Sunday 31 May 2009

My friend Roger

has been sending me some ancient riddles and I have been responding in kind.
I asked him, "What's soft and yellow and jumps up and down?" His answer "Spring loaded custard" was not the one I expected - I think I like it better than the answer I had which was, "An omelette at a football match."
It is the unexpected which delights. "What has four legs and two tails?"
The answer is a ridiculous image. I wonder who thinks of these things and I am also grateful to them.

Saturday 30 May 2009

There was a hint of frost

this morning. We are two days out from the official start of winter and it is beginning to feel colder. Dad needed the heater for a short while last night.
This morning my fingers felt a bit numb as I hung the first load of washing out. Pluto padded in silently and, while my back was turned, jumped into the clothes basket to explore the damp clothes. He did not stay long.
Our back garden is probably akin to cat heaven. We have grass, we have trees, we have the compost bins. Currently there is a resident fruit rat. He or she is shy. They are outdoor animals so s/he does not worry us too much although we would prefer s/he returned next door to the fallen fruit. Pluto is interested in the rat. So is little "Miss Puss" from across the road. The two cats treat one another with a sort of wary respect. They have not fought - yet.
I have not seen either of them catch a bird or a lizard. They watch them but, so far, they have not bothered to chase them. They will wait for the rat. So far, the rat seems to be too smart.
All this leads me to wonder if the local government authority ('the council') is right in trying to introduce some rather draconian cat control laws. They claim that cats damage the environment. They claim that cats chase and kill wildlife and dirty other people's backyards. I am more inclined to agree with the local retired vet. Peg is nearly 90. Mentally she is more like 29 or 39. A lifetime of observation of animal behaviour has led her to believe that cats will chase mice and rats. They will bring down vulnerable wildlife - old or ill or not watched over by a parent. Peg says this is natural. She says that cats should be kept in at night just as they should be well fed, cared for and played with. She also says that cats do not spend their days chasing magpies, kookaburras, honey eaters, parrots of any variety or the swallows. Peg wishes they would chase the blackbirds. They don't.
So, what is the council concerned about? Why isn't it concerned about the dogs which foul the footpaths, bark and generally make a far greater nuisance of themselves because owners do not train them?

Friday 29 May 2009

I know that judging anything

is difficult. It is probably wrong.
Despite that I gave up yesterday afternoon's working time in favour of trying to help people understand what judges are looking for in the knitting section of the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show. This is South Australia's annual big event for the rural community. It is when they descend in hordes on their city siblings and try to make them understand that, without their brothers and sisters from the bush, there would be no milk in the coffee (or tea) or a good many other things.
They have a permanant venue - the Wayville Showgrounds - and the craft people now have part of the nice, new, light, airy (but rather noisy) Goyder Pavilion. There is renewed interest in people entering the cookery and craft sections of the show. So Ann, who now takes care of all this, 'phoned me and asked if I would come along to an information session. She would pick me up and bring me home. How could I say no? Ann volunteers her time. I should volunteer mine. I really do believe that creating things is good for people's mental health. I am not so sure about the competitive streak. I went anyway.
It turned out to be quite an interesting experience. There were quite a lot of queries. Nobody was belligerent and nobody blamed me for their failure to win a prize the previous year. (No, I was not a judge but that would not necessarily have stopped anyone.) I took along a couple of useful books and suggested they search their local libraries for them. Interestingly, everyone wrote down the titles/authors. They may not look them up but they now have the information. I suppose if they bothered to come to the session they really were interested in getting some information. I took on some useful feedback for Ann.
I still came away thinking that it is difficult to judge. The items that are produced are, presumably, the best that someone can do. They have, presumably, been worked with materials the maker loved. I do not like bright orange acrylic. They might. Why should I judge them?
But, feedback can be useful. It should be positive. It should show us how to improve.

Thursday 28 May 2009

There are more mutterings

in today's paper about the need to get more 'working class' students into university. This puzzles me. Surely we should be aiming to get more able students into university? It should not matter where they come from.
The system is clearly wrong when an able student cannot get to university. There are far too many mediocre students there under the "everyone must aim for university" approach of the politically correct brigade. Many of them do come from 'working class' families. Some of them would rather be plumbers (and earning more than a 'professional') but they have been told that university is where they are supposed to be. There are also students from 'professional' families who have assumed that university is where they are supposed to be.
I think I must be terribly out of date. I think university is somewhere you should go if you want to go not somewhere you go because someone else tells you it is the right place to be. University should be for those with academic ability, a burning desire to learn more and a willingness to work. It should NOT matter what class of society you come from. If you have the ability and you are willing to work then you should be able to go. The same goes for an apprenticeship. If you have the ability, want to learn how to do the job and have a willingness to work at it then you should be able to do so.
Perhaps if we stopped to think about, took in less students to universities, recognised that houses do not build themselves, drains do not unblock themselves and electrical wiring does not appear at the flash of a light bulb, then we would all be better off. I should not have to spend time with students who are doing university courses they hate because they think they must.

The good news is that yesterday I finally managed to buy some paw-wear (footwear if you must). I detest buying anything like that - or clothes. I just cannot be bothered. As long as I look clean and tidy does it matter?

Wednesday 27 May 2009

How long are they going to take to dry?

