Sunday, 29 January 2023

The same but different?

There was a knock on the front door yesterday. I could guess who was there even before I went to answer it because I had heard their chatter. 

Yes, it was the five year old twins from further down the street. I haven't seen them for a couple of weeks. That is unusual in itself. They are usually to be seen going backwards and forwards to the little park around the corner. 

What was even more unusual was the fact they had not said "thank you" for the activity packs I had left at the front door around then. I thought it was odd. Then I wondered if I had done the wrong thing and their parents didn't want me to do something like that. 

No, it wasn't that at all. They were standing there with their new Christmas present scooters - and a small box of chocolates. They handed the chocolates over to me with giggles and grins. "It's to say "thank you" and we liked what was in the bags." Then they rushed off to try their scooters on the gentle slope of the driveway. Their mother looked at me and said, "We should have done this earlier but they used some of their pocket money and I had to wait."

D... is pregnant again and she looks tired. The girls start school next week and she admitted to me, "I am looking forward to that as much as they are."

It made me wonder what the "twin policy" is at the school the girls will be attending. It isn't far from here and the two boys across the street also go there.  D... wasn't really sure.

Her own policy now is to let the girls decide whether they want to be the same or different. They are "identical" but some days they wear the same outfits and other days they choose different outfits. When their mother buys their clothes they go too. They decide whether they both want pink t-shirts or whether A... will have a pink one and L...will have a lavender one. 

They will both have the same school uniform of course but their mother has that one sorted. "They will go to school wearing different coloured ribbons plaited into their hair so that everyone can tell the difference!" 

I am starting to be able to see differences between them too. They are rivals but also good friends. One of them loves any sort of art and craft. The other is more interested in playing games with her stuffed animals. Both of them like to "garden" and race around on their scooters. They are learning to "take turns" without adults telling them to do just that.

I once knew an identical twin who hated being a twin so much that she did not even speak to her sister. She left home as soon as she could and she would tell people, "Imagine having to sit opposite yourself at breakfast time! I hated it." She was almost insanely jealous of her sister. I met her sister at her funeral and she seemed, on that brief acquaintance, a very pleasant person who had found the whole situation very distressing.

The mother of A... and L... seems to me, despite having doubts sometimes, to have the balance right. She made the effort to make it sometimes the same and sometimes different. Now she is encouraging them to do the same. She wants them to grow up as individuals but still have that unique bond that twins can have. 

The twins rushed back on their scooters. Having tried the slope they could now tell me about their scooters. 

"They are the same but different," I was told. Could I guess how? I made the usual silly suggestions and they giggled some more. Then they showed me. "They have different pictures."

They are different pictures too - different aspects of the same landscape perhaps? 

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Life's a beach?

It must be if you live near the beach which has just been described as the best in Downunder. I can hear my siblings now saying, "Oooh yes, if we lived close enough to walk to that one we could go swimming every day."

We knew the beach when my brother and I were in secondary school and the youngest kittens were in primary school. We lived on the island where the beach is situated. The problem for us was that the beach was much too far away to even contemplate riding our bikes let alone walking. It took about half an hour to get there in the car - over very rough roads.

When you did finally get there you then had to walk along a very stony path which hid the beach until almost the last moment. It was worth the walk even for me - and the Senior Cat would hold on to me all the way - because you suddenly came upon a bay with a natural and very safe swimming pool at one end. 

We kittens honed our swimming skills in that pool. It was situated just where the bay started to curve out into the ocean again. It was filled and emptied by the tide. There were no dangerous undercurrents. It was deep enough to dive into from the rocks at one end. At the other end it was safe enough for those with very beginner skills. It was the perfect space. 

If you were brave enough and actually had a surf board you could head further along the pristine white sand and catch a wave or two. It might not have been the best surfing beach in the world but the teenage boys seemed happy with it.

I have not been there for years. I am never likely to go again. It is possible there is a proper path to the beach now. Like the rest of the island it has been developed for the tourists. There were very few tourists back then. The locals had the place to themselves. There was never anyone much around.

