Tuesday 31 May 2011

It isa bread making morning

and I will say "making" rather than "baking" because we have a bread machine. It is, I suppose, a "kitchen gadget".
I own very few such things. Some time after my mother died I went through the kitchen cupboards and quietly removed a good many things that were never used. My father had (and still has) no idea what is in the kitchen cupboards.
The bread machine came to us after my mother's death. A friend has one and uses hers constantly. She found another one for us in a second hand shop. It looked virtually new, as if the previous owners had tried it and found it wanting. It was a $25 investment we have not regretted although it is a little extra work for me.
Put simply, my father likes what he considers to be "real bread". By this he means wholemeal or whole grain, preferably with the addition of something like sunflower seeds, pepitas, walnuts etc. He likes bread with some flavour and texture. I must admit I do as well.
We do not eat a lot of bread, certainly not the amount of bread that many people I know eat. One slice of our home made bread however can be as filling as several slices of shop bought white and ready sliced. It is also costs us less.
Occasionally I have experimented with other breads. I have made bread with tomato juice and olives. The recipe called for a certain type of sun-dried tomatoes which were not available but the olives made a good substitute. I have made a cheese bread - pleasant but not as cheesy as we had hoped. I have made another bread with olives and parsley and dried onion. I do not know what that tasted like. It disappeared before I had a chance to try.
I have made "bun bread" - bread with dried fruit and nuts in it. That needs an entirely differetn sort of flour.
I have also tried adding other flours in varying quantities to the basic mix. Rye is good. Barley produces a denser loaf but I rather liked it. Cornmeal adds a pleasing grainy texture. Oat flour produces another texture again.
And now I have recipes books to try yet more combinations and flavours. There are things I know I will almost certainly never try, such as a basic white loaf. There are other breads which sound good. I am considering making pumpkin bread and a cheese and onion bread.
My father has invited cousins to lunch on Saturday. The forecast is for cold, wet weather. Does freshly made bread and hot homemade soup sound like a good start to the conversation?

Monday 30 May 2011

Apparently Cate Blanchett,

Tim Winton and other notables appear in an advertising blitz in support of the government's proposed "carbon tax".
I am opposed to the tax, strongly opposed. At the same time I believe we should be doing much more to conserve the planet on which we live. No, the two things are not a contradiction.
Why? The carbon tax our Federal Government is hoping to get off the ground is not going to change our behaviour. We are not being asked to make changes to our lifestyle. Indeed, the government is planning on compensating individuals for the increased cost of living under a carbon tax. In other words it is a "tax the rich and pay the poor" proposal rather than anything to do with the environment.
The proposals will apparently cut our share of the world's emissions by less than one per cent but, so the government tells us, "it is important to lead by example" - if we are leading by example.
If the government had done something quite simple like require the big polluters to fund the replanting of forests I doubt there would have been a debate. It would be an excellent use of an additional tax. It is something that would have had enormous benefits for everyone. If they had also said to the rest of us "You need to change your lifestyle a little" then people may have felt they were actually contributing something. As it is we are not being asked to use less of the world's resources, indeed the "compensation" being offered will encourage people to continue as before. A government campaign to get people to leave the car at home and take public transport. walk or pedal to work might make more sense. A government campaign to encourage people to engage in leisure activities that do not depend on the use of a car might also help. Requirements to insulate our houses at our expense and not through a failed government scheme (which rewarded those who had not done the right thing) might also help.
My brother-in-law came yesterday. He spent the entire day cleaning our roof ready for the installation of solar panels. We debated long and hard over this. In the end we decided they will be an environmentally sound investment - just. We have taken into account the cost of making them, transporting them and installing them. My father may not see the benefit in his life time but someone else will continue to use them and they will eventually be a bonus to the environment.
And that, I think, may be the problem. The government wants to see a benefit in its lifetime. Assisted by Cate Blanchett, Tim Winton and others it is working towards re-election not restoring the environment.

Sunday 29 May 2011

There were nine of of us

yesterday. Until now the knitting group at the library has had seven or eight. It is about the right number for the tiny space which is made available.
We have half the meeting room. A book group has the other half. There is a concertina like "door/wall" between us.
There were four people at the bookgroup. When the knitter opposite me went into their half to make a cup of tea she reported that they were talking about their grandchildren rather than the book - and one of them was also knitting.
We can squeeze nine or perhaps ten into the space available. Two people are knitting "beanies" - one a complicated cabled affair, the other a quick-knit one for her husband. Two people are working on pullovers. Two more are working on socks. Like another member of the group I have taken my "small" project, fingerless gloves for a friend. I am half way through the first one.
Sitting next to me is someone about to start on a shawl. She needs to learn something new to her in order to cast on.
The knitter on her other side and I work between us. We tell and show her what to do. We get her to do it. Then we make her undo it and do it again. When she has done that she begins the rest of it. Like all knitting it grows rather slowly but the result has been a neat, invisible beginning. "Just the way I wanted it."
Later in the afternoon another technique is taught at the other end of the table and a discussion is carried on about the wisdom of doing one thing or the other. Someone goes out to the shelves and comes back with a book that illustrates her point.
As this is going on a male member of the library staff comes in to get something from the cupboard. He stops for a moment and watches our expert sock knitter.
"I don't know how you do that," he tells her. She offers a lesson and he just shakes his head. "I didn't know knitting was so complicated or that you had to learn such a lot."
Yes there is a lot to learn. The library is a good place for such learning. Libraries are about far more than books.

Saturday 28 May 2011

If you are not on Twitter

or Facebook you will have missed the wicked and timewasting "game" started by the Crabbit Old Bat (more kindly known as Nicola Morgan). It is called "less interesting books" and consists of people endeavouring to come up with twists on book titles such as "Lady Chatterly's Liver" and "Three men in a coat" or "Harry Potter and the Half Price Mince".
You need to know your books in order to participate and appreciate the fun. It could even become a book in itself - one of those small "gift-books" given as a birthday present to someone who has everything, including a sense of humour.
But, as I said, you need to know your books in order to appreciate the game. "Lord of the Files", with which Nicola began the game, is not funny unless you recognise "Lord of the Flies" within it.
This is all part of what is usually termed "cultural literacy"
Wikipedia defines "cultural literacy" as "the ability to converse fluently in the idioms, allusions, and informal content that creates and constitutes a dominant culture. From being familiar with street signs to knowing historical references to understanding the most recent slang, literacy demands interaction with the culture and reflection of it. Knowledge of a canonical set of literature is not sufficient in and of itself when engaging with others in a society, as life is interwoven with art, expression, history, and experience. Cultural literacy requires familiarity with a broad range of trivia and implies the use of that trivia in the creation of a communal language and collective knowledge. Cultural literacy stresses the knowledge of those pieces of information that content creators will assume the audience already possesses."
I read Hirsch's book on "cultural literacy" when it first came out. Although I did not agree with everything he said he raised some interesting ideas. Since its publication in 1987 however the world has changed dramatically. The internet is now used by millions and the amount of information available has increased dramatically.
I doubt my nephews would have any understanding of the "less interesting books" game. They would be quite unfamiliar with the books - apart from those which were required reading at school. They read but they do not read what I have read or what my father has read.
I sometimes find myself explaining things they do not know which "should" be part of their cultural heritage according to Hirsch and others. My father will look at them in amazement and say "hasn't anyone told you about that?" He will then explain. My nephews have gone on to explain that nobody else they are acquainted with seems to know about a certain reference to the Bible or Shakespeare or an event in history either. My father then asks "what do they teach in schools these days?" and discovers that small children are no longer taught the poems of AA Milne - although they might know the Disney version of Winnie-the-Pooh.
It makes my collection of children's books all the more valuable. I now have two great-nieces and they may yet help to preserve our culture by reading the books. With respect to these it is a matter of "Tried and Prejudiced".