My father sadly eyes his "socks knitted by Imperia" on the line and asks this question yet again. He only has three pairs of hand knitted socks - all from my friend Imperia. Imperia knits beautiful socks. I know. I own two pairs as well.
There is nothing quite like hand knitted socks, especially woolly handknitted socks as the weather gets a bit cooler.
Dad has skinny feet and skinny legs and, despite a good appetite, he does not weigh as much as he used to. Woolly socks are especially welcome to him.
As he said that I was reminded of something else I had not thought of in years. When my youngest sister was about two my mother made her a very rough doll out of a scrap of pink cloth. It was stuffed with foam plastic (fairly new at the time) that her father had given her. I do not know for certain but I rather suspect it was all we could afford at the time. I know it was one of the years my birthday was not celebrated. This doll used to get filthy dirty from being dragged around all the time. Periodically my mother would wash it and hang it on the line. My sister would then sit under the clothesline and watch, waiting for it to dry.
I bought socks for Dad. They are called "Explorer Socks" and they are thick - and mostly wool. This is something of a miracle in the country which once lived off the sheep's back. Our wool goes overseas. It does not seem to return.
I will probably do the same thing one day.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Vanessa has finally managed to update her blog.

Anyone who is interested in this earth shattering revelation can head for Fidra Books. I have mentioned them before. Fidra publishes retro books for children. Real books, not the social-awareness-you-need-to-be-educated type books. Sigh.
It is partly Vanessa's fault that I have a blog at all. Vanessa and a few other people who thought it would be useful discipline for me made me start but do not bother to read it. I am not sure why I bother. (According to my young neighbour Ciaranne I should be writing a second novel for her benefit "because Vanessa says you should". I might if Vanessa ever tells me how bad the first one was.) The idea of course is that I will eventually blog my way around the UK. Perhaps.
I would like to. Realistically I may well be too old by the time I am free to do so but I need to be able to dream about it or I would feel totally trapped by having to care for my father.
Do not get me wrong. I love caring for my father. He is the most amazing and incredible person. At 86 he has a mind as inquiring as a 3yr old who keeps asking, "Why?" At the lunch table he asks questions like, "What's the difference between morals and ethics?" and then questions like, "Did you know the Inquisition continued into the 19th C? What made it start? What made it finish?" or, on a totally different track, "That leopardwood the Loggerheads chap sent is amazing stuff." (He's making more boxes as well as toys at present.) We can talk about things that we would not even be able to mention if my mother was still alive.
I would worry if my father sat down and watched television. Well, he watches a little now and then but it is very little. He will look at the television programmes occasionally and then forget to watch some documentary or other because he is too involved in something else. I would rather a read a book too.
But, blogs should be updated on a regular basis. So, I sit here thinking of all the things I want to say - and end up saying nothing at all.

Monday 25 May 2009

My great-grandfather Bray

did not attend his daughter's wedding. He disapproved of the match. My paternal grandfather came from 'the wrong side of the Port River'.
It did not matter in the least that my grandfather owned a highly successful tailoring business that employed more than thirty people or that he made the uniforms for the Governors of the state of South Australia for more years than most people could remember as well as a wide variety of other people, including many ship's captains. It did not matter that his father was the man who had first mapped the 'Port River' - not really a river at all but an inlet which was the safe harbour in those days. It did not matter that his mother was today's equivalent of the social worker, dispensing advice, food, clothing and even housing on occasion. It did not matter that they were highly respected citizens on whom the community was also highly dependent. They came from the wrong place. Worse, they were Presbyterian and the Bray clan was Methodist.
Years later my grandmother and I were making the beds one Saturday morning. I was sixteen. My grandmother was 86. We were talking about the upcoming wedding of another cousin and my grandmother told me the story of her wedding. Her eldest brother gave her away. Her mother was there. Her sister was there. Her seven brothers were there. There were other relatives. Her new husband's clan had travelled the, in those days, great distance to be there.
Her father was not there. She looked at me and said, "And you know, it still hurts."
My grandparents were married for nearly sixty years. It was an extraordinarily successful marriage filled with love and understanding, support and forgiveness but it did not have her father's blessing. She wanted it, indeed she needed it.
So, it was with immense sadness that I learned a friend of mine did not attend her daughter's actual wedding ceremony. Like my great-grandfather she had her own reasons for not being there but I wonder whether her daughter is going to feel the same way. What difference will it make to their relationship? It must make a difference.

Sunday 24 May 2009

"They have found a spot

on Nick's lung." Selfishly I wished I had at least been sitting down when Betty 'phoned to let us know.
Nick is Dad's godson. He's an identical twin. He had major surgery for a carcinoma two years ago. He has a prosthesis in his upper arm as a result. Everyone thought he was doing well but apparently this spot was first seen twelve months ago - and nothing was done about it. I wonder about this. Nick had a rough time, far rougher than most people were aware of. It is something to do with being an identical twin as well as all the other factors. It has been rough on his twin as well. Tim would lie on the bed next to him. Neither of them would say anything. It was enough to be there with each other. Even Donna, Nick's partner, is not as close as Tim. Nobody can be as close as Tim. Did Tim know about the spot twelve months ago? Did they make a mutual decision that enough was enough at the time? It has grown now to about a centimetre in size. I don't think Nick wants more chemo. It's too debilitating, too exhausting and the outcome is too uncertain. He's been through it once. He's seen his brother Chris go through it as well.
I feel so damn useless. Dad is pacing the house. If we still had the car he would have been haring up the hill to hold Betty and let Keith talk and talk. It is one of the few times I wish I could drive so we could physically be there.
Why in the heck does my cousin want to take risks with her kids when this sort of thing happens.
Life is too damn precious and fragile.

