Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Trying to "kill" someone's attitude

with kindness is difficult. 
There is someone I know who is not an easy person to get along with but I need to get along with this person. I do get along with about 99% of the human population. We might not be friends but I am civil to them and they are civil to me.
There have been a few, a very few, people who have been rude to the point of being thoroughly obnoxious. I have avoided them where possible.  I have been fortunate to count among my friends people from an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds and beliefs.
There are many others I consider as casual acquaintances. We rub along like most other casual acquaintances. We say hello or exchange a remark about the weather or even just nod an acknowledgment.  I talk to their dogs tied up outside the library or where I park my trike at the shopping centre. We might have a slightly longer conversation waiting for a train. 
And then there is this lonely person. I have mentioned her before. We both belong to the same group. I have written about her before. Lately she hasn't even been ready to acknowledge me, indeed has gone out of her way to ignore me. I don't know what brought it on and neither does anyone else. We have a theory she may have forgotten something she was told months ago and found herself in an embarrassing position because of it.  As we both belong to the same group it has been difficult. It has been difficult for everyone, not just for me. 
As regular readers of witterings know, I did some baking on Sunday. I made the Christmas cakes. I wrote about giving this person a small one. And I did. I packed it  up with some shortbread and something I hoped she might enjoy using. I put in a little note saying we would like to see her yesterday. She didn't come and I will admit I was disappointed. Perhaps I expected too much. She hadn't even left an email to acknowledge she had received what I left for her. I tried shrugging and telling myself I had tried - and trying is surely what counts?
This morning I removed some advertising literature from the letter box and, underneath it, there was an envelope with my name on it. Inside the envelope there was a proper little note card with a very  brief message. 
It's a start. Perhaps we can move on from there.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The microwave oven and

the Senior Cat have a love-hate affair. He has been using it for years. He uses it once a day to heat the milk for his breakfast (instant) coffee. (We are not real coffee drinkers.)
There are days when he gets it right and days when he gets it wrong. I think it has something to do with whether he is trying to read the paper at the same time. He needs to concentrate on one job at a time.
I remember the first microwave we got. (This is the second one.) My mother was interested. In her usual style she investigated rather than rushed out and bought one. She thought it "might be useful" and took the Senior Cat off to a class about how to use one. He was more interested in how they worked than the cooking side. I was elsewhere at the time but I heard about "shorter cooking times" and other things.
The microwave was duly bought. My mother experimented. It was not always successful. The recipe book which came with the oven promised all sorts of wonderful things. It should have been had up for false advertising. Some things simply didn't work. The texture of others changed in ways we didn't care for.  The pastry was always soggy.
An acquaintance of theirs swore by them. She had not one but two. She didn't use the conventional cook top or oven at all. 
      "Don't need them," she would say, "You can do anything and it tastes just the same."
It didn't. Her pastry was always soggy. 
My mother never quite gave up on the microwave. She would read the two recipe books she had bought that promised time saving microwave magic and try again...and again.
Eventually it reached the point where she couldn't cook. I took over. I eyed the microwave and said to myself, "I'll get you to work for me."
And it does. It heats most things very nicely. I even occasionally give it something to cook but I know it is a fussy little thing.
I never give it pastry. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

I made Christmas cakes

yesterday. The recipe I  used is over a hundred years old. It still works. It's one of the amazing things about recipes.
The process started several days ago of course. I weighed out fruit and put it into two bowls. I added the only alcohol used in this house and I stirred it around. I covered it and left it.
On the following days I went back to it several times and gave it a stir.
Two bowls? Yes, two bowls. I didn't have a bowl large enough for the fruit for two big cakes - and some smaller cakes.
I make one cake for Middle Cat. Middle Cat does not bake at all - apart from chocolate cake packet mix. That doesn't remotely resemble cake in my book but she has been known to make it. If I am going to make cake I will start with a recipe. I have been known to change things along the way, according to the ingredients to hand but I start with a recipe. This  year's fruit cake had the right amount of fruit in approximately the right proportions. I flung in a few extra currants - because what is the point of having about two tablespoons of currants left in the packet? 
I make the other cake for Cousin Cat. He lives in London. I am not sure he could make a fruit cake. I am sure his partner could but he works long hours and, if they are flying out here to see us, I can make the cake and they can take it back with them. They always seem to find room in their luggage. I am told there is something comforting about eating fruit cake and drinking hot tea in the middle of a wintry London afternoon. Mmm...yes, I remember doing something like that.
And then there are the little cakes. I have three small loaf tins. They make cakes the perfect size to give people who live alone. The people I have given them to have changed over the years. Some of them have died or moved on or now live in nursing homes and are unable to eat cake but it seems there are always people who need cake.
This year I will give one to someone who lost her husband some weeks ago. I know she won't make cake. She may not eat it herself but I know she will use it with the visitors she is expecting. 
I will give one to a friend who is going interstate for Christmas. She won't have time to make anything like that but I know she can use it. It will be a way of saying "thanks" for something she did earlier in the year.
And I have given a lot of thought to the last recipient. She isn't a friend and I know most people would say, "Why bother?" 
I'll bother because I don't think anyone else will. It might not be accepted and I doubt it will be accepted graciously. I'll be disappointed if it isn't accepted at all but at least I will have tried.
You see, this person is lonely and unhappy - and nobody should be like that at Christmas.
And no, I am not being good or thoughtful or caring. It's just that I feel guilty about having all I have.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

So Castro's dead?

Apparently the Cubans in Miami were partying in the streets into the small hours of the morning at news of his death. I am not sure why. Will anything change in Cuba?
Probably nothing much will change. Raoul is in control. His policies are little different from those of his brother. Unless there is another revolution Cubans will go on being poor in a communist state.
I have never believed in old style communism. I never believed in the policies of Chairman Mao and his little book. Even as an idealistic teenager - and  yes, I was one - I didn't believe in those things. 
I believed then, as I do now, that everyone is equal. They are equal in the sense that all life is valuable and has the potential for good. We also have to acknowledge and accept that everyone is different. The idea that someone who cleans the operating theatre is worth less than the surgeon who operates in it doesn't wash with me. I don't believe it. But the idea that the cleaner who works fixed hours and then leaves work should be paid an equal or greater amount to the surgeon and all s/he takes on doesn't wash with me either. That's not equality. 
Telling people what to think, say, and do isn't equality either. That's more about denying the obvious truth that people are different. 
And,  if everyone is equal, why is there a "Dear Leader" with all the privileges and power able to dictate to others? Why do some many of them dress in military type attire?
Yes, I know it's naive on my part. I'm not smart at political thinking. I've never formally studied the subject. I don't understand. 
But I do understand human misery. I do understand repression...and fear...and poverty...and lack of information. Cuba has had too much of that. If that's "communism" at work then, to my mind, it doesn't work.  It isn't respect for other people driving it, it's the opposite. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

