Saturday 31 March 2018

The importance of learning a craft

has apparently finally been recognised in a neuroscience journal. It has taken a while.
Yes, it was only a tiny paragraph in the paper and I imagine that the actual paper in the journal is as dry as desert dust to read but the results should actually have made headlines. The "craft" that was particularly studied was music but the visual arts were also included. 
Children who studied music were said to have developed a greater ability to concentrate, a greater spatial awareness, better motor-coordination and more.  Yes, I'd believe all of that. I would also believe it of children who did other arts and crafts. 
My nephews and niece all studied music and acting - two of them performed professionally. Has it helped them? I think it has. 
Ms W sings in the school choir and can play a recorder ("properly") and she has had parts in school plays. She is in the junior public speaking and debating teams. She also loves to create with "anything messy" and draw or paint.  Her father encourages it at home because there is little time for it at school.
And there is the problem. Even though her school insists that all girls must do something along those lines there isn't much time for it. The school curriculum is full of things that "must" be done. The idea that doing music or art or pottery or drama for a short period each day may actually help you to do maths, physics, biology or computer coding may be recognised but it isn't acted upon. 
    "There's no time..." is something I keep hearing. The girls play sport - for Ms W this is cricket and swimming in summer and basketball and hockey in winter. She is in the junior cricket team and has once or twice been in the junior hockey team. She can play a social game of tennis but sport isn't something she particularly enjoys. The time it takes is something she resents. She would rather ride her push bike, especially with her father, or go swimming without the pressure of having to win. 
And yes, that sounds like a lot of sport for a teen but it is no more than some and less than many in this sports mad country.  Yes, sport is important for teaching physical skills, team work and so on but should music, art, craft and drama have to be abandoned because there is "no time"?
Ms W turned up yesterday with two hot cross buns. She had made them herself.  She had used a bread mix and added spice and fruit. They were pretty good too.  She had done some research on line about "what to do about the currants and stuff". When I asked her why she said, "Because when I was doing the apples the other day I put some sultanas in instead of sugar and they stopped being so wrinkly so I figured they used some of the water like that play-clay stuff I used once." 
Yes, playing around with some play dough years ago had taught her an important lesson. She used her imagination and any number of other skills to provide us with a treat. 
Thank you Ms W. That is one of the many reasons I love you.

Friday 30 March 2018

The chicken shop was

Now let it be said here that I think this is only time I have used the chicken shop  at lunch time. Apart from that I have been in there twice with Middle Cat, once almost eighteen years ago and the other close on four years ago. Yes, the occasions stick in my mind because I really don't do "fast" food.
Yesterday I had to give in. Wednesday's funeral, some unexpected work, a sick friend, other people needing help or just a listening ear and, at 12.16 pm, I realised that there was absolutely nothing to feed the Senior Cat on as I had not managed to get home with the shopping. It would, I decided, have to be a chicken. (It would have been quiche only the shop which used to sell good quality quiche no longer sells it - probably because it was good quality.) The chicken is at least genuinely free range from this particular shop.
And of course the shop sells other things - fish, chips, hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, soft drinks, and salads for the most part. At least, they were the things I noticed.
It's a popular place. I was in a queue waiting to be served. There were workmen in safety boots and jackets ahead of me. Immediately in front of me was a wiry little man with an enormous black canvas bag and behind me there were two girls covered in tattoos.  It was all interesting to observe.
Actually it was fascinating. I had no idea how much money these people were prepared to spend on their lunch. I could see the cash register. I could see the amount that was rung up. The minimum amount was $11:50 and the maximum was $18:70 - and some of these people seemed to be regulars. They were all processed fairly quickly.
Then the wiry little man in front of me took his place. He held out his phone silently.
     "I don't understand mate," the man behind the counter told him. He took the phone and shook his head. The wiry little man looked anxious and held the phone out to me. There was a picture of a hamburger and an egg.
      I took a guess. "I think he wants a hamburger with only the egg - no meat."
And then I asked, "Halal?"
He nodded and looked anxiously at me again. 
      "Does he want one egg or two eggs?"
I pointed to the egg and held up one finger and then two and looked at him again. He held up two fingers and there was the faintest hint of a smile.
     "Drink?" I asked him and signed it this time because it is the same.
He nodded and I pointed to the cabinet where you help yourself. He collected a can and paid and then went and stood against the wall to wait.
    "A chicken please," I told the man behind the counter.
    "Sure thing," he told me, "Just let me do these orders."
He took the orders of the two girls with tattoos and the workman behind them. He made the egg only hamburger and the wiry little man raised his thumb and nodded his thanks at me and left the shop. 
The man behind the counter put a chicken in a bag for me, added some chips I had not asked for and said, "Weird, nobody's ever asked me for that before."
    "I think he's Muslim," I said, "He wouldn't eat bacon and probably not the meat unless it was Halal."
    "Poor guy."
All I could hope is that his lack of English is temporary.
I left the shop and yes, there was the wiry little man with his wife in her hijab. They were sitting there at one of the two tables a little further down. They were sharing the hamburger and the can of drink. As I pedalled past I heard a hesitant,
    "Thank you."
That was his wife.
Yes, they are learning English.

