Thursday 31 March 2016

I am being bullied

although I don't think those doing the bullying even realise what they are doing. Is that possible?
My siblings, Middle Cat and Brother Cat, have spent the last three days telling me what to do, what I should be doing, how I should do it, what is going to happen next, and more.  By the time Brother Cat went home (halfway across the country) my fur was definitely ruffled.
They mean well but I do not want them to do things like reorganise my desk in my absence "because it will be easier if the printer is here and not there" and "the jam needs to be stored here and not there" and "you should  get rid of these...because you never use them". 
I might be able to get the printer back into the original position where I can reach it more easily and the marmalade (not jam) can go back to where the Senior Cat can find it. Yes, there are some things we could get rid of but the Senior Cat has an emotional attachment to them because they belonged to his partner. I have in any case removed a great many things belonging to her that we don't use.
BUT (yes, those capitals are necessary) I am NOT going to get rid of any books, particularly my dictionaries. 
     "You could find all that stuff on line," Brother Cat informed me.
Oh yes, I know. I could. I don't want to. 
It is not the way I work. It is actually far more difficult to have six, seven, eight, or more windows open on the computer. It is more difficult to scroll backwards and forwards looking for words, symbols, similes, and checking meanings. If I am using a different alphabet then it becomes even harder. 
My siblings understand none of this. Although I have tried to explain they have no idea what I do. They just shake their heads and move on to the idea that "it can all be done on-line". 
I wouldn't dream of telling them how to do their jobs. Mind you, Middle Cat is "retired" and only sees people occasionally and Brother Cat's work in IT is something I know very little about. I know I don't know about those things.
So, why do they think they know about mine? Why do they think they know how I should do my job and what tools I need to do it?
I just wish my siblings would think of me as able to handle my own life without their interference.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Our local library

is a busy place. I go in and out several times a week. The new, state-wide borrowing system means that I can get books from any other library in the state  also on the  system as well as inter-library loans from other libraries. 
I know the staff in there. When I was absent for a week because of the Senior Cat  there were inquiries. Was everything all right? I explained briefly to the inquirer. She sympathised and said all the right things. I thanked her and thought nothing more of it. It was, I thought, the sort of thing anyone would do.
But I had to dash in yesterday and pick up three books I had ordered from other places. You serve yourself these days so I wasn't even expecting to speak to anyone apart from a passing "Hello".
And then, at the self-serve checkout desk,  I heard someone say,       
       "Hello Cat. How's your father?"
It wasn't the person I had told earlier but another member of staff.
Then, from the desk where everything else is done someone else called out,
       "Yes, how's your Dad?"
They know the Senior Cat of course. They are two long standing staff members and he was a regular user of the library up until a couple of years ago. Now he tends to let me get his books after looking at the on-line catalogue. But, they haven't forgotten him.
So I told them he was improving and went off to the bank and the chemist for him.
The three bank staff all asked how he was. The pharmacist and the girl serving in the chemist asked how he was. 
I went to the greengrocer and one of the boys who works in there came up behind me and tugged my hair gently.
       "How's your Dad doing?"
I hadn't told him either but one of the women in there had apparently told him.
And then, at the checkout in the supermarket, the very large and physically unattractive checkout girl who is avoided by far too many people although she is both knowledgeable and competent said to me, "Is your Dad okay now?"
I'd forgotten that I had, simply in passing, said that he'd had a fall and that I had to take something up to the hospital for him. I hadn't seen her since then. She had remembered.
I might live in the suburb of a medium sized city but it can still be like a little village.  Some people still care about each other. 

Tuesday 29 March 2016

"This place is like an airport!"

my nephew told me. 
Well yes, there were rather a lot of people in and out of the house yesterday.  Even now that can happen but I was amused by his description because my mother used to complain that the house was like a railway station. There were always people in and out.
This did not happen when I was a mere kitten. We almost never had people visit. If they did they rarely stayed more than a few minutes. It would be to drop something off or pick something up.
My parents were the local school teachers. People didn't "just drop in" on them. My mother discouraged it. 
She wasn't being rude. She just didn't have time to entertain casual visitors. Bu the time I was aware of these things my mother was teaching full time and caring for a family with four children under the age of ten and a husband doing his degree one subject at a time. Her attitude towards visitors continued the entire time my parents lived in the country.
I can understand it in a way. She probably needed space of her own, away from the "teacher" bit. We children knew not to invite children home to play - or to accept invitations to their places. We grew up being "self-sufficient".
It really didn't change much once we were in the city. What my mother later complained of was the very minor version of what must happen in most households with normal, healthy, outgoing teens.  Certainly Nephew Cat and his brother brought their friends home. I remember prowling in once to find four Chinese, three Indian, and the two "Greeks", sitting around the kitchen table consuming pizza they had made themselves. Middle Cat (their mother) just shrugged and said she hoped they would clean up the mess. They did. 
Our mother would not have let that happen even when we were in late adolescence. It wasn't the sort of thing she felt comfortable with. Her family would never have been able to afford to feed all those extra mouths. It became a habit with her.
It is only since my mother died that people have "dropped in". I know it doesn't happen nearly as much with us as it does with some people. I know Middle Cat's household can be chaotic at times. Her husband is part of a very large Greek clan and they see one another constantly.
But  yesterday things were different and it reminded me of one, long ago, weekend when a former teacher on my father's staff was leaving for England. We were back in the city by then. We were taking his precious cat, a Siamese with "purr-sonality". He arrived with the cat sitting on his shoulder. John was staying with us for the weekend as well. 
John had been a popular teacher. He was a good friend too. And people knew he was leaving for the other side of the world. He was going to teach music in one of the big choir schools. We all knew it was something special.
All weekend people "dropped in" to say "goodbye". My mother was bewildered I think. She produced seventeen meals and many more cups of tea that weekend. I don't think she had ever even contemplated doing something like that but some people had travelled long distances to say their farewells. At the end of it she said to the Senior Cat, "This place has been like a railway station this weekend."
Yes, perhaps it was a little like that. I never really found out what she thought of it. I doubt she liked it much.
Yesterday though I looked at the Senior Cat and decided that he didn't really mind at all. After all a lot of people his age don't have visitors.

Monday 28 March 2016

Family is important

to the Senior Cat - very important. He comes from a close knit clan. The dwindling number of "first cousins" still make contact with each other on a fairly regular basis. Given that  they are in their 80's and 90's and scattered across the globe that's not bad.
But of course immediate family is even more important to him. My brother arrived yesterday. He lives in Sydney - half way across the country - and he will be here for only three days. He's come to see the Senior Cat and to do some maintenance I can't do. (Things which involve climbing ladders and the internal workings of computers feature on the list.)
Our neighbours across the road had also invited us to afternoon tea. We had accepted thinking my brother would not be here until late in the afternoon. It was the Senior Cat's first, tentative outing since falling over. Neighbour and I were watching him closely ready to take him home if necessary. Just as he was sitting comfortably in a chair their doorbell rang again. More visitors? 
They weren't expecting any as the only other guests had already arrived.
It was Middle Cat. Our brother had arrived early. She had picked him up, knew where we were likely to be, and was now ringing the door bell. 
Our neighbours, lovely people that they are, promptly said, "Stay for afternoon tea. There's more than enough." Yes, that basket of hot scones was piled high. There was butter. There were three different sorts of jam. There was a small mountain of cream. 
It didn't take a lot of persuasion on the part of the neighbours. It gave my brother a chance to meet them properly.
And we sat around the table. We ate excellent scones and drank the pot  dry more than once. There was conversation, good conversation. It lasted longer than we thought the Senior Cat would manage. 
The Senior Cat was sitting next to his hostess. Late in the proceedings I saw him put his hand briefly on her arm. (They know one another well by now.) All he did was smile. She smiled back.
It's another sort of "family".