Friday 27 May 2011

Australia's "Biggest Morning Tea"

is an annual event intended to raise money for cancer research. The idea is that individuals and groups host a morning tea and people pay something to participate.
My father and I were both invited to events yesterday. He went in one direction and I went in another.
I had to go to the bank first. It is quite a distance away and takes about thirty minutes of pedalling time. If I am lucky I time it just as the bank opens. Yesterday I was a couple of minutes early and there were two men waiting ahead of me. By the time the bank opened another five people had arrived. They all belong to the same ethnic group. They all know one another and they all talk among themselves in their mother tongue. I only know enough of the language to be able to say a polite greeting, please and thankyou. I am therefore, understandably, ignored.
As the bank doors opened however the official unlocking them made an announcement about "morning tea". They all surged ahead of me. Their eyes were on the table attractively laid out with cakes, biscuits, tea and coffee. They grabbed their tickets to be served and headed over to the table. Then, they had to pay? They stepped back. Heads were shaken.
I took a ticket after them and watched quietly. Not one of them was prepared to pay as much as a dollar to participate in the attractive display. They had missed their numbers being called to be served and began arguing about that as well.
My turn came. I know the girl who served me quite well. I was going to morning tea at a library when I left the bank. We chatted about this as she dealt with what I needed. As I was about to leave she said,
"Can you wait a moment?"
She went and spoke to the floor manager for the morning. He nodded. An entire Swiss Roll was wrapped and handed to me. I put it gently into my bag and took it off to the morning tea at the library where it helped to raise a good sum. Just before I wrote this I wrote a note for the bank staff. I want them to know their donation was appreciated.

Thursday 26 May 2011

There is an oval

in the centre of Adelaide. It is just across the River Torrens from the CBD - which makes it almost within the CBD.
It is almost adjacent to our main railway station and Adelaide's only tram line - which runs next to the railway station. Multiple buses pass by the gates of the oval and many other buses are within easy walking distance - and I mean easy.
I am judging all this on my capacity to access some of these things. Aside from the issue of crossing wide city roads even I could walk that distance given a little time and effort. Most people would find it no effort at all - except that apparently they do.
The Adelaide Oval is the home of the South Australian Cricket Association - SACA. Cricket, like Australian Rules Football, is almost sacred in South Australia. It is so important (to a minority of people) that the government is spending at least $535m on upgrading the facilities at the oval. This has been the subject of much controversy.
My own view has always been that, if you like this sort of thing, watching sport is entertainment and should be paid for by those attending. It is not something the taxpayer should subsidise. People who play sport "professionally" get paid well (even if only for a short playing career) and so do the many people who manage them, train them, run the tribunals and clubs etc. Taxpayer money should not contribute to this. It is a business. Apparently however I am wrong and the taxpayers of South Australia are going to foot the bill.
Now that the money for the oval redevelopment has been granted however there is a new controversy - that of carparking.
The Adelaide CBD is also surrounded by parklands. They were given to the people of South Australia in perpetuity when the state was founded and Colonel Light laid out what is now the CBD. The parklands are used for a variety of purposes. The southern parklands are, reluctantly, used to park cars for the week of the annual Royal Show. The northern parklands are different. There are lawns and memorial gardens. They are adjacent to several hospitals, the Anglican cathedral and several other places of worship. For many they are, in fine weather, a place to eat lunch, take a quiet stroll or sit in quiet contemplation. There is remarkably little vandalism.
The oval redevelopment has now raised the question of "where is everyone going to park?" Ah yes of course, on the parklands. We can put in a car park. The government can grant an 80 year lease to SACA and the football code which will now run the Oval. Several thousand cars can be parked on Friday evenings (at a cost) for a match that lasts a few hours. The rest of the time that area will be nothing more than a car park.
This move is being made out of a fear that people will not attend matches if they cannot come by car. It is almost certainly the reason that the other football venue in South Australia, Football Park, has failed. There were transport and parking problems there. The car park was not big enough. The venue was seen as "too difficult" to reach - despite some dedicated bus services.
Adelaide is a small city. Melbourne, one of the biggest cities on earth in terms of distances that need to be covered, manages to attract much larger crowds but it seems the people of South Australia cannot manage without their cars.
My father and I manage without a car. He stopped driving some years ago. I cannot drive a car. It is not always convenient but we manage. Yes of course we sometimes accept the offer of a ride but we make sure we offer something in exchange - garden produce, some other service the driver needs, petrol money for a longer distance. Other than that we travel by gopher/scooter or taxi (my father) or tricycle and train (me). We manage and we are both far less mobile than most people.
But it seems that sports fans are not able to manage and that the rest of us may lose our beloved parklands because of it.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Have you chosen your