Thursday 29 March 2018

"Unconditional love"

was a phrase which came up a number of times at yesterday's funeral. It was in the statement in the order of service and mentioned by friends.
I went to the funeral believing that I did not know the man in question. I know his parents and his sister and I like them very much indeed. They have been immensely supportive of me and I went for that reason.
And I am glad I did because it turned out I knew the man in question. I knew him in two ways. 
He was a bike rider. I would sometimes see him out with a group of mates. A long time ago now I came out to load my shopping into the basket on the rear of my tricycle and he was there, crouched down and having a look at "how it works". 
      "It runs on banana power," I told him. I don't know why I said that. There was just something about the way he was looking at me, the smile and the genuine curiosity. He was the sort of person almost everyone would take to immediately. The only people who could have felt uncomfortable in his presence were people who would have felt uncomfortable in the presence of any decent person...and he was much more than that. 
After that I would sometimes see him with his mates. They would stop for a drink at the cafe by the place where I park my bike. I'd always get an acknowledgement. Occasionally they would be getting ready to leave as I was and, in the nicest possible way, he would be one who would say, "Race you!"
Although I sometimes thought he reminded me of someone I had no idea who he was. I simply thought of him as a "nice" person, someone I wouldn't have minded getting to know just a little better.  It wasn't that I  thought we would have anything in common, simply that he was the sort of person anyone couldn't help but like.
And then, yesterday, I saw his photograph. It was there on the front of the order of service. It was on the screen in the church. I stared in disbelief. This man was the son of my friends. 
I had gone there for them - and now I was there for him as well. I listened as, one after another, his mates approached the pulpit and spoke about him. They were grown men and they barely retained their composure. There were moments of silence as they struggled to speak again. Each one made us laugh even while wanting to weep. 
That phrase, "unconditional love" was spoken again, and again - unconditional love not just for his family but for his friends.
And I thought of his unconditional friendliness for someone whose name he didn't even know.      

Wednesday 28 March 2018

The importance of hugs

cannot be underestimated.
I discovered that all over again yesterday. 
I was sitting in the bookshop  with the knitting group. We were sitting near the window - nothing like displaying our knitting skills (or lack thereof) in public. 
A... must have passed by the window and came into the shop. A...lost her son last week. I am going to his funeral this morning. I just excused myself from the group and she came up to me and we hugged. 
There was no need to say anything for that first moment. Hugs, given at the right moment and in the right way, can say everything you need to say.
Then I said quietly, "I'll be there tomorrow."
"Please. I won't know you are there, but please."
No, she won't have any idea who will be there apart from her family. It will be one horrendous nightmarish blur.
I can imagine almost nothing as painful as losing a child suddenly. I don't have children of my own so even my imagining will lack the depth and the pain of the reality. 
A...'s family is close-knit, very close-knit. They are in constant contact with each other. They do things together. Now there will be that "hole", that vacant chair, the favourite coffee mug not used, and the Christmas present not bought or given. 
And A..., in her own grief, will have to give comfort to others - her husband, her other child, her grandchildren and more. She is still a mother with all those responsibilities - responsibilities she takes so seriously. 
I thought of this yesterday as I hugged her. That  hug seemed so damned inadequate. It was all I could give her.
It was the hug I received in return that was so important - the hug of friendship. 