Sunday 27 March 2016

We need to believe

in each other. No, I am not about to go "all religious". I don't go to church. Perhaps I should but I don't. 
But I read the news feed this morning with a weary sense of "I've seen it all before" and "nothing has changed" and "when are people going to stop fighting each other" and...well, you get the point. I don't need to rave on about it.
Today though is Easter Sunday and although I would love to have the comfort of a strong belief in the actuality of the events being celebrated I haven't. I do believe in what those supposed events are supposed to teach us - the idea of service to others, of caring, of loving, of respecting, and looking out for each other. 
And that is why the news feed bothers me. There seems to be a lack of it. I fail miserably myself at times but, so far, I have had no problems resisting the temptation to kill someone else simply because they don't believe what I believe.
I  hope I never have a problem with Christmas or Easter,  Eid or Hanukah, or Divali or any other religious festival. What other people want to believe is fine by me as long as they don't tell me I have to believe it too.  In return I am not going to tell them what they have to believe. Fair?
I am not into the business of "saving souls" - the idea that only what I believe (or don't believe) is right. It would be pretty arrogant of me, especially when I have all those doubts myself.
But this morning I am bothered again. There was a short piece in the news feed about the death of a Muslim shopkeeper in Glasgow. He was apparently killed by a fellow Muslim for wishing Christians a Happy Easter. There is so much wrong with this. 
Are people so busy believing in their religion that they have forgotten to believe in each other?

Saturday 26 March 2016

I watched Radovan Karadzic

as he was being sentenced. The camera crew had their cameras steadily trained on his face. It was impassive, seemingly devoid of emotion.
Despite that I had the sense that he felt nothing but contempt for the proceedings. He was still arrogant. He hasn't changed.
I wonder about people like this. What are they thinking? Do they know what they have done? Do they remember? Do they look back with regret or pleasure? How did they justify it then? Do they still try and justify it now? What do they dream at night?
Karadzic will die in prison but he will still be better off than hundreds of thousands of others. He will be fed. His surroundings, if spartan, will be clean. He will receive medical treatment. I have little doubt he will still try to issue orders - and he will expect to have them obeyed. 
It will cost a great deal to keep him there. One of my colleagues left me an email which I read this morning, "It would be cheaper to hang the bastard  but that would makes us no better than he is."
Yes, he's right. I don't want to see anyone hung, or given a lethal injection, or shot by firing squad, or murdered in any other way. There is no point in hating people. I don't have to like them but I don't have to hate them either. I can loathe and hate what they have done but that's something else.
I look at someone like Karadzic though and it is hard not to feel the same sort of loathing and contempt that I suspect he feels towards others.  Perhaps he still sees himself as some sort of hero? I don't know.
But wouldn't it be better for everyone if you cared about other people?


Friday 25 March 2016

Even when things go right it can feel wrong

or so it would seem. I have been thinking about this over the past day and, oddly, Jo Cannon said something similar in another place this morning.
Wednesday was not a good day to begin with. I was too shaken by the news about my friend Z to think clearly. I had a rather nasty piece of mail - well, very nasty. I was an emotional mess and trying not to show it because I didn't want to upset the Senior Cat. He's the most wonderful father but he worries. He worries far too much.
I love him to bits but I wish he wouldn't worry so much.
And then someone turned up to give me some wool for the old lady with Parkinson's disease. The old lady thinks she can manage another lot of her really square squares that are so much nicer to sew into blankets. She is thinking of other people. The person who brought them realised something was wrong and gave me a hug - which reduced me to tears.
I managed to get myself under control before the Senior Cat came home from a medical appointment. Middle Cat had taken him. She was thinking about someone else. I managed to tell them what had happened to Z without howling - but it was a close thing. A neighbour called in to check on the Senior Cat - and hugged me.
Middle Cat brought me a little bunch of flowers. They are lovely. The Senior Cat and I have them on the kitchen table. 
I was expecting a friend to call in for her "proper cup of tea". She teaches knitting on Wednesdays and the place only has "urn tea". She was late and I wondered if she had decided not to come but she arrived full of apologies and questions about the Senior Cat. And not that much later my friend R turned up. I wasn't expecting her at all. I knew she was busy. I had actually pedalled down and left things on her doorstep (and not rung the bell) because I knew she was busy. But she knew I was upset about something else because she has been helping with that. She made time to come. It wasn't for long but she made the time.
And all that should have made me feel better. Somehow it did and it didn't. Yesterday the person who had turned up with the wool left me an e-mail. She needed some information. She apologised for bothering me. Someone else sent me a stiff e-mail telling me to stop being so self-centred about the other issue which was bothering me because I should be helping instead.
I thought about this. There I was wallowing in misery and people still wanted to know things from me. I could still do something to help. I sent an e-mail to Ms Wool and said I'd get to it. She doesn't live far away so, after lunch -  with the Senior Cat on his bed for another catnap, I pedalled down to see her. We sorted out what could be done. I can do something for her. 
Then I came back and sent a short e-mail to my friend R telling her I would do whatever she and the group in question wanted me to do. 
It wasn't until I had done both those things that I started to feel "right" again. 
People can be tremendously kind and sympathetic and supportive but sometimes you just have to start doing the right thing for things to feel right again - and that means doing things for other people, not yourself.  

Thursday 24 March 2016

"Multiculturalism and tolerance will....

protect us". This was the general message from Downunder's Prime Minister in a speech to the Lowy Institute last night.
Now please don't misunderstand me. Downunder is an interesting place because of the diverse range of people who live in it. Visit some areas of some cities and you can almost believe you are in another country so many people around you will speak another language. The food is different. Some people dress differently. They look different. They do things differently. 
It's fascinating.
We have Italian, French, Chinese, Indian, African and more "festivals". There are even events which supposedly "celebrate" all these things. 
Read a list of names anywhere and you will be going to pronounce some of them even if you can guess where they might come from. The Premier of one state has a name which is pronounced in no way like it is spelt. Never mind.
But will it protect us? No, of course it won't. Tolerance won't protect us either. Tolerance has to come from all sides and, as the Dutch - surely once one of the most tolerant nations on earth - have found, tolerance on one side does not guarantee tolerance on another.
I have a wonderfully diverse range of acquaintances. I won't call them friends because they aren't people I share social occasions with  so much as students. They are young enough to talk openly and freely about their attitudes and the attitudes of their families. Many of these apparently tolerant, "Westernised" students hold beliefs that differ from mine. There are big differences in the way they view such vital things as a woman's role in society. Many of them have been born here, brought up here, gone to school here - and they still hold those views. "Multiculturalism" encourages them to think differently, to hold on to the culture of their parents and grandparents. They may not know the languages their grandparents speak but they know the other traditions and celebrate them. It tends to isolate them. Good Muslim girls don't date. They don't go out alone or in a group if the opposite sex is involved. There are arranged marriages, female genital mutilation does occur, and much more besides. 
I don't know what the answer is but saying that multiculturalism and tolerance will protect us seems incredibly naive. It won't. It just divides us. 

