Monday, 16 December 2019

Unisex toilets

are under discussion in this morning's paper. There are claims that some girls are trying not to use them in schools.
I don't know who thought they would be a good idea. It apparently has something to do with catering for "gender diversification" and the "everyone uses the same toilets at home" argument.
Neither of these arguments work for me. The very small minority of people who identify as gender neutral or a different gender from their original biological gender will normally have the option of using another facility - usually one also used by people with disabilities. Those facilities are usually placed in such a way that they are unisex and gender neutral. They should be provided as a matter of course. (There are more around than there once were but we have a long way to go before I will be satisfied by the provision of such facilities.)
But the other argument that "everyone uses the same toilet at home" is not an argument at all. What happens within a family unit is entirely different from sharing a space for what is a very private act with complete strangers. In many cultures it is simply unacceptable - even forbidden. 
This is not a matter of "catering for a minority". It is imposing something on everyone for the demands of a "politically correct" view that is held by very few. I know people who claim unisex toilets "discourage sexual abuse and violence against women". I would be interested to know if there is any actual research with respect to this. My belief is that the opposite is more likely to be true. Unisex toilets would hardly seem to be the answer among body conscious teenagers with a growing sexual awareness.
Maybe I am wrong but I don't think so. Tell me if I am. 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

An offer to help

is not something I give lightly. Middle Cat is much more "spur of the moment" about such things than I am.
I suppose I have always been rather cautious about such things. I tend to be uncertain about whether I will really be welcome.  If I offer to do something I know, because I will have thought about it, that I can do it. Of course that excludes the same circumstances that would exclude anyone else but, apart from that, I have thought about it. 
I think about things like where an activity is going to be held and how I am going to get there as well as what is required of those  involved. I think about how much time is likely to be involved and much more. 
No, it isn't that I spend a lot of time contemplating these things but they do pass through my small feline brain before I put my paw up.
So some weeks ago I volunteered to help with something. It is just for a few hours this week. I did it because I am not preparing for a big Christmas lunch or dinner. I knew the weather was likely to be hot and the other likely volunteers would be older than I am. 
As it turns out the weather is going to very hot. Middle Cat told me she would take me to the venue...a few minutes in the car but a good twenty-five on the trike. I could also stay a little longer than I had originally planned if it would help the person running the event.
There was an email from the organiser to the  helpers...she is a well organised person and gets things done. I emailed back and offered the extra time if she needed it. 
The response has left me puzzled. It was a "thanks for offering to help...if the others can't get there I will let you know". Does the organiser want me to help or not? I had assumed from the first email that I was needed at least part of the time. Now I am not sure I am needed at all. I emailed back and I am waiting for an answer.
But it has made me think about other volunteers as well. All too often we hear the words, "It's always the same few people who volunteer".  I know that's true. Some people never volunteer and others do so only reluctantly or have to be asked to help. But, if we do want people to volunteer, then it seems to me that it needs to be made very clear they are wanted and what they are expected to do.  They also need to be thanked once the job is done.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

The UK election results

have left me stunned. The Senior Cat has been shaking his head in disbelief.  A former resident of the UK phoned me about something else but added, "Move too far left and you just get overtaken."
It isn't the election result my friends in Upover were looking for. At the same time I can't imagine that any of them would approve of the  "rioting" being reported.
But who is responsible for the result? Is it Johnson or Corbyn or their parties and their policies or is it....the people who didn't vote? Apparently about 32% of eligible voters did not vote. 
Now some of them may not have been able to vote for good reasons. Others though will have been of the "can't be bothered" brigade and the "it won't make any difference" brigade. 
The first group can be forgiven. Things do happen which prevent people from voting. The second and third groups cannot be forgiven. They are what cause democracies to disintegrate. Democracy requires effort. If we want to live in a democratic society then we have to participate.
I am opposed to Downunder's system of "compulsory attendance at the ballot box". I think that is wrong. It is undemocratic. It is also undemocratic to compel voters to mark their preferences. I have always said I have a  duty to vote but I should not  be compelled to vote, wherever I place them, for anyone who supports something I find abhorrent - such as the death penalty. People who don't vote when they could vote put us in danger of allowing such things as the return of the death penalty to happen - and they are often the first to complain when such things do happen.
To "get Brexit done" won't be easy. The legislation will probably go through on the 17th and the UK will "leave" at the end of January next year but there is a lot of mopping up and tidying away and sorting out to be done.  The rest of the EU is not going to make this easy. There are plenty of sour grapes to be swallowed there too. It has been an immense blow to Merkel and Macron in particular. They will want to make the remainder of the process as difficult and as expensive as possible. It will be used as a warning to other countries like Greece and Italy to remain or face financial and trading consequences. 
All this might have been avoided if 30% of the UK population had thought about the likely consequences of not voting. 

Friday, 13 December 2019

The UK General Election

results will affect us here in Downunder as well. 
I think I have said elsewhere in this blog that we have made a major mistake in trying to become "part of the Asian region". Downunder is not an Asian country. It never was and it never will be. 
We aren't European either - although we have now been part of that curious event known as Eurovision. We sit somewhere between the two I suppose - and on the rim of the Pacific Island nations. It isn't comfortable.
Asia does not want us. It is time we accepted that. Asian countries will do business with us. That makes sense. Asian countries will also tolerate us but we are, at best, "neighbours". We are not "family". We are seen as Westerners, even as European. For all our much lauded "multi-cultural" credentials we are not seen as Asian. When we come to terms with that then we might have a more settled place in the world. 
I am aware that this is not a popular view among those who spruik the multi-cultural message. They tell me, "Look at the X festival, the Y festival, and the Z festival. They are all Asian. You're wrong."
No, I am right. For all those things get reported in the media there are still only a minority of Downunderites who attend these things - and even fewer who truly understand what they are about.
Middle Cat married into the Greek-Cypriot community here. It is a community which still has annual events such as the Blessing of the Waters. It will probably be reported in the media. It usually is. My nephews here have never been although they were baptised Greek Orthodox. If I asked them they would struggle to tell me what it was about. They don't go to church. It is an event which, apart from the few genuinely faithful, is more about an excuse to get together among some and for politicians and the media to perpetuate the myth of multi-culturalism. Many other festive events come into the same category. What is being "celebrated" has little, if anything, to do with the actual meaning of the event in the country in which it originated. It is like the Japanese celebrating "Christmas". Very few Japanese are Christians but many of them enjoy Christmas trees, lights, presents and the like. Nobody there would suggest they are Western because of it.
I don't know which way the residents of the United Kingdom will jump. We will find out in a few hours. The European Union, which sparked this election, is of course an entirely different idea from our multi-cultural idea. In nature it is more ASEAN and other trading blocks. It is important and the UK should be part of it. We should have a much stronger association with it than we have.
We might have helped the UK remain in the EU far more than we have if we had taken much more interest in the EU. 