Tuesday 27 March 2018

Cricket is supposed to be a game

but, at some point, it became something else.
It is no longer a game. It is big business. It is win at all cost.
I remember cricket as - well, cricket. 
First of all it was the game that the "big kids" played in the back road that went past the railway cottages down to the railway line. The ball would sometimes land on the tracks - if it had not landed in someone's back yard.  Someone would be sent to get it - often the  "little kids" after one of the older boys had looked to see if there was a train anywhere. (There were not that many trains.)
Hours were spent playing this form of cricket. There weren't enough children for  two cricket teams, sometimes not even enough for one. Children would come and go. I can remember the one occasion on which the ball actually landed near me and I was allowed to pick it up, put it in the little red tray on the back of my tricycle and pedal it over to the bowler - to cheers from all concerned. The "big kids" must have been feeling very kind that day. 
When we moved my brother and I discovered that "cricket" was now played in the back lane behind the house we were living in. It was the lane that the local baker used to get to the small area where he kept his delivery horses. There were corrugated iron fences on either side of the laneway and there was the endless symphony of the ball being hit against the fence...a dull thud for the tennis ball and a sharper, deeper sound for an actual cricket ball. My brother and I were not welcome at these games. I was, of course, a girl and totally  hopeless anyway but my brother was considered "too small". All the other boys his size (he had yet to start school) were also too small. Girls were tolerated only if there were not enough boys to do the fielding. (Girls were never allowed to bat or bowl.)
My paternal grandfather would listen (or doze) to the cricket commentary on the radio occasionally. The Senior Cat dislocated his shoulder trying to bowl to one of the boys in the class he was teaching at the local school. 
We moved again. The Senior Cat was supposed to teach games but the boys taught him the finer rules of cricket and gave up completely trying to explain football. He left them and one of the local farmers to it. My brother was always the last "man" on the cricket team and the last resort on the football team. 
And so it went on. Cricket was played everywhere. It wasn't always  a full team. The quality and length of the pitch varied. Balls got lost in the bog and the water marshes in one place. Someone nearly trod on a snake getting the ball from a ditch and one boy fell off the shoulders of another trying to get the ball from the roof of a garden shed.  There were bumps and bruises and arguments.
It was all cricket.
I didn't actually play cricket of course - until I went off to the summer camps for physically disabled children. As one of the Guides I had responsibilities there and one of those was a very serious one indeed. We had the all important "Ashes" match - against the national team. Sir Donald Bradman would organise this.  Every child who wanted to participate was on the team of course but not all of them could even throw a ball. If they couldn't throw the ball that was my job. Everyone thought that was fair because I couldn't throw a ball as well as some of the children who could throw a ball. (There was one boy in a wheelchair who was a positive demon for getting the ball where he wanted it to go.) 
So, I played "cricket" - I "bowled" one day for a long, lanky lad who had no control over any of his limbs. Sir Donald was batting. Just as I let the ball go his attention was distracted by someone in the surrounding crowd. He turned and the ball landed just where it should have landed. He was out! There was an almighty roar from the crowd and M... nearly fell out of his wheelchair with excitement. 
It is the only time in my life I have managed to actually get the ball to go where it was intended to go. I know I'll never manage it again. I didn't cheat. It was just sheer good fortune. Sir Donald didn't cheat either. He gave a little bow and a shamefaced sort of smile and handed the bat to, I think, one of the Chappell brothers. Under the rules of that cricket game M... and I moved on too. I don't remember the rest of the match except that it was good fun. It was real cricket in that sense. Nobody cheated. It was just a game.

Monday 26 March 2018

American gun laws

need to change. I don't think there is any doubt about that. I wouldn't normally dare to comment on such a sensitive issue in the politics of another country but last night I saw a news clip that has made me want to speak up.
You see there was an eleven year old with wild hair who stood there and faced a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people and spoke up for her generation. 
There was also a news clip of the National Rifle Association suggesting that the eleven year old was nothing more than some sort of stooge for adults with an agenda.
Sorry, that won't wash with me. I know more than one eleven year old. I know that some of them can be passionate and articulate  - and that they do care. I know they can be just as empathetic as any adult, indeed a good deal more empathetic than many. 
I wonder how the NRA can look and listen to the girl who managed, somehow, to say that she would never have to listen to her friend complain about piano practice again. Is the NRA really blind and deaf to all that?
I know. Guns aren't dangerous - but people with guns are another story.  
There isn't any need for the vast majority of people to own a gun. In Downunder there is a need for a farmer who has livestock to own one - for the sole purpose of putting a badly injured animal down as rapidly and humanely as possible. The same is almost certainly true of farmers anywhere else. 
I don't see "target shooting" as a "sport". I know someone who has won multiple gold medals at the Paralympics for shooting and I admire her but I still don't see shooting anything as a "sport". It's an area where we would, if I was socially friendly with her, have to agree to disagree. 
I don't see "hunting" anything as a sport either. I know there are arguments about "keeping wildlife under control" but nature once balanced things out reasonably well - until we interfered.  As for going out and killing something for the "fun" of it?  That sickens me.
I have never held a gun. I don't want to. I have once in my life faced the wrong end of a gun. No, I was probably not in any real danger. The two men intent on robbing the post office in the small shopping precinct in London were more interested in getting away than in shooting me or the other student with me. But it was weeks before I slept soundly again at night. It would have been far worse if I had been inside the post office and held hostage at the time. 
And what if I was one of the students at that high school? What if I was any other student in America who had been through that? Would I ever really recover?
Don't they have the right to speak out? Don't they have the right to demand something be done?

