Sunday 30 November 2014

I asked my nephews to sign

the "Advanced Care Directive" last night.
This is the document in this state which will give them the right to decide what should happen if I become so seriously ill or disabled that I can no longer make decisions for myself.
I have three nephews and a niece but only the two nephews here are involved in this. One is a doctor and the other has a law degree although he works in another field.
I had asked them to think about it earlier and the response was, "We don't need to think about it Aunty Cat. We'll do it."
But I know they did think about it. They are both aware that I am asking them to take on a potentially huge responsibility.
My doctor nephew asked me several questions about what I wanted. It is interesting when he slips from being my nephew to being a doctor. The questions were sensible and searching and although we both knew what the answers would be he still asked. If anyone asks him in the future he can say he asked.
I'll leave it up to them. I trust them. These are the boys who might have a single glass of alcohol in a week but more than likely won't. They don't smoke and have never tried drugs. They speed - but only around the go-kart track. They care about people and other animals with more than usual concern.
I don't think they are saints. They would not describe themselves as saints. What they are is what I most want - ordinary, decent, caring and loving people who want the best for everyone.
My sister and I had a similar responsibility for our mother - although we discussed decisions with our father and our brother. We have the same responsibility for our father - but again we would discuss decisions with our brother. We all hope we won't have to make those decisions but our father has placed his trust in us to "know". Will we? We know what he wants. He's 91, almost 92.
I have an acquaintance around the corner. He has a terminal lung condition. He is about sixty. They offered him a lung transplant which would extend his life. He refused and asked them to give it to someone younger. Recently he had a couple of nights in intensive care. He asked them not to take extraordinary measures. They didn't. He has recovered and is back doing things.
           "I wasn't meant to go yet," he told me - apparently cheerfully.
We have talked about his end-of-life wishes. His wife knows what he wants but he has asked, "And when the time comes Cat, you will be around for her won't you?"
Of course I will because yes, it's a huge responsibility and I can only admire my nephews having the courage and maturity to agree to take it on.

Saturday 29 November 2014

I don't understand the love affair

some people seem to have with "the sales". I certainly don't understand "Black Friday" or the "Boxing Day" sales. I don't understand why people will queue for hours to try and get "the bargain" they might not get. 
Our central shopping district in the CBD used to have a row of department stores and each would have a "sale". Prices would magically drop - on some items. It would appear that real bargains were to be had. You just had to be there - and be there fast. Popular items like sheets, towels, clothing and footwear would disappear quickly.
The crowds were immense. I imagine that shoplifting was immense too.
My maternal grandmother used to go to "the sales". She was a large woman who could battle her way through the crowds with, apparently, no difficulty. She would have read the advertising in the paper and decided that she needed something or other. She would "book it up" at one of two major department stores on her "card".
Did she also "impulse" buy? I suppose she must have - at least her kitchen was filled with "gadgets". My mother kept some of those gadgets but gave others away. I got rid of the rest. I simply did not need them - even if they had been bought as a "bargain".
I suppose the Senior Cat and I have our own "bargain hunting" gene in that we have, in the past, been to book sales. We have bought books but we have also read them. Many of my "bargains" have not been financial but practical. I have found dictionaries in languages I needed to know something about. They have been, still are, useful. (Yes, I have used that Melanesian Pidgin dictionary!)
There used to be a "dress shop" in our local shopping centre. It sold fairly conservative clothing for women. I knew the manager, indeed would mind the shop for a few minutes while she rushed to the bank or the toilet.  I bought very little there but she would never let me buy anything full price. She would tell me, "Wait. Everything will be on sale in...." I would tell her "I hate sales..." and she would nod understandingly and say, "I know but you don't want to pay full price. It isn't worth it. And, it is only a bargain then if you need it."
She would shake her head over women who bought things she felt did not suit them.
"She won't wear that," she would tell me as someone left the shop with something she felt was the wrong colour or fit. I suspect she was right.
It bothered her even more at "sale" time when people would buy simply because it was cheap. It is not cheap if you are not going to wear it.
I bought a new jacket in the opportunity shop last week. It is brand new - the tags were still on it. Someone obviously decided it did not fit or something else was wrong. It is white denim. I would not normally buy white for a jacket of that sort but I talked it over with the volunteer who was serving that day. We know each other well. She made me put it on and said, "Yes, it fits you well."
It can be washed in the machine. I just want it to cover my arms when I am out on the trike. It cost me $10.
Later, out of curiosity, I looked the price up. If I had bought it from the on-line company in question it would have cost me close to $70.
I call that a "bargain". I can live with the colour and the little extra effort to keep it clean is a reminder that you get what you pay for - if you need it.

Friday 28 November 2014

"Ahora contaremes doce

y nos quedamos todos quietos..." thus begins one of the poems by Pablo Neruda.
       "Now we will all sit still and count to twelve" is the way it is translated in "Extravagario" - the English version I have.
It is both a contemplation and a command.
There have been some deaths recently. The death of the cricketer Phillip Hughes at the age of 25 has made headlines around the sporting world. He was young, too young. It was a freakish accident and I would feel saddened for him and his family, Sean Abbott (the young bowler who bowled the ball which struck him) and his team mates whether they were professionals or amateurs.
A young boy has died in the US - apparently shot because he was carrying a toy gun that looked too realistic and was confused with the real thing.
PD James has died. She was 94. People will say she had a long and productive life. She was one of those highly intelligent people who had an acerbic wit and a capacity for hard work. The Senior Cat is currently reading the last book she wrote. When I told him he gave a small smile and said, "A good life." Yes, it probably was.
There has been another death here that has, curiously, gone almost unnoticed - that of a former politician in this state. Heather Southcott famously managed to retain a seat for "the Democrats" in my local electorate - at a time when everyone was sure the seat would fall to another party. Like many current and former politicians she was involved in many other things as well. She was ill for some years before her death and perhaps her departure from the public scene has meant there has been no real mention of her in the media. She was also in her 80's. People will no doubt say she had "a good life".
Of course there have been many other deaths as well - of people old and young. Many will go barely noticed except by those immediately around them. Others will still say that some of these people had "a good life".
I wonder what "a good life" really is it achieving what we want to achieve, is it "winning", is it doing things for others - or doing no harm - or making a mark on the world in some other way? Or is it, just sometimes, the ability to do what Neruda contemplates and commands? Can we just sit still for a short while and count to twelve and marvel at life itself?

Thursday 27 November 2014

Should we get rid of the Equal Opportunity

Andrew Bolt, the columnist we love to hate, has a piece in today's paper about the Commission. More specifically, it is about the President of the Commission, Gillian Triggs.  It is also about perceived bias and the need to be rid of the Equal Opportunity Commission.
It is not the job of the President of the Equal Opportunity to display any bias. Is it fair to say that Professor Triggs does? Does the Equal Opportunity Commission actually do the job it is supposed to do?
I don't think it does.
I have to admit a certain degree of bias here. The Commission has a number of areas of interest - Aboriginal and Torrens Strait Islander Social Justice headed by Mick Gooda, Age and Disability Discrimination headed by Susan Ryan, Children's Commissioner (Megan Mitchell),  Human Rights (Tim Wilson), Race Discrimination (Tim Soutphommasane) and Sex Discrimination (Elizabeth Broderick).
It wasn't until 1993 that the Commission had a Disability Discrimination Commissioner and when Elizabeth Hastings, who held the position, died there was nobody appointed in her place. There were Acting Commissioners who had other jobs. When Graeme Innes took over the job in 2005 he was also the Human Rights Commissioner. Now Susan Ryan has the responsibility along with the responsibility for Age discrimination.
In other words Disability Discrimination has never really been considered to be such a serious issue that it needed a full time, dedicated commissioner. This is despite the fact that the biggest issue facing most people with disabilities is that of communication - both individually and as a group. They need to get their message across and they often have difficulty in doing it because of their physical and intellectual limitations.
If an Equal Opportunity Commission is to do the job then it has to deal with all people equally. It should not have a political bias. Ours does. Race and Sex Discrimination and Human Rights have always taken precedence. They are important, very important - but so are the rights of people with disabilities.
And recent moves by Professor Triggs suggest that, far from behaving in an unbiased manner, she has deliberately delayed taking action on other issues so as not to embarrass the previous government. Instead she is trying to hold the present government accountable for the actions of the previous one.
Quite simply I believe the EOC has become a political body instead of an apolitical one. If it has then it cannot work because it will not allow equal opportunities for all - particularly for those who lack the capacity to stand up for themselves.
It may be time we ditched the Commission and found new ways to communicate injustices. I hope they prove me wrong. 

