Thursday, 21 September 2017

The "get well" card

is on two pieces of bright red cardboard. There are brightly coloured fish, an octopus under some pieces of white polystyrene "seaweed", another octopus avoiding the fish, a whale rising out of the water. There are tiny little fluffy balls which are sea urchins. It's a work of art.
It has also been made with that glorious determination of small children to  get something "just right". 
Our young neighbour is nearly four. He's smart, funny - and kind. He has highly intelligent parents who are kind and concerned and he is learning from their care and concern. His mother is a paediatrician - but she "doesn't mind the odd bit of gerontology" when it comes to a neighbour. I am grateful for that. I won't call on her services except in an extreme emergency. That would be wrong but she has made it clear that she is, in such an emergency, available. 
Yesterday she brought young T.... and his baby brother over so that the card could be delivered. I admired it properly. A moment ago I was able to honestly tell T... that the Senior Cat was impressed.  And it is the sort of thing he will treasure. He still has drawings his grandsons did for him.
And it reminded me that, tucked away, I have a "portrait" of me done by a three year old. I reminded the artist's sister of this several years ago. She responded by saying, "And I still have the cat you drew for me - your special one."
I am no artist. I don't try to be but I can draw those vaguely cat-like squiggles and K.... had kept it. I had come back to Downunder and her mother wrote and asked, "Can you draw K.... one of your cats?" Of course I could...although I thought she would lose it when she had tried it for herself...but she didn't....
and that means much more than the shapes on the paper. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Senior Cat is now home from hospital

and although they might have kept him there a little longer I am relieved to have him here. We did wonder about a week's respite for me but he would absolutely hate, loathe and detest a nursing home. He would also have gone without a grumble but he is intellectually too sharp to endure one of those places for long.
The ambulance staff who took him to hospital were lovely. The nursing staff were kind and helpful. The consultant physician just laughed when he mistook her for a nurse. ("Well how was I to know. She was wearing a stripey jumper the first time I saw her.")  His only complaint was the food - and that is universally considered to be "dreadful". He has strong views on porridge - having Scots ancestry - and bread is not "some white chewy stuff". There was no toast. He does not eat pork so the "roast pork" meal was not much use to him either. 
I made bread today (or the machine did) and proper soup with a lot of "things" in it. Tomorrow he can shepherd's pie (comfort food) and on Thursday it will be tuna mornay - which I will make tomorrow.
Also tomorrow we have someone coming to help  him shower three times a week for the next fortnight. He hasn't the energy to do that himself at present - and we might assess the situation at the end of that time. 
I am due to help my friend at the craft fair on Thursday until Sunday but I won't stay as long as I usually do.  
Now I am waiting for him to curl up on his sleeping mat again - then I can go and curl up on mine. We both need a lot of catnap right now!
But, before I prowl off, I would like to sincerely thank everyone for the good wishes. It does make a difference and, as I said in the comments on the last post "thinking of you" - however it is put - is a very important phrase in any language. Thanks.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Senior Cat is in hospital

Normal blog services will resume shortly I hope... I had to call an ambulance last night. We both have an influenza virus of some sort (despite vaccinations) and he needed much more help than I could give him. 
Ambulance people wonderful but I was at the hospital until 11:45 pm and need to go back shortly as he doesn't even have his glasses.
This cat is planning on prowling back to full health rapidly. I don't have time to be ill.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Planning permission

is a minefield.
There is a story in this morning's paper which, if correct, is one of the worst possible examples of the mess our local planning laws are in.  
If it is correct then a new  house will be demolished. It will be demolished although it was approved on three separate occasions.  There is nothing wrong with the house - but the neighbours don't like it. They say it intrudes on their privacy - despite measures being put in place to screen them.
The editor of the paper, who wrote the story, has suggested that the council should be paying for the mess to be cleaned up. They approved the building through the relevant department.
I am inclined to agree.
I went to see someone recently. She showed me the foundations which had been poured for the new house being built next door. In order to do this their own fence had been taken down - without their permission. Fortunately they don't have a dog but, if there had been a dog, who would have been responsible? The foundations also come up almost to the very boundary line. Yes, it is going to be intrusive.
They knew none of this before the foundations were laid. I doubt she or her husband could read a plan even if they had been given one. The plans are there for the builders, for the architect, the council planners and the department to work on. 
The woman in question is reluctant to complain. She doesn't want to upset the people who will be her new neighbours, especially as they are of a different ethnic background. The new house will however have a negative impact on the value of their property. It should not have been allowed to  happen either.
In the case in the paper it seems the owners of the house to be demolished have, if the report is correct, attempted to do the right thing. When a complaint was made they modified the design - twice. They gained approval. That should have been enough. The planning people did a u-turn on the last complaint. If correct then yes, the council needs to take some responsibility for what has happened. The owners are now hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt through no fault of their own. 
I don't know where that will go. I suspect the owners will lose because  to make the council liable will open up a huge area of litigation that nobody will want.
But I wonder what would have happened if similar action had been taken over some of the houses we were forced to live in when I was a kitten. The Senior Cat  was sent to rural areas. There was no housing available there so the government provided fibro-asbestos houses. They were the cheapest possible kind of house that could be built. The walls are thin. There is no insulation. I know that at least one of these houses is more than sixty years old and still being lived in although it was considered "temporary".  I imagine it still has the old "Metters no. 5" wood burning stove - and perhaps even the wood-chip hot water  heater in the bathroom?  
There was one house we lived in where the builders had failed to clear the land properly. The houses are built on little stilts and the trees were struggling to grow back underneath. Middle Cat and I spent two years sleeping on mattresses on the floor because there was no way to get beds into the bedroom. Our parents had single beds head to toe against the wall of another room. The house was, supposedly, new. There had been no oversight of the building of it though so the inexperienced builders had simply done something they thought  was good enough - skimping at the same time.
In another place the beds has to go in through the windows. That might happen in old, narrow houses in Europe - but in a new house in Downunder? The roof leaked there too - because the builders hadn't followed the plans.
Planning permission is essential. We would be in a mess without it.
It seems we can be in a mess with it too.
 
 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

"Franklin's Flying Bookshop"

is one of those glorious, quirky, stay-with-you books that all children - young and old - should experience. The author, Jen Campbell, has outdone herself this time.
Franklin flew in to visit me this week. I had been prowling impatiently as I waited for him to arrive. Would the postman bring him today? No. Tomorrow? No. Now? Yes!
I had been hearing reports about this impeccably well mannered dragon with exquisite reading tastes and I wanted to meet him. He did not disappoint me.
He is just my sort of dragon. I have been especially fond of dragons ever since reading Rosemary Manning's "Green Smoke" as a child. What sort of dragon would Jen have written about? The answer was both simple and complex. 
Franklin likes to read. He wants to read stories to people -  but people are afraid of him. Then he meets a small human, Luna. Luna likes dragons and together....  I won't spoil the rest of the story. Read it for yourself.
I passed Franklin over to the Senior Cat. At 94 the Senior Cat has not outgrown picture books. He still enjoys reading them. If there were small humans around who needed stories to be read to them he would tell them about Franklin with the greatest of pleasure. He has already said we must get more copies of the book to pass on to those who live in far away places. 
What was it about the book he liked I asked. He smiled and said, "It reminds me of AA Milne. It has that same sort of quirkiness, the quirkiness which stays with you. I like the idea of a dragon being able to read by the light of the moon....of using a bookcase as a door to keep the wind out..."
I really don't want to say more about the story. 
It's a book about differences and accepting those differences. It is a book about what others have to offer and a book about books and what they have to offer. It is a book filled with wonderful images - and yes, those illustrations by Katie Harnett complement the text in just the way they should. Franklin is the most excellently drawn dragon. Luna's delight in meeting you is obvious.
Thank you Jen. Franklin's here for a very long visit!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Silical gel pads should not be

put into washing machines.
Do not ask why this happened. Let it just be said that your resident cat has spent the last 40 or so minutes cleaning up the resultant mess.  
I have discovered a lot about silica gel in the process - and I hope I do not discover any more. I just hope it has not irrevocably harmed the washing machine. It is going through another cycle right now and it appears to be working. 
I have also swept and vacuumed the laundry floor. 
And I did not get cross with the Senior Cat because he felt bad enough anyway.
Normal blog service will resume tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

