Sunday, 31 December 2017

Whatever happened to phonics

and "spelling" and "daily sentences" and a few other things?
I remember all those.
Now I admit it might have been a bit different for me. I could read long before I went to school. Our house was littered with cards on which my mother had printed "words". If I wanted to know a "word" my mother would write it on a card in her best "infant school printing".  When the word was associated with a household object then it would be attached to that object. If it wasn't directly associated with a household object then there might be a picture - or  it would simply be added to a list somewhere in the house. The bathroom had words like "water", "wet", "hot", "bath", and "soap". Then came the simple sentences, "The water is hot and wet" and "I am in the bath playing with soap bubbles."
It was expected that I could "sound" these out. That way, so it was thought, I would have the "word attack" skills to work out new words when I came across them. 
It must have worked. I was reading chapter books before I went to school. My brother wasn't that far behind me from memory. He was certainly reading chapter books by the end of his first year in school. 
My mother taught us to read with the simple object in mind that she would not have to spend so much time reading to us. We would be able to find out things for ourselves. It was the Senior Cat who read us bed time stories - or told them. My mother thought those things were important but, apart from the conscious effort to teach her two eldest kittens, she didn't often read to us. 
I can hear her now, "What do you think it says? Sound the words out."
We would get help with "difficult" words - but "responsible" and "courtesy" were not difficult. I remember struggling over those in something which said "Do the responsible thing and send a courtesy note to the leader of the group."  The sentence remains with me but I only have a vague recollection of why I was reading it.
But yesterday I was listening to a six year old trying to read something. She is an intelligent child and does well in school. The instructions she was reading should have been easy enough. Still, she was struggling. It was clear that she had limited word attack skills. I suggested she "sound" a word out. She looked blankly at me. It was apparently a foreign concept. Her mother told me "they don't get taught to do that". They don't? How do they deal with unfamiliar words?
It seems spelling is a bit of a problem too. If they get asked to write something then they "just write it". I am sure it isn't quite as bad as her mother made it out to be but I am aware that spelling is a challenge for many a child.
Her mother didn't think there was a problem and, in one sense, there isn't. The child had performed well on the so called NAPLAN tests. She's up somewhere near the top of her year group.
It's just that she could be doing a good deal more than she is - and finding learning much more satisfying.  

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The "Saturday night dance"

seems to have gone the way of many other things.
I was talking to one of the supermarket staff  yesterday. It was her day off and she had come into the shopping centre to go to the chemist and do her own shopping. She is someone who needs a bit of extra support so, when she indicated  she wanted to chat for a moment, I stopped to listen. I'm glad I did. It was interesting.
She told me how her father's band would not be playing for the traditional Saturday night dances in his country town any more. 
I  thought it might be because the band was no longer considered to be the "in" thing by the young people in the town. Yes, that's part of it I suppose - guitar, drums, and keyboard at the venue isn't quite the same as "music" played full volume from elsewhere.
But it turned out that the other major reason is that people have simply stopped going. Those few who do are the "older people".  I was more surprised than I should have been.
The Saturday night dance, especially the Saturday night "footy" dance was sacred when I was a kitten. In every rural place we lived in it was a Saturday night ritual. In every place my parents taught, separately and together, the Saturday night entertainment was the "dance".
It would be held in the local "hall" - often not much more than a galvanised iron shed. Someone would play an invariably out of tune piano, someone else a violin, and there would be someone playing a "set of drums". Someone would be "MC" for the evening. The wooden floor would have been sprinkled with sawdust and, at Christmas/New Year, there might be some crepe paper chains and a balloon or two to "decorate" the hall. 
There were chairs placed around the edges for the "ladies" to sit on and the men would congregate at the back of the hall - near the entrance. It meant that they could "nip out for a ciggie".  There would be beer (for the men) and lemonade (for the women and children) and then, later, "supper" with scones and "cheesies", sultana cake and "jelly" cakes.  Unless it was a special occasion the night was over by 11pm. Farmers didn't keep late hours then. I doubt they do now. Some of them had to travel a long distance home too.
The dance was where the local girls met the local boys - and indulged in an illicit kiss and cuddle "out the back" or in the car belonging to a parent. Wedding receptions were much like the footy dance only with a bride and groom and everyone in Sunday clothing rather than Saturday night clothing.
We did not often attend such things. The Senior Cat has "two left feet" and dreaded the annual school "ball". My mother, a much better dancer, would have enjoyed such occasions much more if he had not been treading on her feet.  She taught my brother to waltz and do the "military two step" and the "gay Gordons" when he was barely old enough to understand left from right.  My sisters can waltz and Middle Cat sent her boys to lessons because she says it is a social skill that all kittens should acquire.
Perhaps it is. The Senior Cat, although quite unable to do it himself, remembers his father dancing with my grandmother at ceilidhs. I remember seeing my grandfather, in a kilt, somehow never touching those swords with his feet even though he never seemed to look at them. I can remember seeing him lead my grandmother through an arch of arms. It was all done to the lively sound of well played music.
The Saturday night dance might almost be a thing of the past. It is certainly not as a regular as it used to be.   But, there are still ceilidhs. It seems we cats of Scots descent still know how to dance.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Public transport (buses, trains and trams)

in the city I live in has many faults. Several days ago on this blog I complained about the fact the local train was going to be closed for several days, effectively leaving me stranded.  
This morning's paper carries a front page story about public servants who are, apparently, refusing to relocate to a new building in the old port area.  They say it is "too far" to travel. They want to "telecommute" instead. They want others to take up places in the building instead.
I thought about this and wondered how they get to work now. 
My first (paid) teaching position involved me leaving home at 6:50am and getting back at around  6:25pm. I prepared lessons on the way there and back. I typed them up and made teaching aids in the evening. Term holidays were spent catching up on the things I hadn't done and attending meetings or conferences - the sort of thing that now happens on "pupil-free" days.
If I was going to work at the new building these people don't want to work at I would not need to leave quite so early and I would probably be home before 6pm - providing that the trains were running. What is more I would be using the time I spent on public transport. Depending on my role at work I might be doing some work - or I might use it to do something else. I know I would not  simply be sitting there and staring into space. As days go my day as a public servant probably would not be that long compared with someone like my nephew, a doctor, who frequently works a twelve hour day - not including travel time.
It's very obvious we need to rethink travel to work. I imagine those who are demanding they be allowed to telecommute drive themselves to work. For them a greater distance is likely to be a problem, especially if they need to get children to school as well.  It would help if they learned to use the time they spent travelling. 
It might also help though if the government concentrated on supplying a public transport system that really met people's needs. 
Building a tunnel (at huge expense) to "save three and a half minutes" is not the answer. Making sure that public transport is an option for everyone all the time and then encouraging them to use it while discouraging the use of private cars? That sounds more like it.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

A viewer for 35mm strip films?

There was a request from a neighbour last night. Did we, or any of the other people on his list, happen to have a viewer for "these strip films"? 
The Senior Cat said, "He means 35mm film - and no, we haven't."
He had to speak to my brother anyway and asked him if he had any ideas. The discussion went quite technical. I didn't bother to try and follow it.
The film strips belonged to our neighbour's late brother. It has taken M.... a long time to get around to looking at these and other things after the appalling manner of his brother's death. 
The images will almost certainly bring back all sorts of memories. I don't imagine that they will be easy to look at.
We have a good many photograph albums stacked away in a shed. They contain photographs mostly of the two nephews who grew up here. My brother-in-law took many of the photos. I haven't looked at them in years. My mother would sometimes. Once in a while she would even sit with Middle Cat's mother-in-law and they would exclaim over how the boys had grown and so on. Yes, they were still young. The older of the two had only just started secondary school when his grandmother died. Now, he's a full blown doctor, about to get married. 
M...'s request reminded me though of how important such things are. It is said that when people lose all their possessions in a fire, flood or other disaster that one of the things that one of the things they most regret losing is photographs - those moments forever held still in time, a reminder of something past. 
My immediate family took very few photographs when I was a kitten. They were of course relatively expensive to take. My maternal grandmother had a camera. I appear in almost none of the remaining photographs. I can think of just three. My siblings appear in more - but not many.  None of us like to be a photographer's subject. 
In a way I regret there aren't more of us when young. It might have been useful when we try to explain just what it was like when we were "that age". 
I asked the Senior Cat, "What happened to the group photographs from school?" 
He had no idea. I have a suspicion my mother, who would have been the one to do it, never bought them. She simply would not have been interested. It would not have occurred to her that they might have been a record for us as well as her.
I suppose it doesn't matter that much but family photographs might. They certainly matter for M... It might be painful to see them but the fact that he now feels he wants to look at them suggests that he is, at last, learning to live with his brother's suicide. 
I admire him for wanting to see those photographs and I hope someone can help him do it.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