"I didn't think my hearing was that bad,"

the Senior Cat told me when he came home, "No wonder you have been complaining about having to repeat things."
Middle Cat had taken him to the audiologist. She deals with his medical issues because she drives and I don't. She also has a greater medical background.
But I do know a considerable amount about deafness. Some of the children I taught had considerable hearing losses. Three were profoundly deaf as well as physically disabled. I was required, among other things, to test them at regular intervals.
I wasn't required to do the detailed sort of test that the Senior Cat underwent. We didn't have the equipment for that and the children would not have been able to participate in the same way. I would plot a graph - leaving someone else to draw the lines as that is not the sort of thing my paws are good at - and we would compare it with a previous graph. 
I knew what the Senior Cat's results would be like - not good. I have been catching his attention and then saying whatever needed to be said. He has sometimes grumbled I don't speak clearly - something I cannot be accused of!
A late friend of my mother, someone she went to teachers' college with, married very late in life. The man she married had been the Moderator of the Presbyterian church. He was a man who had spent his entire life communicating - and doing it well. He liked to listen as well as speak but, in old age, he became not just deaf but profoundly deaf. He couldn't use hearing aids. They simply didn't help. He couldn't get much from lip reading. It's an art that few people master sufficiently well to be of immense value. You get about 20% of information that way - perhaps a little more if you start at a very early age. 
His wife took this, as she had taken so many other things in her life, and dealt with it. When he died she had notebook after notebook filled with her neat writing. Every time she wanted to say something to him she wrote it down. The notebooks were filled with one side of seemingly endless conversations.  He talked back to her so of course the record was not complete. There was only what she "said" there. It was a remarkable record.  
It would be more awkward if I had to do that - in fact almost impossible. Instead the Senior Cat is going to get new hearing aids. He gave up on the others. They didn't fit properly and they were not correctly adjusted. I was aware of that but the previous place he attended insisted they were "right" and that "he just has to get used to them". Middle Cat finally growled and took him off to another place. The new audiologist agreed with me and her. They didn't fit properly and she actually said, "They must have been uncomfortable."
Hopefully the new ones will help. I really don't want to try and write endless messages legibly and I do want to talk to him!

Friday, 25 November 2016

"So, what's this?"

the boy at the checkout asks me.
           "A mango."
           "Oh, my Mum doesn't cook those. Actually she doesn't cook much at all."
He has to hunt for the price code. Weighs it and adds it to my cauliflower and the tomatoes.
         I am silent trying to work out the idea of cooking the mango. 
I had intended it for salad.
The people who work in our local supermarket are often young students. It is store policy to employ them. On the whole it works well. Around exam time there no doubt needs to be some juggling of the rosters and the older staff or the few non-students take over. There is one grossly overweight and  unattractive looking member of staff who usually puts in more hours. It's an effort for her. She has difficulty spending too long on her feet. She can't help her weight. It's an endocrinal condition I think. I know it's medical. I met her in the chemist waiting for a prescription on one occasion and she told me about it. She is often frowning. It puts people off. They avoid her. It's sad because she is actually very competent and knowledgeable. She was the first to commit to memory the new layout of the expanded store. She is the one who can say promptly something like, "Aisle 8, on the left hand side about half way up on the bottom shelf." Most of the staff can give you an aisle number but leave it at that.
She heard the remark about the mango and said to me later, "I hope you stewed it well."
We smiled at each other but I did wonder about anyone believing you needed to cook a mango. His mother "doesn't cook much at all"? I wonder what they eat? He looks healthy enough but how would I know? 
I try to give the Senior Cat a balanced diet in a way which will allow him to enjoy his meals. He's not a big eater. He never has been. These days he eats even less. I don't do desserts as such but I will cut up fruit. I have been known to stew plums and add custard. I don't make pudding, not even for Christmas. The Senior Cat doesn't care for such things and I care even less. 
I don't eat chutney of any sort and the Senior Cat isn't keen on such things either so mango chutney is not part of our diet. Out of curiosity I may investigate recipes which include mangoes.
But - I don't think I will be stewing a mango.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The title of "Senior Counsel" or "Queen's Counsel"

should be reserved for the very best of the legal profession. It should be a rare honour bestowed upon a very few. Those granted the title should also be working  as barristers. They should have a string of successful court appearances behind them. That does not mean they should always have "won" the case but that they have served their clients well and obtained the best possible outcome for them.
The Attorney-General in this state has just applied for and been granted that honour. It was a mistake.
He should not have applied. Those responsible should not have granted it.
It might be seen as "unfair" but the Attorney-General is a politician. He may have a legal role in politics but he is not working as a barrister. He has been in parliament for fourteen years. It is highly unlikely that he has kept up to date with the minutiae of what is going on in the legal profession. That's important. 
Of course the Supreme Court - which approves the appointment of an SC - was placed in an impossible position. They were going to be criticised if they made the appointment and they were going to be criticised they did not make the appointment. They apparently saw the making of the appointment as the lesser of two evils. To suggest in any  way that they do not have confidence in the Attorney-General would not  have been a wise move, particularly if the government is returned at the election  in March next year.  Obviously the Attorney-General knew that and used it to his advantage. 
Labor has been in power in this state for the past sixteen years. Labor did not actually win the last election. The result was a hung parliament. They have had to rely on  "independents" in order to retain government. One of  those was the local MP who switched sides without the consent of his electorate. 
Anything could happen in March next year - or perhaps the Attorney-General has a crystal ball and already knows what the result will be? He says he is contesting the next election so....

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

"A little French restaurant....

it was what I had always wanted to do," B.... told me.
Another friend has died. I will admit she was in her 80's and she had been treated for cancer but she still seemed full of life.
We first met her not long after they moved in close to us. Mutual friends introduced us. Soon she and her husband invited us "around the corner" for a meal.
What a meal! No, it wasn't incredibly exotic. There were no strange ingredients. The portions were not huge.
It was just right. The ingredients were simple. The portions were the size that could be enjoyed. The presentation was superb. We felt as if we were eating in a five star hotel...or even better.
She laughed and said, "When I retired we opened a little French restaurant. I did the cooking and O.... did the service. We employed just one other person. It was something I always wanted to do. We ran it for eight years and sold it at a profit."
That takes some doing. The amount of work involved must have been enormous. They loved doing it but they knew when to stop. B... went on cooking and baking.
She came to the event for me some weeks ago and she told Middle Cat, "I'm bringing cake so don't worry about getting any cake." Middle Cat didn't even bother to argue. B... was making cake. I didn't get a piece...growl! I am not that fond of cake. Most of the time I am happy to ignore it but hers were as light as the proverbial feather. That cake was no exception. Everyone who had some thought it was wonderful. I complained (nicely) to her that everyone else had enjoyed it and she laughed again. "I'm going to make you one. Come up..." She was living in a retirement village but had her own little kitchen. We arranged a date but she put me off saying she wasn't feeling the best. And that was it. We didn't see one another again.  I wish I had. The cake didn't matter at all. We both knew that. It was her company that mattered.
I loved the way we could invite her and her husband to eat with us and say, "Come to the house of the amateur cooks." I'd never try anything fancy either. It never looked as good but she would give me a hug and tell me it tasted good. I actually made "proper coffee" for her...we have instant by preference and I don't even really like that. If she called in at morning tea time she liked to have tea made with rain water and proper tea leaves in a pot...made by me.  I can understand her liking the difference between that and the tap water of this city and a tea bag dunked in hot water!
Her husband developed Alzheimer's so they moved into a retirement village where he could eventually get extra care. Her mother was still in the nursing section of the same place. She cheerfully cared for both of them. When they died she found other things to do. She sewed and came to me for help with knitting. We went on having morning and afternoon tea on occasions...
and sometimes she made cake. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Senior Cat is up early