Saturday 23 May 2009

The smell of cornbread

is driving me to distraction. It is my contribution to the gathering today. We knitters are getting together for Maureen's birthday. Birthdays are a good excuse to get together. We all take something along for a shared meal. Somehow it always seems to sort itself out into a reasonably balanced meal too. I always take something savoury. Cornbread is about the closest I get to baking 'cake' of any sort apart from Christmas cake. This year I did not even manage a cake for Dad's birthday. Who wants cake when it is over 40'C? Some people might. We do not.
This cornbread recipe has parmesan cheese in it. I add a hint of cayenne pepper rather than the dill. Today I used rice bran oil rather than canola oil. Olive oil is a tad heavy for this recipe but is what I otherwise prefer for cooking.
So I am off to knit. Eleanor is picking me up at around 12.00. I always have mixed feelings about this but she says they want me there and the only way to get there (apart from the taxi I cannot afford) is for one of them to pick me up. Not being able to drive is a nuisance in this sort of situation but, overall, I am glad that I am not contributing to the hazards on the road. I would be a hazard. I watch other people all the time and think, "I would not have done that. How do they judge it?"
I can take the 'tablecloth' with me. This is the large circular piece of lace I have just finished. It is the adaptation of a pattern I found and decided to try. There is 'tablecloth' listed in the classes for the RAHS show in September and I will enter it in that without hope but it will ease my conscience about being a member of the Guild and dutifully putting something in. I am not sure that a woollen tablecloth is quite the thing though. What if you spilt tea on it?

Friday 22 May 2009

I open the e-mail

this morning and discover that Sam has finally sent his essay. It is due in at midday today. I am tempted to tell him I will not read it. He finished it after midnight. Finished it? I am not sure about this. It is a mess. He was working under pressure. Sam working under pressure means that Sam makes mistakes. Sam makes lots of mistakes. If he passed it in like that he would be failed outright.
His understanding of the material is superficial. I know nothing about building consruction but even I can see that the issues in respect of recycling are more complex than he is making them out to be. I would like to see what sort of effort the top student in the class can produce. Standards have dropped but they surely have not dropped as far as Sam's effort.
He thinks he is working. He probably is working as best he knows how. He means well. He is polite and kind and willing to help other people. He is just not cut out to be a student.
The question is, how much do you help someone like Sam? If he is going to fail in the end is it better to let him fail now? He's 23 - already older than average.
There will be a different sort of explosion later this morning when Dad rings his cousin. Dad needs a cricket bat. ( Do not ask!) Malcolm is the one with cricket bats.... Malcolm is the one who keeps telling Dad he needs to watch the cricket... hmmm.

Thursday 21 May 2009

When a number of people

insisted that a 'blog' would be a 'good thing' and I should 'get into the habit' I should have been more wary. They do not write blogs. I am still not sure why I am trying this exercise. Holly says it is good to let off steam. She should know. She is a doctor. Doctors see stressed out patients all the time - and I am stressed out.
We have a conflict in Sri Lanka. According to the news media the fighting has stopped. That means people will soon stop reporting on it. After all, the misery of displaced people does not make exciting reading for a population which thrives on the blood and guts of war reporting. The real work is just beginning. The mess has to be cleaned up. The conflict is not actually over yet. The issues have not been resolved. At least the communication boards for this situation are less complex than the other major problem dominating the news. Pakistan.
Pakistan is a mess. It is political, social, religious, legal mess. It is a communications mess. The terrain is awful. Levels of literacy are low. There is a linguistic diversity that most people are unaware of . ("What language do they speak in Pakistan?" I keep getting asked this question and most people are amazed when I point out there is more than one, many more than one.) I am struggling to find people to help. I dislike trying to juggle multiple writing systems. There are just too many potential problems. I live in fear of making a major blunder and upsetting some sensitive soul who will believe it is deliberate rather than accidental.
I want to curl up with my paws over my eyes and forget about it all!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Australians never commit crimes abroad

