Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Being late for appointments

or meetings is something I don't like at all.
I would rather be early and wait.
Recently I was "late" in that there was a genuine misunderstanding about the time I was to meet two other people. One person had made the time. I assumed the other knew. It was a muddle and I worried that person - who has had more than enough to cope with this year.
It wasn't deliberate but I still felt badly about it.
I am always bothered by the fact that it is only good luck that will get me to a regular Saturday meeting on time. It begins at 1:30 and I really need to be there at least five minutes beforehand to sign in and find a seat.  I hate having to creep in after the meeting has started.  Leaving before the Senior Cat has finished eating also bothers me these days.  (If I am totally honest leaving the Senior Cat bothers me. We both know I need to go out sometimes and he wants me to go but, even with the security pendant, how safe is he?)
And then there is Middle Cat. Middle Cat muddles through life. She has never been "organised". Her youngest has summed it up as 
"There is ordinary time, Greek time, and Mum time."
It has always been a problem. She is responsible for the Senior Cat's medical appointments. He hates being late even more than I do. Yesterday she was late. She arrived at the time they should have actually been at the podiatrist. It wasn't a disaster. The podiatrist was very nice to the Senior Cat - perhaps realising that it wasn't his fault in the slightest. She just said, "I managed to get some paperwork done." 
But that doesn't help the Senior Cat. He is still feeling upset this morning.
Middle Cat was late because she lay down - and fell asleep. I know her lifestyle is chaotic compared with ours but....
Now I am wondering, do I just say what I know the Senior Cat would like me to say, "Next time I'll go with you in a taxi"? I know that means ordering a taxi far too early (because they can be late too) and waiting. Anything we do like that is much more difficult for the Senior Cat. Middle Cat's vehicle is much easier to access. Middle Cat knows how to help him get in and out too.  
But he worries so much about her being late - and this is not the first time - that I wonder whether that anxiety and his embarrassment about being late would be cancelled out by the alternative.
I love Middle Cat. I just wish she would organise herself. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Putting needles into strawberries

is not "vandalism". It is an attack on public safety, on public health - and on the livelihoods of those who grow them, distribute them and sell them.
For those of you in Upover and elsewhere unaware of the story let me tell you. A criminal idiot with no regard to public health and safety decided s/he would contaminate a punnet of strawberries by placing a sewing needle inside a strawberry. 
The repercussions have been immense. For reasons of public health and safety the matter had to be made public. There may have been more needles inside strawberries and failing to tell people would have been irresponsible in the extreme.
And that meant there have been more criminal idiots who have decided to do the same thing. There have been at least seven confirmed cases of contamination now. 
It doesn't sound like much does it? Just think about it for a moment.  The big buyers stopped buying from the first grower. I don't know what has happened to the first grower, the business, the people it employs. I hope they recover. Then the copycat attacks mean that other growers are under a cloud too. 
Thousands upon thousands of punnets of strawberries have been thrown out for fear of contamination. What a waste of food!
I went into the supermarket yesterday. I don't buy my fruit and vegetables there but I noticed they had removed all the strawberries. 
I went around to the greengrocer and saw they had also removed all their strawberries. Then one of the staff there pounced on me and said, "Cat, I hope you didn't use the strawberries you bought on Saturday. We'll replace them later."
No, I didn't. I had bought them on my way home from a meeting and intended to use them on Sunday. Then came the warning that there had been two needles found in that brand. Rather than risk anything at all I threw out what was probably a perfectly all right punnet of strawberries.  The Senior Cat is too old to handle that sort of potential trauma.  
I resented doing it. The strawberries were a very reasonable price. They looked very good quality. They were intended as a Sunday treat for us.  The thought of slicing them finely went through my mind but the Senior Cat looked so anxious I threw them in the bin - and found that our neighbours had done the same because they have small children. 
It is putting people off eating fruit - and we want people to eat more fruit and vegetables. 
Strawberry growing is a $100m industry in this state alone. A lot of it goes overseas. If the growers can't supply then their buyers will go elsewhere and more people will lose their jobs with all the effects that flow on from that.  
One "small" act of vandalism has caused millions of dollars worth of damage.  
I don't want the punnet I bought replaced. I want people to keep their jobs - and enjoy eating strawberries.