this morning...yawn! I am not sure how he did it. It may have something to do with the fact he curled up on his sleeping mat rather early last night. It had been a rather hot day and the kittens had come to visit for the last time on this trip.
The great-grandkittens exhausted him. He loved it. The remaining three came and spent time with him yesterday. They came running down the path, flung the front door back (it was on just the wire screen door) and tore inside calling out, "Grandpa! Grandpa, we're here!" 
Three days ago they were looking rather cautiously at him. They couldn't remember him from their last visit apart from J....having a vague idea that he was "old".
Well yes, he is old. He is also young. He genuinely enjoys young kittens. 
Yesterday he taught the eldest a "magic trick". She was in awe. It is a very simple illusion but an effective one. It was simple enough for her to handle. In return she drew him a picture and wrote on it. Her writing is far better than that of the two grandkittens across the road although they are older. Her drawing is neat and careful too. The Senior Cat promptly added it to the collection on the fridge. How do households with the new plastic fridges manage to store such gems?  Fridges were made to be art galleries of considerable importance! 
And the middle kitten climbed up next to me and demanded, "Tell me a story please." I indicated the pile of books I had left out but she looked quite cross, "No, tell me a story - not a book one, a real one."
A real story. It's interesting that she already knows the difference.
I thought for a moment and then I said, "Well, all the very best stories - even the real stories - begin this way....once upon a time..."
And we told the story between us. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

There is never a "good" time to die

but the loss of four young men in yet another road "accident" at this time of the year seems even more tragic than usual.
It didn't need to happen. Was speed an issue? Almost certainly. Were the last few conscious seconds of their lives terrifying? Almost certainly.
It is one hell of a waste. It has wrenched four families apart. They won't be celebrating Christmas or New Year - and every Christmas and New Year from now on will be a reminder of what might have been.
The caravan and cabin park where the kittens have been staying with their parents has a 5kmh speed limit - and yes, people observe it. If they don't they are liable to get kicked unceremoniously out of their site. Rightly so too because there are children all over the place. It's that sort of place.
But children do not have "road sense". They can be taught road rules. They may even seem to understand them but they still don't have "road sense". It takes years of being in among traffic to begin to understand traffic and how to interact with it.
As a kitten I rode my tricycle to school alone from the age of six. My school was about a mile away I suppose - at least that, perhaps a bit more. Up until then I was either taken to school on the cross  bar of my father's bike or I rode on the rear of the pram with my mother pushing. Other children would have walked the same distance. It was what everyone in the district did. Many people didn't even own a car. Traffic was light but there were still several big roads to cross. 
I rode on the footpath of course. I suppose there were people who knew me all along my route. I knew about "going straight to school" and "coming straight home". Being late was not an option. You put your paws on the pedals and kept going until you got there. I parked in among the bicycles - and one or two other tricycles. We didn't lock them up but nobody ever seemed to lose one.
Riding to school alone at that age would now have social services on the door step and accusations of serious neglect. They would no doubt be right because the traffic is heavier and there are less people out and about on foot and able to help if something goes wrong. 
And it means that children are not learning about traffic. Cocooned in a car they don't get the same sense of what traffic is about or what it is doing or how they need to interact with it.
There is the occasional "walk to school" day here. Most people ignore it. They just don't have time to  be bothered. It's time we should make because it might just reduce the number of senseless deaths caused by not understanding what traffic is, what speed does and more. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Some of the temporary migrants

are returning home today. That will leave three small kittens rather than five. We won't see them until later today. 
Yesterday they went to the "big playground". This is an "adventure playground" on the other side of the city. 
Fearless as ever they sailed down the gigantic slide - having climbed what must have seemed an enormous height. They swung and rolled and jumped and did all sorts of other things too. 
They consumed fish and chips for lunch and then, instead of just sitting there - what a thought! - they headed for more water. This time it was very shallow and just intended for splashing in. It squirts up occasionally of course - the cause of more laughter and squeals. They flung themselves back at the adults. I knew jeans were made for that very purpose but it was nice to have it confirmed.
Later they went back to the swimming pool and proved that they still had energy.
Everyone went out for a meal last night. We have been there before. It is cheap. It is cheerful. The food is reasonable and - most important of all - the staff are tolerant of lively children. Yes, they behaved well but they are lively. They coloured in more pictures at the table. They wandered around looking at other people and other things. The youngest explored everything within sight - looking back occasionally to make sure she could see the people she knew. Her father swooped every time he thought she might go too far.
At two she could tell him "Just looking Daddy!"
Eventually they sat and ate. The just turned four year old kitten sat next to me and consumed a "child size" serve of pasta. She ate it delicately, one strand at a time - with her fingers. Her father just shrugged and made sure that her fingers were clean to start with and that there was an extra paper serviette or two within reach. The child size serve was more than I could have comfortably consumed - and she ate a scoop of ice cream on top of that. (Interestingly she did not want caramel topping or sprinkles - just ice cream.) She told me all about this and what they had done... even the things I already knew about.
We will see her and P.... and J.... again today. "The others will be home but not us and we can have more fun with you. Will you tell us about Grandpa being little again?"
Grandpa of course is my brother. Great-Grandpa, the Senior Cat, is someone they were at first over-awed by but are now prepared to climb all over and talk to. He has problems hearing them but it is surprising how quickly they have learned to take it in turns to talk to him when two or even three of them will try and tell me something all at the same time.
We hope that the oldest of them will remember the Senior Cat well. They have the language to do that. I have memories back to around twelve months of age. Some of them are shadowy but others are sharp, very sharp indeed.  I had the language then to remember things now. My mother found my capacity to remember disturbing but remembering the past can only help to make sense of the present and handle the future.
So, today we will probably talk about Grandpa being little - and perhaps even about Great-Grandpa being little...and perhaps they will remember it. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The horde of temporary migrants

