Wednesday 31 May 2017

"No dogs allowed.."

the notice says outside the shopping centre. 
There are exceptions of course, guide dogs and other "assistance" dogs...and, it seems, the dogs belonging to everyone else as well.
I tripped over a dog yesterday. It was not a guide dog or an assistance dog or even a guide dog or assistance dog in training.
It was one of those "Heinz 57" varieties, a perfectly pleasant animal but not  fully under control. It was a very young dog, barely out of  early puppy hood.
Neither it, nor the young owner should have been inside the shopping centre. They most definitely should not have been coming out of the bakery.
I told them that. I said it politely as the young owner was being obedient to a parent. The parent should have known better. The young owner did know better.
Then the mother of the young owner started to tell both the young owner and the dog off.
At that point I didn't need to say anything. Someone else did. It was someone else with that unmistakable air of authority. 
I looked round. Oh yes, I recognised him. He walks three large, perfectly behaved dogs. They are the sort of dogs who sit at street corners and wait until they are told they can move off.  I have talked to them on occasion outside the library.
The young owner was gently reminded of the "no dogs in the shopping centre" rule "whatever your mother might say", the mother was reminded of the reasons for the rule, and then there was the offer,
         "Your dog will be happier and you will have a lot more fun playing with it and walking it if it is properly trained. I run obedience classes for dogs..."
And then this man offered to help train the dog free of charge.
I prowled off, unlocked the tricycle, went and did the next thing.
On the way home I saw the three dogs and their owner. I thanked him for his interference.
They have accepted the offer of help but, as he said to me, "What sort of adult gives a four year old charge of an untrained dog in a shopping centre?"
I just hope he can train the adults as well as the dog.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

"You suffer from tsundoku"

a friend told me. His son has been working in Japan for some years and M.... has been to see him twice for extended periods. He has come home with some "polite phrases and interesting words".
One of these is "tsundoku" which is apparently the Japanese word for the habit of buying more books than one can read.
I find it fascinating that there is a word for such a concept. It must be a serious habit in Japanese society. 
There are a great many books in this house. They sit double and triple stacked in shelves which take up all the available wall space. We parted with some recently - rather a lot of them - and it is hard to see the difference. Most of them were gardening and woodwork books belonging to the Senior Cat. Some of them were yet more cookbooks belonging to my mother. There were other craft books, such as quilting and macrame books, that I knew would never be used. There was even some fiction that did not rate as "worth keeping".
I did not give away any of my carefully collected samples of children's literature. They form a library the local children can use when they tire of what the local library has to offer. Yes, children's literature is different now. Ms Whirlwind has read almost everything and so have a good many of her friends. The boys around the corner ignored a few of the more "girl" books but they went through the rest. 
More than one person has walked in and asked, "Have you really read all these?"
My answer is, "If it belongs to me then I have read all the fiction, I have read some of the non-fiction and I have used the rest as reference material."
Yes, I  use the books I buy.  I do not suffer from "tsundoku".

Monday 29 May 2017

John F Kennedy would be

100yrs old today were he still alive.
I remember how I heard the news of his death. My brother had a "crystal set". He had made it himself, probably with some help from the Senior Cat. We weren't the sort of family to listen to the radio but my brother would listen to the 6 am news bulletin before getting out of bed.
That morning he came rushing in, white faced, and gave me and then our parents the news. It wasn't that we were particularly interested in American politics. We weren't. We were not even interested in local politics at that age. But my brother had been looking at the United States and Canada in what was then called "social studies" and his teacher had told the class about one of the things which was said in Kennedy's inauguration speech.
The full quote goes, 
     "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
As Downunderites we have ignored the first three words of course but the rest of it was something that my brother's teacher and other teachers in the school asked us all to think about. Over the rest of our time in that school we were occasionally reminded of the words. I suspect the Senior Cat was behind the idea but it had the support of the staff. As "the head's kids" we often knew far more about what was going on than the teachers realised. The teachers would occasionally quote it when someone had done something foolish or selfish.
And that quote was something important. It still is. It might sound hackneyed now but, when we first heard it, the idea was a big one for impressionable children.
I wonder now whether learning that then influenced the lives of the other students? It was almost the end of the school year and, for my year group, we had to make decisions about the subjects we would study in the following year. Those decisions would influence the rest of our lives. I had no idea what I wanted to do or would be able to do. I know there were girls who were thinking of the traditional service occupations of teaching and nursing. Did they do it? I don't know. We moved on a year later to yet another school.
I came to consider the entire world "my country". I admit I haven't always wanted to make the "right" decision, the decision that would benefit my world-country rather than me. I'd be a lot better off financially if I had made decisions in my favour.  But, somewhere at the back of my mind, there has always been the image of my brother's white face and the sound of his breathless voice, "They've shot President Kennedy".  Then the other words come back too.

Sunday 28 May 2017

"Can you mend it?"

my youngest nephew asked.
He dropped a mustard yellow coloured cardigan into my lap. I had been told about this cardigan the last time he came to visit from interstate. 
     "It's her favourite cardigan," he added.
It is Aran weight cotton-acrylic mix. 
      "I said I'd ask you," he tells me.
It has been worn - a lot.
      "It doesn't matter if you can't."
I rather suspect it does.
I do not like mustard yellow as a colour. It suits nobody I know, not even my Indian friend P.... who can get away with wearing yellows most people cannot wear.
I do not like that sort of cotton-acrylic mix. To be honest I do not care for acrylic.  Yes, I am a "yarn snob". I like natural fibres. 
But, this is obviously a much loved garment and it does matter to the owner.
Just how many of these garments did they make - and in this colour? I wonder what it cost. I suspect it wasn't cheap. It has clearly had a lot of wear so I suppose it was a good buy for the owner. If she divided the number of times she had worn it into the cost then it is probably very little per wearing. I have garments that are down to a few cents per wearing if I  think in those terms. The Senior Cat's Harris Tweed jacket, made by his father 70yrs ago, must be down to a few cents per wearing as well. It is one way to think about how much a garment has really cost us.
I wonder too whether there is something more in the relationship than "just a friend, someone I work with". I keep that thought to myself but Youngest Nephew knows what I am thinking and says, "She really is just a friend, someone I work with, but she likes it and I said I'd ask."
He shares my opinion of the colour. 
I have found some silk/linen mix - a scrap of  yarn leftover from a leftover sent to me. It is not as dark as the original garment but it might just do for mending. The job won't be perfect but, if I can do it, then a favourite cardigan can be worn again.
It's just a pity about the colour. 

Saturday 27 May 2017

The spam is getting worse

and the spammers are getting better or more accurate and much more  annoying.
Our ISP used to be very good about filtering out spam. We saw very little of it. All the "advertisements" telling me that I have "won" something were deleted before I ever saw them...which suited me just fine.
Now I have to block numerous senders of such rubbish every morning. This is despite having set my spam reduction to the highest possible level - meaning that I need to look in the "junk" folder every morning to be sure that something which is genuine mail hasn't been  sent to that.
"It isn't possible to do anything about it," I was told. 
No? Until my original ISP was taken over by a much larger firm they managed it very well indeed. 
Yes, I know that the volume of such "mail" has increased but so much is so obviously rubbish that it seems to me that no attempt is being made at all.  It is as if the ISP is also ignoring the "no advertising material" on the "letter box".  And  yes, I have looked at other ways to be rid of it. The problem is at the ISP's end, not mine. They allow this material to go through. I suspect they may even be paid a handsome sum to allow it to go through. After all, why not? It would reach hundreds of thousands or irritated customers at the push of a button. 
This morning they hit a new low. There was an email that addressed me by name, my actual name and not my initials - which is the way most of it appears. It is junk, vile junk. It is so obviously spam that even the lowest level of spam filter should not have allowed it through.
Is someone at the ISP being paid to let this sort of material through? Or, have they stopped attempting to filter any spam at all? These would seem to be the only possible answers. It is not the service we have paid for or the service  we once received.
Why is it that people believe that they can intrude on me like this?  I am a growling grumpy cat this morning and I am ready to scratch  the perpetrators when I catch them.