My grandmothers wore

"corsets". They were monstrous flesh coloured items that wrapped around their bodies with boning, lacing and hooks. 
My maternal grandmother wore one in an attempt to look  slimmer than she actually was. Nothing would have made her appear "thin" but she still attempted to look firm. Her corsets were enormous. She had them made to fit by a store in the city. There was a department in each department store devoted to the "fitting" of corsets - along with other items of women's underwear and sleep wear. I imagine they were, relatively, expensive. Certainly my mother and both my aunts by marriage never wore such things.
My paternal grandmother refused to wear one for many years. She certainly didn't need it. She was the opposite in physique, almost tiny. The Senior Cat says she was never "fat". Eventually, in her 80's she wore one at the suggestion of a specialist because her spine was gradually twisting and slowly crumbling. She found some comfort in the support it offered her but also found it awkward and uncomfortable.
I have been reminded of these corsets recently because I have been doing a little research for a proposed Victorian era project - an era when corsets were much worn. They must have been intensely uncomfortable to wear. Goodness' only knows what they did to the internal organs of the women who wore them. They were stiffened with "baleen" also known as "whalebone" and designed to make the waist look unnaturally small compared with the hips and the bust.
There are modern "corsets" of course - both medical and fashionable. I hope the medical corsets provide relief to wearers rather than further discomfort. The fashionable corsets look anything but comfortable although people apparently wear them.  (Yes, men wore corsets too.)
No, I do not plan on trying to make one. I will instead continue to hunt for the patterns for pence bags, miser  bags, reticules, shrugs, shawls, bonnets, caps, vests and more. All those things can be knitted, crocheted, beaded, embroidered and more. I need to know more than I presently do about these things but they interest me. Corsets? I think I would prefer to leave a detailed knowledge of those things to other people.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Noisy...and then

noisier still.
Your resident cat is feeling "wiped out" this morning. Yesterday's festivities were noisy and then noisier still. 
We are fortunate enough to be included in Middle Cat's "in-law" family for Christmas each year. They have always been very generous about this. 
I attempt to do my fair share of the work by taking food I have prepared and helping with the clearing away and so on. Still, they don't have to include us and the Senior Cat and I would stay at home quite happily. We aren't particularly keen on parties at any time.
Middle Cat and her husband picked us up and we set off - and then had to turn back because Middle Cat's husband had left the all important "honey crackles" on the table. (For the uninitiated these are made with cornflakes, sugar, honey and butter - you melt the latter into a sort of butterscotch, mix the cornflakes through and put this overly sweet mixture into the oven for about ten minutes. The assembled Christmas Day crowd demands them.)
When we eventually arrived at our destination it was already noisy. It grew a little noisier as, just behind us, my two nephews arrived and then more of their cousins. I could smell the inevitable barbecue.  I added two loaves of home made bread to the table to help the first course along. (There was more to come.)
The Senior Cat retreated to the far end of the outside - away from the cigarette smoke. I volunteered help by putting things on plates and tossing salad and then, like the Senior Cat, retreated to the far end of the long trestle tables. The Senior Cat was then in earnest conversation about new developments in 3D printing with Middle Cat's nephew-by-marriage. 
At the other end it got noisier and noisier. Even copious amounts of chicken, lamb, and turkey didn't seem to make a difference. The two loaves of bread I had taken mysteriously disappeared - along with two dozen bread rolls and five different varieties of salad. 
Much later desserts appeared. I am sure there were more honey crackles than appeared. I know I made three dozen but only about twenty were on the plate. The rest of those had mysteriously disappeared too. The cheesecake and the pavlova didn't last long either.
It got noisier still at the far end of the table. My nephews had long since left them to it. They don't mind a party but they wanted to actually have a conversation. I discussed a potential doctoral topic with one of Middle Cat's nieces-by-marriage and then the nephew-by-marriage who is doing film production started to tell the Senior Cat about his plans for the coming year. There are certain things he must include but he didn't have a story line. He looked at me with that look of, "Come on, think about it." 
He went on talking to the Senior Cat. I sat there and talked to his father about something else entirely different. Then there was a lull in the conversation. Someone appeared with coffee - and tea for the Senior Cat - and yet more food. I gave the young film maker some tag words to start him thinking. He made notes on his phone - whatever happened to paper and pencil?
In the midst of it all there was an eight month old Jack Russell terrier wandering around. She was a delightfully good tempered dog who endured multiple pats and tummy tickles. But, there was a bewildered look on her face. Who were all these people invading her territory?
Eventually someone gave her a small piece of lamb and she carried it off and ate it before lying under a chair for a nap. The Senior Cat and our host's father also went for a short nap.
Several of us at the quiet end would have been happy to join them. 

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Cathedral Cats had

been busy. Bach's paws were sore with all the padding to and fro, to and fro. He had inspected every nook and cranny of the cathedral - from the carvings on the baptismal font to the lead on the rose window, from the feathers on the great carved eagle who held up the pulpit to the underside of the organ pedals. He had personally cleaned the Bishop's throne while keeping a watchful eye on Cantori and Decani whose job it had been to clean the reredos. He had even hauled Matins and Vespers in from cleaning the cloisters to make sure that every page in every hymn book in the choir stalls was in good order.  (You could never be too sure with the choir boys. They looked like angels but Bach knew better.) 
He sat down on the altar steps and looked down the nave.  Yes, everything was done. He would try to avoid most of the choir boys Christmas party this afternoon. It was always a noisy affair. The Bishop always seemed to buy the boys something which made a noise. The sound would invariably hurt Bach's ears. What about those things last year which whizzed around at high pitch? Bach had needed to lie down in a dark corner to recover from those.
And that was not the worst of Bach's problems. What would those wretched choir boys get for the cats? Bach felt as if he had spent the year confiscating the miniature soccer balls the cats had been given last year.  It just wasn't proper to play soccer in the cathedral. He had explained this over and over. He had confiscated the soccer balls, even tried putting them in a waste paper basket in the Dean's study. Nothing had worked.
And of course the choir boys were not going to listen to his complaints. He remembered the year the choir had given each cat yo-yo. Oh, the trouble they had caused! And that fishing game! He still remembered with shame the hook which had caught in the skirt of the dress the Verger's wife had been wearing - and the resultant display of an expanse of flesh coloured corset.
The choir seemed to know exactly the sort of thing that young cats liked to play with. The soccer ball had been a paw pad too far though. Soccer was definitely an outside game.
Bach sometimes wondered when Decani had found time to read so much. All the other cats had almost neglected their duties because of that soccer ball. He seemed to have spent the entire year growling at them. Oh well, at least they were not lying in front of the fire snoozing and watching rubbish day time television. All the same Bach wondered what they would be given. He was looking forward to nothing more than a slice of salmon. (The Bishop was partial to a little salmon at Christmas and he always shared with Bach.)
The choir boys party was held in the afternoon. There was a great deal of food and fizzy sweet water.  The Bishop's wife - Bach thought she was much too inclined to spoil the younger cats - insisted on the cats being given their own sardine each.
And, Bach could barely believe this, the Bishop had outdone himself! He had bought all the choir boys a tin whistle. The noise was horrendous.
Bach didn't wait to see what else the choir boys were given or whether they gave the cats anything. He slunk out of the room with his ears flattened as close to his whiskers as he could get them.  Nothing, but nothing, could be worse than that. He could even hear the noise inside the cathedral. Bach curled up in a tight ball in the still empty manger and put his paws over his ears to try and drown the noise out. How could his off-spring sing-along to that noise? He had brought them up on the best organ music available, and the finest choir singing!
Some time later he went to check. If the choir boys had given the younger cats anything Bach was unaware of it. Cantori and Decani said nothing. Apparently exhausted by the festivities they seemed to be asleep under the tree in the narthex. He would have to remind them to tidy away the pine needles later.  Matins and Vespers had disappeared. Cadenza, Palestrina, and Allegro were nowhere to be seen. 
Bach could not find another cat anywhere so he curled up in the hay again and went back to sleep. The midnight service passed without a hitch.
Next morning the younger cats, usually sleepy after the midnight service, were all in their places under the pews when Bach came into the cathedral. He looked suspiciously at them but they all sat there looking as if salmon wouldn't melt in their mouths. They didn't shift. There had to be something going on but he couldn't find out now.
He settled into his place under the pew where the Bishop's wife was always seated. The was a shifting and settling in the congregation, an air of expectation. Bach knew what was coming. The choir had been working on it for a month. They had even brought in timpani and a trumpet for the special day.
But, this was different! Bach listened in disbelief. What was going on. He turned his head slowly to the right and then to the left. Impossible! 
And there, right along the pews was every other cathedral cat. Between each of their paws was a fluorescent green ball. It flashed in time to the music. There was a look of intense concentration on the face of each cat as they patted the ball gently and exactly in time with the music. Tiny bells rang out as the choir began,
     "Christians be joyful..."
Bach groaned. He knew, he just knew he would be chasing those balls all over the cathedral for the rest of the year. Then he saw the expression change on Decani's face as the young cat relaxed into the music. This time last year Decani had been such a clumsy cat. He still wasn't as coordinated as the others but he was keeping perfect time as well.  "Cats be joyful too," Bach thought to himself - and then settled down to purr in time.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

