Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Animals do have emotions

and they do feel pain.
Apparently there was a vote in the UK parliament recently which denied these facts.
A couple of days ago I observed something very interesting. I was out with the rest of the family and we went to a venue which has, among other things, two alpacas on the property. They were just sitting there when we arrived. They looked at us and at the other visitors from behind the fence of their enclosure. They were I suppose "interested". At very least they were "aware". 
Some time later a small child, playing around as small children do, got herself caught on a low tree branch and couldn't get free.  There was some almost immediate and panicky crying.
The two alpacas were up in an instant. They rushed to the fence and stood there watching until an adult came along and freed the child. Then they went and sat down again in their former positions but they watched the child. Wherever she went their heads turned  - until she was finally led off for lunch.
I was reminded of another interesting event in this house. When two of my nephews were aged around perhaps not quite four and not quite two a former neighbour came in. He loathed cats. My nephews were playing on the floor and the cats had been nowhere in sight. On the appearance of the neighbour suddenly there were two cats between him and my nephews. He went to crouch down and talk to the older boy. No way! The fur of both cats was up. They hissed and crouched ready to spring at him. 
He had the sense to back off. 
We didn't think too much of it at the time. It was just a freak coincidence - or so we thought. But, the behaviour persisted. That neighbour could not get anywhere near the two small boys if the cats were around - and they seemed to know when he was there. 
When the Senior Cat was recovering from surgery the same cats spent hours apparently just asleep in the same room. It wasn't somewhere they normally slept. When he recovered they went back to their usual spots. 
There are thousands upon thousands of similar incidents which have been well documented.  All of them suggest some sort of thought processes and "awareness" rather than simply "being".
I have no idea what those alpacas or the cats were "thinking" - and I suspect their thoughts and memories are in images rather than words but I believe quite strongly that to suggest other animals cannot feel pain or a range of emotions is absolutely mistaken on our part.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Magic show!

"Grandpa's going to do magic!"
"He's going to make it disappear...and then maybe come back again."
"How did you do that?"
"Will you show me?"
Yes, the Senior Cat showed them some simple tricks - a "magic show" with five simple tricks.. He doesn't do much these days. He has given most of his apparatus to much younger magicians - one of whom is now making his (somewhat precarious) living from it. He has taught a lot of young people some of the art of conjuring.
And the kittens are fascinated, almost over-awed. He taught the oldest two a simple trick to do. The third girl can almost do it too. She will get some more help from "Grandad" - her grandfather rather than her great-grandfather. 
At least one of those "tricks" has been around since Roman times. It may be even older than that. It is a sleight of hand that still fools people. The Senior Cat has always tried to teach it - and other tricks - in a positive, fun way. We both know that some of those things have been abused - used to fool people into doing something like parting with money or valuables.
This morning the Senior Cat prowled out to breakfast and said, "I'm really, really going to miss them." 
Yes they head back to their home state this morning. We won't see them for another year. 
And then the Senior Cat also said, "I wonder how B.... is getting on."
He taught B... some conjuring tricks many years ago. B... lives in Israel now. He did his military service in Israel too. We saw a BBC video clip of him out on patrol. What the BBC didn't show and what B... didn't mention was the small "pocket tricks" in one of his pockets. When things got tense, when young Palestinians were throwing rocks B.... would bring out the tricks and do them.
They would stop throwing rocks to watch. He would offer to teach offer probably not often taken up but it was there.
I wonder how B... is getting on too. He's a grown man now.
Does he do "magic" with his children? Will they bring their children and grandchildren to be taught how to "make something disappear and maybe come back again"? 
Perhaps it's a useful life skill. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

AC/DC is not my sort of

music but I at least know they were a rock band. The death of lead member of the band, Malcolm Young, was widely publicised here. He was considered to be a "local lad" and the manner of his going, dementia, was cruel. 
    "I thought only old people got dementia," Ms W told me. I had to explain otherwise.
She thought about this and then said, "That's really horrible. He probably lived a really crazy sort of life doing that stuff but he didn't hurt anyone."
No, as far as I know, he didn't. I wonder what sort of rumours are currently flying around about  what caused his dementia. If someone from the medical profession was asked they would almost certainly say they didn't know. That won't stop the on-line "experts" telling the rest of us.
I thought of that this morning as I read about the concern over the large number of suppression orders being made by our courts. I am not opposed to suppression orders. My view is that all cases should be subject to a suppression order. 
That view usually raises eyebrows but our courts are open. Anyone can walk in and listen to what is going on in the magistrates' court, the District Court, or the Supreme Court. You can, if you so wish, head off to the High Court.  I have been in all those places. What goes on in them is rarely exciting. Much of it is extremely tedious. It is very rarely the way television series portray it. I did once hear a joke made but it was a very, very rare thing - and both parties to the matter were in consensus as to what the outcome should be in the case. The Children's Court is, rightly, closed. Once, in a long while, courts will hear something "in chambers" or "in camera" - privately.
That might be done to protect a victim or a witness. It is not something a magistrate or judge does lightly. 
They don't make suppression orders lightly either. There have to be good reasons - and one of those reasons is the way things are reported. Professional journalists are normally responsible about such things - but not always. Selling news, particularly a big story, is more important than the rights of victims - and even the alleged perpetrators have rights.
People's lives have been ruined by the salacious reporting of cases in the past. They are even more easily ruined now by the unending commentary on social media. 
This sort of behaviour is starting to have flow on consequences into other areas. Recently I made a genuine attempt to get more information from someone. Rather than answer my questions I got a furious response accusing me of criticising - the last thing I was trying to do. People are taking offence where no offence is intended.
We might be saying more but we aren't communicating. 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Activity packs!

"I remember. You did it before."
The eldest kitten purred and found the one with her name on it. She and her brother were here a little before the others. 
"Come on!" she told her brother handing his over.
"Did you say 'thank you'," their mother asked.
"Thank you!"
They went into the other half of our living area and yes, the boy still upended his on to the floor while she started to pull things out.
The other three little kittens arrived about twenty minutes later. They saw what was happening. Anxious looks. Were they getting  something like that as well?
    "If you look by the door  you will find three more bags with your names on them, " I tell the eldest.
Huge grins - and no need to prompt a thank you. 
They all sit there looking at what is inside the bags. Biscuits! It doesn't matter that the mother of the girls has stopped at the bakery on the way.  Of course they can eat savoury twists AND biscuits.
Oooh chocolate frogs too!
How do you make this? The eldest is looking at the simple origami cat and dog face instructions. She has just turned eight. The seven year old from the other family looks at her in disgust and says, "Read the instructions."  The seven year old then proceeds to make one and shows the eight year old how to do it. The three little girls from one family do a lot more craft work than the other two. I help the five year old do it while Miss Three watches and then Miss Three insists on doing it too - and she does it with the appropriate amount of assistance. She rushes off to show her father who, being an excellent father, is genuinely interested. 
They ate things. They drank orange juice and water. They found more little things. 
    "There's a sharpener for the pencils." (I had included a tiny packet of 12 pencils about one third the length of the usual pencil.)
Miss Three had not come across a good sturdy eraser before. Her mother showed her  how to use it. Miss Three wrote "P" - her initial - and rubbed it out and then did it again and again. 
Eventually we gathered everything up and replaced what had not already been eaten in their bags. They went off to where they are staying for the next three nights.
Quiet descended. The Senior Cat went to sleep. I cleared up the dishes, their plastic cups ("you kept them from last time") and the various cups, saucers and mugs used by the adults. I swept the floor.
Later we went to join them for a barbecue. They had been to the "jumping pillow" and into the swimming pool. Now they were making "invitations" for the rest of us. The pencils were in use. The drawing paper was in use. There were cats and dogs - somewhat lopsided animals - scattered around "watching us do some more".
Today they are going somewhere else. Tomorrow we hope to take them to an adventure playground...and the Senior Cat is going to show them some "magic tricks".
And we still need to blow soap bubbles with the little party bubble kit I found in the cheap shop....if I have any breath left! 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Allen and Unwin have cancelled