There were other good beaches on the island too. There is one which will forever remain in my mind. There was a jetty there, the site of a security scare during WWII as quite large ships could dock there. You needed to look the other way to get the true beauty of the place. It had a very, very long sweep of white sand with a slow curve punctuated by rocks until you could almost see the bay where the seals liked to congregate. It must be at least seven or eight kilometres long. You still get a few beaches like that in the more remote areas of Scotland. Yes, you could swim there too - with care. It was not as safe as the other beach, certainly there were no lifeguards in either place. 

Those places seemed remote to us. They were remote. The roads that led to them were unsealed. Tourists did not venture into those places on a regular basis. Occasionally they would find their way by accident and wonder how people could live in such isolated places. Now there are holiday cottages. My darling Whirlwind and her father stayed in one twice. It was remote enough and quiet enough for C... to take a real break from his difficult work. Ms W loved it. She could read and draw for hours. They took long silent walks along the beach and "tried to forget anyone else was there".

When we lived on the island these were places we cherished. Perhaps our Scottish ancestry helped because by no means everyone cared for those places. At least for a time we liked the sense of remoteness. 

I don't want to go back. I suspect the tourists would spoil it for me. Is that very selfish? 

Friday, 27 January 2023

Phone calls at 6am

are never likely to be a good but I was half-expecting this one. "Computer S..." , as opposed to my BIL "our S" and "gardening S..." keeps odd hours, knows I am usually up and around by then. As he is doing me a favour I could hardly grumble at him when he asked if he could come over "before it gets too hot". 

It is heading for 37'C today and S... is morbidly obese so I said yes. Three phone calls later - all from him - he arrived and has taken away the tower of the desk top computer. It is not working and I need it. This is one of the issues of working from home. The laptop is not nearly as comfortable to use and I do not have the same access to files on that...partly for reasons of convenience but also for security. I am now waiting for him to see if he can solve the problem with the help of his mate "Jo". I have not met his mate but, if they cannot do it between them, then the problem is insoluble. This is unlikely as they have a massive amount of knowledge between them.

S...was just on his way when I had yet another phone call. This one came just after 9am. It was from a solicitor's office in a town - now almost a suburb - on the other side of the city. The person at the other end asked for me by name and then told me that my late friend E...'s sister had died. My reaction probably shocked her because I am afraid I said, "Thank God for that." I meant it too because the last time I saw P..., a few days before Christmas, she was in a dreadful state and wanted desperately to die.  We chatted for a bit and she was still intellectually alert but the effort of caring for herself had clearly become too much. She refused all help offered and, when you have uncontrolled diabetes, this is dangerous. 

I had tried to keep my word to E... that I would watch out for P... but it was difficult. She resisted any overtures of friendship from anyone. Her days were spent walking the streets "for exercise" and reading. We had "coffee" together occasionally and I made her suitable biscuits at Christmas time. She lived in a very quiet block of units on a quiet street. She barely knew her neighbours - by choice. I think they cared more than she realised because they watched to make sure her bedroom blinds went up in the morning and down at night. One of them told me they were all concerned for her and "she's nice enough but not friendly". I knew what they meant.

And now it seems that the blind did not move and one of the other unit residents found her. There needs to be an autopsy. I had to inform her cousins, people with whom she had just Christmas card contact - and that reluctantly.

I have passed on P...'s simple funeral wishes and the solicitor's office will deal with that this time. P...'s life was not a happy one but it was the one she chose and I have to accept that. There will be just a handful of us to say our farewells. 

P... was just so different from her sister.


Thursday, 26 January 2023

Being paid to do the job

or being paid something extra to do the same job?

Our "honours" list has just come out. There have also been the usual "....of the Year" awards - young and senior included.

I had a quick look through the lists this morning as I prowled my way through the online papers. Nothing much has changed. Over the past couple of decades the lists have become more and more "politically correct". Awards are given to people who are involved in activities that are deemed "worthwhile" by those in power. Sport features heavily in the lists. 

It is very rare to find an award given to someone who has spent forty years volunteering at the local opportunity shop or the same time keeping the local railway station tidy and the little garden alive. They rarely get thanked, let alone acknowledged in any public way.  