has descended on us. 
My niece looked hopefully over the heads of her three and I nodded. The activity packs were in the car.
The two families are not staying with us. We cannot accommodate six adults and five children. My brother and his partner are staying with Middle Cat. The rest have moved into the same place they stayed at last time. It is "cabin" accommodation near the beach. There is a swimming pool and a "bouncy pillow" and other attractions for the young. 
By the time we reached them however the smallest were in need of a slightly quieter occupation - at least for a short while. I pulled out the packs I had made.
They were labelled with their names. I looked at the oldest in the way which says "don't give the game away" and held up the first one.
That was the only boy and the four year old dealt with. I handed over the other two packs to the older two and looked at the two year old. She was standing there looking at me in a puzzled sort of way, her head on one side and a slightly anxious expression in her eyes.
I held out the last pack and said, "And this one is just for you."
She looked at her mother.
"Yes, it's yours. What do you say?"
"Thank you!" 
It was a positive squeal - unlike the still enthusiastic but more restrained and unprompted thanks from the others. They all headed for the grass.
H... turned his upside down and tipped everything out. The girls looked inside and pulled out things one at a time...even the youngest of them. 
It was not quiet...kittens of that age can make a lot of noise. They had a lot to say to one another. They checked very carefully to see that they all had exactly the same. "Except yours is purple and mine is pink and P... has yellow." "You've got jungle animals and me too only they are different." "I've got cats stickers and H...has dogs ones" and "Daddy I've got a sharpen thing in the top for my pencils!" (There was a little pencil sharpener in the top of the pencil pack. That was a great success.)
They ate biscuits. They coloured in for a while. They drew things and told me about them. "This is the water with the floatie" (The flotation device they strap to the back of the youngest who can, at the age of two, just swim a few strokes). 
And, "this is you with all the bags". There was the mere suggestion of a face over gigantic bags.
I think they liked them. My niece and nephew and their partners just shrugged over the number of biscuits consumed before the barbecue - which the kittens seemed capable of consuming anyway.
Later they sat there eating ice cream out of the brightly coloured plates - using large straws as spoons. 
The second eldest kitten looked up at the evening sky and sighed,
"I want it to be like this for ever and ever."
I wish it could be. I hope she remembers it. 

Friday, 18 November 2016

We are being invaded

today. It will be a long weekend - with the Senior Cat's great-grandchildren. 
There are five of them. The eldest is not yet eight. The youngest is just two. 
I am prepared. I have ammunition! 
I prowled into the local "cheap" shop. You know the sort of place I mean. They sell all sorts of "junk" and left overs and rejects and just plain "cheap" stuff.  
I rarely go there but  they can be useful - for things like cheap cards and wrapping paper for children and glue sticks and plastic boxes and more. 
This time I went hunting for paper bags -  the big brown sort with handles. Ah...two packs of three. 
I added five small packs of coloured pencils - in a useful container with a sharpener built into the top. Then I searched the colouring books. Most of them were dreadful but I did manage to find five four about a building site and another about emergency vehicles. I added a large blank book "for drawing in" and a small book of stickers with animal themes for each child. 
I searched a little further and found some packs of coloured plastic plates, cups, bowls and cutlery. There were six different colours in each one...good. I made up a set for each child. There's even a spare!
Mmm...great aunt's privilege comes next - one small packet of "healthy" sultanas and two tiny packets of less healthy Maltesers - left over from Halloween.  I'll add some biscuits to the "snack pack" today. They can leave the crumbs in the cars they are hiring to get them around. 
There's a big pile of picture books ready for reading. There's chalk to go and draw on the driveway. (That washes off again.) 
What else do I need?
Will it keep them occupied for ten minutes?
Taking them to the adventure playground tomorrow seems like a good idea...and it won't be me who does that! 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

There was a wman wearing an hijab

outside the local charity shop. She was looking at a small table which had been placed there for sale.
I was a little further down the road talking to someone who has not been well. A man, in his thirties perhaps, walked past us and stopped when he reached the woman wearing the hijab. 
I won't try and repeat his tirade here. Nobody needs to read that sort of thing. It amounted to "you have no business to be shopping here. You aren't a Christian. You should go back to where you came from."
I excused myself from the person I had been talking to and went up, phone in hand.
      "Excuse me, would you like me to call the police?"
I said this not to the woman but the man having a go at her. I must have looked as angry as I felt. He swore at me as well but moved on - rather rapidly.
The local charity shop is run by a Catholic organisation. Anyone is welcome to use it. I know most of the volunteer staff by name. They would be as horrified as I was.
I turned to the woman who was still standing there staring after him in a bewildered sort of way.
     "Have you got time to come and have tea or coffee with me?" I asked.
She gave me a rather shaky smile and said quietly, "I'm due at the doctor in a few minutes."
"Then may I go over there with you? I'm going that way."
"Thank you."
We didn't say anything else. It's just a walk to the corner and across the road to the surgery. When we reached the point where we had to part she looked at me and again said, "Thank you."
I hope her blood pressure was back to a normal level when the doctor took it - because mine wasn't.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Nuclear waste dump?

The Premier of the state I live in wants to have a nuclear waste storage facility in a remote area of the state. Other people don't.
If he could get the numbers in parliament he could legislate for it and bring it in without going to the electorate. He can't. 
It wouldn't get through the upper house here and it would only get through the lower house if everyone did as he expects of them. They might not.
We mine uranium in Downunder. We sell it to other people. They create nuclear waste. 
There is an argument that we create the problem by mining it and selling and therefore should be responsible for the by product as well as the product. I doubt the Premier would agree with that unless he saw a financial advantage in storing the waste. If he was told "you created the problem and you have to pay to solve it" he would be saying, "No way."
His latest idea is that "the people should decide". He wants to put it to a referendum at the next election. This idea only came up after his "citizen's jury" came back with "no, we don't want a dump here".  
It might not get as far as a referendum. Parliament would have to vote to spend the money. Public opinion is against the idea.
Of course, if nuclear power is to be used - and it will be - then the waste has to be stored somewhere. It also has to be stored safely.  That is an issue which has to be worked on. And of course we would all want the benefits of nuclear medicine if it was going to help us recover from a dreadful illness.
The Premier knows the state needs money. The last time I looked we had the highest unemployment rate in the country. The state is in desperate need of a financial booster shot. The waste dump would bring in money, a lot of money. It looks like the easy option. It is money for almost no effort at all.
The ideas that it would put an area off limits - perhaps for ever - and possibly cause massive damage if something went wrong seem to have been forgotten. The waste would also have to be transported and that is perhaps the most dangerous thing of all. It is time to bury the idea of a nuclear waste dump.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

There were "language learning apps"

yesterday. Today there are "inclusive apps". Tomorrow there will probably be something else.
These are for "pre-schoolers". The idea is that those not yet ready to go to school will learn a foreign language and know about racial discrimination.
Hold it right there. 
I have no objection to anyone learning a second language - or a third or a fourth. Learning early is also an excellent thing. I have known pre-school children who cope with two languages. My nephews did this. Their paternal grandmother did not speak a lot of English and she spoke Cypriot-Greek to them. If there had been an "app" around they might actually speak more Greek now. 
It would have been relevant to their circumstances. At school they were required to learn Chinese. The younger of my two nephews actually topped the class - although there was more than one boy in it who spoke Chinese at home. 
My nephew still dropped it at the first opportunity. It was time consuming. It wasn't relevant for him. "I probably would have continued if it had been Greek all the way," he once told me. Yes, he could have spoken Greek to other people.
And yes, there will be children who can speak "Chinese" to other people. I am assuming though that they are being taught standard Mandarin - and not all Chinese speakers here use that. Our neighbours are Chinese and they use Hokkien at home. There is almost no chance to use Japanese - another language which provides a pre-school app. They plan on bringing in Arabic - which variety please? Oh and Spanish - from where?
Then there is the program described today - to make children culturally and racially aware. If pre-school children are aware of cultural or racial differences in a negative way then it is because they have taken on the values of their parents. My experience of a wide range of pre-school children tells me that most children are blissfully unaware of the differences that are causing such things to be developed. My nephews have grown up with friends who are Indian, Chinese, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and more. Their birthday parties were "United Nations" affairs - and so were those of their friends. Their school didn't consciously teach about cultural or racial differences. It was just expected that everyone would accept each other and get along. As they got older things were sometimes discussed - and then everyone got on with getting along.
We have been emphasising "difference" when perhaps what we need to do is say, "Look really, we are all the same. Sometimes we just say things and do things a little differently."