Desert Island Discs yet? Yes? Right. (You might let me know. I will endeavour to get the supplies in.)
Now, please choose your Desert Island Books.
You may have eight books. Yes, I know it is going to be far more difficult than choosing eight pieces of music.
This is a serious business. You may have just eight books with which to spend the rest of your life. Are they going to be reference or fiction or a mix?
Mmm...is it cheating if I ask for a full version of the Oxford English Dictionary? Please let me know.
Looking around at all the books I have here this would be a very, very difficult decision to make.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Desert Island Discs has been

on BBC radio since 1942. I used to hear it occasionally when I was living in London and I doubt if the tried and proven format has changed much. It consists of an interview with a "castaway" who must choose eight pieces of music to take with them. From memory I believe they were also allowed to choose a "luxury" item. Naturally the castaways are people who are, for some reason, noteworthy.
The discs they choose are noteworthy too. I remember them interviewing PL Travers, author of Mary Poppins, she chose no music at all. All her discs were the spoken word. However most people choose eight pieces of music and it is those choices I find interesting. The BBC Press Office recently released a list of the most popular and it makes very interesting reading indeed.
Top of the list is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. (If you are not a classical music afficionado this is the one in DMinor which ends with the choral movement. It is possibly one of the most powerful pieces of music ever written.) Yes, I might choose that.
The second most popular choice was the Piano Concerto no 2 in CMinor by Rachmaninoff. I know it but I would not choose it. Nor would I choose Schubert's String Quintet in CMajor, the third most popular choice.
Beethoven appears again on the list in fourth place - the Symphony no 6 in FMajor ("Pastoral") and then Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" march. Then yes, Beethoven again - this time the 5th Piano Concerto, more Elgar in the form of the Enigma Variations and, lastly, Beethoven's Symphony no 7 in A major.
While the most popular composer overall is Mozart, Beethoven and Bach come second and third (followed by Schubert, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Elgar and Puccini). I wonder where Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi come? I suspect it may be not too far down the page. Of the eight non-classical pieces most frequently chosen John Lennon's "Imagine" comes in at number eight. It is by far the most modern of the pieces chosen, perhaps reflecting the age of the castaways chosen.
I wonder though if it might be more than that? Beethoven appears four times in the most popular eight. Yes, I suppose this could be dismissed as "well these are the pieces people know the best" but I would have thought certain pieces of Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi were better known.
What would you choose? I will give my choices some thought but please tell me yours. You may have eight - oh and the luxury item?

Monday 23 May 2011

I have been dealing with

legal matters. My father's brother is no longer considered competent to handle his own affairs and various powers have now "kicked in" or are being used to a greater extent.
There is an Enduring Power of Attorney, a Limited Power of Attorney, a Medical Power of Attorney and an Enduring Power of Guardianship.
My uncle is legally blind so a Limited Power of Attorney has long been granted to a very close friend. He pays the day-to-day bills with scrupulous honesty. My uncle's good fortune in having such a friend cannot be underestimated. His friend has access to two bank accounts, each for a different purpose. He has been paying the utitility bills, insurance etc. He insists on sending copies of all the paperwork to my cousin. We have no concerns about that.
The Medical Power of Attorney allows my cousin to make decisions specifically about medical matters. My sister and I had the same power for our mother and we also have it for our father. The MPA allows us to act in accordance with the wishes of our parents if/when they cannot make those decisions.
The Enduring Power of Attorney allows my cousin and my father to handle my uncle's other financial affairs. They can, if it is considered necessary, even sell his home in order to provide the money for him to enter a nursing home. They can dispose of his assets for his benefit and do any number of other things - as long as they are for the benefit of my uncle. My sister and I have the same power for my father. We would not however make a major decision without also consulting my brother. He lives a long distance away and felt it was unwise for him to be formally included.
My cousin lives in London and insisted on my father being included because, while older than his brother, he enjoys better health and he is more immediately available. I am, at the request of my cousin, there in the background to advise my father if my cousin is not available.
The Enduring Power of Guardianship has allowed those things to continue despite my uncle being declared incompetent. It covers other matters as well. My cousin must now be consulted instead of my uncle's ramblings being taken as his wishes. Without this power he would have been able to go home without any support services.
All these things are important. They are simple enough documents but there are complex powers involved. They all involve a degree of responsibility that makes my father anxious.
I would prefer not to have the responsibilities at all but I know that someone may one day have to take on the same responsibilities for me. We all need someone to take responsibility for us in the event of our unwanted incompetence.

Sunday 22 May 2011

There are jelly beans and then

there are jelly beans. Real jelly beans have to be the proper size, shape and consistency. Real jelly beans will actually have flavour, not just sugary sweetness. A packet of real jelly beans will have the proper number of black jelly beans.
I am actually not particularly fond of jelly beans but author Susan Hill happened to mention them on Twitter and I was reminded of black jelly beans. It is rather a long time since I ate one.
My sweets consumption as a child was strictly limited. I doubt this had much to do with any belief on my mother's part that children should not consume sweets. It would have been more to do with the fact that there was a very limited amount of money to spend on such things.
Very occasionally there would be a square of a rock hard pink concoction similar to "conversation" sweets. The square would take all of the penny I had been given to spend but it took hours, sometimes several days, to consume if you just licked and sucked slowly. My mother would wrap it in a tiny square of waxed lunch wrap when I had decided that I had eaten enough that day.
Once a year there were Easter eggs made out of a similar sort of sugary concoction - or a chocolate one from cheap, waxy chocolate I did not particularly like but dutifully consumed. These would be given to me and my siblings by my maternal grandmother but we were expected to offer her a similar quantity in return. Somehow it took the pleasure out of getting them as we had to buy them from our own very limited supply of pocket money.
My paternal grandmother ignored the commercial offerings. She would provide boiled eggs with faces drawn on them and marshmallow eggs she had made herself. Then, with a fine understanding of the need to have something that lasted as well, she would make toffee-covered apples or almond studded toffee set in small patty-pans.
Just once I can remember my mother making something she called "Russian toffee". I think it was a sort of caramel made with condensed milk. Why she made it I do not know.
When I began secondary school we had moved to a school big enough to have a "house" system. On the day of the school sports I, as a non participant in the events, would be given the job of running the sweets stall that our house always had. The sweets had to be home made of course.
There were toffee apples, toffees, marshmallow in square ice-cream cones, caramels, rocky-road and other delights. There were never any jelly beans.
My mother never had time to make any of these things and it was considered far too dangerous to allow us to do it so my paternal grandmother would always provide a suitable contribution. She would send it, carefully packed in a box, on the bus that came through the small town each day.
All the local children (some of them very old children indeed) would wait for her toffee apples, butterscotch and apricot bars and, of course, toffee in patty pans sprinkled with "hundreds and thousands". As the person in charge of the stall I would always put away one toffee for me and each of my siblings - paid for out of the shilling I had been given to spend.
Aside from that we rarely had sweets. I can still remember my surprise, at age ten, when I saw an adult buy a Kit-Kat. Until then I do not think I had actually seen an adult buy sweets.
There was one exception to all this. I knew my paternal grandfather must buy sweets. He would buy "Scotch mints" for my grandmother and clove flavoured Life-Savers for himself. He would also buy peppermint Life-Savers for me and my brother. We would sit on either side of him in church on Sunday and, devout man though he was, he would surreptitiously feed each of us a single peppermint Life-Saver at the beginning of the sermon. If we sucked slowly enough it would last right through the sermon until, with final tiny crunch, we would be ready to sing the last hymn.
Jelly beans may be good when of the proper chewy consistency but not even black jelly beans can equate to the joy of my grandmother's toffee apples or those illicit peppermint Life-Savers on Sundays.