Friday 26 May 2017

Bees and car accidents kill

more people than terrorists in Downunder - so goes the claim of the estranged wife of David Hicks. For her thesis saying such things she has just been granted a PhD from the humanities department of Wollongong University.
Yes, she is stating a fact - but it is not one worthy of a doctorate. It is sort of "doctoral thesis" which lead other people to wonder what is going on in the humanities departments of universities. 
I know many people who view subject areas like "Women's Studies" with suspicion. (My own view is that there is a place for studying both female and male roles in society.) There are subject areas like "Media Studies" - and someone wrote a doctoral thesis on day time soap operas like "Days of our lives", of which I have never seen an episode. 
I had a severely disabled friend, now sadly deceased, who was a mathematician. His doctoral thesis in pure mathematics was thought by many people to be "absolutely useless".  It wasn't.  The idea he explored is now being explored further in an attempt to understand how space works. I know someone else whose son works in the area of "algebraic topology". The maths isn't something I pretend to understand but I can see the potential applications. Many people just think he is playing with pretty shapes.
My own doctoral thesis was in the area of visual perception. It wasn't something I intended to do at all. I was, and still am, much more interested in language and languages. But, there was a potential problem which needed to be investigated before people invested a lot of time and effort in developing a  system which would allow others to communicate more easily. It was something we needed to know. I abandoned other ideas and concentrated on what was needed. I'll admit I never felt the same buzz as I do about language but at least what I did was genuinely useful. 
Does a doctoral thesis need to be useful? Should we only study what is likely to be useful? No, that would be ridiculous. We should explore what interests us as well as what "might be useful" and I have gone on to do that. 
It is probably fair to say that most research is not "exciting". In science it is often dull and repetitive and there might never be an answer to the problem. The research roads are littered with abandoned ideas but the passing traveller may still pick one up, examine it, and use it in some way.
But, it would have been possible to simply look at the available statistics and draw the conclusion that bees and car accidents kill more people than terrorists in Downunder. That alone is not worthy of a doctorate. I will assume there is more to the thesis than that but, right now, I am wondering how that doctorate advances our understanding of the world.

Thursday 25 May 2017

A registered letter

costs more to send of course. The postman has to knock at the door and get a signature. It takes time.
It is worth it only if it is essential to know that the piece of mail has arrived, if you need to make sure that the person to whom it is addressed has received it. You can also be sure when it was received.
I have had to send two letters by registered post recently. One was to the ISP company which provides this service. I have asked that they reply by the end of the month. In the normal way I would not give a company so long to provide but I want an undertaking in writing that they will change their training methods - for their own safety as well as that of the customers. It will be interesting to see if I get a response. Any company conscious of the likelihood of litigation should respond positively.
The other letter was much more difficult to write. I had to get legal advice before I sent it. It concerns an area of the law I know nothing about. Looking back on the subject options in law school I cannot recall a subject which even touched on the topic. It had to be worded very carefully. I hope my response helps the person who now has the letter but I rather doubt it will. At least I have done the best I can to help.
The interesting thing though is that I needed to write letters. In both these cases email would not produce results. Even an ISP company will not respond to an email in the same way that they would respond to a letter.
I know someone who is currently trying to preserve an important part of British heritage. Someone else suggested writing a letter to one of those people who might have influence. Yes, the suggestion was "write a letter". There is no point in making a phone call - in this instance they wouldn't be able to talk to the person in question anyway, only his personal secretary. There is no point in sending an email - even if there was an available email address.
Two of my second cousins and I have been emailing one another. I drafted a letter which needs to go to the executors of the estate of  the  Senior Cat's first cousin. We all needed to decide what would be said in it. Email was useful here. I could send the draft and get their thoughts on it. One cousin added something very useful. The other cousin agreed to the content. We all know exactly what will be said. The first cousin will now sign an actual copy of the letter and send it on to me. I will sign it as well and then post it. Yes, I will post another letter. The executors need this in writing.
Letters are still important. Email is not the same. People still take notice of letters. 

Wednesday 24 May 2017

"Islam is not a religion of peace,"

he told me.
I went out to get our paper a couple of hours ago. It was still dark but one of our almost neighbours, a man I only know by sight, spoke to me as he walked to catch a bus to work.
He startled me, not because I didn't see him coming. I did. It wasn't because he hasn't spoken to me before. He has. I speak to his wife when I see her out and about. We have met in the library where I have found books for them and helped occasionally with her English.
This morning he stopped for just a moment and said to me, "How can I go to work this morning knowing what has been done?"
He's Muslim.
I could barely see his face in the darkness but his voice sounded worried and miserable. It has been hard enough for them here. They have barely enough to live on. He is studying and working part time. His constant worry is that he will lose his job - and thus the means to support his wife and three year old son. They are homesick. 
I feel for them. 
He has never spoken about his religion before. I have talked to his wife about it, just a little. It's a topic I suppose I am wary of because it can so easily lead to arguments, bitter and angry arguments. 
But this morning this man, a man I barely know, stopped and told me his religion is not a religion of peace. How to respond to that. I responded as I felt and said, "No, it isn't - but that doesn't mean you are like that. I hope the people you work with will understand that."
He nodded and said, "Thank you for that" and then walked on.
I wonder what will happen to him today. Will his work colleagues support or condemn him? 
I hope they support him but, knowing where he works, it will be a difficult day for him. The man who blew himself up and killed and maimed so many others never knew the young man who had to face his Christian colleagues, the people who have given him a job and housing and the opportunity to eventually go home and rebuild his country. 
No, Islam is not a religion of peace. It is at war with everything, including itself.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

A $400m donation

has been given by one of Downunder's richest men, Andrew Forrest. 
Much was made of this in the media yesterday and yes, it is a very generous and welcome donation. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were at the announcement. So were various leaders whose work will benefit from the donation. (I particularly like that part of the donation designed to help coordinate cancer research around the world. If that works as intended it will be of immense value to health.)
But it wasn't that which interested me as much as what Mr Forrest had to say.
    "If you haven't got money, donate your time," he told people. He has donated time as well as money over many years so he knows the value of donating time.
It's easy to donate money if you have it. There's a "feel good" factor about it. It's quick. It's simple. We can forget about the issue or cause as soon as it is done and just bask in the after-glow of having done the right thing.
When I mentioned my concern about not presently being able to help in an organisation I belong to someone said to me, "You've done your share." No I haven't. Nobody has ever done their share as long as they are still able to do something. 
I know that "service" organisations like Rotary and Lions are finding it increasingly hard to operate as they once did. They simply don't have the members any more. People say they "don't have time" to be involved. Our local charity shop is staffed by people with an average age of over 80. I can't volunteer there on a regular basis but they know they can call me in to help when someone needs help with paperwork because they have limited literacy skills. It's not much but it is something. I can do a little shopping or a chemist run for elderly or ill neighbours. And, at some point, I am going to be able participate more fully in an organisation I am passionate about. In the meantime I can knit for that and another organisation - and the results will raise more money than I could give. 
The Senior Cat volunteered for years. One of those places was a women's shelter - where he did odd jobs like mending locks on doors and repairing furniture they had been given. The women were understandably wary at first but news soon passed from one vulnerable and distressed woman to another that here was a man they could trust - and that did as much good as repairing the lock on a door. It was time rather than money which was involved.
There is a greater expectation now that government will take on roles once taken on by volunteers, that our taxes will pay for services once done by volunteers. 
I don't see all this as a good thing. I have found that giving time gives me so much more. I meet people. I learn about people. I learn about myself. 
Someone smiled at me in the library yesterday. She looked vaguely familiar but I had no idea who she was. Then she said, "I saw you at the craft fair. You showed my daughter how to do that cast on." 
I had only a vague memory of that - there are too many people at a craft fair who get shown something. But, if I see this woman again, we will smile at each other and say hello because I happened to be at a craft fair giving up a little bit of time. And that adds a small link to my network of human contacts.
That has to be a good thing.  