Sunday 25 March 2018

People, people, people

everywhere. They came in a steady stream through the door. 
There were people waiting when we arrived to set up our "information" stall.
We were among the last to arrive yesterday morning. Our stall was simple to set up. We weren't selling anything - except places and ideas perhaps. 
There was just time to catch up with a vendor I know and pick up something I had asked her to bring for an elderly friend. Then we were hard at it. 
    "I didn't realise there was such a market for this sort of thing," someone said to me.
    "I didn't know so many people were interested in knitting," someone else said.
They kept coming through the door. The age range varied from very young to very old.  The female sex far outstripped the male sex but there were men there - and not just because they had come with their partners. One man spent several minutes going through the list I had made as we tried to find a knitting group somewhere within reach that might fit his odd working hours. The railway worker I had once shown how to turn the heel of a sock gave me a wave and mouthed "More sock wool!"
The entry fee - to help cover the massive insurance costs of such an event - was just a gold coin. That meant a dollar or, sometimes, two dollars. Even then you were given a raffle ticket and had a chance to win something yarn related.
I didn't need to worry about that. There were a couple of enthusiastic teenagers dealing with the incomers. No, "all" I needed to do was pass out information.
I had spent a considerable amount of time in the couple of weeks  prior to the event trying to check on the many small knitting and crochet groups around the state. I had emailed people and - sometimes - managed to get responses. I had made lists. 
I had made a list of "useful internet sites" and more. 
Another member of the library based group I belong to had taken me and all the bits and pieces to the venue. She did a sterling job of talking to people, so did another member of the group. They left me to pass out information, to field queries about knitting.  Questions like which vendors might have which sort of yarn were passed on to me. There were questions about knitting.
       "Hello Cat"
       "Thought you might be here Cat."
       "Hoped I might see you here Cat."
I didn't realise how many people I know - however casually - through the world of yarn.  The only problem is that they know me and my name (because I am wearing a name tag) but I have no idea what their names are because I have never seen their names and they have never told me. Oh well. 
Later in the morning the youngest member of the library group arrived. She brought her pom-pom makers and sat there making those.  
         "How do you use those?" "Where did you get them?" "What are you going to do with all those pom-poms?" 
At thirteen years of age she handled all the questions as if she was an adult. When she left a couple of hours later I asked, "If they have another one next year will you come again." 
Oh yes, she will be back.
I went to mind the stall of a vendor who was on her own so she could go to do something urgent - and sold something. Helping my friend P.... has been a good experience in feeling at least a little confident about this sort of thing.  
While I was there a woman I know very slightly, a customer of P...'s at craft fairs, came to see me. She is profoundly deaf, a friend of the man I had seen in the shopping centre. Yes, I had helped her friend and she was delighted to see me. She showed me a picture on her phone of something she had made from yarn she bought from P... She showed me more yarn she had bought that day and told me she was going to use one of my patterns.  If nothing else good had happened that - and a lot of good things happened - that would have been enough.
I had given our guild stall all the tiny packets I had made up and someone came to return the two plastic boxes I had put them in. They had not sold all of them. I didn't expect that but they had apparently sold a good many. I don't expect to hear any more about that but I am glad that some of the packets went and won't be wasted. 
At about five minutes before closing the friend who had brought me and I looked at each other. We each took a deep breath and let it out slowly. We'd done it...and, next year, we might do it again.

