortunate in that respect I have. In the past I was working on something that led me to have contact with more people than I ever thought possible - and yes, a lot of them were far more important than I was then or am now. My present job involves working with a diverse range of people. It is one of the many things that makes it interesting.  I try and treat everyone with the respect they deserve. That means there are well known people to whom I will be polite and not so well known people to whom I will give an enthusiastic greeting. I won't normally engage the former in conversation. I let them initiate it.
Some years ago though I was in a lift in a very tall building. I had entered at the ground floor. At the next level a very, very well known person got in. He looked at me and gave a sort of resigned smile - as if to say, "Hello, I know I need to be polite but now I suppose I'll have to have one of those conversations..."
So I said with a smile, "It's all right. I don't know who you are."
He actually laughed and asked why I was there. We exchanged a couple of remarks about the project I was working on. We got out at the same floor and he went one way and I went another with the person I had come to see.
I met him again several years later. Someone went to introduce us but he told them we had already met in a lift. He asked about the project I had been working on. The person who had been about to introduce us was startled.
I was too for a moment. Had I really made that much of an impact on someone in the short space of time it took to go up in a lift? 
On reflection I decided that he had remembered for two reasons. He was genuinely interested in the project - proven by his support for it a little later when a large amount of funding had to be allocated for it. The other reason was that the conversation between us had been a normal, everyday sort of conversation - something he must almost never have had.
He was always surrounded by people but I suspect he was lonely...and that many other well known people must also be lonely. 


Monday, 26 December 2016

There was too much food

of course. This always bothers me. Christmas with Middle Cat's Greek-Cypriot relatives always means too much food.
Middle Cat's late father-in-law ran a fish and chip shop. It was no ordinary fish and chip shop. It was known for the queue that literally stretched out the door and around the corner on Friday and Saturday nights. It wasn't far from the local "cop shop" and the presence of police made it a quiet, orderly queue - although there were sometimes grumbles that busy police were allowed to phone an order in and would then appear to "queue jump". They didn't actually do this. They would not have dared.
But the fish and chip shop is no longer owned by the family. The queues no longer stretch out the door. It hasn't stopped the family knowing about food and how to prepare it. There were oysters and prawns for those who wanted them. I do not like shellfish - or rather, shellfish does not like me. I avoid such things.... but there were plenty of olives and nuts and cheese...and the olives were good home-cured olives. 
The gathering moved on to turkey, pork and ham, roast potatoes and pumpkin (a family favourite), and green salad. I suppose some of it was "traditional".  There wasn't a carrot or sprout in sight.
Most plates were piled high and anything that went onto plates was eaten. Food is never wasted in that sense.
Then there was a break...a very long break. The room grew noisy with talk and laughter. Occasionally people went and collected another glass of ice-cold water. Those who drink alcohol had a glass - but no more. It was too hot for that even with the air-conditioning going inside. The room had too many people in it for that. 
Then the serious food business of the day began. There were three different sorts of Greek sweets put out on big - they had to be big - platters, there was strawberry cheesecake, jelly, the "honey crackles" Middle Cat insists on, tiny Christmas "puddings", and watermelon. There is always watermelon.
I looked at it all. I looked particularly at the baklava. Middle Cat's MIL gave me a lesson once in the art of making baklava. It was one of those things you don't forget. She didn't have a recipe. She didn't have the English to explain. The lesson was conducted in mime and in Cypriot-Greek. There were handfuls of this and that. The filo pastry was handled deftly. It had to be cut in a certain way - with a very sharp knife.
I have tried since. Her daughters have tried since. None of us can do it as well P.... did it.  There's an extra ingredient in there somewhere called "mother's love" I think.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

A Christmas present

 (For those of you who have not met them, these are the Cathedral Cats - Bach and Cadenza are the parents of Cantori, Decani, Matins, Vespers, and others. They are working cats and one of their roles is to clean after the Cathedral cleaners have done their job.)

Cantori was sulking. Bach was cross with him, very cross. Cantori had failed Advanced Tail Cleaning.
It was hardly surprising. Cantori had almost failed Elementary Tail Cleaning and then Tail Cleaning One and Tail Cleaning Two.
“Practice makes purrrrrrfect,” Bach had growled.
“I did,” Cantori said.
“You didn’t.”
“I did.”
“You did not,” Bach said in a growl almost as deep as the lowest note on the pedalboard of the organ. “If you can’t pass Advanced Tail Cleaning you will never get to Tail Tip Cleaning. Tail Tip Cleaning is vital for a Cathedral Cat.”
“Then I don’t want to be a Cathedral Cat,” Cantori told him sulkily.
Bach looked at him. Bach’s fur rippled in a way that told Cantori he had gone too far, much too far.
Cantori knew why. Cathedral Cats had very important jobs to do, especially at Christmas and Easter.  It wasn’t enough to be born in the Cathedral Close they had to study and practice constantly. Their most important task, helping the mice to clean the inside of the organ pipes, was something Cantori thought he would never master. Bach made it look easy but Cantori knew Bach worked at least an hour a day to keep his skills up just on that.
“Where’s Decani?” Bach asked. Decani had failed too. Bach was worried about Decani. Decani was a clumsy cat. He had always been clumsy. He had barely passed any of the numerous exams all the cats needed to pass. If it hadn’t been for living entirely within the Cathedral Close Bach worried that Decani would already have used all nine lives.

“Don’t know.” Cantori said crossly, “Don’t care.”