"Bodies of "hundreds" of children buried

in mass grave" the headline read. It was a story about a find in St Mary's Cemetery in Lanark, Scotland.
People pounced and immediately started to say what dreadful people the nuns who had been responsible for the children must have been.
Were they really dreadful people? A little thought might have caused people to at least hesitate before writing something on social media.
Smyllum Park Orphanage apparently opened in 1864 and closed in 1981. During that time 11,600 children passed through the orphanage. Most of the deaths occurred  up to about 1930 - look at the health and social conditions from 1864 to 1930. Look at the conditions the children came from.
I don't doubt that some abuse occurred during that time. And yes, nuns are human. I know some. They aren't saints. The nuns I know are good people and the abuse of a child would cause them deep distress but those of them who have taught would no doubt have smacked a child forty or fifty years ago. That is the way things were done then - and not just by nuns. If that sort of behaviour is abusive then I was severely abused because "discipline" from one of my teachers left me with bruises. (I was, sin of sins, writing left handed.) I don't condone it but, to read some of the comments, you would think all nuns were involved, that none of them were kind or caring, and that nobody else ever abused a child.
Children were sent to those places for any variety of reasons and abuse was one of them. They were also orphaned or their parents simply could not afford to care for them. 
Illness went through orphanages like wildfire. The children often arrived in a very poor state of health. Diseases like measles, rubella and whooping cough - and more - would spread rapidly. When undernourished children who were already prone to things like  bronchitis caught influenza there was little hope for many of them. Most of the deaths recorded are for things like TB, pneumonia and pleurisy but all those other things were also an ever present danger.
Nuns didn't, as some have tried to suggest, deliberately try and deny children help. They were fighting poverty as well as disease. The orphanages were often overcrowded and food, clothing, warmth and more were in short supply. They didn't have time to give children the love they so desperately needed either.
 The Catholic church has come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years and under a great deal of criticism because of that scrutiny. Much of it is deserved but there is also much which is not.
I am not a Catholic but it concerns me that there has  been so little good said about people who tried to do good - or, at very least, what they honestly believed to be right.
There was a Catholic orphanage near the home of my paternal grandparents. My grandfather, a devout Presbyterian and Elder of the church for many years, would buy and deliver cases of fruit to the orphanage. Unlike many other people he was aware that there was not enough money to feed the children properly. He knew that the fruit he delivered was only about enough for one piece each. He would visit clients in the hills behind - where the fruit was grown - and come back with a box each time. 
I know he didn't think of it as any form of social service or in any way a gift to the Catholic church. All he saw were children who needed food.
And that food meant something. Years later I gave a talk to a group of women, some of whom had been at the orphanage and one woman told me suddenly (in the middle of my talk) "I know who you are! Your grandfather was responsible for the first orange I ever ate." She must surely have eaten many oranges since then but that first orange stayed in her memory even though she would never have met my grandfather.
I wonder what would happen if there were the same orphanages now? Would the children get fruit? They probably would. If it was supplied by people like my grandfather - who would simply leave it at the door, ring the bell and then walk rapidly off before he could even be thanked - then I wonder what people would make of him. I suspect it wouldn't be kind. People would question why he was doing it.
I think one of the problems too is that people have questioned why the nuns were doing what they were doing. Our friend P.... has said that she was "excited" the day she entered her order - even though she never expected to go home again. The Senior Cat finds that impossible to comprehend and I find it very, very difficult. It makes me wonder though whether some of those who are so ready to criticise just simply don't understand. Do they really believe that the deaths of the children meant nothing at all to the nuns who were caring for them? I don't believe they didn't care.

Monday, 11 September 2017

I have "terremoto" and

"hurac'an" in my work emails right now. I also have  "cicl'on" and "ouragan"and "orkaan" and more. You will need to pardon the proper use of "accents" here as I can't seem to get diacritical marks to come together on Blogger. 
It doesn't matter anyway. All those people who need to read those words with the proper markings are there or on their way or waiting to be able to go. They have their communication boards ready - just in case they are needed.  In most cases they won't be needed. People will speak Spanish or French or Dutch or English. They will be able to communicate with the local community. They know that some people will be so traumatised they can't stop talking - and that, for the same reason, others won't talk at all. 
There are injuries to deal with - but some of those injuries won't be visible. There is an awful lot of clearing up to do - but some people won't know how to begin. There is a lot of rebuilding to do - but some people won't know where to start. 
Aid work is complex. Yes, you can send the armed services in and order them around - but even that has problems. You can't order civilians around like that, especially traumatised and injured civilians.
I thought of all that again in the middle of the night when I was trying to sort out a problem. Someone who has never been on the ground in a disaster said, "Why can't you just get the people who are there to do it?"
My answer, and the answer of the engineer going in to assess the damage, was, "Because they can't. In the normal way they could but they are in shock. People in shock don't function as they normally would."
In a disaster people who have been through the earthquake or the flood or the fire or the landslide or something else may appear to be functioning normally but that isn't necessarily so. They can be so traumatised that they cannot make decisions - or they will make the wrong decision. People are angry because they are frightened. Tempers are short. 
Even the people at the top, the people whose job it is to deal with a national emergency, will have problems. The people who go in to help may feel overwhelmed too. It's not simple.
But, if you see people you think should be helping themselves and apparently not doing so, please be patient. Please understand that they aren't lazy and that they do want things to improve. It's just that they can't cope with the situation just yet. Most of them will come to it but it takes a little time. 
Until then they need help - all the positive and practical help they can get. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Defrosting the freezer

is definitely NOT one of those jobs I enjoy. Nevertheless I am about to embark on the adventure this morning. It is a job I like to get out of the way as quickly as possible.
I am not one of those household fanatics who keeps an exact list of what I have in the freezer. I know just one person like that. She has everything arranged in an incredibly orderly fashion. It is all labelled and dated and used in rotation - and she defrosts the freezer once every eight weeks. Her fridge gets scrubbed out weekly, the bathrooms are done every day. Her hobby is housework. She has, apparently, nothing else to do.
I have too many other things to do.
I do know approximately what is in the freezer. I also know approximately where to find it. The occasional thing escapes me. I put it all down more to a reasonably good memory and, perhaps, good luck rather than good housekeeping.
The freezer is elderly. I talk nicely to it. I want it to keep putting along for a while yet. 
We bought it when there were still six of us at home. It allowed my mother, who did most of the cooking then, to cook up meals at weekends ready for the rest of the week. She worked full time as the head of a school so this was important when she didn't like other people in the kitchen. When the Senior Cat retired the freezer also started to contain more garden produce. It was my job to prepare and freeze that. I have gone on doing it, although the last few  years have seen less produce. The Senior Cat has  been able to do less gardening and looking after him has meant I don't have as much time either. The garden is his hobby too. I don't like to interfere. 
Now the freezer contains things like "emergency" meals. There are things like soup or stew or home made pasties that I only need to defrost if I have been out.  Such things will be useful tomorrow when I need to be dismantling the displays at the show grounds and the Senior Cat will need something that can just be heated in the microwave oven. There is ice cream too -  something the Senior Cat is fond of and I will admit I like it. This year there were enough plums to freeze some - but not enough apricots. The apricot tree is old and now needs to be replaced - but we both hate seeing a tree come out.
I wonder how busy families cope without a freezer. Yes, we have had to pay for the electricity to run it but it has saved both money and time. We haven't had to buy pre-prepared meals in packs either.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

