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 right...you 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."
    "Yes..."
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.  

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Climate change is your responsibility

and I wish you would acknowledge it.
I am waiting for the abuse to be hurled at me. It will be. There will be some "activists" out there who will tell me I am wrong - and they will no doubt do it in vile language.  Yes, it will upset me but this is something I need to say.
I am tired of people blaming "the government" and "government inaction" for climate change.  We elected the government. They are our representatives. We have to take responsibility for what they do. We also have to take responsibility for what we do.
There have been some increasingly nasty exchanges between people on line and some even nastier things said about our elected representatives. They have come from people who often have no business to be criticising because they are, quite simply, equally culpable. 
These are the "climate activists" who do some or all of them following.
(1) they drive cars when they could walk or take public transport. (They argue they "don't have time" to walk and that "one car doesn't make a difference" or that "there is no public transport".)
The vehicles they own are all too often 4WDs which they claim to need because they tow caravans or boats or because....
(2) they live in semi-urban areas surrounded by what they fondly believe is "natural bush land". They don't clear away the undergrowth because they believe it is "natural". Their houses are fire traps, often built of highly combustible timber.
(3) If they don't live in a semi-urban area they do live in the suburbs and they have what they fondly imagine to be a "water saving, minimal care garden" full of "native plants". In between the plants they have planted concrete pavers because that "saves" water. Such gardens actually add to global warming and do nothing to save water. They retain heat, especially in the summer and the native plants need extra water because of the concrete pavers. 
(4) They may have solar panels on their houses but they don't off set the air conditioning needed to overcome the lack of verandahs, the low ceilings and the heat coming in the big "picture" windows.
(5) Some of them love (and even indulge in) the sort of motor sport or other recreational activities which use up fossil fuels. They go on holiday in far away places. While they may not fly to get there they will tow the caravan and cause unintended damage in remote areas.
(6) They insist on buying "organic" fruit and vegetables and don't take into account that the locally produced in season food may be a better environmental option for more than one reason.
I tried explaining all this - and more - to someone who believes he lives a "very responsible" environmentally oriented life. His response was that I was wrong. He insists  "the government" is to blame.
Governments can take more action, of course they can. The action that they could take would likely be extremely unpopular and a future government might well repeal any action taken.  
But shouldn't climate action start with us? As individuals we may not think we are doing much but each drop of water eventually makes an ocean.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Royal Commission

into the Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability had a preliminary session in my home city yesterday. I went along for two reasons. The first of those was to provide communication assistance for two other people. The second was because I have put a short submission in.
The first reason became unnecessary when one person was not able to get there - for the very reasons the inquiry  is being held - and the other came with someone who had thought she might not be able to get there.
The second reason allowed me to introduce myself to the senior member of the commission's staff - and thus to one or two others I will need to meet again in the future. I was told that, at some point, I will be called on to give evidence with respect to my submission.
My submission concerned the voting rights of people with disabilities.
Those of you who do not live here may not be aware that it is compulsory to be on the electoral roll and compulsory to "attend the ballot box". There is no actual requirement to vote although the term "mark the ballot paper" is usually seen as meaning that.
It is when people cannot mark their own ballot papers and/or do not understand the process that problems arise. It is those problems I want to see, at very least, acknowledged. If possible I would like to see them addressed at least for some people.
There are ways in which people who do not have the concept of choice can be excluded from the electoral roll. Before you say "but everyone has the right to vote" consider a person with severe dementia who can no longer read or write and for whom a ballot paper means nothing. Is their vote meaningful and is putting them under the stress of  "voting" desirable? 
What about someone with such a severe degree of mental retardation that they have no idea what it means to choose anything over something else? It was this which set me on the path of doing a piece of research I never intended to do. A parent had discovered that her child, living in group housing in the community, had been placed on the electoral roll by one of the "carers". This was despite the fact that the mother had written to the electoral commission with all the necessary information. The "carer" sounded very convincing and very concerned that this person should have a vote. In reality what had happened was that the carer had used that vote. Another person was refused permission to leave her group house on polling day. She later discovered that one of her "carers" had voted in her name. Yes, this is abuse and exploitation. It isn't the first time something like this has happened - and it won't be the last. 
Many people with disabilities are highly vulnerable. Some are dependent on other people for their most basic needs. Everyone is dependent at times but dependence on other people for the ability to get out of bed, bathe, get dressed and eat makes you incredibly vulnerable. The most vulnerable of all are those who are unable to make themselves readily understood, those who cannot independently make a phone call.
That was barely touched on yesterday but it was there in the first story - "he can't tell us what happened". 
This Royal Commission is costing millions - and if it changes the life of just one person for the better it will be worth every cent. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The bike shop is closing