He actually felt bad about Decani. He had been teasing Decani. Decani could never hold his tail in the right position and turn it the right way let alone at the correct speed and distance or anything else.

It was worse for Decani because he had tried. The other cats should have looked up to him because he was the only cat who could read. Even Bach had to rely on Decani to read the Cathedral Courier. But Decani couldn’t pass his exams so they teased him instead.

Bach prowled the length of the Cathedra looking for Decani. He looked under every pew. He looked on top of every cushion and under each kneeler. He looked in the organ loft and the library, in the gallery and the flower room. He looked in the vases and even in the baptismal font. Decani was nowhere to be found. Had he run off?

Bach went to find Cadenza. She was feeding their new kittens and didn’t really want to know about her errant older children. Cantori was simply lazy. Decani was clumsy. They had failed. There was nothing to be done for now. They would simply have to try again next year.

“You need to be a little tougher on them,” she told Bach.
His whiskers bristled and he stalked off, tail low in anger. He had been tough but he couldn’t make Cantori practice or Decani less clumsy.

Decani was not at Evening Prayer. He had never missed Evening Prayer before. Bach was really worried by now. Cantori, Matins, Vespers, Terce and the rest of them were all there. Even Cadenza had left the kittens, safely stowed in their kitten carrel, and come but Decani was not there.

He wasn’t at Morning Prayer either. Bach was convinced Decani had run off by now. He went to see Mouse. Mouse led the cats in Cathedral Lane. Mouse was busy cleaning and sorting the notes for Tom’s harp. It was a difficult job and it kept Mouse particularly busy just before Christmas but he stopped for long enough to say,

“No, can’t say I have even heard a whisker twitch about him.”
That was really alarming.

Bach went back to the Cathedral Close. He sat and worried…and then worried some more. Cadenza worried. That upset the other cats. Even the kittens didn’t feed properly. The Dean worried because all the cats seemed to be off their food and one of them seemed to be missing altogether.

        “Come on Bach,” he said kindly, “Let’s see if we can find Decani. He must be somewhere. Perhaps he’s just been shut in.”

Bach didn’t think so but he followed the Dean. They searched. They searched all the places that Bach had already searched. The Dean even opened doors Bach had not been able to unlock “just in case” but there was no sign of Decani.

       “I’ll have to tell the Bishop,” the Dean said at last. Losing a Cathedral Cat would upset everyone. They usually lived to a great age. Losing such a young cat so close to Christmas would be even worse. There was so much work for them to do and they took such great pride in helping to keep the Cathedral immaculate and welcoming.

Bach followed the Dean across the grass, through the high door in the wall, and up the path to the Bishop’s Palace. Out of the corner of his eye Bach could see Cantori following them. His tail was drooping. His whiskers were drooping even further. His coat looked rough with anxiety. He had stopped sulking but, if anything, he looked even more miserable than before.
       “Come in Dean, come in! You’re being followed…hello Bach... and which one are you? Cantori I think. Do come and have a look. I’m really rather worried. It started out as a bit of fun but he keeps at it and at it.”

What on earth was the Bishop talking about now? The Dean was trying to explain but the Bishop just said,

       “My dear friend do come and have a look.”

They all followed him into the little room the Bishop’s wife used for doing all sorts of Cathedral related things like mending the linen and writing the rosters for the flowers, darning the holes in the socks of the choirboys and taking up their cassocks.

There was a mirror against one wall. There was Decani. He was sitting in front to of the mirror trying to get his right paw around his tail in the approved manner and hold it in the correct position. As they watched he seemed to slump slightly and then he tried with his left paw. He did it perfectly. Right paw wrong. Left paw perfect. He looked puzzled and miserable.

      “He has been at it for hours. We thought he was just playing at first but he….” The Bishop shrugged, “I can’t work it out.”

Bach could. He knew exactly what the problem was. Not one of them had recognised it. He walked over to Decani and sat there. He put his left paw on Decani’s right paw and stopped him.
      “I can’t do it! I’ve tried and tried and tried and I can’t do it. I can only do it with the wrong paw! I’m no good to anyone,” Decani cried. It came out as the most pathetic miaou Bach had ever heard. He kept his left paw on Decani’s right paw.
      “Decani, you can do it. You are a left pawed cat. That is an extraordinary and beautiful thing. It is the most useful sort of cat there is. You can do your tail cleaning perfectly. I think you might actually pass tail tip cleaning you’re so good. I might even start you on cleaning the organ pipes. Come along.”
Decani looked at him bewildered. Then he let his whiskers go straight out for a moment. Left pawed? The smallest left whisker twitched with relief. He had just been given the best possible Christmas present. He didn’t say anything but he followed everyone to the door.
      “Am I left pawed too?” Cantori asked as the three cats made their way across the now snowy grass.
      “No,” replied Bach, “You just need to work harder.”