"Welcome to Chaos House"

I told the friend who called in yesterday.
Our house is never very tidy but there is something about Christmas which seems to make it even more untidy - or perhaps we are more conscious of it because there are visitors. perfectly capable of making herself "at home" though so she cleared a space at the dining table, took out her knitting, borrowed some needles from me because she had, horror of horrors, left hers behind. 
    "Do go on wrapping presents," she told me - meaning it too.
I decided against it. I still had to do the day's poppy quota. I have been trying to make four each day until I come to the end of the yarn. I could do those and chat to her. Present wrapping could come later. 
In the midst of all that needed to be done it was actually good to stop for an hour and just relax with her. I was very grateful.
I went back to wrapping the presents later and, in doing so, I was reminded again of my paternal grandfather. 
I spent many a Christmas Eve with my paternal grandparents. Grandpa would always, but always, wait until Christmas Eve to wrap his presents. He would carry mysterious parcels into the dining room. He would hunt for scissors, wrapping paper, string and tape. Then he would shut the door.
My grandmother knew better than to interrupt. It was a serious business. It was a job he detested. He loved to give presents but he hated wrapping them. As an extremely skilled tailor, supplier of uniforms to the Governors of the state, he should have been a neat fingered wrapper of presents. He wasn't. 
There were times when he simply resorted to removing price tags and leaving things in the wrapping provided by the shops. When he gave my grandmother her birthday presents - beautiful nightwear more often than not - the store he bought it from knew him well enough to offer to wrap it for him. It was an offer he accepted with alacrity. (My grandmother would not have cared if the garments had come in tatty paper bags. She saw those nightdresses - which he most definitely chose himself - as the ultimate compliment.)
On Christmas Day of course we children didn't care in the least about the wrapping paper. We just tore it off. Grandpa gave us wonderful presents. They were always books we wanted or things we wanted to do - even if we didn't know until then that we wanted to read them or wanted to do them. 
I appreciate "presentation" far more than I used to. The Senior Cat is very aware of it - although, if anything, worse than his father at present wrapping.  I get tangled in tape. The paper tears too easily.  Even the shape of a book seems awkward.
I do the best I can with the present wrapping but it is best done as a solitary activity.  It reminds me of Grandpa.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

I have forgotten most of my

"maths" I think. I can still "add up", "multiply", "take away" and "divide". I have been able to do those things since early kittenhood - and I have kept on doing them. I don't need a calculator to do the "basic" things.
Yesterday someone put up a maths problem and asked who could solve it. It was an "A" level problem so I wouldn't have had much chance anyway. I only did the equivalent of "O" level. What is more I was not well taught - in fact I was very badly taught. It was only a bit of work on my part and that of my fellow students that actually got us through. Like physics the same teacher was one step ahead of us in the textbook. He wasn't qualified or trained to teach the subject.  
I never discovered "calculus" and although remember (vaguely) the ideas behind trigonometry I have long since forgotten how to use "Logarithmic and other tables" or - as we called it - "Bogarithmic and other fables".  I have never needed to use those things. 
Someone needed to know what "14 x 22" was the other day. After a moment I said "308" and received a startled look because he was still hauling out his phone to use his calculator. But, that person is younger than I am. I suspect most people about my age who still have their wits about them can do that sort of thing "in their heads". The young ones use calculators. 
I wonder though how many other things they fail to bother to remember now that we had to remember? I know less phone numbers than I used to know. The mobile numbers are longer and I don't use them often.  I still try not to write a shopping list but make myself to remember it instead. 
There are things I have always needed to read again - like cake recipes. I don't often cook cake. My mother and her mother could make cakes without looking at a recipe. They did it often. 
I used to think it was the "frequency" that counted. Do something often enough and it becomes ingrained in your memory. Now I am less sure. If you always look the phone number up are you going to remember it? 
When I was teaching and travelling to school each day I knew the train timetable so well I didn't need to look up train times even though I would sometimes need to be there early - or stay late. They changed the timetable some years ago and I still can't remember it because I don't use the train as often. If you are younger than I am then you don't need to remember. There is an "app" on your phone to tell you not just the timetable but where the train or the bus actually is at that moment.
I know the way people learn things is changing. The sort of things people are learning is also changing. 
Yes, sometimes I regret not knowing more about maths but doesn't matter in the least if I can't do that problem. I am not planning on a career in astronomy or space technology.
What I don't regret is being able to remember the things I do remember.  Does it matter? I think it does.   

Friday, 22 December 2017

Nobody was killed

but that does not make the situation any better. 
There was an "incident" in Melbourne yesterday. Someone drove a car into pedestrians. People were injured, some of them seriously. A small child is in a "critical" condition.
It is alleged it was a deliberate act.  
As incidents go of course it is not nearly as bad in terms of death and injury as what seem like almost daily reports from other parts of the world. Here though it makes headlines. Our part of the world is supposed to be "safe". We aren't supposed to have the sort of problems which beset other places on a regular basis.
That isn't true of course. The city I live in is on a fault line and a major earthquake is a possibility - even if the last one that caused any real damage was more than sixty years ago. There was a bush or wild fire in the hills behind us some years ago that did a lot of damage - but not nearly as much damage as it might have done. People have been "flooded out" from time to time. And yes, there have been terrorist incidents here and people have been killed. The death of just one person in this way should concern us and tell us to be vigilant.
But there are other things which bother me about these "incidents". They are things like the effect on the people who survive such incidents. The small child in a critical condition apparently has head injuries. That child will never be the same again. If the child survives the effects will impact on that child and the child's family and on many other people for years to come. Other injured people may be left with permanent physical disabilities and they will  be left with permanent mental scars even if they appear to recover.  The emergency services personnel who have to deal with these things and the hospital staff who have to handle the injuries are not immune either. And neither are "bystanders" - those who witness the event but are not physically injured by it. 
I cannot understand why people congregate to watch what is going on at the scene of an incident or an accident. All too often they are getting in the way, hampering the efforts of those who can do something. 
I am appalled by the breathless way these things are sometimes reported. A close friend of mine once witnessed a very nasty accident. He is a doctor and, rightly, stopped to render assistance before the emergency services arrived. When they arrived he, again rightly, let them take over. As he was leaving the scene he was pursued down the street by a reporter asking him for a statement. He told me later that it had taken all his self control not to do more than say, "Get out of my way."  He had just been trying to help a man he was almost certain wasn't going to survive. He didn't want to appear on television making a statement about that. 
When the matter was being reported last night I turned the sound off and I looked down at what I had been doing. I didn't need to know more than I had already been alerted to in a news feed earlier. 
Nobody was killed - but that doesn't make it any better.  

