Saturday, 15 August 2020

The exam results fiasco

in another place is likely to be repeated here. 

I was given this dire news by a senior teacher at MsW's school yesterday. She is concerned about just how the work of her students will be judged in relation to other students.

"We tell them that exam results are not the most important things in life but in reality they do matter," she told me with a sigh.

I thought about this as I pedalled home. I never liked exams, not even the "tests" in primary school. We had weekly "Friday tests" then. You would be tested on what you had managed to learn in the previous four days. There would be "mental", "arithmetic", "spelling", "reading comprehension" and "composition" every week. Sometimes there would be "social studies" or "nature studies". With every one of those things came "writing" and "neatness".  I consistently failed "writing" and "neatness". I would get full marks for everything else - and then the teacher would take off marks. It never seemed fair to me. I am never sure why I went on trying to do my best. Why didn't I just give up?

Then, in high school, we had "proper" exams. These happened at the end of every term. They were school baseduntil we reached the "Intermediate certificate". At the end of that year, the equivalent of the year before the old "O" level examinations in Upover, we sat the PEB exams (Public Examination Board). Naturally I did not do well because I was expected to handwrite them.

I don't know what I expected or why I hoped it would be any different but it was devastating to have worked hard and almost fail. It is this that makes me concerned for the students who have been so drastically downgraded. If they are capable and able students and they have worked hard then downgrading them for reasons unrelated to their ability is wrong. 

I am aware of the arguments that there is a need for a greater diversity of students in universities. That's fine - as long as those students are actually capable of doing the work and meeting the required standards. It is not good if students are being accepted simply because they come from a particular grouping and then need to be nurtured and "passed" throughout their course. 

Is it really right to allow a student to spend twelve years obtaining a degree? This is perhaps the worst example I know but I know others who have spent six, seven and eight years being "full time" students while doing a degree that should have taken no more than four years. Their academic records show multiple "fails" and no more than "passes". Even at the end of their courses they needed to be coached through writing an essay or doing another assignment. All of them come "diverse" backgrounds. Nobody has dared to tell them, "Perhaps university is not for you." At least one of them knew that and wept in front of me more than once while we were trying to sort out the muddled writing in an essay. 

It is not kind to these students. One of them finally gained a degree but couldn't get a job. He went off to do an apprenticeship in a practical trade. He has been employed throughout the pandemic and, when I saw him recently, he told me, "I wasted six years of my life at university. I should have gone to do this from the start."

I know not everyone would agree. There are people who would say that his university experience was not "wasted" but he would not agree. 

We need to think about why people are going to university. What is the purpose of a university degree? There are strong suggestions here that university is supposed to train people to be "job ready in areas society needs". I disagree. It should be a place of exploration - for the most able.


Friday, 14 August 2020

I was reminded of Rosemary Sutcliff

yesterday - in a comment on this blog. The comment brought back a powerful reminder of reading "The Shield Ring". It was a book included in a parcel from the Children's Country Lending Service.  I remember reading it sitting on the branch in the big gum tree which was near what was grandly called the "lunch shed" in the school yard. The branch was only a few feet from the ground and there was room for me and my brother. When everyone else was gone it was our safe place for reading. The school lunch shed was not safe. We found a deadly snake in there one day. The Senior Cat had to kill it.

But Rosemary Sutcliff's books were another world entirely. I was suddenly caught up in Roman Britain. It was a revelation. My carefully written note to the librarians in the city asked if there were any more like that - and there were. They also sent some of Geoffrey Trease's novels and then Cynthia Harnett's "The Woolpack". Oh! 

I fell in love with historical novels. They seemed a safe place to me. Those things couldn't possibly happen now. They seemed so exotic and so uncomfortable at times. I remember the frustration of not being able to discuss them with anyone. My brother, two years younger, was reading his way through Biggles and Ivan Southall's "Simon Black" books. I swapped them with the son of the local manager of the small bank branch but, while he read and enjoyed them, he wasn't interested in talking about them. 

I remember the Senior Cat trying to read a chapter of the Woolpack to everyone in school one Friday afternoon. The others were restive. They might come from farms with sheep but they could not relate to Nicholas. History, however hard the Senior Cat tried, did not appeal to those down to earth but rather slow children who mostly came from intermarried families.

We went to visit "our librarians" at the Country Lending Service when we next went back to the city. I enthused again about the books they had sent. Yes, there were more. Yes, they would let me read them. They would find me others too. While our parents were dealing with whatever adults needed to deal with in the city my brother and I spent all the time we could in the children's area. 

Looking back I realise my parents used it as a child minding service. I don't remember other children being there as long as we were. Some children came and went. We stayed all morning or all afternoon. We read. We never thought of putting a foot out of line. It was probably no hardship to the librarians. We didn't want to leave!

Years later I wrote to Rosemary Sutcliff. I am hoping that, in the big clean out, I might find the letter she sent me in return. My letter to her was one of many I sent asking people to contact their UN representatives in support of the idea of what became International Literacy Year. I didn't expect answers. I said that in my letters. Some people did respond. Rosemary Sutcliff did respond. What is more the letter was handwritten by her and it must have taken a great effort because she had such severe arthritis she could barely hold a pen. That letter confirmed what I think I had always known. The librarian who chose that book for me to read gave me something very special indeed.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Apparently it was Enid Blyton's birthday

yesterday...or it would have been if she was still alive.

It was quite by chance I also took some time out to finish something I could do while watching a screen. I borrowed the Senior Cat's DVD player and watched the film "Enid" with Helena Bonham-Carter in the title role. 

I had not seen it before and a friend gave it to me saying, "You should catch up on it because you are interested in children's books".  Yes, I suppose it is something I might have looked at before now. 

I had actually read Barbara Stoney's biography of Enid Blyton. I had also read "A childhood at Green Hedges" by Blyton's daughter, Imogen Smallwood.  

Somehow it was Smallwood's book that came as no surprise. I read Blyton as a child. I had a Noddy book. It was given to me  by my maternal grandparents one birthday. I did not rate it along with books like Marjorie Flack's "The story about Ping" but I do remember it. I still have Ping  but the Noddy book has long gone in one of the many moves we made. I suspect it was simply given to someone else - long before the accusations of homosexuality and political correctness caused it to be banned.

I went on to read the Adventure series,  the Famous Five series, the Secret Seven series and more. I borrowed these books from various sources. My parents never actually told me that Enid Blyton was "bad" but, looking back, I realise they simply didn't encourage me or my siblings to read her books. 

I had so much other reading matter available to me that I wasn't actually too concerned about whether I read the Blyton books or not. My brother was much the same. By the time Middle Cat came along there were plenty of other books available as well. She read some Blyton but probably not as much as my brother and I did. The Black Cat read more of them because she had a friend who owned what seemed like  hundreds of them. (It was probably no more than fifty or sixty but it seemed like many more.)

Several years ago I was child minding one night for neighbours and one of the things I needed to do was "read the next chapter" of "The Magic Faraway Tree". After the light was out and young M.... had settled down to sleep I looked at the book again. I would almost certainly have devoured it as a child. As an adult I found it lacking. The language was simplistic. The characters and the plot lacked depth. It was like cheap ice-cream. 

Somehow I was not really surprised by that. At the same time I could see why it would appeal to a child of M....'s age - six. 

As a school librarian I was questioned about Enid Blyton. It was around the time there was an attempt to ban Enid Blyton from all libraries here. I told parents that there was nothing wrong with Enid Blyton's books in themselves but to read only those would be rather like a constant diet of nothing but ice-cream. I offered alternatives.

I would do the same again. There are now Blyton books in the library. They are still popular but there are many other alternatives now. Some of them are similar to Blyton's books but there are many others which are more satisfying. 