Saturday 21 May 2011

What makes us ourselves

and what happens when something happens to change what we are?
I am not going to try and answer those questions. They are much too big - but I have been wondering about them.
I have been wondering because someone I know (if only virtually), like and respect has been struggling with those questions too. She was involved in a road accident and her appearance changed. As a result she does not like having her photograph taken. I can understand that - and saying to her that she should not mind the way she now looks is a bit like telling someone with depression that they should "just get over it". Life does not work like that.
A change in appearance is not merely a physical thing. It is also a psychological thing. It can change our perception of who and what we are.
There is a cranio-facial surgeon I know of who has a reputation for prima-donna like behaviour in the operating theatre. Most people will forgive him any amount of such behaviour because he does the sort of surgery that can give people with the severest of deformities "a face", something they can live with and that those around them will accept. Despite his prima-donna like behaviour in the operating theatre his patients speak highly of him and so do those who observe him with his patients. He understands he is changing more than their appearance and that change, even if desperately wanted, can be frightening. It is changing who they are inside as well as out.
My late friend Margaret used to make socks for this man. She was one of the few people who was not in awe of him. It was more likely that he was in awe of her. She understood his fear of changing people on the inside as well as the outside. He controls that fear and turns it to courage and it is what makes him a good doctor. It allows him to help his patients face the same problem with the same courage but that will not necessarily mean they want to have their photographs taken.
I do not like having my photograph taken either. My avatar is a picture of the back view of a cat sitting on a pile of books. A psychiatrist would probably have a field day with the image but I feel comfortable with it. I would not feel comfortable putting my photograph up on the internet for everyone to see. I am that cat sitting on the pile of books. A photograph would present an entirely different picture of me.
For many people there will always be a gap between who they are on the inside and what they look like on the outside. We need to respect the inside person.

Friday 20 May 2011

Exploding watermelons

sound more like something out of science fiction than real life but apparently watermelons are exploding in China. The cause has been put down to the overuse of a chemical designed to increase the growth rate of the watermelons.
I am waiting for my father to read the same article in the paper and for him then to repeat his demand that I do not buy food which is sourced from China. He has been to China and seen for himself how food is grown there.
I have another friend who went to teach at the university in Kunming. The university there trains medical students. Knowing something about nutrition would seem a necessity but she found the students were being fed on a diet of rice, cabbage and fish from the local lake. Other vegetables appeared in small quantities. She ate the fish until she realised that raw sewage was flowing into the lake in which the fish were caught. There was very little she could do about the vegetables or the rice but she was aware that the way in which they were grown left much to be desired by our standards.
China has since had the infamous "melamine in milk" episode and other cases of poisoning arising directly out of food production rather than food preparation. Corruption may be part of the problem but another part of the problem is the need to feed a vast population while also exporting the best of what they grow to the rest of the world. The best of what they grow however does not match the best of what we grow in Australia or what we could grow in Australia.
Although it is almost winter here my father still has pumpkin, shallots, lettuce, capsicum and other things growing. The fruit on the grapefruit tree is ripening although the cumquats are still very green. He has planted winter peas, spinach and broad beans.
Yesterday my father brought in a small container half-filled with what must surely be almost the last of our cherry tomatoes. The plants have been producing fruit since mid-January. Our water consumption is on the low side for two people.
Yes, it all takes time and thought but my father is still happy to give both - and there are no exploding watermelons.

Thursday 19 May 2011

There is a curious article

on the front page of today's paper about increased fines for "defected" cars. Police will now have much greater powers to hand out fines for minor defects. By minor I mean something like a blown globe in the brake lights.
What once incurred a $26 fee (and often just advice that the globe had gone) will now incur a fine of $120. It is, of course, a revenue raising measure. Of course the government also denies this although they admit to expecting to gain an extra $7.6m over three years.
My tricycle does not have lights, just the legally required reflectors. I do not ride at night. I also have the required brakes and bell. The tyres are in good order. I am not sure what the police could find wrong but I am sure that, if the government tries hard enough, they will eventually find something they can "defect" on my tricycle as well. No doubt they will also find fault with my father's gopher and a host of other things. It will help raise money to fill the coffers of our now bankrupt state.
Yes, all these things are revenue raising measures - but they are something else as well. They increase the control that others have over us. Our laws are becoming increasingly complex and increasingly refined. The answer to almost any "problem" now seems to be "a piece of legislation" within which there are "penalties" designed to shape our behaviour.
It seems to me what is now happening is that, rather than take increased responsibility for our own behaviour, we are required to take less responsibility. We are increasingly doing what we are told to do and in the way we are told to do it. The potential financial penalties will guide behaviour rather than an understanding of what is right or wrong or responsible.
This may be good for those who seek to govern us but I am not sure it is good for us. Let me just go and check the tyres on my tricycle.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

There have been some curious court

proceedings lately. I am not one for conspiracy theories but the media is hinting at one in the highly publicised cases of the death of a certain terrorist and the arrest of the head of a certain financial organisation.
Locally we have another curious case in front of the media - the alleged assault of the state's former treasurer. There are claims of evidence being "redacted" or revised and edited and the Premier's own security staff being involved in the investigation. The former treasurer is now the Police Minister. He has not stepped aside during the case. Yesterday he held a press conference in the middle of the proceedings claiming that his "good name" was being held to question. That is, of course, partly what court proceedings are about.
In my own family we have another curious case at present. Many years ago my uncle, an artist, designed and built his own home. It was, at the time, a very unusual house. It caused a lot of interest in the art community and beyond. In order to build it he first built a model from balsa wood. When the house was almost finished and the model was no longer needed he gave it to my then very young brother. My brother accidentally sat on it and ruined it. My father and I were discussing this with my cousin who is too young to remember this happening.
When my brother made his weekly telephone call my father reminded him of this. My brother's reaction was curious. He claimed he had not sat on the house. He claimed he had pulled it to pieces in order to use the balsa wood for another model. Nothing is going to convince him otherwise and there is nobody else left who can say what happened. There will forever be two different versions of the story.
My mother kept a daily diary. Most of it is of very little interest but there were times of crisis when she kept her version of events in the exercise books she used. She also wrote an exercise book with her life story. At the point where she begins to talk about events I can clearly remember it is clear that her memory of them was quite different from mine - and that of my siblings. If someone had to rely on that document it would not give an accurate or complete picture. That document is a court of sorts, just as this blog sometimes is.
What is told in court is rarely the truth. It may often be what people believe is the truth - and it can be outright lies if someone is seeking to see justice done or someone else is seeking to evade justice. Even then people can convince themselves it is the truth.
People will remember what they want to remember and in the way they want to remember it. I try to be accurate and not to judge. I doubt if I always succeed.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