Wednesday 23 March 2016

I am sitting here shaking so much

it is hard to hit any key, let alone the right key on the board.
My friend Z has been injured in the attacks in Brussels. He lives there. He's a good, very good, decent, honest, caring individual. He's a Quaker, a committed pacifist. He has spent much of his life in developing countries working on hydro-engineering projects.  His work has often been done under difficult and very dangerous conditions. He is the man who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for our mutual friend who runs the centre for  unaccompanied children in Africa. He cares about people in a way very few people do.
Brussels should have been safe. Yes, I know any of us could have an accident at any time but this was no accident. It was a deliberate act of senseless violence against ordinary people going about their lives. This is about killing people, innocent people who have done the killers no harm at all. 
It makes no sense. 
In her e-mail to me his wife says he will recover but that's not the point. It shouldn't have happened.
Keep him in your thoughts please.


Tuesday 22 March 2016

We could be heading for a double dissolution

election. The Prime Minister made a bold or a crazy move yesterday. He has brought forward the Budget by a week. He has advised that parliament will be recalled. He has advised that he will again try to get two pieces of legislation through the Senate. If they don't pass he has the "trigger" for a double dissolution - and a nine week election campaign.
Please, no. No and no again. 
It would be better for everyone to simply pass the legislation. If Labor wins the next election - due by the end of the year - they can simply dismantle it again. It is what they did once before.
The legislation is about curbing the excess power and bullying, threatening, and sometimes criminal, behaviour of some officials in the section of the union movement, especially those involved in the building and construction industry. 
I don't doubt there are many quite ordinary and decent people in the building industry. They get on with their jobs. They abide by the occupational health and safety rules of the site. If everyone did this there would be very few problems but we are dealing with humans so things don't always work out like this. A tiny minority of unionists still enjoy an excessive amount of power and they use it - not for the advantage of those they are supposed to represent but for themselves. Enough said.
But a double dissolution election  holds other concerns. There will be new voting rules for the way in which the Senate is elected. They are likely to be the subject of a  High Court challenge because the minor (some very minor) parties on the cross bench see themselves as likely to lose their seats. 
Make what you will of all that. I just see people determined to cling to excessive amounts of power.  It's not about health and safety or rights and conditions. It's not about the way the electorate voted. It's about them.
I don't want a double dissolution. I would much rather people just stopped thinking about themselves and represented the people they were elected to represent.


Monday 21 March 2016

"We lost the baby."

I knew it was likely to happen but I still sat there eyes closed, fists and jaw clenched muttering, "No! It's not fair."
I try not to "mind" too much or I couldn't go on doing what I do but sometimes it just gets to you. I don't even know the woman I wrote this for. I have never met her but I wish I could have been there for her, holding her hand. She's lost everything. Her husband was killed months ago. She was trying to nurse her two children, seriously injured in the same strike that killed him. They died slowly and painfully due to the lack of medical facilities. 
She was pregnant and, somehow, she remained that way. She had high hopes of a child - not perhaps as a replacement for all she had lost because nothing can do that but because it would be a new beginning which would link to the past. 
After the other two children were gone she started to walk from her home in Syria and was eventually picked up and taken to a camp by someone who realised she was in need of even more help than most of the refugees. 
It was one of the MSF doctors who sent me the message. He is someone I have worked with before. He had asked for help. "We need a communication board for someone who probably can't read. She is profoundly deaf and very disturbed. She is also pregnant. Nobody understands her signs."
So, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. What was she likely to want to communicate? How could we portray that? I put something together. They gave it to her. She apparently spent a long time looking at it. Someone showed her how to point to what was on it in order to communicate and, once she understood, she held it tight.
I can't even begin to imagine how terrified she must have felt, must still feel. She would have lived in a world of limited communication even before the war that is tearing her country apart. It is likely that she never received an education at all. I know almost nothing about her. I have never seen a photograph of her and never will. She will disappear into the seething mass of people who make up one of the toughest refugee camps in the world. She may or may not survive. 
All I could give her were a few "words" with which to try and tell her story. They are there on a laminated A4 sheet. 
She has nothing else and it isn't enough.

Sunday 20 March 2016

I am contemplating scarves

or rather, the making thereof.
I do not normally wear a scarf. I haven't worn one since I left behind the winters in Downunder's federal capital. It gets chilly there in winter. It has even been known to snow. I wore a scarf on snowy days or the day the windchill factor dropped the temperature to below zero. 
It is not that I am a particularly hardy sort of cat. I'm not. I just dislike having anything wrapped around my neck. I do wear my keys on a lanyard and I have a small family crest on a chain but that's about it. I don't usually wear a scarf.
But they are useful items if you want to teach people to knit something. I hasten to add here that they are most definitely not the thing to start a learning-to-knit kitten on. The reason is that scarves too long for a beginner. They are boring - even if you change the colour frequently.  A kitten needs to be able to finish something and  use it. Headbands, phone covers, bookmarks, finger puppets are all more suitable projects.
But I am going to teach a class to adults and there are good reasons for starting them on a scarf.  It will allow me to teach them a good many things. They can start in the class and finish it at home. I won't make it a long, long scarf  (although I will design it so they can make it longer if they so wish) but it will allow them to practice what they have been taught and still have something useful and, hopefully, pretty at the end. (And okay, if there are any males in the class - which would be great, then I hope they know someone who can use it.)
I know what I want to do. It is now a matter of mathematics. I have to get an edging to fit with a border - and a border to fit with another design. It's the way this sort of lace is usually designed. I don't want to "graft" it. That is, sew two pieces together in a way that makes it look as if they are knitted together. I can't graft. It requires a sewing needle and I don't have that sort of manual dexterity - annoying but there it is. I doubt my students will want to try and graft anything either - even if they are expert at sewing.
So, I am thinking and plotting, and planning, and doing little sums. 
It's all a little more complicated than the "Flying Geese" scarf I made for my friend P. That was ultra simple, designed to show off the quiviut yarn.  This is different.
There is something satisfying about creating a knitting pattern. I never thought there would be because the rules are different from creative writing. There are rather more rigid "must" rules if you are to produce the desired result and have other people interpret it. The process always startles me. 
Writing instructions is good discipline for a writer. I should do it every so often. It makes me think about every word.

Saturday 19 March 2016

People have a right to protest

in a democracy. What they do not have a right to do is cause  harm to others while doing it.
Yesterday one of the Senators in this state had his office attacked by people opposed to his, admittedly conservative, views. The protestors harassed his staff, "trashed" the office, and wrote slogans in chalk over the walls and floor both inside and out. 
These protestors were claiming their actions were in support of an anti-bullying campaign the Senator does not support. (I had best quickly explain here that the Senator does support anti-bullying campaigns but not this particular one - in its present form.) These same protestors apparently fail to see that they are also behaving in an unacceptable, bullying manner. 
They made it quite clear that they believed they had the "right" to do what they did and that the damage they had caused was far less than the damage caused by the bullying the program is designed to prevent. Really?
Bullying seems to be more of an issue now. I don't know whether it is really a greater problem than it once was - or whether people simply believe it is. Is it simply that people have simply become more aware of their "rights" and are quicker to take offence because of that?
I got bullied at school. I was an easy target...disabled, head's kid, always with my head in a book. The bullies knew damn well that I wasn't going to say anything to my parents. I would have received no sympathy anyway. I would have been told to "deal with it yourself". What happened of course was that the bullies were dealt with by other, fairer minded students.  It's what happened to all of us.
Kids then had their own ways of sorting things out. They were not under the almost constant supervision of adults. Even when a teacher was on playground duty they did not interfere in such things. It was up to kids to sort it out for themselves. It was the way we taught ourselves to negotiate, to support and respect each other.
Kids chose leaders for games, who was on which team, what the rules were going to be. They argued. They fought. They made up. 
There must still be some of that going on but, talking with children here, I am aware that there is much less of it. There is much more adult interference. "Negotiation" is hedged around by adult imposed rules about "caring", "kindness", "equality", "inclusion" and more. If you don't abide by those rules then someone tells the teacher (because they have been taught they must) and there will be a classroom "discussion" about the "unacceptable" behaviour. 
Surely, all this is supposed to prevent the sort of behaviour that occurred at the Senator's office? 
It won't because it is externally imposed, not internally grown. 