I went to a funeral yesterday. I went because her daughter has lived overseas for many years.  She did not know her mother's friends, indeed had never met them. I knew her only because her mother had needed some help with paperwork before moving, all too briefly, into an aged care residence. Her stay there was so brief I did not even have the opportunity to visit her a third time. Nobody else went at all.

And yet this woman had volunteered. She had worked in the school canteen, been on the school council, run a Scout troop, taught Sunday School, volunteered at a charity shop, belonged to a service organisation and more. She had even been a founding member of a now state wide crafting organisation, the Secretary, Treasurer and twice President of the organisation.  She was good at those jobs and pleasant with it.

I was surprised to find less than twenty people at her service. It was not private. It was not "invitation only". In the space of four years people simply seemed to have forgotten her and all she had done for them. I wonder how this could happen when the church was full for the Senior Cat's service, full of people from many parts of his life. I know that Covid has not helped these things but it seemed to be more than that.

Why are some people "forgotten" and others are not? 

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

An alcohol ban or

something else? Is it really going to make a difference?

The Prime Minister of Downunder finally gave in to pressure and went to Alice Springs yesterday. I doubt it has done much good but perhaps he will now have some faint, very faint, idea of the extent of the problems there.

Alice Springs is in the centre of the continent. It is generally dry and dusty. The "river" which runs through it actually boasts a yacht race run over dry ground. 

It is a town which grew up around the Overland Telegraph Line in 1872. The north-south railway line across the continent also passes through it.  Alice Springs is now largely a point of departure for tourist destinations such as Uluru (Ayre's Rock), the Olgas and King's Canyon.

The main indigenous tribe are the Arrernte (pronounced Arundta) people but there are others. There are at least three different languages in use besides English. That is worth noting because language is sometimes used as a weapon, particularly if someone is in trouble with the courts.

Alice Springs and the surrounding area has a very high rate of domestic violence and unemployment. There are major issues with housing, health and education. A great deal of this is alcohol related. Recently the problems have been so great that "intervention" has been discussed by some. 

Things improved for a while under the previous government. They were far from perfect but limits on the sale of alcohol and the introduction of the cashless debit card restricting the amount which could be spent on non-essentials did help.

This government, along with the territory government, removed those restrictions. In doing so they went against the advice of the local elders, mostly the women, who could see that the restrictions had reduced the problems. Now some "restrictions" are back in place but they are minimal and unlikely to make any real difference. All that is said is that you cannot buy take-away alcohol on Mondays and Tuesdays. On other days you will only be able to buy it between 3pm and 7pm.

I doubt it will work. It certainly won't work on its own.

Like everyone else unemployed aboriginal/indigenous people are supposed to be actively seeking work in order to get benefits. The reality however is that many, perhaps most, do not. It is a problem with many unemployed people. They lack education. They lack employable skills. They live in places and under circumstances which make the likelihood of getting and retaining employment unlikely.

When measures which might have some degree of success are suggested  and even on occasion implemented they all too often get dismantled again. Perhaps the funding runs out or the people running a scheme move on or retire. 

There is also another problem which is almost never recognised. This is the way in which some people, often outsiders, demand that any intervention is "culturally appropriate". They demand that language and customs be retained under all circumstances. When indigenous people, often women, do speak up they are told things like, "No, your children must be educated in your own language. They can learn English but it is not their mother tongue. That must be retained." It doesn't matter to these cultural adherents that the same level of materials is not available or that the language lacks the vocabulary for counting the way "white" people do. They see the "preservation of culture" as more important. 

It doesn't matter them that "dot paintings" are not an ancient tradition or that the "welcome to country" arose out of a piece of theatre late last century. A whole industry has grown up around all this. It employs a lot of people but it may not be in the best interests of those in receipt of the programs under which these decisions are made.  Successive governments have listened to those who are more concerned with the retention of "culture" even when it is known to be false than the real needs and wants of indigenous people. That won't change while there is money to be had for perpetuating all this.


Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Do we actually need a "national" day?