and this is going to cause yet more problems.
There is another bike shop. It is actually closer but it does not provide the same sort of service.
The closer shop is not interested in tricycles. They regard tricycles as a nuisance. On the rare occasions I have used it - out of sheer desperation - I have been given to understand that they do not cater for such things. They won't service tricycles. They "know nothing about them". Their interest is in racing bikes, mountain bikes and the "more professional" side of cycling.
The other shop, the one I used, actually knew about tricycles. I sent more than one would-be tricycle rider off to see them - and they came away satisfied. It takes a lot for me to recommend anyone. I don't do it as a matter of principle - because so many things can vary and the experience someone else has might be quite different from my own. 
But I did with the tricycles because I knew that the shop in question would not sell something they thought would not suit the rider without at least telling them, "We don't think that is suitable for you."
They make, and thankfully will continue to make, tricycles for people with disabilities. They actually design them for people with very special needs. A former student of mine had one built. He was independently mobile because of it right up until his death. 
There is nothing fancy about my tricycle but the person working on it does need to know how the thing is put together. Mine is a commercially available set of wheels but the specially designed tricycles can need specialist attention.
Let it be said here that tricycles often get a lot of hard work. I have worn out a few in my lifetime - and I'd like to think I might wear out a couple more. Tricycles can be the difference between someone going out or staying at home and being dependent on someone else to get them somewhere. I'll be using mine this morning to go to a meeting at which I will be an "interpreter" for a couple of other people.
Tricycle users are often people who fall through the cracks of the mobility schemes. They don't get "taxi vouchers". It isn't always safe for them to use public transport. If they want to take their wheels with them then they need to use the train service because you cannot take tricycles on buses and trams. For some of us it isn't a matter of choice either. If we can't take our wheels or it is too far to pedal then we don't go. 
Having a bicycle shop which understood and catered for our needs is something we appreciated. Its closure will be a huge loss. 
I was about to fill out the survey our local MP has sent out about public transport use. I had things I wanted to say before and I have even more now.

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Ponzi scheme

reported in the paper this morning will, hopefully, stop someone I know investing in something I have serious doubts about.
The man in question lives on my regular pedalling route. He lives alone and he is lonely. If he is in his front garden and sees me pass he will often call out and, if I have a few minutes, I will stop and let him talk. (He does most of the talking. All I need to do is look as if I am listening.)
On Saturday morning he stopped me as I was coming back from the library. He had a letter in his hand.
   "Tell me what you think of this Cat. It sounds good."
I read the letter...and then read it again. It did sound good, too good.
   "I think I'd talk to a financial adviser about it," I said. (He's the sort of person to whom it is not possible to say, "I don't think I'd do that.")
And even that caution on my part might have been too much. He was as animated as I have ever seen him.
   "Do you know this person?" I asked.
   "I've met him. I don't know him well but he's the sort of person you take to immediately. I thought it was very nice of him to think I might be interested."
I looked at him.
    "It's $100,000 Cat - environmentally sound project. I'd get three times that back. It has to be a winner."
    "I'd still talk to a financial adviser - someone who can check the company out."
It didn't please him - but he had asked.
For me $100,000 would be a fortune and I wouldn't be investing it in an unknown company. I know what the Senior Cat's financial adviser would say. He would say, "Don't touch it."
It was all very cleverly put but there were words there that worried me - words like "could" and "should".
 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

The bushfires in the

eastern part of Downunder are being watched closely in this house. Brother Cat and his partner now live in a small town in the foot of the Blue Mountains. They wanted to retire away from the hectic life in the city but not be too far from their children and grandchildren. It seems to be working well.
When they moved there one of the first things my brother did was join the Rural Fire Service. He's not fit or physically active but he thought he might have some skills they could use and he is fire conscious. 
We spent most of our childhood in rural areas. We know about fires and the dangers they pose. Added to that he and his partner came very close to losing everything several years ago. A fire went through the national park less than 100m from their home at the time. It reached the boundary and it was the fire service which saved the street he was living in. He wants to give something back to them.
I don't know what he is doing at the moment. We won't hear until he is ready to tell us and I am not bombarding him with phone calls or text messages or emails. The Senior Cat is largely unaware of how serious the situation is in other areas of that state. He simply knows that there are "some fires over there".  That they are, to put it simply, "catastrophic" is something he doesn't need to know. 
It is not yet officially summer here. This state has already had some grass fires. We had a little bit of rain the other day but it was barely enough to wet the ground. There is far too much brittle dry undergrowth that needs to be cleared - cleared from private properties of people who like to think of  it as "natural bushland" with no thought for the potential fire  hazard. 
I have reminded friends who live in the hills behind us that, should they have to leave at any time, our house is here as a refuge. And I am thankful that our multiple rainwater tanks are still almost full. We are going to need them over the summer.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