or so they would have us believe. I mean, let's face it and after all, Schapelle Corby is innocent and the Bali Nine never had any drugs taped to their bodies did they? Give me a break! The latest one is a mother of four young girls who is accused of stealing a beer mat in Thailand. She could be facing up to five years in a Thai prison. For a beer mat? Sounds horrendous doesn't it? But there are some things about this that make me pause.
The beer mat is no ordinary beer mat. It is worth a cool $Aus 60. That's a lot of money for the impecunious likes of me so what is it worth in Thailand?
It was supposedly a 'joke'. What sort of joke entails breaking the law?
Then we learn that she apparently first of all tried to evade the police and then screamed abuse at them when she was arrested. But, of course she is innocent!
Now she was in Thailand on a girls-only trip to celebrate her mother's 60th birthday. I find that odd too. Going away on holiday in the middle of the school term and leaving four young girls seems a bit odd to me. Maybe their father is perfectly competent - but now he is in Thailand trying to get his wife home again. Who is looking after the children?
Which brings me to the other point. What contingency plans did the family have in place if something went wrong? This woman could have become ill up there. Bad enough in a country with the sort of medical facilities she is used to but - well, is going there irresponsible given her other responsibilities?
My mad cousin is still insisting that they are taking their six kids to the slums of Manila for three months. She says the reason that their church is discriminating against them because of the financial cost of taking six children. I say that even their fundamentalist church draws the line at anyone taking six children to one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We have had a few frantic e-mails backwards and forwards as I try to explain that guardianship provisions in wills do not apply if said parents are alive but unable to care for the children. At least she has listened to that. Their solicitor is going to be busy - and I am glad I do not have to draft the documents. They are now getting Enduring Power of Attorney papers drawn up too. I suppose I should be thankful they are listening to that much but I cannot guard against diseases (many and varied and sometimes for life or even fatal), theft, kidnap and other offences against the person.
They are, in my view, even more irresponsible than our 'innocent' traveller to Thailand.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

There is an article about toys

in the 'Tiser this morning. Someone has been doing some research and discovered that children benefit more from old-fashioned toys than from electronic whizz-bang gadgets like Game-Boys (or whatever the present fashionable must-have item is).
I read the story and wondered why it is that such an obvious piece of research needed to be done and that it should need to be front page news. Children's play is, or should be, their work.
We keep a range of decidedly old fashioned but child friendly construction type toys in this house. My father has an interest in such things. He likes to make them, to design building sets and teach children how to put Meccano nuts and bolts together. My nephews loved the stuff and the Lego they had at home. At secondary school they could put together working Lego-technic models for school projects while the other students were trying to work out how one brick fitted into another.
My cousin's six home-schooled darlings descend every so often and out come the bricks, the Tinker-toy, the Meccano, the manipulative puzzles and everything else. (They know where to find them.) They also head for the book-shelves and go away with a sizeable load of books each time. My young neighbour Ciaranne heads in at weekends, borrows books and makes things from the 'junk' I keep in a box just for her. Last summer it was a puppet theatre with puppets. We wrote a play and she took it back to school. At the moment she is making a light-house and wants to put a "proper flashing light inside".
These children do not watch much television. It is not denied to them but it is not encouraged and it is limited. They get to use the computer but they do it under supervision. They do not own high tech toys. They are smart, funny, creative, able to hold a conversation and good fun to be with. Nobody needs research to observe that.

Monday 18 May 2009

Dad brought home some wool

yesterday, three large hanks of hand-dyed wool and said, "Carolyn gave me this for you." I do not know Carolyn but she turns out to be wife of the newish Anglican priest at St Michael's up on the hill. She knows I knit. She apparently bought the wool herself and then decided that she did not have time to knit. Why should she think I have time to knit?
This is the curious thing about working from home. People think you do not work. They think you have all the time in the world to do whatever they want. Writing is not work either so I have to sneak in blog posts between licking my fur, cleaning my paws and the surfaces on which they move as well as getting meals etc. I am not in the least bit interested in housework. I do the minimum to make the place clean. It is not tidy. We are not tidy people. We feel comfortable the way we are. I have other things to do.
But, the knitting wool is nice colours. They are not colours I will wear but that is beside the point because, after all, the yarn does not really belong to me. It may have been a gift but the reality is that it is intended to be knitted up and returned in some form to the church. I don't mind too much. Church is not my thing. I agree with the principles but not the theatrical performances. Nevertheless I can perhaps be persuaded to make a prayer shawl or, as I would call it, comfort shawl out of the yarn. I'll wait and see what this Carolyn says - if she responds to the e-mail I left for her husband. After all, I do not know her - yet.

Sunday 17 May 2009

I scored another book yesterday.

One of the Guild members turned up with a little pile of books that she no longer needed. They were review copies for the knitting magazine she ran for a while. It is still going but she decided that doing that and bringing up two children was not possible. She has donated some review copies to the library but she also passed one on to me because it is a specialist book that is not likely to interest other people.
The book is a history of 'hap' shawls. These are the everyday shawls made particularly in the Shetlands in the 19th and early 20th C. The book is worth reading even if for nothing more than the record at the back of some of the evidence given at a government inquiry. The exploitation of the knitters was extraordinary. Even now professional knitters do not get paid anything like the worth of their work but, at that time, it amounted to slave labour. I am glad Barbara thought I was worthy recipient of the book.
There were also six DVDs by Lucy Neatby, a Canadian knitter. I brought those home to look at the content before putting them on the library shelves. I put one on for a short time to see if I could find out what I had let myself in for. Canadian material can vary greatly. Some of it is heavily influenced by the United States. That is understandable. It does not always make for content that Australians feel comfortable about. This is not like that at all. I may watch more than I intended. Her diction is good. Her teaching style is good. She is teaching in short segments and the camera work shows the moves clearly. It is a pity we do not have a set up to show this sort of thing at the Guild.
Riding home I noticed the traffic banking up and then, inevitably, police and ambulance sirens. Some way further ahead I could see crowds gathered. When the traffic had slowed to a halt I slipped my tricycle through the waiting cars and went the long way around. I do not need to view accidents.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Wehad a frantic 'phone call