Monday 22 May 2017

Drug mules are

not rare - and yes, some people do it unwittingly. 
There was a case some years ago, in France I think, where someone was caught bringing drugs into the country. His or her reaction on being found apparently made it very obvious they had no idea the drugs were there. 
That individual was fortunate. If the country had been one like Indonesia then it is unlikely they would have had much sympathy.
It is one of the things which worries me about travelling - and having members of my family travel. I am always concerned that someone else will try to use them as unwitting mules.
It's a topic of media interest right now. There are claims that the "innocent" young woman who was caught in Colombia was actually a sex worker and that the safety of her family was threatened if she did not attempt to smuggle the drugs. I don't know whether there is any truth in the claims. The media loves to sensationalise such things and the state newspaper is, at times, rather like the old "News of the World".
Through the school system I know someone who lost a son through drug dealing. He was murdered in a remote location over a drug deal which went wrong. Nobody talked about it much then and nobody talks about it now. Now it is as if the matter never occurred. Nobody mentions M's son to her. I often wonder what she thinks, what she remembers on his birthday and the date of his death. It must be hard. He was, when I knew the family, a happy enough kid who liked kicking a football around but never worked hard enough to be on the team. He wasn't terribly interested in school but he was always happy to help someone. He would wander into the library at lunch time, look in the waste paper basket and, if it had anything in it, he would empty it without being asked. As I didn't have a "bin monitor" in the library I appreciated that - even if he never opened a book if he could avoid it.
And then there is the other mother I know whose daughter works in the "sex industry". She is, quite simply, a high class prostitute. Her life appears to be one long round of lunches, dinners, parties,  holidays and more. It isn't of course. She "pays" for all that. It worries her mother sick. Her daughter "got in with the wrong crowd" and uses drugs as well. 
      "I know what will happen," her mother told me the other day, "She'll take a b..... overdose or end up like that creature in the paper."
Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever happens it won't be a happy outcome. Her daughter never opened a book if she could avoid it. She has no apparent hobbies or interests. 
Perhaps that is all part of the problem. Nobody in my immediate family smokes. The idea of "doing drugs" has never remotely interested them. They have other interests.
The Senior Cat has far too much timber. My mother had far too many sewing materials. I have too much yarn. My brother has too many computer components (he builds them for the fun of it), Middle Cat has too many painting materials and the youngest of us has too many craft materials. The next generation is no better.
I suppose all this is a substitute for the evils of drugs. I feel sorry for people who need drugs. Playing with yarn is much more fun.

Sunday 21 May 2017

Timber is the most

extraordinary, wonderful, amazing material. The Senior Cat loves it with a passion. He has taught his children to love it too.
His big woodworking days are over. He no longer makes conjuring apparatus for magicians. We are trying to work out a way of him using his small lathe safely. (He needs to be sitting down these days.) Still, his passion for timber has not diminished.
His passion for timber is like mine for yarn. Only our passion for words is greater. So, he was very interested when I came home with something very precious yesterday.  
I had been to an Open Day at the local hand knitting guild. One of the reasons for going was that I knew someone who made items from timber was supposed to be there - and he was. I wanted, if possible, to get a present for someone who has been extraordinarily generous to others. We can't possibly hope to pay her back but, if I could find what I was looking for, then we can give her something special.
Yes, yes he was there! I had handed out various things that I had come to give other people and then I prowled into the other room. His little stall was just inside. He  was talking to someone else. It made no difference. My paw went out. Yes again! It was just the sort of thing I was looking for - practical and not too difficult to post but still a work of art.
I know Huon Pine when I see it. The Senior Cat still has some Huon Pine in his workshop. It is recycled. He rescued it when a shop was being refitted. (He happened to be passing at the time - one of those serendipitous moments in life.) 
Huon Pine is a soft creamy golden yellow colour. It is so fine grained that it works to a silk like finish in the hands of a good craftsman. It grows at the rate of less than a millimetre a year. Anything made from Huon Pine is likely to have come from a tree thousands of years old. Huon Pine is one of the rarest and most beautiful timbers there is to be had. It may not not be felled any more. Anything you buy made from Huon Pine must come from recycled timber.  
There was very little made from it on the stall. I had known there would not be and consider it my great good fortune to have found anything at all.  
While I was waiting I talked to someone else who was looking at  his work. Huon Pine, blackwood, silky oak, ebony, blackheart sassafras, red gum and more...I can recognise them and explained to her what she was looking at. Yes, she loved the Huon Pine as much as I did but it wasn't the colour she was looking for so she chose ebony - as dark as Huon Pine is light.
The stall holder finished talking to his other customer and turned to me. He knew that I knew what I was holding. We chatted briefly about it. I handed over the money for it and for two other small items that will go towards making special items to be raffled off for charity. They were made from silky oak and ebony, also lovely timbers.  He doesn't charge much, not nearly enough. He says he just does it because he enjoys the challenge in retirement. 
I am thankful that there are people who want to do such things in retirement.

Saturday 20 May 2017

So the rape case against Assange

has been dropped has it? 
Manning has been released.
I am sure that anyone who wants to subscribe to a conspiracy theory will see a connection between the two things. There might be. I have no idea.
Assange is not yet free of course. He still has to face court in England over his failure to appear. He still believes that there is an arrest warrant out for his extradition to the United States. 
I don't know whether there is an arrest warrant out for him or not - although I am sure that there are many people who would like the opportunity to question him. 
At the present time it seems he won't be going far. But, I wonder how much longer the Ecuadorean Embassy will put up with the presence of their "guest"?  If politics changes there - and it might - then he almost certainly won't be welcome to remain. What then?
All this has led me to wonder yet again about the business of betrayal. What makes people act that way? Power? Jealousy? Money?
Betrayal is like murder. It can lead to murder and often has of course. Even when it doesn't lead to that it can, and usually does, destroy lives - and yes, usually more than one life. I wonder about that too. 
Is there a time when betrayal is justified? I suppose asking that question is like asking is murder ever justified? 
There was an incident in New York this week. Someone drove a car into the crowd. He killed one person and injured many more. He apparently told the police who arrested him that they were "supposed to kill (him)". Apparently drugs were found in his system. Perhaps he is insane as well. Is he a former serviceman who has simply become unable to cope with the world around him? I have no idea but it all raises questions in my mind about motives for actions and ideas about whether people are always responsible for their actions. How do we treat such people? 
I know, there aren't simple answers to any of these questions. Each case is different. 
What I do know is that I don't know enough to condemn or support most people who betray. I need to keep an open mind. 
I need to do the same thing today when I see the person I tried to support. That person betrayed us all - but doesn't understand what they have done. Perhaps there are other people like that too.