Saturday 24 March 2018

Yesterday the profoundly deaf

man I occasionally see in the shopping centre stopped me. We don't communicate a lot. My knowledge of sign language is miniscule. I have forgotten a lot I once knew. You do lose a language if you don't use it and sign language is a language in its own right. 
But yesterday he stopped me. Yes, he needed help. His ability to read and write English is limited. He will write things down if he must communicate with someone outside his own circle - or me. 
He had been for a blood test, one of those "fasting" blood tests that are a form of torture for those of us who need to eat at least some breakfast. He gave me a note that the nurse-technician had given him to give to the doctor. It hadn't been sealed and quite possibly there had been an attempt to explain the contents to him but he was worried. He had no idea what it all meant. Was he really ill?
I won't divulge the contents of the note here. That's his business. And yes, I have his permission to write this as well. 
I read the note. Fortunately it wasn't something to be unduly concerned about. 
He was also wondering when he could have something to eat. 
I explained both things slowly and carefully.
He looked relieved but then there was the next problem. He really wanted a cup of coffee but the place he once used in the shopping centre  has closed. They knew him and understood he needed to communicate in a different way. He could go into the supermarket and get something there but, like me, he apparently doesn't like sugar in such drinks. 
So I went with him to another small eating area. I explained to the girl serving what the problem was and said, "Please let him write down what he wants and look straight at him when you speak to him."
She shrugged and nodded and said, "No problem."
I went off and did the things I needed to do, bank and chemist, post office and supermarket. He had gone by the time I passed the small eating area. There was a lull in the business. The girl was clearing the area of cups and plates. She stopped me and asked, 
"How do I say "hello" to him next time?"
I showed her. 
"That's great."
I hope she gets a chance to use it soon because it will give him the confidence to use a new place. 

Friday 23 March 2018

"No, you don't have to answer

the question but if you don't answer the question then don't complain if I can't do the job or I do it in a way you don't like."
Right now I want to scream that.
I am endeavouring to be fully prepared to do something to help at an event tomorrow. The event organiser I have been communicating with has been really good. She has her hands full trying to get the thing to come together. I suspect it has been more work than she realised it would be - isn't that always the way? I have no arguments with her.
The person I am going with has been really good. She emailed and phoned me earlier in the week.  I know she will pick me up at the stated time and that she will prove to be an equally reliable and able co-worker. Spending a day in her company will be no hardship.
No, it is other people. 
I have items for another stall. They are a donation, not being placed there for sale for my benefit. It would have been useful to know how they wanted them packaged and labelled. I have ended up packaging and labelling them without any guidance. I'll just have to hope I have done it the right way. 
Yes, I know that the people running this stall are volunteers too. I know they are busy. The problem is that, had I been told what they wanted,  I could potentially have saved them time rather than added to what might end up being a pretty fraught early morning setting up. I know very well what is expected of people putting items in for sale for their own benefit. I could do that as they expect but I'd really like to save them problems and do the rest the right way too. It has taken me two days to pack up over 200 tiny packets. I am passing on things that were given to me that I would love to have been able to use but realistically never will. I want other people to be able to use them instead. 
I just wish that someone had said, "Yes, do it that way Cat."
It really would help!

Thursday 22 March 2018

Do you know what a Dorset button is?

I was looking at some Dorset buttons yesterday - or rather, photographs thereof. 
An acquaintance stopped me briefly and showed me several photographs on her phone screen.
    "My sister sent these. She says they are buttons. She found them in a charity shop in America. Do you know if she's right?"
    "They're Dorset buttons," I told her and then had to explain.
Dorset type buttons were made mostly in Dorset, reaching the peak of manufacture in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were first hand made by covering small bone rings from the horns of the Dorset sheep. The ring itself would be completely covered with "blanket stitch" and then covered with a criss-cross of threads like the spokes of a wheel. Once that was formed then the maker would weave through and around the threads, rather like a very closely woven spider's web, to make the button.
Dorset button making once employed a great many people, mostly women who could work from home. It expanded rapidly when metal rings, made in Birmingham, were able to be used instead of the original horn. Being able to say, "I do buttony" was a matter of pride for many women. It helped to support their families and allowed them to be at home and care for them at the same time.
  Like many other cottage industries it came to an end when a button making machine was invented by one John Ashton. It came at the same time as increasing mechanisation on farms and the great increase in unemployment meant that many people looked to move to America and other places.
Finding the buttons in a charity shop was probably not that surprising. I actually doubt they are that old. Making buttons like that continued in other places for a time for the simple reason it was difficult to get actual buttons. From there it grew into a more decorative handcraft for putting  on household items.
Now though making Dorset buttons has become an art form. The  designs are many and varied and a wide range of materials are used in their creation. 
Those buttons are still holding things together!