Friday 18 March 2016

On line, on line, on line,

and yet again, on line.
The last Medicare communication included a flyer to remind people that cheques would no longer be sent. The money would go directly into your bank account instead. If you didn't provide a  bank account number then...
Yes, I imagine that most people do have bank accounts (or building society or cooperative accounts)  these days but nevertheless it was yet another reminder that here is another way in which the government can monitor us. In many ways the idea of money going straight into a bank account seems like a good idea but, in this instance, it may also cause some serious complications. 
There is the underlying assumption there that people will also bank on line. Some people can't. Other people don't. Still more won't. The Senior Cat can't. He doesn't know how to do it and he doesn't want to. His banking needs are fairly simple. We don't pay anything by direct debit because that bothers him too.
I might do  things this way but it worries him so we don't do it. I am not going to argue. 
Now his bank wants to charge him an excessive fee for sending out a paper statement - a fee far in excess of the cost of doing the task. Again, it's about "encouraging" people to bank on line. (I look at the bank tellers and think of  them moving to the unemployment queue.) Again too, it is making the assumption that everyone has access to a computer and knows how to use it - and use it safely.
The answer of course is that not everyone has a computer. Not everyone knows how to use one. Every single one of us can make a mistake or be fooled by a fake website.  We may be becoming more computer literate and more aware but there is a long way to go.
And then, yesterday, we discovered another problem. There is an assessment scheme for older people here. It is generally known as an "ACAT assessment" - an Aged Care Assessment Team assessment. It's designed to see what help an older person might need at home in order to stay there. Good idea? Yes - if it works.
The problem we discovered is that these assessments can no longer be access through a doctor at a hospital (a logical place for one to be requested surely). The hospital said it was the GPs responsibility. No, the GP is no longer permitted to ask for one. (Another logical place surely?) No, you have to go on line and request one yourself.
Ummm? Hold on. They expect an older person, unlikely to own a computer or have access to one, to go on line and request their own ACAT assessment? Clearly that does not work.
Middle Cat and I decided that somewhere along the line a medical social worker might have to be involved for some people. For the rest, it is up to the family or, perhaps, a trusted friend. Things have changed since I last inquired about such things. When I last did it for an elderly friend it was a simple matter of going with her to her GP and the request being put in. 
That is of course the way things should work. They should work in the simplest logical way - not merely the simplest way. 
Middle Cat can deal with the application today while she is father-sitting. I am off to the dentist and a different set of forms but the dentist will deal with those - online. 

Thursday 17 March 2016

"You have to understand about goats"

came the e-mail message to me. And yes, what followed did make me understand a little more about goats...and children...and village life.
But I am writing this for Joanna Cannon who wrote "The trouble with goats and sheep" and anyone who has read it. Borough Press is donating goats to Africa because of Jo's book so I am writing about real life a village... in Africa.
I have a friend who runs a centre for unaccompanied children in Africa. It is a place which has seen many ups and downs - from over 600 children at the height of the war between the Hutu and Tutsi in neighbouring Burundi to around 130 at present. (The original plan was for 60 children.) 
And of course children need to be fed. This leads to things like vegetable gardens - and goats. 
Ah yes. Goats. 
      "The goats got into the vegetables again."
      "More trouble with the goats."
      "The goats knocked the fence down again."
      "The goats chewed through that too..."
And so it went on in e-mails from my friend. I could hear her frustration. They had tried everything they could think of but keeping goats next to a supply of nice, fresh, food was just too much.
So, we raised still more money. This time the wonderful women in my knitting guild raised it by buying wool that had been given to me for that purpose. And some of them simply donated some money as well. I put the money in the bank account we have for my friend. I advised the man in Belgium who looks after their financial affairs. Discussions went backwards and forwards and...that piece of land next to the church...the one someone was willing to sell them for a very reasonable price? Yes!
The older boys and the priest and the man who drives the lorry all set about building... a fence. 
They moved the goats. That, the children told me in their e-mail was something of an adventure in itself. One of the goats decided to take a little side trip and the others followed.
Eventually they herded the goats into their new home. Everyone admired the sight of the goats. The villagers were equally delighted. There would be no-more-trouble-with-the-goats.   
Next friend looked out the door to survey the weather...and saw the goats. The goats should have been at the other end of the the enclosure next to the church. Instead they greeted her in their usual friendly way.
        "The goats were bad. The goats must go to church."  I had a vision of the goats filing into church behind everyone else.
So, what to do?
My friend went to inspect the situation...followed by one of the goats.  No, no mischief maker had opened the gate. The goats had simply jumped the fence. She could see the place where they had done it.
She went back, roused some of the older children and they took five errant goats back to their new home.
They have now made the fence a little higher...and stronger. The youngest children have decided the goats need to be walked each day...away from the vegetable patch. 
       "You have to understand about goats," they told me, "Goats get sad without us."
Perhaps they do.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Sometimes people need to talk

and the rest of us should simply stop everything and listen.
I was busy yesterday. Having the Senior Cat in hospital has not been a holiday for me - although I suspect some people think it has been.
Middle Cat has had "gastro" so did not visit. As we agreed one of us should visit each day with mail, laundry, and "TLC" it has fallen to this cat to do the prowling in. 
I told him I was expecting a visitor later. We both agreed that this person would probably need to talk although the ostensible reason for coming was something entirely different.
And yes, he did need to talk. I put the kettle on. He made his own coffee. He showed me what he wanted me to see. I admired it. 
It is actually very, very good. He has designed something and done it with the great skill. Now that it has been designed he has to transfer it to another medium and finish it. There are many hours of work involved. 
We talked about it for a bit. He sat there and sipped his coffee and I waited and, finally, he started to talk. He needed to talk. Yesterday was the anniversary of the accident that left him so badly scarred by burns that he will live with fragile skin and no ability to properly control his body temperature for the rest of his life. There's no hiding the scars on his face and people do wonder why he wears layers of clothing on a day when the rest of us are looking to take as many clothes off as is decent. He still gets out and about.
And this is a man who, despite all that, despite the constant pain and the problems with sleeping is still doing things for other people. He also knows some interesting people. They look to him for help.
I like his attitude of wanting to help.
But sometimes he needs someone too. I think people forget that. So yesterday although I didn't really have the time I sat and just listened. I didn't bring out my knitting as I sometimes would. I just sat and listened. He talked and talked. I just listened.
Eventually, four hours later, I had to tell him I needed to do something because someone, somewhere else, would be waiting. He knew it was time to go. He finished his completely cold coffee and gave me his lop-sided smile as I waved him off.   He hadn't smiled on the way in.
Sometimes you just need to listen.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