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Hello this is... from Nationwide Market Research

and..."  I am sorry. She got no further. I do not answer "research" questions like that - especially at around 6pm. I just put the phone down.
I might not have thought any more of that call - it isn't the first I have received and it won't be the last - but there is a long letter in this morning's paper suggesting that the call was for the purpose of "push-polling" for an unnamed political party. I suspect the letter had a similar purpose - and even the decision to publish it might have had a similar purpose.  
Now I understand why people might want to do that but I find it abhorrent. It should be illegal. Trying to get people to change their minds without offering them any valid reasons is unconscionable.
It is another attempt to take away freedom of thought.
We are surrounded by such attempts. It is what advertising is all about - although the pseudo-reasons will be there. 
I was talking to someone earlier this week. She teaches "digital technology" in a secondary school. She is teaching students to "code".  I have no idea how to write the codes which instruct computers but I do know a great deal relies on the ability to do just that. I also know that there are two things you need in order to be good at coding. One is that you need to understand and apply the language or code.  The other is that you need to be creative. You need to be able to use your imagination. If one approach does not work then you need to try another approach.
The teacher's complaint to me was that her students were lacking in imagination. She said her students weren't reading. They were not playing imaginative games. They have spent so much time in front of a screen being entertained that they have not managed to learn to think for themselves. They expect the answers to come without them having to think for themselves.
I find that frightening. These are the very students who are going to need to take over the running of the world's vital communication systems. I already know many of them have difficulty physically manipulating a pen or pencil and that they have genuine difficulties putting their thoughts on paper. If they can't think creatively and question what they are being told then we have a much bigger problem.
They are going to answer calls from Nationwide Market Research and be influenced without ever thinking about the issues.  We need to change that and change it quickly.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

There willbe no train service

for three days next week.
I was startled to get a message in my blog comments from someone in the Department of Transport, Planning and Infrastructure asking me to contact him about this. He had tried to send an email. It had bounced. I can only assume he  had been monitoring the comments on another site relating to the proposed permanent closure of another station.
Well, it was nice of him to let me know. I genuinely appreciate that. It means I have to make other arrangements.
You see we are back to the old problem. It is a problem which seems to be beyond the ability of the transport people to solve. I have tried. The Equal Opportunity Commission has tried. Two members of parliament have tried. None of us have got anywhere.
If you can't access a bus they say then we will provide an Access Cab.  It sounds good until you realise that an Access Cab has to be booked in advance. During the line closure they are available only for "necessary" trips.  It does not allow for social outings - and yes, people do have social outings in the break over Christmas and New Year. There are emergencies. 
The Access Cab is also only permitted to take you from one station to another. That also sounds perfectly reasonable until you realise that the cab is going to take you further than you need to go. It might actually be going past your destination - literally past the door.
I tried to point this out to the transport people. If, as occasionally happens, I get a call from a hospital or a government department to provide some communication assistance for someone within the CBD I will normally put the trike on the train and go into the city that way.  If I used a taxi it would not need to go as far as the station. It would actually cost less. I could actually use it because I wouldn't need to try and get from the station to  my final destination.
And the other problem is that no, I don't know when I will need to leave again so I can't book an access cab for the return journey the day before. Things happen in hospitals, in the courts, in government departments. Delays are common. I can take work with me but I don't know when I am going to need to leave. Access Cabs are also notorious for keeping people waiting too - often for hours. It isn't the fault  of the drivers. There aren't enough to go around at peak times. I don't need an access vehicle if you do the sensible thing and drop me at the door - and provide me with a voucher to get back to my local railway station where I hope I can park the tricycle safely and not get it vandalised or stolen.
I know that, in a real emergency, someone else will pay for a taxi. Once they even diverted a non-urgent ambulance which was transporting an elderly man from one hospital to another. Fortunately he thought the whole thing was rather interesting. But, that's not the point. The point is that the problem could be solved with a bit of common sense and a small amount of flexibility. I will continue to make representations as I know I am not the only person who faces such problems but it shouldn't be necessary.
In the meantime I just hope I don't need to go anywhere - even if I'd like to. 


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Year 12 examination results

come out today. There is undoubtedly much nervous nail biting going on.  Parents will be watching clocks and watches until their now almost adult children can "log on" and get their results. Students will be pacing up and down and checking their digital time pieces.
I am heading off for a fasting blood test at about the same time. Waiting another few hours for breakfast usually makes me cross and scratchy - although I try not to show it. I simply don't understand how people can't eat at least something for breakfast. 
But all this is nothing compared with the trauma of waiting for examination results. 
Prior to the computer age the school results would be printed in the paper. You would hunt for your number in the seemingly endless mass of tiny print. The Senior Cat, as school principal, would sit there with a list of student numbers and frown anxiously over the list.
At  university the results would go up "on the wall". It seemed that everyone would go rushing over to get their results. My first year at law school I waited until the rush was over. I just hoped I had passed - law was strange and difficult, far more difficult than psychology or linguistics. Eventually one of the staff came into the law library and said, "I'd go and have a look if I were you." I went. It had quietened down considerably. There were only a few people around by then. 
I remember trying to focus on the list...and then heading back supposedly to do the translation I was supposed to be doing for a member of staff. What I actually did was burst into tears. It was not because I had failed but because I had done far better than merely pass - although that was all I had hoped for. The office staff made me a large mug of tea and the academic staff somehow kept wandering into the library and saying nice things to me. 
I can only hope that, at least for the students I know, someone will do the same to them - whether they have passed or failed. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Knitting together a

friendship can take time. 
Someone called in yesterday. It was a very brief visit -  just to return some things belonging to me. 
I was a bit startled because I had sent her the postage - also returned. As it was P...  said she was out and about and happened to be passing. I'll assume so. It was a very hot day to be out and about.
Her visit was welcome in that I could give her the crocheted poppies I had been asked to pass on. Now, if it is very hot, I won't need to make the trip on the tricycle to deliver them in the New Year. Now I won't be breaking a promise to be sure they are there. Things like that matter.
I wonder what would have happened if I had not delivered them - or not delivered them on time? Of course I could not have said anything about not doing it. R... would never have been the wiser. It isn't the sort of thing I could live with though. I could have apologised. She would have expressed disappointment. 
And what sort of impact would that have had on our friendship? I don't know R... that well but I like her. I wouldn't have wanted to let her down.
And now of course I have put a similar trust in P...  Like R... I don't know P... that well. I don't know her as well as I know R... but I do know other people are also putting a similar trust in P... to pass on the poppies being made for the War Memorial.  I know, from observation, she is well organised and gets things done. 
After P... had gone the Senior Cat, who is never too sure about the status of people he doesn't really know, asked me, "Is P.... a friend of yours?"
I explained who P... is. As I was doing so I thought of something someone else I know said recently, "I'll be friends with someone on Facebook if I would want to have coffee with them." 
I am friends with someone or I would like to be friends with someone if I trust them enough to have tea or coffee with them. Those of you who know me well enough will know that's trust you don't earn easily. R...s a friend... I would like P... to be one. 