Wednesday 26 November 2014

It seems cricket is becoming a violent

and dangerous game.
As any regular reader of my witterings is aware I am not very interested in sport. Not in the least interested might be a more accurate description - apart from the faintest interest in the psychology of cricket. (It seems to me that cricket is quite unlike any other sport in its individual/team focus.)
However, the news that yet another cricketer had been critically injured by a hard ball bowled at massive speed does disturb me. It should disturb any right-minded person.
Cricket used to be seen as a sort of gentleman's game. There is still a lingering suggestion that cricket should be played on the village green. Afternoon tea - with cucumber sandwiches - should be served. The weather should be fine. The teams should be evenly matched. I am sure you know the sort of thing I mean.
Or perhaps cricket should be what is played in summer in the back streets and alleys of suburbia. There should be long afternoons of arguing about whether someone was "out" - and who was going to climb the fence to rescue the ball from the garden of the house with the dog.
Perhaps cricket is still played on the village green in England. I don't know. It was never really played like that here. The cricket pitches of Downunder tend to be dry and dusty and surrounded by scrubby gum trees and bull ants. It tends to be hot and the coolers tend to be filled with beer rather than tea.
Children rarely play cricket in the back streets and alleys now. If they play cricket at all it is done "properly" under adult supervision. They are "taught" to bat and to bowl and to catch - and made to "practice". I suspect that a lot, if not most, of the fun has been taken out of it. Negotiating skills are not needed either because an adult decides who is doing what and how they will do it.
So, is it any wonder that adult cricket has also changed. Winning is more important than playing now.
And, at the very top level, it is big business. Enormous sums of money are involved in all sorts of ways. Cricket has to be entertaining. Performance is everything. Winning matters. The balls have to be bowled faster and harder than ever.
A cricket ball weighs about 160gms. It has the potential to be bowled with lethal force. Cricketers now use protective helmets - something once not thought necessary. But those helmets are not a guarantee of full protection. The cricketer hit yesterday was wearing a helmet but was apparently not using the most up to date and technologically advanced helmet - would it have made a difference?
I don't know the answer to that but I wonder why it has been necessary for cricket to become such a dangerous game - and I feel deeply concerned for the cricketer who was hit and the cricketer who bowled the ball which hit him.
Perhaps we all need to think of them next time we settle down to be "entertained".

Tuesday 25 November 2014

I have just written

a letter, a very cross letter. I have been very polite. I have made sure I have checked my facts. I am still cross so bear with me.
The Senior Cat came home from church on Sunday and waved the pew bulletin under my twitching nose. (My nose was twitching because it was clear he was cross about something too.)
I had thought it was a little odd that I had not heard anything from the organiser of the Christmas Bowl Appeal's local collection point. Now I knew why.
The local shopping centre management has refused permission for the collection to take place. If people want to collect for the Christmas Bowl they can, they have been told, do it at some other time of the year - and pay the shopping centre management for permission to be there.
Our shopping centre is over run with charity collectors. It is rare to walk into the shopping centre and not find a charity collector. They pay to be there. The majority of them come from an organisation which pays to be in shopping centres, pays the collectors and takes a cut for itself before any money goes to the charity. I don't give that way.
The Christmas Bowl Appeal is different. It is run in December with the idea that Christmas is also, or should be, about giving to others - especially those in need. Nobody gets paid to collect. The local organiser puts in many unpaid hours at multiple collection points. It is done on just one day of the year and the proceeds go directly to a project in Africa.
On a number of occasions I have stood there for an hour or more to collect. I don't like doing that sort of thing but the Senior Cat is too old to do it and - well, I can. I know, from my own experience, that it is seen as multi-faith by some. I have seen Muslims and Sikhs give - and give generously. It is, they have told me, "that time of the year for everyone".
Everyone it seems but the shopping centre management. So, I have written a letter to our state newspaper. If they publish it I hope it will cause the management to think again - something the shopkeepers will be happy to support.
After all, it is almost Christmas - isn't it?

Monday 24 November 2014

There is a story in

our news services about a baby boy found after being deliberately dropped down a drain. It is one of those horrific and incomprehensible stories that cause people to ask "How could anyone do that?" 
I don't know the answer to that. I don't think anyone knows the answer to that. I don't even think the person who does such a thing knows how they managed to do it.
Like most students of behavioural psychology I was taught about the theories of John Bowlby concerning "Attachment and Loss" - the notion that children are born with an innate need to attach to one individual  and that they should receive almost all their care from this individual for the first two years of their life.
Bowlby believed that the consequences of maternal deprivation were possible increased risk of delinquency, depression, aggressive behaviours and reduced intelligence. Even short term separation is seen as leading to anxiety.
Bowlby's theories led to the belief that mothers and babies should be kept together. It led to a reduction in the number of babies available for adoption. It makes assumptions about mothering.
I wonder about this.
I don't have any children of my own. I have two godchildren, one is now an "adult" but the other is still at school and will be for some years. I also try to be there for the Whirlwind who is growing up without a mother but does have a very strong attachment to her father - and yes, she had normal mothering for the first two years of her life.
Am I protective of those children? Yes. I'd be the same for the Little Drummer Boy who lives next door - and for his brother. I think I would be protective of any child - whether I knew them or not. For me, it is just something I'd do because it would be the right thing to do.
But I wonder about Bowlby's theories and the way we allow babies to be put into extended day care from as young as six weeks and certainly after three or six months - long before the two years which Bowlby claimed were the formative period. I also wonder at the way in which women who want to give up a child for adoption or say they don't want a child are encouraged, indeed told, they must keep the child. They are told it is "better" for the child. Is it really?
I know people who have children who did not want them. They never intended to have children. The precautions they took did not work - or they failed to take them. Yes, some of them have learned to love their children and the bonds are close. Others have resented the presence of children in their lives and pushed them from the nest at the earliest possible moment. They have never managed to learn to love their children even while making sure they are well cared for and providing for all their physical needs.
I wonder what will happen to the mother who has, allegedly, dropped her child down the drown. She is, if the media is to be believed, to be charged with attempted murder. It's a serious charge and her mental state will be the deciding factor. Quite likely she will be found to have a serious form of post-natal depression. She will be treated for it and the child will be returned to her care in the belief that, because they share some of the same genes, there is strong biological bond between them.
People will say this is the best thing for the mother and the baby. But, I wonder about this. Is it really the best thing for the baby? Is it possible that some people simply don't love the children they have brought into this world? What's best, to be brought up by a natural parent who does not love you or to be brought up by adoptive parents who wanted you?
I know that every relationship is different and that there is no single answer. But, in a case like this, I worry about the baby. It seems to be such a complete case of rejection - and I suspect a baby can sense that.
I hope I'm wrong.

Sunday 23 November 2014

No power at the library

There was knitting class at the library yesterday. I didn't want to go but I had to be there.
I didn't want to go because of the weather. We had already had thunder, lightning and a nice amount of rain. As we desperately needed the latter I had no objections to that - even if it meant trying to get two loads of washing dry indoors.
I managed to pedal to the library in between the showers. Only five people came to knitting. There are usually eleven or more - crammed into a small room intended for ten people. I don't blame the others for staying home. The weather was not kind.
Knitters, as long as they can see, can manage without power. The book group, which meets next door, can manage without power - just.
The rest of the library? Well, yes and no.
Nobody can return a book or borrow a book. Nobody can use the catalogue. Nobody can work at the bank of computers. The free Wi-Fi was down. The automatic doors didn't work - fortunately the old swing door on the other side did. All the other things depend on power.
One of the staff thought about making tea. No, that meant putting the electric kettle on.
The books had all been put away. The workroom is internal and it is impossible to see in there without the light on. There was nothing else that could be done by the Saturday staff - unless they had power.
So, people did what people should do in a library. It was light enough to see near the windows. People read. The staff talked to the readers. I went on teaching someone to knit.
Eventually of course power was restored and the library went back to being the way it usually is. But, just for a short while, without power it was a very different place.