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Christmas Markets

are  now on the agenda.
I am supposed to be helping on a stall at one next week. The forecast temperature is 41'C so I doubt that "knitting" will be of much interest to the hordes which attend. Actually I doubt the hordes will attend. It will simply be too hot. Numbers would not have been high on a Tuesday afternoon anyway and the weather will simply make the numbers even lower.
I feel sorry for the organisers. There will have been a considerable amount of work go into it even though it is only open for four hours. 
It has made me think of the UK election being held in what is today in this part of the world and tomorrow there. There will have been postal votes - and the political director of the BBC would have us believe she already knows what the outcome is likely to be - but the weather may well put people off from voting there too. I wonder what difference it will make?
Do they design polling places around Christmas markets? The idea of being able to buy a nice woolly hat or a pair of mittens in your party's colours might appeal to some people.
I am sure people go to such markets with the idea of finding small things at bargain prices - stocking fillers rather than major presents.
I gave the person in charge of our stall some soap bags - with good soap but otherwise cheap and practical. They might sell.
Apart from that and sending some cards overseas I have done almost nothing about Christmas. At the request of the Senior Cat I have bought book vouchers. Middle Cat is supposed to be getting plants for two gardeners to whom we give gifts. That is all I have done. 
I haven't even made shortbread or lebkuchen for the greengrocer's staff. I think I had better do that much at least. They might not let me have any salad vegetables when it is hot. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Falls in the elderly

are a serious problem. We all know that. So, why do the elderly do stupid, idiotic, ridiculous things?
The Senior Cat is all right - he may have a bruise or two but he is all right. He should not be.
The silly cat came home from hospital yesterday. You would think he would have managed to learn a lesson or two? No.
He was padding down the passage way at about 9:30pm  when he slipped and fell. The reason he slipped? His rear paws were bare. He had been told that, under no circumstances, was he to move around in bare rear paws. 
More seriously, his feet are not in good shape. He has had incredibly flat feet all his life.  When he was small nobody thought about this. When he was a little older the navy (his first choice for service during the way) rejected him on that and eyesight grounds. At the time they were taking almost everyone who applied so he really was unfit. Both problems remain with him. He was hopeless at all forms of sport.
Middle Cat has been monitoring the situation but there have been additional problems in the last few months. So, non-slip safety socks or shoes everywhere
Last night showed him why. There was the dreaded thump and the clatter of his walker against the wall. I pounded out the other door to see what had happened.
    "I'm all right."
I investigated. No, he hadn't broken anything - but how was he going to get up again?
    "I can do it!" he told me.
I knew he couldn't but I let him try. Twenty-two minutes later he admitted defeat. I pressed the emergency button and explained the situation, emphasised "not urgent" and then phoned Middle Cat to let her know.
     "Has he hurt himself?" was her question after a mild swear word, "No, don't let them take him back to hospital. It won't do his confidence any good."
I was well aware of this but I also knew that they would insist. They have to do it. 
 "Well see if you can cancel the call and S.... and I will come over and do it. I can check him out if necessary."
I called the emergency service and told them what was going on.
"Call us back if you need us - and don't hesitate to call us if the situation changes."
Middle Cat and her husband arrived. It took the combined efforts of the three of us.  One of them on each side and me to rush the chair underneath.
Then S....prowled the house and suggested more changes to the way things are laid out. That wouldn't have helped in this instance but it kept him occupied while Middle Cat gently scolded the Senior Cat.
She saw him into bed and told him he was to phone her "even at two in the morning" if necessary.
I had been awake since 4:30am (don't ask) and I was tired. Could I sleep? No. 
I wonder how much longer we can cope if this sort of thing keeps happening. 


Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Staying in hospital

is not fun and it turns out we could have had the Senior Cat home last week.
I did not see the Senior Cat  yesterday. I intended to but Middle Cat had to take her husband to another hospital for some minor surgery.  As always things were running late and she went off to see the Senior Cat without picking me up. 
The reason for this was that she wanted to be there in time to go with him for his appointment with the podiatry specialist. It was this appointment that was his reason for staying in until today.
It didn't happen. 
The ward staff knew nothing about it. They could find no record of it. The podiatry department knew nothing about it. They could find no record of it. Was it in Outpatients? No. They knew nothing about it.
Middle Cat  phoned me to let me know all this. She was, rightly, very annoyed. As she said to me, "I couldn't get angry with the ward staff. It isn't their fault."
I suspect I know where the fault lies. It would be in podiatry where someone was distracted before putting the appointment in - and then simply forgetting.
When I could not get there on Sunday I tried phoning. The ward phone was eventually answered after a long wait. Instead of asking to speak to the Senior Cat I just said,
    "I'm sorry to bother you. Could you just give my father a very short message instead of taking the phone to him?"
The response was, "Of course. I'll let him know straight away."
This meant peace of mind for the Senior Cat and less work for the person on shift. Of course there are people who take their mobile phones into hospital with them but the Senior Cat, while he can use his, is not confident about it and was worried he might lose it.  
But I do wish that, within the hospital, there were better lines of communication. The Senior Cat's appointment was not life threatening but it was important. Now it will mean Middle Cat has to get him to and from the hospital. If she can't do it then I will have to get an Access Cab both ways and, given their unreliability, it could be an all day affair. Seeing him while he was in hospital was simply a matter of getting him to and from the relevant department.
This is the sort of thing that happens all the time of course. Nobody seems to take the lack of good communication lines very seriously. They should. It could save a great deal of time and trouble.
It could also save lives.

Monday, 9 December 2019


and chalk, dip pens, ink monitors, Friday tests, tonic solfa, box pleated tunics...
    "What was school like when you were little?" 
I was "interviewed" by a child yesterday. Apparently I am now old enough to be classed as "old" for the purposes of a school project. 
    "Find an adult older than your parents..."
Then the idea was to ask them some questions about what it was like when they went to school.
    S.... understood blackboards and chalk simply because they had these things to play with earlier.
    "But you can just rub it off. How did the teacher keep things?"
The idea of having to keep piles of paper in a filing system was too much for S.... 
Dip pens? This completely bewildered S.... "But why didn't you just use a biro?"
Trying to explain that, although these writing tools were around when I was a kitten, they were not actually in widespread use was almost too much for him. I told him that it was not legal to sign a cheque with a biro. He does know what a cheque is because his father is an accountant and still sees cheques in his work. I suppose that is something.
We went on from that. I explained about daily "mental", spelling lists, handwriting lessons, our "reader" (the one book used by the entire class for the year) and more.
Music lessons with "tonic solfa" and art lessons with "geometric drawing" were met with more disbelief.
As for the weekly tests we had on Friday? He thought that was a "really, really bad" thing to have. His school doesn't test apart from NAPLAN requirements.
Discipline? The idea that we got punished for talking in class was something he didn't really believe. That we all sat facing the blackboard was "weird".
His grandmother had been hunting around among some photograph albums while I was answering his questions.
    "And I can show you what Cat and I had to wear and what your mother did too."
There she was in her box pleated tunic, three pleats at the back and three pleats at the front, her long sleeved white blouse, her school tie, her hat, her gloves, her stockings, her clunky shoes and her school blazer with the prefect's badge.
   "That looks awful...Mum never did wear that!"
   "Yes, she did. Here."
The photographs are almost identical.
   "Can I take it to school?"
   "May I'll make a copy - well actually you can go and make a copy now. Do both of them and you can put them with your work sheet."
S...went off. In a modern household there is the capacity to do such things instantaneously.
When he came back with the copies he said,
    "I didn't think Mum was that old and you aren't really old either. Did you have a  computer at school?"
His grandfather had just arrived home. His grandmother and I left him to explain about computers.
It is nice to know I am not "really old".