I have tried  not to be influenced by what I know about Enid Blyton. She was not a nice person. I don't think she actually liked children. She liked their adulation and reacted positively to it but that is something different. What was, perhaps still is, a positive about her is that many children who read her have gone on to read many other things. That can only be good.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Mental Health? There is something

 very,  very wrong with our health system.

One of my nephews is a doctor. Like a lot of young doctors these days he is on contract and most of his work is in the area of public mental health. It is always  very hard work, but it has been especially hard of late.  He has been putting in extra hours. He comes home physically as well as mentally exhausted. It is the same for all the people with whom he works. 

This week he arrived at work, actually started work - and then he was called into his supervisor's office and told there was no available shift for him. Apparently there is "no money for mental health".

This is in the middle of one of the biggest mental health crises we have had. More people than ever are out of work. They have been isolated. They cannot pay bills. They are more than a little anxious about their families and their friends and the world in general. People who have never felt more than occasional mild anxiety are now so anxious they are finding it hard to make decisions. They need help.

And now they are telling the doctors and other staff who handle these very, very serious situations that there is no work for them? They are saying that mental health is of so little importance that it is not being funded?

Employing one person to help more than one in the mental health area is far cheaper than the fall out from one suicide, even one attempted suicide. It is cheaper than dealing with one dysfunctional family where there are issues with domestic violence and sexual abuse. It is cheaper than dealing with all the social dislocation that can result from mental ill health.

There has been plenty of talk about the importance of mental health recently. The Covid19 virus has seen an apparent rise in the awareness of the need for good mental health. It is as important as good hygiene if we are to get through this pandemic. The various state governments claim to be aware of all this. The federal government has acknowledged it too. But, there is "no money"?

Just what is going on here?

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Replying to emails

 is part of my work. I wish it was part of other people's work as well. I spent part of yesterday trying to get responses from people who should have answered me before now.

One of the problems with people "working from home" is that other people are not around to nudge them and ask, "Have you replied to that email yet?" or "What are you doing about the email we both got from...?" and more.

I sent reminder notices to a number of people. All these things were work related. I reminded them that I was not getting paid to do this and that those going into the danger zones were not getting paid either. They are there as volunteers. The reminder notices went to people who are being paid and who are expected to do certain things as part of their work.

I also have better things to do with my time than chase up people who have undertaken to do something and then do not - simply because they think "it really isn't that important".  I told them all I was going to see the Senior Cat and that I would be back in two hours. I told them I expected answers.

I went to see the Senior Cat. We looked at his mail. I undertook to do certain things. They were the first things I did on returning home. Then I investigated the incoming email. Three apologetic notes with the necessary information, another with no apology and silence from yet another. 

There was still silence from a personal email as well. I had sent a reminder about that one four days previously. Best to ignore that? I left it but sent the same person some information that needs to be shared to a group. Perhaps that would jolt them into replying?

It is when this sort of thing happens that I can understand the Senior Cat's preference for simply phoning someone. I would do this more often if I could. It is rather difficult however when people need to see things rather than simply listen. It is difficult when there is more than one person involved and they are in more than one country. When not everyone speaks English as a first language there are other problems too.

There was still no answer from the last person this morning. I know he is around and available. His partner sent me a message about something else. She is very annoyed with him right now,

"And I know he has not got back to you either Cat. He's working as usual so there is no excuse."

Half an hour later there was the information I needed. It had taken him less than five minutes to find and send it to me.

"Sorry Cat."

A little later there was a message from his partner, "I hid ALL the coffee. :)"

Perhaps that is what it takes - at least for a coffee addict.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Merging universities

is under discussion again. I will need to explain.

There are three universities in this state. One is the third oldest in the country.  Another was founded in 1966 and the third is an amalgamation of various institutions such as my old teacher training college.  

The first has always been highly regarded. It was where the Senior Cat did his degree - part time and after WWII. I have done some teaching there. My nephews studied there. The older of the two nephews here went on to do Medicine at the one founded in 1966. Middle Cat studied there too - as a mature age student.

The third university however is not what I would consider to be a university at all. It is scattered across the city - part of it here, part of it there and more parts in more places than I care to think about. It must be difficult. My teacher training college was in three places and that was bad enough. This must be even more difficult.

Not all things are taught at all universities of course. Some of the degree courses available at the newest university are things which are probably more suited to what is known as TAFE here -  "technical and further education".  

I was discussing this with one of the staff yesterday. She told me,

"It was all cobbled together in haste. I still have far too many students who cannot reach the standard I and many of my colleagues think should be reached for a degree but they still get them anyway."

Even the first university has this problem. There are too many students there who are struggling. Once they would  have  been happy with a diploma or a certificate from somewhere. Those things would have helped them get a good job somewhere. Most of the students I went to college with went out teaching after just two years of training. I was one of the very few who stayed a third year and obtained what was then a well regarded "Diploma of Teaching". Even those who left after two years were getting good jobs - jobs for life. Now almost all new teachers are on "contract" work with no chance of a permanent position.

I would like to see that third university split between the other two universities and the TAFE colleges. I don't want to see it simply amalgamate with one of them or even just split between the two. It would be really good if people regarded those courses which have very large practical components as TAFE material  - and for TAFE to be regarded not as "lesser" but as a real "alternative" to university. We need people with those practical skills. The rest of us won't survive without plumbers, electricians, builders and more.   

Sunday, 9 August 2020

A real second chance in life

is something that is rarely granted to "young criminals". Even  if they get such a chance it doesn't always work. 

Sometimes it does work...and the results can be extraordinary. 

    "You won't remember me," I was told  yesterday, "But you were the person who gave me those laminated pages before M.... and I went to Africa."

Actually I did remember - although I am sure I would not recognise this man if I saw him in the street. I only saw him once. On that occasion he was a very scruffy, frightened and angry young man. His friend M... was no better. They were on the verge of being career criminals. They had juvenile convictions for shoplifting and breaking and entering. Their families were "problem" families - well known to the social welfare services. 

They were the sort of boys I wanted nothing to do with but a magistrate thought otherwise. They were appearing in the magistrate's court on what would be their first adult charge. If convicted they were likely to end up in and out of prison for the rest of their lives. 

The magistrate knew that. He had asked me to come in earlier and said, "There is something about these me a fool if you will but I think there really is something about them. I would like to try and do something for them - get them right away from here."

I quietly thought he was a fool but, if he wanted to try, I would help. He outlined what he wanted. The two young men would need communication boards in Amharic and English. Amharic? He wanted them to help some Ethiopians? He wanted them to go to Ethiopia? I thought it was an insane idea.

"Trust me," he said, "I think we can do it." He named a judge who was also interested in the idea.

I didn't know a word of Amharic. About the only thing I knew was that the alphabet was not the same. I had no idea where to find help. In pre-internet days this was much less easy than it would be now. I said I would do my best and went off to send urgent faxes to people who might know. Could it be done? The fax traffic increased over the next few weeks. I kept wondering if it was all a waste of time and effort but, at the request of the magistrate, I went into the court building almost a month later and met the two "boys".

And they were "boys" in a way. They were not quite the street-wise criminals I had expected. There was "something" about them. We talked. Yes, they had been offered an opportunity to go to Ethiopia - although they didn't even know where it was or anything about it "except that it's in Africa and anywhere has to be f..... better than here". We pointed out that it might be very dangerous and that they were going to have to work very, very hard for the next year. They shrugged and muttered and shifted in their seats and said they would try.

I heard nothing more for about eighteen months. Then I got a grimy postcard from them, "Staying bit longer." I queried the magistrate's office. They were fine. They had built what they were supposed to build and had started something else. Language was still "a bit of an issue". I made some inquiries and sent them some more complex communication boards. I didn't hear a word.

They stayed there. The one who contacted me yesterday wanted some help for someone at the hospital they first built. We emailed backwards and forwards and sorted it out. I asked if they were in touch with the magistrate. I was told he was no longer alive. They had not been in touch for some years.