the publication of a book. The news appeared in our state newspaper yesterday.
Delays in getting a book out happen all the time. All sorts of things can go wrong but withdrawing a book from publication is much less common. 
If the reason for failing to publish it is true then we have a major problem. The problem does not surprise me.  I have been aware of it for some time. I was just unaware of how far it had gone.
The book has been written by a professor at one of the state's universities. It concerns the "silent" influence of China on the affairs of this country - and the demands they are making in so many areas.
China is of course a very powerful country. The size of the population and the way that population is controlled make it even more powerful. You don't dissent in China. You don't criticise either.
And that makes it much easier for them to control dissent and criticism outside the country too. Those in authority can say, "Look, everyone here is happy. They like the way things are done. Don't criticise us."
And then they can say, "And if you do criticise us then we will take legal action and there will be consequences. We will win because we are much more powerful than you."
They most certainly don't want people to know how they really do business.
Not so long ago a friend here told me that her son, who set up a major business in China - a business which employs hundreds of local people and is very profitable for their local economy - was recently told, "Don't go back to China. You'll be arrested."
Our government won't let him return. They say it is too dangerous. No, he hasn't done anything wrong. He has obeyed all the relevant laws, paid all the relevant taxes and more. So, what's the problem?
It's simple. He hasn't paid the bribes.
There are still contracts to be met. Threats are still being made but he is a free man of sorts - unless he goes back to China.
It's just one of the many examples of how business ventures in China have gone sour for others. It seems many people have simply paid the bribes - and go on paying bribes. They don't see a choice. 
I have also had tertiary colleagues here and elsewhere complain about the pressure put on them to award higher marks to students from China - and some other countries. I have seen the work of more than one "government funded" student - the sons and daughters of high ranking officials - who were given higher grades than they deserved. I have seen them given passes when they should have been failed.
     "No, we can't fail him," is something I have heard too many times. 
But now it seems that the "influence" is ever more pervasive. It affects other parts of life as well. A look on the supermarket shelves will see "made in China" and "product of China". The Senior Cat is one of the most tolerant people I know. He has welcomed people of all backgrounds and faiths and beliefs into our home. He has been to China. He still tells me, "Don't buy food sourced from China." He knows how much of the food there is produced and he doesn't want any of us to risk our health. Still it is hard when major supermarket chains are obtaining more and more of their "home brand" products from China. Yes, they may be cheaper but are the associated risks worth the cut in price?
 I know, through my work, that some of our news is filtered by Chinese interests. There are things we are simply not being told. That's not good either. No country should be able to influence the news service of another country in that way. 
China's buying power is still immense. They are buying influence. "If you want to do business with us then you will..."
 If a major publishing house has cancelled a book critical of Chinese influence on our society then we should be worried. I don't know whether the book is good or bad, fair or not. I haven't read it. I may never get to read it. Of course I am now curious about what it says and I know other people will be too.
It also means that other publishing companies are going to be wary of publishing anything critical of China. They will look at Allen and Unwin and think, "No."
I wonder what the late Judy Unwin, a woman I liked very much, would have had to say about the way the old family firm had caved in. I suspect she would not have been at all impressed. 
If the Chinese had simply allowed publication and then come out with a rebuttal of the claims made in it they would have done themselves far less harm.

Friday, 17 November 2017

"We need urgent communication assistance

this morning," I was told. 
For once it wasn't an advocacy group but the police. They had my name as "someone who should be able to help". 
      "Can you tell me anything else now?" I asked
      "Yes, we have a victim of a crime here but we are having problems because he can't communicate. They've taken some sort of thing which helps him to talk. He has a card with your name on it."
They give me his name., I don't swear. I want to.
      "He won't even have a drink," I was told.
      "He needs a straw," I said, "Please tell him I'll be on the next train."
I left a hurried message on the table for the Senior Cat. He was out with Middle Cat. I caught the next train with no time to spare.
I arrived feeling hot - and furious. 
I don't know this man that well. He was educated at home and then at one of the fee paying schools. I know his sister rather better but I know she's away at a conference right now.   He looks up and recognises me with the sort of relief that  almost makes me terrified - and angrier than ever. I have to help this battered and bruised and abused man communicate because - I learn this - two young thugs have taken not just his ability to communicate but his dignity from him..
Yes, someone had provided him with a straw in a mug of tea that looks strong enough to stand without the mug. It's the second lot of tea.
He still looks awful.
      "'re diabetic too aren't you?" 
He looks "yes" at the ceiling. 
      "Do you need something to eat?"
He looks "yes" at the ceiling again.
Someone goes to find something he can eat - a problem in itself as he can't chew a biscuit.
       "Are you still working at....?" I ask. Today is the day he goes in if he is. He has professional qualifications and works for the same firm as his sister.
He indicates yes again and  I get someone to ring his place of work and tell them what has happened. 
    "Your boss is in a meeting. He'll be over as soon as he can," he is told. I know he will come too.
And then we go through the slow process of getting information from D.  The two police officers want to ask open-ended questions. Without a communication device D...can only answer "yes" or "no" by looking up at the ceiling or down at the floor. I explain this and say, "D... is perfectly capable of explaining what happened if you give him time. "
     "Just go ahead then and we'll listen."
They decide this after some discussion. It isn't the way they work at all. They are used to being able to control the questions.
So I start at what I hope is the beginning. I have to frame each question so he can answer yes or no or follow his eyes when I get one of the policemen to write three words on three separate pieces of paper.  
The two policemen ask the occasional question - frustratingly still open-ended - and they ask me, not him although I say, "Ask him". The story comes out. It seems to take forever.
D...gets himself to work one day a week in his electric wheelchair. It's a major achievement for him. On other days he works at home via his computer set up. He normally has his communication device and also an old style communication board I helped to make him many years ago  which has been updated by his sister over the years. Neither are easy for him to use but they are a good deal more dignified than not being able to indicate more than "yes" and "no".  His boss arrives a bit over an hour later. It takes almost another hour before D... puts his thumbprint on his statement and his boss takes him off - to work. No, he is NOT going to miss going to work whatever has happened and however late it is. There's an important meeting this afternoon and he (thinks) he needs to be there.
They were still searching for two boys in their early teens when I left the station.
I came home and emailed a temporary and very basic board to his boss. The message came back, "Printed, laminated...D...says email later. Thanks very much from all of us here."
And later I had an email from D... all it said was, "thanks cat love  d"
It might not seem much to the rest of the world but he managed to type that with badly bruised fingers holding the stick he uses to hit the keys. 
The rest of us could learn a lot from him.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Country Women's Association