Monday, 17 September 2018

A Royal Commission into Aged Care

is long overdue.
I spend too much time going in and out of local aged care facilities. I know too many "old" people in them.
Yesterday I was pondering this as I pedalled  up to the shopping centre because, almost unbelievably, the optician's business is open - albeit for limited services.
One of those services was the minor repair to the Senior Cat's glasses. The girl there dealt with the problem quickly and cheerfully. She informed me why the problem occurred (and may occur again) and cleaned his glasses rather more effectively than he does.  (No, it is one of those things he can do for himself. I do not do it.)
We agreed that, at 95, if he can read and wants to read then he should be able to read. He most certainly should not have to wait for days to get something that simple fixed.
It is for the same sort of reason that I go in and out of the local nursing homes. I know people there. They often have no other visitors who can do small things like that.
No, it isn't that I like doing it or want to do it or that it makes me feel good. If I am honest I don't like doing it and I don't want to do it and it makes me feel depressed.
It makes me feel depressed because all the aged care homes I need to visit smell of overcooked vegetables, disinfectant and those indefinable smells of "institution", "lack of care" and "neglect".  You are assailed by the sound of the television set in the "day lounge" or the sound of voices at "community singing" or a member of staff complaining that someone has not made it to the bathroom on time...and so it goes on.
I have bought clothes for people who can no longer go out to shop but still want to look good - even when they no longer get visitors more than a couple of times a year. I have taken in library books they want to read - not the light romances and westerns it is thought they want to read. I have taken in knitting yarn, needles, patterns, and other craft materials. I have taken delivery of hats and blankets and baby items they, both men and women, have knitted and crocheted for other people.
Yes, they can still think of others even when others are no longer thinking of them. "It makes me feel as if I am still of some use dear."
It is said that around 40% of people in nursing homes never get visitors...and that another 20% are visited only rarely, perhaps on occasions such as birthdays or when something needs to be done - all too often to the advantage of the visitor. That leaves a mere 40% who do get visitors.
I prowl in and see hopeful, eager faces. A visitor? Who is it? Is it someone I know? Have they come to see me? It's why I will stop, even when I really don't have the time. I'll stop and chat just for a few minutes. They know I am busy and will often send me on my way after a moment or two. "Off you go girl. I know you have things to do. Come back soon though."
I listen to their tales. I hug them when one of their number leaves them as inevitably they must. 
I have been ordered out of rooms by angry relatives fearful of losing their inheritance - and hugged by others who have lived in places as far away as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Washington DC.  "Thank you so much for looking after Mum - or Dad" - when all I did was visit occasionally, do a little shopping now and then or simply listen to what they wanted to tell me.
It is the people who have families, families that are not close knit and close by, who are most at risk. They are the least likely to get visitors. It is, odd though it may seem, single people who have developed and maintained their own social networks who are most likely to get visitors. And of course it all depends on remaining mentally alert and able.
I know the staff are watching me. I am a deliberately irregular visitor. If they don't know when I am coming then they need to be prepared for me to be there at any time. It should not but does make for better care of those I go to see.
My siblings and I know that this is not what we want for the Senior Cat. He would hate it. He would hate the lack of privacy, the meals taken with others, the "entertainment" and much more. I know many of those already there detest it too. 
We have an ageing population in this state and in many other places. It is time to rethink aged care. 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

"A lens just popped out of my glasses,"