Saturday 22 November 2014

"You've lived on an island?"

someone asked me yesterday evening.
The answer to that is, "Yes, my father was posted to a school on an island. We lived there for four years."
Living on an island is different. Downunder (Australia) is the largest island on the planet - or the smallest continent. Take your pick.
The island we lived on was much smaller - but still a large one as islands go. If you have a look at a map of Downunder you will see a leg in the centre of the lower coastline. If it is a big enough map you will see an island close to that which looks rather like a piece of jigsaw puzzle. We lived on that.
It is called "Kangaroo Island" and, in old measurements, it is about 120 miles long and 80 miles across at the widest point. Yes, a good size.
The capital of the state was nearly put on the island. If there had been a good supply of fresh water that would have happened. When discovered by the early explorers there were no human inhabitants, just the kangaroos which give the island its name - along with a great variety of other wildlife.
There is a strip of water between the island and the mainland which is called "Backstairs Passage". It has the reputation for being one of the roughest stretches of water in the world. The island itself rises steeply out of the water on the southern side - and there is nothing between it and the Antarctic winds. It can be very cold in winter. My brother once broke a sheet in two. He went out, at my mother's request, to take the sheet from the line. It was frozen there and just snapped in two. My mother was not impressed. Clothes on the line would often fly out horizontally.
When we lived there the population was about 3000 in two main groups. There were the old settlers who lived and worked in a community around the coast. There were the soldier settlers who lived in the centre and who had been there for only a few (by island standards) years. The two groups had very little to do with one another. Other, very small communities also existed.
The school in the centre, the one my father was in charge of, was the largest. It had over 600 students, almost all of whom came on one of the big yellow buses lined up at the gates. The school had the most buses and the longest bus runs in the state. Some children travelled a 76km to school and another 76km home. The school buses were driven by the teachers - often driving into the sun in the morning and into the sun in the evening. There was a spare bus if one broke down - which they did occasionally. It was the job of the deputy principal to keep the buses running. The teachers lived in small caravans at the end of each route. The caravans were parked near the house of a farmer and most teachers ate with the farmer and his family.
All this was discussed last evening because someone else had said she thought she was too gregarious to live on an island.
Yes, it was isolated. I know 3000 people sound like rather a lot - and most people knew each other and certainly knew us - but many were on farms a considerable distance from each other. Living there was expensive because most food and all other services were imported from the mainland. Electricity had to be generated on an individual basis. (The school had a big diesel unit. If it failed there was no electricity. We had a tiny 32v unit which was only set to run when absolutely necessary.)
Medical services were limited. Accidents were common and it was often faster for the local "crop duster" (a tiny plane that sprayed the crops) to be used to transport a patient out. The plane only had room for the pilot and the patient. (One night the pilot flew five times between the mainland and the island.)
Was the community close knit? In the area we lived in it was not. The people were too new to island life. It takes generations for that sort of closeness to be achieved.
It was interesting but I have no desire to go back there. I am not particularly gregarious and, if you were, it would not be a comfortable place to live.
All the same the beaches, when we got to them, were magnificent!

Friday 21 November 2014

There are apparently going to be some cuts

to our ABC and SBS. For those of you in the northern hemisphere the first is the approximate equivalent of the BBC and the second is the so-called "multi-cultural" channel which provides a more ethnically diverse content than other television stations.
There is, of course, a wailing and gnashing of teeth about these cuts - and claims of broken election promises. I know a lot of people love their television programmes too.
But, I am less concerned than I might have been. First, there are now multiple other stations - all competing with each other for an audience. There is also a duplication of services. The ABC set up a 24 hour news channel but Sky already had one. Did they need to do it or was it to try and compete with Sky? Who watches it? What's the content really like? I am told it is highly repetitious. I suppose there is only so much news at any one time.
There is also a tremendous amount of sport on television. It is sometimes impossible to find a major network not showing some sort of sports programme on a Saturday afternoon. That's fine if you like sport - and television channels seem to assume that everyone is interested in sport. (The Senior Cat and I have no interest in it and I know others who feel the same way but, clearly, we are in the minority.)
And there seem to be a great many "repeat" shows. Television stations sometimes claim there has been a demand for a certain programme to be repeated. There has been one shown in the last few days which will be repeated. We will be told that there has been a demand for it. The reality is that (a) it was expensive to make and (b) it is giving a message about how people can change racist attitudes. 
If the latter is true then yes, it will be worth repeating - but the real reason for the repeat will be the expense of making it and the complex politics of the message.
Oh yes, politics. The ABC has been accused of a "left" bias. SBS has also been accused of the same thing. The "commercial" stations are apparently more inclined to pander to public opinion. I don't watch enough television to make an informed comment now.
Yes, I have pretty much ceased watching television. I have too many other things I want to do. I know I am missing out on some experiences, that my "cultural literacy" probably needs to be improved. I have never seen Game of Thrones or any similar programme.
So I am not too concerned about the cuts to the ABC and SBS. If they can cut some of the sport and bring on some decent documentaries or something genuinely funny then - mmm....I might be interested.
The only thing that bothers me is that they might cut the wonderful Global Village programme. Those short multi-national documentaries about people, places, animals, festivals and other things have taught me so much. I have been to places I will never get to in real life and experienced so many things I will never experience in real life. That is television worth watching.
Could we have some more of that please?

Thursday 20 November 2014

There is currently one of those thrilling

family sagas being played out in the courts in this country. It has been going on for some time. The media has been making much of it. I suspect most Australians are aware of it - and many of them are taking an interest in it.
I am aware of it. I have taken little interest in it. I am just aware that the ultra-rich are not necessarily happy.
I am with the mother on this occasion. She has worked hard, very hard. She has amassed a fortune. Yes, she inherited money from her father - although not nearly as much as people often believe - but she went on to use it and make a great deal more.
I don't think I would particularly like her if I met her. Her business methods may or may not be good but they are successful. I know very little about her.
What does interest me however is her comments about "sense of entitlement" and her older children. They are also wealthy but they have not worked for it. Rather like the American woman who has claimed a billion dollars from the mega-rich man she is divorcing they claim their inheritance from their grandfather is not enough and they want even more. The younger child does work for her mother - although the older children claim she isn't really working. I suspect she does work. Her mother is not the sort of person to pay idle people.
But, should the older children be paid to be idle? Are we better off without having them in the workforce? The son at least claims lost business opportunities because of a lack of finance. Really? Many people start without anything. They work hard instead. It is clear that his mother does not think he would have succeeded even with money behind him. She apparently looked at the "business opportunities" and concluded they were no more than "get rich quick" schemes. She offered them opportunities to work inside the business - from the bottom up. They refused.
I know other people, often in my generation, who say they are "spending it now" and that their children won't be left with much. All too often however those same children do expect to be left a substantial amount - on top of the "loans" they have already received and the child-care services now being provided.
My sister and my brother each have two children. They have given their children most of their inheritance already - in the form of supporting them through school and university. It is a sort of family tradition I suppose. My paternal great-grandparents had almost nothing when they came here but they worked hard and gave their children an education. In turn my grandfather's generation gave their children a chance to educate themselves and so it has gone on.
My sister married a man whose parents were Cypriot-Greek peasants. They worked hard too. They didn't have much of an education themselves but they saw to it that their children did and now their grandchildren are also getting an education.
It is, I think, a magnificent inheritance - and one we are all entitled to if it is at all possible. It is perhaps the best sort of inheritance as well because it is one for which we need to work.  

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Prorogue parliament?