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A Christmas "terror plot"

in Melbourne was allegedly foiled by the police working in cooperation with the intelligence services. There are several people in custody.
I don't know how they do this surveillance. Well, that's not quite true. I have some idea of how they do the surveillance. It isn't the sort of "007" thing that makes the James Bond movies so popular. It relies heavily on other things. It is often routine and boring waiting for that small nugget of information which will allow bits to fall into place.
It is like searching for rare jewels in a mine far underground. There are tunnels which will be dead ends. There are promising tunnels which will not produce results or something has been missed. There are other tunnels which will curve and meet one dug by someone else - and when they do meet they will wonder what they have missed or who has fooled them into following that path. They will bring small jewels to the surface and try to fit them into the jigsaw laid out, a jigsaw for which they have no picture.
A friend of mine has been anxiously awaiting the release of her husband from hospital. He's home now but is still on an infusion of antibiotics. A nurse has to come in each day. My friend, who once worked as a medical technician, offered to do what needs to be done but was told it was not allowed. No, someone else will work on Christmas Day so he can have time with his family. My doctor nephew and his partner, a specialist nurse, worked last year. This year they are in another country, attending the wedding of a friend. It took a lot of organisation for several young doctors to be on leave at this time but they will be back and work on New Year's Eve so that others can  take time off.
Being a "spy" isn't fun. Working in essential services and industries isn't fun either. I am genuinely grateful people are willing to do it. And that is why, tomorrow morning, I will do what I always do. I will open the work e-mail and check to see if there is anything extremely urgent. If there is, I will deal with it then and there because somewhere someone will be working and I am lucky enough to be planning a day out.
If you are working on Christmas Day I thank you. 

Friday, 23 December 2016

The hottest place on earth

is apparently where I live. Really? If I believed the headline in this morning's paper it would perhaps be so.
There have to be hotter places - and places with more prolonged heat.  If there aren't then I had better move. I don't like the heat.
I have never liked the heat.
As a very young kitten I remember playing outside in the heat. My mother had some sort of arrangement I don't remember clearly but it involved a blanket tied to the clothesline and the fence. My brother and I would sit in our little sand pit under that and play in the sand she had damped down with the water. 
I suspect it got us out of the house. I remember it being hot. We moved and lived in the city for a while. We weren't far from my paternal grandparents' house and, in summer, my grandfather would come and take me and my brother for an early morning "swim". At around 5am it would still be relatively cool. Later in the day we didn't want to be out of doors. It was simply too hot. Most of the time we were sent out to the little room next to the shed our father used as a garage. It would be hot in there too - but not quite as bad as it was outside. 
Well, we thought it was hot  but heat was yet to come. We moved again. We moved to the edge of the desert. And yes, it was hot there. To begin with we had no running water and no electricity. On days when the temperature climbed well over the old Fahrenheit century mark (more than 40'C) my mother had to cook on a wood burning stove. There was nothing else. It was the same for everyone. The water was connected to the house soon after we arrived. It came in a very narrow pipe - about an inch or two and a half centimetres in diameter - across the surface of the earth. It came from a very long distance away. And yes, it would be too hot to put your hands under what was supposed to be the cold water tap. The water tasted so salt that tea tasted salty. Thankfully the school had a small rainwater tank and everyone knew to make sure the tap wasn't dripping!
My mother would run a very tiny amount of water into the bathtub and, when it was cool enough, she would put my two small sisters in with various bath toys and leave them to play. It had the added advantage of bathing them at the same time.
We did not have air conditioning or even a fan. When we did get electricity it was in the form of a 32v power plant. It was barely enough to light the house. It wasn't very efficient and it would break down in the heat. The Senior Cat always seemed to be in the little shed in which it was housed. 
Oh yes, it was hot.  We were still sent outside to "play" although it often meant finding what shade we could and reading.
Was it as hot as this though? I really can't remember. I think it must have been. Middle Cat can't remember but she was younger. Our brother remembers it as "stinking hot". He isn't happy in the heat either.
I am about to pedal out and do some essential shopping so I don't need to do it in a last minute rush tomorrow. It is still early. It is still just cool enough to do this and bring milk home in a cool bag. After that I will remain inside until it is cool enough to give thirsty plants more water. 
And remaining inside and not being sent out to play will be luxury in itself.  It's cooler inside.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Changes to the pension

start in the New Year and were in the paper again this morning. The government is saying "most" pensioners won't be worse off. The paper is saying 5,000 in this state will lose the pension altogether and17,000 will be worse off. 
As usual the reality is probably somewhere in between. It will be hard to sell anyway.
It will be hard to sell because the government is setting about this entirely the wrong way. It is punishing people for doing one thing and rewarding people for doing  another thing.
Take A and B. They left school together. They went to work in the same company at the same time. They stayed there and, fifty years later, they leave the company. During that time they have been paid exactly the same amount. They have married. A's wife has worked part-time. They have two children. B's wife has worked full time. They have no children. A doesn't get the pension but B does.
How does that happen? 
It's simple. A has been careful. A has bought a house and saved for retirement. Holidays have been rare. Outings are an occasional treat. They entertain people simply at home, often using their own garden produce.
B rents. B has gone on several expensive cruises and a grand tour  to Europe. B goes to the footy each week and they go to the pub for Sunday lunch. They are off on a trip around the country towing their van next March.
These are lifestyle choices. A is being punished for doing what many people would see as the "right" thing. B is being rewarded  for the "wrong" thing. B is actually "double dipping".
I've simplified that and it is an extreme example but it explains the problem. It simply tells us that people who have made an effort to provide for their old age are not being acknowledged for their efforts. They hoped for a slightly more comfortable old age. 
Spend your savings they are told - and yes, they will. A will worry as savings dwindle. Will they have enough for when they can no longer care for themselves?
Perhaps it can be argued that B is stimulating the economy- but something doesn't seem quite right to me.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