is much more than a "gaggle of gossiping women" and the person who described them as such to me yesterday was told that. 
I was polite because the man who said this is a city dweller. He may not have come across the CWA - but he has eaten their scones. 
I happen to know he is fond of scones. His wife makes scones each weekend. He has demanded them - in the nicest possible way - from her ever since they both retired almost four years ago. He wants them home made and with home made jam and cream. 
His wife tells me, "He appreciates my cooking."
So he should. I have been the recipient of her Christmas biscuits on more than one occasion. Those wonderful buttery morsels don't do my waistline any good at all.  
And she makes a good scone I believe. 
I am not particularly fond of scones. I rarely make them. If I do I tend to use the CWA scone mix. I know. I'm lazy. It also happens to be an excellent scone mix. A lot of people use it.
Using the scone mix saves time. It also means that the scones are likely to be a success - something I can't always claim when I mix my own.
And there is another very, very good reason to use it. Money raised in selling it goes to a fund to help people in rural areas - people in real need. Out there in small communities where people know one another and a family member is suffering abuse or illness or bereavement then others will know. Not so long ago the CWA members in a small community used some of their funds to supply the materials to repair the building the local fire truck is housed in. The men went in and repaired it - and morning tea (with scones) was supplied by the CWA. Everyone benefits from something like that. 
So it was with serious alarm that I read that one of the big supermarket chains was going to withdraw the product from its shelves. They weren't prepared to pay more for the product although the company which makes it has been hit with a 50% increase in costs recently. They were asking for a 7% increase in what the supermarket chain was paying. No, we will only pay the old price they were told.
There has, rightly, been a community backlash. It will be interesting to see who wins this one. The CWA should win - but if the supermarket chain has a "home brand" scone mix waiting in the wings they won't.  
Fortunately other places will continue to stock the scone mix - if the company can afford to go on making it.
They had better because that is the mix that gets used each weekend to make those scones.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The results of the "same sex marriage"

survey will become available today.
The answer will likely be "yes" and then the government will be criticised for "running a giant opinion poll" and "wasting taxpayer money". 
In the unlikely event the answer is "no" then the government will be criticised for allowing people to have their say and the demands will start all over again.
The debate of course is not yet over. There now has to be legislation go before parliament - and the nature of that legislation is going to be hotly debated.  It won't be as simple as saying "yes, same sex couples should be allowed to participate in a ceremony and say 'we are married in a way the law recognises' ".
The "no" campaigners also argued for the need for religious freedoms to be respected and for education about sexuality to be removed from schools.
I suppose I am "agnostic". I believe in the tenets of the Christian faith - the Ten Commandments and the "love one another" principles without which society cannot function. I don't believe in some of the stories except as being stories to try and provide people who could neither read or write with answers to some of the big questions about life. 
And it doesn't bother me in the slightest if people of the same sex wish to live together and make a commitment to one another and call it "marriage". My only cousin is in just such a relationship and his partner is one of the nicest people I know. I am very glad he is part of our family - and has always been accepted as such. Their relationship is recognised in the country they live in and I believe it should be recognised here.
I also know that not everyone feels that way. It has been the cause of much bitterness and division in some places - even in places other than religious institutions, places which are supposed to be "tolerant" of a wide range of  beliefs. I am sorry that has happened. 
I have no idea what the answer is to such a problem.
Yesterday I had a message from someone who, I suspect, is far from happy about the debate. He believes parliament should "just have legislated to change the marriage act" and "they should ignore all those people who say that it is against their beliefs in fairy tales". He wanted me to write a letter to the paper putting forward his point of view. I told him to write his own - and no, I wouldn't help him write it. 
There was a furious response. Our "friendship" is apparently at an end. It was never more than a casual acquaintanceship so it doesn't bother me at all. I am much more concerned by what will happen when law and beliefs clash in the wider community.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

I am changing my internet service provider

because the present company has advised me that they cannot provide me with the service I require.
All I want is a plain vanilla sort of service. I want to be able to download documents, upload documents, write the blog, do a little searching, "talk" to some friends via social media - AND use my email.
Since I was required to move to the NBN (National Broadband Network) I have experienced frequent (many times a day) drop outs. I have had to "reconnect" constantly. No, there is nothing wrong with my devices. It is simply that too many people are trying to use too small a bandwidth. 
Apparently it is a common problem. Companies, in an attempt to make an acceptable level of profit, are simply "not buying enough to supply enough". It is likely that the system itself will eventually not be able to supply what people need - even if companies are prepared to pay for it.
I don't watch movies or play games on my computer so I shouldn't need the "super fast" speeds being promised. I just want something reliable that won't drop out.
So I spent some time on the phone yesterday. The new company assures me it can provide me with something that "should be better than that" of my old service. I certainly hope so.
But, it leaves me with a major problem. I still need an email server. I would also - for about 600 plus reasons - like to retain my old email address. Today I have to tackle the old company about that. I am not looking forward to doing it. Our relationship is a little tense. I am leaving them - that it is at their suggestion not mine makes no difference.
I really don't have the time to email so many people, organisations, websites and more and tell them "Please change my address in your records". I know some people won't do that anyway and that when they want me they won't be able to find me. For most people that might be irritating and disappointing but in this case it could be life-threatening. Doctors in particular are busy people. They don't need to be bothered by that sort of thing. I can do the "BCC" trick for some people and send out group emails but I can't do it for everyone. 
But, if they don't let me keep the old address, then please bear with me as I work out a way to get a new one and tell everyone. Lives may depend on it.

Monday, 13 November 2017

I nearly entered parliament

and am very glad it did not happen.
A long time ago now - or so it seems - I was at a meeting about a forthcoming election. I was there to listen to the "disability" policies of the major parties and provide some communication assistance for people who wanted to ask questions.
The usual things were said, "We'll do this...." and "We'll do better than that..." and "Our policy is...." "Inclusiveness..." Housing, employment, transport, support services all came out as ongoing issues. They are still issues.
On that occasion people banded together again and then they did something different. They put their own candidate up. He was a good man and might well have done a good job. 
     "Come on Cat," people told me, "We need another person on the ticket. You won't have to do it. We just need another name."
I told them no. Yes, perhaps I could have done it but I didn't want to do it. It wasn't that I felt I had done my bit - you have never done your bit. There is always something else that needs to be done. 
I just didn't feel comfortable about the idea about my name being there.
And there was, despite all the discussion, a surprise second candidate. She was very young and rather shy. I sensed a certain determination in her. "Good on you," I thought - and then told her so. 
Election time neared and - suddenly and shockingly - the first candidate on the ticket died. His name had to remain on the ballot paper by then. People voted for a dead man - and his votes passed to the very young and rather shy girl. She was in! It was a totally unexpected result.
Since then she has proved herself to be a good representative, very good. She has achieved more than many of those who have been elected, re-elected and then elected again. She has listened to advice and spoken up. Yes, she has had a good team behind her too. 
There will be an election in March next year. The parties are already working on it.  This time the party she represents will have other candidates too, candidates in the lower house as well as the upper house. 
Will they get in? I doubt it. It's a huge ask to get past the two major parties and an emerging party with an attention seeking clown as their leader. What they are working for is admirable but not always realistic. 
There's no lower house candidate for the group in my electorate. They cannot afford to run candidates in all electorates. 
But the once young and rather shy girl has grown up a lot and she will be looking for re-election in the upper house. It will be interesting to see if she succeeds. 
I will watch with interest and wonder whether it was some sort of premonition which made me avoid the responsibility all that time back.
It was a good thing I did. She has done a better job than I could have done. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