yesterday. Sam had to get his essay into university by 15:45 and could someone please read it first?
Sam is 'dyslexic'. I am never sure what this label means. Sam is a nice boy. He is, like other young males of my acquaintance, disorganised and not very mature. He leaves things until the last minute. It was tempting to tell him 'no' and watch him learn the hard way. Being weak and tender hearted ( especially after he promised to change the light bulb) I gave in.
He has 1500 words to write. He has written about 1,100 and cannot think of what else he should say. He had not yet written a conclusion. He tells me all of this earnestly and somewhat anxiously.
His essay is about the fragmentation of the building industry. I know nothing, or almost nothing, about the building industry. When I have read what he has written I am not much better informed. His spelling and grammar are atrocious. Worse than that, Sam has the wrong end of the measuring tape. He has not understood the question. We have about four hours to pull this into some sort of shape.
Sam is about to panic. I tell him to calm down and send the draft through on the e-mail so that I can work on it as well. What really stuns me is that Sam does not know about the editing function in Word. This is a supposedly computer-savvy kid who should know far more about computers than I do. He is as excited as small boy about this.
I pull him back into line and explain the question. No Sam, you cannot just use statistics. You have to explain why you think fragmentation occurs. What are the reasons for it? He has no idea. I suggest things like the need for specific skills and union demarcation lines may influence the issue. Oh. He struggles with the concept. We eventually get something together. It might scrape a pass.
My 10yr old friend is turning up this morning to finish her school project. This involved reading three books, finding out something about the authors and writing the information up. Ciaranne has searched the internet for author information, asked questions of a son of one of the authors and looked at a couple of journals after I informed her that such things existed. Okay, we had to make the trip to the library together but she initiated it. This morning, at my insistence, she is going to write up her references in approved fashion. There were grumbles about this yesterday afternoon but I have told her it is part of research and it has to be done. Is she too young at 10 to be worried about such things? I do not think so. It will take her about half an hour. When she has finished she will have something that far surpasses Sam's essay.
Sam is a good kid. He's going to make a good husband, a good father and a good citizen. If he can get a job then his ability to understand the question will not matter.

Friday 15 May 2009

Psalm 2009

A friend of my father sent the following little gem in the e-mail this morning. For anyone outside Australia - Kevin is Kevin Rudd our (not) revered Prime Minister. The Liberal party is the more conservative side of politics. His bailouts refer to a number of fiscally foolish antics designed to prop up popularity.
Labor is doing a bad job of running the economy and the country. I am not sure that the other side would be much better but it would not have quite the same problem with the unrepresentative union minority that wields the majority of power inside Labor. They still seem to believe that they can back to old style union management of the workforce in a world that has moved on from there.
Elected governments have a right to govern but they must govern on the platform they were elected on. If the situation has changed so drastically they cannot keep to that platform and something totally different is required then they must return to the people and give them a choice. Labor has little to worry about. Australians are probably foolish enough to vote them back in - but possibly with a reduced majority. So, here it is - a Psalm for 2009 and thereafter.
I think I prefer the original version.

Kevin is the shepherd I did not want.
He leadeth me beside the still factories.
He restoreth my faith in the Liberal party.
He guideth me in the path of unemployment for his party's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the bread line,I shall fear no hunger for his bailouts are with me.
He has anointed my income with taxes,My expenses runneth over.
Surely, poverty and hard living will follow me all the days of my life
And I will live in a rented home forever.
I am glad I am Australian,I am glad that I am free.But I wish I was a dog and Kevin was a tree

Thursday 14 May 2009

I do not understand

much about the retail business. My friend Georgi taught me a little when she ran an excellent clothing store in the local shopping centre. She had to teach me something because we became friends the day she desperately needed to go to the loo. The tenancy agreements do not allow the shops to close even for a loo break so staff have to rely on each other to watch out. There was nobody to watch out that day so Georgi asked me even though we did not know one another. I could have been anyone but she must have decided I had an honest face.
After that we chatted a bit and I would say hello whenever I went past and, occasionally, mind the store for a bit. The boss in Melbourne approved the arrangement and, on the very rare occasions that I actually buy new clothes, I received staff discount. As most of my clothes come from the charity shop this did not amount to much.
I did learn a little about the retail trade however and one thing is that you need to know your product. Why then did they employ the young man in the other large retail chain bookstore I went into. I had a question about a book. They carry that publisher so I assumed they had access to all titles by that publisher - Australian publisher. Not unreasonable? I asked. I received a blank look and then the words, "I don't know anything about books. I just work here." It's a bookshop and you don't know anything about books? "Do you read?" "No, I've got better things to do."
I slink back to the local bookshop. They do not have access to that publisher through their supplier but I suppose we will sort something out.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