I was making poppies


yesterday.  One of the local library staff asked me if the knitting group at the library could make some for the display the library does each year. She has always made them from paper and then discarded them after the display. Would something more substantial last a little longer?
I said I would talk to the group about it but then I realised that I wouldn't actually be at the next meeting as I will be working at a craft fair. I emailed a couple of people. Yes, they would think about it too. We need to get the group Christmas tree finished as well. 
As I had finished a project that was on the "urgent because I am teaching" list I decided to take the poppy making materials down to the show grounds. I was doing a few hours down there so that the convenors in the art and craft area could go to a formal lunch. Middle Cat was also taking the Senior Cat for a few hours and I wanted to be on hand in case help was needed.
The poppies are bright red of course. They attract attention. I had hoped they might. People were interested. They are simple to make - three small rounds of crochet in this particular pattern. There are other patterns.
The War Memorial in Canberra also wants 60,000 - and other places (like the library) need them too. I have been told that, across the country, they will be looking for about 600,000 for various events and venues.  I made eight yesterday - in between sorting out queries and problems. I'll make a few more in odd moments. 
If you are interested this is a link to a site with a lot of information about them. Scroll down a bit and you will find a link to patterns - some simple, some not so simple.
If you can knit or crochet or sew and you live in Downunder - can you make a few?
Here's the link

https://5000poppies.wordpress.com/ 

Friday, 8 September 2017

The "same sex marriage" survey

has been ruled on by the High Court and the finding has been in the government's favour. 
That means ALL Downunderites on the present electoral roll will be able to have their say on whether legislation should be put before parliament to make it possible for same sex couples to  marry. 
I am not going to comment "for" or "against" here but there are some other things I would like to say.
The first thing is. The "vote" is not compulsory - but if you don't have your say then you can't complain about the result. I know there are people out there demanding a boycott of the survey. That is, to my way of thinking, ill informed and dangerous. If you feel that strongly about the issue then vote "for" or "against". Don't simply say, "It's the government's job to do this." The government will do it. The present government went to the election promising people would have their say. They are now getting their say. It isn't quite in the form that was originally intended but the result will be the same in the end. Demanding people boycott the survey is rather like saying we have no right to select those who will represent us. Those people are our servants, not our masters. Is there really something wrong with telling them what we want them to do? 
I know, it's a bit like the issue of a "republic" - the referendum on that failed. A majority of people in all states and territories told the government they didn't want one. Did it  shut the "yes" campaign up? No. They simply tried to say "it was the way the question was worded". That was nonsense because  the question arose out of a meeting of the people in Canberra - people who had been elected to put forward their point of view. Believe me, that meeting was stacked in favour of becoming a republic and it was the question which was thought to have the best chance of succeeding.  
The "yes" campaign genuinely looks like succeeding this time. But what if it doesn't? The "yes" campaigners have already said that, if it doesn't, they expect the government to legislate in favour anyway. They are already saying that parliament "must" legislate. The Leader of the Opposition, who earlier supported a people's say on the issue, is saying that his next government will legislate in favour of it anyway - whatever the outcome. 
I wonder what would happen then if 90% of the electorate return their voting paper and 90% of those were not in favour? Would he still ignore the will of the people.
A ten year old was talking to me about this. He takes a mild interest in the political process. His parents talk to him. His comment to me went along the lines of, "Yes, but if people voted no and he did it anyway isn't that wrong?"
Is it?

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Intruding on grief or

argument or anything else which should remain private should not be done.
I was hoping to get a photograph taken yesterday. I need a photograph of the item  I am going to teach people to make next summer and I need it fairly quickly. Our neighbour across the road told me to "bring it over when it's finished and I'll do it".  She would too - but not yesterday. 
I noticed they had been out and thought to myself, "Maybe I can go over after lunch and ask."
But their car didn't go back into the garage. That was a bit odd. Even if they are going out again they usually put the car under cover.
And then, going to get the advertising leaflets which had blown across the lawn, I noticed that  there was a large "ding" in the right hand side at the front. Someone has obviously hit the car. 
It was equally obvious that the car was able to be driven but the damage is nevertheless obvious. 
The last thing they needed was me there asking for a photograph to be taken when the driver would have been feeling shaken and they would both have been upset. I left it. I may ask Middle Cat to help instead.
And it made me think of the headlines in yesterday's paper. There was a story about some boys from a fee paying school who have done something very, very stupid. It is something which, if they have any sense at all, they will regret for the rest of their lives. Two of them will be facing court as a result of their stupidity.  They are at the end of their schooling. Weeks out from their final exams they have been expelled and others have been suspended.
And the media intruded on all this. "They deserve it," someone told me yesterday, "They're just over-privileged rich kids. Most of them are like that."
I happen to know that this is far from true but the media has intruded because it makes a good news story. There has been no thought at all for the vast majority of decent, well mannered, hard working students at the school. Nothing was mentioned in the media when some of them went to help  in another serious situation. Those I know who knew about that just shrugged and said, "Well, so they should."
We all make mistakes. We all make errors of judgment. We all do the wrong thing sometimes. We all intrude when we are not aware or when we shouldn't.
I wonder though whether we need to learn not to take action sometimes - or, at very least, delay it?
 

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

How does the union movement

amass a $1.5bn "war chest"? 
Union membership is falling but it seems that unions are still doing extremely well with respect to money.  Apparently the new source of money is "superannuation".
To say that I am appalled they are using the money of their members in this way is putting it mildly. Superannuation funds are supposed to be there to provide for income support in retirement. They are not there to provide funds for political campaigns - even if you agree with what they are campaigning over and the way they go about it.
Union membership was once compulsory for many people. It was "no ticket, no job". Paying  union dues was something you expected to do. In a sense it was another form of taxation. 
Unions also had a job to do. They would argue they still have a job to do.
Realistically though union power has declined along with membership. There are other means of ensuring that the rights (and privileges) of workers are protected. There are tribunals and commissions involved. The courts have more power because of legislative changes. The mainstream media and social media can put great pressure on employers to do the right thing. 
That doesn't mean that unions have nothing to offer. They still have a role to play. It is just that it is no longer the role that it once was. It has altered. Their power has diminished in some areas - and rightly so. Their purpose in others - such as Occupational Health and Safety training - should have increased. They should not be seen as the alternative government or have the right to dictate to employers how things will be done.
Of course they would still like to be seen that way and as having that power but things have changed - and they must remain changed.  
That $1.5bn should be used for the benefit of members. It should not be used so that a few at the top can grab power and  use it to dictate to the rest of the country.  That means putting the money to work to build up the money workers will have to live a more comfortable retirement. Anything else is theft.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

There has been another "bullying" death

reported in this morning's paper. 
It has come along with reports of the increasingly worrying tension between North Korea and the United States. The leaders of both those countries are bullies...and I would say the same thing about the current Prime Minister here as well as the Leader of the Opposition. I suspect it is how some people get to the top. They bully other people.
School bullying would appear to be an increasing problem. It is said that it is easier now, that the use of things like social media have made it easier. Yes, that is part of the problem. 
Another part of the problem is that students are being made much more aware of it as an issue. There are "anti-bullying" programs. There are "safe-school" programs, "cultural diversity awareness" programs - and more.  I sometimes wonder whether these aren't having an opposite effect to the one intended. 
And it also seems that, because of these programs, some adults seem to believe the problem no longer exists. 
A couple of years ago I was talking to someone in the local shopping centre. Her son had just started at the local high school. He is a quiet, studious boy. He comes from a quiet, studious family. Suddenly school was living hell for him. He was being bullied. His lunch was taken from him and stamped into the ground. He was shoved head first into the toilet bowl and the toilet was flushed. His shirts were torn off. His other belongings were scattered and broken.
The school took the attitude that "the students know bullying is wrong. We have an anti-bullying program. If you say any more it will just get worse for your son."
I wonder how many other parents have been told the same thing? I wonder how many other students have been told the same thing too? How many students are simply saying nothing because they are too afraid to speak up?
We have seen the same sort of thing in the media recently - particularly over the "same-sex marriage" debate. People who have spoken out against it  have been threatened and, in some instances, their families have been targetted as well. Whatever you believe about the issue that is wrong.  
The parents of the boy in question ended up withdrawing him from the school. He eventually went to another school where the head arranged for several other students to watch out for him but the experience in the first secondary school has almost certainly marked him for life. His parents are still worried about him although they try not to show it. 
Last week a slightly older group of teens I know invited him to join their group on an outing. He doesn't knit the way they do but he makes the most exquisite paper models. They were going to do a demonstration of their varied skills and they said he should join them. It took a bit of persuasion but he went to the event and showed much younger children how to do some simple origami. He also worked on one of his more complex designs. His mother tells me he came home and actually talked to her about what he had done. That's a huge leap forward. He's been invited to go again and told them that, subject to parental approval, he will.
But it shouldn't have taken that. He should have a group of friends his own age who can appreciate that he's just a little bit different and very skilled in his own way. So yes, I still feel concerned for him as well.
I wonder whether people ever think of the potential consequences when they bully, when they make unkind remarks. What if this boy had ended up bullying those who were bullying him? Would we  be on the brink of another war here in the suburbs?