"You women are all the same,"

the irate male was yelling, "You shouldn't be allowed to drive. The Saudis have it right there."
I don't know what had happened. All I could see was two small cars in very close proximity to one another. Neither had any visible damage. 
The woman wasn't even trying to defend herself. She was just standing there looking visibly shaken. 
People were appearing and watching the male continue his tirade. He frightened me. My "fight or flight" response was definitely "flight".  There were, I thought, plenty of other people around to help.
Nobody did as I put my things in the basket on the back of my transport. He went on...and then he went too far.
     "Okay mate, that's enough."
I heard someone say this.
     "Nobody's hurt."
     "She didn't even touch your car."
That didn't seem to do much good either.
From where I was parked I can see down into the car parking area in question. There are arrows painted on the surface to direct the traffic flow. One of the cars was clearly going in the wrong direction. 
      "Someone wasn't looking at the arrow," I said to the male next to me. I know him by sight. I know his dog quite well. As dogs are not allowed inside the shopping centre both of them were waiting outside for his partner.
       "You're right," he said, "Here, hold her leash for a moment will you?"
He passed it over and went down. I couldn't hear what he was saying. He just said it quietly and without a fuss. He pointed to the arrow.
And yes, next minute the male was in his car. He reversed and then went fast forward. He went out of the car park faster than was safe. My last sight of him was a battered side door where he must, at some point, have failed to give way.
I just hope he didn't have an accident on the way to his next destination and hurt someone.
When I looked back the woman was on her way too - much more carefully.
The dog owner came back as his partner hurried out looking at her watch and saying the chemist had been busy.
All he said was, "Plenty of time dear. We won't be late for the service."
All I know about this man is that he was an officer of some sort in the army. He obviously still has a natural air of authority and a capacity to calm things down.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

I have been making more poppies

and, so far, I have managed to remain on my daily target of four a day.
    "How many more of those things are going to make?" the Senior Cat asked me as I added more to the "to be finished" pile.
I don't know how many more. I am aiming on one hundred  of these. If I tell you that perhaps I will achieve it.
I only made 64 of the poppy bookmarks. I hope that was enough for the group last Saturday. Although I asked for any left overs to be returned to me I didn't get any. I just need to hope everyone got one. I didn't want a fuss made about those. It isn't the sort of thing people need to know. It is much more important to reflect on what the poppies represent.
This time the poppies are slightly different from those I made before. They are, like the poppies I made for the local library to use, made from acrylic yarn. They will, along with thousands of others, be sent for the War Memorial in our national capital to use.
One hundred seems an important goal to aim for because it will mark an important centenary next year...the end of World War I.
It isn't something to celebrate though. It too is something to reflect on - just as the various events around the country will provide the same opportunity today.
Later in the day someone else remarked to me of my craft side, "Making those means you're not getting much else done doesn't it?"
My unspoken thought was, "No, I'm not but the people who went to fight weren't getting much else done either. They were farmers, clerks, butchers, grocers, teachers, carpenters, builders, and more. They gave up all that - and some of them gave up everything. 
So I will go on making poppies. I will endeavour to reach my goal. It seems the right thing to do. It's a very, very small contribution.

Friday, 10 November 2017

"There are roadworks"

the Senior Cat warned me before I left.
   "I know," I told him gloomily.
I have to plan my journeys carefully. There are places you cannot take a trike. Getting out of the way of roadworks safely can be a major undertaking.
They are "extending the tram line" and "extending the O-bahn" and "resurfacing" all in various places within the same small area of the city. It's chaotic.
Most people drive to work here. It's a very car oriented place. Public transport isn't popular. It is seen as slow and unreliable. People would simply prefer to "hop in the car and drive". There's a degree of laziness in that which is also acknowledged by many. Walk to the bus stop? Jog to the train? No. It's too hot. It's too cold. It's raining. It's windy. I'm going to the gym after work. I've got to go to the supermarket when I finish my shift. 
I  suppose I would do the same if I could drive a car. It would be nice to be able to walk out the door, get in the car and just go anywhere. I don't blame people in the slightest, especially when the trains only run once an hour at weekends. 
This time I thought I had the route planned. No. Because of the road works they have blocked something else off as well. I  know why. It is to stop drivers using it as a short cut. That's perfectly understandable but what about cyclists and pedestrians? We have to go the long way around too - and there is no reason to block that lane off to us too. Couldn't you put in a couple of concrete bollards just for now? 
As if that wasn't enough I discovered I couldn't get through the other obvious route either. It was temporarily blocked by a long low loader vehicle. I back pedalled again.
When I did get to my destination I discovered the office no longer existed. Despite what the website said it had closed. The receptionist for the associated business told me helpfully, "Try this - and gave me the phone number for an office in another state."
I didn't bother to tell her that the number was no use to me. I needed a person who could see, certify, and stamp documents. The  bank couldn't help either but suggested trying the courts - just down the road.
I went into the Magistrate's court and went through "security",
"We're worried about the dangerous...."
Yes of course. 
But they were nice and helpful. They found me a Justice of the Peace. I told him what I needed and why. He read it all through carefully. He stamped and signed and told me he hoped the only solution I had come up with would suffice. 
I posted the Tax Residency statements off and, avoiding more road works, went home - the long way around.
I have been invited out with our lovely over-the-road neighbour this afternoon. The only problem is that, to get to  the destination she wants to go to, there are - more roadworks.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Long hair, tattoos and

ripped jeans which were anything but clean. He looked a dirty mess too. He jogged up the station platform and asked me when the next train went. I said,
    "In about three minutes."
I pointed to the electronic sign he had missed. It's overhead and people do miss seeing it if they aren't aware of them.
He stood there staring in the direction the train would come from and said nothing else.
The train arrived. An elderly woman was having difficulty alighting. He sprang to her side. Took her shopping trolley and put it on the platform and held out his arm for her to take. She looked startled but let him help and then muttered her thanks.
    "Now you get on," he told me, "I'll get this on."
And next minute I was on, the trusty trike was on.  I thanked him rather more effusively. It is really nice when other people help with that!
He actually validated his ticket and went to sit a little distance away. The person next to him looked uncomfortable but he didn't appear to notice. 
And, when we reached the city, he approached me again and asked, "You okay getting off?" 
It's easy in the city as the train is level with the platform. He went off.
    "You can never tell can you?" someone said to me watching him go.
No, you can't. 
Later in the morning I had to go into the Magistrate's Court in the city to get some documents certified. On the way in someone who looked much the same but had, if possible,  even more tattoos held a door open for me.
     "Paying me f-ing fine, need to get me a bike like yours," he said.
I thought again, "You can never tell."

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

I bought another book yesterday

but it wasn't for me. 
I like to buy books for other people and this is one I have bought more than once. It is a book every child should have. It makes a lovely gift for a newborn baby.
I have given the book to both the newborns currently living in our little street. I have given it to many others too.
The book is old and yet new. Timeless? Yes, almost certainly.
It is AA Milne's "When we were very young". 
I am even happier I bought it now because, in this morning's paper, there was a tiny article many people will miss. It was about the importance of nursery rhymes in helping to develop language and literacy in children. It was about the way in which these are being eroded by the use of electronic devices and the failure of parents to repeat them, over and over, to their  children.
Some years ago now I was waiting at the railway station. It had been raining and a small boy was jumping in the puddles. He was splashing and laughing and enjoying himself immensely. Happily his mother had the good sense to allow him to continue doing it while we talked. When he tired of it for a moment and came back to his mother I told  him,
       "John had great big waterproof boots on...."
I recited it all to him. He wanted it again...and again.
His mother didn't know it. She didn't know AA Milne as an author. Her knowledge of Winnie the Pooh was simply as a cartoon. I told her about the poetry and suggested she look in the library. 
Now it seems that children don't even get the basic nursery rhymes, that Humpty Dumpty has fallen permanently off the wall and the cow no longer jumps over the moon and nobody falls down anymore.
That was apparently of concern to researchers. 
It worries me. Some of those things are hundreds of years old but they still matter. They teach rhyme and rhythm and repetition and, when they become familiar,  they are a comfort to a child who can recite them to himself or herself.
Ms W has to do a school project and she was asking me for ideas. I think I might suggest she look at the background to some nursery rhymes and why they were important from the very beginning. 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