I cannot do the washing

because the hot water tap refuses to shift. I am not surprised it has gone on strike. It will have to wait until Dad gets up. He knows more about these things than I do but I think that, this time, it may take a plumber.
So, I get to read more about Mr Swan's Budget than I care for. (If anyone else is reading this please I need some TLC in large doses.) Mr Swan is spending as if Australia actually had money in the bank. Well, we did have money in the bank. The last government left a healthy surplus, low unemployment, moderate taxes etc. Things would have changed in the current global economic circumstances but I don't think they would have been handing out $900 'presents' to people and borrowing the money from China to do it.
Not everyone got that little 'present' of course - I didn't because I don't actually earn enough. Now I could have done with the money. Thankfully perhaps I did not have to make the choice as to whether I felt I could actually keep such a bribe.
There is nothing at all about disability services in the Budget. It must be there somewhere, hidden so far into the warren of broken promises that the government hopes people will not notice. There are other things that are way up front of course - like the broadband roll out (out of date before they have finished it) and, for South Australia, an extension of the O-bahn busway which is inaccessible to many people with disabilities and will continue to be so. There are mutterings about a possible train extension south of Adelaide - but that is only 'maybe' and has so many obstacles it will almost certainly not occur. It is easier for the government to clog the roads with almost empty buses that do not go where people want them to go or when they want them to get there.
Mr Swan has not yet told me whether the government plans to pay me. I am not sure what he thinks I am living on.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

The floor is done

and I can look at faux wooden floor boards with pleasure. They do look like the real thing except on very close examination.
Now, I am aware that this floor covering would not suit everyone. I am looking forward to merely having to sweep it rather than vacuum it. When someone invents a vaccuum cleaner that (a) we can afford, (b) is not a monstrosity I can barely lift from the place in which it lurks and (c) does not make a noise like a jumbo jet on take-off then I might manage to tolerate doing the task. I will never enjoy it.
I have to get the books back on the shelves but that can be done over the next few days. I am in no hurry. The only books I need to move quickly are those stacked around the ironing board so that someone else can have his favourite shirt. It's not much to ask.
Perhaps all this exercise (?) is keeping me warm. The neighbours have had their air-conditioning running constantly since Easter. We have not used ours, not even the little bar-radiator. Mind you, at present there are books around that too.
Perhaps the books are keeping us warm.

Monday 11 May 2009

There is a death notice

in today's paper for one of my former students from the Spastic Centre. He was one of the merry band of supposedly non-communicating 'kids' I was given because nobody else wanted them. These days he would be dumped at the back of an 'integrated' classroom and treated as some sort of pet whenever anyone remembered he was there. I wonder how his parents feel - both sadness and relief I suspect. His was not a comfortable life but he was their son and they loved him dearly.
I am not sure where people like Hop fit into the system now there are no special schools but, back then, we did just fine. He could indicate 'yes' and 'no' - eyes to the ceiling, eyes to the floor - so I set about finding what else he knew. It was not a lot. He was not the smartest kid on the block by any means.
I know the rest of the staff thought I was crazy. They all took the attitude 'these kids can't learn much'. It may have been true. I don't know. They could learn something. Hop could learn something. We started with two pictures - his mother on one side of his wheelchair tray and the toilet on the other. Toilet training achieved in a week. Any accidents were the staff not believing he could indicate the need. We went from that to his father, his sister, the family car, his dog, his beloved football team and a few more obvious things. It took a while.
His mother told me he was happier and easier to handle. Sbe was happier. It did not take much, just a few words.
I lost touch with Hop and all but one of the other children when I left the school. It does not do to try and revisit such places - and that one no longer exists. Now children like these are scattered through the rest of the education system. "Everyone" says they are in the right place. I am not sure who "Everyone" is as I have never met him or her. I am sure they mean well but parents tell me that their children are not learning.
Hop did not learn a lot but he did learn something. It meant he could have the dignity of underpants and that he could tell you he was a Crows supporter. Those things are important. And, he was smart enough to tease me about the fact that I do not support a football team!

Sunday 10 May 2009

Making tea is not difficult

or is it?
My father has a friend who makes terrible tea. I suspect the problem is that Nev does not make it with boiling water.
Nev is here frequently. If he is using the shed when Dad is out I make him cups of tea on the same schedule as I make them for Dad. He sees me make tea. He knows the water should be boiling but, if for any reason I leave him to his own devices, he does not boil the water. He just lets it get what he calls 'hot enough'. I suppose he cannot taste the difference. Dad can.
We use rainwater of course. That makes a difference too. Adelaide's water supply has improved over the years. Once ships would not take it on as drinking water when they were in port. Nobody could have blamed them.
When we went to live in Wirrulla, a tiny hamlet in the bush, the water was even worse. Everyone thought my father was mad when he demanded the Education Department put in a rainwater tank fed from the roof of the house. It had to rain of course (and it did eventually) and the next head of the school thanked him because he could at least have a decent cup of tea.
So tea making requires a few basics. Rain water. It must be gently and freshly boiling. Warm the pot. Add enough tea for the number of people drinking it and pour the water on. Was that difficult? Apparently. Nev will continue to make it his way. I will continue to make it our way. I still like Nev.