PIR or "parallel import restrictions"

are in the news again. PIR are supposed to be the saviour of the Downunder publishing industry. 
I'd like to think it was true. I know the former owner of our local indie bookshop is vehemently opposed to the lifting of these restrictions. She is a highly intelligent woman and I prepared to listen to her.
But, is this a battle which will be lost anyway? When the PIR were first put in place things were very different in the world of publishing. Downunder authors expected to send their work to a local publisher, have it considered by a local publisher, accepted by a local publisher. It would even have been printed locally.
Now a would be author pulls a writers' yearbook off the shelf and reads through the appropriate section - only to find that the publishers who accept their sort of work are international businesses. They may have local offices but the reality will be that they work on an international basis. The Downunder "list" will be a tiny part of that. Some authors will simply send their work overseas. Others, usually well known names, have overseas agents.
And there is also the possibility of publishing your own work these days. Computers, the internet, editing services, print on demand services and more, all make it possible. Some of it is good - and a lot of it is awful. The local indie bookshop is good about launches of local, self published books. They weed out the worst of course but what is left doesn't often meet the much higher standards of the professional publishers.
All this does however mean that the idea of books being published here as opposed to overseas is becoming less attractive. In this day of almost instant information, when a story can spread around the globe in less than a minute, people don't want to wait for weeks or months to get a book from their indie bookshop or wait for the library to see if it can be ordered. They can sit at the computer and order it on-line in a matters of seconds. It will be with, Downunder Post permitting, a few days later. 
Good writing should have good publication opportunities but I think we may need to find new ways of that happening. It isn't going to happen by putting PIR in place and hoping that is enough.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The prized AAA credit rating

remains in place in Downunder - for now. 
I don't know how this has happened. Were the grinches at S & P feeling a little festive when they made the decision? Are they planning bigger strife in the future?
I don't know a lot about economics. I do know that spending money you do not have causes debt. I know that debt can lead to bankruptcy. If you borrow money you have to be able to pay it back - with interest.
I had an interesting conversation with a former bank manager recently. He worked for some time in an area with a large Greek migrant population. Sometimes the Greek men would come in looking for a loan to buy a house. They would have saved a deposit and they were in good steady employment. The loan was not a problem. 
He would suggest the bank's usual terms but there would be shaking of heads. No, they didn't want a 25yr loan. They wanted a 10yr loan and they would pay it back at the rate of.... a week.  He would try to argue with them but they would insist. As the terms could be varied he would give in.
And they paid the loans back in 10yrs. Then they took out another loan...and another loan. Now they or their families own a number of houses...and sometimes their children are continuing the same pattern. They rent the houses out and use the rent to pay the mortgage.
Other people will say they are "lucky" but it isn't "luck". They have done it through hard work and good management. 
Running a country is not like owning a house. It is much more complex than that but if we do want to borrow money then we need to be able to do it on the most favourable terms possible and we need to pay it back on the most favourable terms we can as well.
There are budget measures which have stalled. They involve things that are not popular with the electorate but some of them do need to occur. The Opposition knows this. They are currently "fighting" them. It is to their political advantage to do this. They know they overspent in government, seeing it as a way of avoiding the results of the GFC. They took out loans to buy pink batts and school halls instead of the houses and power plants which might have bought batts and halls in the future. It is why we should have lost the AAA credit rating - and lost it while they were still in government.
I wonder what the Greek migrants who own  houses think of all this?

Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas pudding

is not consumed in our household. In the height of summer - and the temperature is supposed to reach 37'C on Christmas Day - sitting down to turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding - seems ridiculous. We are going to Middle Cat's Greek family which means there will be plenty of salad.
But, there are people who like Christmas pudding. It's traditional. It's what you have on Christmas Day whatever the temperature.  In the state's newspaper today there is a piece by a regular columnist about a local man who supplied Christmas puddings to charity each year. The local man died a couple of months back and, says the columnist, there won't be any puddings this year. I suspect there will be. He will have written the column in the expectation and hope there will be someone who will step in and do it.
There is another piece in this morning's paper about the "harassment" by charities who use for-profit companies to solicit telephone donations. I know charity collecting has changed. There is almost an expectation that you will do it by credit card - and make the donation on a regular basis. The excuse is "we like to know how much money we can expect each month". There is no suggestion that this might be a one off or even an irregular donation or that other charities might also need money. Only the charity someone is collecting for is the important one - unless of course you are the individuals who spend their day sitting in the shopping centre in their wheelchairs holding the charity tin on their trays. They of course are "employed" and being "paid" to collect - often for charities which are of no benefit to them and their many needs.
I collect for a charity once a year. It only collects once a year. Those who collect must be volunteers. They must not actively solicit. There is no set up for a monthly or annual or some other regular donation. There can be no bequests. Each year the proceeds go to a different cause designed to help people help themselves. I can handle that - just. I am not good at asking people to part with money but I enjoy meeting the teenagers who actively decide against buying hot dogs or ice cream and give the money to this charity instead. That's giving and thinking. 
Regular donations on a credit card basis are not like that. I don't see those as "charity". It doesn't require continued thought.
The man who donated the Christmas puddings collected them slowly throughout the year and then always passed them over to the columnist and refused to go with him when he delivered them. He said people "didn't need to know where they came from". No, they didn't need to know. Thinking about giving them and then actively doing something about it was sufficient. 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Malcolm Turnbull made a mistake