No, it wasn't the gun

that killed those innocent people in Texas. It was the person behind the gun.
I think we all know that.  However to use that as an argument for gun ownership is ridiculous. 
Recently I was startled by the daughter of a late friend showing pictures of her daughter, barely in her teens, with a gun in her hands. Father and daughter had been out shooting.
This family are devout Christians. I have no doubt at all they do their best to live by Christian principles and that they do their utmost to support their family, their neighbours and the wider community. Still, they go shooting.
After a little while I came to the conclusion that it is part of the culture, a gun culture. That "right" to "bear arms" is part of their lives. 
For me there is a vast difference between killing just enough to eat or otherwise survive and killing for the "fun" of it.  I will eat meat but we eat very little of it and, if it was not for the Senior Cat, I would quite happily go without it. 
But, other people see this differently. They see it as a "sport" and a "challenge".  It really is part of their lifestyle and their culture.
And that is what is going to be so hard to change.  
I think, indeed know, that I am fortunate to live in a country where no such "right" exists. That doesn't mean that we won't ever have a mass shooting or that people don't get killed by guns. For us though the difference is that a mass shooting brought about increased gun control and when a mass shooting occurs in the United States and we hear about it then the vast majority of us believe our gun laws are good - and could perhaps even be more stringent. 
And yes, the latest appalling and terrifying act of mass murder in the United States was almost certainly a mental health issue as well. The sad thing is that here the individual would have found it impossible to legally own a gun and much harder to obtain one illegally. 
How do you change a belief that gun ownership is a right? It's an enormous responsibility.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Good news doesn't sell

I have noticed this before. Unless it is a story about your favourite football team having won the premiership then people don't want to know. 
Add a few negatives to the mix, an orphan and a disability in this case, and people seem to be even less interested. I suppose I should know enough psychology to expect that but it still disappoints me.
There was a lovely human interest story on the front page of the Sunday paper yesterday.
I remembered the young man. He was abandoned in a shoe box at an orphanage in Vietnam. He was born without fully developed arms and legs. His jaw was fused together and his mouth was so badly deformed he couldn't feed properly. Nobody, or so it seemed, wanted him. 
One person did. He was brought to this state and then, extraordinarily, a couple adopted him. They adopted all his problems too - the initial months in hospital and the years of medical treatment.
If the picture alone was anything to go by he has repaid others for their kindness in spades. His smile and that of his physically perfect young daughter said far more than any number of words.
I was briefly in our local library yesterday afternoon and I heard someone say to someone else, "That was a dreadful picture on the front page. They shouldn't put that sort of thing there. The kids found it upsetting."
And then someone else said, "Yes, it's wrong."
      "Should leave that sort of thing alone," another person added.
After Saturday afternoon I wasn't willing to risk another confrontation. I didn't have the energy.
So I just said quietly as I passed, "It's a wonderful picture, full of love." 
I went around into the first aisle and heard,
     "She is weird."
I think I'll stay weird if it means I care about that sort of thing.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

I lost my temper yesterday

I didn't mean to do it. It's the second time in a month I have lost my temper, both times at the same venue.
It is time I stopped going to the group. 
I tried to do the right thing, indeed I did what I was advised to do. 
Yesterday I was descended on by two members of the group who refused to accept that I was doing the right thing. I felt threatened, so threatened I felt frightened. I should just have slunk off silently but instead I lashed out. I suppose it is what we cats do when backed into a virtual corner. Unable to reach my belongings and go quietly I had no choice but to endure some very public humiliation.
Yes, it's my fault. I should just have kept my mouth shut and my miaous to myself. I did keep my paws and claws to myself but I thought one of the two was going to not just verbally but physically assault me.
I then argued with someone else as I was collecting my things, someone I have very much liked and respected, the person who asked me to join the group many years ago. That's made matters worse.
I've never been in this sort of situation before. I am still feeling frightened by what happened.
I've apologised to everyone involved because, whatever might have happened and whoever was at fault, I could have behaved differently.
It doesn't make me feel any better. I am just feeling miserable. I just wish one of them would come and knock on the door. I'd ask her if she wanted me to put the kettle on. 
I hate arguing with anyone. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The National Broadband Network

has, rightly, come in for a great deal of criticism. This household is one which is suffering from the consequences of a series of political decisions, union demands, technical ineptness, and more. All have combined to give Downunder a network which is less efficient than some much less developed countries. 
And the internet service providers, the companies which are supposed to provide the connections to the network, are of course about making a profit. They are not interested in solving problems for the technically inexpert like myself. Their "help desks" are staffed by technicians who don't know how to speak Plain English to people who need some help. They are not sympathetic towards people who don't know where to instantly find the icon they are talking about or....well, I am sure you understand.
And, I am a cat. I have clumsy paws. I cannot manage to do these things quickly or easily even when I am not under stress. So, a technician I  trust is coming today. 
He went through a few things with me yesterday. He was slow and patient. He told me things like, "In the bottom right hand corner there will now be X icon.  Right. Click on that." 
The only thing he doubted was when we did a "speed test". My download speed on this supposedly super fast new broadband network was 44kbps. I told him this.
     "No Cat you must be looking in the wrong place."
I told him I wasn't and explained what I was looking at.
There was a moment of silence and then  he said, "Unbelievable."
He told me to save it. He told me how to take a "screen shot" so he could actually see it, refer back to it perhaps. I did this.
I have done two more of these tests since then. They aren't much better, although this morning's test did manage to go over the magic megabyte - about one twenty-fifth of what it apparently should be.
For me the speed hasn't mattered too much because I am normally downloading documents, uploading documents and doing some searching. I don't play video games or watch movies. 
But, this isn't the service I have been paying for. I haven't been paying for the continuous drop outs either, or the constant need to "reconnect" to the wifi signal. And I understand that the ISP staff are quite able to do their own speed tests. Even without that they have known for months that I have been a frustrated cat. 
What is more I have now been told that the information I earlier supplied them with was enough for them to at least partially solve the problem - without any input from me.
There may be further growls to the management.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Non-combat personnel

and humanitarian workers are the glue which hold a lot of fragile fabric together in conflict zones.
I don't know a lot about the official non-combat personnel in the armed services. They presumably get given orders to go and do things and then get on with it.  I do know several non-combat personnel but it isn't the sort of thing we talk about. We are much more likely to talk about something positive - knitting perhaps?
I do know, if only through mail, email and other non-contact means, a lot of other humanitarian workers. Their work is often very dangerous.
Some of them have not survived. The first person I knew who did not survive was someone very close to me. He knew the dangers but went in to help anyway. I'll never forget his father phoning me and saying, 
       "Cat, have you got someone who can be with you? I have some very, very bad news, the worst." 
If it was bad for me I still can't comprehend what it must have been like for his parents. They both died early and I am certain it was part stress at losing their only child.
Each year at school we were told the story of "Simpson and his donkey" - the supposed story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, the stretcher bear at Gallipoli in World War I. The story we were told was not quite the truth but it served to tell us that non-combat personnel were also present and were also courageous people. 
Since then I have known, one way or another, many other stories of those who have died trying to do good in the violence around them or through an accident caused by the conditions they were working under. It isn't always something you hear about. Sometimes it gets into the local media, even a state newspaper, but often nothing is said.
It is for that reason I have spent some time in the past month making some poppies and turning them into books with the help of outsize paper clips. It is the anniversary of my friend's death tomorrow. I have made poppies for remembrance and turned them into paper clips to acknowledge those who attempt to hold us together under the worst of circumstances.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