They changed the law

with respect to bicycle riders some three months ago - and it seems some people still have not managed to learn.
There was a piece in this morning's paper with some complaints about the way in which some drivers are still not respecting the rights of other road users. It mentioned the way in which similar laws in another state have, over time, simply been forgotten or ignored by drivers of cars.
Now, I don't wish to suggest that bicycle riders are blameless. They are not. Some of them do some very stupid things. Others however are sensible and responsible but they are still being abused.
The law says bicycle riders may ride on the roads. (There are some rare exceptions. Don't come hurtling down the freeways if you are bicycle rider.) It also says they may now ride on the footpaths - providing that they take due care of pedestrians etc. 
It is all commonsense - or it should be. 
I am doing the trip down to the closest hospital at present. It is where the Senior Cat is in the rehabilitation unit. Going down is fine as there is distinct slope. I scarcely need to pedal. There are good reasons to use the road. It is normally not very busy although the point at which it crosses the bus route needs to be watched. The surface is good. There is also the issue that the suburb I need to travel through is laid out in a unique and rather peculiar fashion. It makes riding on the footpaths rather difficult. Quite apart from having to watch for cars coming out of driveways and people shooting out from the side streets there are other obstacles to free cycling.
The same of course applies in reverse. But...but...but coming home I am pedalling UP hill and that means I am rather slower. I keep as far to the left (remember my North American friends we drive on the  opposite side of the road) as I can. At times I am almost in the gutter. I do need to weave my way around parked cars. When that happens I will look behind me and wait for a car to pass if necessary.
Yesterday however your cat nearly got killed by someone who was travelling far too fast. There were four cars parked together. One on one side and three on the other. I was on the same side as three. There was nothing behind me when I started to pass and then, swinging out of the side street at speed came a white van. It passed me close enough to touch. The driver used his horn and sped on up the road. 
He left me with the front wheel against the door of the car next to me. There was someone sitting in the car using his phone. He wound the window down and looked at me.
       "You okay?"
       "I think so."
       "Yeah, well watch it then."
I pedalled off slowly. 
Where's a cop car when you need it though?

Monday 14 March 2016

The "same sex marriage" plebiscite

is back in the news with a vengeance. It is set to cost the country $500m according to the media. It won't be binding either.  
Those in favour are saying it is a waste of money and that parliament should just go ahead and pass the legislation. 
It is a waste of money. The question could be asked at the same time as the next election. Both major parties should then commit to passing the legislation - assuming that people vote in favour.
I wonder though what would happen if there was a "no" vote? I suspect the same thing would happen that happened with the vote over becoming a "republic". That was defeated.
Republicans did not accept the result. They claimed it was the way the question was asked that caused people to vote "no". Since then they have been agitating, with some success, to have the issue revisited. 
If it is revisited and they fail again then they will continue to blame others and go on agitating for the change they want. They won't accept a majority view. 
I suspect it will be the same with "Scottish independence", Brexit, Irish "reunification", the right to bear arms in the US, Israel/Palestine, ISIS/moderates, and any other  apparently insoluble conflict. There will be other local issues, changing the flag, renaming sites, preserving heritage, preserving wildlife, saving a hospital or building something else. People get passionate.
          "We have the right..." they say. 
And when those agitating for the change - or the status quo - do succeed they then go on to the next thing. They are never satisfied. They need something to "campaign" for or against. They need to feel important. They need to believe they believe in something. They need to believe they can change the world in some way.
All too often they are the articulate minority. They can't accept a majority decision. 
How much conflict does this cause?

Sunday 13 March 2016

"Humanitarian aid workers"

or something else? 
I think "something else" is more likely. There was an article in the Australian yesterday which someone alerted me to. It was by Rodger Shanahan "Let's not take Syrian-based aid workers at their word."
He was questioning whether people going into Syria and claiming to be "humanitarian aid workers" were actually aid workers or whether they were going there for other reasons.
My answer is that there can be little doubt they are going there for other reasons. They are naive in the extreme if they believe anyone who knows anything about humanitarian aid work would think otherwise.
You don't just jump on a plane and head off into a conflict zone. It's not just a nice comfortable plane ride to an airport in another country where you are greeted by someone who welcomes you and escorts you off to where you are needed. 
The sort of work these "aid workers" claim to be doing, the conditions under which they claim to be doing it, and their (relative) safety, simply doesn't exist. Locals may stay to do some of it, particularly if they have no choice, but a foreigner with little or no command of the language will not be doing it.
Getting people into a conflict zone can require lengthy and delicate negotiations. Those negotiations are often high level and, once granted, entry may be hedged around with restrictions. There are often huge obstacles in the way of those trying to help.
I know something about the linguistic obstacles. Interpreting is an inexact science, especially when relying on untrained people. It is fraught with cultural,  political, social, scientific, and even religious problems. 
That's only a start. There are other political issues. There are the problems of actually getting there. There is personal safety, the risk of being kidnapped or killed. Journalists have to embed themselves in military units for some degree of safety - and how many of them have been killed in the past year? One would be too many - and there are many. There is the need for shelter, food, water, and more.
And if you do want to do humanitarian aid work then there are refugee camps where help is needed. But they would prefer you were trained first. I don't blame them. I would prefer you were trained too. The last thing those trying to administer such places need is someone who doesn't know what to do, where to go or how to behave. 
So, if you call yourself one of those "humanitarian aid workers" and you aren't working with a recognised organisation or you're not there by invitation please don't expect me to believe you are there for humanitarian purposes. 

Saturday 12 March 2016

While the (Senior) Cat's away

this "mouse" will "play". 
Or, more seriously, I decided to take the opportunity to do some much needed clearing out. It has reached a point where the Senior Cat won't notice. 
He was never really interested in my mother's sewing. He pretended to be. He would "admire" her attempts at machine embroidery, the clothes she made herself and the pyjamas she made for my nephews who lived here.  Truthfully though my mother was not good at such things. She was too impatient. She disliked sitting at the machine. She loathed hand sewing. She tolerated plain knitting because she could watch television or, more likely, talk to someone at the same time. 
She left behind her "sewing room". It is the one I now do the ironing in and which, for the last sixteen years, has been the repository for everything that "might be useful" and that "can't be thrown out".  It is a mess. It is a disgrace.
The Senior Cat is not a tidy person. I am not a tidy person. If I think it is a mess then it is a mess.
I won't finish the task but I am slowly clearing some of it out. I have put piles of sewing thread, needles, pins, bobbins, zips, lengths of elastic, bias binding, tape, buttons, and tailor's chalk into bags. I have given some of it to a neighbour who sews. (It will help to make up for the fact that she won't let me pay her for taking hems up.) There are still some lengths of material there - not the sort of thing I would ever wear even if I sewed and nothing the neighbour would use. There are endless other things as well. It all belonged to my mother and has not been touched since she died.
Then you add the other things, sheets of cardboard, boxes, knitting wool, knitting needles, bags, two of the Senior Cat's gardening garments which need new cuffs and an elbow repair, wrapping paper, cards, string, spare coat hangers, a winter coat, and all the old wall calendars - "in case we need to refer back to them". 
Several times I have been tempted to just shut the door again, to forget it is all there. It isn't because of the memories those things bring back. They don't bother me - although I am aware that some of them might bother the Senior Cat - perhaps if he saw things like the "cushion cover" my mother made when she was learning to use her new sewing machine. (We gave the machine to someone who was desperately in need and she has since made her living from sewing for others.)  But he may well not remember things like the cushion cover so I have packed things into bags and, anything potentially able to be sold, I will deliver to the charity shop.
The stray balls of yarn, not to my taste at all, will go to the "knit for charity" people. It is still in good repair. There is no moth damage. 
but I still wonder what to do with the "might be useful" things. I had to  use one of those "overnight" bags for the Senior Cat this last week. The wrapping paper does get used. So do other things.
I really don't like clearing out and tidying up. What bothers me is that I might give away something we actually need. 