I was turned down by

yet another agent.
My precious manuscript has now been very positively rejected by one publisher. It was not for them but they thought I should try elsewhere and even suggested where I should look.
It was rejected by an agent who actually said my writing "has merits" but it was not for her. Now would she say that and thus encourage me to bother her fellow agents if she did not mean it? I hope not. It would be unfair to her fellow agents.
I tried another agency because a very elderly acquaintance has been with them for years. He thought they "might" be prepared to contemplate taking on an Australian. Hmmm....apparently not.
I have it with one more agent now. Today I must find time to put together another carefully crafted letter to another agent. No, I am not going to give up.
I am not going to give up for a very good reason. An adult who grew up not reading children's books, apart from some "classics" read the entire thing. It was a totally new experience for her. Her father had a vast second-hand book business. He considered himself a literary academic. He did not encourage his children to read many children's books. They were given "the classics" instead. She has read vast quantities of what is usually considered to be literature. I think curiosity drove her to ask me if she could see what I had written. I did not think she would actually read the entire thing so I let her have the first three chapters. She asked to see the rest and then told me, "I enjoyed it."
I think that meant more to me than others who have enthused over the first three chapters. They all know at least something about children's books. She knew nothing and her own reading choices are normally very different. They tend to be literary and academic. My writing is neither. Does that suggest there is something I am doing right? I hope so.
But, I am worried. The story I have written is set in Australia and France. The problem is that I have "reversed" the usually accepted flow. The children should, I suspect, migrate from France to Australia rather than from Australia to France. I cannot help that. It is based on something that actually happened. I have to paddle against the tide with nothing more than my paws.
It is time to once again dip a paw into the cold, rough waters of the Sea of Agents and hope to catch one.

Monday 16 May 2011

When my parents began

their teaching careers they could be sent anywhere in the state. This might mean a nice metropolitan school, a school in a large or small country town, or a school in a remote area.
My father's first school was in fact Oodnadatta. It is a long way north of here. He was the only teacher. There was no accommodation for the teacher so my father lived at "the pub". It was hardly ideal, especially for a teetotaller.
His next appointment was to another one teacher school and he was required to board with a family. He shared a room with one of his students. They put up a curtain of hessian bags between my father and the eleven year old boy in order to give both of them some privacy. Two years later my father was, once again, transferred to a small country town. He boarded there too, sharing a room with another young teacher until he married my mother. (Her experiences had included one metropolitan school and a two teacher country school. ) Following that my parents had rental accommodation belonging to the Education Department and, for the short time we were in the metropolitan area, other rental accommodation. That continued until my parents were finally posted to as principals to large metropolitan schools. By then they had both been teaching for more than thirty years and there was still the possibility they would once again be moved on to somewhere else in the state. It was much less likely and my father could have appealed the decision but the possibility remained. We children had, naturally, to go where our parents were sent too.
Over the years my parents paid the Education Department a set rental for housing they were required to live in. They also paid considerably more for food, transport and power. All these things are more expensive in rural areas. There was no chance of buying a house and paying off a mortgage. They accepted it because it was what you did if you wanted a job. It was the way the Education Department worked. They were, provided they did not do anything drastically stupid or criminal, guaranteed a job for life.
Teachers are no longer guaranteed a job for life but the Education Department still demands they accept an appointment anywhere. Until recently there was also a "ten year rule" meaning that a teacher could not stay in any one school for more than ten years. It did not affect many teachers but it did affect some. There was also a requirement that all teachers did some country service. On the surface it sounds only fair that everyone should spend a couple of years working in rural areas but some people resigned and went into the private sector rather than leave their newly wed spouses or older partners who had other jobs or their children who were settled in schools. The scheme was eventually abandoned in favour of offering other benefits.
Now they made need to offer even more. Rural areas of the state are being hit by price rises that exceed even those in the city. Our last electricity bill showed a 28% increase in price for almost precisely the same amount of electricity consumption. Our water bill showed a similar increase for using considerably less water. Some rural areas are even worse off however. This year there will, in some areas, be a 50% increase in power bills and next year there will be another 50% increase. Petrol is already far higher than it is in the city and food prices are also far higher. Add expensive accommodation to that and some people feel that they simply cannot afford to go to rural areas. Other people are moving away from them.
Now there is a fear that tourists will not visit those areas either. That will affect all of us. Oodnadatta is now a stop on the tourist route north to Darwin, not a cattle mustering point. Some people will always choose to live in such areas. The lifestyle suits them. Others will go there because they must. They will be there because they are supplying essential services. Now however people are not only much more aware of the financial disadvantages but less prepared to accept them.
Other states have a system whereby power prices are equalised across the state. South Australia does not. Perhaps it is time that changed.

Sunday 15 May 2011

The "Eurovision" song contest

is being played out as I write this. Twitter is full of "#eurovision" hashtags, even from people I thought would have no great interest in the outcome.
I have absolutely no idea what it is all about apart from the fact that it is some sort of modern song contest. I really am not interested either. Perhaps it is time to make a confession. I do not, on the whole, like modern popular "music". My nephews despair of me - although even their tastes do not extend to "heavy metal" and the like.
I hear snippets of these noises all the time. I hear them in shops. I hear them as I pass houses. I hear the heavy bass beat emanating from MP3 players and whatever else the young use to listen to a constant stream of sound.
Our neighbour "over the back fence" is a builder. He is currently adding an extension to his house. The radio is on almost constantly. It has to be on loudly so he can hear above the noise he makes while he works. I will be very glad when he has finished his extension.
I have never been to a rock concert. I do not want to go to one. The closest I have come to any popular or modern live entertainment is going to hear Nana Mouskouri because someone had a spare ticket. I have also seen von Karajan perform - and yes, it was a performance. The man had a fine sense of the theatrical. There were a handful of other memorable concerts in London but that is all.
My nephews laugh at me. They perform as a duo. They have had gigs and have even produced a couple of singles. They have had music, singing and acting lessons. I am certain this must help - or does it?
I suspect that the thing that helps many of these "performers" the most is an enormous sense of self-confidence. It is surely this rather than any "musicality" which marks them out - or is my musical education just sadly lacking?