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Christmas letters

- did I hear a groan?
I haven't finished writing mine yet - and I should have had them posted on Friday.
I normally do better than this because there are friends who look forward to the annual letter from Downunder - even if there is no news of particular consequence from the Cat Clan Outpost. It is not kind of me to make the humans in Upover and elsewhere wait.
But it has just taken me nearly two hours to do enough watering to (I sincerely hope) keep the garden at least alive on a day which is forecast to be 36'C. Part of that time was blogging time and part of it was letter writing time. 
I know people like Christmas letters. It is, I suppose, easy enough to write on a card, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, put it in the letter box - and then leave the rest of it up to the mysteries of the postal service. (As a mere cat I do not understand how the postal service work. All I know is that it is inconsistent.) 
Writing a Christmas letter is another thing altogether. The Senior Cat's friend G...produces four pages - complete with photographs. 
I might manage a page - but no photographs. I have no way of taking a photograph. The camera we once had refuses to take a picture any more.  I am not technically minded. I will write a couple of pages and leave it at that.
It also means that I cannot take a photograph of "the hat". I put "the hat" in the "100gms or less" challenge for the knitting guild's Christmas party yesterday. I thought I should put something in but, on seeing what was there, I did not expect to win a prize. There were some "Christmas puddings"and a green sparkly tree, a baby cardigan, a couple of crochet animals (I liked the cat!), and a proper Fair Isle beret among other things. I gave my two voting beads to someone else so I wouldn't be tempted to give myself one lonely bead for at least one thing. (I put in a very hippy belt with flowers as well.) "The hat" won a prize. I will endeavour to get a photograph at some point. I can still improve on the technique of stiffening it. (I did it with a mixture of PVA glue and water but I had to brush it on. It needs to be sprayed on.) Now that the event is over I might also risk spraying "the hat" with clear acrylic to make it a little stiffer and waterproof - or perhaps perspiration proof as is is a summer hat. I needs thought.
The Christmas letter needs thought too...I had better finish it.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Exam results

are due out for final year students in this state on 17 December.
One of the students in question is already in a fine state of nerves about her possible results. I suspect that the greater than usual "grouchiness" of one of the boys is for the same reason - not that he will admit it.
These are a couple of the teens I have read essays for through the year. They are a couple of the teens with very demanding parents.
   "I tried telling my Dad that not everyone can come top and even if you do come top sometimes it won't be all the time. He won't listen."
Knowing the father in question I don't doubt this. There is a permanent monument to his stupidity in a major piece of civil engineering. It needs repairing but he won't even acknowledge there is a problem with it. I am no engineer but even I could see there was a problem.  
His son has no desire to follow in his father's footsteps.
    "Just imagine Cat...having everyone ask you if you are D...'s son for the rest of your life."
I can imagine. It happens to me even now. Visiting the Senior Cat in hospital is a hazard. Middle Cat has been teaching the young physiotherapy student who was there on placement. The staff member responsible for his supervision was only too happy to have her help.
Of course Middle Cat mentioned my work and, on my way out yesterday, I was stopped and asked if I could get anything out of a patient who wasn't responding. I don't like doing that sort of thing if I know nothing about the circumstances but I tried any way because "he just stares into space like he isn't there at all". 
I tried. Deaf? Yes. Hearing aids? No. Sign? Yes. He was also very elderly and, from his surname, I guessed he came from a background where English was not his first language - if he spoke any at all - and where nodding your head means "no" and not "yes". I explained this to the staff member who had stopped me. She was amazed.
    "I'll email a simple communication board through. He might not be able to read or write. It can help you when there is no family around."
    "That's what we need but can you ask him about his pain level?" I tried some likely gestures. He frowned slightly and then held up seven fingers so I think he understood.
What I understood was, as I was about to leave, he reached out and grabbed my hand for a moment and smiled.
The boy who doesn't want to be a civil engineer wants to be a doctor. I told him about this last night. 
    "Yeah, if I do well enough then I can maybe do something to help people like that."
That would be good. He can work with the worried girl who wants to do Speech Pathology. 
I hope they do well enough because they would both be good at what they want to do.

Friday, 6 December 2019

The bus service to the hospital

is not something I am familiar with as I do not use buses. It is years since I travelled on a bus. I cannot take my tricycle on a bus.
But Middle Cat is in the neighbouring capital city and the Senior Cat needed things. I could have asked a number of people. All of them would have willingly dropped what they were doing and ferried me up the hill to the hospital. 
I could also get myself there if I could work out how to do it.
I thought about this. I looked at the local transit site on the internet. I considered the hazards of crossing roads but the bus terminal is directly outside the hospital. There is no need to cross a busy road up there. The cars at the drop off and pick up point have to watch for patients and others with varying degrees of mobility. I am not the snail in this situation.
And this end I could pedal my trike to a bus stop and lock it to the shelter.
All that remained was to get across the road - once. I could do that couldn't I? It is not that busy a road. On the way home I would be on the side where my tricycle was parked. I would pedal across the road.
I parked and locked and was about to cross the road when a very elderly man alighted from the bus going in the other direction. He stood nervously on the edge of the footpath peering anxiously in both directions. Two cars went past. He was about to step out when a car came in the other direction. 
I decided that a driver was more likely to see two of us together and slow down because of it.
    "I'm going over to the other bus stop," I told him.
    "Thank you," he said, "I've come too far. I need to go back to stop nineteen. I told the driver but he forgot."
I had timed my arrival so as not to wait too long and the bus was only a couple of minutes late. 
We boarded and the very elderly man explained what had happened.
    "You sit there mate," the driver told him, "And out the front door when we get there."
We arrived at stop nineteen. The driver stopped. As the elderly man was getting out and nearly lost his balance the driver got out too.
    "Do you need to cross the road?" he asked
    "Yes, I can..."
    "Mate, I'm going to see you across the road."
Perhaps it took a minute and the driver made up some lost time before being held up by the road works near the hospital.
There were two other passengers on the bus besides myself. At our destination the other two left, as required, by the central door. The driver looked at me though and said,
     "Out the front door love. Don't want any accidents...and the old chap told me you had seen him across the road."
Little did he know how grateful I was that the old man needed some help!
I managed to sneak out the front door on the way back too.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Elton John was performing

in the city last night.
No, I didn't go. It was way beyond my financial means. Also, it was outside and most people were expected to stand.
Middle Cat and her husband went - the tickets were a gift. I haven't yet heard what they thought of it but they were told they could take two light folding chairs - needed because Middle Cat has a disability parking permit - for the days when her back is really worrying her - and S...(her husband) had a surgical procedure just over a week ago. They both wanted to go - more out of curiosity than anything else. 
It made me realise that this sort of concert going is not common in our family. My two nephews who lived here while growing up had their own quite successful pop-duo. They often got gigs around town and they did some recordings too. But they weren't concert goers. Even if the money had been there they would not have been interested. I know they went to a couple of concerts of people they were particularly interested in but they weren't the noisy, lights flashing, drug fuelled rock concerts that get the headlines.
I have never been to that sort of concert. I have no desire to go. My concert going when a student was confined to the cheapest seats. My fellow students were the same. Someone would see there was something on that might interest the rest of us. A head count would be done and we would take it in turns to queue to try and get cheap seats for all of us. It was a system which worked pretty well.  I saw Gielgud in a brilliant performance of Murder in the Cathedral that way - something I am never likely to forget. It was a far cry from a rock concert.  To me rock music is mostly just a noise I don't understand. Rock artists seem to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. 
Elton John did make the headlines. There was a list of  "do and do not do" for his concert in the paper yesterday. This morning there was a glowing review of his performance and the way the crowd behaved. I suspect the crowd was a little older than the teens who flock to rock concerts.   

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

"Refugees" who are not refugees

pose a genuine problem for many countries around the world.
There is currently some legislation before our national parliament concerning what have been called "Medevac" laws - laws which allow the transfer of those seeking asylum but whose cases have not yet been settled or have been found not to be refugees to come here for medical treatment.
The government put the laws in place for good reasons. People who have not had their claim for refugee status approved have arrived and refused to leave after medical treatment. Others have backed them. Still others have deliberately self-harmed in order to be transferred here. Others have backed them too. 
There is a very powerful "refugee lobby" here. The problem is that it often does more to harm than it does to help.
Someone asked in this morning's paper why the government doesn't simply take up the offer of our Kiwi neighbours to take the people who are seeking asylum but who remain on islands to the north of us. It sounds like a simple solution doesn't it?
It isn't. There are all sorts of problems involved. 
International law is very complex. Granting someone refugee status is a long process. Granting someone "asylum" can be even more complex.  It isn't a simple matter of someone arriving and saying, "I'm a refugee" or someone else saying, "I'm being persecuted. I need asylum."
It is a natural tendency to think of anyone who claims these things as being honest, truthful, sincere and desperate. The reality unfortunately is quite different. Many people who genuinely have nowhere safe to go are stuck in appalling conditions in refugee camps. They have no means of leaving and no way of putting forward their cases to be granted refugee status. It is highly likely that thousands of such people will die in refugee camps - die from inadequate food, shelter and clothing. Children will die from disease or, if they don't, they will not have an education. 
Those seeking asylum - and this is not quite the same thing as being a refugee with nowhere to go - are all too often those who have broken the law in their own country. If they face the death penalty they cannot be sent back. They may also face what seem to us to be unduly harsh and unfair punishments and they will be trying to avoid those. The legal systems in their countries may be very different from ours. But what if these people have broken the law? What if someone has murdered or raped or caused other harm? Do we simply allow them in to escape justice?
All this needs to be considered. People will lie to get what they want - and what they even believe they deserve. We don't want to believe that but we do need to consider it.
It may be that the government will one day take up the offer of our Kiwi neighbours - if it can be done without encouraging others to make dangerous journeys - but the idea that you can simply say "Yes" and send people there is not without great dangers.
We need to be realistic about what can and should be done even while our natural sympathies might lie with saying "let them come".