Monday, 14 November 2016

Another earthquake in New Zealand

is something they really could do without. I am sitting here waiting to hear from friends in New Zealand. I think one is safe - she posted something on Facebook a short time ago and Auckland wasn't the epicentre. I also have a good friend who lives in Dunedin. When she moved there her brother insisted she buy a house designed to withstand at least moderate earthquakes. This was a big one.
I don't know about the people I know in Christchurch. I'm not in regular touch with them but their mother will probably tell me when she sees me...because her son could have been working in the middle of the area hit.
Now I am waiting for one of those "cards" to appear in our letter box from one of the local doomsday type churches. It will tell me that the presidential election in America, the problems in the Middle East, the earthquakes in Italy and New Zealand, and more are all a sign of "the coming". It will not be the first such card. It may not be the last. I wonder whether they will also distribute them in New Zealand? What would someone think if one appeared in a letter box that had fallen over outside the ruins of their home?
I don't doubt that the people who distribute such things believe them. I don't doubt that they also believe they are doing the right thing. But, is it? Does it give comfort or cause more distress?
I am more interested in distributing a little love and concern

Sunday, 13 November 2016

"Knitting? It's all that stuff with holes in it."

Now you have the Senior Cat's description of what I have been knitting lately.
I admit he has described lace knitting this way before. He says it "looks complicated" and that he doesn't understand how I do it.
I have muttered things about "basic arithmetic" and "follow a chart" and "concentration" - and a few other things as well. I keep saying "it's not hard".
I am not talking about the physical act of knitting here but about the arithmetic, the need to follow the pattern, and the concentration required. There are things I cannot do in knitting - like make a "nupp" - those tiny long bobbles characteristic in Estonian lace. I know how to make one but I have never been able to actually do it. Using "cobweb" weight yarn has also proved beyond my capacities. Both things require excellent fine motor skills. I don't have those and I am not going to waste my knitting time on trying to do something I won't succeed at. There are other things I need to do and want to learn and then do. I can still tell other people how to do these things if they really need to know - or if they want to know.
I think it might be that "want to know" part that is so important. People look at something else someone has made. They can like it and admire it and they can even say "I wish I could do that" but the reality is they don't want to put the effort in to learning how to do something.
I was reminded very forcefully of this yesterday. For the past few years I have been helping a small group of teenagers learn to knit. They were taught the basics by a late friend of mine. They have gone on meeting ever since then and they have continued to knit and to learn more about knitting. The youngest of them is particularly creative. He often makes finger puppets out of the last short lengths of whatever he has been using. He passes them on to the many doctors of his acquaintance and they are used to distract young patients.
M....knows all about this. He spent a good deal of his young life in and out of hospital. So did the other members of the group. They all make things for other people, never for themselves. 
Yesterday I saw M... in the local shopping centre. He wheeled up to me and said, "Cat I need you to show me how to do something. I looked it up on You Tube but I still don't get it exactly. I'll send you an email. Okay?"
Of course it is "okay". He's already tried. If I can't work it out then I know other people who might be able to help. He's got exams right now but sets aside a short time each day for his creative activities. 
The other four in the group are just the same. They all "want to know". They haven't let serious health issues get in the way of learning, of having a worthwhile hobby that allows them to help others.  All of them have put a great deal of effort into their  hobby and seem to get even more from it. inclined to look at people who say, "I wish I could do that" and respond, "Well I guess you could if you really wanted to." He knows most people really don't want to do "that" at all. He wants to know - and so does the rest of the group.
And I consider myself incredibly fortunate because their "want to know" has taught me an incredible amount as well. 

Saturday, 12 November 2016

"Give the man a chance"

is something I keep hearing in relation to President-elect Trump - and yes, we should. He may prove quite different from our expectations.
It made me think yet again about the idea of giving someone a chance. I think it's important.
There was a child I taught who had already, at the age of ten, been in trouble with the law. He came from a family where others were in the same position. His father was in and out of prison. The child admitted that both parents "belted" him. Social welfare was involved. He had been given chances over and over again. He had been suspended from school more than once.  I was "warned" about him...even by the other children.
The first morning I had him he proved disruptive. It was what everyone  expected.
I kept him back at morning recess and said something along the lines of, "You idiot.  You haven't given me a chance a yet. I'll give you one if you give me one."
We eyed one another off. Then he muttered, "Nobody else does."
He walked out without my permission to leave but I left it at that.
At lunch time I asked him whether he'd mind doing something for me - something I couldn't do myself.
      "Yeah, all right." 
Over the first weeks of teaching him I asked him to do things for me several times. I didn't ask him in front of the others and I didn't say anything more than "Thank you." I didn't mention behaviour. On the third Monday afternoon the "bin monitor" was away. This boy came back in after the others had gone. He glared at me and then took the classroom waste paper basket and emptied it. I still said nothing but "Thank you."
We went on the same way. Half way through the term we shared a Kit-Kat...I didn't tell him it was a reward. All I said was, "Want a bit?" His response wasn't exactly gracious but I sensed he was pleased with himself.
His behaviour wasn't perfect - far from it - but it was within much more normal limits. At the end of the term - also the end of the year - I could honestly give him a reasonably good report. My last sight of him was him standing in the doorway of the classroom at the end of the last day of term. Everyone else had gone. I looked at him and wondered what had gone wrong now because he looked so uncomfortable and then he muttered,
     "You know something? You were okay after all."
He was gone before I could say anything. Over the summer the children were taken into the care of their grandparents who lived in another state. I often wondered what happened to him and then forgot him until someone said of Trump, "Give him a chance."
It doesn't always work - and goodness' knows how that child turned out. 
I've tried giving someone else a chance more than once this year. I know she has some problems of her own and that there are other problems in her life - and I can sympathise with them. It is difficult to go on being nice, being understanding, trying to be supportive when she doesn't respond. We both belong to the same group and, because of our respective positions in it, we need to get along. I keep telling myself that.
Yesterday a second person told me that this person had, once again, been difficult in a situation where cooperation should have been the keyword.  Another person standing there asked,
      "How many more chances are we supposed to give her?"
I don't know. Perhaps we just have to keep on trying and hoping?