Sunday, 17 December 2017

There was an earthquake in

Indonesia yesterday.  It was serious. There have, sadly, been some deaths. There has been a lot of structural damage too. 
There has been no appeal yet for international help but a couple of international aid workers asked for help. They happen to be there anyway, working on another project.  It has come to a standstill while damage is being assessed. 
These two individuals, a couple, have the good sense to know that they can be either a genuine help or a nuisance. They have a limited knowledge of Indonesian. They can communicate politely, do their shopping and so on. They cannot hold a serious conversation - yet.
But yes, the local team leader told them, they could help please. Tasks were handed out. There was an urgent plea to me. Was there anything in the files that might help them?
I found things that I thought might be useful and emailed them. There were some more emails backwards and forwards during the day. Late last night they were travelling back into the area they have been working in and I know I won't hear from them again - unless they need help.
I was telling someone this while I was waiting for one of the library staff to access something for me.
    "So all you really do is supply people with lists of words?" he asked me, "That can't be a very satisfying sort of job."
Thankfully the member of the library staff returned at that moment and I didn't have to try and explain. Instead I just told him,
     "There's more to it than that and actually it is very satisfying."
Later in the day there was a string of comments on social media about people who work from home, particularly those of us who write anything. 
I thought of the man in the library and his "all you really do"  and his "lists of words". Of course he has no idea. He might know about VOCAs (voice output communication aids) because Stephen Hawking has made them famous but he has almost certainly never met anyone who needs to use one. I know he has never been overseas and experienced being surrounded by a foreign language.
He has no idea how terrifying it is to be in the midst of an emergency if you don't speak the language.
More than that though he apparently has no idea about vocabulary, about not having the right words at the right time and in the right place. I wondered how he would feel about that.
A close friend of mine is in the very early stages of Alzheimer's. I don't know whether she has been told this or not. It is very obvious to me because she is "losing" her words, particularly nouns. Finding the right word is sometimes a  problem. More than once she has said, "I don't know. Words these days... " She is not the fluent public speaker she once was. She no longer grasps ideas instantly. It is making her less tolerant, a little more tetchy.  I wonder how much longer she will cope alone in a big house.
I also know it must be very frightening to be losing the capacity to communicate. Aid workers tell me this constantly. It isn't always in so many words but I can "hear" their relief when they have something which will help them communicate - even if it just a little. They want those "lists of words". They need them to get things done and perhaps save lives or places.  
Perhaps "all" I do is supply lists of words - but, as far as possible, they have to be the right words in the right places.  Losing the capacity to do that would be terrifying.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Trying to "airbrush history"

won't work. It's downright dangerous  in fact. 
I am fed up with people trying to change the flag, change the date, rename holidays, introduce the laws of another culture, and tell me that I must not merely do it but support such things enthusiastically.
Let's start with that "flag" issue. Yes Downunder's flag is rather like another flag just across the pond. Yes, they both have another flag in the corner.  They are both excellent flags. They are inclusive of both the original inhabitants - through the stars - and the incomers - through the other flag in the corner.  In this way they also acknowledge the past, the present, and the future.  People who claim that recent migrants find it offensive might question why people have migrated here. And do you change the colour of the wall paper just because someone who has asked to live with you finds it offensive?
And then there is the date of "Australia Day". I have any number of indigenous friends and acquaintances. They are bemused by the demands to change the date and the renaming of it as "Invasion Day".  "No," they tell me, "it happened. There was a lot more to it than that. You can't change history Let's leave it like it is. Making a  fuss just makes for division."
Yes, there was a lot more to it than I was taught in school. Some good, some bad, a lot mixed. This is not even about being "politically correct". It is simply pot stirring with the flames beneath turned even higher. It is attempting to change not just the way we view history but history itself. 
It is perhaps why the boy in the shop I had to go into yesterday told me, "Happy Holidays". I looked at him and asked, "Do you mean Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year?" Okay, I was pot stirring I suppose but this supposedly politically correct greeting irritates me to the point of wanting to scream. If you don't want to celebrate Christmas or Hanukah, Eid, or Divali or acknowledge the New Year or Hogmanay or whatever then don't say anything please. Don't try and change those things to a meaningless "holidays". As for the boy in the shop (whom I know slightly) he told me, "Merry Christmas - just don't tell the boss I said that."
And if I go to another country then I expect that I will have to abide by the laws of that country. I don't expect them to change those laws just to suit my belief system or cultural background. That's not being "multi-cultural". It's not "respectful". It's simply fracturing society.
We can't be all things to all people.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Learning English

is not easy. 
Many years ago the late Judith Wright gave me a book. 
      "You need this Cat," she told me in her characteristically outspoken way. 
The book was the "Oxford Advanced Learner's" version of the dictionary.  
I was a bit taken aback. Did she really think I needed that version? When I was a grouchy, touchy, teen kitten who hated the world Judith had suggested one of the things I needed to do each day was read the dictionary until I came across a word I didn't know - and then learn the word. I never had to read far.  But, I had been trying very hard (and mostly successfully) to do as she had suggested. Wasn't I learning something?
By then though I had managed to learn that Judith would have a good reason for what she was suggesting. And yes, I have managed to learn a lot from that dictionary. Quite apart from anything else I have managed to learn a lot to help other learners.
This year I have been reading the English assignments of several students who have had to learn English as a second language. I have seen them occasionally in the library or in the supermarket where they have worked part-time. They have sent me work on line. I've made the occasional suggestion. More often I have asked a question.  It has all been aimed at making sure they pass the necessary exam.
Those students have all worked hard. It's why I am willing to help them. They want to learn. They want to know. All of them want to go to university. They have careers in mind. It is all so different here. Chances exist that they would never have had where they have come from, particularly for girls.
Learning English has been part of that. Sometimes they will be telling me something and it will come out a little awkwardly. They will stop sometimes and search for a word. 
Four and five years ago these students knew no English or no more than a few words. Now they are doing examinations in the same subject. It's been a hard road for them.
I have often thought back to my teen self. I was fortunate to have English as my first language. I was also incredibly fortunate to have Judith telling me I needed to learn more.
Exam results for this little group of students will be out on Tuesday. I expect some emails to let me know how their results. I expect them to pass. 
I also expect them to go on learning English. I am still learning English.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Going into parliament

costs money. 
I always knew that but there was an article in the paper about how much it costs to even get "pre-selected".  It doesn't end there either. If you get elected you are expected to pass over a regular little chunk of your salary to your party.
One major party will allow you to vote out of the party line - unless you are a cabinet minister or shadow cabinet minister. The other major party will not allow you to vote out of line. They both expect help with fundraising - although only one actually states that. The other doesn't need to state that as it also gets income from another source - but woe betide you if you don't turn up at the sausage sizzle.
The two major parties cost about the same in the end I suppose. And then there is a third party. It's new - although the leader of it has been around for years. He has moved from state politics, to federal politics, and now (his hope) back again. He has an outstanding capacity to make publicity for himself. He has been a "darling" of the media because of it. Publicity in fact has got him everywhere. He has a political party of his own now. And, he wants funds. Running for his party is going to require a massive financial commitment on the part of the individual - win or lose. 
I wonder about all of this. Even joining the political party of your choice will cost something. I have no idea what the annual subscriptions are  but I suspect they are fairly high. And, even if you don't want to run for office, there is the fundraising to be done. It's not just a cake stall or a "chook" raffle these days. Some years ago the office of a local member of parliament was looking for much bigger donations. 
Yes of course you can donate your time as well - if you feel sufficiently passionate about the cause.
I am wondering about this right now as I have been approached for help to write some election material.  
    "Cat, we need some help...could you sort of just do it...and we won't say anything...."
The group knows I am sympathetic to the idea. They also know I try to remain politically "neutral". That doesn't mean I fence sit but it does mean that I won't join a political party. I really do read the party policies on websites. I do actually ask questions.   
But I also know that, the way we go about it, we don't get the best people into parliament. 
We just get those who can afford, for one reason or another, to be there.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Christmas presents

in this house are relatively simple. We usually buy each other a book we know the other person wants to read. It will be non-fiction of one sort or another.
I bought the Senior Cat a video cassette tape one year. It was non-fiction too, an instruction manual for woodwork. He used it a lot - before the tape player died and he passed the tape and the small machine in question on to someone else.
I still have some of the Christmas books I was given as a child. I might have kept all of them but my mother gave away many of our things during more than one move. It was less for her to pack and unpack. There must have been something about that process she loathed. It may have been something to do with the fact that she moved so many times in her unhappy childhood. The process probably reminded her of that.  Some of my books disappeared along with my adored train set, the doll's pram we used to give the cats rides in and the doll's house my father made me which kept turning into the railway station for the train. No, I was not a child who played with dolls.
My mother gave us things we actually needed for Christmas - mostly clothes to replace those that  were too small or had worn out. She made most of those herself - apart from the "business" shirts the Senior Cat wore.
Now we give one another the books or something we need. Middle Cat asked me not so long ago whether there was anything I needed. Yes, a new cover for the helmet I wear when pedalling out on the roads. The old one has a hole in it.  I can be pretty certain that will appear as a present from her and my brother-in-law. It will be a "useful" thing. 
I know there are people we know who look askance at this sort of gift giving. They think we should be more creative. After all, they say, "It's Christmas. It should be fun."
But Christmas is our acknowledgment of the birthday of someone else. The gifts we give each other are not for our birthdays but an acknowledgment of someone else's birthday. There is no need for them to be lavish. They should simply be a reminder that we care about each other.
After all what could a baby do with all that gold and frankincense and myrrh?