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Old people in hospital

have been very much on my mind of late. 
The Senior Cat is still in hospital. Yesterday we thought he would be coming home first tomorrow and then today. Now they say he will be there another week.
I can see what is happening. I think Middle Cat can too, as can our brother. 
The problem this time is that the Senior Cat has been wearing those non-slip safety socks - the sort with the little bits of rubber that are supposed to decrease the risk of falls. He has not been wearing shoes even though he has been spending most of his time out of bed.
He should have been wearing shoes. Middle Cat told them this. As a physiotherapist she is well aware of the condition of his feet. His circulation is not great these days and that adds to the other problems of "some of the flattest feet in the universe". Now he has another problem on one foot and, on seeing it, the podiatrist and Middle Cat had a discussion and then they had a discussion with the OT. Then they said, "Another week..."
I have not spoken to the Senior Cat since then. Yesterday I saw him before all this occurred. He will be frustrated in the extreme. He says he feels a "fraud" because he isn't really ill.
The staff have, variously, told me, "We like having him here."
I can understand that. He is "one of the few people we can have a conversation with". 
In order to enter the Senior Cat's ward you need to be "buzzed" in and out by staff who have access to the electronic lock on their lanyards.  Some patients would otherwise go wandering. They would quickly end up lost and confused - if they are not already lost and confused. 
The Senior Cat is by far the most mentally alert person there. Provided he can understand one of the many accents among the staff he can actually have a conversation with them. Many of the others remind me of the people in the dementia unit I visited for several years. The person I visited there did not have dementia but she was unable to communicate except via her communication board. The only other person in the area without dementia used to sit with her and they would hold slow conversations. The staff did not have time to help. 
At the hospital the staff do seem to have some time, at least a little. This is probably because, in that area, the patients don't need nursing care. They do need other things - like appropriate stimulation. Some of that might help the man opposite. He seems normal on casual acquaintance but he wanders around restlessly unless he is watching television. He won't eat the hospital food and relies on a friend who brings in food from a fast food chain each day. He has been there for seventeen weeks now and the staff don't know what will happen to him.
We know what will happen to the Senior Cat if certain other things happen. We don't want him in a nursing home. He would go. He isn't that stupid or that selfish. But, he would hate it and we would too. We would rather he was home.
And that is what we are all working towards.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Tourism numbers are down

in this state - or so they claim. I suppose they must know. I believe they go on the occupancy rate of the available beds or some such thing.
There always seem to be some lost souls wandering dazedly around. It would help if there were a lot more signs saying, "Middle of town" and "Go this way to get to the edge of town" or "The end of town is this way". Well, not quite but you know the sort of thing I mean. It is far too often that people stop me and ask things like where the nearest railway station is. 
And that is just part of the problem. We have to get people to come here in the first place. 
Oh yes, the cricket has been on "at the oval". Locals all know what that means. There is a street race for "motor heads" - something that causes the locals to believe they can do the same sort of thing outside the circuit. There is a bicycle race for people who think there is some fun to be had pedalling up hills in the heat. We have a "Festival of Arts" and "The Fringe" and they do attract people but they aren't cheap.
And of course there is food and wine. Those things aren't cheap either but they are often excellent.
But we also have some other attractions which don't get the attention they deserve. There are some which are readily accessible - like the Maritime Museum - but many others need a car to get there, things like a wild life park and all the many small towns brimming over with history.  They need public transport to get there and information about them to be readily available. 
Having the youngest kittens here last week also reminded me of how little there is for children to do, especially if it is too wet to be outdoors. You really need to be very local to know about some activities and, even if you do, then it is likely they are there just for a day.
We need to diversify. We need to get away from sport - because, surprising though it may seem, not everyone is interested in sport. We need to stop relying on food and wine too. It isn't possible to spend all day every day of a holiday eating and drinking. 
Some shorter walking trails might help the more energetic. More public transport to places would certainly help. 
And better signage would help. It would tell people where they are and, even better, where they are going. 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

The first woman to

be a policewoman in this state was also the first female police constable in the world to be granted the same powers as a male constable. 
It cannot have been easy for her. She was not given any instruction  but had to educate herself by reading the law books.
Perhaps it was that and her experiences which led her to try and help children in trouble, particularly girls. She had homeless girls living in her own home. Later there was a home for unmarried mothers and their babies at a time when unmarried mothers were, more often than not, completely ostracised. 
The home was still there when I was in my teens and through teacher training college. I had to visit it on more than one occasion because, almost inevitably, many of the girls had low literacy and numeracy skills. 
I met one of the former residents recently. I didn't recognise her but she recognised me. 
   "You didn't really have anything to do with me. I always like to read."
When she reminded me I remembered the very quiet girl who had  been raped by a stranger on her way home from school. Everything about that situation should have turned this woman into a psychiatric basket case. Her intensely cult-like religious family turned her out. Her baby died the day he was born. Other things happened to her that should not happen to anyone. She hasn't married but I saw her recently.
    "I wanted to be a nurse but I didn't have the stamina. I love history though so I managed to get a bonded scholarship to teach. I was in college the year after you left. I spent a couple of years in the state system but then I was offered a job in PNG. I was there for three years and then came back and went into the private system - ended up last year. Since then I have been doing some genealogical research."
That surprised me. I wondered if she was in contact with her family again. It isn't the sort of question you can ask but she answered it without that,
     "I wanted to find out more about the woman who founded the place," she told me, meaning the home she had been sent to on getting raped.
She told me a little, including the woman's place of birth. When she told me the place and the date a little piece of my mother's likely family history fell into place. Her father lost his father when he was very young. On the day of his death the family was helped by a young police woman - we know this from the only letter to have survived. It mentions that the policewoman knew the family as she had come from the same small town.
I told her this and she smiled,
    "That sounds just like her."
It isn't something we can prove but it is almost certain and it is a tiny link to a woman who did so much for women in need. I wonder what my maternal great-grandmother made of her?