"Sorry he doesn't know how well you have done," I wrote.

"The grand old bugger knows. He's still watching us up there somewhere," was the response.

Perhaps he is. 

Saturday, 8 August 2020

I found my sari

in a drawer yesterday. It was where it should have been but I had almost forgotten it.

I have only worn it once. I am never likely to wear one again. I no longer have the blouse/choli that I wore with it or the petticoat. I doubt I would fit into either.  

It was given to me as a gift. An Indian friend was getting married. She had invited me and another university friend to the wedding. Her parents asked us each to wear a sari and her father gave them to us as a gift.  

I remember him as a delightful man, both kind and courteous. Even more than his wife he was anxious to do the right thing - and for us to do the right thing as well.

To say that I was nervous about it would have been an understatement. I had absolutely no idea how to put one on and I was quite sure the whole thing would fall to pieces. I would be left standing there in a petticoat embarrassing not just myself but everyone else. The bride's mother, a professional woman herself, just laughed in a very kind sort of way and said, "Of course it won't Cat! I will dress you myself."

In the end however it was the bride's grandmother who helped both of us to dress. She was a tiny woman, no taller than I am, but she had been wearing a sari all her adult life. Short? Yes - but incredibly elegantly groomed. The pleats on her sari were perfect. Everything fell into place with each movement she made. For her it was even more important that we should wear what she considered to be the appropriate clothing.

I felt like a small child as she dressed me and added a tiny amount of makeup - something I never wear if I can avoid it. When she had finished she smiled, touched me lightly on the cheek and told me, "There - you are beautiful. All will be well."

And it was. I managed not to disgrace myself or embarrass anyone.  I never looked at myself in a mirror. I have no photographs of the day - the one I had was lost in transit back here. It would have been good to still have it, to be able to show Ms W what I looked like. She was at a friend's house recently and saw the amount of work that goes into preparing a sari in order to dress.

    "All those pleats and things! It takes ages. I can just pull my things on."

Yes, it is work - but the end result is surely one of the most elegant garments?

Friday, 7 August 2020

A manslaughter charge

has just been laid against the carer of a severely disabled woman who died of neglect. The case is one which has shocked all right minded people in this state.
It has also left those of us who know even more about the situation wondering, "Who next? What next? When will those in authority realise that people who have severe communication impairments are the most vulnerable members of the community? When will they also realise that even some of those who do not have communication impairments are prevented from communicating because of the circumstances in which they find themselves?"
There have been some more Covid19 cases here, enough for the government to suggest that they might place residences for the aged into lock down again. Middle Cat and I are monitoring the situation closely.  We still want the Senior Cat at home if possible. If there is "lock down and no visitors" policy brought in then we will have to work out a way of getting him home even if we have to use our own savings to pay for extra help. To leave him potentially without the capacity to contact family would be dangerous and, given his capacity for worrying, psychological torture. We can't do that.
Yes, we know about mobile phones. They are not the answer in this situation. I have lost count of the number of times that mobile phones have been "lost" or are "missing" or "the battery is flat" or "the bill wasn't paid" or "it got dropped" of the phone "needs to be fixed". Far too many excuses are made so that the resident in a community facility does not have the opportunity to make that all important independent phone call. 
I have been to residences where I have been refused entrance - by the carers, not the person I have gone to visit. On one occasion I was sufficiently concerned to resort to actually calling the police. The carers had been sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and looking at their phones. The residents were still in bed. The young man I had gone to see had been denied the use of his phone because he had "complained".  The carers in question were simply moved on.
So, right now we are closely monitoring the situation. The staff may find that strange. They may think we do not trust them but experience tells me it is right to watch what is happening.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

The Beirut blast

brought a slew of work yesterday.
Those of you who know me well know I am trying to "retire". I have managed to cut back on the amount of work I do. I am managing to pass more work on to other people. It still isn't enough to call me "retired". I may never reach that point but I hope the future workload will be more manageable.
Sometimes though a situation is so dire that people get together and work on it.  This is what happened yesterday.
I was alerted to the "situation" in Beirut almost as soon as it had happened. Someone who would be on the front line asked about the work we had done for earthquakes. There would be similar needs here. I promised to make contact with the two people who had helped then. One of them was already looking out the necessary information. The other told me he would get his partner to do it "as soon as she has the kids at school". He was going into his office to see if he could sort things out and drive to a place just outside Beirut. He has family there and will stay with them while he helps to restore an essential service.
Then he asked, "Do you suppose Y.... and I.... would be free for a few days? I can probably get permission for them to travel."
I reminded him that they are Israelis. Their language abilities are minimal - but they are experts in that particular field.
We worked on it. Emails went backwards and forwards. Permission to travel was granted. They were on their way within hours. I updated their communication tools so that they had access to English, French and Lebanese-Arabic all in one place. (This is not as fancy or  difficult as  it sounds. It was a matter of combining things which already existed.)
Other work came in, mostly requests for things other people and I have worked on over the years. They might need a bit of "tweaking" for the present situation. We had to add some Covid-19 material in an attempt to keep people safe but we got through the day.
Middle Cat and I had a meeting with a financial advisor in the early afternoon. After it was over I went back to work. Middle Cat went off to see the Senior Cat and tell him I was working. It was very late last night before I felt I could go to bed and, as always, I didn't sleep well. It isn't the sort of thing where you can "just switch off".
What we all managed to do together must have been okay because there was very little in the in-box this morning, just over thirty messages.
But I thought of needing to add the Covid19 material and the enormous risks that aid workers take at all times. I thought of Y... and I... going in to help knowing that some people will be hostile to their presence even though they need the help being freely given. I thought of R... leaving his wife and children and risking his life among the rubble. I thought of much more...
I have an easy role compared with all of them. I've never met any of them and am never likely to meet them. I just know them through computer messages and I just hope they come out safely.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Changing Blogger

Dear Blogger
Why did you have to change the way you look? There was absolutely no need to do this. You worked very well as you were. I could find my way around you. Other people could find their way around you.
Until this morning I had high hopes that you might have been content to stay as you were.  Sigh... I have wasted time this morning trying to find out where things are. Grrrrrowl.
It reminds me of the changes to that other major site I need to use know that knitting one that needs to remain nameless as I have politely requested a very minor change there - one which could make a major difference to many people. So far they have not responded.
And then there is the issue of unanswered personal emails. I owe two. I will deal with those shortly. Other people owe me many more. Are "changes" preventing this too?
I offered to do something more than a week ago - to make up for the lack of celebration cake. I have not even had an answer. Perhaps the email did not reach them because you are too busy tweaking things behind the scenes.
I am a cross cat, a very cross cat. There will be a proper blog post tomorrow I hope - if I can find my way into this part again.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Tightening the restrictions

because of the Covid19 virus is something none of us wanted but they have just happened. What is more there will be further restrictions if people do not do the right thing.
We are still allowing travellers "stranded" overseas to return. "Essential" travellers are still allowed to go backwards and forwards. I have issues with both these things. I also have issues with the young woman, supposedly a "mature age" student, who went to college knowing she had the virus but thinking she was "not contagious" because she was only showing mild symptoms. 
Let me start with the "stranded" travellers. There are some who would not have been able to return quickly. They were contracted to do important work and some were in the middle of major projects.  I know people in that position. The only two who had families with them sent their families home immediately they realised there might be a problem. That was as Wuhan started to shut down right at the beginning. 
Yes, I suppose their work made them more aware of these things but their families went home. It was the responsible thing to do. All the other non-essential aid workers I know have now gone home. They have been there some time. The projects they were working on are on hold for now. They will go back later if they can.
But other people "finished their holiday" and then found themselves stuck. Still others were "not ready" to leave or "thought it was a fuss about nothing" and more. Allowing them to return now may be what is needed but they should be paying for their flights and quarantine in hotels and not arguing about it. What is more isolation has to mean isolation - and I doubt a fortnight is long enough.
Then we come to the "essential" travellers. Most of these are transport workers moving goods around the country. One of them has been the cause of a new outbreak in another state. They are a group who are not only vulnerable but also a group who, apart from front line personnel, are most likely to pass the virus on if they get it. Their lifestyle makes that inevitable.
In this state however it would be possible to bring in most goods by most two or three people instead of a hundred or more on the roads. Right now the "double handling" argument so loved by the transport industry in their efforts to preserve jobs at such an immense cost needs to be stopped. 
I can imagine the reaction. I am worried about the economic situation but we are talking about the lives of everyone, not just a few people.
And yes, I would "throw the book" at the rule breakers, those who refuse to do the right thing, and those who try to bend the rules to suit themselves.
Before someone comments that "you don't know what it is like" let me point out that I know people who have not been able to be there for a dying parent, people who have not been able to fly in for the funeral of a parent, people who want to visit family before it is "too late". I know other people who had family occasions planned or cannot visit a child in hospital or who have missed other major or significant occasions. All of them have done the right thing. 
In some cases this would not have been necessary if those who did the wrong thing had done the right thing. 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Knitting a blanket

