Monday, 26 July 2021

Mental health and good neighbours

must surely go together? 

Yesterday I had a phone call - from across our street. It was a neighbour saying his family had not seen me out and about during the lock down. He then said he was going shopping and wondered if I needed anything.

Now we are permitted to do essential shopping so I had actually been out very early the previous morning and replenished the supply of milk and bought some eggs and fresh fruit and vegetables. I think they were essential? I wore a mask. I used  hand sanitiser and I didn't talk to anyone other than the girl at the check-out. She was, I think, genuinely concerned for my welfare as well. (I sometimes suggest books her older child can read for himself.)

So, I had been shopping. I didn't need anything and I didn't want to complicate the lives of my neighbours any further so I thanked him profusely and genuinely gratefully but said I could think of nothing.

What I could think of though was the importance of that call.  I really did appreciate getting it. It was not merely a casual thought, it was genuine thoughtfulness. The weather was foul - we'd had hail and it was raining when he spoke to me - and I don't have a car. The neighbours had not seen me "out and about" in even the limited way which is allowed. 

During the last lock down the weather was better and I was out each day. I did a circular trip on the trike. It was designed to check on people I know, people who mostly live alone. I could have phoned most of them - and did - but it also seemed even more important to actually see their blinds were up or that they had not fallen in their driveways. 

Now that is just me. I feel guilty if I don't do that. I don't expect other people to do that sort of thing. There is no reason why they should but I do think it is important to be aware of what is going on either side of me. That doesn't mean I should interfere but if I know my neighbours and they need help then they can ask...just as I was asked.

There are people I know who do not know their neighbours. Their neighbours don't want to know them. Some people are just like that. We have to accept such things. Knowing neighbours doesn't mean intruding on them but it does mean being aware just in the way the neighbour yesterday was aware.

That call made me feel good. The Senior Cat phoned me a little while ago. I told him what he needed to know and he chatted for a moment. I told him how the neighbour had been in touch and I could hear the relief in his voice. I know he worries about me being here alone even though there is nothing either of us can do about it at present. That call from a neighbour has made all the difference. It has given us both that little mental boost that - someone else cares enough to ask. 

I am very fortunate in my neighbours.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Breaching isolation and quarantine

orders seems to be the latest idiocy encouraged by the "anti-vax" mob. There were big protests in two of Downunder's largest cities yesterday. I saw some of the footage on the evening news service and was left bewildered by the behaviour of these fools.

I have one nephew living in one city and another nephew living in the other city. I have a niece living in one of those cities too. One nephew and my niece are finding it very difficult to home school their children and work from home. They have no time at all for the protestors. Some of those protestors will have caught the virus and they will go on to spread it to yet more people. The protest was the sort of event which is almost certain to be a "super-spreader" event. Why on earth would you want to be part of that?

I thought about this again last night. Is it like smoking, drinking to excess, taking drugs, speeding and taking other risks? 

Many years ago now I was sitting in a staff meeting at university when something happened I have never forgotten. Back then people did smoke in staff meetings and I would come out of the meetings reeking of other people's cigarette smoke. I have never even tried to smoke a cigarette and I hated it. It had just been announced that the Director of the Research Unit had cancer and a very short time to live. It left most of the staff shocked.

I knew he was ill, very ill. He had, in a rare moment of confidence, confided in me when I had stopped to ask if he was "all right".  No, he wasn't. He told me this and then asked me to keep the matter to myself. He had not told me he was dying although I did wonder. I just knew he was a very sick man. I liked him. He had been very good to me and it shocked me for more than one reason.

Now the staff meeting was left shocked and bewildered by the news. All those highly intelligent academic people had not really noticed how ill one of their own was. And then one of the senior staff asked a question of one of the professors, "How can you sit there and go on smoking when you have just told us about J....?"

His response was, "You never think it is going to happen to you."

That has to be it. We never want to believe that anything like that is going to happen to us. We see all the bad news. We hear all the bad news. We talk about all the bad news. But, bad news happens to other people. It doesn't happen to us. Our families are not the families who are supposed to have children die young or young children left without a parent. They are not supposed get ill or lose their jobs or get into trouble with the law or any of the thousand and one things that happen to other people.

All I can think of those idiots yesterday is that they are thinking like this. They don't believe anything is going to happen to them. I hope it doesn't - apart from a hefty fine for their stupid, selfish behaviour. 

Saturday, 24 July 2021

The 2032 Olympics

are already upon us - or so it would seem. I had a properly socially distanced conversation with one of the regular dog walkers yesterday and he informed me that he had already booked his annual leave for that he could go to the Olympics. 