Monday, 4 September 2017

A bone marrow transplant

has to "match" the recipient. 
I don't know much about these things but I do know that much. Bone marrow transplants were just starting to occur when I was in my teens. By the time I went to the UK to university the research into how they could be done and what they could do was expanding rapidly.  
A registry of potential donors was being set up. There are now 28 million people on that register - and it isn't enough. They could do with 280 million people - and maintaining that sort of register is unfortunately expensive, very expensive. People move, people become ill, they have accidents, they die. All those things may mean they are no longer suitable or available as donors. It is the same for all medical donations. And nobody wants the sort of "big brother is watching you" approach that would allow governments to keep all citizens in mind for potential donations.
I was thinking about this yesterday because I went to visit a friend in hospital. She is elderly, close to 90. She has heart disease, diabetes, bladder cancer, kidney failure, and other issues. Last year she had a stroke from which she made an extraordinary recovery. From being unable to use her right side she has gone back to knitting - and winning prizes for it - but she is still a very sick woman.  I admire her determination and persistence.
A bone marrow transplant or any other form of transplant will not help her - nor would she want it. Despite being cheerful and delighted to have another visitor she is realistic that she "won't see a hundred". Fair enough. 
I thought about this some more this morning because there is a small paragraph in the paper talking about the death of someone for whom no suitable donor for a bone marrow transplant could be found. Her family was asking that, instead of flowers, people register to be donors.
I think that's a wonderful, practical and sensible idea. I love flowers but I love life even more. Giving life to someone else may allow them to grow flowers.
 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The "fun police" are apparently

at it again. This time there are queries over a message telling people not to slide or roll down a hill in a park. Those responsible for the park say it has "been there for some time" and that it is to protect all visitors to the park. 
Apparently some years ago someone rolled or slid down the hill into someone else - and that someone else "broke a limb". No, not nice.
But, is it sufficient to stop children - because it will mostly be children who do it -  rolling down the hill? 
Rolling down hills is a childlike thing to do. It's part of the fun of being a child. If you can do it then I imagine it is great and giddy fun. I have never rolled down a hill but I have memories of sliding down sand  hills - and that was fun. We would crawl to the top - even my brother found it too slippery to walk up - and slide down again. FUN! You can't do it in that location any more. The sand hills have gone. There's a huge "retaining" wall to stop erosion and the beach is covered in sea weed - and snakes.  I hope there are other locations where children can still do it.
Reading about the notice telling people not to roll down the hill though I thought, does that mean we should stop children climbing on the "whale" in the local shopping centre? They might fall off and hurt themselves. What about the play equipment at the playground? Oh and you can't possibly let them run anywhere  - although parents do and the small ones do tend to cannon into adults. There have been accidents. But maybe we shouldn't even let children walk anywhere? They might trip over.
Children have been sliding and rolling down hills ever since there have been hills to slide and roll down and children to slide and roll down them.  They have been doing many other potentially dangerous things too. My siblings and I grew up mostly in "the bush" - a place where there were plenty of deadly snakes and spiders, poisonous plants and falling tree limbs. We survived. We would have rolled down hills if there had been any but the landscape was flat. It might have been sheer good luck as we did some crazy things, things our parents often never heard about. It taught us a lot and I suspect we are better and more able adults as a result.
I feel sorry for the children who never get the opportunity to roll down hills or slide down sand hills or climb a tree or make a "cubby" or "wurlie" or some other sort of small house outside. I feel sorry for those who are only allowed to ride their bikes under adult supervision - and for those children who are not allowed to have bikes because it is "too dangerous".
I hope you can still learn to assess the landscape that you live in and do the equivalent of rolling down hills. It's an important experience.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

"The yarn is almost as fine as sewing thread"

I tell the woman who has asked about the piece of work displayed in the "best of show" cabinet. It is is the piece of work which has won the "best of the best".
It is an exquisitely fine piece of work, circular with nupps. (The knitters among you will know what I mean - for the rest,  tiny-almost-bobbles made with the yarn. They are particularly used in Estonian lace knitting and are very difficult to make as well as these are made because, to look really good, they need to be absolutely even. These are and there are also a lot of them.) 
I explain how it has been made. I explain the yarn. 
The visitor tells me about the class her group will be doing next year. Someone is coming from another country town near hers to teach them. I ask questions and then tell her about the class I ran. She asks more questions about where I sourced the yarn I used, and how I approached the class. She scribbles notes all the time.
    "Thank you so much," she tells me and goes off to look at more work.
A friend has come to demonstrate. She is good with people. She knows her knitting and crochet and actually judges at another show. We go around the knitting and crochet so I can get her views - yes, she approves of the way the judging was done here too. I knew she would. The two judges have similar approaches and high standards.
I send people off to the photography section. I tell someone else where to find the mosaics. Phew! Sit down for a moment? Crochet a tiny round?
I am half way through the round when the convenor appears. Mild panic. The co-convenor says, "A...'s brought the Governor's wife to have a look. Quick! Name tags!" We scramble for the official name tags and clip them on over the guild names. The "official party", the Governor's wife and her secretary-aide, are looking at things as they move towards us. 
You know when people are genuinely interested don't you? The Governor's wife was. She stopped to look at more than one thing, asking questions of A.... as she did so.
They stop at the "Best in Show" cabinet. A...asks me over, "Can you tell her about the knitting please? She wants to know how it was made."
So I explain. She asks questions. I wanted to know whether she knitted but I wasn't certain it was proper to ask her a question so I just answered the questions and explained why the work was so special.
     "That really is lovely," she told me and her gaze lingered on it a moment longer before she knew she had to move on to admire something else. As she left she though looked back at the piece of the work and smiled again.
I hope we get the opportunity to tell the winner how much the Governor's wife liked it  because it really is a lovely piece of work. 

Friday, 1 September 2017

If you want to be a politician

is there really anything wrong with having to prove that you are not the citizen of another country or that you do not have dual citizenship?
Even our Constitutional lawyers are saying that sec 44 of our Downunder Constitution is "out of date". They say that, in the modern world, many people are dual citizens and that it should no longer matter if they are and they want to run for office as a politician.
I disagree. If you want to represent your country, particularly if you want to lead it, then you need to show loyalty towards it. Your nationality needs to be without doubt. 
The leader of the Opposition in our national parliament is refusing to produce proof that he is not a dual citizen. It is unlikely that he is but he needs to show he is not. He is almost certainly refusing to do it because that would put increased pressure on other politicians on his side to do the same - and some of them may have a problem proving they are not dual citizens. There is one particularly high profile one who has refused to produce the necessary documents even  though she has been very active in pursuing the other side over the same issue. Yes, she is probably a legitimate member of the Senate but it is not a good look.
All this comes at a time when this state is set to lose a seat in the federal parliament even while parliament will grow by another seat. It's hardly surprising. The state is not exactly expanding at a rapid rate. Unemployment is much too high, even if the "Steel-town" is set to be saved by someone from abroad. 
We need strong representation. With a population of 1.7m our federal MPs need to represent at least 150,000 people each - some will represent more than that. It's a big task. 
It's a task which requires loyalty and commitment - and people who want to do the job need to be able to show it. 
Changing sec 44 of the Constitution would require a referendum - and it would need to be passed by a majority of people in a majority of the states. History shows Downunderites aren't keen on changes to the Constitution. Any change could be quite a while in coming.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