Our state Premier is about to prorogue parliament. The state went to an election on the 15th March this year so of course this is now totally essential - not.
The Premier says it is all about a "clean slate" for the coming year. It allows them to "start afresh". (If you prorogue parliament all the outstanding legislation on the agenda gets wiped and has to be resubmitted.) That should not be necessary.
Yes there are two by-elections coming up. One has been caused by a death and the other by a complex set of family circumstances the member does not wish to make public. Neither is likely to change the make up of the 47 seat Lower House.
So, why prorogue parliament? The only answer is that the government is trying to avoid scrutiny. There are issues coming up that the government does not want debated. They will, once again, go to the bottom of the legislative agenda. The government hopes they will go away - or that circumstances will change. Maybe they will.
I was discussing this with the Senior Cat. He is about to make a new will or, perhaps, update his old one. A number of things have changed in the last few years and he is anxious to ensure that his will is scrupulously fair to everyone concerned. Our immediate family is close and he wants it to remain that way. So do we.
He can, in a sense, also work on a clean slate but he is making reference to what is written on the old slate. It is an occasion on which it is right to look back - and then look forward. I am doing the same.
We are often told "don't look back" but it seems to me that there are times when it is right to look back because, unless we do that, we can't look forward. If we don't look back then we might also repeat the mistakes of the past instead of learning from them.
We also need to make sure we deal with unfinished business. Some things won't go away. Some things won't change.
Parliament isn't going to change either. The Premier's tactic is not going to work. It might seem to buy time but our state has fixed-term elections so he has time anyway. It leaves me wondering what else he is trying to hide - rather a lot I suspect.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

I wad given some rayon

boucle yarn by my friend - the one I was helping at the craft fair. She has asked me to make something as a sample. It is hand dyed in various shades of green.
There are two skeins of it - yes, skeins and not balls.  I have to wind this stuff!
I have a "swift" - one of those strange devices that look like a merry go round lattice fence or a moving yurt frame. You put the skein of yarn over it and then, hopefully, wind merrily away.
The Senior Cat made this for me some years ago. He also made one for the knitting guild I belong to. It was a fiddly thing to make.
But, you need the right tool for the job and this was it.
Unfortunately one of these skeins was tangled - played with perhaps by a customer who wanted to see what the colour progressions were like.
It is sometimes hard to imagine these colour progressions in actual knitting. Unless you are a knitter it will be hard to imagine this but try to imagine a circle of yarn with rings of colour around it. It will not knit up looking like that. Knitters talk about "striping" (obvious I think) and "pooling" (blotches of colour caused by the same colour coming together) and other colour variations. Experienced knitters have some idea how something will turn out but even they can be surprised. And no, I am not talking about the fancy, so called "fair isle" sock yarns made by commercial companies. That is something entirely different. They are designed in a different way.
No, this is hand dyed and hand painted - literally painted with brushes. It means that no two skeins are ever exactly alike and, if it is difficult to match dye lots in commercial yarn, it is impossible to match dye lots here.
But these two skeins were, I imagine, "painted" at the same time. They are very close in pattern and colour. I will still alternate the yarns. That should vary the colours nicely - from pale green to dark and back again mixed with dark to pale. We will see.
I often look at colours mixed together in gardens and wonder how they would translate into hand painted yarn. The colour of the jacaranda flowers against the rough texture of their mouse brown-grey bark would make a wonderful combination - perhaps with a hint of sky behind? Or what about the darker lime green of nasturtiums with all the brilliant yellows, oranges and even reds peeping through at intervals? I don't do much dyeing but I love colour.
But, what to make with it? I have to design a top. It will be interesting to see what happens. I can "see" a top - perhaps with spaghetti straps. It is not in the least the sort of thing I would wear but the rayon feels like silk and should drape nicely. It is, I think, the sort of thing a teenager might wear if dressing up for the evening - although Ms Whirlwind was not impressed by the idea. No, it isn't her sort of thing either. "But A.... would wear it," she told me. A.... is one of her friends who manages to look elegant even in school uniform.
I may get A... to model it if the idea in my head turns into reality.

Monday 17 November 2014

After four days of

standing on my rear paws I am, once again, in awe of those who do selling for a living.
If people want to buy something and I am there to do the job of taking their money then I will, of course, do it. But, unlike my nephews, I am not a natural salesperson.
I have one nephew of the "could sell sand to the Arabs and ice to Eskimos" ability. His job involves vast sums of money in anyone's terms - other people's money. I could not handle that. Another nephew is also good at selling if he has to but it is not his job to do that. They have peculiarly modern skills when doing these things.
I am happy to offer help rather than advice. There is a difference I think. I can help by explaining what a certain sort of yarn is and what the properties are, what it is normally used for and why. I am happy, as an example, to explain why sock yarn normally has nylon in it.
The friend I help also does a lot of that. We also had someone come looking for a certain type of yarn to make hats for a children's charity. My friend sells yarn which would be suitable but it is expensive and really intended for another purpose. We looked at each other and then at the would-be customer and gave her the name of a very well known on-line company here in Australia. They make a product which is half the price and will be ideal for her purpose. It didn't make my friend a sale but perhaps it bought her goodwill. Other people might hear about her attitude. I hope they do.
There were several people who mentioned they had come simply to come to the stand I was working on. I can understand why. It's a brilliantly coloured display of very high quality yarn unobtainable anywhere else - not even in the few specialty shops left interstate. Yes, it tends to be expensive - until you consider the hours of entertainment a project might give you.
One woman brought her project from last year so we could see it. She had bought a skein of lace-weight silk. It is very fine. It is smooth. It is slippery. It has hand dyed. It is very expensive. 
This woman bought it not to knit with but to embroider with. I thought she was setting herself a huge challenge. Yes, she was. She rose to the challenge and showed us what she had done. It is exquisite work.
"I know it seemed like a lot to pay but, so far, I have been entertaining myself for about fifty cents an hour and that will drop even further when I finish the skein."
Looked at in those terms it is cheap entertainment and, unlike some other forms of entertainment, she will have something of lasting value to show for her pleasure as well.
A teenager happened to be there while we were looking at this woman's work and she admired it too.
"It's not my thing but I'm learning to crochet and so far it has been a heap more fun than a rock concert. A whole lot of us are teaching ourselves and helping each other. We still go out and stuff but we take stuff with us to do. It's awesome because you can hang out and still do things."
Not the most elegant way of describing it but I am more than happy to sell her the pleasure of making her own.

Sunday 16 November 2014

There is food available

at the craft fair I am working at for the last time today.
I take my own sandwich. I don't have the time or the money to queue and pay for food. I have about fifteen minutes to eat and be back on the stand. We all do and, for four days, I can handle that.
But, I do get an opportunity to observe what other people are eating in the area where you can sit and consume both food and drink.
Some people bring theirs from home but many people, well over half buy their lunch.
I was talking about this to my friend and came to the conclusion that it must be part of the "day out" experience. There can be no other explanation for it. The food available is expensive. It always is at that venue. I don't find the food very attractive either.
Yesterday a woman sat down opposite me with a serve of fish and chips. It came in a cardboard container - the way such things do these days. I suppose the food was considered to be fit for sale and consumption but I have seen - and smelt - much better takeaway fish and chips. These had been cooked somewhere else and then reheated. They had to have been. There is nowhere things like that get cooked at this venue. Perhaps that is why she needed two tiny packets of salt and one of pepper sprinkled over the top. I left rapidly.
I went back to the stall I am working on accompanied by another stall holder who works nearby. She was carrying a clear plastic container of fruit salad and a coffee. Although she lives in another state she always brings some of her lunch with her. The fruit salad?
"It looks nicer than it tastes," she told me, "But I didn't have time to stop at the market when I got here. It's expensive buying it like this."
I did not inquire about the price. I know what the price was a couple of years ago and it was very expensive.
Tea, coffee, hot chocolate? Very expensive - and in throwaway containers. Soft drinks? Again, very expensive.
So, I take my own sandwich, a piece of fruit and a drink. I consider myself fortunate that I am not an interstate stall holder who would find it much more difficult - although not impossible - to take food from home or from where I was staying.
But I did rather envy the woman sitting next to me who had a container of the most delicious looking home made salad.
"I like to cook," she told me as we watched someone else arriving with an over-flowing container of what had to be more reheated chips.
Yes, I suppose "buying lunch" is rather reminiscent of that once a term occasion on which we were allowed to buy it as children but I genuinely prefer to take my own.
And anyway, the money I have saved might buy a rather nifty ink pad I saw. I have a friend who makes cards and it will make the perfect birthday present for her.