Friday 19 May 2017

The $165m tax scam

being reported in the media will no doubt bring out more complaints about having to pay tax than "how did they hope to get away with it?" type comments.
I don't suppose anyone likes paying tax. Most of us, if we are honest, see the need for it of course. Someone has to pay for all the services we want as well as those we actually need.
Paying tax is not the issue of course. It is what the money is spent on that is.
I did some work once for a politician. It was not something I ever intended to do. He was not a particularly nice or nasty man, just an average sort of individual with a fairly high opinion of himself. It was his secretary who actually needed my help and I did like her. She was a JP and I had been in and out of her office on many occasions for her to witness my paw print on official documents. She was the one who asked me if I could help out. My response was, "As long as he understands I am doing it for you. I don't do party political work of any sort for anyone."
       "That's fine. I've already told him that. I've told him he has to get his own coffee too," she told me - being well aware that I can't carry a cup of liquid to save my life.
So, I went. I worked there for a month while she went into the city and set up his new ministerial office. In that time I managed to learn a lot about politics (ugh) and people (mostly nice) and problems (many). I also managed to learn a lot about money and how it is spent, on what it is spent, and why. 
It did not impress me. So much money was clearly being wasted simply trying to stay in power. It was something I had always suspected but that month confirmed it. Money is spent trying to keep pressure groups happy. Money is spent trying to shore up support. Advice? It is rarely listened to unless it is going to get votes. 
I asked his secretary about this when she made one of her flying visits back to the office. She sighed and said, "Yes, it is people like me - and you - who have to try and curb the excesses. Don't let him take you out to lunch."
I knew what she meant.
I would much rather money got spent on a proper emergency department for the shiny new hospital - built as a monument to government rather than a facility for the sick - than lunch for me. 

Thursday 18 May 2017

Linguistic diversity

matters. Saving minority languages matters.
Yes, I know the argument. "It's a waste of money to have bilingual signs in languages like Scots Gaelic and Downunder's Pitjantjatjara." 
Or is it? Malcolm Combe, a law lecturer in Scotland, wrote an opinion in the Scotsman yesterday. He wrote it in support of the bilingual signs appearing in Scotland.  He wrote it in response to someone else who objected to those signs.
I prowled in to read the article. It is a topic I am passionate about. I believe all languages are worth saving - and I also know that we won't save many of them.
Downunder has lost many of the languages spoken before "white" settlement. In all likelihood it had already lost other languages before that as rival tribal groups took over areas inhabited by others. Some of the vocabulary would have been absorbed. Words people needed to describe the world around them would have increased. Languages of such people have a rich and varied vocabulary to describe their world. They have no vocabulary to describe modern technology. That would have to be borrowed. It is for that sort of reason too many people believe that the minority language somehow doesn't matter any more.  
It does matter. Language is about identity. Language is a way of thinking. Language provides us with a tool to make sense of the world around us.  All those things matter. 
Even more important is the fact that each language provides us with a different way of thinking and it is that which helps us preserve our past, protect the present, and grow into our future. Each language adds to the rich diversity of human existence.Every time we lose a language we lose something of great value.
That doesn't mean language should remain static. Languages change over time. They have to grow or die. There are words in my present-day vocabulary that didn't exist in my world as a child - common, everyday words like "pizza" and "computer".  We didn't have pizza or computers so we didn't need them then. We do now. 
My paternal great-grandparents were bilingual. They spoke Scots Gaelic and Scots-English. I know almost no Gaelic. My siblings know none at all. I know only because language and languages fascinate me. I have never had cause to write a communication board in both Gaelic and English - although I have done one in Welsh and English.  Gaelic is classed as a minority language but it has a written literary tradition and, in recent years, people have become much more aware of the need to preserve and expand such things.
There is - or was - no such tradition for the many Downunder languages we have lost. We have lost so many of the stories told from one generation to the next, the stories which let them make their sense of the world around them. Even now, when there is an awareness of this, the money is never there for people to go out and try and preserve such things. The language of the Kaurna people, those who lived in the area around the city I now live in, is so corrupted that people who time travelled simply wouldn't understand one another at all - over the space of less than 200 years. 
So please, keep those bilingual signs in Scotland and teach Scots children to pronounce them and tell them what they mean. It matters.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Ghost town?

I had to go into the city yesterday and took the opportunity to do a necessary detour on the way back. It meant stopping at the show grounds not far out of the city. 
A little thought let me do the sensible thing and catch a train that goes on the other line. It saved time - something I did not have a lot of yesterday morning. 
I then pedalled through the show grounds to the office. It was a curious experience. Usually my trips to the showground mean I am surrounded by people all  busy getting ready for one of the many events held there, people coming to such an event, people packing up after an event, and so on.  Sometimes the place is crowded with students doing examinations in the big halls. It's a busy place, full of life.
Yesterday it was quiet, very quiet. The  whole place was almost deserted. Somehow the building site away to my right didn't seem to be part of the place. There was a safety fence in between.
I saw just one person in the grounds until I reached the main office. It was an eerie, unreal feeling.
In the office I was greeted cheerfully. I picked up the materials I had come for and then I made another return journey through the deserted grounds. The train station was deserted too. It just added to the feeling that I was isolated from the world for a time.
Waiting for the train I thought back to the journeys my family made when I was child. The Senior Cat and my mother taught in a remote country "town" - not much more than a hamlet - for two years. It was a long, long way from the city. The journey to get there took all day. We would leave at about 6am and get there in the early evening. Back then the road was not sealed and we would endure the choking dust from passing vehicles and hope each one would not throw up a stone and shatter our windscreen - a constant hazard. We would go for miles and miles and see nothing but low scrub on either side of the road, short spindly gum trees and salt bush for the most part. Beyond that there would be what Downunderites call "paddocks", outsize fields. Sometimes we might see sheep and once, in a very long, we might see someone on a tractor.
And I would look for the farmhouses. Downunder properties tend to be very large, thousands of acres large. In the part of the world we travelled through they tend to be even bigger than they are in some other parts of the state. The soil is not good. Farming is hard.
The farmhouses are far apart. I wondered then about the people who lived there. Most of the properties were worked by married couples but the farmer would almost always be out of the house and alone all day - occasionally coming back for lunch if he was working "close in".  His wife would be alone in the house and the immediate surroundings. Radio reception was very poor. There was no television. Computers did not exist. They didn't get newspapers and most of them never read a book. They went to bed when it was dark and rose with the sun - or earlier. 
I wonder now what they talked about - if they talked about much at all.
It is little wonder that they would head into "town" - the nearest hamlet - for "the footy" on Saturdays, the "tea" (evening meal) which followed, and the dance after that. Many, perhaps most, also went to church on Sundays - a social occasion as much as anything else.
But, for the rest of the week, they were alone and isolated. Some of the hamlets are gone too now. The farms are even bigger as children didn't want to take over and they have been bought up by others trying to make them viable. 
I wonder whether people travel through them and see ghosts? Do they feel the ghost of isolation, of loneliness? 
Or is it just me?