involves "work", a lot of "work".
I also happen to be designing the wretched thing, square by square. That is more "work".  It is "work" because there are other things I would rather be doing with my limited knitting time.
All this started because of - will you believe this? - the Covid19 virus.  The virus has meant we won't be having the state's annual Show this year. By now we should have had the Steward's meeting we have before the Show. A fortnight today we should be starting the week long set up in the Handicrafts area. Judging would have been done by the end of the third week in August. There would have been the last minute panic moments, the adjustments, the questions and more.
This  year there is none of that and we have no idea whether next year will be possible. The Showgrounds is owned by a non-profit charity which has a twenty million dollar shortfall to make up somehow. They are still looking for ways to keep the public engaged and interested.
This is where I came in. I came in with one idea - partly borrowed from a Canadian judge who was there last year.  As is the way with such things the idea got bigger...and, "Of course Cat can do that."
I should have said, "No." 
Admittedly, although the Senior Cat was causing some concern back then, the present problems did not exist. I agreed to design a blanket, a Downunder themed blanket, as a "knit-along". For those of you who do not know about such things a "knit-along" or "KAL" is a pattern or project where the parts of clues are given out at regular intervals and people work on them as they become available. 
Writing any pattern is a lot of work. I have said elsewhere I do not like this sort of technical writing. This one is proving particularly difficult. I have to write it in a way that will allow both "confident" and "less-confident" knitters to do it if they so wish.  I also have to design it in such a way as to challenge people to "do their own thing" with respect to colour. I have had to offer alternatives to the way in which the squares are actually knitted. 
We had already asked for people to knit squares - and to design their own if they could. The squares will be joined together for blankets for a bushfire affected region's wild life park. We asked for 30cm squares - larger than the usual 20-25cm squares. It  gives people some "design space" - and should save some sewing together.
I have had a few squares given to me. They are nicely knitted but very plain. I am hoping for more, a lot more.
And I wonder whether, when we start putting the squares up on the website, if anyone will actually knit one or two or more? Will all the work I have gone to simply go to waste? I have no way of knowing. 
Knitting a blanket is a lot of work - but designing and writing the pattern is even more work. 
If you can knit.... please!

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Taking up trouser hems

is not something I do. 
I bought the Senior Cat two new pairs of "winter" pyjamas and of course the hems on the trousers needed to be taken up. Middle Cat said, "I'll do that. I have to do S...'s new trousers."
Fine. I cut the ends of the legs to the right point. Middle Cat did one pair. She gave me a pair. I did not look.  I should have looked. The Senior Cat wore them and they appeared in his washing. (We do his washing. The thought of labelling everything and still have it go missing is more than I can handle.) 
I put his washing in the machine. I still did not look at the ends of the legs. Why would I? I should have looked.
Out came the washing ready to dry. Oh. Frayed ends! Wail! Middle Cat had given me the wrong pair, the pair she had not sewn up. There were little bits everywhere. 
I took a deep breath. I thought. I waited until they were dry. Then I went to visit a friend in the next street. She was a professional dressmaker. 
I explained the problem. She laughed. 
    "Of course I can do it Cat. I'll run the overlocker around the ends and then just make a tiny hem. It won't take more than a few minutes...and no, you most definitely cannot pay me for doing it." They are done...beautifully. I took them up to the Senior Cat yesterday. 
And I was able to pay her for doing it in a different way. During the archaeological dig - or room clearing - I came across a printed piece of tapestry. It was new. My mother must have bought it at a church fete although I wonder at that because she had never done one. Even I, who has never done a piece of tapestry in her life, recognised that it was one of the very good prints. It is hand done and absolutely square on the cloth. The design is one which I knew would really appeal to D.... who does do such things. Her needlework skills are outstanding.  When she returned the trousers yesterday morning I asked her if she could use it?  
Oh, yes. That would be lovely. Good. We both have something out of this exchange.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

"Can my father make me marry someone?"

 I don't know if I will ever forget being asked this question. The memory certainly came back again this morning when there was a piece about "forced marriages" in the paper.
I was  in our local library one day when a girl I did not know at all approached me and asked softly and nervously, "Are you S...'s friend?"
I knew who she meant by S... because of the way she was dressed. Her family were members of the same cult-like church where women cover their heads and are strongly discouraged from interacting with people outside their church. 
My response to this girl was, "Yes, I know S.... " I would not have called him a friend. He was a boy of about twelve at the time. He had begun to display the same arrogance common among the men in the cult. I didn't particularly like him but he and his sisters seemed to like to talk to me - probably because, while not expressly forbidden, it was not encouraged. Their mother had spoken to me as well - because there were problems at school. The children were not permitted to have any form of fiction to read. They never saw television or heard radio. Any form of imaginative thinking was so strongly discouraged at home they had difficulty doing many things at school.
I wondered if this girl was facing a similar problem. She looked down to the other end of the library where her mother was helping her siblings choose non-fiction books and then said urgently, "I need to talk to you."
We went into the book stacks - where she was supposed to be finding a sewing book - and she asked me the question about marriage. I listened. I am still glad I listened.
Her father had arranged for her, aged almost sixteen, to marry a man from another state. He was also a member of the cult. He was a young widower with three small children. This girl had never met him. He was coming in a few weeks time. The plan was that she would be married on her birthday. 
That she was terrified by this was obvious. Even as she spoke to me she was close to tears. 
In the end all I could do was advise her, "No, he can't. You need to get help."
She left home with the help of a woman who lived at the end of her own street.  It was all extremely traumatic for her, eventually involving the police and the social services. I often wondered how she managed. All I knew was that she went to live in a large country town and went back to finish her schooling - with the help of the woman at the end of the street.
Several days ago I saw that woman who is considerably older now. She came up to me as I was waiting to cross at the lights and spoke to me. I asked how the girl was getting on. She smiled and said,
    "Oh she's like another daughter, a much younger one. We couldn't have managed without her. It took a long time and there are still things she needs to know from time to time. But she was the one who saw us through the early stages of the pandemic."
Yes, the isolation of her childhood might have helped. She is the accounts officer in a business in the town and is now engaged to be married to a boy who, on hearing she had left the cult, also left. The woman I was speaking to was very positive about it. It has taken both of them a while to get that far but she thinks they will "do very well" together. They know where each other has come from - and they have made their own decisions.
I went to school with girls who married not long after leaving school. The marriages were "arranged", some of the girls knew who they would be marrying before they left school. I wonder how those marriages went. Perhaps they worked. Perhaps they didn't.
Forced marriages still occur here, sometimes with girls as young as seven. They can have no idea of what is happening to them. Their families see nothing wrong with it, indeed the reverse is often true. Our so called "multi-cultural" policies make it harder to stamp that sort of behaviour out. That frightens me. 
I am glad I told that girl that her father could not force her to marry.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Take this virus seriously!