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Activity packs fpr children

should be more widely used - even if I do say it myself.
The weather was not "swimming pool weather" yesterday afternoon.  There were varied things for the parents of the kittens to attend to so 
And the whole clan was going out for a meal that evening. The kittens were tired and hungry and could, I suppose, have been very difficult but the activity packs were put to use.They arrived at the venue their brightly coloured bags in their paws and a certain eagerness on their faces. 
We had a room to ourselves at one of the local hotels. This is something we did once before and it worked well. It meant everyone could talk to the Senior Cat - allowed out of hospital for a few hours - and the kittens could spread themselves across the far end of the very long table.
I had included some notebooks from the supermarket. They have bright coloured covers and pages you can tear out. I included pens. They got to work.
It was not quiet. The kittens chattered constantly about what they were doing. That didn't matter though. They were busy. They were not tearing around making a nuisance of themselves. 
There were other children nearby. We could see them running up and down the passage and heard the noise they were making. It didn't seem to bother the kittens. Pens continued to scratch on paper. 
Great-Nephew was nicely distracted by Youngest Nephew who showed him how to draw a racing car.  Great-Nephew is the most restless child...he must be a horror to teach as he is highly intelligent but far too easily distracted most of the time.
Eventually food arrived and they consumed it like small vacuum cleaners before returning to other activities in their packs. Great-Nephew was trying to work out Rubik's cube. Youngest Kitten was trying to read something. She starts school next year and is determined she will know how to read before that...she may just succeed too.
I went to use the facilities. There were two women in there talking.
   "Those kids are driving me mad. I wish they had something to do."
   "Yes, a bit out of control. Did you see the others though - in the room on your right as you come through?"
   "Didn't notice them."
   "Not surprised. Have a look on the way back. They are all busy doing something."
I wonder what the woman who had not noticed the kittens thought  if she bothered to look.
All I can say is that "activity packs" need to be used more often.

Friday, 29 November 2019

I met Clive James

once - quite by accident.
I had no idea who he was at the time. He certainly wasn't famous back then.
I was living in London at the time. My paws were mostly on my books - unless I needed to go and visit a school or a child in a family setting. 
It was on one of those latter occasions that I came across two people who were looking for "Neal's Yard". This was before Neal's Yard was anything like it is today.
Quite by chance I knew it because of the "Whole Food" shop. Students who were self-catering, trying to eat sensibly, responsibly and cheaply knew the Whole Food shop. There wasn't much else in Neal's Yard at the time.
I explained how to get to the general area and how I came at it from the other direction.
And there was someone listening as I told them. He looked at me. I looked back warily. He asked how a "Downunderite - or are you a Kiwi?" - came to know where it was. It was a place he had just heard about and thought he should visit. 
I kept prowling towards Charing Cross station rather wishing this man would leave me alone. He asked what I was researching "I probably won't understand a word of it but it is useful to know people who know things". I told him. There was no reason not to tell him. I was in a street full of people and safe enough.
I carefully didn't tell him my name or where I was living. I thought he had been given enough information. If he was ever really interested he could find me. 
He didn't of course but I often wonder whether he used the term "visual perception" or - more importantly - if he did visit Neal's Yard.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

The hordes descended yesterday

and the next three days will also be busy.
I will be forever grateful to the friend who knocked quietly on the door yesterday afternoon.  She stood there with a large, square, white plastic box in her hands. When I opened the door and invited her to come in she said, "No. I just thought this might be useful."
The box contained a large fruit cake - enough to feed the adults as well as the kittens over  the next couple of days.
A.... was gone - almost before I could hug her and thank her. I didn't burst into tears but I came close to it because I have to admit I am feeling tired. 
Having the Senior Cat in hospital is not a holiday. It is surprising how many people think it is. 
    "It's giving you a break Cat," people tell me.
    "Are you catching up on some sleep Cat?" they ask me.
No, it isn't giving me a break. There is all the watering to do - something the Senior Cat has been doing. He has been doing it slowly. It has been taking him four times as long as it takes me but he has been doing it. It isn't something he will be doing quite as much of in the future but gardens do need watering in summer. I want to keep his precious plants alive for him.
And I am not catching up on sleep. I suppose I am too used to sleeping with "one ear open" listening for him. I wake in the middle of the night - and then lie there wondering how we will cope when he comes home. 
But it will be easier when he comes home because visiting him each day involves Middle Cat collecting me and a car journey through roadworks and other assorted hazards. Middle Cat can park in one car park without needing to pay but it is a long walk from there to where the Senior Cat is incarcerated. Middle Cat and I are getting a lot of exercise!
So, the cake? The mothers of the kittens do not make cake. I suspect that they have never made cake in their adult lives. Birthday cakes get bought. They don't have home made Christmas cake. 
We rarely had cake when I was a kitten. My maternal grandmother made cake - although both she and my maternal grandfather were seriously overweight and should not have been eating it. We were not there to eat it though. My grandmother would send my mother descriptions of the cakes she had cooked. It did not encourage my mother to make cake. She was too busy. If something like that was needed my mother would make a batch of Anzac biscuits (oatmeal cookies to those of you in the USA) or, even more rarely, "afghans" or what we called "patty cakes" (cupcakes). 
After my mother retired she bought and read a good many cookery  books. I gave away a pile over a metre high when she died. She did experiment with the occasional cake then...sponge cakes, "ginger fluff", and recipes given her by friends. It was fine if we had visitors and they could help to eat it.
My paternal grandmother rarely made cake apart from Christmas cake. Although she came from a farm she wasn't a cake eater. My grandfather didn't much care for it either. He liked rich fruit cake in very small slices but he preferred cheese and apples with salt. 
I have made cake. I still make cake. I make cake to take somewhere else and, once in a very long while, I might make cake for us. 
Right now there is need for cake making. The only thing I wish is that my friend could see the kittens devouring it with such pleasure.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The invasion is coming

today...indeed as I write this all those but one from one state should be in the air. My nephew from there arrived last night. He had meetings yesterday. Another nephew lands this evening. The Black Cat does not arrive until late tomorrow night.
Today may not be as chaotic as in previous times. The kittens are all a year older. They are still enough that they need a lot of attention.
And the Senior Cat is still in hospital. They will however allow him "day release". We can also put him into a wheelchair and wheel him down to the garden in the centre of the  hospital. There is a place to buy coffee and space for the kittens to play - indeed that is the intention of the space.
The Senior Cat really isn't ill. Now that he is no longer being given a particular pain killer he is as alert as ever. It is his mobility which is the concern. He still isn't allowed to move around on his own there...after all they have a legal responsibility to see he isn't injured in another fall. I only have the legal and moral responsibility to care for him. How we are going to manage here unless he can get to the bathroom himself - especially at night - is another matter.
Brother Cat phoned last night and we made some tentative arrangements for today - the most important of those being that of course he wants to see our father.  It will depend on whether nephew and niece decide their families descend on me at some point what else will happen. I have the "activity packs" for the kittens all lined up. I think they may be needed.
This year I managed to find some cheap "Rubik's Cube" toys - in the supermarket  of all places. That should occupy them for five minutes. They have "Where's Wally" books for when the adults really need them to be a bit quieter. There is an "activity" book each and some crafty bits and pieces, including some cheap toy go-kart kits that they can make and race at least once.There is paper and there are multiple pens in multiple colours. And there is food. I am a great believer in food for kittens. They need stoking at regular intervals.  I consulted Niece about this some time ago.
What have I left out? Someone tell me quickly - before the invasion begins!