Friday, 11 November 2016

"She went about an hour ago"

the young male nurse told me.
I had pedalled over to one of the local nursing homes to see a woman I have been visiting for several years. He had found me about to knock gently on her door and told me.
I was not surprised and I am not in the least  upset. It is just a huge sense of  relief. This woman should have been allowed to go a long time ago. 
She had been kept alive by the care given to her by her younger cousin - who spent all day and every day with her at the nursing home. And yes, I do mean all day and every day. She would be there about twelve hours most days. They had been living together for many years and when the younger one could no longer physically cope with everything that needed to be done she reluctantly agreed to the need for the nursing home care. Once there she demanded the highest level of attention and care for her older cousin. 
It began with a "stroke" several years ago. The older cousin was rushed to hospital. The younger one was at her side. She left only to sleep at night. It has been that way ever since - and it hasn't been good.  The younger one has relied on being able to phone me to release her emotions. Other visitors dropped away. I would call in about once every two weeks. I never stayed long. It was all too negative. I know other elderly people in a similar state. It may be depressing to visit them but it is not the way it was with her. 
I did it because they were good to Middle Cat when her two boys were small.  We both felt a sense of duty towards them now when the situation was reversed.
When I arrived yesterday the body was still in the room. There was chaos right around it. The younger cousin was already packing her cousin's possessions.
          "You don't need to do that now," I told her gently. The staff member had asked me to tell her again. They had already told her but she had begun. 
She seemed calm on the surface but, underneath, she was upset. Of course she was upset - and then she was angry. 
       "We went to the neurologist just three weeks ago. He said everything was all right!"
It wasn't of course. I very much doubt he even said that. 
       "And the doctor was coming in this afternoon. He's late and now he'll have to sign the certificate instead. Serves him right! If he'd come  when he said he would this wouldn't have happened!"
Of course it would have happened. I have seen enough elderly people in nursing homes to know it happens and the signs which lead to it for so many.
Her cousin's body was in the bed. The face was uncovered. I looked at it. There was nothing there, no sense of the person who had once been there. It was, I suppose, the look which people describe as being "at peace". 
Perhaps she is.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

I wanted to see Trump

lose. It didn't happen. The Senior Cat actually said, "Hell!" I can remember the last time he "swore". The word was "blast" and, in the circumstances, it was pretty mild.
I don't swear either but I said "hell" too. I had kept the Twitter feed off until around noon our time and tried to do some work. Then I gave in and looked - and it wasn't looking good.
I'll admit I had worries about Clinton too. There were times when, as Secretary of State, she seemed out of her depth. I worried then but at least her presidential policies seemed to be going in a direction with which I felt more comfortable. 
At the time she was nominated though I wondered whether she was the best candidate. There was something about Bernie Sanders that I liked. People said he was "too old" and even expressed some concern about his policies being too far left. A Sanders-Clinton team might have won. A Sanders-Warren team might too. 
It has to be admitted that Clinton came with "baggage". The e-mail issue would not have gone away. There are questions hanging over "the Clinton foundation" and more. 
But Clinton had been a senator. She knows how Congress works, how government works.  It's not like business.
Perhaps though we should all have been warned by the Brexit vote. People didn't get out and vote then. Almost half of all eligible voters didn't get out and vote in America. 
Those who did get out and vote were all too often people who felt others weren't listening to their concerns. I suspect many of them would consider themselves to be "ordinary" people, people concerned about their jobs, education, health and the future of their children. They voted according to what they believe the solutions to be - and what they want for the future. 
It seems the Republicans will also control Congress. That will make it easier to get legislation passed - some people are saying "too easy".  
Some will say that if the FBI had not raised the e-mail issue again so close to the election then Clinton would have won. Some will say the media made an error of judgment in making such a fuss about that and so much else. There will be "analysis" and soul searching and more.
Here in Downunder we need to learn from that. We need to encourage people to speak up about their concerns, their fears and more. We need to listen and not merely "reassure" but actually address those issues.
America, I think you made a mistake - but perhaps we can learn from it. 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

I really feel tempted to turn my Twitter feed

off today. If I do that then I will not need to endure the drip feed of "results" from the election in the USofA. So far my prediction of the outcome would appear to be correct.
But that is not what bothers me. It bothers me that, whichever way this goes, the result is not going to be popular.
I remember the election eight years ago. The Senior Cat and I were both interested. We wanted Obama to win - and he did. There were people who didn't like it of course but the contest was more the usual  sort of political contest.
This one has been bitter and divisive and the results may well end up being the same. The media, particularly social media, has a lot to answer for.
In this state the Ombudsman has just ruled that prisoners should be able to write letters to a social media site which supports victims. The advocates of victims have not been impressed by that ruling - understandably. I don't like the idea myself. Letters from prisoners are rarely polite, supportive and well written. All too many of them, if they can write at all, have problems putting a sentence together. They can't spell. They cannot formulate ideas. Their language can be vile. What they have to say is often extremely distressing for the victims. 
Politics is often not much better. The further you go left or right the more likely it is that the language will get extreme and the thoughts confused. There are also "catchy" three and four word slogans designed to appeal - but which really say very little.
And today there will be all sorts of 140 character long comments. There will be links to analysis and discussion. I can guess what the readers from various stables will be saying  - after all, I do try to read across the political spectrum. I like to think I sit somewhere in the middle and listen to all sides and then make up my own mind.
But, it is getting more difficult as more people rush in to comment without thinking.
So, perhaps today I should turn the Twitter feed off? No - work might come in that way. I hope there is a way of just seeing the direct messages. If there is then that's the answer.
I am off to investigate. Good luck America.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

I am expecting Clinton to

win tomorrow. I also wonder whether she will last a full term. Will she be a popular President? Will she be forced out due to ill-health or be assassinated? How will she cope under the pressure of being the President?
All those questions matter of course. What would Kaine be like if he had to take over?
I had to go to a meeting yesterday. Although no time was wasted it was a lengthy affair. The most controversial topic on the agenda was whether the "golliwogs" should be allowed to remain as a class of their own in the schedule under consideration. I have written about this elsewhere. The general opinion was that we should give in to "political correctness" rather than try and educate people about the real history of golliwogs. 
Then I heard someone behind me mutter "the Americans are giving in to political correctness anyway". Is that what choosing a woman was about? If so, was it really necessary?
There have probably been more female leaders than many people want to remember. They want to ignore the fact that the United Kingdom, Israel, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and more have all had female leaders. Germany has a formidable one and the UK has a new one. We even managed it for a while here in Downunder and across the pond in New Zealand.
All those women made their mark. It doesn't matter here whether we agreed with their policies or not. They reached the political top in their country.
Toss in a couple of women in other top positions in the world economy and yes, women can get there and get things done. I suspect that they can be even more demanding to work for than most men.
Yes, the United States of America is big and powerful but it won't be the first country in the world to have had a female leader. Perhaps it is time to stop making a fuss about that and just see if the candidate can do the job?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Nursing home visits