We all have a right to a means of communication

and the right to the opportunity to state our point of view. 
It is only in dictatorships that people are denied those rights - or is it?
We were told the "same-sex marriage debate" could "get nasty". Well yes it has  but not for the reasons we were told. It has become nasty because it seems that only one side of the debate is allowed to put their case. Whatever those "for" think those who are "against" have a right to put their point of view. I am not really sure what the "for" campaign is so concerned about. All the opinion polls suggest that the ayes have it - and probably by a wide margin. Trying to prevent the noes simply suggests they are worried they might not, after all, win the plebiscite. Personally I am much more concerned by the Leader of the Opposition saying that, in the most unlikely event the "No" vote wins, he will ignore it and pass legislation anyway.  No, it isn't the legislation I would oppose. I would oppose his attitude towards the electorate in passing something they had stated they did not want. 
The same sort of thing however happens elsewhere. I had to drop a book off to someone yesterday. She is, rightly, concerned about the likely events at an upcoming meeting. There has been a blatant attempt to halt any input from the general membership over a number of matters. They have been put to the group in a way which suggests there is no room for debate, that this is the way things will now be done. Most people won't even question this because they have little understanding of how things should be done. 
     "I'm a bit worried Cat," this person told me. I know she should be. When you start to take the right to make decisions away from the group then it will always lead to problems. It leads to uncertainty rather than certainty and discontent rather than content. 
And one of the things which worries her, again rightly, is the fact that not only is there an attempt to take away decision making powers but also an attempt to deny anyone the opportunity to speak up about these things. 
Were I in a position to do it I hope I would be brave enough to get up and say something. If nobody speaks up then we will lose the power to communicate and our right to put our point of view will be diminished. If we don't let others put their point of view as well then we lose as well as them. And, more importantly, we can't try to negate hate or dangerous ideas. 
I am off to a meeting too on Saturday. I hope I have the courage to speak up there because there are some things which need to be said. I'll try and be polite and reasonable but I do want to communicate.
 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

"Duty of care"

is a term used to describe the responsibility one person has towards other people. It is often used in professional relationships.
It came up recently when Middle Cat was seeing our GP. Middle Cat had major back surgery two years ago but still experiences severe pain. She has very strong painkillers of the type that can only be prescribed by a doctor. Both of them are well aware of the dangers of using these long term. Our GP has a duty of care to inform Middle  Cat and to try and keep the amount to a minimum. 
Middle Cat knows these things. She trained as a physiotherapist. She has a son who is a doctor. 
I also know something about these things. Over the years I have picked up a good deal of medical knowledge simply through working with so many doctors and finding ways to inform other people about the things they need to say and do.
But there was a piece in the paper this morning about the grief a father felt for the loss of his wife and child in a murder-suicide. His feeling, possibly completely correct, was that it was brought on  by his wife's inability to cope with her then present pain and the strong possibility that in a couple of years she would be in a wheelchair. Multiple sclerosis? Perhaps. I don't know. It doesn't matter what the diagnosis was now. It's too late. She felt she  couldn't cope.
I wonder though how the last doctor she saw feels? I doubt he or she is anything but distressed at losing a patient like that. They must be wondering, "what did I miss?" and "what else could I have done?" They will almost certainly feel they have failed in their duty of care towards their patient. But how often does it happen?
I know someone, an older person, who recently changed GPs and was shocked to discover that her previous GP had not picked up several serious issues. Perhaps s/he was too familiar with the patient and simply missed the signs?
I know I try to avoid going to see any member of the medical profession but I hope I am not stupid about it. I do go to get essential doctor-prescribed medication. If I felt ill or suspected something was seriously wrong and not likely to right itself in a short space of time and without help I would go. But I won't go for the common cold or, potentially, a number of other ailments that  I know I am likely to recover from without help. I don't want antibiotics if I can possibly avoid taking them. They aren't going to help me recover from the 'flu - for which I have had a short anyway.
I am wondering whether doctors are missing things because they are overworked and whether that "duty of care" has been replaced, to some extent, by form-filling. Is that why the country GP missed the danger signs and a woman killed her child and then herself?
And it is perhaps why the Whirlwind's father left me an email this morning and said, "Care to say something on your blog Cat?"
He knows and the Whirlwind knows that there are some questions which will never be answered.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

How much pocket money

do teenagers actually get?
It is a question the Senior Cat has asked me more than once after observing the teenagers in the local shopping centre. I will therefore be interested to hear what he has to say about the article in this morning's paper. 
Apparently some teenagers have been ordering lunch to be delivered to school via something called "Uber-eats". The student interviewed on the front page  has admitted to ordering from "Maccas down the road".
Hold it right there. I  have never eaten one of those. I don't want to. As for ordering one for lunch....that's probably my "lunch out" budget for several days. I don't know how much it costs but I am sure it is more than a sandwich from homemade bread taken from home.
I had to earn my pocket money. We all did. Mum had sheets printed off and, each week, she would fill one in with the various things that needed to be done. My brother and I, as the two oldest, had the most to do. Middle Cat came next and the Black Cat came last. We had to do things like set the table, wash up and dry, take out the rubbish, sweep, dust, put the clothes out on the line, bring them in, help with the ironing (Mum did the Senior Cat's shirts), vacuum, clean the bathroom, and more. Things might get added if something else was happening. 
And woe betide us if something didn't get done - and done to her satisfaction. 
We didn't get to cook. Mum didn't like us in the kitchen when she was busy doing that. We did get to do the other things. Mum worked as a teacher and then as the head of a school. There was no time for teaching us to cook but the other tasks were considered fairly simple and able to be handled by us. 
And yes, we got pocket money for doing those things. Our Sunday School "collection" came from that. We were expected to save to buy birthday presents and Christmas presents. (Ours were often home made but we would buy items to make them.) 
I know other children got more pocket money than we did. Our grandparents would occasionally slip us an extra sixpence or shilling. We knew better than to let Mum know about that. If she had known then she would have insisted on us "saving" it. 
I am sure she thought she was doing the right thing. She was brought up in a household where there was no pocket money at all. Even when she went to teacher training college she had to hand over all her allowance to her mother - who returned just enough for the fares.  
I wonder what the teens ordering food from the fast food places in the local shopping centre would think of that? Have they considered ordering from this "Uber-eats"? Do they have the money to do that?
A couple of weeks back I actually had coffee with a friend in the shopping centre. The last time I did that was back at the beginning of the year. On that occasion I was invited and the friend I went with paid. He earns a lot more than I ever will so I didn't feel too bad about that. I know other people do things like that on a much more regular basis. 
Part of me not doing it is my limited income but the other part is that I grew up not doing that sort of thing. I can't remember going out with a group and having a milkshake - which is what teens might have done back then. And yes, I suppose I did miss out - but I suspect there were some other teens who did too. There will be some who miss out now.
But, there are others who seem to have an extraordinary amount. I can't quite get my head around a teenager, still at school, having the sort of pocket money which allows them to contemplate getting fast food for lunch - and having it delivered. 
 

Monday, 28 August 2017

The bullies are back

with renewed force and vigor. 
Columnist Andrew Bolt has an interesting article on them in this morning's paper. He has pointed out the problems surrounding attempts by certain sides of debates to find evidence for their own claims of bullying and more. Bolt is a very divisive columnist so I will be interested to see how much support that particular column gets.  
Yes, I have noticed a definite - and sometimes not too subtle - demand that we all vote "yes" in the same-sex marriage plebiscite. I have also noted that we are all supposed to support the demand to change the date of Australia Day. We are all supposed to be  pro-renewable energy, anti-nuclear, anti-coal. We are supposed to accept that all those claiming to be refugees are actually refugees. We are supposed to accept that some women not only can but should wear certain articles of clothing and that certain other cultural practices should be retained "because we are a multi-cultural society" - and we are told to accept that too. We even have some doctors who are, apparently, anti-vaccination. Really?
Now I am not saying I am for or against any of these things. What bothers me is something rather different. What bothers me is that there is a distinct lack of genuine debate  around these issues. People are being told things but they are not being informed. They are being given "facts" but they are not actually facts at all. There is often no research to back up these facts. There are "opinion polls".
I know someone who conducts opinion polls for a living. He and his company set about it in what they believe to be the closest they can actually get to a fair and unbiased view from those they survey. (It might be the General Public or it might be a Special Interest group or something else.) He also knows that there is always the possibility that they won't get it right. People give the answers they believe they are expected to give. Some deliberately lie in an attempt to skew the results so as to boost their own side. Others simply don't know or don't have an opinion. The way the question is put can affect the results...and much more. It isn't an exact science.
And it is all wonderful material for the bullies. They can carefully conduct a "survey" or an "opinion poll" and do it in such a way that it supports  "their" side. 
These attempts at political engineering are dangerous - and so much easier than they once were. You can get something "out there" on social and then mainstream media in a matter of minutes. I was looking for some information yesterday. When I did an internet search I came across hundreds of "articles" on the topic when I put in the base terms. It was not until I added more terms that I came to articles that I felt might be of some real value. I think it is fair to say most people will only put in the base terms. They wouldn't know to do more than that. So, even they get their "information" from unreliable sources that look as if they might be trustworthy but aren't.They will be informed by a media with an agenda and by bullies who are providing the media with that agenda. 
I think it may be too late to do anything about it as well.
That frightens me.
 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Drinking games