last night. He should not have given a speech at the Australian Republican Movement dinner. He should not even have attended the dinner.  
Yes, he was once the leader of the ARM. Yes, he "supports a republic". Both those things are well known facts.
At the present time he is also the Prime Minister. Despite ARM claims to the contrary there is no strong support inside his party for a change. Possibly there is even no strong support for a change inside parliament. 
Asked by the ARM some politicians are liable to say "yes, we support your idea that we should become a republic" but it is not an issue they feel strongly about. If it was they would be demanding action on the issue.
The reality is that there are much more important issues that need to be addressed. "Becoming a republic" is not important. It is not important because, as politicians are aware, Downunder is already a completely independent nation. It is already, to all intents and purposes, a republic.
The issue of "becoming a republic" is raised every so often. It is raised as a distraction from more important issues. It is raised in the knowledge that it is an emotive issue, that those in favour of it can stir up nationalistic sentiment - something not lacking anyway. They are prepared to lie and suggest the country has not yet "grown up" and that it is somehow "dependent". What utter rubbish.
"Becoming a republic" would cost billions. It is not, as the ARM would have people believe, a simple matter of a single vote. A declaration of "we are now a republic" is not enough. A single act of federal parliament would not solve all the legislative requirements or issues of authority. 
Malcolm Turnbull is proving to be one of the most unpopular Prmie Ministers Downunder has ever had. There are a range of issues he should be working on, issues the future of Downunder depends on - such as power generation and supply. 
He should not be thinking about a different sort of power issue.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Toddlers' junk food

or junk food toddlers eat?
There is a timely article in this morning's paper about some "research" concerning the eating habits of pre-school children. It sets off the usual alarm bell about "not enough fruit and vegetables".
It is timely because I made gingerbread yesterday. I make it every year. One lot goes to the staff in the local green grocery. The boys who work in there have been dropping gentle hints for the past two weeks. No, I won't be allowed to forget. 
I can tease them and tell them they have to eat their "vegies" first. That isn't a problem. Everyone who works in there eats fruit and vegetables as a matter of course.
We do in this house. The Senior Cat will tease me as I put the plate down in front of me, "Not enough vegetables" and I will say, "Which one did I miss out this time?" It's the sort of in-family banter that other people don't always understand.
But, across the road, the two young granddaughters of our neighbours are now at school and still not eating "properly" in that they are eating almost nothing in the way of fruit and vegetables. They seem to exist on "Vegemite toast" and "Vegemite sandwiches" (white sliced bread only) and things like cake and ice-cream with a bit of yoghurt thrown in. No, I am not exaggerating. They will drink milk.
There is another child in this district who is still taking a banana sandwich to school each day. It is his lunch. It is all he will eat. When the price of bananas rose dramatically for a short period some years ago and his mother did not buy them he just took bread and  butter. He won't consider any other sort of sandwich and he must be in the late primary school now. 
I was talking about this with someone who called in yesterday as I was rolling out gingerbread dough and cutting out the shapes. She told me how her grandmother had helped her to do the same thing. Her grandmother brought her up after the death of her mother.  She was not quite a year old when this occurred. We talked about young children and food, how her grandchildren are "fussy eaters" at home. With her however they will eat most things.
      "When they were small I did what my grandmother did. She grated the carrot and the cheese. She sliced things and diced things so that they were small. I was expected to eat what was put in front of me but she made it attractive to a small child. We all ate together and it didn't seem rushed."
I thought about that this morning when I was reading the article. I know food habits have changed dramatically. When I was a kitten "junk food" was not common. We had sweets of course - although not as many as most children - but things like a packet of crisps were a rarity and lemonade was only had at Christmas or on a birthday...and not always then.  But, it was more than that. My mother had to prepare meals from scratch. There was no other way to do it where we lived. There wasn't much variety either. I was an adult before I tasted broccoli and courgettes even though I knew about carrots and cabbage. Fruit was a treat because we lived where it was hard to get. 
And yes, we all ate together and it didn't seem rushed. Perhaps there is something in preparation and togetherness?

Friday, 16 December 2016

THe power will go out again

this summer. It is not a matter of wondering "if" it will but "when" it will. We know it is bound to happen on more than one day. We know it will happen on the very hottest days when everyone wants their air conditioning. It will happen when people are trying to keep food fresh and drinks cold in the refrigerator.
We have had a couple of major black outs in this state this year. They have caused widespread damage - to business and confidence. 
We have the most expensive and unreliable electricity supply in the country. Is it any wonder that unemployment is up? Despite all this the Greens still want us to go 100% green. 
You know, I'd like to go 100% green and 100% renewable and I'd like to do it cheaply. It would be nice to know we are doing our bit for the environment.
This year I am more concerned about what will happen if we have a major blackout and the emergency services cannot communicate with one another. That could happen. Those mobile phone towers need power - and their back up arrangements are wildly unreliable. I try not to think of disasters that could happen...but I do have an imagination. And yes, I worry about how the Senior Cat will cope in the heat. He wasn't  comfortable last summer. 
But all this pales into insignificance when I consider that there are people who had electricity but have now been without it for months. They had food, water, shelter, friends, neighbours, jobs and more. They are still living under constant threat of "the next bomb might land on us". 
It is easy to blame Assad, the regime, the Russians, the rebels - and more. There is a humanitarian emergency of massive proportions unfolding in Syria and I am not interested in the local director of the Save the Children Fund doing his bit on television telling us how the aid trucks can't get in. I know those lorries can't get in. I know what's on those lorries. I also know damn well why those lorries can't get in. 
It's all about power. What's on those lorries is seen as power. If you can withhold food and shelter then you have power.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