Tuesday 16 May 2017

I made a hospital visit

No, not for me and - for once - not a member of the family or someone I know who lives in the immediate vicinity.
I went to visit a friend who lives alone. She had major emergency surgery a week ago.  
Her brother-in-law, a man I had never met, phoned me to give me the news. She had, he said, asked him to tell me.
Of course the hospital she is in is one of those that is impossible for me to get to on public transport. I don't even think about attempting to cross major highways by paw or foot. I don't like crossing them on the trusty tricycle.
     "I don't drive but I'll phone her," I told him. I sensed a hesitation there but thought no more of it.
On Saturday she phoned and said, "I really do want to see you if you can come. Will you let T.... pick you up?"
     "It's out of his way," I said in alarm. Indeed it is considerably out of his way.
     "No. I explained. He wants to do it."
We argued for a bit but something told me to stop. T... phoned on Sunday.
     "Just after one tomorrow," he told me. "We won't try today. The place will be full of Mother's Day visitors."
T.... turned up a few minutes early to pick me up. He met the Senior Cat - and I thought I might have to gently pull them apart as they started to chat. 
I hadn't actually met T... before but he is, as I suspected, a thoughtful man. Doors were opened for me. He left me as close as possible to the entrance with the words, "It's still a bit of a hike I'm afraid but if you like to get started I'll park the car."
I found J.... after going up in the lift and along a very long corridor. At the nurses' station I asked if I could see her. Of course. Again there was something there that told me it had been right to come despite having T... go out of his way to do it.
And she was pleased to see me, more pleased than seemed reasonable - until I realised what was bothering her. No, she should recover but I know it has made her aware of how vulnerable she is living on her own with a disability.  Although it was mentioned in passing we didn't actually talk about it. We talked about other things quietly.
She is in a ward with five other patients. There was a dirty towel lying under the bed. Her intravenous drip was not working properly and kept beeping. A nurse eventually came in and adjusted it  - and told me, "If it happens again can you press that and that?" I did just that later.
And T..., the true gentleman he is, after looking in briefly said, "I'm going to have a look at some books on sale downstairs". He left us to talk. 
As he left me at home and shook my paw firmly he said, "Thank you so much coming. She needed to talk to someone."
Yes, I think she did and I'm glad I let T... take me. 
With luck they will transfer her in a short while to the rehabilitation place much closer to me. I can pedal down there easily - and I will. 
And I will let her talk.

Monday 15 May 2017

The international cyber attack

is the work of bullies and thieves of the worst sort. They are threatening people from thousands of kilometres away - and getting what they want.
I don't doubt for a moment that there will be people who continue to do this sort of thing successfully. They will use these methods to fund not just lavish life styles for themselves but other illegal activities. Raising the money for terrorist attacks? It's an easy way to do it if you can find some technologically minded whizz kid who can write the necessary program. If someone finds a flaw in it and inserts a "kill switch" then it probably won't be until after you have amassed a nice little amount.
I have been thinking about this ever since someone confronted Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas. Joyce is a supporter of same sex marriage. He was using his position as CEO to speak in support of it. The person who confronted him with a lemon meringue pie is opposed to same sex marriage. Joyce plans to sue his attacker.
Both of them did the wrong thing. Joyce should not have been using his position as CEO in the way that he did. He has every right, indeed a duty, to support equality but he has made it a personal crusade rather than being about company policy.
And nobody should be pushing pies into other people's faces. The man who did it will be sued by Joyce.
But the two men met in the same physical space. It's not the same as those who write computer programs designed to demand ransoms. It isn't the same as people who demand money by sending around "debt collectors" or people who write anonymous letters. 
These people are not just the worse sort of bullies but they are the worst sort of cowards too.
All this is something that I have been acutely aware of over the past twelve months. Someone I know has tried to bully and intimidate me - and others. It isn't going to work.  Recently that person went too far. I have a weapon now, a weapon they provided. It's a piece of paper, nothing more. It is also everything. It is the "kill switch" and I only need possession of it. They have shot themselves. 
Bullies usually come to a bad end. 

Sunday 14 May 2017

We have a rat INSIDE!

The house two doors down from us was cleared recently and the rather overgrown back yard was cleared as well. The rats who lived there have moved on. All the surrounding homes have had a problem since then. 
We thought we were being careful. We were keeping the yard as clear as we could. We put some bait down in places inaccessible to the local cats.  It was all done on the advice of the local council.
The front door was open most of the day while the electrician was here...wide open as they took things in and out. 
Ratty decided to move in. 
I thought I heard something yesterday - and then decided it was my imagination. If there was something it was in the roof, under the tiles. The cats have been up there - via the avocado tree, onto the carport roof and thus onto the roof. 
But this morning I discovered that Ratty was there. He has consumed a banana. What is more I came face to face with him. He sat there and looked at me. His expression said, "You stupid human."
No, I didn't scream. I was MUCH TOO ANGRY for that. He is  unwanted, uninvited, unwelcome and a filthy dirty PEST.
How on earth are we going to get rid of him? 

Saturday 13 May 2017

The electrician

came yesterday. He has put in a new cable - from the two boxes on the wall that the NBN man put in - to a point halfway through the house and relocated the router. 
His comments about the location of the boxes were scathing. Apparently they should not have been located at that point although we were told they were the best place for them - apparently "best" meant "easiest" and that is what the NBN man was required to do.
So far the internet has only dropped out once since then. I may be able to work with less frustration now.
It is fortunate we know our local electrician well. He did some complex work for the Senior Cat's workshop about twenty  years ago. He put in a new air conditioning system the year before last. When the old one was not working reliably he turned up on several occasions and didn't charge us his usual fees.
He has four children and it is perhaps because of one of them that we get such prompt and generous service from him. One of his girls is intellectually disabled and I had met her at her school. I remember the first time he came. We offered the customary cup of tea. The Senior Cat was asking him about his family and he mentioned his daughter. I happened to be getting a meal ready in the kitchen and listening to the two of them. 
     "I know G...." I told him, "She's a great kid. Are you her dad?"
He looked at me in a startled sort of way and asked how I knew her. I had been in and out of the school I told him - because I sometimes help with children who have profound communication problems. From then on he has been completely relaxed with us. He will talk about G... as much as he talks about his other children. His eldest son was apprenticed to him and the other two go to university now. G... will never do that but you can still sense his pride in her achievements. 
Yesterday our friendly electrician went out of his way to get things done. We needed some lights changed as well, particularly an outside security light. Everything was done with a minimum of fuss and mess even though  the cabling required some major work, including taking tiles off the roof and replacing them. We were glad he had done the air conditioning system. He knew exactly what he had done and how to approach the problem.
And he sat there for a few minutes and drank tea and talked about his children. 
      "Give you a toot if I see you out and about Cat," he told me as he left.
      "Tell G... hello from me," I told him.
      ""You bet," he said.
I wonder what our relationship would be like if the Senior Cat had not asked him about his children? What if we didn't know he was G....'s father?

Friday 12 May 2017

Hobbies for teens

is something Nicola Morgan was asking about yesterday. She wanted to know what sort of things teens did apart from those that people usually think of - sport, music, screen based and so on.
It made me think.
My nephews began to seriously do go-kart racing. They still do it. It requires physical fitness and skill. It isn't just a matter of sitting in the kart and steering it. They share the interest with their father - who grumbles like made but actually enjoys the challenge of trying to keep their karts running. It has made them very good on road drivers and taught them a lot about internal combustion engines too.
They also formed a duo, wrote their own songs, cut a couple of records or CDs or whatever it is they did back then, and performed gigs all over the place. They both appeared in films - with speaking parts.
The Whirlwind is a gardener, a serious gardener. She likes to grow things she and her father can eat. She also likes to make things. Her paper "architecture" is not just creative but done with great skill. I have tried to teach her to knit but she finds that a bit slow and is more interested in drawing the things around her. There are no girls on horses or in ballet shoes for her. It is more likely to be old shoes or a leaf she has picked up.
I have a group of young people, now in their late teens, who started to knit when they were much younger. They all have serious medical issues but they have been knitting for many years now, first under the guidance of my late friend M... who lived in the hospital they spent so much time in when young and now under mine. They have made hundreds of items for the hospital and for local charities and they are continuing to learn new skills all the time. One of them makes puppets which are now being used in theatre productions. And  yes, three boys and two girls form the group.
There is a boy around the corner who is interested in bonsai. It is a curious, time consuming and fiddly hobby for a young man and he says he is learning all the time.
I put all that into the list Nicola was asking for and then I thought of the rural teens who do competitive woodchopping, sheep breeding, shearing, basket making from native materials, and sheep dog training - all because they are passionate about such things.
Not all teens spend their days staring at the screen on their phone or sprawled in front of the television set or playing computer games.  There is hope for the next generation.