or drinking contests have been banned at one of the universities in this state. The students are unhappy.
The ban does not surprise me, neither does the reaction.
I am old enough to have been through the first part of my tertiary education when the drinking age was 21. Then parliament was stupid enough to lower the age of majority to 18 and the drinking age with it. 
Alcohol became available on campus rather than off campus. Yes of course people under 21 were drinking alcohol when I was there. It is a rite of passage for most young  people in this country - at some point you get extremely drunk. You regret it and, all too often, some people do it again  - and again. 
Lowering the age of majority meant that it was even easier to obtain and over indulge in alcohol. There are individuals, legally classified as children, who have over indulged in alcohol.
I don't drink alcohol and I don't eat anything with vinegar in it. Both things will make me feel as if I am itching all over. It is a thoroughly unpleasant feeling and, on medical advice, I avoid those things. Even if that was not the case I would hope that I would indulge only rarely and just a little at a time. 
If other people want to indulge that's fine. It doesn't bother me as long as they don't drink to excess and behave in obnoxious or dangerous ways as a result.
And that's the problem. When I went back to university 18yr old students could and did drink alcohol. Parties became wild alcohol fuelled affairs. They often ended unpleasantly. 
That was bad enough but there was also pressure on students to drink alcohol - and drink it to excess. Even as a mature age student I would be asked, "Aren't you going to have a drink?" I'd explain and get, "Well, a little one wouldn't hurt would it?" Sorry, yes it would."  I avoided the parties anyway. The young ones didn't want anyone over the age of 26 there and their music wasn't to my taste anyway. 
And all that has a deleterious effect on academic performance. It isn't possible to stop people from imbibing alcohol and over indulging in it but bars on campus (and often cheaper alcohol) make it all too easy.
The students might be angry but I am wondering whether banning drinking games - at least officially - is such a bad thing.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

"Did you read the instructions?"

We were standing there looking at the wooden "clotheshorse" someone had gone and bought to add height to our display cabinets.
Yes, there is rather a lot in those cabinets at the showgrounds. This is a "good thing" but it puts pressure on the available display space so P... went off and bought the clotheshorse". After all, we are displaying clothes and household items aren't we? 
It arrived in pieces of course. These things are never assembled. The instructions were written in that curious dialect of English known as "Instructionese". They had been read and we had interpreted them into standard English.
We still could not get the thing to go together.
   "Leave it," A....told us, "H....will be in soon. He can put it together."
So we went back to putting other things in display cabinets in other places. 
     "H... is here. A....'s asking him to put the clotheshorse together now," J...told me.
      "Oh good. We can finish that cabinet," I said.
We waited.
We waited some more.
Then I heard a muffled curse. It wasn't actually a rude word, more a sound of exasperation. 
And then I heard A... ask, "Have you read the instructions?"
There was absolute silence and then everyone, including H... burst out laughing.
About ten minutes later we had a very nicely assembled clotheshorse. We could not have done it nearly as well. H... had needed his electric drill and a proper  hammer (rather than the lump of timber supplied) to do the job.
We have asked if we can have two more clotheshorses for next year. H.... won't need to read the instructions again. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

More creativity!

There is a class in the crochet section which says "creative crochet". It is there to encourage people to "do things". The judge is not looking for the "ordinary", more the "extraordinary".
And there was the "rainbow serpent" rug. The maker had designed it himself or herself. It was done in very heavy yarn and must have been very difficult indeed to make. 
And there was the "princess" dress - with the crochet top and the butterfly at the back, something which ingeniously concealed the opening. It had crochet flowers all over the skirt too. Not my thing in the least but a little girl who likes pink, pretty, flowery, dress up things would undoubtedly love it.
And there were the amigurumi - both knit and crochet. There was a  tiny green chameleon knitted in very fine yarn. He - it has to be a he - was chatting away to a pair of cats when the judge reached him.   Over the other side in the crochet there were a pair of  inscrutable Japanese dolls about 5cms high. They won "best in show" and truly deserved it. 
But they were apparently nearly beaten to the best in show prize by a lovely scarf of broomstick crochet. 
And there were fun things too - a teapot cosy in the shape of a fish that was obviously intended to be Nemo had everyone smiling. He had a cousin in the recycled section - made out of discarded plastic. That must have been extraordinarily difficult to knit.
Yes, the knitting and crochet sections are getting more creative and interesting every year. I
It's a very interesting exercise to be involved in. Thank you people who put things in. I just wish more people would. 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

I started school

very young. I went in and out of school when my mother was doing relief teaching work and then began full-time at the age of four.
On relief days I would be put into the class where the youngest children were being taught. I was expected to behave in just the same way they did even when I was just two or three. The Senior Cat was teaching further up the school and remembers the country children as being generally extremely well behaved. Was I the same? I don't know.
I don't think going to school early did me any harm. I wasn't particularly fond of school at any time. I was often in trouble for reading "under the desk".
In my kittenhood you had to turn five in the year you started school or you could start the next year if your birthday was late in the year. My birthday comes at the very end of the year. I could, quite legally and legitimately, have started school the following year but my mother was only too pleased to have me out of the house. There were two more young children at home. I think that was part of the problem.
And, oh dear, I could already read. I assumed everyone else could read too. I had seen them learning to read at school but it did not occur to me that they might not actually be able to read. I had not associated the process with not being able to read.
I am not sure what I expected to happen when I started going to school on a more permanent basis. Did I expect it to be more exciting or, at very least, more interesting? If so, I was disappointed. I was an old hand at school. I had, unconsciously or subconsciously, managed to learn a good deal from my days in the classroom. I knew what to expect. Read did I say? I could read. I could spell the words for my daily sentence in my "diary" and I wanted to write much more. I could do the arithmetic, both written and "mental". I knew a lot of the things we were supposed to be taught in "social studies" and "nature science". I was bored.
My parents were offered the opportunity of allowing me to skip a grade. I suspect I was a nuisance in the classroom and this was the only way the school could see of handling the situation. I moved up and on and I was still largely bored and only a little more challenged. I don't think I was a brilliant student but, well I could read - and I did read.
There are discussions now about when children should start school. When are they ready for it? Australian children tend to start school early - anything from four and a half years of age to six. European children might leave it until they are seven - but their pre-school system is different. It depends on which state you live in. It's a ridiculous situation. I once spent a week as a relief teacher in a school in Calgary. It was the very beginning of the school year. The children were tested to see if they could recognise the letters of the alphabet, could count and so on. Some of them had the beginnings of reading. Others did not. Fortunately for me the education office there finally found a relief teacher for the one who had been rushed off with appendicitis and I went back to doing the research I had gone to do. I no longer had to worry about teaching children in a foreign country basic reading skills.
My own view is that when most children are ready to read they are also ready to start school. There are exceptions of  course but it is being ready to learn to read that matters. If you can read then you can learn anything else you want to learn. The problem is that with all that modern technology around we seem to have forgotten about the importance of being able to read, really read. Our local library seems to have a great quantity of "graphic novels" - for adults as well as children. Yes, it is reading of a sort but graphic novels are not the novels of my childhood or the books on the fiction shelves.
And the other concern is that it seems more people have problems following instructions. They can't read a pattern. There is an otherwise lovely piece of work on display at the show grounds. It won't win a prize  because there is an obvious flaw in it that spoils the piece and means it cannot even be used. Someone was apparently unable to read the instructions or "read" their work.
It just seems sad to have all that effort wasted because you can't read.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