Yes, I know other people are saying this too but I am going to say it again - and again.
Middle Cat managed to get the Senior Cat into the car yesterday - something of a physical feat. She brought him home for a day visit to see how he might cope. 
It was not a great success but it did make him acutely aware of how difficult it is going to be. He made his own decision to "stay a bit longer". He is fortunate he can. We still have forty-eight respite days available - after that there could be real problems but we can at least try and sort things out. 
He would rather be home. We would rather he was home. 
And one of the many reasons for wanting him to come home, apart from the simple fact it is where he should be, is the Covid19 virus. In fact if cases start to appear in nursing homes in this state Middle Cat and I will bring him home and cope somehow - although I have no idea how. We do not want him to die alone in an ICU isolation unit in hospital. Nobody who loves a family member could want that for them.
This is what makes me so angry when I hear of people breaking the rules, refusing to wear a mask  in the neighbouring state, going to work when they know they have or even might have the virus. It is what alarms me when the person ahead of me walks into the supermarket without using the hand sanitiser and wipes which have been made available. (I am still taking my own wipes in case the supermarket has run out. I use another in other areas of the shopping centre.)  
A real lock down might be rather like being under house arrest but there are very good reasons for it. It won't be easy but there are measures in place to help people financially.  
We are all so used to having the freedom to come and go as we please and when we want to that, for most people, the idea that we might never be able to do this again is frightening. It will happen that way if we don't do the right thing - and much worse could happen.
I've been told, "You're just being selfish. All you can think about is your father and you. You don't care if the rest of us are going mad with boredom when it is perfectly safe to go out."
I don't think I am being selfish. I am worried about the long term effect. This is going to impact the children and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren and more.
And much could be done to bring this virus under control if people would just take it seriously. Please take it seriously.

Thursday, 30 July 2020

There was a death notice

in the paper yesterday - for the mother of my cousin's partner. Yes, she was "old" I suppose and it was "expected" because she was ill but what the notice didn't say was that only one of her children can attend her funeral. 
My cousin's partner lives in London. He can't come back at present. He would have been on the first available plane here had it been possible. His brother lives in America. He would also have been on the first available plane. It leaves their sister to be the physically present comfort for their father. That must be very hard indeed. 
I am very conscious that we could face a similar situation because I have a brother living in another state and a sister living in another. I have a nephew living in the worst hit state - and yes, we are very worried for his safety.
But we are all within almost the same time zone. For R... his mother's funeral is at a time which will be in the very early hours of the morning. For his brother it will be late at night. The service is being "streamed" for them but I can imagine R... sitting there in their tiny London flat hoping that, at very least, the connection does not fail for some reason and he can at least view the service. Even with my cousin T... sitting next to him he is going to have that truly dreadful moment of homesickness I experienced when my paternal grandmother died and I was in London and my mother informed me by letter - a letter which arrived after it was all over.
Communications are much better now of course. There was no internet when I first went to London. Computers were still huge and kept in dust free rooms managed by specialists. (Remember those endless sheets of paper that tumbled out?)
But is that any real comfort for people like R..., for all the people who have lost someone to the wretched virus when they have been much closer but agonisingly far away?
The Senior Cat is due home this morning. I do not know how long we will be able to have him here. Middle Cat talked to the doctor yesterday and we all know it is going to be difficult but we need to do it if we can. We need to do it not just for him but for my siblings who cannot be here.
And, in a way, we need to do it for R... too. If we can organise "parent-sitting" for the Senior Cat then Middle Cat and I will go to the funeral on Monday - for R.... so that he feels his partner's family is supporting him as best we can.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Clearing out a room

is rather like doing an archaeological "dig". At least this is the case when the room has been used as a "dumping" ground for the past twenty years.
We only have two bedrooms in this house. One is obviously for the Senior Cat and the other is mine. There are two other rooms which would have been bedrooms in the normal way but one was the Senior Cat's "study/office" and the other was "the sewing room" where my late mother did sew and the ironing has been done.
I do not sew. Not long after  her death we gave my mother's sewing machine and over locker to a professional dress maker. After that it became "dump it in the sewing room" for anything we thought we did not want to give away but did not know what to do with or where else to store. 
This was a mistake. We have kept things that nobody should keep - like bits of wrapping paper too small to be really useful. Old Christmas cards "because the address might be useful". Plastic bags and other shopping bags "because it might come in handy". Old clothes "that will do for cleaning rags". My increasing collection of knitting yarn which was "given to me by ..... so I really can't just get rid of it". Then there is the big bag of polystyrene balls and "yes I will use those when I get time and have to run that class". There are piles of papers - "I need to go through those when I get time" and more craft materials of which the Senior Cat has said, "Don't throw those out. They are useful for the kids." (He means the great-grand kittens and the four kittens across the road.)
And how does yarn get tangled when I put it away untangled and nobody has touched it since?
I have been at it for two days. I have not finished. I must finish today because we are going to need  to be able to put a bed in there so that other people can sleep overnight and help with the Senior Cat.
He is supposed to come home today or, at latest, tomorrow. The doctor phoned me yesterday and we discussed this. I know she is worried about him coming home. I am worried about him being here but she also agreed that he needs to be out of where he currently is. Middle Cat is working on options.  I will go on cleaning and hoping. 
I do wish we hadn't just "dumped" things - but it is a terrible temptation!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

If you want to protest

then there are ways to do it - and do it responsibly as well as effectively.
Yesterday the organisers of a Black Lives Matter protest march lost their appeal for the march to go ahead. They now plan to do it illegally. 
The reason they lost their appeal is of course the Covid-19 restrictions in that state. Planning to go ahead illegally is, to say the least, irresponsible. It will do their cause no good. It could even do harm. If one person attending the march has the virus then they are capable of affecting hundreds of others very rapidly. The situation could soon be out of control.  
I was discussing this with someone yesterday. He is a member of the judiciary. He was very concerned because his grandson wants to attend the march. We discussed this by comparing my attempts to see the Senior Cat without an "appointment".
    "That really was different Cat," he told me, "You had gone through the necessary steps, indeed already been signed in when they stopped you. You were abiding by the rules the government had laid down. If you had appeared in front of me I would have granted you permission because the restriction placed on you was unreasonable in the circumstances. This is different."
Yes, it is different. Those organising the protest are behaving in a manner which is contrary to the well being of others. It is garnering them media coverage but it is almost certainly not garnering them support in the wider community. If there is a spike in cases because of their actions then the consequences could be extremely serious. People are tired of the current restrictions. They long for the pandemic to simply "go away". It is having not just severe health costs but financial, social and emotional costs that will take generations from which to recover.  What is more these issues also affect the issues the BLM protestors are talking about. 
It is time to be reasonable about these things. Change does not come about through that sort of action. It doesn't come about through "tweets of support" or badges on clothing or any number of other popular but effortless ways of "protesting". Real change can come about with things like individually written letters and properly conducted research along with well developed proposals for the future. Getting real change is hard work, very hard work.  
I know because I have done it.  I know other people who have done it. We knew when we started that we probably would never be "thanked" -  to the contrary. Popularity and media attention is not the name of the game. It is not why you do such things.  
Sadly the organisers of this march see themselves as warriors and heroes. If they get punished in any way they will be made out to be martyrs of some sort. They are not. When something goes wrong they will harm the very cause they say they support.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Reading the instructions