Saturday 9 May 2009

I have just sent half the garden

down the laundry trough. The water was a deep, muddy brown. If there had not been washing powder in it as well I would have saved it and put it back on the garden.
I did manage to rescue the gardening garment - jersey, pullover, jumper, sweater or whatever. It is a garment. My father has a number of these garments some in better states of disrepair than others. They were knitted by my mother from odd balls picked up in charity shops, on sale at one of the department stores (in the days when department stores sold knitting wool), and from the left overs of other family knitting. The stripes do not match. There are (horror of horrors) pink stripes in the one I washed. It also has blue, brown, grey, a strip of red, yellow and ochre. There is a patch on the front where he caught it in some machinery in his woodwork shed. I made the patch and it does not match of course. The cuffs have been reknitted (grey again but a different shade) by me.
This morning he is wearing the 'mostly blue' one. That has felted in places and there are holes in other places. There is a 'mostly brown one' and another truly horrendous multi-coloured affair.
My mother gave no thought at all to their looks. She merely knitted something that fitted - sort of.
He will not give these things up. They are warm and, at 86, he is starting to feel the cold at this time of the year. It does not matter if he gets dirt, glue, woodshavings, sawdust, fertiliser or paint on them. If they catch in twigs or on the machinery he assumes I will be able to do a repair job.
The other thing of course is that my mother made them.

Friday 8 May 2009

I spent most of yesterday trying to

convince myself that I do not have a rotten common cold and that I could do some work. I actually did some work but not as much as I needed to do. I really need someone else to make me chicken soup and let me curl up like a real cat. It is unlikely to happen. So, forget it Cat there are things to be done.
There are some things that cannot be done. I cannot do the ironing. The ironing board is surrounded by books...and more books. The nice man will, according to the message on the kitchen table, be back on Monday. It seems a very long time away right now.
A friend of ours called in yesterday and said, "I didn't realise how many books you have."
What does he mean? We don't have that many - or do we?
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live in a house without books. It would not be a home. I think it would be uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable in places that do not have books. What do people do? I wriggle and squirm if I have to watch television without a book and knitting as well. Yes, I can do three things at once! Television rarely rates full attention. There are books and/or articles in the paper that do not rate full attention. Why waste time?
My sister says I am not good at relaxing. She might be right.

Thursday 7 May 2009

We have not heard

from the nice man which means that the floor covering is coming by (camel) train. The place is a mess. I have a bout of the common cold -ugh! If Dad gets it I will feel even worse - although I did tell him not to use the 'phone until after I had wiped it over with disinfectant.
My friend James sent me his re-worked autobiography yesterday. It now amounts to about 50,000 words. I doubt it will get any longer. It has been a huge physical effort for him - even with a computer. Like me he has cerebral palsy but his motor coordination is even worse and his speech is almost unintelligible. Communication is a real effort for him.
I like James a lot. He has a wicked sense of humour.
James began his autobiography with a short essay some years ago. He wanted, rightly, to point out that going to a special school is not a death sentence educationally or socially. It has grown, with some encouragement from his sister, me and a couple of others.
There is an odd reluctance to talk about himself or his family in it. We find out what his parents worked out but not much about their personalities or what they looked like, ditto his sister. I think this may be because what James is really wanting to say is something non-autobiographical. He had one year in the mainstream school system and it was not a wild success. Despite that he eventually managed to get a bachelor's degree. Had he been placed in the mainstream from the start (as he would be now) it is unlikely that he would have achieved nearly as much....that's his view and I have to agree.
That is why I groaned at the other major item in my in-box yesterday. It appeared three different times from three different sources - all of them wanting comment and/or advice. I think the organisation in question is getting bogged down in legal wrangles. It is supposed to be there to help the communication impaired. It is international. It needs some rules and regulations. I suspect however that it is, in itself, communication impaired. I suppose I will have to look at it.
I'd rather be writing.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Anything that can go wrong....

yes, it will go wrong. The nice man was there at 7:45am. He was sitting in his van having a cigarette waiting so I gave him a wave. It did not stop him finishing the cigarette - but I did try. He comes in and soon hauls out some of the strips that are going to be glued to the floor. There is silence. Then I hear a few more strips being slapped around. Then there are mutterings and then, "Ay Cat come and take a load of this. I can't use it."
I arrive reluctantly at the doorway to the area he is supposed to be working on. He shows me. The strips are not straight. When they are placed together there are gaps as much as a cm in places. He does not need to explain. We stare in silence.
He hauls out his mobile 'phone. He rings his boss. His boss lives only a couple of corners away and has not yet left the house. He comes down to have a look. The three of us stare at it.
Dad finishes shaving and comes to see what the problem is. The four of us stare at it. The boss hauls out his mobile 'phone and rings Sydney. Send some more. Yes, we will send some of the faulty strips back to show you. He disappears. Dad goes off with his mate to his post-shoulder-op check up and then to do some boys' shopping (new woodwork clamps etc). I make the nice man a cup of tea and get back to some proof reading etc.
The nice man finishes preparing the rest of the floor and says he will return as soon as the strips arrive.
After they all go I remember that the colour we have chosen was the only colour 'on special'. I wonder if this is because Sydney knew that there was a problem?