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Planting fruit trees

in the streets is something that does happen in other places. It is rare here.
Perhaps people simply haven't thought of it. Perhaps trying to keep the trees alive and watered is too difficult. I don't know what the problem is but it is something I have often thought would be a good idea.  
Someone else thinks it might be a good idea too. It was mentioned in an article in the paper this morning.
I know there will be people who think it is an appalling idea. I can hear the arguments now about the mess the fruit will make and the hazard it will be if it drops on the ground. Well, get used to that idea and pick it  up perhaps? What about a "fruit-watch" scheme like Neighbourhood Watch? Or even employ someone to go around and make sure the roads and paths are clear? It could pay to do that.
And who would the fruit belong to? How would you stop people "stealing" it or, if allowed to pick it, taking more than their fair share?
But think of the possibility of helping to feed people and animals and birds? Think of the shelter the trees could provide and the value they would bring to the urban environment as a whole. 
Where I live there are a lot of plane trees. They're fine. They provide a lot of shade at the times when they are most needed but they don't provide food. We also have a lot of jacaranda trees. I like the look of them when they are in flower but  they are every bit as messy as a fruit tree would be.  
There are gum trees. River red gums are popular and so are lemon scented gums. I know they are "native" to Downunder but I would ban them in urban areas. They drop leaves and branches and detritus year round and they are a major hazard underfoot. They most certainly shouldn't be planted anywhere near a house because even seemingly healthy trees have been known to drop large limbs through heat distress and lack of water.  
Oh yes, watering trees is a major problem. We need to be aware of that.
And then there are the golden rain trees (in our street) that seem to be more than a bit out of hand at the moment. (Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that I tend to water two of them and several neighbours do the same.)
I really don't see fruit trees as having any more problems than the trees we already have.
Not so long ago I was coming home along a street I didn't know and someone was covering a fig tree with netting. Covering a tree with netting is an awkward job and almost impossible to do alone.
   "You couldn't throw that bit up to me, could you?" I was asked as I pedalled past.  I stopped and threw up the end of the net to where he was standing rather precariously on a ladder.
The fig tree is, like our peach tree, there by accident and, according to the man doing the netting, the neighbours who like figs just help themselves. 
    "We've got to know each other over this tree," he told me.
Now that is another good reason to plant a fruit tree. 
That's a bit more difficult but it isn't impossible. 

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Information on the internet

is not necessarily accurate. We all know that. It isn't necessarily up to date either. We all know that too.
The last couple of weeks have been sheer frustration with respect to that last issue. I have, in my non-existent "spare" time, been trying to prepare some lists for next Saturday.
I am off to run an "information" stall at a one day craft fair. It wasn't quite what I intended to do. It just happened.
Yes, I know but.... it happened because I thought another group I belong to was not going to have a presence there. In fact I had been told by one of the organisers the group was not going to be there because they had not had time to organise anything. Did I want to  go and give out some information about local groups? 
Why not? It would be a day away from the computer and all things fibre are fun are they not?
Then someone else suggested to me that I might take some information for them too. They can't be there. Why not? That was only information for three groups. But then there was the possibility of advertising another major event in the state and getting people interested in something planned for next year. Oh yes, good idea.
And then, being someone who likes to do things properly, I thought it only fair to make an inquiry of the Secretary of the group I thought was not going to be there. If they were not going to be there did they want to give me some of their information? After all I could sit there and knit and talk to people at the same time couldn't I?  There was a bit of delay to the response and then she told me that they had decided to go after all. It means I can send inquiries about them back to their stall.
But it raised questions in my mind about other groups so I looked up resources. I contacted all the councils in the state because I knew that one group advertised by one council no longer met. I also knew that there are groups which do meet which are not advertised on web-sites. There are other groups too. I went searching in between answering work emails and feeding the Senior Cat and doing all the other things which need to be done. 
I emailed people to try and get up to date information. Some people responded and others didn't. Some emails bounced. There were "automatic" and "out of the office" responses. 
      "Oh yes, we haven't updated our website," someone told me.
      "That's old, I suppose we should change it," someone else told me.
And so it has gone on. 
Perhaps if nothing else comes of all my work then at least one of them might update a website.
I am not holding my breath.