the Senior Cat told me.
He sounded more than a little anxious about this - as well he might. The Senior Cat doesn't see that well even with his glasses these days.
He has worn glasses since early childhood. His eyesight has been such that sport was a mystery to him. He could never see the ball even when it was coming directly towards him. 
When he dutifully went off to enlist in the armed services (non-combat please) they took one look at him and said, "Not with that eyesight and those flat feet." They may have been desperate - but not that desperate.
He wore the same pair of sturdy frames for years. Last year the optician insisted the frames had to be changed. They could not, they claimed, fit the new prescription into the old frames. The Senior Cat sighed and bought new frames. They looked almost identical to the old frames but - they are not as sturdy.
I took them up to the optician once and asked them to fix them because a lens had popped out. Yes, they had twisted slightly. 
Over the past week the Senior Cat has been complaining that "the table is sloping". I told him it wasn't. He insisted it was. He even went to get the spirit level from his workshop to show me. It was not sloping. 
I was worried, particularly when he seemed dramatically clumsier than usual. I was actually very worried. There had to be something wrong. 
As nothing else had changed I assumed that there had been a sudden and dramatic change in his  ieyesight. Middle Cat was about to phone the eye specialist he sees for his glaucoma and ask for an appointment.
And then...a lens popped out again. He takes them off for his afternoon catnap of course. I came home just as he was getting up. He came out and sat in his chair to clean the lenses - and said one had come out. He couldn't see it.
I hunted and hunted. I got him to take his pullover off in case it had got caught in that. No. I got the torch and looked under his chair. No easy feet and a reminder that I need to vacuum under there and not just around it. I took everything on the big wicker container next to his chair off. No, it wasn't there. 
I wasted twenty minutes searching - and not finding. He insisted that he had "felt it pop out" when he was cleaning them. I went towards the bedroom to look there but he called me back. It was not in the bedroom. I hunted some more. He told me to stop.
I finished making him a cup of tea and, when he was sitting there drinking it, I prowled off to the bedroom.
Yes, there was the lens - where I thought it might be. He took it with an embarrassed sort of purr and fitted it back in. He cleaned both lenses and put his glasses on.
The table was no longer sloping. I had actually thought it might not be. While I had been hunting my thought had been that perhaps the lens had just shifted slightly at first but not enough to pop out. That would have made a difference.
I will have to make a trip to the optician. The Senior Cat will not have to make a trip to the specialist. 

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Yellow roses and other yellow and white

flowers were laid out across the top of the coffin. There were brightly coloured pictures drawn by young children right around the church.
R.... was a grandmother who loved her garden, loved flowers and, above all else, loved her family and other people - unconditionally.  Yes, another funeral yesterday. A full Catholic Mass for the sister of our good friend P....
Middle Cat and I went. It would have been too much for the Senior Cat to handle. P... understood that.
R... and I were friends too. She had wit and a very incisive mind. I enjoyed both. The Senior Cat thoroughly enjoyed conversation with her about a wide range of issues. 
She was one of those women who, born a generation later, would almost certainly have gone on to work in a profession of some sort. As it was she was the secretary at a school for most of her working life. She undertook courses in other things to better do the job - and then courses in archaeology and anthropology for her own interest. 
She brought up six children of her own on a very tight budget - and still found room to foster other children from troubled backgrounds.
It was one of those occasions in which it was clear that the priest did know her. The church was the one in which she was baptised, confirmed, married and then farewelled. It was rare for her to miss a Sunday. When she travelled she found other places of worship but, apart from that,  only the severest illness prevented her from attending her own.
For all that her views about religion were - shall I say "robust"? They were not unthinking. Watching her two sisters go through the ritual of placing a cloth on her coffin - and later removing it - I wondered how much she, as the eldest, had influenced them. P... is a nun - although it would be difficult to recognise her as one. I could not help thinking that fifty-four years ago when she entered the convent she did not expect to even go home again. Had her sister's funeral been held then she would have been given permission to attend but another nun would have been at her side - and the service would have been in Latin. Now P... travels alone. She does not own a habit. Her friends include non-Catholics. Above all she has been free to help her older sister in the last few difficult months of her life.
Her sister approved of the changes. She was someone who looked forward, not back. There was someone in the gathered company who had a magnificent singing voice, the sort of voice that can lift and carry the generally appalling singing to a different level. I don't know who she was and I didn't get a chance to thank her but it made me even more appreciative of a life well lived and lived to the full.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Common courtesy