Tuesday 5 May 2009

The nice man

who is laying the new floor says he will be here at 8a.m. This is not a problem for me as I am an early riser. I need to be an early riser because most of the people I work with live in other parts of the world. It would be better if I never went to bed. According to the world I should be available 24 hours a day. No, I am not getting Skype. If I did I could not even pretend to go to bed - or at least put my pyjamas on. Someone would be bound to want to show me something in the middle of the night. (Yes, we do have night like the rest of the world.)
I finished at just before 9pm last night and collapsed into bed trying to tell myself that I have not caught a cold from somewhere or other. This morning I still feel sniffly and snuffly but there is work to be done.
My sister 'phoned yesterday and then came to take Dad over to the saw-sharpening works and the garden place. They had lunch out. She looks like a panda bear at present as she has two black eyes - the result of an 'eyelid lift' for medical reasons. She says it does not hurt but it does look odd. I assume it will look better when the swelling goes down.
Dad will have lunch out again today. He is off with mate Neville - follow up visit to surgeon who did his shoulder and then 'boy stuff'. I get to stay at home and make cups of tea for the floor layer. I might even get some work done!

Monday 4 May 2009

I shifted books

and then I shifted more books - and more books. Do I really need three German dictionaries? There is the big one, the little one I can take with me, and the technical one....yes, I need three. Do I need the old Swahili one? It has notes scribbled throughout it. Then there is Irish dictionary - but I used that to provide an Irish speaking grandfather with his communication board and he told me that unrepeatable joke. I may need it again one day. I have never used the Scots Gaelic dictionaries (2 volumes) for writing a communication board but it is the tongue of my ancestors and I should know something about it.
I have Danish, Dutch, Russian, French, Chinese, Turkish, Xhosa and a few others. I shifted them.
Grammar, linguistics, atlases, history, more reference and then Leonardo's notebooks - still trying to find the time to read more of that - gardening reference (Dad), cookbooks - mmm might be able to give away the cake books my mother collected and never used....
Then there are other books. There are the joke books (Dad) and the riddle books we both keep for irritating the other children in our lives.
There are technical books - mostly woodwork and knitting - and the books on names I need as a reference because it is nice to know if you are talking to a male or a female although, even with the books, it is not always clear.
I gave up on books when the shelves were clear and moved everything else I could move out of the way. Then I gave up altogether. We had pumpkin soup and toast and watched the last episode of Michael Wood's "The Story of India". It was a different sort of history. The British do not cover themselves in glory (Australians don't either) but then Nehru and Gandhi don't either for all their 'non-violence' stance they were really keen on power for themselves.

Sunday 3 May 2009

There was a little note on the kitchen table

when I arrived home yesterday, "Amid all the other things you had on your mind you still found time to make me a nice lunch. THANKS LD"
It is nice to be appreciated but, much more than that, it makes me appreciate him. My father is so easy to look after really. He could be a fussy eater but he is not. He is still prepared to try something new. I admit he is getting a little bored with the Global Village repeats of the Flavours of France and the Flavours of Italy - after all I do not cook like that! - but he is still curious about food and he actually likes vegetables and fruit instead of regarding them as something that comes along with the protein.
There is no putting it off, having removed the thirteen garbage bags of yarn to the Handknitters' Guild yesterday, there is now room to move the books. It has to be done today. The man comes tomorrow. Why do we have so many books? I actually use these things!

Saturday 2 May 2009

The spider web

on the close line this morning was a work of art. It was still complete. There were raindrops on it. I did not want to destroy it but the washing had to be hung. I do not like spiders, particularly some of the very dangerous varieties we have in Australia, but I felt a little guilty at destroying all that work. It is frighteningly easy to destroy something. I wish spiders would create their works of arts in other places.
I need three books. The library, naturally, does not have them. They claim they cannot get them on inter-library loan athough I know they are in the Barr-Smith I cannot get into the Barr-Smith at present because of the railway upgrade. I am wondering if I have the energy to begin another battle under the Equal Opportunity legislation. I should be able to take the tricycle on the bus as well as the train.
And how in the heck am I expected to work properly without access to journal articles? Too much comes on line these days. The Barr-Smith has been marvellous about providing me with free access to the shelves but that does not include the on-line material I want to access.
Now if the government would only pay me for just the 877 hours I did for them last year I could subscribe to quite a few.

Friday 1 May 2009

I am feeling particularly cat like this morning.

I wanted to dive back under the blanket and put my paws over my nose. Yes, it was cool but that was not the reason.
I have to start thinking about shifting all the books again. The man is coming to replace our living area floor covering on Monday. This is my fault.
There has been carpet on the living area floor for all the time we have been in this house. I do not like it. My father does not like it. We both hate the vacuum cleaner. (It is heavy, noisy and not terribly efficient.)
We contemplated getting the carpet cleaned again. It would look dirty again within days. That was when I said, "I think we should give up on the carpet and get something else. It will be cheaper in the end. The carpet will not last another year."
So, now we are getting the industrial grade covering that you can barely tell from floor boards. This stuff is a nice pale honey colour. I am not sure how well it blends in with the family room floor covering. That's linoleum that looks like parquet flooring. What I do know is that we should have started out without carpet.
I know, carpet is warm but do we really need that in South Australia? I can put on the Ugg boots I inherited after my nephew grew out of them. I can swish my tail across the surface and it will leave me more time for writing. Other people may regret that.
Useless fact for the day $297 will buy approximately 207 tins of halfway decent cat food. I think I would rather have a cat than the outrageously priced 'how to' manual that Jane mentioned in her publishing blog. I have no doubt Jane would prefer the cat food too.