is not necessarily easy.
I fill out an awful lot of forms in my job - even now that I am trying to cut back on the amount of work I do. There have been times when I felt as if I did nothing else. 
Reading the instructions on forms is not a straightforward thing. I am not including here the forms which are not written in English. I do not expect those to be straightforward but that is because of my own linguistic skills - or lack thereof. 
No, I mean the English language forms I seem to need to tackle daily. Even the forms written in "Plain English", "Basic English" or "Simple English" are not as clear as they could be.
Due to the resignation of our local ward councillor we need to vote for a new one. Material has come out, along with the voting paper. I tried to make sense of these yesterday, the first chance I actually had to read it carefully. By the end of it I was confused. The candidate statements were all of the "how many words can I use to say nothing?" variety.  The instructions for how to mark the ballot paper and return it were equally confusing.
As a law student I had to study legislation - and how it is written.  I can remember being given an exercise which asked us to write a small part of a piece of legislation.  Legislation of course is there to tell us how the law is to be applied.
    "Try and cover all the possibilities," we were told. 
I worked with a fellow mature age student. We came up with six different ways of saying the same thing - enough for the exercise in question. Then we went a step further and pulled them apart as might be done by barristers in front of a judge. We passed our assignments in.  At the next lecture we  waited rather nervously for the results.
I was almost relieved when the lecturer said, "Well now Cat and Chris have done exactly what I hoped for. How long did it take you two to dream up those versions?" 
The other students had handed in just one idea each of course. In doing the assignment they had often written something they simply thought said the what was intended. Being older Chris and I could see what the lecturer wanted. He wanted us to understand how difficult it is to write something that cannot be torn down by a misplaced word or comma or phrase.  
I have been writing instructions for another project lately. It is the sort of writing I do not enjoy. This time I have someone else reading the instructions and following them. She has an analytical sort of mind and, had things been different after the war, she might have gone to university and done maths. She would have been very good at it. It really helps me.
I wish the people who had written the statements and the voting form had consulted her before sending that material out.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

The lives of nuns

have changed dramatically since I was a mere kitten. It would have been unthinkable once for me to do what I did yesterday. 
Instead of going to see the Senior Cat I went to see two nuns. This was Middle Cat's suggestion.  
    "You said you wanted to catch up with P... and B... Why don't you go and do it this afternoon when you get the boxes. I have to take the puffer over." (She was referring to his asthma medication.) 
It was sunny. The convent is about twenty minutes away in pedalling time. Middle Cat would tell the Senior Cat what I was doing. He knows B... finds it as  difficult as he does to get out these days. 
I phoned P.... just as I would phone anyone else and said, "Are you in?  I need to get something from (the big place on the corner) and I could come on and see B...."
    "Lovely," P told me. 
So, I went. I dislike shopping even more at that venue but it was over quickly and I went on to the convent. 
It is a quiet place on Saturdays. During the week there is the noise from the school - although even that does not seem excessive. The most noise comes from the main road on which it is situated. Turning into the gravel driveway the high wall cuts out most of that noise too.
P... came out as I was parking the trike  under the back verandah.
    "Good to see you Cat. looking forward to it. She's in the kitchen. Go on in."
And there we sat in their tiny kitchen. P....made tea. Biscuits were produced. We talked of the events of the previous day but briefly. They agreed that we need to get the Senior Cat home as soon as possible. 
The nuns care for one another as long as possible. There were more in the house when we first got to know P... Now there are just the two of them rattling around in a big house. There are other residences on the property. Most of the nuns have their own small units now, quite unlike the cells of their past.
I have discussed this with P... and B... Their lives are so very different now. Both of them have embraced the changes although I have known one or two other nuns who have found it difficult. 
That is hardly surprising. B... went into the convent when I was a small kitten. Her life then was completely regimented. She wore a habit and a wimple. Now the closest she comes to that is a plain cream dress she wears to funerals. She owns nothing black now. She gave P.... a very pretty over shirt-blouse to celebrate P...'s diamond anniversary of entering the convent. That would once have been unthinkable. 
The two of them watch television and "indulge" in craft. They have travelled and, until recently, occasionally went to a film or concert. Their lives are not so very different from any of people their age. It is as it should be.
The difference is that, at least between P....and B... there is an air of quiet. They know each other well. They give each other space.
I try to do the same for the Senior Cat. P...and B... have taught me a lot over the years. 

Saturday, 25 July 2020

I was assaulted yesterday

and I am still feeling very shaken. There was no "battery" involved - "battery" is actual physical touching - but the assault was real and very frightening.
Two days before we had been informed that they were "changing the visiting rules"  as to when and how we could visit the Senior Cat. Fair enough if that is necessary right now although a little strange when we were already complying with what we believed were all the necessary requirements. We took the number we were given to "make an appointment". 
At that point though another alarm bell began to ring because one staff member in the residence had told me, "He will never settle in if you keep visiting." Pointing out that he was there for just two weeks - and now he will be no longer whatever - made no difference. I was already concerned by that attitude.
As the Senior Cat is only booked in for two weeks though we decided to try and cooperate - just as we have tried to cooperate with all the requirements.
I continued to try and  cooperate. As it was my turn to go yesterday. I tried phoning the number the day before. It is a "1800-xxxxx" sort of number and then there are the "press one" and so on numbers for whatever it is you want. That alone is of some concern but again we accepted it. Throughout the day I kept trying the number. I could not get through to "book an appointment". After hours I tried again. Yes, answering machine this time. I left a message and said I would be there to see him sometime the next day, most likely in the afternoon. 
I was rung at 8am and told I could not go unless I gave them a specific time. That really rang alarm bells. I know that when something like this is said it is almost always because, knowing there will be a visitor, the resident will be "ready". In some cases there are issues with staff hovering and, in the worst, there can be chemical restraint so that the resident appears happy and compliant.
There was no reason at all to believe that the Senior Cat had been in anyway "difficult". He is probably one of the least, if not the least, difficult people they have ever come across. It is one of the things that makes people outside the family want to visit him.
The current government regulations, at both state and federal level, do not require "appointments" at all, least of all appointments at a very specific time.
The residence is a very small one. There are only thirty-eight beds in it. Some of them are dementia patients. Middle Cat and I have only seen two visitors in all that time - the man I mentioned  the other day and a woman who arrived yesterday.  The Senior Cat has probably had more visits in a week than some residents get in a year.
My work also makes it very difficult to say that I will be somewhere at a specific time. Yesterday I was waiting on a call from a surgeon and a medical engineer. It was going to be a three way conversation. I needed to be at the computer so I could see what they were talking about. No, I was not going to make a specific time because I could not.
I was told I could not visit.
In the meantime Middle Cat, who deals with the medical issues, was phoned and asked to get a prescription for him. She phoned me and said she would, all being well, pick me up. Mid-afternoon she did just that. We went to the residence. They said we could go no further than the front desk - this after we had filled out the daily form, signed the book and had our temperatures taken. 
If we went any further we were told they would call the police. A very tall male member of staff had appeared by then, one of the two people I would not trust at all. His clothing and personal hygiene leave a considerable amount to be desired.  Middle Cat, much braver than me, said,
    "Call the police then. You asked me to come in with his medication. I am going to see him."
She can move a great deal more quickly than I can of course and she stalked off. The male member of staff was clearly furious. He closed in on me to within no more than ten centimetres.
    "You are going out of here now!" 
He manouvered himself in such a way that I had no choice but to move. As I was less than a metre from the door he managed by simply moving in on me to get me out of the door. I waited outside for Middle Cat- by which time I was in tears. It takes a lot to make me cry but I was feeling frightened - not just for me but for the Senior Cat.
Middle Cat did not come back immediately. A member of staff came out to talk to me. She is young, pleasant and was obviously worried by what had happened. "Can you get him home soon?"
she asked me, "Being here isn't good for him. He's too nice for that."
Then Middle Cat appeared. One of the other staff was equally concerned. She said much the same thing. She is also nice, young and pregnant and "not coming back". 
    "Come on in Cat. They had no right to do that."
I went in but I didn't feel comfortable. I wondered where that male member of staff was and why they had made it so difficult.  The answer was soon obvious. The Senior Cat was sitting in his room - in semi-darkness. I listened to his speech. He seemed vague and uncertain, quite unlike his usual self. But he was alert enough to tell us,
    "They gave me something. They said it was for the bruise."
He does have a bruise on his hip from where he fell but we could not check for any more. It was more than a week ago he had the fall anyway and he had not had anything then.What is more bruises do not need medication that might make you vague or uncertain.
As soon as we can organise some extra help he will be coming home - where he belongs. We will cope somehow. I do not want to go in there again.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Is there a black panther roaming the streets