University degrees

should not be effortless and I am not sure they should be short. I certainly have some doubts about doing a worthwhile degree from any reputable university in the space of six months. However it should be possible to do a short course in that time.
This has come up because there is yet another proposal for a change to the way people can study for degrees. Apparently people "don't want to go and study full time for three years like teenagers". No, perhaps they don't. Does that really mean they should be able to do a "degree" in six months?
The Senior Cat did his degree "part-time" over a number of years. Like many others of his generation he had no other way of doing it. It required a good deal of dedication and determination on their part to get a "bachelor's". 
When the Senior Cat was doing his degree I remember seeing the lists of "Latin vocab" on the shaving cabinet. He had to make use of any spare moment available. He had to complete the same amount of work as anyone else enrolled for that degree.
So why should it be any different now? The nature of university degrees has changed here. Universities are no longer institutions where the best and brightest students study. "Going to university" is, as one student put it recently, "just something you have to do". The Vice-Chancellor who was talking about six month degrees  was also saying that we need to raise the number of people who have a degree from around thirty percent to fifty percent. 
Half the population? When the Senior Cat did the first subject there were just a few hundred at the only university in the state. Now there are thousands at that university alone. In percentage terms it has been a massive increase. 
Is that a good thing? Is that what universities are really about? Is a six month degree really going to be the same as the degrees I did?
What's wrong with awarding a certificate for a six month course or a diploma for a course of one or two years?

Friday, 8 November 2019

"Do you own a car?"

I asked.
The woman I was speaking to looked at me in a very superior sort of way and said, "Yes, of course!"
I smiled - the very best sort of smile I could manage and said, "Well I don't. I have never owned a car - and my tricycle does not pollute the environment the way your car does."
There was a deathly hush around us.
I don't know what everyone was expecting. The woman in question had just complained, loudly, about me taking up space on the train with my tricycle.
Now let it be said here that I (1) only travel on the train when it is absolutely necessary - if I can pedal where I need to go I do and (2) that the transport system allows me and any bicycle rider to take their wheels on the train as long as there is room. You pay to take your wheels before 9am and after 3pm. (3) I need my tricycle to get to and from at each end of a train journey.
I was not in anyone's way. There was nobody in a wheelchair so I was using the wheelchair space. If someone in a wheelchair had boarded the train I would have moved slightly further away. As it was I had done the right thing and was "parked" out of the way. 
It didn't suit  the woman who complained.
    "People like you shouldn't use public transport. Get taxi vouchers or something."
Clearly she wasn't giving up. I just looked at her.
   "You know the driver is going to have to get out of the cabin again when you want to get off. He has to unlock that cabinet and get the ramp out just so you can get off and then put the ramp back and lock it again. It all takes time you know. People like you don't care about that do you?"
Actually I don't  use the ramp. I am expected to get my tricycle on and off unassisted. If the ramp does go down for some reason  I have been allowed to use it -  for which I am duly grateful. Do I care? Yes of course I do. I care when I see the ramp being put down grudgingly as if the person in the wheelchair or mobility scooter has no right to travel. I am all too well aware of the problems people with disabilities face in trying to use public transport.
There is no point in arguing with people as hostile as this woman. I didn't try. Someone else spoke to her instead. 
     "Madam, my brother uses a tricycle. He travels on the train every day."
     "Getting in the way of people going to work I suppose?"
     "No madam. He's going to work. He's a solicitor."
The woman got up and moved to the other end of the carriage. I had a brief but pleasant chat to the man in question. In the "small world" way his brother and I actually know one another. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