"I'm not allowed to do that,"

the small voice told me. He looked embarrassed too.
As well he might.
I was minding a just turned five year old for an hour while his mother was at the dentist. His grandmother had another appointment and I was asked to fill in at the last moment.
This household is I suppose prepared for small children. There is plenty of craft material, books, a few toys. 
Of course children of that age often bring something with them. This child had not brought anything. 
He can't read yet and books seem to have a limited appeal for him. He's not allowed to look at them alone at home "because he might tear the pages and we want to keep them nice".
Oh, right. Most of our books for younger children look well used. They have been well used.
I printed off a couple of colouring pages. That went well. He's neat and careful. It took quite a while. He told me about what he was doing but in a hesitant sort of way.
The next problem was scissors. One colouring page had a cut out you can put on an ice cream stick and turn into a puppet. I gave him a pair of "safe" small scissors. He shook his head. He isn't allowed to do that either. We did it together.
Granny arrived to pick him up a bit later. She admired his puppet and sent him to get in his car seat in her car.
    "How much of that did he do?"
I told her and asked about the scissors. She raised her eyes and stared at the sky for a moment and then said,
     "He starts school next year and I am worried sick. He's not allowed to do this...he's not allowed to do that...I've told (his mother) that being able to turn the pages of a book and use a pair of scissors are absolute basics. She wouldn't let him go to a playgroup or anywhere else. Now she is talking about home-schooling him because...well you can guess. When they were living in Jakarta he was almost never allowed to go anywhere and they had servants so everything was done for him. He can't even completely dress himself."
This is her daughter-in-law or I suspect the riot act would be read.  Her children were into everything.
    "I just hope she won't take that stick away from him. She will probably worry he will poke his eyes out with it."
A normal five year old should be able to use a pair of blunt pointed scissors. I handed them over to Granny and said,
    "Whatever his mother thinks he needs to learn to use them before he goes to school."
Interfering?Yes - but the consequences of not being able to do some of those things are much worse. 
School will be a shock.
I'll try and buy some more scissors today.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

"It's my favourite mug,"

is something I suspect everyone has heard. 
I was given another mug yesterday. The good friend who gave it to me knows I am fond of cats and this one had cats on it. It is lovely - not just because of the cats but because my paw finds the handle comfortable, something far from true of all mugs.
My breakfast mug was given to me by Middle Cat. There is a picture of a cat on it as well - a cat holding a computer "mouse".  I never use it at other times. It is rather large.
The Senior Cat's breakfast mug has a picture of his eldest great-grandchild on it  - then aged about four. He also has an "outside" mug given to him by our friend H... which says, "Real men like cats."
We have other "cat" mugs - and other mugs.
I thought of these this morning as I was looking through the paper. There was yet another article on some of the very strange research grants that universities have been given - for things like the demise of Chinese artisan tailors during the cultural revolution and the changing circuits of travelling movie theatres in Downunder.  They remind me of the grant once given to see whether trees provided shade. 
Read a little further of course and those acquiring the grants have tried to argue that such things have value or present day significance - like the one on 19thC Spiritualism which claims that it will help  us understand present day religious dynamics. Mmm... maybe.
But what about some research into coffee mugs? I am sure it would be valuable who is using what mug, when and how they use it.


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

"Oh right, Halloween

I suppose?"
I had to buy a second packet of chocolate frogs. No, we didn't eat them.
Our Over-the-Street neighbours unexpectedly invited us in on Sunday for "birthday cake" for their elder granddaughter's birthday.  Having nothing to give the 8yr old in the way of a present I  took the first packet of chocolate frogs, the frogs intended for the activity and sugar-hit packs for the Senior Cat's great-grandchildren. 
I know. They don't NEED chocolate but it is twelve months since they were last here and the middle of November is coming up fast - if they come.
Yes, it was all planned. We hope it might still happen. The Senior Cat will be very disappointed if it doesn't but he was the first to suggest that it might not happen. 
My brother and sister-in-law are currently looking after two of the grandchildren - whose parents have gone on holiday for almost ten days. My sister-in-law also had to deal with a crisis concerning her mother - now in hospital for an extended period. When my brother phoned yesterday he sounded exhausted and said my sister-in-law was "ragged round the edges". 
I can imagine. Those two are extremely demanding children, used to almost constant adult attention. My sister-in-law spends a lot of time caring for them before and after school. She also has an elderly and very frail mother. 
When I was a kitten my parents once spent a weekend away. There was a good reason for it. It wasn't a holiday. A great-aunt and her family were living with us at the time and they looked after us with some help from my paternal grandmother. My parents left on the Saturday morning and came back on the Sunday evening.
On other occasions over the years one or the other of my parents would occasionally be away at an education conference but there was always one of them home. They didn't expect other people to look after their children.
But it seems things are different now. If you want to go on holiday you leave the care of your children to their grandparents. 
The Senior Cat is not impressed. I know he is trying not to think  that this extra load might be too much for my sister-in-law and that she might not be able to make it. He loves her dearly - and she is a very easy to love - but he knows that everyone has limits. 
Will the rest of the family still come if she decides her mother - who will still be in hospital - can't be left? Either way it won't be a break for her. If she is here with the children there will be demands placed on her.  It was one reason for organising the activity packs - so that they would have things to do with minimal supervision. I know one mother will help. She trained as a teacher and her three are much less demanding.
And I thought that the inclusion of small packs of dried fruit, teddy bear biscuits, and those chocolate frogs would help keep the demand for snacks down. Halloween had nothing to do with it. The only two neighbourhood children who might have done Halloween have grown out of it. The others are too young, would not be allowed, or won't be interested.
If someone does happen to turn up then I suppose they can have a chocolate frog.
But now I am wondering whether I should have bought my sister-in-law an entire packet of chocolate frogs.
On the other hand I might just buy her something small and scented and put it in a post bag and send it with a note saying, "You need pampering too."

Monday, 30 October 2017

Sir Ninian Stephen was

was the Governor-General when I was living in Downunder's national capital. 
I never expected to meet him although he always took an interest in what was going on at the university and, in particular, what was going on a the Law School. He was away over there in Yarralumla and I was a mere "stewed ant" who also tutored students in order to eat and wrote communication boards for aid workers because people needed them. (Yes, I was busy. It is good for cats to be busy. We don't have time to be bored - ever.)
I didn't expect to have anything to do with the university's Vice-Chancellor either. He was one of those remote figures you occasionally saw rushing across the grounds to yet another meeting.We met because of a mutual acquaintance who was visiting from my previous  university. Our mutual acquaintance had seen me and apparently said, "That's Cat. I must say hello to her."
I don't know what else he said but Professor Karmel must have remembered me because one morning there was a message to one of the secretarial staff, "If that Cat isn't in a lecture could she please come over to the V-C's office immediately."
Almost petrified with fear I prowled reluctantly over. What on earth had I done?
It turned out there was nothing wrong of course. I was formally introduced to Sir Ninian who was then the Governor-General of the day. He apparently wanted to meet me because he had been told, from more than one source, about my efforts to get International Literacy Year off the ground. We talked for about ten minutes and it was only when his aide told him he had another appointment and really must leave that he apologised and broke the conversation off. His questions had been searching, so much so it reminded me of my doctoral viva. 
We met twice after that. It was the conversations I  had with other people who told me things like, "I was at a meeting and the idea (of International Literacy Year) came up and...." that mattered most as the idea suddenly took off after all the years of letter writing.
On the second occasion I met him, just after the year had been officially announced by the United Nations,  he just told me quietly, "Well done Cat."
That was enough. It allowed me to say, "Thank you for your support."
He was a gentleman. 
The statement below is the official one from the office of the present Governor-General. Reading it I consider myself even more fortunate for the support he gave me.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Making a Christmas tree