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Chinese spies are everywhere

so the present media headlines should come as no surprise to anyone. That the Chinese should attempt to infiltrate the Downunder parliament by putting a member of their choosing in does not surprise me in the least. Should it?
I have been reminded by my years at various universities. I have attended three in my time and worked in more. At all of them there were students who were on "government scholarships". The students came from countries like China, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Egypt and more. Almost all of them were there for a dual purpose. They had been sent to study but they had also been sent to spy on their fellow students. 
Everyone knew it. Nobody commented on it. You knew simply because some students were always cautious about what they said and did, especially around students on "government scholarships". It added immeasurably to the stress some students were under. It still does. That your parents are paying for you to be there is sufficient stress for some students but most of them are also under extreme pressure to do very well indeed. The pressure comes not only from parents and family but from others in their country of origin. Some of them have come here because,  under their extremely competitive systems, their marks were not  considered quite good enough. They may work hard, very hard but they still struggle. Some of them need part-time jobs in order to eat. That adds another layer of pressure.
I tutored a lot of students under that sort of stress. They came to me on both a group and a one to one basis.
    "I am in trouble," one of the girls told me once, "S.... saw me talking to a boy." 
She was close to tears. The boy in question was not a Muslim and she was. That they had been standing in the quad with people right around them and the subject matter of their conversation had been strictly academic made no difference.
The would-be candidate for a seat in the Downunder parliament failed and he has since committed suicide.There is no room for failure in the game he was playing. 
It is easier now than ever to spy on such vulnerable students. All of them have mobile phones. They are expected to keep them switched on at all times.
Of course it may not happen to everyone but it does happen to people  whose governments are "concerned" about them for one reason or another. 
I was tolerated by the spies - just. I tutored some of them too. I made no secret of the fact I knew why they were there. One of them has recently been incarcerated in his own country - for spying.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Social workers are not

a breed of which I am particularly fond. No, it isn't because I regard them as "prying" - although some can seem like that. It is because they seem to me to do less good than the old fashioned sort of woman who managed to raise a husband, six children and a dog or two  - and still find time to help when it was needed.
Middle Cat and I had a phone call from a social worker yesterday. Yes, he was working on a Sunday. There was, he said, nothing wrong. He just wanted to check a few things.
It is all part of the hospital paper work, work that needs to be done before they will allow the Senior Cat to come home. Middle Cat and I understand how the system works. 
I am not sure the social worker really understood us.
   "The Senior Cat is coming home," we told him, "He would hate, loathe and detest aged care and unless we absolutely can't cope he is staying home."
It was very clear to us that this attitude is not usual. The hospital would like more people to go home but not all families can or want to put the effort in. Some elderly people live alone or with elderly partners who can't cope even if support services are put in place. Once in the "rehab" (rehabilitation) system they will almost certainly end up in aged care - often somewhere far away from family and friends. One of my former "old dears" eventually had a fall. She was in hospital for a while and then, because it was impossible for her to go home, she ended up in a nursing home about sixty kilometres away. You needed a car to get there. Nobody went to visit. I explained to the woman in charge of the nursing home that I couldn't visit because I don't drive. We arranged a regular time for me to phone but the arrangement didn't last long. She died within four weeks of arriving there. 
On visiting a nursing home I have been more than once by staff,
    "You're the only visitor s/he gets."
All that does is make me feel more guilty about (a) not going more often and (b) not staying longer when I do go. Often I need to sort out paper work. It was only two and a half weeks ago that I no longer had the actual legal responsibility for anyone other than the Senior Cat. Some of those people had family, family who didn't live that far away. They kept saying they were "too busy" to help. 
(The last son told me, "I hope you aren't expecting anything from Mum's estate." My response to that was, "I made sure I was a witness to her will so she wouldn't be able to leave me anything."
I don't think he liked that answer either.)
The Senior Cat is nearly 97. He is old and he is not very mobile but he is still able to walk. While he can do that we can cope. At home he has his garden, his books and little projects he has developed and can still do. The surroundings are what he has made for himself. They are familiar. He has a routine. I cook what he likes to eat and in the when and how he wants to eat. We don't socialise a lot. We never have. But we do have visitors. They come in and out by arrangement or because they happen to be passing. The two small boys across the road love to come and talk to him and get him to help them make them origami boats and boxes.  He's been going to church on Sundays because someone picks him up. It's a social outing and "we want him there" I was told yesterday, "there's always someone who wants to talk to him over coffee after church". 
All that is important - and not just for him. It is important for other people too. The little kittens need to learn about the very old cats. His great-grandchildren have known more than one of the very old. They actually like to visit the nursing home in which my brother's MIL lives. She is much the same age as the Senior Cat and very frail. They talk to her and then they talk to other residents. They take drawings and tell them about school. My SIL says, "Faces light up when they go rushing in." 
They will almost certainly grow out of it as they get a little older but, for now, they are willing. Later they will remember the experience - and go back to caring about the elderly.
Social workers need to understand all this, that caring for the elderly is not just about having somewhere to live but someone to talk to and something to do - people you want to talk to and things you want to do.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

IV poles must not be used as skateboards

IV poles must not be used as skateboards...nor must those small oxygen trolleys or...
There are endless things around hospitals that can be misused I suppose. Sometimes it can be fun - if you think nobody else is watching.
It is a long hike from the car park to the hospital ward in which the Senior Cat is at present. Middle Cat and I have had to avoid the usual beds being pushed past us, the trolleys with an oxygen bottle or two, trolleys with meals, trolleys with empty meal containers, trolleys of clean linen, trolleys with mysterious medical items and more.
And then there are the IV poles. I don't know what it is about IV poles. I remember the notices in the children's  hospital with the kill-joy statement, "IV poles must not be used as skateboards". It is perfectly understandable of course. They really should not be used as skateboards. It isn't what they are intended for but....oh the fun of at least pretending for a moment that you are not sick, that life is normal and that you can do that triple twist or whatever it is. 
The corridors in this particular hospital are long. They are often empty and deserted as you move from the "private" to the "public" side and then back again. The lay out is confusing. Middle Cat and I got lost again yesterday because we went up in the wrong lift. (There seem to be lifts all over the place. The problem is that they don't go sideways as well.)
And it was that little adventure in which we came across two young porters. The temptation was obviously too much. One of them was sneaking a ride on an IV pole - urged on by his mate.
    "Go on, yeah that's got it mate!"
They saw us. They tried to look innocent.
     "You won't tell?"
I looked around.
     "I can't see the notice."
     "What notice?"
     "The one that says IV poles must not be used as skateboards. They are all over the place in the children's area."
      "We don't work there."
      "I can see that."
They looked at each other and then back at me.
      "Look, it's hospital equipment - it could be hooked up to something to save someone's life. You were being idiotic but I don't think you are idiots," Middle Cat told them.
They sighed and followed us to the nearest lift.
      "Does it really take two of you to get one?" I asked as they pushed the button.
      "No, I sort of met him on the way," one of them said of the other.
      "Convenient," Middle Cat muttered to me as we left.
While I was waiting for Middle Cat to finish a conversation with one of the many members of staff she seems to know I saw them again, this time wheeling a bed. They were talking to a very elderly and very frightened looking woman.
I couldn't hear what they were saying but a small smile appeared on her face. As they waited again for the lift to take them somewhere one of them saw me. He gave me a "thumbs up" and said,
     "We're telling her not to use her IV pole as a skateboard."

Saturday, 23 November 2019

"Children don't know how to play"

is the subject of an article in the paper this morning. It goes on to talk about some research which is being done and which suggests children spend more time on their phones than actively playing at school.
I might not have taken a great deal of notice except that I was recently told the story (later confirmed) of the new teacher who told her young class that part of their homework was to "go outside and play". Most of the children had no idea what they were expected to do. They didn't play outside. When they reached home they watched television or "played games" on screens. 
The idea that they might do something to entertain themselves was apparently completely foreign to them. That is frightening.
We played outside all the time. My brother and I read books outside too. Our mother didn't want us in the house. No don't blame her. Our mother was a teacher. Looking back I realise that, although she was a very good teacher, she was not particularly fond of children. Once school was over for the day she simply wanted to get on with all the many other things that needed to be done without interruption.
Other mothers also expected their children to be "out" rather than "in". It had to be pouring rain before we were allowed to stay inside. Indeed in one place we lived in there was a two room structure at the very end of the garden. The Senior Cat used one and we children had the other. We were shooed off to that rather than be allowed to stay inside. 
We entertained ourselves. My brother had been given quite a sturdy carpentry kit so we made things - yes we used a little saw, a hammer, nails, a screwdriver and the like. I doubt any child I know now would be allowed to do that unsupervised - and some would not even be allowed to do that when supervised. Yes of course we hit our thumbs and injured ourselves in other ways - but we knew better than to go crying to our Christian Scientist mother. Perhaps that was one good thing about her religious beliefs - we learnt to deal with such things ourselves.
There are apparently schools which no longer children to use balls in the playground. A ball might injure someone.
I know parents who will not allow their children to ride bikes for fear of injury. (The same parents encourage the children to play much more dangerous contact sports like football.)
But it isn't just the lack of physical activity that is a concern. Not so long ago a child of about eight asked me what I did when I was small. She didn't  use the word "play". I told her about games like "Cowboys and Indians", "Pirates", "Space Men", "Doctors and Nurses" (the latter only when our mother was not likely to find out) and the like. Alarmingly it was clear she had no idea what any of this meant. She has a room of her own apart from her bedroom but it has a good many pink plastic toys in it. Her little brother is already quite skilled at  using an i-pad to play "games" and she uses one to play more games with Barbie look alikes - games where, as far as I can see, someone else has done the thinking and the creating.
Thankfully the two young kittens across the road do know how to play. Their paediatrician mother and I have been discussing what I might put into their Christmas holidays activity packs. There won't be a "game" in sight. They will create their own.  Some children still know how to play and they will be the leaders of the future. 