There are almost a million people on the move

in Syria. There are millions of refugees in the rest of the world too.  And no, there isn't much we can do about it.  It has happened. We might be able to do something about the future but that's a different story. It's the past I need to think about. 
I need to think about the people who have already been affected. I need to think particularly about the children.
Yesterday I had another one of those requests I dread. The email read, "We found him wandering alone. He seems to be about four but it's difficult to tell because he is severely malnourished. He won't look at us. He won't speak. I gave him a pencil and some paper but he didn't touch it. He just curled up as if he wants to die. S... said you might know how to help."
There was more of course...and there are more children like him. We see too many pictures of distressed mothers and children - mothers doing their best to protect their children and sometimes other children as well. One woman had taken her own children and those of a neighbour several hundred kilometres to relative safety but they still needed help for the three deaf children. Her story is not unusual.
What we don't  see are the completely unaccompanied children, children too young to care for themselves. I don't mean the teenage boys - of whom there are many. Yes, many of them will get into trouble too but they present a different set of problems. I am talking about children, small human beings under the age of twelve - and perhaps much younger than that - who have no adult to be responsible for them. They may have been accidentally separated but it is more likely their parents are dead or have disappeared. Some have simply been abandoned by people driven insane by the war around them.  Others have run off in sheer terror. We hear very little about these children. Yes,  sometimes they are recognised and they are taken in by a distant relative or someone who recognises them as "X's child from down the street". Sometimes they are taken by people claiming to know who they are - and then vilely abused before being abandoned again. They are often the last to get food and shelter because there is nobody to fight for them. They have wounds you can see and even bigger wounds you can't see. Too many of them have lost the ability to communicate. They can't remember what happened. Some of them cannot even remember their own names. These are the lost children, the children who should be attending school and playing in the street. These are the children who should be giggling and calling to one another, and driving their parents "crazy" with questions and demands. They should be thinking about birthdays, bikes, books and their "best friend". Instead they are silent.
I don't know how many such children there are wandering in Eastern Aleppo. One is too many. The city of Aleppo may have fallen almost silent for now but the war isn't over. It has only just started.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

NAPLAN is back in the news!

Shock! Horror! Our little darlings are not doing as well in school as the authorities would like. They should be doing better! All that money schools have been given and they still aren't doing well! It's terrible! They need more money! The last two years of Gonski funding are absolutely essential! It will make all the difference!
Okay everyone, calm down. You see there was an absolutely delightful story of a young man who came to Downunder two years ago. He didn't speak English then. Now he not only speaks English but he came dux of his school. 
He worked.
I have seen this happen myself. One of my English language students at  university was a Chinese woman. She was a scientist in a field which meant nothing to me but when she arrived her English was limited. Her "social" English was even more limited. At 7am in the morning, hail, rain, wind or shine Xi would arrive on my doorstep and we would make tea and I would give her an English lesson. It was hard work for both of us but Xi worked so hard that I never regretted those early mornings. Six months later she was, by some miracle, able to bring her husband and two girls out from China - and they stayed. She taught them as I had taught her. I gave them a bit of extra help. Her husband went to just six weeks of intensive English classes - just as Xi had - and then found a job in another laboratory. No, I didn't need to help him too. Someone else did that.
And the girls? They started at school. They worked. They worked some more. Three years later the older girl was dux of her school too.
Yes, they were intelligent but they also worked at it. I saw that for myself. I went to a meal at their almost bare little place not long after the rest of the family had arrived. They went out and bought me a knife and fork because they weren't sure I could use chopsticks - which was typically thoughtful of Xi. I was feeling very nervous. Eating with strangers is an ordeal in itself but when they don't even speak English it seems even worse. But...the girls kept trying to use their English. The entire meal was one long English lesson. They listened intently. They tried - and tried again. 
They had come to live in a new country. The classes were smaller. The opportunities were much greater. They were going to make the most of it. 
They've both been through university now. They are professional women. They have married and have families. People would say they are a "success" story. I'd say they were an example of intelligence and consistent effort.
I don't think pouring more money into education is necessary - unless you want to pour it into renewing the school library service.
If we stop thinking of schools as places of "social engineering" and think of them as places of "learning" then I don't think anyone will need to worry about NAPLAN results.  They will just be good anyway.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Post Office is

crowded at this time of the year. There is an ant like queue out the door.
The staff, most of whom I know, seem to be cheerful enough but - underneath - I sense a longing for  closing time on the 24th December. (Yes, the Post Office opens on Saturdays before Christmas!) I will provide them with shortbread sometime next week - just to keep them going. It's tradition now.
But I am reminded of our late friend B... In her "retirement" she would, among other things, take a job sorting mail at Christmas time. 
It isn't the sort of thing you expect a woman in her 80's to do but she would do it. The money went to one of her favourite charities and the Post Office loved to have her there...because she knew her geography. The younger staff could rely on her. 
They would be sorting mail to this state and that and look up and ask her, "B....where's Kyancutta?"
She would respond instantly. If someone had put her on a quiz show and asked her where Pidnippie or Moculta was she would not have hesitated. How did you travel from Pannawonica to Thangoo? Not a problem. She could probably have told you what "grade" the road was. 
In all probability she had been there with her husband. They would have been pulling a small, old fashioned caravan in a car that had none of the fancy electronic gadgets that modern cars have. They knew Downunder better than anyone I have ever met. She knew a great deal of the rest of the world pretty well too. What's the capital of....? What's the name of the river which flows through...? Ask B... because, in all likelihood, she would know. No wonder the Post Office found her so useful at the height of the Christmas silly season.
I was reminded of all this because I have just had to explain for the second time that Cambridge, England is not in Andorra. I ordered a book for a friend in England to give to her granddaughter. I got a message saying that the address was incorrect. I checked. Somehow their website had added Andorra to the address - which already clearly said "England" with the correct post-code.   The first person had the sense to realise it wasn't correct and sent me a message asking me to re-order it. The second person sent me a message asking if the address was correct. I have sent a message back telling them that there is a blip in their system. This is not my problem. It is theirs.  
Or is there a Cambridge in Andorra? I doubt it. B... would have known.