Friday 11 March 2016

The consultant doctor in rehabilitation

is Indian. She is very nice and very kind - which is just as well because the Senior Cat has great difficulty in understanding what she is saying. 
She has an accent and she speaks rather quickly.
It is just as well Middle Cat and I prowled in at the same time as
she arrived to "assess" the Senior Cat. Rather than be worried about "failing" in front of two of his children the Senior Cat was more relaxed. We were there if he didn't understand what she was saying.  Even so it was stressful.
I have seen these tests done before. So has Middle Cat. Up until banging his head the Senior Cat has  sailed through them and, although a little slower yesterday, he still managed to do all but one of them - oh and he had no idea what the date was but then he almost never knows because it is something he doesn't bother with. I wasn't too concerned about that. He knew the day, the month, the year and plenty more beside. He can spell "world" backwards... probably faster than I can.
But it was still stressful. Middle Cat explained how she, in the nicest possible way, calls the Senior Cat a "motor moron". He is, to put it simply, uncoordinated - although not as uncoordinated as I am.
I could see he was getting rather stressed at the end of the session. The consultant could too. She said they would do some more the following day. 
I looked at the consultant again, judged she might be willing to "waste" a minute or so and passed over one of the two packs of playing cards the Senior Cat  had asked me to bring.
     "Why don't you show her you can do something she can't do? "
He gave me a wicked little smile,  took the cards, went into his "magician" mode. The "patter" came out. He manipulated the cards with no problems. He had her participate. He fooled her with a lovely piece of "misdirection" and she looked genuinely startled by the result.  Then she looked at me and Middle Cat as if to say...
"Well if he can still do that he's not doing badly."
He has a way to go yet because he has actually got a small crack in his skull. There was a little more damage than all of us first thought but he's recovering. 
Hopefully he will be getting under my paws again soon. 

Thursday 10 March 2016

Shetland Lace is

one of those things that has people salivating - at least those people who know about knitting or any other yarn art and craft or those who simply appreciate the handwork of others.
The Senior Cat refers to it as "that stuff you make with all the holes in it"  but he still says things like "I don't know how you do it" and "it looks so complicated". Yes, it requires concentration. 
For the knitters among you who don't know - Shetland lace has a garter stitch base, yarn overs and knitting stitches together. That makes it sound simple. It isn't - but it might be an improvement on the "nupps" in Estonian lace.
But Kate Davies is writing a book about "haps". Haps are shawls.
You don't say "hap shawl" because the word "hap" means much the same thing - a covering.
And yesterday her blog showed a picture of a Patons leaflet with two "Shetland" shawls. They were, of course, designed for the average knitter. They were not designed for the women of Shetland. 
I have a copy of the Australian version of that leaflet. It belonged to my paternal grandmother. She made such things. All her nieces and nephews (and there were quite a few of them) were given one when they were expecting their first child. The expectation was that they would keep it carefully and use it for all children thereafter. I believe most of them did. There are still some stored away carefully and they are used only as christening shawls.
Her own children, two boys, never had any such gift. It was considered they didn't need it. Their paternal grandmother had provided something similar, along with the christening gown. My brother and I wore the christening gown. It is still there in linen press. My niece's children were too big to wear it. Babies, it seems. are getting bigger.
But the shawl was ruined, not through carelessness but through accidental flooding. Had I known, had I been old enough, I might have tried to rescue it but  the men clearing out the mess had no idea and they just threw it out.  
I remember it vaguely. I know it was made by my paternal great-great grandmother and I have the faintest recollection of something almost as fine as sewing thread with a border of what I thought of as "pine trees". 
I wish we still had it. 

Wednesday 9 March 2016

International Women's Day

passed me by with barely a nod. 
I never quite know what to make of any "international" day anyway. It seems to me there is an international day for almost everything now. Some days get "celebrated" more than others too. But International Women's Day was mentioned on the news. There was a "breakfast" somewhere that, under other circumstances, I might have attended. (I put in my apologies like a good little cat.)
And - I really wondered what the point of the day was. 
Yes, I know there is a way to go yet before "gender equality" but does International Women's Day do anything to solve the problems?
As kittens we were not allowed to celebrate "Mother's Day" or "Mothering Sunday". The one time we tried we were firmly rebuffed with the words, "Every day  should be mother's day." We never tried again. Should International Women's Day be like that though? Should every day be International Women's Day? Perhaps it should be - without the rebuff.
I know, and have known, some remarkable women - doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers, other professionals, and women who run their own businesses.  They have, despite the supposed "gender gap", been highly successful. Not all of them have married but most of them have. They have brought up families as well. It hasn't been easy - but they have done it. They have worked hard.  And no, it has not been easy.
These are the women though who, each one of them, have made it just a little easier for the next woman and the next woman. I love the way they have commitment, passion, and energy and the natural ability to organise not just themselves but other people. They all have a "can do that" attitude.
I think that's what we really need. It's an international "I Can Do That Day". 

Tuesday 8 March 2016

"Active learning"

she told me. 
Middle Cat and I stopped to get a drink in the hospital canteen yesterday. (Neither of us had eaten lunch.)
Inevitably Middle Cat saw someone she knew and they started to chat. Her friend is doing a doctorate as a mature age student. 
What, I wanted to know, was her topic?
It turns out she is doing it on "active learning" or, more precisely, how using the internet affects the way a student learns. We were soon discussing this. It's a topic which interests me - and the Senior Cat.
The Senior Cat came to the internet late in life, very late. He was given an i-pad for his 90th birthday. He has managed to learn to use it to search for information and never ceases to be amazed by "what you can find on there". 
But, talking with Middle Cat's friend, my feelings about the way the Senior Cat uses the internet were reinforced. He doesn't use it the way many young people would seem to use it to search for information. 
The Senior Cat is not satisfied with just one source of information. He will look at not just one site but many sites. He looks to see not just what the information is but where it has come from. Is the source likely to be reliable? 
And, just as importantly, the Senior Cat will ask himself - or has done - the other important question, "Do I need to know more?"
It's a different approach to learning. 
Middle Cat's friend was talking about young people looking for information on the internet, reading a small amount from a single site, and then saying, "Now, I know that."
They don't know it. They may know something but they don't necessarily know enough or understand what they have read. It is rather like suggesting that someone is now an expert in theoretical physics because they have read Stephen Hawking's "A brief  history of time".  Even if I had understood everything I read it would not have made me an expert in theoretical physics. 
But the internet is there. People use it. They use it to "find out things". Schools here expect students in the upper reaches of the primary and into the secondary school to own a device which allows them to access the internet. More and more teaching is being done this way. There are schools which no longer have libraries.
It is not doing students any favours. Their learning is superficial. I doubt their capacity to memorise is as good.
Years ago when I was a mature age student in law school I wrote a paper about how to write an examination summary - the notes a law student was permitted to take into the exam room. 
The best students wrote concise, careful summaries. Learning how to write one was an essential part of  being a really good law student. It still is - although the techniques for doing it now that the internet is there would be slightly different. But students still need to know their cases and not just know them but understand them. The internet cannot do that for them. If I had paid the subscription to access a set of law reports. I could read the cases. They would not mean a great deal unless I understood the principles being applied. I could not apply them to a set of facts.
The internet has limits. We still need active learning.