is fast disappearing - or so it would seem.
I was in the Post Office yesterday. I was served by someone I didn't know but he dealt efficiently with me. As he was finishing and I was saying thank you one of the staff I do know well finished with someone else and then glared at his back view as he left. 
There were just the three of us left in the post office which is probably what made her feel she could say something. The man had come in talking on his phone. He had passed over some paperwork and a card - presumably to pay for something - taken the paperwork with the receipt and the card and walked out again. He made no effort at all to even meet the eyes of the person attending to him. Before you ask - it was a social conversation.  He didn't bother to interrupt it to say thank you or even nod an acknowledgment. The manner in which he behaved was discourteous in the extreme.
I like K.... the post office person a lot. I like all the staff in there. They have been very good about sorting out how to send things to strange addresses - something my job sometimes demands. They will always work out the cheapest way to send something or the best way to pack something too. 
Yesterday afternoon a friend called in to deliver something I was planning on taking to a meeting tomorrow. In the course of our brief conversation she informed me that she had been invited to talk to the group about the same  topic at some point. I don't have an issue with that. I do have an issue with the fact that the group has not informed me what they expect of me. At the last meeting I was put on the spot because the topic arose and I was asked to speak about it. I couldn't. I wasn't prepared. I didn't have the necessary information or materials with me.  I had been told that the issue was coming up in the October committee meeting and I expected to be told if they wanted me to talk about it after that. I felt embarrassed and I apologised - although I am not sure why I felt it was necessary. Nothing was said to me though. Now I don't know whether I am expected to provide the information I planned to provide or not. The friend who told me isn't sure what they want to know because, as she put it, "you're the one with all the information".  
Common courtesy would solve the problem. All it would take is a quick email saying the group wants the information or it doesn't and when they want it if they do want it.
And then, very late yesterday afternoon, the parcel delivery girl turned up. She has replaced the young man who replaced the very efficient person the Downunder Post decided was not right for the job for reasons which are a mystery to everyone - including the local post office staff and the man himself. The new delivery person is pleasant but not efficient or, I suspect, particularly intelligent. She is struggling with the job. We have got to know her because she has had to deliver a string of parcels to us for other people in the street.
(The Senior Cat being almost always home this is convenient for everyone. It makes him feel useful too.) 
But this time there was no parcel. She had been earlier in the day and delivered one which I was about to go and give to a neighbour. There should have been two parcels. She had lost one. Had someone brought it around? 
No.
She stood there and I could see the panic and the tears. It had been a terrible day for her. She had dropped a parcel containing a very expensive bottle of wine. Something else had gone wrong at home. And there was another issue I can't mention here. 
I looked at her and said, "It's not the end of the world. Give me the tracking number and I'll look it up. I think I know what it is. It can be replaced if nobody hands it in."
Although I was feeling a little more than irritated by the time that all this will waste there was no point in getting angry with her. That would just have made matters even worse. Instead I tried to be courteous, to find a solution and to think about it from her point of view. 
I wish the man who had come into the post office earlier in the day had thought about it from K....'s point of view and that the people who expected me to do something had thought I might need to know so I could my best for them. 
It's just common courtesy.  

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Newspaper cartoons are

not meant to be kind. They are generally there to make fun of a person or situation or event.
That does not mean that they are racist statements or that the people who draw the cartoons are racist.
The cartoon about Serena Williams was commenting on the behaviour of a supposedly professional sportswoman. Serena Williams was setting a very poor example and she deserved to be lampooned. Did that have anything to do with her race? 
Let's look at it another way. If she had won the match then a cartoon depicting her in caricature and praising her would almost certainly not have drawn any comment at all. 
Remember the uproar over the cartoon that Bill Leak drew of the two young boys and the policeman? That cartoon landed him in trouble with the Equal Opportunity Commission but there was nothing racist about the cartoon. Leak was simply commenting on a situation that the rest of us needed to be reminded about.
If the PC police are going to insist that only Anglo-Saxons can be depicted in cartoons then cartoonists might as well retire. It is becoming like too many other things that the PC police have had their fingers on lately.  
Recently the "golliwogs" were taken from the display cabinets at the showgrounds on the (mistaken) belief that they depicted something "racist". By no means all of the indigenous community agreed with that decision but they too had to abide by the demands of a minority within it. 
There is a local preschool that did not celebrate Christmas because, while the majority wanted it, one person objected. They did have activities for Eid though. In all likelihood those who object to the celebration of Christmas would take their shoes off to enter a mosque - as they should. What's the difference?
Yesterday there were reports about a nine year old in another state not standing for the national anthem because, it is said, she sees it as "racist".  Where does a nine year old get those sort of ideas and what does she really understand about such issues? Has she spoken to Cathy Freeman who has not just stood for the flag but carried it with pride? Do schools stop teaching the national anthem simply because one child objects? I don't like the words or the tune but it is the national anthem and I stand for it.
Racism is abhorrent and totally unacceptable but depicting someone as they are is not racist even if it is unkind.  Denying some people the right to celebrate their religious festivals while encouraging others to do so is also wrong. Refusing to stand for the national anthem which is intended to encompass everyone is wrong too.
We need cartoonists to make us aware of these acts and absurdities.