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The dog had fleas!

There was a howling, yapping, yipping and very unhappy dog outside the supermarket...tied up just where I park the trusty trike. 
I eyed it off with caution. It came up to me with tail wagging as hard as it could go without actually falling off. A human! A human who might talk to me.
I looked carefully. Mmm...a male of the species. I looked him in the eye and, when he tried to jump up on me I said sternly, "Sit!"
He sat and put his head on one side. Hopeful? Anxious? 
"No, I am not your human," I said, "I am not taking you for a walk. Your behaviour is attracting the wrong sort of attention."
I locked the trike to the railing, took my things and moved off. There was another outraged and very unhappy noise. It was ear piercing, a high pitched yip, yip, yip.  How dare I leave him on his own!
So I looked back again and said, "Sit! Be quiet!"
He sat. He stopped yipping - at least for a moment.
Someone coming along looked at me and then at the dog.
"No, it isn't my dog," I said in self-defence.
"I thought it must be. I can't get our dog to do that!"
I went in through the glass sliding doors just as someone else was coming out. They gave me a slightly odd look.
Then, as I was no more than three metres inside the door a voice said,
     "Excuse me - how did you get my dog to do that?"
I looked back. It was the man who had given me the slightly odd look. 
     "I have no idea," I told him, "I just told him and expected he would do it."
     "Oh - well thanks anyway."
Now I might be wrong but it seems to me that the dog has managed to learn to sit on command - although I doubt it would stay quiet as it was anxious. The other thing was that yes, I expected he would do it if he knew what to do when I gave the command.  I wonder whether his owner actually expects the same thing? 
Some people would say it was not a good thing that the dog was obedient for me  - even if only momentarily. It bothers me more than a little that the only had apparently only managed to get part way with the training. I firmly believe that dogs, like children, are happier when they know what the boundaries are. (Cats are a different story. They self-regulate for the most part.)
But the unhappy animal got back at me anyway for not staying and providing comfort and reassurance. It had fleas - and I was bitten.

Monday, 11 December 2017

A young man died

in a street brawl yesterday. His death occurred in the early hours  in an area of the city which is known for "nightclubs", crowds, noise, drugs, excessive alcohol consumption and - violence.
His family is undoubtedly in shock, devastated at what has happened on what was supposed to be a fun night out. The family of at least one other young man is also undoubtedly in shock, devastated that their son and perhaps sibling is in custody facing a manslaughter charge - in all likelihood out of a punch landed in alcoholic rage.
I have never understood what the attraction of a night out "clubbing" is about. Perhaps it has something to do that I don't drink alcohol. (I am allergic. It makes me feel itchy all over, rather like being covered with mosquito or flea bites in every possible place.) I don't like crowds. (I am short and not too steady on my rear paws at the best of times.) I don't like noise. (Our house is largely silent except at meal times.) I have never tried  illegal drugs. (I don't like taking the prescribed sort.) And violence of any sort frightens me. 
Yes, I know. I am a wimp. I am not a party cat at all. Is it really fun to do the things that go on along that strip at night? Why would you want to be out all night? 
Don't get me wrong. I can understand wanting to go out with friends and have a good time. I can even understand having a drink or two if you are that way inclined. I can understand enjoying that sort of music if it is to your taste. I don't understand going on beyond the point to where those things are no longer fun.
The Senior Cat has not yet seen the paper this morning. I know what his reaction will be. At the age of those young people his Saturday evenings were made up mostly of PFA (Presbyterian Fellowship Association) activities in the undercroft of the church. There would be things like folk dancing if someone could be persuaded to play the piano or a fiddle. There would be community singing. They would rehearse the play or the musical they put on each year. Occasionally they would go to the pictures as a group - and eat "choc-ices" in the interval. 
At that age my brother was rehearsing theatre productions, taking a girl to the pictures or going night-fishing with friends. If the Festival of Arts was on he might have gone to a free live concert. He can remember vividly the couple of events he paid to go to. He just didn't have much money for that sort of thing.
The last thing the Senior Cat and my brother were doing was wandering the streets in an alcoholic haze. My brother's mates didn't do it either. Yes, the "drinking age" was 21 then - but plenty of people were able to access it earlier than that.  Most of them just didn't feel any need to access alcohol.
I have no idea what the answer is. I don't think anyone else knows either. People say it wouldn't help to raise the age at which alcohol can be legally consumed and the many venues young people attend want the opening hours extended still further. They are a powerful lobby. The claims they make about their contribution to employment and the economy - whether true or not - make it unlikely that anything will change.
So, a young man has lost his life. Another is in custody. The  young man in custody lived not too far from here if the report is correct. I just wish he had, like the boy around the corner from here, spent the evening with his mates fixing Christmas lights to the roof of a house. 
If the laughter was anything to go by they were having fun too.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Just what have you done Mr Trump?

I wonder if you have any idea?
Even my Jewish-Israeli friends are wondering why you did it. Yes, they do see Jerusalem as the capital but they are wondering why you would act in a way which jeopardises that.
The harm done by the move is hard to comprehend. The United States of America is supposed to be a world leader.  The leadership sees itself as being at the negotiating table whenever there is a major world crisis.  It claims all sorts of moral authority and leadership. One move by one President has knocked down years of work.
As an outsider I suppose I see the "two state solution" as being the only viable solution. What would be absolutely marvellous in my book would be for the Israelis and the Palestinians to make peace, share Jerusalem and show the rest of the world how it can be done. I also know the chances of that happening are so remote that it is unlikely to happen in my lifetime. I know too that people have to keep trying. Israelis and Palestinians feel very differently about the issue. I even have colleagues on both sides of the debate who are friends with each other while having opposing points of view about what the solutions are. This time though they are equally appalled. They say they expected the transfer of the embassy would go ahead. It is the manner in which it was done which has caused them so much alarm.
Yes, Mr Trump is keeping a campaign promise. I can only assume that there was money involved.  He must have been told how much harm his act would cause.
There were questions being asked last night on our news SBS news service about Mr Trump's fitness for office. And yes, I would have to question it too. He's erratic. His use of social media is downright dangerous. His taunts are childish. He isn't listening to advice. And yes, he is the President of another country and I don't suppose I should be criticising him. That said - he frightens me.
I have no fondness for any current federal or state politician here. There are one or two who I believe are genuinely trying to do a good job. I may not agree with everything they say or do and I wouldn't necessarily want to vote for at least one of them but at least he's trying. Another has worked incredibly hard and been willing to listen to good advice but may not get back in. It was a fluke of the electoral system last time. It's an uphill battle all the way for them.
In the end it will be the well known faces and the familiar names which get elected.  They may not be the best people to run the country but the most able generally choose not to do the job. And at least our lot haven't got their finger hovering over a nuclear button.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

"She wants to replace herself with herself,"