of the port district of the city in which I live?
The story came up again in this morning's paper. It is one of those curiosities the paper likes to raise once in a decade or so. I had heard it before. If the panther exists then it is very old indeed. 
How do I know this? I know because my paternal grandfather had his tailoring business in the street  in which people have claimed to see it. He knew about the story - from years before I was born.
Although they never owned one - or any other pet - my paternal grandparents were fond of animals in a no nonsense sort of way. 
They did not believe in "ghosts" or any other form of the supernatural. A great-aunt by marriage once produced some Tarot cards and my grandfather ordered her to take them out of the house. His strict Presbyterian upbringing found them highly offensive. 
But there was the story of the panther. He told it to me one evening when I was in my teens. There were just the two of us in the car. We were going home from the evening church service when he stopped at his place of business to pick up something. I was waiting in the car for him. A mostly black cat crossed the street ahead of the car.  I thought nothing of it.
My grandfather came returned put what he had collected carefully on the back seat. (It was probably a suit he had made.) As he started the car  I saw the cat again and said,
    "Watch out for the cat."
He looked and then grunted and said, "I hope you don't believe that nonsense."
    "What nonsense?"
    "What was the cat like?"
    "Well mostly black but with a white shirt front."
He nodded and told me that some people had claimed to see a black cat as large as a panther going along that particular street. It had supposedly "escaped from a circus".  The story had been going around as long as he could remember and he was by then a very old man. (He worked until he was 86.) 
The story is still there. It is a piece of "urban folklore" that may never die out. 

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Restricting visits to people

in residential care without good cause is not on.
We thought we were in a good place with respect to some respite for the Senior Cat. In many ways it has proved to be so but we came up against an unexpected problem yesterday. Visits are being restricted.
There is no good reason for this right now. We are more than happy to go through all the checks required for the Covid19 virus. If they want our 'flu vaccination certificates that's fine. The government requires them to keep a list of people going in and out - names, addresses and phone numbers.
We will even accept the "two visitors at any time" rule. No place wants a horde of people in there even with all the checks. We are less happy with the "only one visit" a day but again that is perhaps understandable.
What we do not like is having to phone a 1800 number the day before to say we are coming and when we are coming. The reason? They do not answer the 1800 number.
I thought this might be just a glitch in the system. Perhaps someone had too much to do or there was a fault in the line. No, there isn't. It just rings out. There is nobody there to answer the call.
I explained this yesterday. It was not the fault of the receptionist and I tried very hard not to vent my frustration on her. In the end she did let me in because I had clean clothes for the Senior Cat.
   "Your visits make him unsettled," said the one member of the staff with whom I do not feel comfortable.
   "He has always been a worrier and right now he needs to be reassured that we are all right," I told her.
   "It's not good for him. He will never settle in if you keep visiting like this."
Really? If we can find a way of getting him home - sadly unlikely but we are still trying - then we will. He can have as many visitors as he likes at home. J... can bring her dogs down for him. G... can "pop in" and discuss a woodwork problem. The two little boys across the road can come and tell him about school and show them what skills they have acquired in the past week. It is all essential for his mental health if not his physical well-being. 
I know visits have tightened up dramatically because of the virus but apparently this unit has always been rather like this. It is said that something like 70% of people in nursing homes never get visits. This sort of attitude however is not helping. What the woman meant by "settle in" is "be completely compliant". What she failed to recognise is that the Senior Cat is still intellectually alert and aware. He is not being difficult - far from  it - but he is aware and he needs the stimulation and emotional support from his friends as well as his family. 
Not many people of ninety-seven can claim the ongoing friendship of so many others but those who can have a right to continue it if at all possible.  That means the 1800 number must be answered and it must be done without questioning the right of residents to visitors.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

"So you want a job...?"

I know the pandemic has left many people out of work, in less work, on zero hours, and looking for work.
Why then is it that some people who claim to be looking for work are doing things like.
   (1) not turning up for interviews or
   (2) turning up for interviews without paying attention to their clothing or
   (3) telling the interviewer that they can't do the required shifts because they are going out with their mates?
There is more than that of course.
I was talking to the owner of a local business recently. He needed someone. The position would be permanent after a satisfactory trial period. There is a possibility of promotion to more responsibilities. The pay is above the award wages because he's a good employer. Students I know who have worked for him say he is very flexible when it comes to making sure they are free to attend lectures and around exam time. The position is not suitable for them but it would surely suit other people.
   "I thought they would be queuing out the door - or that I would have a hundred or more applications."
I helped him write the advertisement. He wanted people to be sure that they knew what the job involved but we also made it sound positive and, I hope, interesting.
He had under twenty applications for the position. Most of those he had to dismiss immediately. He needed a fully qualified driver, preferably with a licence that would allow them to drive the biggest vehicle he uses for transporting goods. (He offered training for that if they did not have it.) Three of the applicants were on probationary licences, another was still a learner. Another had lost his licence "but getting it back in about eleven weeks". Others were not prepared to do the required early morning shifts. 
He was prepared to interview nine of them. Two did not turn up for the interview. Three had made no effort to  "at least look clean and tidy". Another told him he could not do the early shift "because I go out with my mates the night before and I need to sleep in".
He was left with three possible applicants. One did not have the essential English skills in a job which requires verbal interaction. 
    "I told him I could give him some casual work. He's coming in next week."
One had a work record that he felt was a bit "unusual" so the last candidate has been offered the position on probation. He sounds positive. His background is "rather different" but when I saw him yesterday he looked happy, very happy. The other staff have taken to him instantly. I hope it works out for all of them.
Where were all the other people who are currently unemployed? There must have been more of them able to do the job.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Protesting is the new hobby

for some people - or so it would seem.
Middle Cat and I are taking it in turns to visit the Senior Cat while he is in respite. We know other people are also going. We have warned them that they need to be able to show their 'flu vaccination certificates. That's fine. Nobody we know would be foolish enough to argue with the need to keep vulnerable people as safe as possible. We got our forms yesterday...and found the clinic had actually verbally advised them of our status the day the Senior Cat arrived.
Yesterday it was my turn to go and see him. I arrived and a distinctly harassed staff member let me in.
    "Can you make this gentleman see sense?" she asked, "He hasn't got a vaccination certificate and he is refusing to sign the Covid form."
    "I don't have to sign any f.... form just to see...."
I looked at him. Belligerent....rude...arrogant... it all oozed from him.  He closed in on both of us again. Social distancing isn't his thing either it would seem.
But it was enough for me. I said, "In legal terms you are now assaulting both of us."
    "F....hell I am!"
    "I am sorry but you are. If you touch either of us that will be battery as well and I am sure C.... here won't hesitate to call the police if you do that."
    "F.... lawyer I suppose?"
    "I do happen to have a degree in law."
    "Then f.... tell her she can't make me sign any f.... forms."
    "No, she can't but if you don't sign them then she does have the legal right to prevent you going any further."
He glared at me and opened his mouth. I got in first.
     "If you have come to see one of the residents then I suggest that you don't have a very high regard for them if you can't do the right thing."
He crumpled at that.
     "It's me mate's dad...I sort of have some bad news for him. I don't want to do it."
I left handle the situation then. He was still upset but in a different sort of way.
As I left I saw him again. He was sitting in a room talking quietly to one of the residents. I suppose he had signed the Covid form and a statutory declaration about his 'flu  vaccination. He raised his hand to me in a sort of apologetic way and I managed a smile back.
I don't know what was wrong. I don't want to know. I did think that if he had explained the situation from the start then C.... would have found it much easier. 
I suppose he protested out of anxiety. Is that why some people go out and protest now? 