Thursday 11 May 2017

"It's the police from

G...... here," the voice said when I answered the phone yet again. Ah right, the call I had stayed in to get. 
"We really need you to come and identify the body," he told me.
"Is it in the city morgue now?"
"No, we have it down here. What time can you get here? Where are you based?"
"I'm in the city and I don't drive. I'll have to see if my sister is free. Can you give me a number I can call to get back to you? I know the station isn't open."
"I'll give you the mobile. It really is rather urgent. We can't do any more until we have a formal identification."
I spend some time hunting down Middle Cat who has taken the Senior Cat to a medical appointment. She keeps her phone switched off when she is driving - as she should. I left her a message on her phone and then tried the Senior Cat. No answer. A little later he phoned me to tell me where they were and that they were about to have some coffee. Had they ordered it? No. Then please come home and may I speak to Middle Cat first. We need to go down south.
Middle Cat agrees we need to go asap.
Then another phone call from the police. Could we make it 3pm there please - to fit in with someone from the Coroner's office and the police patrol that needs to witness my signature. Yes, it will give me time to get the Senior Cat something to eat.
You know the term "racing around like a scalded cat"? That was me. I brought in two loads of washing. I made lunch. I uploaded work emails and answered three more phone calls. Middle Cat arrived and left the Senior Cat and went to organise things so she could take the afternoon off as well.
We were literally walking out the door when the phone rang again.
"It's the G.... police. I'm so glad I caught you. I've just been speaking to the Coroner's office. They said as it is so difficult for  you to get here they are prepared to accept the identification of the neighbour who found him." 
In this state  it is supposed to be a blood relative if possible. Other people are only supposed to do it in "exceptional" circumstances.
I just wish they had thought there were exceptional circumstances from the start.
Middle Cat looked at me and we went to the Greek warehouse instead and stocked up on some basics. It took forty-five minutes instead of three and a half hours.

Wednesday 10 May 2017

We had a visit from the police

yesterday. They were much too young to be doing the job they had to do.
I knew there was something wrong as soon as I saw the female officer there with her male partner. Did the Senior Cat live there?
Yes. That question didn't set my mind at rest at all but at least I sensed that it wasn't the immediate family they had come about or they would have known it was the right address.
They were trying to find a relative for the Senior Cat's first cousin. He was a childless widower who lived alone some way south of here on an island. The island is now connected to the mainland by a bridge but it is still some distance from the city. 
His cousin liked the relative quiet there after a busy working life. He seemed hale and hearty, made regular trips up to the city and would often call in and chat to the Senior Cat. They went out together recently too - to a magic show. He had a "girlfriend" here too - one of those delightful relationships older people often find when  two people have lost their partners and simply want to spend some comfortable, undemanding time with someone else. He was relatively wealthy and had donated very large sums of money to medical research. His estate will go to medical research too. He was a man who did great good in his lifetime and the good will continue.
Nothing appeared to be wrong. He was "only 83", eleven years younger than the Senior Cat. So, the news that his body had been found in his house came as a shock.  The Senior Cat has been very quiet - a sure sign he is upset. I feel for him.
The policewoman was very kind but left me with the job of informing other people. The Senior Cat's cousin has a sister who lives in another state. She is older than the Senior Cat and lives alone because her husband is in a nursing home. Rather than phone her I contacted her nephew who lives in yet another state. I gave him the news. He took it calmly enough and thankfully agreed to contact her instead. I talked to his girlfriend and then the sister phoned me.
At the request of the police who came here I tried to contact the police in the town south of here. The station was closed so I phoned the non-emergency line and asked if I needed to do anything else tonight.  The person I spoke to brought the incident number up and took some details from me. They will be in touch today he said. I won't leave it at that. I'll try and make contact with them when the station opens - simply because there are elderly people who are anxious to know what happened. I hope he knew nothing. 
At some point in the next day or so I will have to identify him. It isn't something I want the Senior Cat to have to do and it should be a member of the extended family so that they can offer at least some sort of reassurance to his sister, the last surviving sibling - and the eldest.
What this experience tells me though is that there are no words that can replace a hug. I just wish I was there to give those I had to tell those hugs.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

On line shopping is

an enigma to the Senior Cat. If he finds something he wants he comes to me. It is usually a book not available from the local bookshop - a place he still prowls into on a regular basis. They know him well and they have gone out of their way to find books he wants. He appreciates it and returns the favour  by shopping there. I do the same when I can but some books I need are books they cannot source easily. (I needed something from Norway recently and they sighed and told me, "The internet Cat.")
And I have bought other things over the 'net. Our new bread machine came that way. It meant it was delivered to the door - important when we do not have a car. What is more it was a good deal cheaper.  We knew exactly what we wanted without going to a shop to investigate. That helps. I don't like the idea of investigating something in a shop and then buying it on line. It is a sort of theft from the bricks and mortar business.
There is also almost nothing in the way of yarn where I live. If I want something special, like the linen yarn I need (rather than wanted) recently, I need to go on-line. Once I would have been searching in other ways, calling on overseas contacts, making expensive bank transfers and the like. All that has stopped. 
I know small businesses here have suffered. They simply cannot compete with the world, especially given the endless rules, regulations and restrictions that apply to local businesses. Getting something posted inside Downunder is also so expensive that it adds large amounts to the cost. 
E-bay does "free" shipping for many items. Other places have a very reasonable cost. It is all built in to the price you pay of course but it is still very reasonable. Local business just cannot compete.
Now the government wants to add "GST" to our overseas transactions. E-bay is threatening to make their service unavailable to Australians if that happens. I can understand why. Trying to collect and pay Downunder style GST  is fraught with difficulties.
I don't doubt the regulations will come in. I suspect the government is going to find itself facing a voter backlash over the issue.
You see, people shop on-line now. They don't have the time to try and find the items they want or believe they must have in local shops which are simply not there any more.
If the government wanted to do this  they should have done it before on-line shopping became the way to go.
I may buy those new knitting needles this week - before they make it too difficult to do it.

Monday 8 May 2017

So Macron has won the French election

or has he? 
A Frenchman here told me he voted for "the lesser of two evils". He thinks Macron's lack of political experience is going to make it impossible for him to do the job well. At the same time he had no time for Le Pen. 
I wonder how many other people voted the same way? I suppose the best that can be said is that they voted.
My French friend asked me whether the English and French results had caused me to change my mind about Downunder's "compulsory voting" or the compulsory attendance at the ballot box. 
No, it hasn't. I still think that compulsion to participate is wrong. Encouragement to participate is right and proper and even essential but compulsion to do so is wrong. There is in fact no compulsion to actually vote in Downunder but most people believe that the system requires them to do so. The government - and indeed the Australian Electoral Commission itself - say "voting is compulsory" but that is not correct. Nobody can force you to mark the ballot paper because the way you choose to mark or not mark the ballot paper is yours alone.  
It is never likely to happen but if I was given the choice between just two candidates and they both supported the reintroduction of the death penalty then I could not cast a vote. Yes, it is an extreme example but I believe it is a fair one. 
And yes, like many French, I have voted for what I believe to be the lesser of two evils. I think about the way I am voting. 
I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I belong to an organisation which will shortly be voting people into positions of considerable power. At present that power is being abused by one person and it is making the situation a very unhappy one for many people. That person won't get a second chance but someone is needed as a replacement. The person who takes over is going to have to do a lot of work to mend fences and build relationships. It isn't going to be easy.  I will be thinking long and hard about just who might be able to do that. 
And I hope I don't have to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Sunday 7 May 2017