In two days from now we will be "celebrating" or "mourning" on Downunder's national day.  It will be a public holiday. Some people will go to work and others won't.

I personally wish there was no such thing as our national day and no public holiday to go with it. Everyone who goes to work can turn up as usual thank you very much.

I know this will shock some people but I am fed up with being told I have to be a "proud" Downunderite. I am fed up that I am told I need to do this while also being told that I should be "ashamed". I am supposed to be ashamed because it celebrates white settlers taking over from the "original inhabitants". 

Whilst doing all of this the country has been celebrating Chinese New Year, made much of in the media. Other celebrations will also occur, some national, some religious, some "celebrating diversity" and more. Oh, we are big on "celebrations". 

That is, we are big on celebrations unless they are WASP or WASC. These "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant or Catholic" are not quite as acceptable. The government has not yet banned Christmas or Easter but these things are not as acceptable as Ramadan or Hanukah. Christmas and Easter apparently don't celebrate any sort of "diversity".

I wonder about this. I am I suppose a WASP of sorts.  I am "white" and my ancestors are not exactly "Anglo-Saxon" but I suppose "Celtic" is close enough.  And yes, Presbyterian - so Protestant if you wish. New Year's Eve is Hogmanay. People sing "Auld Lang Syne". I belong to a clan (indeed am a Life Member of my clan's society) and that clan has a tartan. It is not merely a sept of another clan. I even know a few words of Scottish Gaelic, something about Shetland lace and Scottish literature. 

None of this is a matter for "celebration" here. It doesn't get much mention in the media, if it gets mentioned at all. Instead I am apparently someone who should never mention such things. I belong to that group of people who ancestors were responsible for "genocide" and "dispossession" and so much more. It doesn't matter that my ancestors came here long after the first settlers, although not so recently as some.  I am still in the wrong. I need to apologise for things I did not do, that my own ancestors did not do. I need to acknowledge other flags and the "country". The present government is planning on dividing us still further and perhaps forever.

I really don't think we need a national holiday. There is nothing to celebrate.


Monday, 23 January 2023

Paying for the ambulance

is something I would expect to do. My health cover allows for two trips a year. It is also possible to buy further insurance.

We had the further insurance for the Senior Cat. It is just as well we had that because it was used, more than once. 

But before the last state election there was a big campaign by the ambulance staff. They were demanding that "ramping be fixed". There were messages scrawled all over ambulances demanding this. There were protests. They got a lot of media attention with their demands. And they refused to bill the patients. The service would be "free" until their demands were met.

It was of course all a ploy to get the now government elected. They went quiet, very quiet, after that. The problems are not fixed, if anything they are worse than before. And now the ambulance service is trying to get the money they should have got from patients at the time.  

Now yes, if you use a service like that you should pay for it if you can. The ambulance personnel who were here for the Senior Cat were, with one exception, kind and caring and efficient. On one occasion one of those involved stopped me in the shopping centre a week or so later and asked,"How's your dad doing?" Out of all the situations they had dealt with in between this person remembered the Senior Cat and seemed to genuinely want to know. We would have been happy to pay for the service.

But the tactics the ambulance union was using had nothing to do with patient care. They were only concerned with winning an election. At the aged-care residence one of them saw me looking at the graffiti on the waiting ambulance. He told me, "I don't like all this stuff but we've been told we have to do it." Yes, I imagine they were left with little choice. 

There would have been some who would have been keen to join in the action, others who were less keen but still supported some action. I wonder though about the billing issue. We are now almost a year away from the last of the action and it is now that people are suddenly getting bills. Those bills are big too. People who believed they would not have to pay are now being expected to quickly find the money.

If the ambulance union had been running an honest campaign which was genuinely designed to support the members and improve the service it might well be that people would sigh and think, "I knew it was too good to be true" and then pay. But the campaign was not about that and people have known this for months. Questions have been raised about it before now. The new government has so far done nothing about the situation while still finding time and money for other and much less important purposes.

Perhaps the editorial this morning suggesting that the bills should be paid from union funds is not so unreasonable after all?