They ranged from magnificent to

"this is the first time I've tried" and "not good enough".
I spent yesterday at our state show grounds helping to prepare for the annual state show. I will spend tomorrow there as well, working more in the area of greatest interest to me.
Yesterday was more embroidery, millinery, dressmaking, and so on.
Tomorrow there will be knitting and crochet. Some of those things have already arrived - there are always a few entries from interstate.
Yes, as usual, people forgot their paper work. That pad and pen came in very useful. I must not forget it tomorrow. We will need it again. 
But people brought in extraordinary things. One woman brought in eight - yes, eight - magnificent smocked dresses. They were made by her mother. One of those won "best in show" for that section and it truly deserved it. The workmanship was exquisite. I asked who would be the lucky one to wear them and yes, the woman's granddaughter will get at least one of them. I think some of the others will be charitable donations. 
At the other end of the artistic scale a young girl brought in a costume - a dress she had designed made out of keys of all sorts of shapes and sizes. It looked heavy. I am sure it is.
A woman of 87 came in with her son carrying her entries. She has entered an extraordinary piece of tatting - which she designed herself. There was some embroidery as well but the tatting had me almost drooling. I can't tat. It is beyond the abilities of my paws. I can however appreciate it.
There were some things for our state's women's and children's hospital...chemo caps, memory boxes, cuddly toys. One chemo cap was particularly soft, just right for a sensitive scalp. Another was beautifully felted but also surprisingly soft. One of the memory boxes had been covered in embroidery - in such a way that I wondered if the person who had made it had also lost a baby. And the toys? There was an exquisitely made doll, not too big and definitely cuddly...and that teddy bear got quite a few hugs as the stewards went about their work.
More will come in tomorrow. We stewards will stand there waiting for the decisions of the judges. Will they or won't they choose the items we have, ever so briefly, fallen in love with or will they choose something else? 
I know some people will be disappointed because they have not won prizes. Others will be genuinely surprised. Some will have a fair idea that, unless something else of a similar standard turns up, they will get something.
And I think of all the people I know who could have entered something and simply couldn't be bothered. They are missing out on a lot of pleasure, pleasure at seeing their work displayed and the possibility of a ribbon to keep for ever after. 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Protection from terrorist attacks

won't come  simply or easily. Developers  have been asked to consider ways to prevent terrorists using vehicles to murder innocent people.
The answers will come in many forms - and not all of them will be popular, particularly in Downunder. Urban areas in Downunder have often been designed to be low density rather than high density. Even though people do little gardening many still see the "quarter acre plot" as the ideal. It may not be a quarter acre of course but they expect to have a garden at the front and another garden at the back - preferably easy maintenance, perhaps even artificial lawn. (No, artificial lawn is not easy maintenance but many people believe it is.)  They want room for the "barbie" and the pergola and perhaps a swimming pool. 
In many other places of course it is quite different. People live in much closer proximity to one another. Services are closer. 
The Senior Cat was watching our neighbour load her two young children into the care the other day. It is quite a business. Master  Three needs to be strapped into a child seat. Baby goes into a capsule. 
     "Once she would have put the baby into the pram and T.... would have walked. They would have gone to the shop which used to be there in M...St." the Senior Cat observed. True. 
They would probably have known people along the route too. You don't meet people driving along in a car the way you do if you walk or ride a bike or trike.
Then there is the sort of street design that leads to better communities, horseshoe shapes perhaps? What about co-housing where some facilities are shared - if you want them to be shared - but you get some privacy with your own back garden? What about the woonerfs which protect people from traffic and allow children to play out in the street - with a mix of housing types and age groups which allow the old to sit and watch the young while engaging in other pastimes? 
Oh but where do we park the car? It's an issue, a real issue. People say they need a car to get the children to child care and to school - and then they need to go to work themselves. That all this is encouraging the concentration of large numbers of people in other places is something that is barely considered, if at all - or people say that such places are "tourist attractions". We have made them that way. You can't drive a van at high speed down the narrow, cobbled streets of a German town - but you can drive it into the Christmas market. You can't drive a lorry at speed through the backstreets of a seaside town  in France - but you can drive it into a crowd of tourists in a busy shopping precinct. 
We aren't going to be rid of the terrorist attack-by-van but we might be able to lessen the threat if we change to a more pedestrian life style and live closer to home and to community.

Monday, 21 August 2017

There was another appalling "accident"

yesterday.
"Accident" seems to be the wrong word though. Teenagers stole a car, used it to travel somewhere else. They stole a second car there and then travelled in convoy at high speed. At an intersection they went through a red light - and killed someone.
It isn't the first time something like this has happened - and it won't be the last. 
Downunder has a dangerous love affair with the car as a mode of transport. It is considered a "right" to drive. It isn't a privilege. People "need" their cars. If you haven't got a car then you borrow one - or you steal one. It is also considered that breaking the speed limit isn't really a problem. It is something "everyone" does.  It's a rite of passage for the male of the species - and increasingly so for the female of the species if the reported incidents are any indication. 
So "accidents" occur and there are demands for tougher road rules and higher penalties. But there are rarely demands for some of the things which might made a real difference. Raise the age at which you can obtain a permit to learn? No, the young "need" their cars. "Safety" is cited, especially for those who have part-time jobs - although the cost of running a vehicle is probably so high they might be better of with a different form of transport. Of course raising the age won't stop the determined young hoon who has been honing his or her skills on a stolen vehicle.  A much longer period learning - and learning from a qualified instructor? "Too expensive" we are told. Really? You can afford to run a vehicle but not afford to learn how to use it? 
There are some people who should simply never be allowed to drive. Their skills and their understanding of the responsibility will simply never be good enough. If they don't have an accident themselves then they will cause others to have an accident. 
And those older people who insist that they are "fine" to go on driving even when their reaction times have slowed, and their hearing and eyesight are fading? They might not have accidents either - but they might cause others to have accidents.
To me an "accident" is something that is all too often avoidable. It isn't really an accident. It is stupidity, carelessness, inattention, lack of ability or some other thing. It means that a woman going to work has lost her life because a few young teenagers wanted to experience the adrenalin rush of high speed travel through the streets.
They knew what they were doing. They knew what could happen. It could and did  happen to them. It also happened to an innocent woman and her family. 
Lock them up and throw away the car keys forever?
 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Volunteering

is one of those things which makes the world a better place - or it should.
I work with volunteers. I work with professional people who volunteer their skills, their time, and their money to some of the most impoverished and needy  people on this planet. (And yes, I volunteer my time to them.) 
They do not expect to be paid. Sometimes they are not even thanked. They simply go out and do the job they have been asked to do and then leave. 
You don't tell them what to do or how to do it. There will be a request from somewhere. "We have a bridge that needs repairing as fast as possible so that aid lorries can get through..." is a request that has come more than once, "We can supply the manpower but we have a problem and we need an engineer with experience of this sort of terrain..."  Then there are requests like, "Is there a doctor free to do a couple of weeks in a tent hospital in the earthquake zone?" They will know what sort of injuries to expect and, if they  have been talking to colleagues who have done similar work before them, they will know what sort of conditions they will have to work with. "We need two more people able to administer vaccinations..."
and so it goes on. 
I don't need to find those people. All I need to do is make sure they can communicate with people on the ground - if I am asked.
I thought of all that again yesterday. An organisation I belong to is about to have its AGM. There are a number of positions vacant. Once these positions would have been filled  without too much trouble. People knew approximately what was expected of them. Of course there would always be a bit of cajoling required but many people were prepared to take their turn. 
Yesterday "job descriptions" were produced. I read the job description for the position I am most familiar with - the one I  held for over a decade. I read it with a growing sense of unease. It wasn't that the description was that inaccurate. I did most of what was described there but I did a great deal more as well. Doing the job well demanded a good many things that about which the members were not informed. I also did the job differently.  I was not supervised. I did not have to report back or be constantly accountable. It was the same with every other position. It was assumed that people knew what to do and do it. In my case it was also assumed that I had the professional expertise and experience to do the job. I don't know who wrote the job descriptions although I am fairly certain who was behind them and why they did it. 
The attempts to turn a relaxed, friendly organisation into a much more disciplined one may or may not work. I suspect it won't work but those attempting may have to find out the hard way. What I do know is that if I attempted to tell any of the volunteers I work with how to do their job then neither of us could do our jobs.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Simple, effective, deadly