I was told by a neighbour.  She had just told me that one of the Senators who was caught up in the dual citizenship/Section 44 of the Constitution debacle is actually trying to do this. 
What this former Senator is now arguing is that because she has now renounced her British citizenship she should be eligible to be included in the recount. I don't think the High Court will come at that one as she was ineligible to be on that ballot paper in the first place. The former Senator is trying to argue that the candidate now most likely to win is no longer a member of the party concerned and therefore would not represent the will of the people.
It's an interesting argument. Do people vote for the party or the person? 
I suspect it is often the person. 
But the business of "resignation" is something else. You can resign or you can offer to resign. There is a big difference between the two things. The former Senator could have offered to resign. Instead, she resigned. It would not have made much difference to the outcome perhaps but it might have made a difference to the arguments she is now trying to use.
I can see where the Senator is coming from, "I didn't mean to resign. I didn't want to resign. You have to reappoint me. It was my job. Now I am unemployed." Yes, it sounds like "splitting hairs" but the reality is that an actual resignation is not the same thing as an offer to resign. The latter should always be discussed. Others - in this case the High Court - should be informed and given the opportunity to say something. It's the democratic way of doing things.
It isn't a nice situation to be in. It will be interesting to see which way the High Court goes. I suspect it will be "no, you were ineligible". After all, there was a very strict interpretation of sec.44 before and every reason to suppose there will be a similar strict interpretation now. 
But had she merely offered to resign and perhaps stood aside while a decision was made perhaps the court could have found a way around it. We will probably never know.



Friday, 8 December 2017

A "shoulder replacement"

is one of those things which was almost unheard of outside the medical profession when I was a kitten. I did a little research to discover that attempts were made to do it back in the 1890's. 
Given the state of surgery back then I doubt there was a great deal of success and people must have been desperate to try  it.
Middle Cat is going in for a "replacement" today. The Senior Cat is, of course, worrying himself sick about it. I can understand this. Two years ago we nearly lost Middle Cat because of a post surgery infection. He is worried the same thing will happen again. 
Middle Cat has had more surgery than I care to think about - most of it related to old sports injuries. It hasn't been fun. 
There's not a lot I can do to help either. Her husband is perfectly capable of looking after himself and prefers to do just that. Today I will post a parcel for her. I will also check on the cats when he goes back to work after the weekend. (There are two and they are indoor cats who will probably run riot in her absence as they need to be played with for reasons of exercise and entertainment. I won't have time to play but I will make sure their litter trays have been changed and that they haven't spread food across the floor in the space where they get fed.) 
      "Why is she having it done so close to Christmas?" someone asked me yesterday.
      "The sooner the better," I said. Yes, she has private health cover and that has allowed it to happen sooner rather than later. Even as a "public" patient though it would be happening about now. If it doesn't happen soon then the problem will be far worse than it already is and could seriously disable her. She knows that and the surgeon knows that. 
A friend of 82 had something similar done recently. Her shoulder was damaged in a fall some years back. Three and a half months later things have improved dramatically for her. It isn't  perfect but it is so much better than it was before that she feels as if she can continue to live alone. It wasn't affecting just her shoulder but her lifestyle. She couldn't walk to the shops because she couldn't push
her shopping "trolley". Now she can. It means she exercises again.
For Middle Cat it should mean driving without pain and being able to sleep at night without waking when turning on her shoulder. 
All that should help her general health as well.
And all this has made me think of those long waiting lists - years long sometimes - before people access such surgery. If it makes this much difference to their ability to "do" then there is a very real need to get things done earlier. There is a need to get things done before the situation gets so  bad that the damage is so great the process is less effective than it might have been. It needs to be done while people are younger and more able to regain strength and agility.
The Senior Cat muttered to me the other day, "I'm wearing out."
It's true. He is. But, he had both shoulders "done" about fifteen years back. It let him go on gardening and working in the shed for longer than he might have. He would have "worn out" some years ago if he hadn't been able to stay active. He might still be alive but he wouldn't have been living.
So, for anyone else going through a "replacement" of some sort today, I'm thinking of you all. Go from being alive to living again.  

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Someone got very angry with me

a few weeks ago.  It was a completely unexpected blistering and furious reaction to a genuine question on my part. It was perhaps the "diatribe" of which they had accused me.
At the time I was almost too stunned to do anything. Eventually I tried to defend myself. Then, realising it was probably just making matters worse, I  backed off.  It isn't someone I know well. I don't like or dislike her particularly as I don't really know her. I did think it was probably out of character and I did wonder if something else was wrong. 
Then, much more recently, I learned this same person is ill. It was mentioned to me by chance. I'm glad it was mentioned  because I suspect that, as much as anything else, I just happened to be the "someone" this person used to try and cope with the fear, anger and frustration the diagnosis must have brought about. 
Middle Cat has told me off more than once for avoiding arguments, for not "defending myself." Apparently I am not "assertive" enough and I "give in" too easily. (Mind you, try it with her and I get told I need to take her advice and do as I am told.)
I will admit I have a strong aversion to arguments. I do "back off" and I do avoid the sort of arguments that might lead to harm. (I am also more than happy to "argue" about something if I am interested in the topic.)
So I'll admit I hesitated but I did, and still do, feel genuinely concerned for the person who is ill, so I sent her an email just wishing her the best possible outcome. I wasn't sure if it would be ignored or I would get a blistering reply. At least I would have tried. I actually got a "thank you". Nothing else but it was more than enough. It made me almost certain that my belief about the possibility there was something else wrong was correct.
If I had "defended" myself and become angry then it might not have been possible to say anything. There would have been one less tiny piece of support for someone going through a very difficult time. Rather than respond in kind it was better to let someone know I am concerned for them.
I've been thinking a lot about this. There was a television program here recently. I didn't see it but it was called "Look me in the eye" and apparently involved bringing together people who were estranged and asking them to do no more than sit there and look directly at one another. I don't know what the results were but the trailers suggested that, at least for some, the process worked.
I think though that what it takes most of the time is nothing more than for one person to reach out - and the other to accept.
I'll put the kettle on too. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

TAFE of Technical And Further

Education is in the news. Suddenly people at the top have resigned or been sacked. Questions are being asked about the standards  being set...and more.
This state  used to have something we called "Technical high schools". UK readers will know the sort of thing I mean. They were rather like the old "Secondary Modern" schools there. And, rather like England we went to "giving everyone an equal chance" and made all schools high schools (Comprehensives). 
The technical high schools actually suited a lot of students, particularly those who were not "academic". Yes, I know what the arguments against them are - and I agree with some of them.
What it did mean though was that TAFE institutions became, or should have become, much more important. That's where students could then learn to become plumbers, carpenters, motor mechanics, electricians, cooks, carers, and much more. It is where you did certificates and, in some cases, diplomas. In recent years there have been new courses to reflect the 21st C for people like computer technicians and hospitality workers. 
It should be a thriving education where students are competing to get in because the employment rate at the end of a course in an area where workers are wanted is often high.
But one of the local electricians found he was having to teach his apprentice what he should have been learning at TAFE. One of the local cafe owners recently complained to me that the young employee who had finished the relevant course at TAFE had "no idea"  how to do the job. Apparently everyone on the course had passed.
I know someone who did a long string of TAFE courses. She never quite finished any of them  but they allowed her to be a permanent student rather than go out and find work. Eventually, after almost sixteen years, she ran out of courses she was "interested" in. Someone in the system should have insisted on her finishing something - or not returning as a student. Someone else did courses he was interested in - but they were not likely to lead to his employment. That was obvious but he was allowed to continue for more than eight years.  I don't doubt there are other students like those two.
But there are other students who go there and finish what they might have done at school but were, perhaps, too immature to do at the time or because they had to "drop out" because of pregnancy or a family crisis. There are more who finish their courses. They have worked hard at them and managed to learn a lot. Many of them will make good employees.
TAFE education is vital. It  should be teaching the technical skills we all rely on.  If it is failing then it is a very serious issue indeed. We need to get over the idea that working with our hands is somehow "worth less". It isn't. 
We can't have engineers, scientists and surgeons unless we also have plumbers and electricians and the people who help feed, clothe and house us all. Why aren't we appreciating their great value?