Friday, 22 November 2019

Talking to strangers

in a  hospital ward is quite different from talking to strangers elsewhere.
The Senior Cat is still in hospital. He is on such heavy pain medication that he is confused. Middle Cat and I know that this is not a normal state of affairs for him. He is normally alert and, while he occasionally forgets things, he has always been able to function in the real world. If you looked at his pile of reading matter you would find theology, gardening, origami, and a crime novel right now. It's a pretty usual sort of mix for him. Theology (of all sorts) might get replaced with philosophy, psychology or sociology but there would be something intellectually stimulating in the pile.
So I was not really surprised when, on my arrival yesterday, the woman in the opposite bed informed me,
    "I had such an interesting conversation with your father about religion last night."
He was apparently alert then. That they had been talking did not surprise me because she had been reading the sort of crime novel the Senior Cat enjoys reading. 
Religion? That was a little more surprising because the Senior Cat is  usually cautious about raising that as a topic outside the immediate family. But the conversation had apparently ranged over a number of topics in the area of the sociology of religion. They had enjoyed themselves and, partway through the conversation, the third patient in the little ward had invited herself to join them because it "sounded so interesting". She had been a pleasant soul when I met her briefly but she had gone by the time we arrived  yesterday.
The hospital staff must have welcomed three elderly patients sitting and chatting and not calling on them for help.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Fires burning out of control

have left the air smoky even here. 
Yesterday was a "catastrophic" fire danger day for this state. The temperature rose to above 40'C in many places. Our outside thermometer (which may not be very accurate) was reading 44'C at one point.
I was up early. I planned on watering to save what I could of the garden. (The Senior Cat had put some very young seedlings into "self-watering" pots but the words "self-watering" are a misnomer if ever there was one. They needed water.)
Before I did that I had to write a card and slip it into the letter box of someone who lives a short distance away. She has just lost her husband. I wanted her to know I was thinking of her and that I will call in to see her in a few days. She will understand that I can't get to the funeral.
The garden is a mess. More of it might have survived the heat if the wind had not been so strong. As it is we have lost all the sweet peas. If there had been time yesterday morning I should have cut some of them then. At least we could have enjoyed them inside. I don't really care for cut flowers inside. I prefer flowers to remain in the garden. 
My mother used to be given great swathes of gladioli from the old man who lived at the back. His backyard had hundreds and hundreds of them - perhaps well over a thousand. Growing them was his hobby. His backyard was like a Monet painting come to life. It was all very beautiful but I would have been happy to leave the flowers there. I can't help wondering what yesterday would have done to his flowers.
And this morning I can see and smell smoke - almost certainly the smoke from the fires more than a hundred kilometres from here - as the crow flies. The sky is a pale grey-brown colour. Summer doesn't officially begin for another ten days.
Yesterday afternoon Middle Cat collected me and we went to visit the Senior Cat. He had already phoned me. A young male nurse had spoken to me first and said, "I think he's homesick."
I had tried to call the hospital in the morning to reassure him we were thinking of him but the lines were all engaged. The poor darling probably thought we were ignoring him! 
   "What do you want me to bring?" I asked him. The nurse had already asked me to bring some shoes ready for prior to his release.
His electric razor he told me. He hates "looking like a bush ranger". Fortunately I had found that and plugged it in so it was charged. 
I took him his toothbrush and toothpaste and some clean pyjamas. And most important of all I took him a book to read. He's on the last Ian Rankin "Rebus" novel. 
He pounced on that and purred. Ian, thank you!

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Hospital emergency departments

are interesting places.
We were extraordinarily fortunate in that they took the Senior Cat straight in yesterday. "Ramping" has been a very serious issue at hospitals here. Patients have often been left in an ambulance to wait for hours.
I trailed in behind two efficient ambulance officers - the first two "rapid response" team having left. They handed over the extensive notes they had made. I confirmed various details.
And then we waited.
At times like that it is almost fortunate that the Senior Cat is getting very deaf and does not have a great deal of medical knowledge. The woman in the next cubicle was having a very serious panic attack and they were trying to calm her. The woman on the other side had just given birth to a very premature baby who had been rushed to neonatal intensive care. Her husband was distraught.  I could hear all this. 
Someone was wheeled past rapidly with a little too much blood showing - not all from a head wound.
We waited some more. A lovely young nurse came in and apologised for keeping the Senior Cat waiting. His only response was, 
    "You're busy this morning."
They asked more questions. The ambulance staff had given him some pain relief but it had done nothing to help.
Now I have to say here that the Senior Cat does not complain. He has been through quite a lot of major surgery without complaint. If he said "Ten" when asked on a scale of "one to ten" when asked about pain I knew it was really severe. He was losing colour every time the pain "grabbed" him again.
Trying to get him to answer questions was more complex yesterday. I don't want to try and answer questions for him but he was struggling to do it - and getting a little confused. 
    "I think he's going to be admitted,"the young intern who saw him next told me.
    "We came prepared," I told him.
We moved away from the panic attack patient and the woman who had just given birth. She was still trying to calm her husband but I think they both knew what "Team to paediatric resus" likely meant. People came in and out. The Senior Cat was given a small dose of one of the most powerful painkillers but it did nothing. An hour later they did it again. More people arrived. They repeated the neurological tests I had done earlier, that the ambulance staff had done and that the intern had done. None of us thought he had had a stroke. It was just the pain in his back.
    "What do you think the problem might be?" the young intern asked me, "You know him well."
    "Given what I think he did," I said, "I think he may have cracked a rib. Given his general physical condition that is likely to be extremely painful. He isn't one to complain."
     "No, he keeps apologising."
An x-ray of his back next. They whisked him away and I waited. Two members of staff I know from elsewhere stopped and spoke to me. One said,"We've got an interpreter here now or I would have suggested coming to get you."
I don't think my sign language is up to that sort of interpreting although I could probably have helped a bit.
Again I heard, "Team to paediatric resus please patient coming in now." 
That would have been a traumatic morning for them.
The Senior Cat came back to the bay I was waiting in. Another very young doctor said she couldn't see anything on the x-ray but they would wait for the radiographer to have a look.
Middle Cat, who had been over to see the Senior Cat into the ambulance, arrived. As a former physiotherapist her medical knowledge is far superior to mine. 
More discussion. The Senior Cat was offered a sandwich for lunch and they offered me one too. A sandwich for me and I wasn't one of the patients?
   "You've been here since nine this morning and it is almost two," the woman with the trolley said. I had not been aware of the time.
It was late afternoon before the radiographer sent a message to say, "Yes, a cracked rib."
The message arrived while the hospital's physiotherapist and Middle Cat were seeing whether the Senior Cat could sit and stand but going for a walk proved too much. He couldn't answer the pharmacist's questions about his medications.
"We are sending him to 3G," the next doctor said, "You two go home."
Today is going to be very hot, a forecast high of 42'C, I am hoping they will keep the Senior Cat there where it is cool and they can administer pain relief until the nerve block they talked of doing kicks in - if they can do it.
I just want to be a mother cat and lick him better!