The local train service

actually did as it should do yesterday - got me where I needed to go.
I had to go to the other bank because I had a small cheque to put in. When I was given the cheque I realised I can simplify life for the person who wrote it and myself by providing her with a "BSB" number and an account number. I will do that but the cheque meant a trip to that bank.  
I also had something else to deliver to another location. Middle Cat was taking the Senior Cat out to do yet something else. It meant I could do both things - if I planned it carefully.
I pedalled off in time to go to the untidy shop first as I had also promised to get some cotton for an elderly neighbour. That done I went to the bank. There was, inevitably, a queue. I waited...and waited some more.
     "Sorry to keep you waiting," the person who served me said. It wasn't her fault so I just smiled and muttered the usual things. We dealt with the issue of the cheque. 
I then realised I would miss not just either of the trains I had planned to catch but that the next one would not stop where I needed to get off. I had to get something for the Senior Cat at the supermarket - so I did a quick prowl into one of the two in the shopping centre. Of course the layout is different and that took longer than I thought it might.
I eventually found and bought the said item and pedalled off to the railway station near that shopping centre. Two trains went through as I was going up the long ramp - both of them running late. Grrr....
I could have caught one of  those!
I waited...there was announcement that the next one was running late too. But, it arrived eventually. The driver even gave me a nod to indicate he had seen me and my tricycle. (I can take this on the train.) The platform is almost level with the train. It is easy to get it on and off there - one reason for planning the journey as I had.
At the other end it is a little more difficult but again the driver indicated that he had seen me by giving me a thumb up in the mirror and a nice young man helped me alight. 
I delivered the item I needed to deliver. I returned to the station and waited....and waited. There was trouble somewhere down the track. The "down" train could not leave the city because the "up" train was stuck somewhere and there was no crossing loop between the two. 
Eventually the problem must have been sorted out because there was the welcome sight of the city bound train...and then, my train!
However my waiting time was not wasted. I knitted and I read a book - a book I need to read rather than want to read. 
I came home to a quiet house. The Senior Cat was still out with Middle Cat. I made a large mug of tea and foraged for a rather late lunch.
The trains had actually got me where I needed to go - home again!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Mathematics or, more precisely, trigonometry

came up in my internet conversations yesterday. 
Mm... I haven't used trigonometry since I left school. I did very little of it then. There was merely an introduction to the topic in our maths classes. 
Do you remember those little books we had? They were called "Logarithmic and other tables" but of course we called them "Bogarithmic and other fables". Most of my fellow students reworked the cover and title page to reflect this. I didn't dare. If I had done it my mother would have brought out the hair brush she used to hit us on our bare backsides. (She only stopped using it after it broke on my brother. He stood there, looked at her and then patted her on the head and said, "Little Mum". He was about fourteen at the time. I am two years older than he is.) 
But, back to the maths. I can, sort of, remember it but I would need to do a quick refresher course to actually solve a problem. I have actually never needed to find the height of a tree or a building which is about all I can really remember of those classes. 
Basic algebra on the other hand has been useful. I actually did a quadratic equation not that long ago.  Not everyone would need to do this and I can still remember the blank looks on the faces of my classmates as the Senior Cat started our first lesson. (This was long before "new maths".) How can a number be called "x" or "y"?
We were supposed to learn a lot of things in school that I could not see much point in. I saw no point in repeating the same "social studies" course each year. I wanted to learn more history, the Egyptians, the Romans, the Middle Ages, and much more. All I had  through primary school was the same old stories of explorers in our state and a little bit more of national history. When I should have had those things we moved and the curriculum in rural schools meant I had to repeat things I already knew. I read under the desk instead. I've forgotten a lot of the details of the stories of the explorers - but I have had to remind the Senior Cat of the order of succession in English history. I've forgotten most of my Latin and, later, my law. I remember a lot of psychology and linguistics - but I use those things all the time.
But the internet is there. If I search sensibly and use sites that should be reputable I can remind myself of all sorts of things - and I can learn new things all the time.
I still remember that first algebra lesson though. There was silence and then a young male voice asked,
   "Sir, how is this going to help me milk the cows?"
   "It isn't," the Senior Cat told him, "But you never know when it might turn out to be useful so you need to learn it."