Saturday 14 May 2011

We were at the airport

yesterday morning because my only first cousin was going back to London after a fortnight here. He came over to try and sort out some issues with his elderly father, my father's brother. It has not been a holiday for him. He has left his father in hospital, waiting to go into a nursing home. His uncle, my father, is three years older but in better health and that has made the situation more difficult for everyone.
I had not, much to my frustration, been to the airport in over twenty years. The opportunity for travel has not been there. Now there is a new terminal. There are flights all over Australia. There are more international flights - to Auckland, to Singapore, to Hong Kong and to other places. The planes seem much the same to me. My cousin was flying out on a young craft that has only been in service a couple of years. The close family friend who was there with us knows about these things. He had looked it up. He knew the registration number of the plane and all the intimate details about it.
I am not particularly interested in those things. All I would ask of an aircraft and those in the cockpit is that I get there safely. Despite that I do appreciate there is something extraordinary about the way those enormous things take off and land. My father loves to watch them.
He also likes watching the people and so do I. Who are they? Where are they going? Where have they been? Why?
There are people eating breakfast in the cafe area where we have coffee while we wait for boarding on my cousin's flight to be announced. Some of them look relaxed, others look tense and anxious. As flights are called there are last minute hugs and handshakes, only a few people go without farewelling anyone. I wonder who they are, why they were here and where they are going too.
At last my cousin's flight is called. There are hugs and handshakes. He turns to go and then looks back again. We will not see him again for some time. The next time he comes his father will almost certainly not be here. Airports are more about departures than homecomings.

Thursday 12 May 2011

The dentist and I were discussing crime

fiction yesterday. We have discussed books before - as much as it is possible to discuss anything when you have a mouth full of someone else's fingers. It made an interesting change from the weather, my journey there or some other equally inane topic. I rather like my dentist as a person even though I am less fond of her ministrations.
Our dental practice is part of our health fund. It is much cheaper to attend the practice than it is to go elsewhere so my father and I make the trip into the CBD at regular intervals. There are several female dentists in the practice. I have no doubt this is because they can, if necessary, work part-time. The administration of the practice is in the hands of the health fund. They can concentrate on being a dentist and not on such things as problems with the premises in which they work or the great load of non-dental related paperwork.
Our medical practice now works much the same way. This is almost certainly another good thing. It gives doctors a couple of extra minutes to concentrate on the needs of the patient.
Schools are starting to work the same way. The legal profession has done this for years. I have no doubt that other professions are also banding together to do the same sort of thing.
But all this also makes me wonder about the vast amounts of information that seem to be needed for everyone to do their job.
I suspect life was once much simpler. You were asked (or told) to do something. You did it. Depending on your status you negotiated payment or you were paid a set sum or you received your food ration.
Records will be kept of my visit yesterday. There will be records of when the reminder card was mailed out, of when I made the appointment and who made it. My train journey in and out of the city will be recorded. Cameras will have recorded my journey up North Terrace and into Gawler place. My journey in the lift to the seventh floor will have been recorded. My time of arrival will have been recorded at the desk. My previous records will have been accessed. The dentist will have recorded her examination, added the new x-rays and noted when she wants to see me again. All this is once again recorded in the files and added to the statistics kept by the health fund, including the fact that a receipt was issued when I paid.
No doubt records were kept of things I have not even thought of. Even without that the amount of record keeping seems extraordinary.
I wonder whether all this record keeping is not also a crime. Is there a book plot somewhere in all of this?

Wednesday 11 May 2011

The boy at the checkout

gently prodded the small Lebanese cucumbers and asked me warily, "What are they?"
"Cucumbers," I tell him and then, because he still looks doubtful I add, "Lebanese cucumbers."
"Oh, I don't eat that sort of stuff."
That is fairly obvious.
"My Mum just gets frozen stuff."
Right. Frozen "stuff" is labelled. It probably comes from China. My father refuses to have it in the house. He does not trust Chinese food production standards.
I am of the opinion that fresh is best and that it is better to buy those things in season if you can afford it. I would prefer to go without other things and eat modestly but well. I do not look to buy cherries in the middle of winter or mandarins in the middle of summer.
Our greengrocer will stock some out of season items but he has a firm rule that, wherever possible, he buys locally and then within Australia. Anything that comes from overseas comes as a last resort. Garlic is one example. Australia does not grow a lot of garlic. It is a common ingredient in Australian cuisine. Out of season our greengrocer will source it from Mexico.
I normally buy from the greengrocer as well but the Lebanese cucumbers were labelled "produce of Australia" and I had to hope the label was honest.
But I wondered about the boy at the checkout. If he does not know what a commonly used cucumber is what does he eat? It is not the first time I have come across such difficulties.
The supermarket staff have, more than once, not known what a fairly common vegetable is. Brussels sprouts? Parsnip? Aubergine? Cauliflower? As for the different varieties of potato or pumpkin or tomato I have heard them ask the customer what they are. Yes, they have a lot to learn about the stock but these are vegetables most people eat on a regular basis.
The greengrocer is a big and very busy place. There are several boys who work there as well as a number of girls and older women. They all know the stock. They know the difference between the four main varieties of pumpkin and they can tell you what sort of potatoes to use for mashing, salad or chipping. They know one variety of apple from another. The greengrocer has seen to that. I suspect the staff eat their vegetables too.
It makes life much easier for the customers.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Tonight is Budget Night

and we have, as always, been warned to prepare for a "very tight" or even "horror" budget. This time the predictions may be a little more accurate than usual. The government has been wasting money, especially on things like the home insulation scheme, asylum seeker policies that do not work, a national broadband network that will not actually do the job and now a clothing allowance for parents to buy school uniforms and "set top boxes" for the elderly so that they can continue to watch television after the signal switches to digital.
I know, I lack compassion. I believe that it is up to people to insulate their own homes, indeed I think it should be a requirement in all new homes or before houses are sold. I support the idea of "temporary protection visas" for asylum seekers. I know it does not give people certainty in their lives but my experience is that genuine asylum seekers still hope to go "home" one day. If you want to migrate to Australia then go through the usual channels. I like the idea of an ethnically diverse community but please leave your racial and religious prejudices and your extreme cultural practices (such as female genital mutilation) behind. All that will save money which can be spent on helping all Australians live together.
I see no point in a national broadband network that covers only part of the country just so some people can watch movies on their computer screens. (Yes, that is oversimplifying it but the principle remains the same.)
You have to clothe your children and school uniforms now seem to consist of fairly standard skirts, shorts or trousers and tops and sweatshirts that are no more expensive (and sometimes cheaper) than the name brand clothes kids dress in at weekends.
Buying "set top boxes" for ageing television sets will do little to help elderly pensioners. Many will not need one as they switched to a new television set some time ago. Those who do may well find the box confusing to use, give up and buy a new television set. The boxes supplied will undoubtedly be of the cheapest variety and there have been numerous problems getting them to work properly.
Right. I have dealt with all that. With the money which could be saved I would suggest half of it should be spent on libraries and library services. This will actually save money in the future, especially in the area of mental health. The other half should be spent on setting up art and craft schools, especially for those who would rather do than read. Handyman/woman skills and gardening can be taught alongside these. This will also save money, especially with respect to the removal of graffiti and ongoing repairs from vandalism and the policing of such things. I know it will not stop these things altogether but it will reduce them in coming years.
It is nice to dream about these things and I know there are all sorts of reasons as to why it will never happen. But, what if it did?