Boko Haram released some schoolgirls

did it?
I doubt they are "schoolgirls" any more. After three years in captivity they will not be the hopeful young girls they once were. They will be changed - and not for the good.
They will have been scarred for life. It doesn't matter how strong they were to start with they will not be the same now. 
When they were kidnapped I can remember the Whirlwind saying to one of the boys who lives in the same street, "It's not like me going to boarding school. They don't get to talk to their parents or their brothers and sisters. I get to talk to my dad at weekends and they don't."
The incident upset her. Anything like that still upsets her. She is now of an age where not having a mother matters more than ever. It doesn't matter how much other people try and "mother" her it isn't the same.
So what on earth has it been like for these girls knowing that they have, in all likelihood, still got a mother who loves them and misses them in only the way that a mother can? Did they over the three years learn to live with their possibly permanent loss? Did they "convert"? What do they now believe?
The idea of "debriefing" hundreds of girls and others, of helping them return to a "normal" life is something that the media gives very little attention to. I suspect the authorities won't be giving it a lot of attention either. They simply don't have the resources. 
These girls are going to get questioned of course. It may well be quite kindly done but information will be demanded of them. It is unlikely though that there are sufficient psychologists and psychiatrists and social workers and simply the funds to give them the attention they need. Their behaviour will have been changed. They will view the world with suspicion. Unless the culture changes dramatically it is unlikely that they will marry. If they get work it is likely to be menial. They will be a drain on the resources of their families. 
The fact that they were boarding at school suggests that they were among the brightest and best students in the area. They were the girls who might have led their communities into the 21stC. 
I am glad that more of the girls have been freed. I hope the rest are but I wonder about their futures. The scars of rape, of forced "marriage", and of religious "conversion" are going to last and last.

Saturday 6 May 2017

Our resident willy wagtail

is getting bolder. I am sure he is a very young bird. He first appeared back in the late summer. 
I was doing some watering when he flew in. Water! He flew through the spray, shook himself and landed on the fence. From there he looked at me - and then, when I stayed still, he repeated the exercise over and over again.  
Since then he has been back most days. He has grown a little and is probably now full size. 
Some mornings I have gone out and he has been on the lawn eating whatever is to be found there. For a long time he would fly a little way off and just watch me.
This morning he stayed where he was. I was almost close enough to touch him. He dipped his tail at me. As I hung the clothes out  he sat on a post that was once part of the old shade house. He chattered to me - although what he was talking about is a mystery. He is a delight. 
He has done the same to the Senior Cat. Neither of us have known a wagtail to be this "friendly" before.
We are fortunate to have a wide variety of bird life around here. It ranges from the usual pigeons, magpies and sparrows to the mynah birds, honey eaters and lorikeets interspersed with the screeching cockatoos and galahs and the almost silent ravens.
The local cats don't seem to be particularly interested. They are much more likely to sit on the fence and tease the neighbouring chihuahua. Our cat owning neighbours are responsible though. They feed their cats well and keep them in at night. 
So, it bodes well for our little willy wagtail. But there is only one of him. He doesn't seem to have a partner. I hope he has one somewhere else.

Friday 5 May 2017

"I wanted to do something useful!"

the check out girl told me.
She has just completed a degree in psychology and this should be her honours year. It is now May and six weeks into the university year in Downunder. 
The person who was going to supervise her honours thesis has gone on leave. Nobody else is prepared to supervise.
"If I wanted to do something in gender equality or... I don't know... it would probably be okay. I don't know what to do now."
Her shift finished at midday so I suggested we meet in the library and we could talk about it.
We went through her interests - an entirely sensible set of interests - and the interests of the staff at the university she attends. I know some of the staff. I know two who "might" have taken her on are already grossly overloaded and not getting much support themselves. 
We sat there and stared at the list. I brought up another list at another university. There is one person there who is a potential supervisor.  I know him but not that well, not well enough to approach him and say, "Hey, I have a student here..."
I am not on the staff.  
I know what the student wants. She wants me to take her on but we both know that I am not going to do that without being paid. I've done too much unpaid as it is. And, in all fairness to her, she has said she does not want or expect me to do that.
I brought up the third university in the state. No, nobody there at all - and yes, we had looked outside the department.
"Change your thesis topic," I told her, "It's not your fault  your intended supervisor is on leave. They must have known that earlier."
Of course she has already done a lot of work in preparation for her chosen topic. I made some suggestions that would mean that at least some of the reading would still be useful. I made some suggestions about more reading. While I was there she made a phone call and, wonder of wonders, managed to speak to the person I had suggested. I spoke to them as well.
There was an enormous sigh down the phone. "I've really got too many students now but at least that topic has something to commend it. Yes, send her  in to see me...but I might need you to read it when she's done."
That's fine. I'll do that. No doubt we will talk about it during the year too but I won't take responsibility for supervising her.
What bothers me though is that a student who wants to do something of potential value with respect to teaching young refugees can't get a supervisor. 
There was a brief email in my work mail this morning, "Nice girl. Will take her on. Have suggested original topic might be of great interest to J....... MA?"
 J..... doesn't live in Downunder of course.

Thursday 4 May 2017

A little light (bulb) chaos

added to the general chaos of the past few days. I am about ready to pack up  and leave for that deserted island!
There is something wrong with the wiring in the Senior Cat's bedroom. We have had the problem before and the electrician thought he had fixed it. For a while everything seemed fine. Now the problem is back. 
It means there is no light over the Senior Cat's bed. I suppose, as there is another light in the room, this is more nuisance value than anything else but it does need to be fixed. The Senior Cat told me about this and, before he could ring the electrician and add the job to the telephone cabling woes, another bulb went in another area. Right. That has been added to the list.
The Senior Cat went outside to shut the shed door after dark. He didn't tell me or I would have done it as I don't like him prowling around in the dark any more - and he doesn't like doing it. He came in and said, "And now the outside light has gone as well."
Thankfully we know the electrician quite well. He has been looking after our needs for some years. He lives just a few streets away. If he and I are passing on the road he will give me a friendly wave. As none of this is urgent-urgent he will be here on Monday or Tuesday of next week.
But it added to the stress. Middle Cat had to pick up a load to take to the charity shop. It has been sitting in our living area and I have been worried the Senior Cat will trip over it.  She turned up yesterday after lunch. The Senior Cat had gone to have his after lunch cat nap. I was catching up on urgent work.
"Don't wake him. I was going to change the dressing on his shoulder. You can do it can't you?"
Yes, I could do it. Let's just get the load into the car I thought.
We did. She went off. I tried to deal with another urgent work situation.
When the Senior Cat came out for his cup of tea I told him I would change the dressing.
"It looks a bit messy," he told me.
I took the dressing off. I looked. I did not like what I saw. The Senior Cat protested loudly but I went and asked our paediatrician neighbour, "I hate asking you but would you mind having a look? I think it needs attention."
"Not at all," she told me, "It's what neighbours are for." Really? I felt I was imposing on her professional good will but I was concerned.
And I was right to be concerned. She couldn't do the job herself but she said, "Get him back to the clinic ASAP."
I phoned Middle Cat. Could she do it or did I need to get him into a taxi? No, she could do it even if it made her late for an early evening meeting.
While they were out I dealt with more work chaos and tried to do something about our evening meal.  
By the time the Senior Cat came back I had our meal sorted, the work was done and I was beginning to feel I might be on top of the most important things. We eventually ate. 
I crawled into bed - and managed to read not quite three pages before the light bulb went out.