Yes, he was quite serious about this. He is frustrated beyond despair that he cannot be in Tokyo right now. He had been saving his annual leave to go last year and it didn't happen. He wanted to go this year and it didn't happen. He has the next two Olympics booked, "And they had better happen!"

I know his wife despairs of all this. She is mildly interested in sport but he is passionate about it. The football, the rugby, the soccer, the cricket, the Tour de France, the this and the that are all of the utmost important to him. A day without any sport is an absolute tragedy from his point of view.  

I like his wife. She is a very patient woman. She makes the most amazing quilts - all by hand. "If I didn't do something like that while he watches his endless football I'd go spare," she told me once. So she makes quilts with the tiniest and neatest stitches and she passes them on to her church to raise funds for the homeless and for victims of domestic violence and more. She designed an Olympic quilt for last year and I know she has plans for more.

His dog, of whom I am rather fond, ignored all this and was looking over the fence at me. Normally I would give it a pat but that wasn't possible under the current rules. The dog was giving me a knowing look though. It was as if she was saying, "Look, we know he's barmy but the good thing is that there will be another quilt out of all this."

Yes, that's a good thing. I might start to think about some Olympic knitting - and the books I want to read.  

Friday, 23 July 2021

Telephone books

need to be updated!

There was a suggestion yesterday that those in one of the Covid19 "hot spots" should inform everyone in their phone books if they have been to a venue which requires them to instantly quarantine and get tested. 

It's an interesting thought but not one which is particularly useful or practical. It assumes the people you are likely to call are people who live in nearby locations.

We still have one of those old fashioned phone books supplied by the telecommunications industry. You know the sort of thing I mean I am sure. It is printed on very thin newsprint in the smallest possible print. Unless you get a magnifying glass out it is impossible to read. 

I tried to use it the other day but was not surprised to discover that the person I was trying to contact was not to be found in it.  The telephone directory no longer keeps up to date. Mobile numbers are not included in it. 

Once it used to be possible to look up a phone number and even an address that way. You could have a vague idea of where someone lived and then find the initials you thought were likely to be theirs and call the number. That's not possible any more.More and more people are using mobile phones. 

We also have a "personal" telephone directory. It was last updated by the Senior Cat during cold, wintry days when he could not be in the shed or in the garden. We both knew it needed to be done. I said I would type up an x-cell sheet but he said he wanted to do it himself. 

It was a miserable business in a way. He kept saying to me, "We don't need that one any more" and "Who is....?" and "That's another one no longer with us" or "Do you remember...?"

The task was eventually finished but I looked at it yesterday and realised that it is out of date yet again. If I really needed to contact everyone in the personal book I would need access to a mobile phone directory for some and a hot line to heaven for others. 

My current address book is the same. It is time I updated that. There are untidy scribbles where I have crossed out an old address and replaced it with a new one. There are people who have moved away and we have lost contact with each other. And there are people who have died and their numbers are no longer needed ever again.

I am not sure I like this. I wonder what would happen if I called the old numbers. Who would answer? What would they say to me?


Thursday, 22 July 2021

Mental health in lockdown

is an issue which has not been taken seriously enough. It was therefore interesting to note that the local rules have been changed in order to allow people who live alone visit or be visited by a friend. 

I am one of those fortunate, indeed very fortunate, people who is generally content with my own company. I always have more than enough to do. Since the advent of the internet and social media I can have virtual contact with people all over the world. That has been a mixed blessing. It has made work much more demanding - and means that I am working past the age when most people have comfortably settled into retirement. At the same time it means that I can "chat" to friends abroad. 

I try not to use any social media with local friends. We might email each other but if I want to chat with them then it is better to pick up the phone, have them call in for a "cuppa", and so on. Social media is not the same as actually seeing someone. It is not the same as waiting your turn to speak, as making eye contact, as hearing the emotion in someone's voice when something has made them sad, happy, regretful, or amused. 

But I know there are a lot of people who are not like me. They need human company more than I do. They may not need it all the time but they do need it. Our mental health services are stretched so thin that those working in the area, like Nephew Cat, are struggling as much as the patients they see. It is as big a problem as the pandemic itself but it is a largely hidden one. People are not aware of it.

When the Senior Cat was living at home we would often go our separate ways apart from meal times. He would be in the garden, in his shed or in his "office/study". I would be in the kitchen or at a household task or at work at my desk . We didn't interrupt one another often. We did not need to do that - but we were there if we needed each other. I suppose that made it easier for me. I miss him not being here but I can still get on and do things. I am not sitting in front of the television set staring at mindless day time "chat" programs. I don't turn the radio on either. I prefer to work in silence.

But if you are a naturally gregarious sort of person then it must be difficult, very difficult. There is a lovely woman who lives not far from here. She always seems to be out and about. She phoned me yesterday and asked if she could borrow something from me. I am not sure she really needed to borrow it. I suspect she just needed to hear another voice. Lockdown is very difficult for her. 