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

I am trying to save this blog

and I am not sure how to go about it. 
The problem is that it is, until Friday, being written from my old email address. I cannot work out how to change the author email or get myself as a new author on the blog by "inviting" myself with a new email address.
I thought I had followed the logical sounding instructions I was directed to but that has not worked. It is one of the many problems I have faced in trying to move from one internet service provider to another.   
Yes, I can understand why an ISP would not want to make it easy. They don't want to lose customers - except that this time they did. They told me they couldn't provide the service and they have terminated the contract.  
It has meant hours of work for actual work purposes. All the "fun" side has had to come second as I let work colleagues know - often one at a time for security reasons - that I am changing ISPs and that we sometimes have to go through a number of hoops in order to reconnect. (I have filled out more forms than I care to think about.) It hasn't left a lot of time for the blog or for my limited social life on social media.
The blog bit worries me. I haven't got time to prowl through from the start and save the posts that even I would like to keep - there are a few. Decani, the only Cathedral Cat who can read, is too busy getting the cathedral ready for Christmas to help. 
This post will, according to the "stats" be post number 3,298. I have probably written far too many words.
I will prowl off to the library this morning and see if an entirely different computer will allow me to log in separately and allow me to add my name under a different email. Logically this should be able to happen as the "address" will be different. Whether this will be acceptable logic to a computer system is something else. 
If anyone has any ideas about this then please let me know. It should be simple - but it isn't.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Domestic and urban history

came at me two ways yesterday. There was a very interesting note on social media by Anne Rooney about Boswell and his expenses. These included the cost of eating his dinner in the "house of a good family". That answered a question I had sometimes wondered about  - the way in which some people got their main meal if they didn't go to a tavern. 
The other was an equally interesting comment by someone on this blog. She was regretting not keeping a note of the changing of ownership in the local shops.
I have sometimes thought about this in another way - although I haven't actually regretted not noting it. There is however something I have often thought about it. 
My journeys to the shops, the post office, the bank, the local library and the local railway station all take me along the same route. I have been doing the same journey for thirty-three years now - ever since my parents moved into this house. Of course I went away and came back over that time. I spent only university vacations here - or time between moves - until my mother died and I moved in with the Senior Cat. (I love him to bits but he was quite incapable of caring for himself even then.) Since then I have done the trip on an almost daily basis.
I have observed many changes. Houses have been pulled down and usually two have been built in their places. Other houses have been renovated.  Some of the older residents have died or gone into nursing homes. Others who were younger and more able have become frail and now leave their prescriptions for me to collect from the letter boxes. Pets have gone and new pets have taken their place. Children who were mere babies and toddlers now come back to see their parents with babies and toddlers of their own. Trees have grown and gardens have changed. There are now Christmas lights in the house where the Exclusive Brethren family once lived. The new family from India has settled into their house on the street next to the railway line and put up some Christmas decorations - because their children want to join in.
And yes the shopping centre has changed too. There was a fire there and part of it was demolished completely. The owner took the opportunity to remove some businesses and put in some more "up-market" shops. I don't know how they make a living. I still miss going past the place where one small shop was and having the sole worker in it say to me, "Cat can you possibly..." and I would get her some milk or "mind the shop" while she dashed to the toilet or the bank. On the very rare occasions I bought anything there I would be given a small discount in return for my help. The useful men's clothing and underwear shops have gone but the bookshop moved location and is bigger these days. There have been groups meeting in there ever since, knitting, embroidery, book and young writers' groups which add immensely to the value locals place on the shop.
The post office has moved location twice. I no longer have to struggle to reach the top box when I empty C...'s box because he and Miss W are away.
The library was extended - and now it is going to be extended again. 
And nobody sells tickets at the railway station any more. At least  that looks the same. It's heritage listed.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Calendar...wall calendar...

and "Please may I have your steel ruler?"
I reminded the Senior Cat of this some days ago...there is now a little  piece of paper at his place at the breakfast table. 
I cannot make the new calendar without it. The only other ruler is a mere 30cms in length The steel one, the one he uses in the shed is 100cms long. 
Yes, it is more than time to draw up next year's wall calendar. There are already appointment cards - for the Senior Cat - littering the refrigerator. They need to be on a wall calendar. That way we will (hopefully) both know when he is due to be somewhere. That way things won't be double booked.
     "What colour do you want?" I asked the Senior Cat the other day. There were three pieces of cardboard available. One was pale blue - not a good colour in my view. One was lime green - which I had planned to use for something else. One was bright yellow - the same colour as before. It shows things up well - which is what the Senior Cat needs.
He looked at them and then said,  "I suppose it had better be yellow again."
I did not argue. My mother used to change the colour each year. We had everything from bright pink to purple, grey to pale blue, yellow, orange and more when she drew up the calendar. Some were easier to see than others.  
My mother always seemed to draw the whole thing up in the blink of an eyelid. It takes me several days to do it - on and off. I have to do it standing at the dining room table....mark the lines off, trim off the excess cardboard to fit the space on the cupboard it gets stuck to, rule the lines, stick on the months and days of the week, and fill in the numbers for the dates. Of course my mother did all this in her beautiful "infant school" printing. Mine is barely legible.
After that the various birthdays that need to be remembered go in and the regular items go in. This time there is a wedding to add. The appointments and anything else of importance should all be there for the Senior Cat to see.
I looked at this year's calendar. It is not as full as it  has been some years. Most of it appears to be medical appointments for the Senior Cat. That's not surprising. Things have changed.
I found a very old calendar the other day. It was a very strange feeling to look at it. When my mother was alive there really wasn't enough space. Most of the items on the calendar were things she would be doing. The Senior Cat came after that. I was working of course - but I had moved in knowing that even then they weren't coping because of another very stressful issue.
I should have kept all those calendars as a record of what was going on. The Senior Cat writes a diary - in his own illegible mix of "shorthand" and abbreviations - but he can't read the entries himself so we won't be able to read them either.
And somewhere - unless the Senior Cat has thrown them out - there are some diaries my mother kept. I hope he hasn't thrown them out because I will be interested to see what she has to say about that time in our lives. She wrote a brief "autobiography" for Middle Cat to have but it says almost nothing at all.
The wall calendars tell us much more.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

No paper

has yet appeared on the front lawn this morning. 
The Senior Cat has grumbled mildly and found something else to read at the breakfast table. (This is why it takes him a good hour to eat breakfast. As I simply leave him to breakfast alone it does not bother me.) 
But, no paper? I know there are people who never get a newspaper. Some of them "get all the news (they) need" on line or via television. Others don't even bother with that. 
Middle Cat reads ours - from back to front. She starts with the big sports section and only makes her way to other things if she has time.
The Senior Cat starts at the front and ignores anything to do with sport. (He also wonders how he produced the sports mad Middle Cat.) 
I can read the paper as thoroughly as I need to in the very short time it takes me to eat my breakfast. I don't bother with the sports section at all. There is very little international news in the state newspaper. If I want information then I head on line to a variety of other newspapers and news sites. If I need information then someone  out there is likely to tell me.
I know newspapers are declining rapidly in power and influence. We had three state wide papers when I was a kitten. There were also at least two regional papers of importance. They too have diminished almost to the point of being no more. 
I remember the local MP in one place telling my father about the plans for a new national newspaper.  Yes, it happened. Back then it was an exciting new development in the delivery of news. Now it too struggles to survive. 
I still miss the British newspapers I used to read. The university based accommodation I lived in got a variety. I could read at least three each day - in much the way I now read the state paper. I read the headlines, I looked a little further - and finished the article if it was of interest to me. I  ignored the sport - and relied on other people telling me who was winning the cricket. I had a mix of left, right and middle point of views. It was interesting and sometimes useful.
But I think the real decline of newspapers began with something else. I blame the packaging companies and the health inspectors. They insisted on those throw away cups and containers - with that horrid plastic lining.
Nobody wraps fish and chips in butcher's paper and newspaper any more.