Wednesday 3 May 2017

University fees are set to rise

again. This is not unexpected of course. The response to the news is also not unexpected.
I worked my way through teacher training college. I had to. I couldn't pass the medical to get one of the teacher training allowances. Physically I was as fit, if not fitter, than the students who smoked. You weren't allowed to consume alcohol under the age of 21 back then but plenty of students found a way to get some of that too. I didn't drink alcohol then and I still don't drink alcohol now...I am allergic to something in anything alcoholic and it makes me feel itchy all over. No thanks. No, I failed the medical because they thought someone who couldn't use chalk to write on the then blackboards couldn't teach. I found ways around that.
There was no "student bar" because of the alcohol age. Students didn't have concerts - unless they organised the concert themselves. I wouldn't have had time to go anyway. I was a "junior housemistress" in a boarding school for girls and my hours there were arranged around my other commitment which was volunteering one day each weekend during term time in a residential nursery school for profoundly deaf children. I loved doing the latter so it was no hardship to give up that time. As for the other, I just accepted the need to do it if I was going to get a job of any sort.
My brother managed to get a scholarship but it didn't pay his fees. He finished the year before fees were, for a while, abolished. Universities became crowded. Anyone and everyone who managed to scrape in could go - and it seems they did. The age to buy alcohol dropped. "Student bars" appeared on campuses across the country. 
The whole nature of universities changed. My brother and his friends had fun of course but they were there to work too, to get an education. They knew they had to get assignments in on time, that they had to appear at lectures and more.
I went on to university in London. There were only post graduates there. Most of them took life pretty seriously. Most of them wanted to be there - although a few had been sent by their governments to study.  Yes, there was a bar. I actually went to it once but prowled out pretty rapidly. It was full of cigarette smoke. The best students must have gone occasionally but it was more like the local pub than a raucous student bar. 
Later I did another degree at another university - and yes, the students used the bar. Some of them, discovering alcohol in a big way, did not complete their degrees. Perhaps they would not have done it anyway but ready access to alcohol didn't help. By then I was a "mature age" student and had to help sort some of the alcohol induced problems out. I was, of course, working my way through the degree by tutoring at the same time. The view among the staff I came across was that the student bar was not necessarily a good thing.  I never went there. I never actually went into the student union area there or at the next university I worked in. I just didn't have the time even if I'd had the inclination.
Now there are complaints from students that not only university fees are rising but the cost of alcohol on campus will rise too.  I want a good university education to be available to the best students - whether they or their parents can afford to pay fees or not. I am much less interested in seeing alcohol, subsidised by student union fees, being available on campus. I wonder what would happen if there was no access to alcohol on a student campus?  What if they raised the drinking age to 21 again? It isn't likely to happen but it might have interesting consequences.

Tuesday 2 May 2017

Drug running from Colombia

would seem to be a bigger problem than our problems of yesterday. This morning the paper is full of yet another, "I am innocent" story of someone who has been caught with kilos of cocaine in their luggage.
Perhaps she is innocent. The law assumes that. It's always possible.  It might be that she is "just naive" - and yes, a lot of drug mules are. They certainly don't intend to get caught.
We didn't get caught doing anything yesterday but we caught  our internet provider out. I am not a happy cat. The Senior Cat is upset and growling like a tiger defending his tribe. Middle Cat used language she hasn't been heard to use in years. 
We switched, as everyone will need to do eventually, to the NBN. Our telephone service went with it. The Senior Cat's alarm pendant relies on a mobile network so it should not have been affected but.... we still need the telephone service for  safety and security. All this comes about because, unlike most households, we don't have a car. The Senior Cat no longer has a licence. He gave it up about ten years ago. He hated driving and decided to give it up before he had an accident. That was all very well but I don't drive either. I never managed to learn and was advised against trying to do so. 
All this means I can't just "hop in the car" and go somewhere or take the Senior Cat to a medical appointment or - more importantly -  rush him to hospital. It's why we have the emergency pendant for him. The emergency pendant is checked periodically through the phone line. It is essential to have a working phone line. We can still press the emergency button and it will go to a different network but it means that they can't check. We don't want them sending an ambulance unnecessarily. 
We couldn't get the phone line to work. They had transferred it to the new system. They had sent an email telling me what to do but you had to log into the ISP number...and nothing at all could get me to the ISP number they had given me. It refused to load. Middle Cat arrived and tried phoning them...the help line said that help was over an hour away. Leave a number and we will ring you back the automated system told her. She left the Senior Cat's mobile number and the phone with me and went off to the chemist for more antibiotics for him. I had a far from well Senior Cat and a growing pile of work and... well, don't ask.
It took almost two hours for the provider to respond - and the response was that they could do nothing at their end. We just had to wait to get through to the ISP number. Middle Cat was back by then and had taken charge again - being rather better at technological problems than I am. She blew up. I sat down and wrote them a blistering email through tears. There have been some other stresses lately and this was too much to handle.
Middle Cat rang her partner. He said, "Go and get another cable. We can patch things I think."  
My BIL prowled in just after 6pm - early for him. He often doesn't get home until well after 7pm on a work night. He did things. We have a phone line that works. The set up is awkward but it works. 
All this though could have been avoided if our ISP people had been honest about how all this needed to be done. They should, at very least, have asked where the phone points in the house were located. It is surely a basic question?
We now need to call in an electrician to run a cable to the safe access point for the Senior Cat - beside his bed.
My BP might have dropped a point this morning but I am tired. I just keep trying to tell myself I am not in a Colombian jail having been caught running drugs. That would be far worse.

Monday 1 May 2017

School "refusal"

or something like it?
A friend came yesterday. We spent a lovely afternoon knitting together and talking about her recent trip to Tasmania. She also mentioned how one of her granddaughters is doing "home-school" this year. The school environment, particularly the noise levels, were stressing her out.  At home she's just getting on with her work. She's not particularly "academic" but she will finish the year now. That's important.
And then later our neighbour from across the road came in and told us how her grandchildren would be moving school. The youngest, the one who has been causing so many problems, simply isn't coping with the school environment. She doesn't want to go to school. She isn't finishing any of her work. 
She is a actually a very, very bright child. She is way ahead of her classmates in Maths and English. When she is working on her own she is just fine. I've seen some of her work and it's good, very good.
But, even at home, there are times when she simply can't cope. She is a child who needs quiet. She needs an ordered life without too many instructions - and certainly without conflicting instructions. I suspect she also needs to be "told" at times rather than "negotiated with"  but modern child rearing leans to the latter here.  
She isn't lazy and she has a very inquiring mind. She is the sort of child who will learn even if left alone now that she can read. 
I feel for her. School is never going to be a good place for her. It wasn't a good place for me. I didn't like the noise. I didn't like being told what to do. I didn't like waiting for the others to finish. I wanted to get on with things. Is it any wonder that I was constantly in trouble for "reading under the desk"? 
     "What are you reading now Cat? A book about the Romans? It isn't history lesson. Put it away. If you know all those spelling words learn the next page. No, you don't know those too."
The problem was that I did know them. I knew the entire book before the year started. My brother did too. We were bored in the classroom so we were trying to entertain ourselves instead.  Of course I sometimes had to wait for people to write something down for me in the early years of school. Was I really expected to sit there and do nothing? I wanted to read!
Looking back now I think I did the right thing. I told my students, "If you have finished your work then get your book out and read until I have time to look at what you've done."
The only problems I had were, "Miss, I've finished my book" and "Miss, can't I finish the chapter?"
But Youngest is not finishing her work so that is not an option. She needs quiet and her own space. She needs a lot of books and the time to read them. 
That's why I am keeping all those children's books I have collected over the years. I know she will soon be working her way through them.