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Monday, 18 November 2019

Report cards

remember them?
They used to go home in sealed envelopes - yes? Your teacher wrote one at the end of each term, along with your final marks - the marks you got for your end of term or end of year "tests" or "examinations". (They were "tests" in the infants and junior school and "exams" in the secondary school.)
I have memories of the early reports. They didn't bother me too much. I'd get "full marks" for things like spelling and nothing at all for "writing".  It was what I expected. 
My maternal grandparents told me I would get a watch if I managed to come first, second or third in what would now be Year 5. They thought they were safe because no child who was consistently given nothing at all for "writing" could expect to get to those giddy heights. I managed it. There was an argument about whether I should get the watch. On learning of the argument my paternal grandparents offered to buy it instead. I remember hearing my paternal grandfather say,
     "The child has done what was asked of her."
Yes, I suppose I had.
In the last two years of the junior school (years 6 & 7) I was taught by the Senior Cat. He wrote reports because he had to write reports. My mother would sign them - because they had to be signed by a  parent. There were no comments - just marks. My parents knew, or thought they knew, how well or badly I was doing. 
It was the same for my siblings.
Report cards have been in the news recently. Changes are being made to the way parents are being informed. Ms W came in yesterday and told me,
    "We still get reports but the boys over the road have to write their own."
We discussed this. Ms W was not impressed.  I asked her what she would say if she had to write hers. All her previous reports have been excellent.
For once all she could say was,
    "I don't know. I guess I'm doing okay."

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Food banks

are opening while banks are closing.
There was a "wheelie bin" in the supermarket this last week for people to put in donations for one of the Food Banks. I wish it wasn't there -  that everyone had enough to eat.
Yesterday an elderly woman stopped me and said,
    "I'm clearing out my neighbour's cupboards. Do you know who takes tinned food and biscuits?"
I have now asked the person who takes the Senior Cat to church to take it with them this morning. There are about a dozen tins there and some new soap. It's useful stuff in good condition. The tins are not dented and the jar with a "use by" date is  within date.
I know how many things given to the local charity shop have to be thrown away as unusable. It costs them to get rid of the dented, rusty tins and the clothing so worn that it cannot even be given away.
My rule is simple, "If you wouldn't give it to a friend then don't give it to charity."
I tend to wear my clothes to the point where they are fit only for the rubbish bin. That said a friend of mine did once take a pair of jeans that were no longer wearable. She cut bits out of them and other worn out jeans to make a quilt for charity. Perhaps it depends on the creativity of the friend in question?
But I know the manager of the local charity shop despairs at times. 
    "We don't get the quality we once got. People have garage sales now."  (Yard sales to my North American readers.)
I went through the Senior Cat's shirts a while back. Like me he tends to wear things until they fall to pieces. Middle Cat took two to use as rags. The rest, apart from one, I kept for now.  I gave one away. It was given to the Senior Cat by his late cousin D...  It was a very nice shirt but it wasn't right for the Senior Cat. It simply didn't fit him properly. I gave it to the charity shop where it has no doubt been snapped up by someone who needed it.
I am about to do some radical tidying up in preparation for the "invasion" of the kittens and their parents in about ten days from now. There are a couple of things lying around we don't need any more. Someone will be able to use those. I have a bag in which to pack them and deliver them to the charity shop. Someone will use them.
And I have no doubt the food will be used.
Only give that which can be used seems like a good rule.


Saturday, 16 November 2019

Planting seedlings

needs to be done before it gets too hots. The little things need to feel comfortable and settled in their newly made beds before they can cope with the heat. Even then I know they may not survive. They will need water.
Now we do have multiple rain water tanks on this property. At one time the Senior Cat could carry large watering cans. Then it was small watering cans. Most of the time it is now tap water - unless I do the watering.
It is the Senior Cat's garden - one of his hobbies. The last thing I want to do is stop him from "playing outside". He needs to be out in his garden. 
The reality however is that he does very little actual gardening these days. S.... comes in for two hours once a fortnight and manages to do more than the Senior Cat could do in twenty hours. The Senior Cat was never a fast gardener. He was always a slow and contemplative gardener. Gardening is thinking time.
In our previous house the Senior Cat grew  carrots "under the hedge" -  which really meant right next to the hedge between us and the nosy neighbour. The nosy neighbour was not impressed - even though it had no impact on her at all. There were tomatoes and lettuce, capsicum, courgettes/zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, peas and more. The Senior Cat rotated all these things. My mother looked after the front garden with the flowers, the lavender, rosemary and other herbs around the small patch of lawn.
There were also strawberry plants all the way down the driveway. That puzzled and alarmed the nosy neighbour too. When we offered her some of the strawberries she refused even though the car tyres had been nowhere near the strawberries. It was really rather sad she never enjoyed them the way we did.
There are strawberry plants here now. Some are in their second year. There are others which need to be planted. The Senior Cat tells me he will "definitely" do it today. He "might have" done it yesterday but someone took him out for afternoon tea - an unexpected treat.
All these things now need to go in waist high pots. Pots need more watering - even the so-called "self watering" sort of plants.  
If I do it then we can use the water from the tanks.  This will take time. I find watering the garden frustrating. I want to get on with other things but it is the Senior Cat's garden. He needs to be out there. The strawberries had better taste as good as those which went down the driveway.


Friday, 15 November 2019

"We are going paperless"

The dreaded words did not surprise me.
   "You'll need an app on your phone to access prescriptions."
 No, I won't. I don't have that sort of mobile phone. My phone can do two things. It can allow me to receive phone calls(and text messages). It lets me make phone calls and, presumably, send text messages. I have used the phone five times in the last four years. On three of those occasions I have told the Senior Cat that I will be later than I expected to be. On two occasions I spoken to Middle Cat to inform her that the Senior Cat was on his way to or at the hospital.
That is it. 
Yes, I know that other people live with their phones at their sides all the time. I don't do that at the moment. We have a "land line"  because the Senior Cat finds that less confusing. Middle Cat and the Senior Cat are the only two people with my mobile number. My "plan" costs me $40 a year - it used to be $20.
I know that I will eventually need to do something different but I still won't be getting fancy "apps" to tell me that prescriptions are due.
About two years ago the local chemist tried to tell me that our prescriptions should remain with them and that the Senior Cat's multiple pills should be put into one of those "pill packs" - to be collected by me at a designated time each week. There would of course be a charge for this service. 
I told them "no thank you". I did it for a very good reason. Chemists lose things. They lost a prescription belonging to me. It meant I had to go to the clinic and have the doctor rewrite it. (She sighed and said "they do these things".) I also want to keep an eye on what the Senior Cat is supposed to be taking as does Middle Cat and Doctor-Nephew.
Now the government is setting up a paperless prescription scheme. Nobody seems to be totally sure as to how it will work but the assumption that everyone will have a mobile phone with a plan that allows them to access the internet is unrealistic. It simply won't work. 
I am a reasonably intelligent sort of cat. I could do all this but I know a great many people who would not be able to do it. At the present time they can handle their own prescriptions. There is F... for instance. She doesn't have a mobile phone. Numbers confuse her  but she knows when to take her medication. The chemist tells her, "That's the last one F...  Go and see your doctor."
F.... will tell me. I help her make the appointment because pressing the buttons in the right sequence is beyond her. But, she can cope with her own medication by counting on her fingers and matching the amount left to that. Paperless scripts will confuse her and leave her anxious. She is far from the only one. 
There are some good reasons to bring in a more stream lined service. It should do away with some doctor shopping and substance abuse. The problem is that it will create other problems, especially for people who are already dependent on others for some things and would prefer to be independent in others.