Monday, 12 December 2016

"No Gender December"?

I am not sure I really believed it but I read "No Gender December" and then "buy your boy a Barbie and your girl a gun".
Hold it right there. I wouldn't buy anyone a Barbie or a gun. Okay maybe people are trying to make an alliterative point but I am also unsure about the point they are trying to make. 
I don't see anything wrong with acknowledging a difference between the sexes. It's not the difference which is wrong. It is what people do with the difference that causes the problems. There's nothing wrong with girls being automotive mechanics and boys being nursery nurses. There is something wrong when we try to "encourage" them to do those things when they would both rather be airline pilots or deep sea divers. 
Our new neighbours have a just-turned-three boy. He's an absolute delight. He is also what is sometimes described as "all-boy". He likes vehicles of any sort. He likes building sites and can tell you quite a lot about them. His mother is a paediatrician and strikes me as being a very sensible sort of person with a no nonsense attitude towards bringing up children. I am sure if T... wanted to play with a doll it wouldn't bother her at all - but she won't be buying him a Barbie for Christmas and she wouldn't want anyone else to do it either. You see, she knows T... would prefer to play with a set of blocks or use a truck to deliver "cement" to a building site. He was out "helping Daddy" on Saturday afternoon. It was where he wanted to be. 
And I know a lot of other children who are much the same. Their parents aren't particularly gender conscious. They don't have gender expectations. If their girls want to do something with their lives that has always been seen as "masculine" they will accept it and encourage their efforts...but they won't try and tell them that this is what they should be doing. They won't buy a pink bike for their sons and a blue one for their daughter. They won't expect their boys to accept a toy dolls' house when they really wanted a garage. 
But I wonder whether there will  be parents who will be influenced by this "No Gender December" group. Will they give their children toys they think they should have rather than toys their children will actually play with? 
I can imagine a boy and a girl getting together and shooting Barbie with the gun, burying both things and finding something else destructive to do. I'd rather buy them a book of things to do - science experiments perhaps? 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

"Anna" and "Elsa"

appeared on my screen yesterday. Our neighbour across the road sent me a picture of her two granddaughters dressed up as the two characters from "Frozen". 
I haven't seen the film. I don't want to. I think she is also heartily sick of the whole thing. But, she did make the most wonderful "dress up" dress for the younger one. The older girl already had her "Elsa" costume.
I am trying to remember "dressing up" as a child - and I can't. The Senior Cat can't remember me doing it either. Oddly, I don't think I did. I can remember wearing a costume and fancy dress but I can't remember just dressing up to play. 
I know my brother had a "cowboy" outfit and Middle Cat had to have one too but I didn't have anything like that.  I know I pretended to be things and do things but I didn't dress up to do it. We didn't have a box of old clothes for that purpose. It's odd now that I think about it.
I remember being dressed as a rabbit for a church Christmas party. It must have been the  year I was about to turn three. My paternal grandmother made the costume. It was ideal for me.  It meant I could "hop" around the floor. I stayed in character the entire evening.
Some years later we had to go to school in fancy dress for a Christmas party. Again my paternal grandmother to the rescue. She turned me into a "letter box". She covered a cardboard box in red crepe paper and put me inside it with holes for my head and arms. It had the necessary posting times and so on printed on the outside. I won a prize for that - a chocolate frog - because it was so completely different from all the princesses and fairies and nurses in the room. Now I wonder where she got the idea from and I wish she was around to ask.
I sometimes see children who have "dressed up" in the shopping centre. They will be wearing a Batman or Superman or Spiderman outfit...or a fairy costume. You have to be careful talking to them because you don't know who they are right then - Batman or Brendan? It is easy to get it wrong.
And there are those odd mixtures - the trainers and jeans with the tutu and the sparkly t-shirt - which suggest that they could be either themselves or someone else.
I love the way they seem to completely lacking in self-consciousness  about dressing up and appearing in public. They don't seem to mind having their faces painted either.  I am sure I would have protested loudly if anyone had tried. 
Maybe I didn't want to dress up. I squirm at the thought that I was so self-conscious at such an early age. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