Monday 7 March 2016

Social media is supposed to

generate superficial friendships. 
Yes, there are people with hundreds or even thousands of "friends" on Facebook and whatever other like sites there are. People can accumulate thousands of "followers" on Twitter and so on.
But are these people really "friends" or "followers" or whatever else you care to call them?
When I first ventured, very cautiously, into social media I wasn't too sure it was something I wanted to be bothered with. There was the idea of using "Twitter" for work purposes or I probably wouldn't have bothered.
Twitter has been extremely useful for work. It means that aid workers who are out and about "in the field" can contact me quickly at my desk. I can dig out a piece of information, a word, a name, a phone number, a location, or something else. I can do it more quickly and easily than they can. They can concentrate on their job instead. These people are not "friends". Some of them can be complete strangers. It doesn't matter.
But there are other people I have come to know in other ways. Most of them write, some of them write very successfully indeed.
But they don't just write. They read. 
I sat down here and wrote a blog post the other morning about my beloved father, the person I refer to as the "Senior Cat". I love him dearly and when he fell in the bathroom I needed to say so - probably in more detail than most people needed.  
But it was the response here and on Facebook that stunned me - and him. People have never met him in real life. Only one of you has ever spoken to him on the phone but you were concerned for him. There were messages of concern for him - and me.
It helped me get through a very, very difficult day. Had he hit his head just a little further towards the back of his neck he wouldn't be here. We haven't told him how close it was. I didn't want to think about it at the time but I had to. Being able to sit here and write something and then, more importantly, have people respond in reassuring and caring ways really meant something.
It's not going to happen but I wish you could all meet the Senior Cat so that he could say "thank you" personally. As it is he has asked me to pass on his bemused and bewildered thanks. He can't quite believe "what nice friends (you've) got even if you don't really know them".
Who says virtual, social media friendships can't also be caring ones?
Thank you everyone!

Sunday 6 March 2016

Health Insurance is one of those

things I usually resent paying for. I mean, you should be healthy shouldn't you? We think of it as our right to be healthy. 
It doesn't matter that we don't exercise and eat the wrong things and some people smoke, take other drugs, or over-indulge in alcohol. We still expect to be healthy.
We aren't of course. The complexity of the human body and the way it all fits together will probably amaze me for as long as I am capable of thinking about it. 
My good friend R, a retired doctor, still enthuses about the way the body works. She is almost 80. It  is sixty years since she began her training and she still thinks the human body is amazing and fascinating and....well, you get the idea.
I feel the same way. My medical knowledge is minimal compared with R's or that of my doctor nephew. I probably know more than many people. I have had to learn over the years. One of the most important things I have managed to learn is that there is a lot more to learn. 
I like to have doctors talk "with" rather than "to" me. My GP is good like that. She can change her language in order to suit the patient she is speaking to. I have been in to see her with the Senior Cat. She tells him things in good, plain English but without talking down to him. She tells me things in a similar way but it will be laced with medical terms and shorthand she knows I will understand.  
The Senior Cat and I both have private health insurance. At his age he needs it. I suppose it is a privileged thing. It also means he had the pacemaker put in almost immediately instead of waiting some weeks. But that might also be a good thing. It means he is less likely to fall in the bathroom and crack his head open again. So, we pay the large sum of money it costs each year.
It also means that the doctor talks to me. I have the legal authority to make medical decisions on the Senior Cat's behalf and he likes me to be involved. (Middle Cat has the same authority.) It means he trusts me. The doctor spoke to me about the pacemaker. He ran quickly through the procedure and the potential dangers. It was all familiar to me and, in a way, reassuring that he was - although obviously rushed - prepared to make sure that I understood. It was important because, at that point, the Senior Cat was still confused and not really taking things in. They were also going to give a light anaesthetic to someone who had sustained a head injury just hours before.
My nephew took me up to the hospital yesterday morning. The Senior Cat was sitting out of bed looking pretty perky for someone who had been through all he had been through. (His colour is not good but that did not surprise me.) The staff were pleased with him and very kind.
And,  because of his private health insurance, he was in the CCU (coronary care unit) in the private wing. He had his own room - a good thing when he is such a restless sleeper. It didn't matter that we were there to deliver such essentials as his pyjamas and his glasses outside visiting hours. It was fine for us to go in briefly and reassure ourselves instead of having to hand over his personal belongings to an overworked nurse and not see him at all.
Next time my private health insurance needs to be paid I hope I can remember all this.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Calling an ambulance

was something I managed to do remarkably calmly.
The Senior Cat fell over in the bathroom yesterday morning.  I heard something go clatter in there. He is the first to admit he is clumsy on his feet so I waited a moment and then, just as I was about to investigate I heard a rather weak, "Cat...."
Oh. I moved as fast as I could. 
There he was sitting on the floor in pools of blood - and I mean  pools.
      "I think I fell over," he told me.
I knew instantly he had gone down backwards because there was a gash on the back of his head, consistent with having hit the shower surround.
      "Darling, I can't deal with this one," I told him as calmly as I could.
He looked blankly at me - more cause for alarm. I went and pressed his emergency pendant. It took three rings and then someone responded. I told them who, where, what - still wondering how I could sound so calm when I wasn't feeling at all calm. I left the front door unlocked and went back to him with a clean towel to hold over the wound.
By good fortune there was an ambulance three minutes away and they were there and doing things within that. Could I do this? Could  I do that?  Yes, we will definitely take him up to the hospital. The two young women who had come looked at each other and then at me. We all looked at the Senior Cat and said, "You're going to be all right."
He was still with it enough to start apologising!  I mean, really. He didn't mean to do it. I had already guessed what might have happened. 
        "I don't drive," I told the two women, "May I come up with you?"
        "Of course."
I did remember to take some money for a taxi back and my keys to get in. I phoned my BIL - Middle Cat had gone to work at 6:30am. Of course, these are the days she volunteers at a major event - as the on-call physiotherapist.  He says he will pass the message on.
We "blues and two" to the hospital just in case. It's not the first time I have done this in an ambulance but it is the first time I have done it in morning peak hour traffic and I didn't enjoy the experience. Let me assure you, it is NOT exciting. It's just terrifying.
But the Senior Cat remains able to talk to us and even answer the constant, calm stream of questions as the woman in the back keeps him conscious. 
We get there. They leave me to answer the usual questions. Then I prowl around to find him - being all too familiar with emergency departments I know where he will be. Fortunately the emergency area is remarkably quiet and someone is already with him. 
A very young doctor, still in training, comes and asks questions. I give him answers in plain English laced with medical terms and he starts to look a little less anxious at having to deal with the situation.
Yes, I could guess what had happened and the tests confirmed it. Some older people can have a quite dramatic drop in blood pressure when they stand up, especially after a visit to the bathroom. They can faint. The Senior Cat had fainted. It wasn't "a stroke". 
He had a pacemaker fitted late yesterday afternoon. It should solve that problem. He's had a small inner bleed at the site of the gash and they are doing a second scan today to see what that looks like. 
I am off to visit. He was on the phone to me early, asking for his glasses and his electric razor and some pyjamas please.  
I suspect he will be driving the staff crazy with questions. I think he's going to be okay for now. I also know he's 93 and we are lucky to still have him.

Friday 4 March 2016

"I wouldn't do that"

the voice behind me said.
       "Well I just have," I said rather crossly.
Our greengrocer's shop is a lovely place. A lot of thought went into the layout. 
The produce is fresh and attractively presented. Where possible the owner sources local produce too.
They also sell a range of salads, fresh eggs (only free range), juices and so on. They also sell loose nuts and dried fruit. You help yourself to the required quantity with a scoop. 
While in the shop yesterday I noticed that someone had managed to spill eight or nine cranberries on the floor. Someone had trodden on one of them and I could see that there was a strong possibility of a sticky mess or, worse, someone slipping on them. It had only happened moments before and I doubted the staff, busy as the other end of the shop, had noticed yet.
So I waited until one of them had finished serving a customer and then I said, "S.... could I have a bit of paper towel please? Someone has dropped a few cranberries on the floor."
        "Oh, thanks Cat. You don't mind?"
        "Of course not."
And I didn't mind. I don't mind. It's the responsible thing to do. I know the staff well enough to ask for the paper towel and do that for them. If there had been a bigger spill or something which required more equipment I might have just left my trolley there, told them and then waited  until someone came to deal with it - which they would have very quickly. 
I know other people in our local shopping centre too. I  have occasionally "minded the shop" for more than one of them. Almost everyone works alone and they either have to get one of their colleagues to "watch" or ask someone else they trust.  They are not, under the centre rules, supposed to close their shops. Occasionally they do but they will be fined if the centre management finds out.
I don't mind. It doesn't happen often. I don't try and sell  anything.  I don't know how to use a cash register or a credit card machine or do any of the other things that need to be done.  I will help people find things in the bookshop - or suggest a picture book for a birthday present!
And I don't mind clearing up a small mess on the floor if it means that it might prevent an accident.
The other person  didn't see it like this. 
       "It's their responsibility - not yours."
I disagree.
When I handed back the paper towel into which I had folded the berries so that S.... could put it in their bin I was thanked with a cheerful smile. I knew I had done the right thing.