is not something I expected to be involved in  but one of the members of the knitting group obviously had a skilled and creative craftswoman for a mother. As a result she still has the tree her mother made for her - made her out of an umbrella.
Her mother removed the waterproof fabric and covered the spokes in greenery - and there is a tree.  It is a simple but very effective idea. 
Another member of the group took this idea up with an enthusiasm. We would, she declared, have an entry in the Christmas tree parade in the neighbouring suburb - still in the same council area but a little further up the hill. 
Oh yes, we would have a tree. I thought hard about this. I wanted to contribute but I am not much into making "mini" size things. I don't mind the knitting but trying to put them together is another story altogether. 
No to worry I was told. They would do the putting together if I did the knitting. So, I made a tiny jacket - and did manage to knit that together. Then I made two small "presents" - knitting shaped into boxes and tied with gold "ribbon"  (a strand of gold yarn). Someone sent me a tiny pullover so I copied that idea.
And other people made other things. There is a tiny bag with knitting in it  that I particularly like. It was one of the first things to appear. 
Yesterday a friend came to lunch and contributed two sparkling pieces of crochet - something she is expert at doing.
And the tree came so it could be admired. It now has a "star" on top. It isn't any ordinary star either. It's a ball stuck through with knitting needles and crochet hooks and it fits perfectly into place on top of the tree. 
One member of the group has offered to come and fetch the Senior Cat so that he can see all the Christmas trees - but ours in particular of course! I hope that Friday in December is not too hot because he purred briefly and said it would be interesting to see what groups of people had done.
And that of course is the important thing. These aren't individual efforts. They are group efforts. We got together. Others are getting together. It required cooperation and the willingness to each do a bit.
All the trees need labels so that people who go to see them will know which group contributed them and a statement about them.
On ours we are planning to put, 
      "This umbrella spoke to us and asked to become a tree."
Perhaps it is smiling at us too. 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Rejoicing over someone else's misfortune

is something that puzzles me. 
Yesterday my news feed was crowded with people saying how pleased they were that someone had lost his job - because he was unwittingly in breach of sec 44 of the Downunder Constitution which bars "dual citizens" from being members of the Federal Parliament.
He may well get his job back at the by-election. I hope he does. I don't know the man or have any particular feelings about him one way or another but knocking a man when he is down is one of those things you just don't do  in my book.
Before the electoral boundaries changed my local MP was a man who betrayed the electorate. Many people are still very, very angry about that - and rightly so. I would certainly not have voted for him at the next election and, if he stands again, he is likely to be  humiliated by the low number voting for him. However I might feel about that I won't go out into the streets crowing about his demise.
When I said this to someone recently they asked me, "Well, how would you feel if someone like Mugabe or Kim Jong Un was assassinated? Wouldn't they have it coming to them?"
My answer was, "I still won't go dancing in the streets."
When those two men die, and when others like them die, then I simply hope for a change for the better. I am also realistic enough to know that there might be a great deal of unrest that will endanger the lives of many people. The transfer of that sort of power rarely comes easily.
But it is still no excuse to rejoice in the misfortune of someone else. It is no excuse to rejoice because someone else's child has been caught up in the laws of, to them, a foreign country. 
The gleeful response by so many, including some media commentators, suggests there is something very wrong with our society. Our ability to "post" something on social media has made it too easy to mock someone else. 
I am fairly certain someone I know will read this and say "But you did that the other day."
No, I didn't. I was not rejoicing over anyone's demise. I was simply wondering at the demands and reaction of people who choose not to participate but still criticise. That is what is happening here. 
To all those rejoicing in the fact that someone else has lost his job I ask, "How would you feel if this was you and people were saying such things?"
Isn't it time for a little empathy?

Friday, 27 October 2017

"I don't believe I misunderstood your intentions"

came the angry response.
I had answered an email from someone and, because I genuinely wanted more information, I wrote back and asked for it. I was stunned by the response. The writer was clearly furious with me and refuses to believe that a genuine request for information was just that. 
     "What you gave was a diatribe...
I have been puzzling and worrying about the response ever since. It was so far removed from my intentions that I went back  into my files and found a copy of what I had actually said. On this occasion I had, for once, actually written something and read it out."
No, it wasn't a diatribe. What I said at the time was factual. It was as accurate a report as I could give followed by two statements and then a light hearted remark which, at the time, produced a laugh. Apparently it is now seen very differently.
All this and the reporting of another incident,  that of the police raids on the AWU offices interstate, has once again left me believing that some people don't want to know the facts. The Leader of the Opposition claimed "at least 25" police were involved in the operation and one of his colleagues claimed "30". They also claimed the raid was carried out at the request of the government.
Now it has been reported that they have put a Freedom of Information request into a Minister's office.
The matter was so serious that the AFP - the federal police force - had to issue a statement saying that there were just 13 officers involved - eight in one state and five in another - which is a small number given the likely size of the operation. The AFP also had to state they were acting on a search warrant issued by a magistrate. The magistrate was acting on a request by an independent body the Opposition helped to set up. The AFP is independent of the government. It has to be.
As far as I know nobody has directly questioned the Leader of the Opposition about his claim of "at least 25" being involved. Being a politician he would probably wriggle around it as being what he had been told. This would of course be fine for him - but not for the Minister he is accusing of "lying" because she did not know one of her staff had acted. (The question as to whether you can lie if you don't actually know something is an interesting one.) And failing to report that the Leader of the Opposition was making a false claim is, at best, selective reporting. (I was told that it wasn't considered newsworthy.)
Politicians, especially politicians that senior, can handle themselves. They have media advisers and can issue press statements.
I don't have a media adviser and I cannot issue a press statement. I have little doubt that I will come in for yet more criticism.  All I can say is this - and I have forgotten where it came from - 
"I  know you think you understood what I said but I am not sure you realise that what you heard is not what I meant."  
I rest my case. 

Thursday, 26 October 2017

So 40% of aged care residents don't

don't get any visitors for 365 days of the year - don't get any visitors.
I don't suppose I should be surprised. Aged care complexes are depressing places to visit. I have spent a good deal of my time going in and out of them. 
I know a lot of elderly people. Some of them are friends of the Senior Cat. Some of them are my friends. Some of them are people I have come to know as I have pedalled to and from the shopping centre or the library.  I have met some of them at the library when they were younger - often because they were looking for something and I was asked to help or they asked me.
I have helped them clear their houses and move into nursing homes when they could no longer cope.
And I have damn well gone to see them once they are there. It doesn't take much. I might only be able to stay a few minutes but it makes all the difference. It makes all difference for no more reason than that if the staff know someone, anyone at all, is coming to visit then they are going to take more care. 
When I do go to visit I make a point of talking to other residents on the way. It is usually nothing more than "hello" and perhaps a comment about the weather or something they are doing but it has never been rebuffed. Occasionally it will be a few minutes chat and they will show me pictures of children or grandchildren or the dog they once had or they will tell me something about their past life.
I go away feeling both happy they had someone to talk to for a few minutes - even me - and depressed at how narrow and dull their lives have become. 
It is why one elderly woman I know refused to move into a nursing home unless she could take her computer with her - complete with the capacity to Skype her family around the world...and she did. I visited her on a regular basis simply because she was still very good company. She didn't let her new home get her down but she also knew she was one of the lucky ones, still intellectually very alert and able to entertain herself.
One afternoon I went to another facility and found the woman I had gone to visit had been taken to "community singing". I followed the noise and found a dozen or so residents sitting staring at words on a screen and listening to rather than singing with an ancient cassette tape recorder. They looked bored, so did the member of staff watching them.
   "Ah, turn that thing off," one of the old men said. "It's Cat. We'd rather talk to her."
Not very polite of him perhaps but, if my company was preferable, they were fed up with such "entertainment". 
But even that sort of "entertainment" is apparently preferable to just sitting staring at the wall when your eyesight and concentration are no longer sufficient to read a book, when your hearing does not allow you to listen as well as watch television (and the programmes bore you anyway).
But it also makes me wonder what happens to those older people who do remain in their own homes without family or friends. It makes me wonder what will happen to my generation when the children have scattered interstate and overseas and the next generation when family ties have, for all too many, weakened.  
It is why we want, if at all possible, to help the Senior Cat stay in his own home with family coming in an out.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