depress me - and they depress the Senior Cat. He's off to do one today. A younger cousin is taking him to see another cousin who is now in one. 
The cousin in the nursing home has had diabetes almost all his life. He has now lost a leg and the toes on the other foot to the disease. His wife tried desperately hard to help him stay at home but in the end they had to give in and he moved reluctantly into the nursing home. 
Now a much younger cousin comes a considerable distance about once a month and takes the Senior Cat to visit. It's an effort for both of them but Nursing Home Cousin appreciates it and that makes it all worthwhile.
I go in and out of two nursing homes here on a regular basis. One is a little better than the other but they both smell of stale cooking, cleaning fluid and other things it is better not to know about. In one I pass a woman who spends her days lying staring at the ceiling. She can't sit up. Rather than leave her alone all day someone will wheel her out of her room and leave her where there are people. It isn't done out of kindness. It is done because it is easier for the staff that way. Someone will shift her position as they pass. They don't need to remember to go into her room.
One of the staff introduced me once - as the friend of someone else. Now I will stop and chat for a moment. I get a faint smile and a few whispered words - often along the lines of it would be "nice to go". Yes, I imagine it would be. Nobody else comes to visit.
I say a few words to others on the way to see whichever person it is who needs me to fill out a form, help them write a letter, or has asked me to do some shopping for them. I always wonder whether they will all be there next time I go. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's the way of those places. 
I have to go to a meeting this afternoon but, before I do, I am going to make sure I give the Senior Cat something especially nice for lunch.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

I studied constitutional law

at university. There were both compulsory and elective subjects in my law degree and the two units of constitutional law were compulsory. 
I didn't find law "exciting" or even particularly "interesting". It didn't fire my imagination. I did it because I needed the knowledge for my day job...and yes, it has been useful. I have never sought admission to the ranks of the legal profession but I haven't forgotten what I needed to know - and a little more besides.
Constitutional law is the cornerstone of democracy. It overrides parliament and the government of the day. Here Downunder we have an actual document which lays out the constitution. It can only be changed by a referendum in which a majority of people in a majority of the states agree to the change. We also have compulsory attendance at the ballot box - usually referred to as "compulsory voting" - which means that most people actually vote. It is, rightly, a high bar to pass.
On those grounds the "Brexit" referendum in the UK would have failed. It passed narrowly simply because many people, often young people who supported remaining in the EU, didn't bother to vote. Unlike our referenda that referendum was not binding but "advisory". It did not give the government of the day the right to trigger Article 50 without going to the parliament. 
The media which have complained about this are either very poorly advised - or perhaps failed to seek advice at all - or they are stirring up trouble for their own ends. Suggesting that the judiciary is somehow not "independent" or "corrupt" or "ignoring the will of the people" is nonsense.  The judiciary was simply applying a major, perhaps the most major, legal principle - that parliament is sovereign. Parliament is the people - although we often doubt that. The final decision in this matter has to rest with parliament - not the government of the day. The judgment will be appealed but I expect the decision to be upheld. If it isn't then there is the potential for a major constitutional crisis.
The monarch in such a democracy, in this case the Queen, can't interfere in the governing of the country but does have the right to be "consulted" to "encourage or advise" and to "warn". My constitutional law professor, no monarchist, made no secret of the fact that he thought highly of Queen Elizabeth's knowledge of constitutional law. He referred to her as "one of the best constitutional lawyers around" but I am sure she would prefer not to deal with a constitutional crisis.
So perhaps the media needs to consult, get some advice and heed the warnings they have undoubtedly been given.  

Saturday, 5 November 2016

I am going to do something I don't want

to do today. I am going to get up and talk to a group. 
I have never been keen on "public speaking". I am fine with teaching something. If I know how to do something then I am, usually, reasonably confident I can explain it to other people. I am reasonably confident I can use words they will understand.
Getting up and just talking to people is another matter - and this will be even worse than usual.
I have been bullied into it - it is one of those "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations. If I don't do it I will be labelled "uncooperative" and a good many more things. I'm not. I normally like cooperating with people. The world would be a better place if more people did cooperate.
But, in doing it, I am laying myself wide open to questions I can't answer, demands to do things I can't do and criticism because I can't wave a magic wand. The reality is that the rest of those involved have to make the effort now. 
If adults want to learn something then they must take the trouble to seek out information. If they are not sufficiently motivated to do that then they are not motivated enough to learn. Just handing out information is not going to solve the problem. And you know that old saying "practice makes perfect"? Well there is something in that too. Even if you are told something it may take some practice to acquire the skill.
There was a woman who came along to  the stand at the craft fair and asked if I could help her. She was wandering around eating her lunch at the time and said, "I'll come back." 
I thought "perhaps" but she did come back. She came back about ten minutes later and said with a cheerful and rather cheeky smile, " Please miss, I've eaten my lunch and I've washed my hands. Will you show me now?"
We both laughed and I asked her to knit a row of the "knit a row and go scarf" that was on the table. I observed her problem and then said, "It would help a lot if you didn't take your hand off the needle every time you make a stitch."
I showed her. She watched carefully. She tried another row and then another in the way I suggested. It was obviously difficult for her. But then she said,
       "Thanks. I understand what you mean. I'll need to put some practice in."
Her attitude told me she would too. She had been prepared to come back and find the information. She was prepared to try and she was, it would seem, prepared to keep on trying. 
I know there will be people I talk to today who are looking for the easy way out. They will be thinking, "All Cat needs to do is tell us. After that it will be easy. There's just something she isn't telling us."
If I tell them they need to seek out the resources, seek out the information, persist, take time, be bothered and more they aren't going to listen. It's not what they want to hear.
My only hope is that my friend R... will be well enough to be there. She can play the piano - and she knows about scales. The need to practice will be obvious to her.   

Friday, 4 November 2016

"It's based on the principle of pi,"

I kept telling people, "You double the number of stitches every time you double the number of rows."
The older knitters would nod and move on to the next question. The younger knitters would stare at me and look for an explanation. This is what happens when you let people display a "pi-shawl". For the non-knitters among you I need to explain I suppose.
The "pi-shawl" was originally designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman - the "mother of modern knitting". EZ, as she is often known, "unvented" things. She did not slavishly follow patterns. She looked at knitting in new and different ways. Others have followed her since. I have prowled after her because I am simply too lazy to be bothered with the fuss of trying to follow the patterns of anyone else. 
One of the things she played with was a circular shawl which is constructed from the centre out. The start is usually nine stitches knitted into a circle followed by six rounds and then the stitches are doubled to eighteen, followed by twelve rounds and so on. There are many variations. Those interested may Google and find much more information.
But yesterday I kept having to explain this. The Embroiderer's Guild had borrowed one from me. It has Shetland lace patterns in it and I am teaching a class on the subject of Shetland lace for them in the summer. The embroiderers were right next door to the knitters and the shawl was displayed between the two. People were sent to ask me about it. And I discovered that a lot of younger people simply did not understand "pi". They had heard of it but they didn't understand the principle. "Something to do with how you work out how big the outside of the circle is..." was about as far as anyone got.
But, once explained, the comments were positive. Most of them thought that there was "too much knitting" involved. They want things they can finish quickly - if they knit at all. But there were some dedicated crafters among them who appreciated the idea if not the application.
There is a lot of basic mathematics in most crafts. The Senior Cat, who plays with  origami when it is too hot to be out in his beloved shed or garden, can tell you a lot about measuring once, twice and then three times to be sure before cutting a piece of timber. He knows about angles and curves too. He doesn't understand knitting but he could see the sense in the pi-shawl. 
Anyone who has ever done any patchwork or quilting understands how things "fit" into each other - or they should. It really isn't difficult. You need to know even  if you are just going to do what EZ called "blindly follow".
      "That's much too complicated," someone told me.
Someone else said, "I'd never be able to work that out."
I wonder what they teach in geometry these days?