Monday 19 March 2018

The bushfires in New South Wales

and Victoria sound almost as bad as they can get. I say "almost" only because, so far, it seems that nobody has lost their life. I think that is probably more good luck than anything else because the reports suggest that more than a few homes have been lost. 
Some of those fires have been started by arsonists. If caught  they should be locked away for life.
Other fires though have been started by lightning. The Senior Cat mentioned this to me after reading the report in the paper. 
    "Do you remember those dry lightning strikes we used to get in W....?" 
I do remember them. We would have the most extraordinary storms that would bring no rain at all. What they brought were "sheets" of lightning. The sky would be brilliantly lit with flash after flash of lightning. If you have never seen dry sheet lightning it is hard to explain how dramatic this is. 
    "What makes it like that sir?" I can remember one of the boys asking my father as we sat in the classroom trying to do arithmetic. The Senior Cat stopped trying to teach multiplication or division or fractions and explained about lightning and thunder and more.  The big brother of the very slow, retarded boy with muscular dystrophy had gone to make sure his brother was safely ensconced in the other classroom where my mother was teacher. (The MD boy would sometimes just wander off and sit outside. My mother was, without success, trying to teach him to read but he was almost 11 and in with the five to seven year old children.) His brother came back in as the Senior Cat was explaining how powerful lightning could be.
    "Yeah, the shelter just blew up."
He meant the structure on the side of the railway line where everything was left. There was an extraordinary honour system. People would have ordered things and they would come by train. There was no station as such but the train would stop briefly and things would be unloaded into a small tin shed a bit like an over-sized dog kennel. You went down and picked up your parcel yourself or the man in the post-office-cum-general-store would take it and you could pick it  up from the store.
Of course we all wanted to see what had happened. When the storm had passed the Senior Cat took us all down to see the shelter. Incredibly, although not in good shape, it was still just standing.
     "Just as well it was empty," someone said.
     "Me dad'll have ta' fix it."
     "Yeah and get my dad ta' help."
That evening we could hear the shelter being repaired because the railways wouldn't leave anything unless it was and the once a week train was due next day.
It wasn't until some days later that we found out that one of the goannas that lived along the track must have been in the shelter at the time. It had not survived.
Yes, I remember that lightning.

Sunday 18 March 2018

The queue outside

outside the polling booth was longer than I had hoped it would be. I had intended to be early - and no, it was not "vote early, vote often" but "I need to get this done because there are a lot of other things to do today". 
Still, the queue moved reasonably quickly. The people on either side of me chatted to me and to each other. This sort of thing happens when you ride a tricycle. One of them wanted to know whether I thought she could ride a tricycle now that she no longer felt confident on her  bike. I offered to let her have a ride when we had both voted. She thought it might be a "bit public" so I suggested going around to the other side of the building. (We were voting at a school so there is a playground there.) Now that was a good idea. 
She tried a few minutes later, 
    "Oh it would be blissful." She put the name of the place I had bought mine from into her phone and went off.  My thought was that, if nothing else, I had done one useful thing that morning even though it made me even later.
I had put out two loads of washing very early. It was warm and windy and I hoped they would be dry before it rained. Yes!  I brought them in. I gave the Senior Cat the information he had asked me to collect and told him where to find the party he wanted to vote for in the Legislative Council (the upper house). We don't normally know how the other votes but this time he had asked being, rightly, confused by something.  He wrote it down and put it in his pocket. I must remember to remove it before I wash that shirt!
And then, after answering a long list of emails, I gave the Senior Cat lunch and a friend picked him up to go to the polling station. I pedalled off to an informal meeting.
I didn't really want to go but someone  had asked me if they could talk to me there. So, I made the effort. It was a wasted effort. She didn't want to talk to me after all. That was - shall I say "disappointing"? I wonder whether she realises how much difference there is between getting into a car and going about the same distance and pedalling there. Probably not. Be tolerant Cat!
I pedalled home via the supermarket. I wrote a long and complex letter that needed to be carefully worded - but will probably still be misunderstood. I sent it off as an email. I made two phone calls to
check on humans and be sure they had been well enough to go and vote. One had not been so I collected the voting card everyone was sent at this election and a signed declaration from her. Also armed with the medical certificate she had been given in case she was not well enough I took it back to the polling booth at her request. 
    "Tell her not to worry."
No, she won't now - but it was a long pedal up the slope again. 
The Senior Cat and I settled down to watch a little television at around 8pm. This is a very unusual event in our house. The last time this happened was - at the last election. 
By around 8pm we thought there might be some indication of which direction the election was taking. The Senior Cat also wanted to see how one of his former students was performing. He taught her many years ago.  Her father held the seat at the time. Who says we don't have political dynasties here?
At around 9pm the Senior Cat decided he had seen enough. I switched off gratefully and took myself off to the luxury of reading a decent book in bed.
It was a long day....and I am still hoping that the person who wanted to talk to me will do so. Then I might feel as if I had actually achieved something.