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Exam stress

is under discussion again. There is an article about it in this morning's paper - suggesting that a certain amount of stress is good for mental health.
Ms W has exams coming up. Her school has them at the end of each school year. There are assessments and tests in between. She copes pretty well but she does work hard. Her attitude is "My Dad is paying heaps for me to be at school so I should (work hard)".
I went to school under the old Public Examinations Board system - rather like the old "O" and "A" system of the various examination boards in England.  That's gone now. There is no "Intermediate" or "Leaving" and "Leaving Honours". It has been replaced with a year 12 "certificate" instead. Even that has changed from the time my nephews here did it. 
Ms W will eventually do some form of that. At the moment she is just sitting school based exams - or about to do them. She is doing French and Latin at school and Italian as an extra subject. The school brought in a native French speaker yesterday and the girls had what I suppose was a form of oral examination.  I went over after school for another purpose and heard about it.
    "Our teacher said we didn't have to say anything and that it didn't matter if we didn't. She said it was about listening as much as anything and that we could talk about it later. It was weird. Our teacher still says lots in English and this one didn't. It was all French."
And how did Ms W get on?
    "It was okay. She sort of told us to do some things so that everyone could join in and I tried to say things like I did when we went to Switzerland." 
Her teacher spent some years living in France and does, according to a native speaker I know, speak very good French but she is not a native speaker herself and this would have been different. 
    "I suppose it was sort of an exam," Ms W said, "There are exams all over the place all of the time."
This is true. We keep doing them even when we don't recognise them as such. 
I loathed school exams, college exams, university exams. When I did the last formal exam I vowed and declared I would never do another. The most recent Masters I did had no such exams. There was a lot of practical work to hand in, research to do, essays to write. I suppose it was more like real life in that area. 
    "But having to do exams makes sure you actually know things at least for a while," Ms W informed me. 
Mmm.... I wonder. I can't do trigonometry now. 
 

Monday, 4 November 2019

Nitrous oxide

is apparently available for sale in supermarkets and "convenience stores". 
I am clearly a very ill-informed cat. I had no idea that you could buy a small canister of this and get a short "euphoric" high.
What I do know is that our dental service - a large one attached to our health fund - is now offering nitrous oxide or "laughing gas" in an attempt to cater for cowardly cats like me. That surprised me.It also disturbed me.
I detest going to the dentist - although I like my dentist as a person I do not like what she does to me. But I doubt I will be indulging in "laughing gas". It is also unlikely that my dentist will offer it to me as an option. We would both be wary of the likely effect on my coordination.
Apparently though some people use it as a sort of recreational drug. The sale of it close to the "night club strip" in the CBD apparently confirms this. It is illegal. The real purpose of these little canisters apparently has something to do with whipping cream - presumably the artificial sort. On the rare occasions I whip cream I tend to do it with an old fashioned, indeed old, hand held rotary beater. 
Why do people need to do this? I seriously wonder if there is something wrong with them or with me. I have never spent a night wandering the city, calling into a "nightclub", getting drunk and taking drugs. That would not represent "fun" to me at all. Yet thousands of people do it, some on a regular basis. It is the high point of their week.
Uncontrolled use of nitrous oxide can lead to brain damage, damaged eyesight, and memory loss - or so I am told. I would not want to risk any of those things. All I can assume is that, as with other drugs, the potential "pleasure" outweighs the risk for those who indulge.
I think I will reaffirm my "scaredy cat" status. It's no laughing matter. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

"100gms of yarn or less"

are magic words to those of us who knit or crochet - and perhaps bead  or weave or do some other craft.
   "Black magic or white magic?"  you ask. Let me just say "challenge magic".
The end of year Christmas Party is creeping up rapidly. We are "encouraged" to enter the "100gms or less" challenge held each year. 
How long can it take to make something out of 100gms? Do something with thick yarn and it could be a day or two. 150m of yarn? Nothing could be simpler - apart from deciding what yarn, what project, finding the right tools and the pattern you know you had somewhere and....
Finer yarn? Anything up to 700m perhaps? Mmm...that is a little more time consuming. I mean you always did intend to knit up that skein of fine pale grey lace weight given to you because the original recipient didn't know what to do with it, doesn't knit anything that fine and didn't like the colour.
Or something in between perhaps? 100gms makes a pair of socks if you use "sock weight" yarn. There is still sock yarn there. You need more socks. But socks take time, more time than you have right now?
Well, something else then? 
I made a list of  suggestions several years ago. I wasn't being particularly helpful when I did it. It was just a list I had made for a group of then children I was teaching to knit. They wanted projects that would be useful and that they could actually finish. They most definitely did not want to knit scarves. What they wanted were a variety of small projects so they could practice the skills they were being taught. I added to that list for the Christmas Party group - socks probably appear on it. I do not have the list to hand.
There were some mutterings around me yesterday when people were reminded of this. It isn't compulsory. There is no need to do it. Some people feel they "must". Others feel they "should but don't know what to do". Still others simply can't be bothered even though you can knit or crochet or both and it is only the yarn which needs to weigh 100gms or less.
I feel bound to do it if I go -  because I made the list and because of other things. I have a project in mind - several in fact. 
Imagination can be a curse sometimes.
 