Thursday, 3 November 2016

Today is "Craft Fair" day

which means that I am spending the day at the show grounds not too far from here. I will  be, if anyone turns up, talking about knitting. 
In the past I have spent all four days at the show grounds helping a friend on her stall. In return for this I have raised some money for my late friend in Africa. 
This year P... is not coming to show. She came earlier in the year to another one. It should have been a better time to come. It was moving into winter. People tend to knit in winter rather than summer. It gets a little warm for knitting in summer in Downunder - unless, like me, you have things that "must" be knitted.  Even so  the takings were poor. My friend barely covered the costs of being there. It just isn't worth the effort any more. She won't be coming back. 
Other people are starting to drop out too. Occasionally someone new will pop up but I haven't known them to come more than once. I have only been multiple times to help - as I will today.
The advertising makes it sound like a marvellous event of course but really it is suffering the same fate as so many similar events in smaller places. It won't be too long before there won't be an event.
I buy yarn here but I buy specialist yarn over the internet. There is just one shop near me which sells good yarn. It will close in December. The building is being renovated and the owner, in her 70's, does not want to be bothered with the business of relocation. I don't blame her but I will miss her. I knew that if needed good quality plain vanilla yarn I could go to her - and that I might find a bit of "chocolate" on the side. She didn't go for the very fine yarn needed for some of the work I have done but she has had some good yarn. I like to touch it, hold it up to the light, squish and squash it before I buy it - and she expects that I will want to do that. 
It will leave just one shop selling good quality yarn in any great variety - and the owner of that is in her 80's. The rest are people who carry a little yarn on the side or they sell cheap acrylic or the rough and cheaper stuff from places like Turkey and China.
I don't want to knit with that sort of thing. If I am going to put the effort in then I want a lasting result, one of which I can be proud.
        "But people don't knit any more," non-knitters tell me.
Nonsense. People do knit. There is, once again, an increased interest in knitting. I want to knit. I know many other people who knit. I don't know many who knit the sort of thing I knit because knitting is an incredibly varied and creative craft - and that is one of the things which makes it so interesting. 
There is plenty of evidence that people do knit. I know where the yarn shops have gone though. They have gone off to the internet because renting a shop, stocking it, and staffing it have just become too expensive.
Yes, one of the reasons is that knitting tends to be slower than many other crafts because we are creating the fabric rather than decorating it. In that sense knitting is like writing. They both take time. 
I was telling a friend this  yesterday when she asked about whether I was going to the craft fair. She asked me, 
       "If you had to choose between knitting and writing, what would it be?"
I didn't hesitate over my answer. Words are free - but the cost of using them is the one for which I am prepared to pay even more.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

I had planned to try NaNoWriMo

this year. Er yes, that is "had planned". 
It is the first year in some years that I thought other work was not going to get in the way,  that I might find a few hours each day to put my paws on the keyboard for my benefit and not that of someone else. 
There are now six days when I am absolutely required to be doing other things - and that does not include my "day job". It is going to be difficult enough to write the blog post - but I will endeavour to do that.
One of the days I am required to be doing other things is tomorrow. Now I will admit I "volunteered" to do this - but it was only reluctantly.  I am giving up a day to help the knitting guild at the craft fair. 
For the past few years I have been helping a friend from another state and I have spent all four days at the same fair. It's been interesting, even challenging. This year she is not coming. Actually she won't be coming back at all. It no longer pays her to come. We will miss each other but I can fully understand her decision. This city simply doesn't have the population to support that sort of thing. I wonder how long the craft fair will last.  
But the knitting guild has an information stall there and it needs to be "manned". And therein lies a problem. It is also a wider problem. The guild needs "public liability insurance" to be there. It is not paid for by the fair organisers - although they would have their own for other purposes. The guild has public liability insurance of course. It must by law have it but the insurance companies now demand extra to cover people over the age of eighty. The guild does not have that.  
It means that some of our most able volunteers - several of whom turned eighty  this year - cannot volunteer. They are not covered. 
What about the younger ones you ask?
Well they are people at work or looking after their grandchildren or they can't be bothered and more. For the most part it is people at work and looking after their grandchildren.
It isn't just a problem for the guild. It is a problem for all similar organisations. The retirement age is now sixty-eight. People between sixty-eight and eighty are doing a lot of child minding. Even if their grandchildren are at school they are often the people who do the before and after school care. Even people over that age are doing a lot of the child care. Some would like to volunteer for other organisations but they are simply not free to do so. When they can there are obstacles like the public liability insurance being put in their way. 
This has to change if we are to continue to have people doing some of the essential volunteering. Right now though I will do a day because I believe I should. There needs to be at least one person on the stand all the time. 
And I will cheat a little and see if I can get the novel I have started finished instead. Is that okay?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

"I hope we haven't given it to you,"

came the woeful text message. 
Our lovely neighbours across the road both have something called "influenza A" - or one of the sub types thereof. 
I knew that the husband, M...., had to be feeling ill. He was wearing a sleeveless pullover. M.... only wears a sleeveless pullover in the depths of winter.  He had to be running a temperature. His wife, V..., admitted that they were both feeling  ill.
I must inquire when I next see them whether they actually had a 'flu vaccination. It's supposed to immunise you against at least three strains of 'flu and I think the Senior Cat  and I had the sort which is supposed to immunise you against four strains. 
I wouldn't dream of not having the vaccination on a regular basis. I said this to someone else yesterday and they just shrugged and said, "I don't know why you bother."
I bother because, quite apart from the fact that I prefer not to be ill, I live with the Senior Cat. I know a lot of elderly people. Some of them are very elderly indeed but they are still alert and as active as they can be. It would be totally and utterly irresponsible of me to fail to get vaccinated and then pass an illness on to them. Quite possibly it would cause their death and I don't want that on my conscience thank you very much.
The other person I was talking to however feels quite differently. She thinks "the flu is not that serious". 
Sorry, we will have to differ on that one. My youngest sister knows someone who has been in hospital for weeks with the flu and the consequent effects. He ended up with a tracheotomy so that he could actually breathe. His mother, a former nursing sister, is concerned about what other damage may have been done. And no, he didn't get a flu shot. 
Yesterday afternoon I called in briefly to a nursing home to see an elderly woman. She has no speech and all I ever get is a faint smile of recognition. Her good hand will grip mine so hard that it can hurt. I can ask her questions and she can, just, indicate "yes" or "no". I never stay long because she tires quickly and falls asleep again. She has been like this for months now. She had a stroke at the time she had "the flu" and it affected her capacity to recover...she simply didn't feel well enough. 
No, I don't want the flu. I hope we have avoided it. I'll go on having the flu shot and hope I do.