"Get Up" is

a Downunder activist organisation which claims to be "driven by values, not politics". 
Yesterday one of Downunder's main union offices were raided by the police who were searching for, among other things, evidence that "Get Up" is actually a political organisation.
To suggest that "Get Up" is not political is nonsense of course. All activism is political in nature. We may not recognise it as such. When we protest that we want to "save the whales" or against a library closure or anything else we are being political. There are other completing interests there. (Might it be said here that I am all for saving the whales and utterly opposed to libraries being closed.)  If we save the whales then the Japanese whaling industry goes under and jobs with it. If we save the library the money spent on it won't go on another service others see as just as essential. 
During International Literacy Year I was involved with many projects designed to do two things. One was teach people to read and the other was to provide material for them to read.
You would think that such projects would be popular and welcomed. 
Not so. They often faced great opposition. They faced opposition not just from repressive governments but from groups similar to "Get Up". These groups saw education and the ability to find information for yourself as a threat to their  power. It was a similar reaction to the historical reaction to universal education in Europe. It wasn't seen as necessary -  until the Protestant/Calvinist movement decided people needed to be able to read the Bible. 
The internet and access (or lack of access) to it has changed the way we think about many things, including the need to read. Organisations like "Get Up" are very adept at  using it to their own advantage. (Mis)information is out there in ever increasing volume.
To suggest that "Get Up" or any other activist group is not driven by politics is ridiculous - and should be acknowledged as such. 

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Victorian era arts and crafts

were, by present day standards, wildly fancy and over-decorated. It seems if they could "make something for something" then they would.
I have been looking at their work lately and feel almost overwhelmed by their need to decorate every possible surface. It is in stark contrast to the brief glimpse I caught of a modern "house-home" program where everything was white and there was almost nothing in the way of "decoration". 
Queen Victoria was born almost 200 years ago, at a time when people were facing great changes in the way things were manufactured.  Those changes also meant that access to the materials for arts and crafts also increased, particularly in the areas which interest me - knitting and crochet.
People started to publish instructions about the way to do things. The earliest knitting and crochet patterns are not written in a way that modern patterns are written. Far more assumptions are made about what the knitter or crocheter knows. There are no graphs or diagrams to follow. It is all written out and often in ways that are quite foreign to the modern worker, indeed the instructions may be impossible for a modern day knitter to follow when they say something like, "Put on sufficient stitches..."
I am thinking of all this because there is a proposal for a project in the air. If it happens I am going to have to translate several of those patterns into "modern" instructions - write them so that modern knitters can follow them but produce the same sort of garment. It will also mean finding equivalent yarn - something of a problem in itself.
Will people try if I do it? I don't know but some every day activities in the Victorian era, like the making of Dorset buttons, have now been turned into art forms so they might.  Whatever happens I know I am  going to learn something.

Monday, 23 October 2017

The wildfires in California

have been given considerable coverage in the local news media - and with good cause.
Downunder is prone to what we call "bushfires". We have had some serious fires in the past and we will have more in the future. 
Our house is just below the foothills of the range that divides the settled coastal area from the eastern part of the state. I can look out the front window and see some of the hillside. Pedalling back from the local shopping centre or library I can see some of the many houses nestled in among the many thousands of trees on the hills. 
As a child I travelled on the train to a station almost as high as the summit of the southern part of the range. The train does not go that far now but it still goes through areas of heavy vegetation, some of which are inaccessible by road and others which are difficult to access. Some of the areas which are difficult to access have been built on by people who want to live in what they believe to be "native bush". 
It is often these people who leave the areas around their homes "natural". They don't clear away excess vegetation. They fail to clear an area around their home and refuse to acknowledge the high fuel load. The fire danger is extreme for many people. There is no fire fighting equipment in the world that could save some of these houses in extreme conditions. Aerial assistance can only occur when the conditions are right. Strong winds down gullies - and fires create their own wind - can prevent just such aerial assistance and many houses are built in such gullies.  Ground crews cannot get to them and water to fight fires is in such short supply that the lives of crews are in added danger. 
Many of those crews are volunteers. They give up their time and risk their lives to fight such fires.
I am saying all this now because the "environmentally correct" movement still isn't listening.  The extremists who want things to remain "natural" and for things to be left as they are and those who want to live "in the bush" are putting the lives of many others at risk. Successive governments which have refused to recognise the huge risks associated with excessively long goods trains running through built up areas in the hills - potentially blocking vital level crossings in the event of a breakdown - have only added to the problem. 
It is time we started to think about what we have done and are continuing to do or we will face the same sort of disaster as California has had to face.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

So Robert Mugabe has been appointed

as a "goodwill" Ambassador by the World Health Organisation?
I can imagine few people less suitable. 
Some  years ago now people I had worked with had to flee Zimbabwe  because they were  in breach of the "association" laws. They were attempting to run a school for children with disabilities and because there were more than a certain number of staff it was held that they were "meeting to plot the overthrow"....I will leave you to imagine the rest.
I have met many "refugees" from Zimbabwe - and none of them were the "rich white farmers" that Mugabe had removed. There have been some white farmers and their families but they were far from "rich" and they had done a lot to improve the economy of the country through sheer hard work. There have been many more black residents who simply don't belong to Mugabe's tribal grouping.
The horror stories they have told me can't be written here. They would have been too graphic for the media to portray. The hospitals in Zimbabwe are in an appalling state. They lack the most basic things. In one place even the beds were removed - so they could be used by the poorest people loyal to Mugabe. When some of them were eventually returned they had to be repaired. I only know about this because someone else risked his life showing a local man how to do it.  
     "Hospitals are places you go to die" I was told by a six year old black Zimbabwean refugee. He couldn't understand that, in our country, the purpose of a hospital is to try and prevent just that. Medication for things like high blood pressure and diabetes are in short supply - if they are available at all. Most people can't afford them. They can't afford to see a doctor - even if they can find one. Mugabe's much lauded health care system simply doesn't exist for most people - if it exists at all. 
Mugabe is a despot who has betrayed his people and his country. He is not fit to have power over anyone - let alone an entire country.
So what is the WHO doing? The United Nations has a way of appointing completely unsuitable people to positions  like this. It isn't the warm, friendly, peace-loving organisation it is still all too often portrayed as being.  It is a highly political organisation which is riddled with corruption. One very senior member of the UN staff in New York once told me, "It's better to be in than out but if you are in then you have to watch your back all the time."
If he was still alive I suspect he would tell me that Mugabe still has some equally not to be trusted "friends" in high places and that his mate  Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu is merely returning a favour.
And if my long dead history teacher, the one who told us to close our books that day so that he could tell us what was going to happen in what was then Rhodesia, was still alive he would look at me and say, "I told you Zimbabwe would descend into chaos and that man was not fit to lead his country."
How can Mugabe be an Ambassador for anything?