Monday, 20 July 2020

"Talent shows" where the winners

are voted for by the public are not something I know much about but I was "amused" - or should it be "bemused" to find that the brother of a previous winner has just "won" just such a one here.
Now I have to confess that my two youngest nephews entered this same competition when they were in their late teens. They reached the finals. We genuinely thought they were in with a chance. 
Middle Cat knows people in the music industry. My late cousin C... had actually worked in it acting as an agent for some of the big names.
But no.... a then young man whom people thought was good but not particularly outstanding got voted for in unusually high numbers. Something was up according to those in the know.  Yes, he had the support of a fundamentalist church group with very large numbers of young people who were told to get out there and vote for him and get their family and friends to do the same. They did.
It may be that they genuinely believed he was the best candidate or it could be something else. I know nothing about his musical talent. Now his brother has just "won" the same event  - and the word is out on social media (i.e. trending on Twitter) that this was rigged too. 
It is hardly surprising -  his brother was apparently one of the judges and they used the same fundamentalist church group to bring in the votes as well. Even if the young man is genuinely talented he is also tainted by this.
As young kittens my siblings and I were never permitted to win any prizes at school. Our parents explained to us that we could not because of who our parents were. They could not be seen to be giving prizes to us, even if we were "the best" or "top". It didn't seem fair to us - even though we "sort of" understood. 
My brother eventually got a scholarship to university when he spent his final year at another school.  I got another scholarship as a post-graduate. We both won other prizes and I have been awarded other things but it was not like the thrill of getting a prize at school. It is different there. Anything since then, however hard I had to work for it, has been rather embarrassing.
I wonder how the winner of the current talent show feels? In his position I am not sure I would feel very comfortable - even if I was "the best".

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Entertaining the elderly

is an issue. I know it is an issue. Aged care facilities do not want bored, restless residents wandering around causing trouble.
It is not easy to deal with this, especially when there is a lack of staff.
The Senior Cat is not given to grumbling but I know, even though he has not said a word, he is "counting the sleeps to going home". We will get him here if it is at all possible. 
He is being polite and agreeing to going to activities in which he has no interest. He has endured a "quiz" - one where he could answer every question apart from the sports questions. He takes no interest in sport.  Why is it that he was the only person in the room who knew who had written "Pride and Prejudice"? 
The "carpet bowls" were a disaster. The Senior Cat's eye-hand coordination has never been good. When he taught me in the primary school and there were handwriting lessons he would go and take my mother's class while she came and taught us...yes, he was that bad. 
He detests "community singing". The Senior Cat may not be particularly musical but even he cringes at this.
The Activities person is nice. She is trying. He is teaching her some craft activities that he has done with children. They both agreed that some of these would be good for people who have limited attention spans and abilities due to dementia. 
Yes, this is the problem. The Senior Cat is still intellectually alert and curious. He still wants to know things. The staff were surprised he could use an i-pad. It may be that he only searches for information on it and that email remains a mystery but he can do it. I suspect there may be other people in there who could do something similar if they were given the chance and someone was there to help.
I took some knitting with me yesterday. A woman with Alzheimer's who constantly shuffles around stopped to look. Because it didn't matter if she dropped it or pulled it off the needle or anything else I gave it to her for a moment. She looked at it as if completely puzzled and then with a smile to herself she  undid the three stitches I had done at the start of a row, turned it around and began to knit. She knits differently - "Continental" rather than "English" style - but somewhere in her memory the actions came back to her.  
One of the staff saw her and said to me,
    "I wish we had time to help her do that sort of thing."
Yes, she would need help. She couldn't cast on or count but if someone had time she could knit endless rows and make "squares" and someone could sew them together for her. 
I don't have the time to help her either. It is something we should have time to do.
I don't want to grow old like that.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Finding a phone number

used to be easy. You simply hauled out a book made of cheap newsprint and looked for the name you wanted.
This is no longer possible. There is still a book made of cheap newsprint but it is much smaller than it once was. It also has teeny, tiny print - so small that a magnifying glass is needed to see it.
That in itself is a problem. The bigger problem is that many phone numbers are no longer in it. 
People have mobile numbers instead.
We have kept our old "land line" number for the benefit of the Senior Cat. He knows how to use that phone. His mobile confuses him - even though it is intended for "seniors". I can understand this. He was born when very few people even had a phone. His father had one for business purposes. Making any other phone call was something you actually thought very carefully about. Was it necessary? Should you write a letter instead? 
Letters were delivered twice a day Monday to Friday back then - and once on Saturdays. Bills came through the post as did invitations, birthday cards, condolences and much more. 
There were "ordinary" letters too - the sort my grandparents and my mother wrote. My mother was an excellent writer in the physical sense. Her hand flowed easily across the paper. Each week she would write to all of us who were away from home - and to her mother. Less frequently she would write to other people but she still wrote more letters than any of us would contemplate writing now.
The Senior Cat has been in the habit of phoning the Black Cat once a week. They conversations are usually rather stilted. They do not have much to say to one another but provided she is there and sounding "okay" that is enough for him. On the other hand he has long conversations with Brother Cat - about woodwork, workshop plans, the Senior Cat's grandchildren and great-grandchildren. On occasions the wonders of technology allow my sister-in-law to join in as well.
And we have phone numbers for all these people.
Two days ago someone called us looking for a phone number. The woman who called us is an historian - a very good and thorough historian. She is updating the records for one of the oldest churches in the state and she needed some information. Someone we knew was someone who might be able to help. Did we have a phone number? 
I gave her the phone number that was in our old personal telephone book. It was not the right number. Later I thought of looking it up on line but there was nothing in the on line "residential white pages" that looked right. I tried the "reverse number" site - the one which is supposed to tell you who rents that number. The number came up as "previous" but is currently not in use.
I thought back. Yes, the last time S... was here he used a mobile phone. That's the likely problem. I will almost certainly see him on Monday so I will ask him to contact the historian then.
And I will ask him for his mobile number.
It made me realise that only one person apart from family has my mobile phone number.  I suppose this will have to change. It means making myself more available.
Life was simpler when a phone was just a real land line - and there was a phone book to match. 

Friday, 17 July 2020

The television is always on

in the lounge room  of the residential care facility. It is tuned to a commercial television station.
It irritates the Senior Cat. He does not watch television. He never watched much and ceased to watch it altogether some years ago. The only program he was watching then ceased to be produced. It was one we both found interesting...short documentaries about people, places and culture around the world.  It was not on a commercial television channel. Even though it now shows some commercials they are not shown in the style which constantly interrupts the program. 
What was going on yesterday was different. The Senior Cat is attempting to stay on his rear paws, something which is increasingly difficult. He made it very slowly out to the lounge room and we sat down there with relief. 
Middle Cat and I looked at one another. Realistically I doubt he is coming home again. He has to be mobile to do that and he is now so frightened of falling again that he could not walk alone from his bedroom to the kitchen. I couldn't leave him. (Yes, I came home and had a good howl about that.) 
He won't want to sit in that lounge and watch television. It is not his idea of entertainment at all. 
I took some origami paper for him yesterday. He likes to fiddle. The girl who is the "activities" person came in just as we arrived. She  had gone to the trouble of printing off a small booklet of origami animal designs for him. We knew nothing about this but the Senior Cat was delighted. I suspect part of today will be devoted to "mountain" and "valley" folds and more.
He spent some time yesterday talking to two or three of the more intellectually alert men too. That's a good thing. He has only had me or Middle Cat to talk to most of the time even though our brother talks to him several times a week on the phone.
Perhaps it will all work and is for the best but it is a massive adjustment for everyone - even one for which we thought we were prepared.