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The bank is closing

the branch in our local shopping centre.
That means there will no longer be a bank in the shopping centre. Some limited services will be available at the Post Office.
This is not service at all. Some years ago there were four banks. Over that time I have used all of them for once purpose or another. The first to go was the bank I use. It was not their choice to go. The building was bought and the site is now another supermarket we didn't really need. (I am not sure how well this particular supermarket is doing either.) That was an incredibly busy branch but developer's profit was more important than the community's need for the bank.
The next to go was the "State" bank. It had one of those old-fashioned buildings all to itself. Although it was opposite the community library and well used it first cut the number of hours it operated.  Then, over a year ago, it closed too. The building is still vacant. (The building is not that big but there is car parking at the rear.) I had occasion to go in there more than once for elderly people who had always used that bank.
That left two banks. One was on the main road which could be accessed via the shopping centre car park. The people in there were pleasant and knew me because I did the banking for more than one older person. It never seemed very busy so I was not surprised when it closed too.
And now, the last bank is closing. It is the bank the Senior Cat uses. At almost 97 he is wary of doing everything by computer and card. He dislikes ATMs. He still writes the occasional cheque. I have been going into his bank of late to do his banking. He tells me not to use the ATM.  Indeed the ATM cannot do what I need to do for him.  It will mean pedalling a considerable distance - about thirty minutes in each direction - to the nearest branch of his bank.
I am not impressed. 
I can do that if I need to do it but I should not need to do it. The situation will be far worse for the many elderly people in the district who are not able to get to a bank and find it difficult - for one reason or another - to use a teller machine. The Post Office will not be putting on extra staff and won't be able to do everything these people need.
It will also affect all the businesses in the shopping centre, some of whom had already changed banks because other banks closed their branches. Not that many months ago they were being told there was "no chance" this branch would also be closed.
 Should we simply be doing everything by card and computer? I am told that this is the way things are going. I could do that now.
But there is something that really bothers me about all this. It means that the capacity to spy on us and very precisely know how and where we spend our money will increase dramatically. It isn't that I spend money on anything illegal. I don't. The vast majority of people don't but giving businesses that information and the potential for commercial espionage is alarming. We won't be better off with fewer services and bigger supermarkets.
People will just become more isolated.

Friday, 1 November 2019

Our new freezer

should be delivered today.
Getting a new one is a matter of safety. The old one is almost fifty. It has served us well but it is no longer efficient. On the first warm  day of this season I found it was leaking. Investigation showed it was not sealing properly. There was water on the floor. That could be extremely dangerous, especially for the Senior Cat. As he also pointed out, "If something happened to you then we would be in a real mess."
Yes, we would.
We did some research. We spoke to someone who knows about such things. No, it was not worth repairing. Freezers are, naturally, made quite differently now.
We did more research. What was recommended? Could we afford it? Did we really need a freezer or could we manage with the freezer compartment of the fridge?
We decided on a new freezer. Middle Cat is now using some of the garden to grow vegetables some of those will go in there. With a freezer I can buy in bulk when items we need are a good, seasonal price. There is the expense of running the freezer but, if I shop this way, then things even out. I don't have to shop almost everyday. And, also important, I can cook multiple meals at one time and freeze them so that we have a supply on hand. That can be very important in this house. Anything could happen to delay meal preparation or make shopping impossible. "Take away" meals are expensive - even more so if we had to rely on their delivery. 
Feeling guilty I went on-line. I went to the company which provided our new fridge some time ago. Did they have one of the recommended brands? What size? Ah, yes. They will deliver it today.  Delivery is "free". They will take away the old one.
If they are as efficient as they were last time then we should have a new freezer today. 
What puzzles me is that the actual object will come from a store somewhere here in the suburbs. If we had bought it that way the cost would be higher. There would be a delivery fee on top of that. We would need to dispose of the old freezer ourselves. This way it gets recycled safely and efficiently.
The problem? It cuts out a job for someone in a shop somewhere.
I am still feeling rather guilty - even though it has saved us several hundred dollars.