Saturday 15 November 2014

"If you are any good at basic mathematics,"

I tell her, "You could take one row of hearts out and then knit the border."
The would-be knitter of the shawl looks at me as if I have gone mad. Fortunately her friend laughs and says, "Oh yes, just adjust the repeats? Let me see..."
She looks at the chart for the pattern and says, "Simple. I'll help you."
I sell the pattern and more yarn to the first knitter.
After they had gone I had a moment to contemplate the experience. I know most people just follow knitting patterns just as they are written. They don't have the confidence to adjust a pattern. They will even knit the sleeves too long because they don't know how to adjust the increasing - or decreasing if you are working top down.
Most of the time it is a matter of basic arithmetic. They could, for the most part, do the arithmetic if you asked them to do a straight forward division or multiplication. Older people would probably do the calculations mentally, younger ones will take out their phones and do it on that. Ask either group to apply the calculation to a problem however and they are lost.
The tension (gauge to readers in North America) is 20sts to 10cms. You want something to measure 100cms? Yes, you need 200sts. You want it to measure 110cms? Yes 220sts. And so it goes on.
I know it is not always easy - and I have given a very simple example - but it can be done.
I was talking to another knitter later in the day. We talked about Philae landing on the comet - something she had, like me, found fascinating. I mentioned how I hoped it might excite current school students to study science, particularly maths and physics. She agreed.
Then she asked me how she could alter the pattern she was interested in. (She's a very big girl and she has to adapt everything to her 1.9m height.)
I told her what she needed to take into consideration but I said, "You teach maths. You can do the calculations yourself."
She looked at me in alarm and I said, "Basic mathematics S...... but send me an e-mail if you aren't happy and I'll check."
"Cheeky Cat!"
Perhaps. It made me wonder though how often I also lack confidence when I am outside my comfort zone.

Friday 14 November 2014

Yesterday there were more people than

I expected getting off the train station near the show grounds. Some of them were obviously heading for the craft fair - mostly pairs of older women who were having a "girls' day out". Two of them actually told me, "The boys have gone fishing. Mad, in this heat."
The "boys" probably didn't last too long. I saw the two women much later in the day. They were still enjoying themselves.
The other train travellers appeared to be students and I knew why they were there.
The other big halls in the show grounds are used for exams at this time of the year. The universities can no longer accommodate the ever increasing numbers of students. The halls are used instead of the much smaller places in the grounds of all three universities.
I looked in - from a distance - through the open doors and saw row upon row of individual desks.  I looked around and saw students chatting, students taking a last minute look at notes, students talking on their phones and texting messages, students looking anxious and one student sitting on the steps with his head down while someone else talked him through what was obviously a severe anxiety attack.
I hope the air conditioning was working well in those halls. It worked reasonably well where we were. I thought of those students occasionally as I helped my friend on her stall. We had a good day. Sales were good. People want to come to the craft fair and most people are pleasant, polite and interested.
I wonder whether anyone really wants to do an exam though - except to "get it over and done with"? I know I hated trying to do exams. My brother would always be irritable before one. One of my sisters would often have a bilious attack. Only my youngest sister, the least academic of all of us, would go to an exam apparently unconcerned. I suspect she felt no pressure to do well and was therefore quite relaxed about it.
In the early afternoon there was a customer at the stand I am working on. She was young. She was dressed in the student uniform of jeans and t-shirt. She had the requisite student back-pack and a curiously relieved expression on her face.
"You've just finished an exam?" I asked her. She look a little bit startled and then grinned.
"I've just finished all of them. I promised myself  I could have something after they were over."
We talked about what she might want to try and she settles for a kit that my friend has put together. Then she looks at a vest I have just finished making. I have to finish writing the pattern for it but I promise to send her a free copy via e-mail. Why?
Next year she has another exam of a different sort. She is going to start teaching in the far north of the state. She was the first person in her family to go to university and she admitted it was very hard but she has, I am sure, passed that last exam.
I know I probably won't see her again but I will send her the pattern. I am also proud to have met, however briefly, a young indigenous Australian with the determination to do all the exams life throws her way.  

Thursday 13 November 2014

Something extraordinary happened

last night. While I was having my nightly catnap something was happening that has never happened before. It happened about 510m kms away. A little space probe landed on a comet at a speed of about 55,000 kms an hour.
Nobody has ever landed on a comet before. Nobody even knew if it could happen. It did happen.
I watched the updates as long as I could but I had to go to bed at a reasonable hour because I have four big days ahead at the Quilt and Craft Fair. But...the first thing I did this morning was turn on my news feed to find out if the landing had been successful - and it was.
It is hard to imagine the tension that must have been building in the control centre at the European Space Agency. For some of the workers there this has been the culmination of a ten year project - and, for some, it would have been much longer than that. The project might not have started but they would have been dreaming about it.
I know what that is like. You do dream. You dream daily, sometimes several times a day and for prolonged periods in the day. Projects like that take over your life. Oh yes, other things still matter. You still do other things but the project is always there. It never lets go of you. It is the thing that you want to succeed at above all other things.
And, they have done it. There will have been that initial adrenalin rush, the huge surge of relief and excitement - and then the flat feeling. You have done it. You are exhausted. The question is, what comes next? There will be something - but what?
NASA's Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla in the Australian Capital Territory was part of the project. I have been there - a long time ago. It has been through a bush fire since then and been upgraded. I went out there one evening with someone who was doing a doctorate at the Australian National University. He was working on a project there and arrange for me and several other students to have a look.
It was eerie. There was not a lot to see in one sense, buildings, computers, tracking equipment and so on. What struck me most I think was how quiet the place was outside. Those eyes to the sky are just watching and listening. It is unnerving. If you wanted to make a tense scene for a film then go somewhere like that!
One of the students who went with me was a boy who had just begun to do a degree course in maths. He was doing it because "I'm supposed to be good at maths and I quite like it and I didn't know what else to do".
I talked to him again some weeks later. He was going back to Tidbinbilla with the doctoral student. He had, he thought, discovered what he wanted to do - and yes, there is plenty of scope for mathematicians in the space industry.
I can't help wondering if he was part of the team. I hope he was. It's the sort of thing you dream about - and a few of us are lucky and see the hard work behind such dreams become reality.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

The computer insisted

I had to load Windows 8.1 yesterday.
I do not like things happening to my computer. If it is working then I would prefer to leave things just as they are. It took me a long time to get even vaguely used to Windows 8.  I much prefer Windows XP. I am not a confident cat when it comes to computers.
Doing anything unusual alarms me.
My working life depends on a computer. I download the work first thing in the morning and then work on it through the day, sending each bit off as I finish it. I can stop work and go to a meeting or the library, do essential shopping, get meals and pots of tea for the Senior Cat  and so on.
Yesterday I had a meeting. It took longer than I hoped it would and, had I known, the computer could have been playing while I was out. It didn't tell me until I got home that it was going to have a little "upgrade". Right.
It has been telling me this for some time. I have ignored it. The computer was working. Why make trouble?
Yesterday it sulked. It was not going to do anything unless I let it upgrade. In the end I told it the process could occur while I was getting the evening meal and doing some other things. It had, I told it, to be back on duty for me to send some material off later.
I left it to play. It danced around. It switched itself on and off. It whirled. Lights flashed. The screen went dark and light and then dark. I held my breath and waited. The screen was light again.
Eventually a new screen appeared (and who on earth designed that - it is truly appalling) and the task bar appeared at the bottom of the page. Nothing more happened apart from a tiny whirling icon continuing to dance.
Still doing something? I waited for a bit. Then I noticed that the little clock in the right hand bottom corner was not working. I waited a bit more. After all the computer had told me it was not going to hurry over this process.
Eventually I phoned my brother. He knows about these things. He thought for a bit, told me to leave if for a bit longer. "If it still like that in about an hour then do the inelegant thing - pull the plug out, give it a minute and then try rebooting it."
I ended up doing the inelegant thing. The computer danced cheekily back into life. It made me re-enter passwords for some sites I use frequently.
I made it do some work. It was late. I was not impressed.
I would have made it work all night - but I needed some sleep too.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