I know mental health services have been over loaded. It isn't just adults who are not coping. There are children right around me who are anxious and fractious. One of them has been hitting out and his parents are seriously alarmed by this. After a lot of discussion, some of it with me and some of it with a paediatrician of their acquaintance, they are getting a dog. It will be the boy's responsibility to care for it...and they will ensure he does. He needs something like this but not every family can do a similar thing. It is not a solution which would work for everyone. 

During the last lockdown a lot of people discovered or rediscovered the satisfaction of a craft, of creating something. I hope that they will continue to grow their skills at such things over the coming week. It won't be enough in itself but it might help. I hope more people might be able to lose themselves in the companionship of a book too. 

Middle Cat and I will talk to the Senior Cat on the phone. I will make a couple of calls today to check on elderly people I know - and who I know will be alone. The weather isn't conducive to going out today so I am doubly content to stay here but I know it isn't easy for people who yearn for company at the best of times.

We all need some human contact, really need it. There are only a very few people in this world who are entirely successful hermits. I am not one of them. I also have a duty to consider my fellow non-hermits.

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Woolly thoughts can be wonderful

- and I can now hear some of you saying "Don't be ridiculous Cat!"

No, I am not being ridiculous. There are good "woolly thoughts" and I want to share a few with you. If you are not a member of the knitting world - and even if you are - you may not have heard of Pat Ashforth. Pat died a couple of days ago and the world of mathematics and knitting will be the poorer for it, much poorer.

I met her through a mutual friend in the knitting world. We exchanged emails spasmodically over the years.  Requests for information and advice flowed in both directions but her mathematical creativity reached heights I have no chance of achieving. For her it was a passion, for me it was more simply something of interest. I told her (more than once) I am not a mathematician...and she told me that everyone can learn to be a mathematician.

Pat was an amazing individual who, along with her husband Steve Plummer, introduced thousands upon thousands of children and teachers to an amazing world of knitted mathematical ideas. Their "Woolly Thoughts" site is overflowing with the most amazing ideas.


These are three from the Woolly Thoughts website. (Pat once gave me permission to use the illustrations to tell others about  their work.)

The first of them is called "Curve of Pursuit", the second "Equal Parts"and the third "Pythagoras Tree".  They are just three of the quite extraordinary afghans or "mathghans" as they have sometimes been called. (Yes, there are patterns on the website and on Ravelry.") 

There are also patterns for games (dominoes, a draughts/checkboard, and ludo). Then there are patterns for manipulative games - a hexaflexagon and a Soma cube and more.   

The Senior Cat doesn't take a great deal of interest in knitting. (My lace knitting is referred to as "that stuff you make with holes in it"!) He was however interested in Pat's work. In his woodworking days he made timber versions of some of the items Pat knitted. He was making one of the puzzles one day when he came into me and asked, "Would it be possible to knit this?" I looked at it and said, "Yes." I sent the idea off to Pat and, some time later, an answer came, "Yes, of course. I'm actually working on that one."  So yes, there are pentacubes for pentominoes. Her version was much tidier and neater than mine. 

 One of the truly lovely things about Pat's designs is that many of them require quite small units of knitting. Our knitting group won't be able to meet this coming weekend but I hope our youngest members will be there next time because I was planning on showing them Pat's work and suggesting they make one of the simplest designs - the Borromean cubes based on Borromean rings. That way they can discover what can be done with three simple strips and they can learn about the need to knit evenly and measure accurately. Yes, they might learn a little maths in the process - and that won't hurt either.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Not quite back in "lockdown"

but almost. 

I can hear the howls of rage because the state government has imposed some restrictions on our activities again. Grrrr....I wanted to pick up a book from the library this morning.

No, it can wait. A few other things can wait as well. I consider myself fortunate that I was invited to have coffee with a friend. We met yesterday. It was a pleasant, friendly interlude. We sorted out a few practical issues and she can get on with a project, as can I. It would not have been possible today.

An elderly man has tested positive with what is likely to be the Delta variant - and so have two of his close contacts. A hospital emergency department has been closed, thousands of people have been told to isolate. Non-essential retail has to shut. People have been told to work from home.  

I can hear some people saying, "But..." Well this is the way it has to be done here. It is so screamingly inconvenient not being able to go to the hairdresser, the gym, and the footy. I am sorry about the training for your kid's footy game and probably the game itself. It is even worse if a birthday party is being cancelled and the wedding on Saturday can now only have ten people present - all at a suitable distance. 

But getting ill with Covid19 is surely worse? There could be long term effects - perhaps for the rest of my life? I think of those things and I am content to put up with the restrictions.