There is "slow news day" story

on the front page of our state newspaper this morning. It purports to tell the story of how the police broke the law in order to solve a series of murders.
The murders, known as the Truro murders because two of the seven victims were found buried at Truro, were horrific. They occurred while I was living in London so I knew only what my family and old work colleagues told me in letters home. My sisters travelled everywhere together or with someone else for some time and I imagine other girls did the same thing. Nobody mentioned the names of the victims.
When I returned I worked for two years at one of the universities and, on the staff there, I met the father of one of the victims. Just before the meeting we were both attending the head of the social work school pulled me to one side and said quietly, "You might not know. It's the anniversary today."
I must have looked puzzled because she said, "M..M's daughter."
When it was obvious I had no idea what she was talking about she explained that one of the people I was about to meet was the father of one of  the girls who had been murdered. 
I think you always expect this to happen to "other people". It's not real. You don't expect people you know to commit suicide or die in accidents  and you most certainly don't expect them to be murdered or their children to be murdered. What the head of the social work school would have had no way of knowing was that I knew this man's wife. I knew her quite well. Our paths hadn't crossed since I had returned but that hadn't signified anything.
So, when I met this man I could ask after A-M. It meant something to him. He would occasionally drop by my office. When I needed some help he was the first to volunteer. 
I left for another university in another state and one Easter there was a note from M..M. His wife was coming over to a conference. She would be staying in the same hall of residence as I was. Would I watch out for her? She wouldn't know anyone else. It was the first time she had been away from him since... he couldn't put that on paper. It didn't matter I knew what he meant.
It was, I think, an enormous effort for both of them but they were trying to move on. They didn't forget. They would never forget but they wanted to make the effort to live as normally as possible. 
When she arrived someone in the reception office let me know. She looked almost frightened and I  suspected she had been weeping so I quietly told a couple of people I trusted and they offered her small things like "Are you going to sit with us?" and "If you're ready to go can we walk over together?"
I wasn't at the conference so I had to rely on them to do the job and they did it well. There was only incident and she handled it well enough although she came and wept briefly on my shoulder a short time later. It confirmed my view that the man in question was completely unfit to enter the profession for which he was training.
But the acts of kindness by those I trusted and those they also quietly told meant much more to her. She returned them in full and more. At the end of three days she looked more like the person I had once known. At the end of five days she went home with plans for the future.
Ill health took both M...M and A-M a few years later. At their funerals people mentioned their many small acts of kindness to each other - and other people.
 Today's article in the paper says nothing about that  but I learned a lot from both of them

Friday, 9 December 2016

So I went to yet another funeral

yesterday...for a friend of twenty-eight years. 
The day I met her she was kneeling on the floor in the library looking for a book. It wasn't there. The system said it should be there and she was determined to find it. By sheer chance I found it and we became friends.
M... was unemployed and she remained officially unemployed but she was also one of the most "employed" people I have ever known. She helped others...and then helped some more. Walk into the shopping centre and M... would be there making a "cuppa" last seemingly forever while she listened to someone, helped someone, encouraged someone, befriended a stranger who needed "a bit of help".
See her in the street? Yes. She walked everywhere and usually with someone. If not, she would be standing there talking to them. She met more people on buses than most people meet everywhere in a life time.
She helped out serving meals to the lost, lonely, homeless and helpless. She sorted out paper work for the intellectually disabled and brain damaged. She read sociology, theology, psychology. She sang in a group. She went walking in the hills and along the beach - and worried about the environment. She liked humour and comic films. 
The church was packed. There were people standing at the back. There were wonderful tributes to her from family and friends.
M... was 56 when she died of an inoperable cancer. People said she remained cheerful until the end. It sounded as good as it could be in the circumstances.
Nobody mentioned the fact that M....also suffered from depression and severe doubts about herself. Nobody knew that last year, while she was still well, she booked a trip to a place she had always wanted to see - and then didn't go because, she told me, she wasn't brave enough to go alone. 
Yes, there was another side to M... a side that needed the same support that she was so busy giving others. Most people never knew and would never have recognised it. They expected M... to be there for all their lives - not just hers.
The priest gave a short and simple sermon. He started by telling everyone that, one night, M...sent him a text at midnight. She needed to see him there and then. Would he come? He was already, as he put it, "tucked up in a nice, warm bed". Did she really need him? Yes!
He went - and it is clear from what he had to say that he got as much, if not more, from their time together that night. And I will be forever thankful that he went when she asked him because she asked so little of others.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Cutting a 1000 beds

from the hospital system in this state would not be a good idea. This morning's paper is full of "top secret reports" about this. It makes for the sort of headlines that the media dreams about. It gives people something to talk about. Rumours fly around and get drunk in with the morning coffee in the office or eaten with lunch at the local cafe. 
There has even been talk of closing the "WCH" - the Women's and Children's Hospital. That would be a mistake. 
When I was a kitten it was simply a hospital for children. I don't know how big it was. I know they were expanding it. I can remember being taken for "a walk" and being pushed by a nurse across mustard coloured sand being used on the site of the then new building. Nowadays it is an "old" building...and there are two even older buildings on the same site. 
I made numerous trips there when I was teaching. My profoundly disabled students spent far too much time in hospital but the place treated them well. I have been in and out of the WCH since then too - being called in to help children with profound communication problems for the most part. The fact that the hospital staff are not just willing but anxious to get help with such things indicates a different ethos. The people who work there do, for the most part, want to work with children. 
My doctor nephew did a stint there while he was training. He also confirmed my view that the WCH doesn't work quite the same way as a hospital for adults.  He liked working with the children and might even have chosen to go on working with them but was less keen on having to handle over-anxious parents.
Our newest adult neighbour is a paediatrician and I sense the same attitude in her. You have to work with children in a different way. They need adults who specialise in caring for children while also being qualified in their specialist fields. Staff have to be prepared to work with that clown doctor around to distract the child. They need to use language a child can understand. They need patience.
And they need a sense of humour. My first visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children will forever be stamped in my memory by the sight of a young doctor crawling out from under a bed. He looked up at me with a wry smile and said,
"First catch your patient."
No, we can't just close the WCH. It doesn't work like that.