The news that a former cricketer

has skin cancer has made front page news. Cricketers often make front-page news, although not as often as footballers or soccer players. Cricketers rank along with golfers I suspect.
But a cricketer of the stature of Richie Benaud does make front page news. Oh yes he is long since retired from actually playing the game but he still commentates. He is still somewhat in the public eye. The cancer is not a good thing but the fact that he is still a recognised name is a good thing.
He is telling people he wishes he had worn a hat. More people wear hats now than did then. We are more aware of the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun.
As children we spent hours outside - most of the time without a hat. I can remember just one occasion on which we were all quite badly sunburnt but....we were often rather "red". Most children were. It is our generation which will really pay - for a situation most of our parents were largely unaware of.
Now it is cover up, slap on the sun-screen. Schools have rules that include "no hat, no outdoor play". Hopefully such things are carried on at home and out in the community as well. Maybe. Maybe not.
But there is also that other curious rule, the bicycle helmet rule. Bicycle helmets are compulsory in this state. They are, of course, designed to protect the head in an accident. I have one. Although not required to do so the Senior Cat wears one while riding his gopher.
Mine is an old fashioned one. It could, in some ways, be a much better one. I choose to keep the old one however because it has a major advantage. It can have a cover with a peak and a flap - like a legionnaire's hat. It protects my head from the sun. Modern helmets do not do that.
This is, to my way of thinking, madness. It is just as important to protect people from prolonged exposure to the sun as it is to protect their heads in an accident.
I wonder when the government is going to recognise this and insist on bicycle helmets providing better protection? Or are people going to have to say, "I wish I hadn't ridden my bike so much because I couldn't wear a hat"?

Monday 10 November 2014

It will be Remembrance Day

tomorrow. In Australia it is a quieter event than ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day is the day when the marches and dawn services are held around the country.
I have always tried to stop whatever I am doing at 11 in the morning on the 11th of November. I started doing that in my early teens - when we lived in the middle of a "soldier settlement" or farming community comprised of men who had been settled on tracts of poor farmland after the war was over. The government simply did not know what else to do with them.
"Remembering" has taken place in some surprising places. I once went to collect some trousers the Senior Cat was having taken up by a company called "Fletcher Jones and Staff".  Just before eleven in the morning there was a quiet announcement and everyone stopped for two minutes. If customers objected then they could leave but it was, I think, typical of the company at the time.
Fletcher Jones wanted to be a missionary in China but he stuttered and he could not learn to speak Chinese. Instead he went on to found a clothing company that, for many years, produced high quality Australian made clothing. What made his company different was that his staff all had shares in the company he built - and many of the first employees were returned service personnel.
I have been flying 20,000 feet above the ground when an announcement was made and silence requested. I was taking a group of ten and eleven year old students to an unrelated exhibition when one of the children said quietly to me, "It's nearly eleven o'clock." They all stopped filling out their activity sheets. Yes, I know the child who reminded me was more acutely aware than most of the horrors of war but he did tell me.
I stopped once in the university grounds as the cracked bell of a nearby church rang out. Afterwards one of the staff touched me briefly on the shoulder as he went past. He didn't say anything and, on that occasion, touching was appropriate. It was a gesture of thanks. He was a man who had seen more horrors than most.
There have been some comments that the sea of poppies at the Tower in London is a political gesture, that we should be remembering all war dead and not just those on "our" side. Some have said that the poppies should not have been put there. I disagree.
Yes, we need to remember all war dead. We also need to remember that were it not for the men and women whose memory those poppies represent we would not be living the sort of lives we are now living. I would probably not be here at all. Australia might not even be English speaking. The world would genuinely be a very different place - and it might not be a better one.
For that reason I will remember all war dead - and go on hoping for an end to conflict.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Dear Telstra

Thank you so much for your care and concern. It is nice to know you have a "faults line" and what the number is (132203 should anyone wish to know). It is also good to know that we should contact our service provider if there is a fault to report. Yes, we can do that on Monday and they will have to report the fault to you.
Now Telstra let me explain again. The fault is yours. It is not the fault of our service provider. There is, thankfully, nothing wrong with our phone at present. Something may happen in the future but, for now, we are fine. The problem exists at the other end.
On Friday my sister's neighbour reported that she was getting the phone calls intended for my sister's house. This was a serious issue. My sister's son is a doctor. He is, at present, living with his parents. He needs a land line as well as his mobile. Internet access depends on the landline.  Right. You do understand that? Oh good.
You actually sent a technician to fix the problem. Really good.
But, you didn't actually fix the problem. You stopped the phone calls from going to the neighbour but you failed to check to see that they were going to the intended address. The house still has no access.
What's the problem you ask? Use your mobile phones. No. Apart from the additional expense it does not solve the problem.
Why? Well, more importantly it has created another problem. I was home all day yesterday apart from a quick trip to the library. And I went while the neighbour was there chatting to the Senior Cat. I could not go at any other time. Why? Because the Senior Cat has a medical alarm which is connected to my sister's land line. If he presses the button it will alert her. Right now that won't happen. Oh yes it would, eventually, call an ambulance but we don't want to do that if it means nothing more than my sister helping him to stand again in my absence. Oh just by the way Telstra my BIL's father is also in a dire state of health. He is waiting to have heart surgery and he lives alone too. He also needs to be able to call them by phone. That failure to do something could put someone else's life at risk.Yes, that is Priority Assist in your language Telstra. It means the line has to be fixed. It can't wait for a week or longer.
I tried Twitter and FB in an attempt to get you to do something about the problem. No, I didn't really expect to get anywhere but I am angry that you show no lack of concern for such circumstances.
And yes Telstra this is your problem because all the service provider can do is report a fault - a fault caused by your technician failing to do the job properly. It should not need to go to the service provider at all. You will have a report of the fault in your logs and it should be clear that it still has not been fixed.
So Telstra perhaps you would care to explain here why it is that you are so appallingly incompetent that not only do you not do adequate repairs but you also have a line to report faults that simply does not work?
Thank you

Right, having got that off my chest...the rest of the day was also filled with little frustrations. A book was put away in the wrong place (okay I probably did it without thinking) and I had to spend twenty minutes looking for it. The library did not have one of the books the catalogue said it had. The supermarket had run out of the right sort cheese.
The only good thing was that I have succeeded in finding two of the four people I have been searching for. They both live at the same address - obviously still at home with their parents. That was nice - and they sound pleasant and friendly. Now all I have to do is try my appalling French again and do some more searching for the other two.
After all, right now I cannot go anywhere.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Now let it be said