Thursday 3 March 2016

"Super Tuesday" was

not really "super" at all. All the action occurred here on Wednesday anyway.
I really shouldn't comment on the US elections. Is it any of my business? 
Well yes, it is. The US is generally considered to be a "super power", one of the most influential countries in the world.  Downunder has a fairly close relationship with the US. Downunder might be a "minnow" swimming next to the shark but it does swim there.  It needs to be careful.
I have been eyeing the "candidates" with interest - and some alarm. The one I think I like the most is unlikely to make it. I don't care for either of the front runners. 
Trump terrifies me. Enough said.
I should be welcoming the idea of a woman at the helm. I might if it was someone else. But - big but - there is something about the  current candidate that is "not quite right" for me. I was never terribly impressed by her in her previous roles. The Presidency would be an even bigger role. I try to imagine her mixing with other leaders of other countries as leader of her country and I find it difficult. 
Perhaps it is just me.
There was an announcement made in Downunder politics too yesterday. The Leader of the current Opposition announced that a high profile indigenous activist was going to fill a casual Senate vacancy. It is an interesting appointment. The appointee is no fool. He has been an outspoken advocate for many years.
After the announcement was made I was talking to an indigenous youth worker I know. He had 'phoned me about something else altogether and I asked if he had heard the news. He had heard it just prior to calling me. I thought he would be pleased. Instead he was cautious. He suggested the new Senator might have continued to do more good "outside politics".
I wonder. Politics is a strange game. Power, real power is stranger still.


Wednesday 2 March 2016

The smoke alarm went off last night

and you now have a very-tired-cat. There was no smoke. There was no fire. The battery may need changing. I don't know. It went off twice - both times quite briefly.
Of course the battery changing business is not one the Senior Cat and I can handle. He can't climb a ladder to get to the alarm. I can't climb the ladder either. 
There will be the usual  battle over whether or not it is proper to ask someone such as my BIL to do the job or call in the electrician to do it. The Senior Cat hates asking other people to do the jobs he could once do. Middle Cat will explain gently that is is "perfectly all right" to ask in such circumstances. The Senior Cat will mutter and grumble. 
The smoke alarm is located in the passage way. It is very sensitive. If I am using the oven I need to shut the intervening door before I actually open the oven or the smoke alarm is likely to sing a raucous song. The noise is ear achingly loud.
My bedroom is located adjacent to the smoke alarm. I leapt out of bed of course. 
The Senior Cat slept on. I know because I have just asked him whether he heard it. I thought it was unlikely because he didn't come out to investigate last night.
I am glad he was asleep because he is a restless sleeper - but it worries me that he didn't hear it. 

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Cardinal Pell is giving evidence

to the Royal Commission into sexual abuse. This is day two.
I, rather foolishly, tweeted something yesterday which caused a deluge of tweets back - from both sides of the debate over his guilt or innocence. My tweet was nothing to do with his guilt or innocence. (The tweet was to a journalist who did understand but others assumed they did. It is perhaps another problem with the entire Pell affair.)
I don't know what Pell knows or what he has done. I have never met him. I have observed him on television and that is it. I do know something else though. Anyone with a modicum of training in psychology would know the same thing.
Pell has been convicted in the court of public opinion. Even if it could be shown without doubt that he was innocent of any wrong doing people would still believe he is "guilty", guilty of something. They need to believe that. 
Pell was a junior priest during the time he was being questioned about yesterday. He is not however being questioned that way. He is being questioned as if he was a Cardinal at the time. He is being questioned as if he should have had full knowledge and authority to deal with any issue that occurred. It is little wonder that his evidence sometimes appears "evasive". Like him or not it is only fair to suggest he must be struggling to answer  under these circumstances.
It is rather like suggesting that, in my first few years as a teacher, I should have known if another teacher was sexually abusing students. I would have had no idea. I actually mixed very little with my fellow teachers. It was all I could do to keep my head above the stormy waters of trying to prepare good lessons, teach them well and care about the children in my care.  Would it be so very different from a young priest? I know several, about whom there is not the slightest whiff of scandal, and I know they wouldn't have time to know about the sexual activities of their fellow priests. Should they know? It's hardly the sort of thing that gets spoken about but I suppose it is possible to argue that people in such positions should be so observant that they notice and then act on such things even if they are very young and very inexperienced.
There is another problem however and that is a problem which lies with those who are victims and their families. It isn't anything they have done wrong. It isn't anything they ever intended or even intend now. They can in no way be blamed for what has happened to them.  
I hope if I put it into another context people might understand - that it might help them empathise with the victims and their families in a more positive way than merely raging at Pell.  Let me try and explain how I see it.
My mother was a "Christian Scientist". They do not believe in mainstream medicine and turn to "Christian Science Practitioners" to "work" for them instead. They see illness as "error" and their use of these "practitioners" is a form of faith healing.
My mother knew at least two practitioners and my father knew one of these people as well - through my mother although he never followed her beliefs. I met these people. The practitioner was married to another Christian Scientist, a woman who - like him - had been brought up in the church. They were, without any doubt, devout.
In her early 70's the wife had a "stroke" and it left her quite severely disabled. They did not seek mainstream medical attention for it. She also broke her arm in a fall and they did not seek medical attention for that either. They "worked" on it. 
Eventually, months later and following pressure from their children, they did seek mainstream medical advice and were told that, had they come much earlier - preferably immediately - something might have been done to help. Not long after that the wife died. 
Her husband continued to be a "practitioner". He  continued to follow Christian Science theology. He could not let his religion go even though his wife had been harmed by not seeking medical attention.
Some people find this very hard to understand. Why, they ask, didn't he give it up?
The difficulty for him was, to me, obvious. He  had invested an enormous amount of time, money and emotional energy in being a Christian Science Practitioner. To admit it might not work would have been a devastating loss. His entire life had been devoted to Christian Science. I don't think he could have handled it. He died still, apparently, believing the Christian Science theology.
I believe it is a similar situation for many victims and their families. There has been a lifetime of the loss of innocence. They want to see "justice". They want to believe the "bad" rather than any possible "good". It is how they survive. They reason that Pell must have known and could have prevented it.This allows them to direct their anger at him, even if it is not reasonable to do so. One man has been shown proof that Pell was out of the country when an incident occurred and that he could not possibly have been there at the time. I don't doubt for a moment that, despite this, the victim still genuinely believes Pell was there and that "they" have "got it wrong". He can't live with anything else.
People who believe in this way and who direct their anger towards others need a great deal of support. It's no good getting angry or suggesting that they are "lying". They genuinely believe what they are saying. They may be mistaken but they are not lying.
It doesn't make them right but it most certainly doesn't make them wrong either.
I don't know whether I am right or wrong either.