and totally lacking in any sense at all.
What is the point of hiring a van and driving it through a crowd? What is the point of killing innocent strangers who have done you no harm - and may even be of your faith and beliefs? 
Why should a seven year old boy be missing in a foreign city where, I have to assume, he doesn't speak the language. Even if he does speak the language he is only seven. If he is injured as well then what he is going through must be so terrifying that it will affect him for the rest of his life. 
The Senior Cat had responsibility for a very big school once, the biggest of its kind in the state. It was in the middle of a "soldier settlement" - one of those well meant but disastrous social experiments that took place after the war. It was meant to provide employment for returned service men who wanted to go farming - or simply didn't know what else to do. 
There were,  understandably, a lot of mental issues among the returned men. It wasn't helped by some of the local people not being very welcoming at the start. 
When we arrived about twenty years after the war debt was high and mental illness was a real problem. There were many other problems too. 
And yes, it affected the students in the school. It still does. I was talking to one recently. We met by chance at an event which should have been enjoyable. He was looking tense and anxious. His brother, the eldest in the family, was back in psychiatric care - the result of  having been violently physically abused by their father  during one of his many episodes of  mental illness. 
Yes, sixty-three years later someone is still suffering the consequences of the war - someone who wasn't even born before it ended. 
There are plenty of other stories like that. The idea that a war is over when peace is declared and documents signed is nonsense. It is only a start to recovery.
I am wondering about this small boy and the trauma he and all other children present are going through. Even those who are not too badly injured and come from loving, stable homes are going to have "flashbacks". What of those who have lost a parent? What of those who have seen others die?
And all that is just a small part of the terror and trauma  children are going through around the world right now. There have been too many requests for help to set up communication assistance for children who have simply ceased to speak or find it difficult to say anything because of the horrors they have seen or have been found alone without a common language. Some of them will simply never recover to the point where they can be fully functioning. stable human beings again.
Why would you want to do  that to someone else?

Friday, 18 August 2017

Pauline Hanson wore a burqa into Parliament

yesterday. 
It was a stupid, idiotic, crass thing to do. The reaction was almost as stupid.
It would have been wiser to completely ignore the stunt. It would certainly have been better if the media had not given it any oxygen at all. 
There are very few women who wear the burqa in my city. It is probably not worn by many anywhere else in the country. It is a ridiculous garment. There is no religious requirement to wear it. In some Muslim countries it is actually against local law to wear it. In countries where it is much more common women have few, if any, rights. 
The hijab - the scarf which covers the head - is seen differently by many women. Most Muslim women will cover their heads and some will not show their hair at all. 
I can remember going to the tiny "flat" of a Muslim friend at university. She had invited me and a Chinese friend - the mother of my godchildren - home for a meal.  As we all walked in she pulled off her hijab and tossed it onto a chair, shook her head and ran her hands through her thick black hair. No, she didn't wear it in the privacy of her own home. Why should she? 
    "I wouldn't bother here," she told me much later, "But it's what my husband and my father expect."  
I didn't say anything but her words have stayed with me. I have wondered since whether she would have worn a burqa if that is what they had told her to do. My guess is that there might have been some debate about that. She was young. She wore jeans and t-shirts to lectures. 
I never discussed the issue with the other hijab wearing students although I taught them. They wore jeans and t-shirts too. 
I also taught several Muslim girls who wore no head covering at all - unless they were going to the mosque.  
We,  the non-hijab wearing girls and I, did discuss the burqa, more than once. Without exception they were opposed to the wearing of it, even in their own countries. Their view was that the women who wore it were doing things like "giving in" to their husbands and other males or "too afraid not to wear it" or "just not educated" and more. They saw no point in trying to ban it but they did believe most women did not wear it by choice. They believed women wore it because they believed that was what was expected of them...and yes, they wore the hijab for that reason as well as because it symbolised their faith.
Yesterday the Senators who are usually vociferous in their support of "women's rights" and "equality" chose to side with a "religious freedom" which does not actually exist. They chose to support a symbol of subjugation rather than ignore a stupid stunt. 
If a woman chooses to wear a burqa so be it but if she wears it out of fear or even because someone simply says she should then there is reason for concern. Choosing to do what Pauline Hanson did is going to encourage a minority of men to insist women should wear a burqa - and wear it for all the wrong reasons. She has done more harm than good. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

If Barnaby Joyce is a Kiwi

then I am a Scot...I think.
Barnaby Joyce is Downunder's Deputy Prime Minister. His father is a Kiwi married to a Downunderite. Joyce was born in Australia. Another citizenship row has erupted because the Kiwis claimed Joyce as one of their own.
Really? 
I thought about this. I am still thinking about it. My paternal great-grandparents were Scots, from Caithness. They migrated here in the late 1800s. They had eleven children.
Now, if Joyce is a Kiwi because his father was a Kiwi, those children have to be Scots. Right? That means my paternal grandfather was a Scot. He certainly never renounced his Scots citizenship. He was very proud of it. He belonged to the local Caledonian Society and was an office-holder in it. He made sure his children and grandchildren were aware of their heritage. There is a strong sense of "clan" in the extended family - our family reunions are known as clan gatherings thankyou very much. 
Now if my grandfather was a Scot then his children have to be Scots - yes? And that makes me a Scot as the child of a Scot?
You can start to see how awkward all this gets. 
There are vast numbers of people who claim "indigenous" heritage - even where that heritage may be of the order of a single great-great grandparent. At the present time we allow people to claim they are "indigenous" on that basis - they simply need to be acknowledged by others with similar claims as being "indigenous". It completely ignores their other ancestry.  If Joyce had an indigenous mother or maternal grandparent (and, as far as I know, he doesn't) and had claimed indigenous heritage would this issue even have come up?
Two of my nephews have a parent who is the son of Greek-Cypriot migrants. Is their father a Greek-Cypriot although he was born in Downunder? Are they Greek-Cypriot although their "perhaps-Scots" mother was born in Downunder?
Where does this row leave me and my siblings and my cousins? Are we Downunderites or Scots? I would have absolutely no objection to being held to be Scots. My siblings and cousins would not object either  but we have always assumed we are Downunderites.
It's time to sort the issue out. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Handmade

and they fit and they are being used.
I made a friend a pair of "fingerless" mittens recently. They are made in about as simple a form as possible - two rectangles of ribbed knitting seamed up the sides with a hole for the thumb. It's the sort of mindless, beginner pattern that could be used to teach people to do knit and purl.
As I have said elsewhere in this blog my paternal grandmother taught me to knit. For both of us it was a huge challenge - but we made it.
My paternal grandmother also had the good sense not to start me on a scarf. Why do people think that a scarf is a good idea for a  beginner knitting. I do not like knitting scarves. Perhaps it is because I don't like wearing them but they also seem to go on forever. I know other people do like wearing them and I have knitted some but if that had been my beginner project I doubt I would have wanted to go on. No, I simply made a square-ish sort of thing and gave it to Middle Cat as a doll blanket. The next thing I made was square-ish too - a potholder for my grandmother. 
After that I got a bit more adventurous. Now I can think of other things a beginner knitter can make - a finger puppet to start with, a bookmark, a headband/sweatband, a phone cover? 
When I taught the class of 10-11yr old children to knit they made themselves beanies - in the colours of their favourite football team. 
I have made a lot of things for other people since then. I have had the thrill of sitting on public transport and seeing, several seats ahead of me, one of the city's "down and out" men wearing a beanie I have made. I have seen someone in the local shopping centre wearing a shawl I made and had raffled off. No, I didn't rush up and say, "Hey, I made that!" I most certainly didn't want to do that. It was just nice to think that someone was using something I had made. 
And there, in the email this morning, was a picture of A...'s hands wearing the mittens and the message telling me she appreciated them. She quilts. I know she knows about the time it takes to make things.
It makes me very glad that I was able to tell another friend recently, "I am still using that little holder you made me. It's one of the most useful things I have been given." 
And it makes me wonder about all the other things which are made with love and care and given away - and never used.