I know nothing about weaving.
Did you make one of those paper mats in school? I am sure you know the sort of thing I mean. You probably did it in "art" class. You drew the parallel lines on a square of paper and then carefully cut them almost, but not quite, to the edge. Then you drew more parallel lines on another sheet of paper and cut them into strips. When you had done that you were allowed to "weave" them in "one over and one under" and then "one under and one over" until you had woven in all the strips and could glue the ends so it all stayed together.
We did ours with two squares of "flint" paper - bright, shiny coloured paper. I cannot remember which colours I was given to use. I wonder now whether I actually managed to rule the lines or cut the strips. I was almost certainly given some help. What I do remember is that I experimented with the design - only to be told that it was "wrong". I was made to undo it and start again. There was only one "right" way to do it. I did not finish of course so I was sent home with it to finish as part of my homework. I did it. I took it back to school. When it was returned to me I undid it and I did my own design again. I cannot remember what it was like. It may even have been a hopeless mess - although I doubt that.
The idea that there was only one right way to weave was wrong of course. If the teacher had explained there were other ways to do it I might have been more amenable. The lesson might have been much more interesting if we had made two smaller squares, one in that plain weave and one we designed ourselves.
I didn't do any weaving after that. I told the students in the only primary class I ever had about the experience and then let them loose to experiment. They had fun - at least I think they did. Several of them made sets of placemats for their families by weaving strips of plastic. Come winter however and I taught them all to knit.
Although I have done no weaving since then it still fascinates me. It is both a simple process and a very complex one. Simple because it involves that "over and under" but complex because the variations on that theme appear to be endless. I know it is done in many different ways on many different types of looms with a seemingly endless variety of threads and yarns. There is something there to excite any craftsperson from the brilliant coloured weaving of the high Andes to the subtle colours of Scandinavia from the complex weaves of Latvia to the simple weaves of New Guinea. The textures and designs are both common and diverse.
The advent of the internet has given rise to resources most of us would otherwise not have available and I have discovered sites about weaving as well as knitting. They are a rich source of inspiration for knitters as well as weavers.
The coming year's big knitting project is, I hope, going to be about how some of those weaving patterns can be used by knitters. I want to do something more than "one over and one under" in one direction and "one under and one over" in the other. That of course is "moss" stitch - something I will mention. I will try not to gather too much of it.

Friday 7 November 2014

There has been concern expressed

because only about a quarter of eligible voters voted in the local council elections.
I probably need to explain to other readers that Australia has three levels of government. There is the "federal" government in Canberra, the "state" government in the capital city of each state and in the "territories" and the "local government" - known as a "council" in this state.
They all have different responsibilities, some of which overlap. The responsibilities for the federal and state governments are set out in the Constitution. Federal law overrides state law.
It all sounds quite simple but there are constant arguments about who is responsible for what and how it should be done. Australia is, quite simply, ridiculously over-governed.
Federal and state elections have a requirement to attend the ballot box. Council elections do not.
In an effort to try and get more people to vote in council elections they Local Government Association in this state decided there should be a mail-out to all eligible voters - at a cost of about $4m. It obviously has not been a great success.
I suspect most people are simply not interested. They cannot see the point of local government. They have little or no idea what local government does. I blame the council itself for that. People need a reason to vote.  
I did vote. The Senior Cat voted. My sister and my BIL voted. I know one of the candidates I voted for quite well indeed. He's a good man who has no desire to be mayor but is, I believe, quite genuinely interested in doing something for the community. Most importantly to me he is a strong supporter of the local library - a council responsibility. If he gets in it will be his second stint on council. He has endeavoured to get things done - often in face of opposition of some who are there more for their own benefit.
There have been rumblings about making council elections "compulsory" too. I hope they don't. I want people to vote but they need a reason to vote. Compelling them to attend the ballot box will increase the cost, further encourage party politics (already becoming an issue) and encourage a policy of councillors for life. We don't need that - but we do need to encourage people to vote.

Thursday 6 November 2014

I am more than just

a little tired of politicians lying. I know, they all do it. It is part of the political game to promise you the earth and heaven as well. Does anyone really believe those promises? I don't.
I do tend to believe them if they say "vote for me and this negative thing will happen". After all, politicians are not about offering negatives.
But recently our state government has been playing another little game. "The massive increase in some state taxes is all due to the federal government cutting what it gives us. They promised we would get more and we have got less."
Sorry, no. The federal party now in Opposition made some promises which would have brought in about the same amount of money as the state is now getting through the GST (VAT) fund. The state would probably have got slightly less than it is now getting because the funding priorities of the present federal government are slightly different. They are less concerned with trying to prop up failing industries and more concerned about building infrastructure. People have varying opinions about that.
But the state government persists in trying to say that the increases to the Emergency Services levy rise is all due to the failure of the federal government to give what it promised to the state government. This is nonsense but they continue to persist in saying it. 
Our household ESL bill had a modest increase of 438% - yes, that is the correct percentage - but some places have been hit for far more than that. There is no guarantee that the money will be spent on emergency services either - despite what the legislation says. The money is going into that bottomless pit of "general revenue". The present government has wasted more than any previous government - on a desalination plant which is not used, an oval up-grade for an event it will not host, a hospital being built on contaminated ground where the costs have blown out beyond belief, a footbridge over a "river" which saves a few people walking and extra two hundred metres to the oval and... I could go on. It has not made any attempt to divert the excessively long goods trains coming through the hills behind us. That is too expensive they tell us as well as claiming all the funds have to come from the federal government. The trains have become longer still of late. If one broke down at a critical point then, in an emergency, disaster would ensue. There is other ageing infrastructure which needs repair but none of these projects would be of the shiny, new sort that governments so like.
I don't think the other side of politics would be any better but this time the blatant lying that has persisted in the face of being told by an angry electorate to accept responsibility is too much. We will pay the ESL bill. We don't drink alcohol or smoke or gamble and we will go without a household repair to do it. Others will not pay the bill. They don't have our resources or our willingness to go without but the Senior Cat is angry. I am angry. It's not that I don't want medical staff to work in good surroundings. I do. I think the vast majority of them deserve the best possible working environment. No, it's the money that has been wasted, the overly high wages paid to some men on a union controlled worksite and the money which will line the coffers of the party. That is the party which has lied and continued to lie to us about the money. Our state is as good as bankrupt but all the government can do is wail "it's not our fault".
I am sorry. It is your fault. What is more you managed to retain power on a minority of the vote so you have an even greater responsibility to do the right thing. I suggest you start by cutting the ESL and a heap of red tape which is preventing development - but perhaps the scissors are too blunt?

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Yesterday was chaos

and living in chaos is rather uncomfortable. We are not tidy people but the Senior Cat likes a little order in his life with respect to pots of tea at regular intervals, meals at certain times and so on.
Yesterday was different.
To begin with I had to rise extra early and deal with a slew of e-mail and the blog post. I managed.
The Senior Cat was late up. He had, like many very elderly humans, been up and down during the night. (It wakes me up as well.) He was eating breakfast when my brother made his at least weekly phone call before starting work for the day. I managed to reheat the Senior Cat's breakfast milk before the power went off and then left him to it.
I had to go into the city - a place I normally avoid, especially getting closer to the end of the year. The train was late getting in and was sent to the far end of the platform. It took me some minutes to reach the ticket barrier because I had to wheel the tricycle out - no riding in the station of course.
I went to the university. I went to the bank. I then tried to go to the
Central Market and found my way blocked by a protest march. I love protest marches - not. I have never participated in one. If I want to protest I have other, much more effective, means of doing it. I dislike crowds.
I think this march had gathered together every Muslim in the city. They moved like a line of sleepy ants down one of the main city thoroughfares. They were protesting against the shooting of one of their own outside a mosque in another sitting. The man is, fortunately, alive but it was a violent incident and one which is to be deplored.
I always find protest marches confronting but this was more confronting than most. There were, I think, two reasons for that. One is that they were almost all wearing black. The other is that they were almost silent. It was not the way in which protest marches are normally conducted.
Was I being prejudiced?
I did make it to the market. I went home to a house without electricity. The power came on later and two visitors came with it. The first came to collect something we were donating to an elderly woman in a nursing home. The second came to do something the Senior Cat did not know how to do even if he had the physical strength to do it - he pruned the old grapefruit tree. We won't get too much fruit next year but it means the tree will last for some years yet. It was almost seven in the evening when he left.
I was catching up on work that had not been done during the power cut - in between making the tea and providing information for the first visitor. My e-mail seemed to go crazy. I was still answering mail late into the evening.
The Senior Cat has to go out this morning. I am hoping for a quieter morning - but I am expecting someone to call with some work.
Perhaps later will be less chaotic?