Monday 9 May 2011

There is a national testing

programme for Australian schools. Children are tested at the end of year 3, 5 and 7 in areas such as mathematics and language.
The testing programme has been the cause of much controversy, as has the My School site which displays the results of individual schools (but not individual pupils). The tests are undoubtedly expensive to conduct and I am yet to be convinced of their value, especially as teachers are now under pressure to get their students to perform well in the tests rather than perform well.
The tests are also new enough that items get changed and added. The latest proposal is to add the requirement for a piece of "persuasive" writing for year 3 students. Effectively this appears to mean that eight and nine year olds will be given forty minutes to come up with an argument about a specific topic and write it down. It is also the cause of some controversy.
Some are arguing that this is something that even adults would find difficult to do. I am inclined to agree. A few are saying they welcome the challenge of getting children to do this. I wonder whether they can.
I may be wrong but I think there is something that needs to come before anyone can write persuasively. I think you need to be able to read with comprehension and analyse the material you have read. You need to be able to understand not just what is being said but how it is being said.
The eight and nine year olds I know and have known are still developing their reading comprehension skills. The best readers do read with comprehension but they are, in my experience, still a long way from understanding everything they read and even further from understanding how something is written. Writing something of a persuasive nature is even more difficult.
I would rather see children of this age being given more opportunities to learn to read with comprehension and more opportunities to write imaginatively. Perhaps I am wrong but I believe that those skills will eventually allow them to develop persuasive writing skills.
What is more likely to happen now is that children will learn to parrot arguments presented to them by adults. Their "persuasive" skills will not be anything of the sort. Instead of encouraging children to critically analyse material and think for themselves they will be taught to regurgitate the arguments of others for the sake of passing a test.
Each year in law school I was involved in something called "the Jessop Moot" - a major debating competition. Students were given a problem in international law to research and then debate. I was never one of those who had to get up and speak but I participated in other ways. I also listened to the final debates. The team that won each year would be the team which had come up with something different and more persuasive than the other teams. The teams were composed of final year students and it still took them weeks of preparation. Even at that level there were still problems in critically analysing the material and thinking for themselves - and many of those participating would be the first to admit it.
Asking young children to do this without a strong grasp of the most basic skills may have entirely the opposite effect to the one intended. It may just allow them to be more rather than less easily influenced by others.
I may be wrong. I hope I am.

Sunday 8 May 2011

I have been thinking about

fences. I was pedalling along minding my own business yesterday when I had to jam the brakes on hard in order to avoid a collision with a car. The car suddenly appeared, nose first, out of a driveway which was hidden behind an unfriendly fence.
I am sure you know the sort of fence I mean. This one was brush and at least twice my height.
I am not tall (5ft and half an inch if you must know) but that still made the fence high.
Now I tend to move carefully, very carefully past openings in fences. You never know what might be coming out. There are unfriendly cars, friendlier small children, frantic mothers and frail elderly people among others. I treat all of them as potential objects for collision. I have no desire to do any of them harm, not even the cars. It is much more likely of course that the car will do harm to me.
If I had been anything other than cautious about such things I may not be here now. I doubt the driver was even aware of my presence. The car left in too much of a hurry for that.
It left me a little shaken and thinking about fences. Fences seem to have grown in recent years. I understand the wisdom of a high, noise reducing fence if you live on a busy road but do you really need that sort of fence on a quiet suburban street?
There are hedges which are now metres high. There are brush fences almost as high as the hedges. There are "colourbond" fences which invite graffiti. All of them are impossible to see past. There are other, slightly lower fences, which are still impossible to see past because of gardens deliberately designed to block any view from the street - and probably to the street as well.
There are fences around here which resemble the security of Fort Knox or the Perth Mint. Visitors need to ring a bell at the gate in order to gain access to the front door of an ordinary suburban house. Meter readers are asked to make appointments to gain access to these suburban mansions of importance. There are alarm systems and warnings on the gate about fierce dogs.
Our house has a knee high brick fence. Most people could swing a leg over the gate. Next door's dog visits on rare occasions. The neighbourhood cats prefer our yards to theirs. (We are home most of the day and they can garden with my father.) We discourage canvassers with a polite message at the door but welcome friends. We know everyone who lives in our short street and they all know us and one another. There are no impenetrable fences.
I wonder about the houses with high, impenetrable fences. Perhaps they have been burgled multiple times or perhaps they really are guarding great riches. I rather doubt it. I suspect the people who live in them are part of the great suburban loneliness.
Fences keep people out and they keep people in.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Those of you who have been reading

my words of (non) wisdom for some time will be aware I like to read books intended largely for children. I also have a reasonable library of older books for children, books that no longer grace the shelves of our local library.
Now I completely understand why those books no longer grace the shelves of our local library. There is no space for them. The old copies would be falling to pieces. They are out of print. Those titles cannot be replaced. Space is needed for new authors.
I agree with all those things. I do not agree with "Kids don't want to read that sort of stuff any more." They do. My collection is used like another library.
I agree writing style has changed. What was written in 19th C sounds different. What was written in the 20th C often sounds different too. Language changes. What does not change is the need for a good story. Children need to lose themselves in a book as much as adults do.
Someone left an anonymous message on this blog yesterday and suggested that there is a gap between what people want to read and what publishers believe they want to read. It is a good point but at least adults can choose what they read and whether they read it.
I no longer read books people thrust in front of me and tell me I "should" or "must" read - unless I decide I want to read it. The result is there are a lot of modern novels I have not read. This may not be a good thing, especially for a writer, but life is too short and there are a lot of things I do want to read in the limited time I have available.
For a child however it is even more difficult. Their potential reading experiences are filtered and refiltered by writers, agents, publishers, parents, teachers, psychologists, librarians and other adults. They are presented with things they "must" or "should" read and "will" (or else) enjoy. What many children are left with is a highly refined choice of reading matter which is not of their own choosing. Reading is seen to be a means of educating the child. It is merely good fortune if it also entertains the child. There is a gap between what the child needs and wants and what adults believe they should have.
Somewhere I think we need a balance. We have to allow children to make at least some mistakes or some choices of their own.