Tuesday 4 November 2014

We are about to endure

a day without power. There was a bright fluorescent orange message left in the letter box to inform us that the power would be out from 8:30am. Apparently there is a need to replace something in the area. Yes, maintenance needs to be done.
Our electricity supply comes via overhead lines atop poles known as "stobie" poles. Stobie was actually an individual who designed the concrete and steel poles. His sister was once a neighbour to my maternal grandparents. We never met Mr Stobie and his sister kept very quiet about the connection. Yes, the poles are ugly and cars come off worst when they run into them.
       "So, what will you do all day?" someone asked me when I told them we would be without power, "It means you can't have a Melbourne Cup lunch!"
The lack of a lunch to "celebrate" Australia's most famous horse race bothers me not at all. I have absolutely no interest in horse racing - although I did read the Dick Francis novels.
The Senior Cat just shrugged. He will spend the day pottering in the garden instead of working on the job he is doing for a neighbour.
I cannot do some regular work but I have warned two people they may have to wait until this evening. I am going off to do some other research instead - research in actual physical books that do not require anything more than daylight to read them by.
But even if we could not do those things there would be plenty we could do. The Senior Cat is never bored. He still reads a lot. If it gets too warm outside he will come in and continue working on a couple of projects involving paper, scissors, glue and the like. 
If I get home in time I will hunt for the book I have promised the Virtual Quilter. (It is, of course, not where I thought it was.) I will perhaps do some more sorting and tossing out while cooking lunch.
Oh yes, I can still do that because we have a gas cooktop. It is on days like this I am particularly thankful for the alternative power of gas.
I can read up some material for a lecture - and make notes the old fashioned way.
I will not, like the mother of the Little Drummer Boy, be anxious because my child (the younger brother of LDB) cannot watch his favourite television programme in the morning.
I wonder how many people will feel anxious without power for a day? How many of them will feel lost without television, radio, perhaps no means to make a cup of tea, internet access and the like?
I know we are terribly dependent on power, perhaps much too dependent. Wipe out the power supply to a community here and it would not be merely inconvenient but dangerous.
But, as the Senior Cat reminded me, we once lived without power. There was no power or running water when we first moved to one place. The water supply came on quite quickly - although the water itself was undrinkable and rainwater was a very precious commodity. The power took much longer and when it did it was generated in a tiny shed next to the garage. It was an uncertain supply. The battery storage would fail sometimes. We managed to live without it when we had to. It will be the same today.

Monday 3 November 2014

How do you find people?

An interesting problem has arisen recently and it seems worthy of raising in my witterings.
Last week an employee of an executor company contacted me and asked me if I had contact addresses for a number of people named in the will of my late friend.
No. We have not been able to find an up to date address book. I have one which is more than thirty years old. Things have changed greatly in thirty years. At least two of the people named were not even born then.
By checking the phone book in another country I found one address was still current - as I thought it was - and I sent that to the executor. It was relatively easy but I had met the person in question when she came here last year.
The other people I have not met. I know what their relationship is to my friend and a tiny amount about them. My friend was not the sort of person to talk much about other people. She was much more interested in ideas.
But I did a little research. It is something the executor company employee could do and she may well have search resources I do not have. I also have resources she will not have.
There is also the internet. People in their twenties and thirties are very likely to have an internet presence of some sort and that can lead to other places.
After some searching yesterday - something which took about an hour of my time - I sent off e-mails to two academic institutions where two of the legatees are likely to have been students. My requests were discreet and I carefully backed them up with sufficient information and the offer of a reference with respect to myself. If they are, as I suspect, old scholars then I think the institutions in question will help - if they have addresses for their old scholars. That should also put us in touch with the siblings of these people.  
It's a nicer approach than trying to get access to addresses through other means - such as an advertisement in papers in foreign countries which may or may not produce a result. Even so it is a hit and miss approach, particularly as I had to send one e-mail in French and my French is, to say the least, not good. I never studied the language. I read some French but I don't write it.
So, we will wait and see if my requests bring about any results. I hope they do but it occurs to me that all of this could have been avoided if we had found an up to date address book.
I had better up date mine.

Sunday 2 November 2014

A problem arose

yesterday. It is one that I knew would eventually come but the new proposal was landed on the entire group without warning.
For years the knitting guild I belong to has met in an old hall belonging to the Returned Serviceman's League. Part of it was once a church and the other side is a hall. We have had use of the hall and what was the church porch has been our storage space. The storage space is cramped but most people have recognised we were lucky to have it.
The other advantage has been that the meeting place is relatively central and accessible whichever side of the city you live on. The building has recently been renovated. There is a new kitchen and new toilets.  It is very nice but something has happened to the electrical wiring and the building is not safe at the moment.
At this point the guild has had an offer to move in with another craft group which is moving into their own premises. If the details can be satisfactorily worked out then there will be a lot of advantages and it is, overall, likely to be a good thing.
But it means I will no longer be able to attend meetings. I won't be able to get there. It has already been difficult. The Senior Cat is still intellectually alert and pretty good at caring for himself but for safety reasons I prefer to be around to give him his lunch and make pots of tea when needed. In a couple of weeks I'll be helping a friend for four days and I have arranged with the neighbour across the way that she will call in and check on those days. (Yes, the Senior Cat grumbled about that but he knows it is wise. He is doing a big job for her so she is more than happy to oblige.)
But going to guild meetings is not, sadly, a necessity. It's a fun thing. Someone was kind enough to say she would pick me up but that's not possible. She is on the committee. She needs to be there early and to stay until the very end. I have been arriving late and leaving a little early. I also know she has a very ill husband and I don't ever want to put someone in the position of thinking they must attend a meeting because they have promised to take another person. I have looked at trains and timetables and how far it is to ride at each end but our trains run just once an hour. I would be gone for five hours and be able to spend about an hour in all. Someone would need to check on the Senior Cat. It's not worth the effort and I would never forgive myself if he was harmed because there was nobody there to check. I can't stop him falling over but I can, I hope, be sure he doesn't lie there for hours.
So, I will need to rethink my social life again. It is pretty minimal now but I know I need to get out sometimes because I have seen what happens when people don't. Suggestions anyone?

Saturday 1 November 2014


Oh yes, we have Halloween now. It has only come about recently. The big supermarkets recognised the possibility of marketing it and now there is a range of Halloween related merchandise in the shops for some weeks before hand.  
It would be fair to say many people here still ignore it. Some people still would not know what Halloween is and others would dismiss it as "American" and therefore nothing to do with them. All this probably sounds rather odd to my North American friends. Halloween is a tradition there.
The Little Drummer Boy and his brother from next door did not participate. I did not expect that but I had been talking to one mother whose children had been begging to be allowed to dress up and try "trick or treat". She was reluctant to let them do it. It is, as I just said, not traditional here.
"I just don't know what sort of reception they would get. I don't want them to be a nuisance and really that's all they would be."
We talked about it a bit more. I sympathised. Her two are lively, active children and they need a firm hand. They do not need large amounts of sugar at any time, least of all before bed.
I saw the two children the day before Halloween. They still did not know whether they would be allowed to participate or not but one of them had a small green plastic frog that "jumped" if stroked in a certain way. It gave me an idea and, while the two of them were racing around and around their driveway on their bikes I spoke to their mother and suggested, "What if we tell them it is "Frog Rescue Night" as well?  I'll supply chocolate frogs."
She thought for a moment and then said, "That's a really good idea. We could take the boys to the creek and see if we can find an actual frog."
I bought a multi-pack of frogs. There are twenty in that sort of pack. I was, I hoped, prepared because I thought I knew what might happen.
And it did. There were four families from the next street who went off to "rescue" frogs. The father of one family actually works at the local council. It's not his actually area but he knows something about the creek and the inhabitants of it and what is being done to try and preserve it. The kids wore face paint and had fun looking for frogs and other creepy crawly things. They hunted for the chocolate frogs and their parents made sure they all had one. One of the mothers left me an e-mail to say it was all great fun. Nobody was scared. Nobody bothered anyone and not too much sugar was consumed,  
This morning there was one chocolate frog sitting in the letter box for me. That is Halloween worth celebrating.