Friday 6 May 2011

I am agent hunting

at present. No, we are not going to sell the house. I am looking for an agent for a book I have written.
I have written other books. They languish in "the bottom drawer" of my computer files. There are a number of reasons for this. I will not go into them here except to say that some of them may yet get dusted off and looked at. It will all depend on whether I get an agent.
Last year one major publishing company asked for synopses by e-mail. I hesitated and then sent mine but heard nothing.
This year a much smaller but reputable company here in Australia asking for synopses and the first three chapters. I duly revised the synopsis to their specifications and sent it and the first three chapters away. They returned them recently saying it was not for them but with the suggestion that I should try elsewhere.
I was not surprised that the book was not for them. It has been a long time since they published a serious middle grade book. These days they go for the lightweight, shorter book. Do not mistake me. The writing is good but the books are aimed at restless readers.
In the meantime I had been thinking about agents. It is, I believe, almost as hard to get a reputable agent as it is to get published. At the same time most reputable publishing companies will not look at unsolicited manuscripts. I have researched this matter in depth. I understand the reasons for it.
The most successful agents often say they are not taking on any new clients. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that they wish to do the best they can for their current authors. I understand that too and I would not wish them to do less than their best.
So, where does it leave me? I am slowly and cautiously making approaches to possible agents. I am trying to find out what sort of people they are and who their clients are. It is sometimes surprisingly difficult. Sometimes I look at lists of authors and I do not know their work. Their books are not in our local library. How can I tell what the agent likes if I cannot read the author's work.
A bad agent may be worse than no agent at all. A bad publishing deal may be worse than no publishing deal at all. I keep reminding myself that.
One agent has just got back to me. The book is not for her but my story has merits. She also suggests I try elsewhere. I do not know what to read into this. Is my writing not quite good enough or is really just not something she wants to handle? Should I really try elsewhere? Perhaps. It is difficult.
I have submitted to just one other agent at the present time. I am preparing to try a third. I have been told I should dive bomb all agents at the same time. I have also been told I should tread slowly and carefully and try at most two agents at a time.
This whole business puzzles me and frustrates me. I do not know what to think apart from one thing.
I wish there was an agent for agents!

Thursday 5 May 2011

Reading books is part of

learning at school, or it should be. All the same I wonder which books they will ask teenage parents to read when they forcibly return them to school.
If the leaked Budget information is accurate then the Federal Government is planning on making the receipt of social welfare payments dependent on returning to school or being in other training for employment. Just how they intend to enforce this I do not know.
It is true that many teenage girls who become pregnant have not finished school. They also have no training for employment. Many, but not all, also come from backgrounds where other family members are also on social welfare payments - and have been for years.
Some of these teenagers will barely be able to read. Reading is not an important part of their lives. It is much easier to push a button and have instant entertainment without any effort on their part.
Even if they received intensive one to one tuition this may not turn these teenagers into readers. Books written especially for reluctant readers are not likely to grab them, even if the subject matter relates to their own experiences. A friend who has spent years working with young unmarried mothers from low socio-economic backgrounds once indicated that this sort of reading material is often seen as offensive. The young mothers simply do not want to read such things.
Do they want to read anything at all? Some do not but others want to engage actively with the children they are bringing up. If they can be persuaded that reading to young children is important then they may, at least sometimes, read a picture book to their child or children.
I think that may be where they need to start. If we do it that way then we will benefit not just one person but two or more. Not everyone will do it. It may not be done often or consistently but even sometimes is better than never.
It would mean supplying more picture books to schools and libraries. It would mean education about these things and encouragement to do them. The simple language of many picture books may be ideal for reluctant teenage readers. If they believe they are reading to their child rather than for themselves they may accept the simple language involved.
Of course I may be wrong - but Dr Seuss et al seems like a good place to start.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

I think I am here

but I really am not sure about it. The good news is that I do not think I have lost any data. My blog is still here - although that may be bad news as far as some people are concerned.
I surfaced very early (and I mean very early) and dealt with a backlog of mail so that I can get back to my normal routine today.
Most of the time, unless a major disaster has occurred, it would not matter too much. Right now it does because my father is making daily trips to the hospital to see his brother. He is going with my cousin who has travelled from the other side of the world to see his father. A week ago we all thought my uncle had very little time left. Now he seems to be improving again. We know it cannot last forever. He is a very sick man, much of it brought on by years of smoking. He has also refused to follow medical advice in other areas of his life and is now suffering for it.
My father is older by three years and in much better health. It is extremely stressful for my father and, in turn, rather stressful for me. I am providing meals when my father and cousin return from the hospital. I need to be here to listen to what they have to say. They need to be able to talk to someone.
All this set me thinking about how our behaviour affects other people. There was so much wild rejoicing in other parts of the world when Osama bin Laden was killed. I do not rejoice. I do not, cannot, and never will condone what he did but he was someone's son, someone's partner, someone's father. Someone will mourn him.
He was responsible for his own actions but he was also influenced by other people. They must also take some responsibility for what he did. The same can be said for those who planned the operation and the man who gave the order. There will also be many others who are influenced by his death.
Recently I mentioned a South Australian MP who has been charged with a vile crime, possession of child pornography. His name cannot be mentioned in the media and I do not intend to name him here although he has been named on other blogs. He is innocent until proven guilty. Despite this, his name has already been expunged from an official website. It is quite obvious which MP it is. He can be named interstate and overseas. The allegations affect his family, his colleagues, his friends and even his neighbours. They will continue to do so for years.
Even the actions of a hermit can affect other people. A hermit was once a child. Children do not, except in the rarest instances, grow up in isolation from all other humans. They once had contact with other people and influenced them. Just knowing of the existence of the hermit may influence someone to choose a course of action which may influence many others.
The bell tolling for them may be barely audible to most but someone will hear it. I wonder who will hear my uncle's bell toll? Who will my father's bell? Mine?

Monday 2 May 2011

My computer died

completely this morning. As I work from home this is nothing short of disastrous - except that I can pedal over to my sister's place and use one of theirs. It is not nearly as convenient of course but it is possible and I am grateful for it.
I am surrounded by multiple computer screens here. One is dedicated just to the musical activities of my nephews. The rest are used by my nephews for their university courses. (Law students no longer need to do a degree in weight lifting law books before they start. They access most of their material on line. Medical students do a great deal of it that way as well.) My sister uses hers for study and work purposes. My BIL can access his workplace from home and also keeps all sorts of family items in his files.
I realise how differently we use our computers. My computer has all sorts of fonts for foreign languages. This one has none at all, not even Greek. My BIL can speak Greek but he cannot really read or write it. My sister and nephews speak a little too but cannot read or write it at all.
Mine has templates for forms I often need to fill out. Their computer does not. My computer has (or had) programmes they would never need. The reverse is also true.
I want my own computer back!
Normal blogging service will be resumed as soon as possible. Please do not desert me!