Saturday 17 March 2018

It is election day

and I will shortly pedal off and do my civic duty.
A  piece of news has reminded me of another election...the one which followed the dismissal of the Whitlam government.
That has been in the news because there has been another attempt to have the correspondence between Queen Elizabeth and Sir John Kerr made public. The court, rightly, refused the application.
My own view is that this correspondence should never be made public. I know it is an event which still fascinates historians. I know that Nicholas Whitlam would like to find "evidence" that showed his father was wrongly dismissed but that is unlikely to occur. In all possibility the correspondence would show that the Governor-General was on stronger ground than is usually recognised.
Why? The problem is that we have concentrated too long on the dismissal itself and not the reasons for the dismissal. 
Labor had the numbers in the House of Representatives. It did not have the numbers in the Senate.
There had been a row over money. Rex Connor had resigned over his dealings with Tarith Khemlani - a man the government planned to illegally borrow money from. He was replaced by Paul Keating, a Prime Minister in waiting, but there was clearly much more to the affair than simply borrowing money. Whitlam had also told the head of ASIO (the Australian intelligence organisation) to stop talking to the CIA. He did this verbally rather than in writing but the head of ASIO recorded the order in his own records. If Whitlam had thought about it he would have realised this would happen but apparently it didn't occur to him. 
Are those two matters connected? I don't know but I suspect they might be.
The Governor-General met with Whitlam and then with the Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Fraser.  Whitlam was worried by this and by Fraser's warnings about blocking supply because of the government's dealings with Khemlani. It is evidenced by the no confidence motion in Fraser he managed to get through the House of Reps  - based solely on the numbers there. 
Whitlam's economic policies had been along the lines of tax and spend - spend more than the country could afford. If the proposed loans from Khemlani had managed to pass parliament we would still be paying them off today - and not just in monetary terms. 
Kerr knew all these things. He had met multiple people, not just Whitlam and Fraser, over it. He may well have known things not known to either man. 
Kerr first sought Whitlam's permission to consult the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, over these matters - and permission was denied. If Whitlam had been sure of his actions the permission would almost certainly have been granted. 
What happened next is uncertain. There was undoubtedly much more to it than the public has ever been told. It was late in the day before Kerr consulted the Queen's Private Secretary. We don't know what the advice was but it is likely that they were not going to interfere. Kerr then went to Barwick and asked if it was possible to sack the government given what had happened and what the government still intended to do. Barwick's advice was that there was cause. Did Barwick act alone? Perhaps - but it may be that he also sought the opinion of others. If he did we will never know.
If everything became clear it may well be that Whitlam would be found to have tried to exert undue influence in other ways as well. It may well be that others, still alive, would be found wanting too.
For those reasons it is better that the correspondence remains out of view and it is simply accepted that the Governor-General had the power to do what he did. Had the electorate wished to do so it could have returned the Whitlam government. It didn't. Months before every major newspaper in the country had said the government had to go - even those who were normally highly supportive of it. It's a nasty episode in history. 
The entire episode is best forgotten. 

Friday 16 March 2018

They are still advertising

and they are still "promising" and they are still saying they will spend our money.
I know. The system is supposed to be "democratic". There is a regular commentator and columnist in this state who is considered to be knowledgeable about politics - after all he did teach politics at university. His view is that "first past the post" is the simplest but least democratic form of democracy. Perhaps he is right.
I need to explain to those of you in Upover that we have "preferential" voting here. You number the ballot paper with a "one" for the candidate you want and then go on to the next candidate you want if that one doesn't get enough votes and so on. That's considered to be "more democratic". You have a choice and a second chance.
The problem with this, and it is a big problem, is that it is compulsory to make your preferences if you want your first choice to count. You cannot just mark "one" and leave it. 
I have mentioned this elsewhere. I don't object to the notion of preferential voting. In a sense the run-off polls to elect a President in many countries are the same sort of thing. 
What I do object to - and object to strongly - is the compulsory nature of this process. It is simply wrong.  Nobody should have to assist the election of someone whose policies they disagree with just in order to have their first preference count at the start. 
The Senior Cat and I were reviewing the candidates yesterday. He has been eligible to vote for 74 years and done so many, many times. He still takes an intelligent interest in policy issues and votes according to his beliefs, not party politics. He has brought all of us up to do the same. 
This time there are two candidates he is not at all happy with and he was still debating which to put last. He would prefer not have to number their boxes at all. I don't know what he has decided and I won't inquire as to how he has voted although I can guess. He won't ask me either. If either of us are asked at an exit poll then we will politely say we prefer not to answer the question. Both of us though will leave feeling irritated that we need to number all those boxes.
Unless there is an unexpected landslide in one of three directions then we may not know the results as soon as we usually do - late Saturday night or early on Sunday - and part of the problem is those compulsory preferences which mean it can take so much longer. 
I think it is time we changed the system but it won't happen because the major parties see it as being in their favour to retain it. 
Now, is that actually democratic?

Thursday 15 March 2018

Stephen Hawking

and I met one day back in the 70's. He came in briefly to a  conference about disability looking for information about VOCAs - Voice Output Communication Aids - because he knew the likely course of his disease and he wanted to be ready when the time came.
The purpose of the conference was a little different and one of the organisers must have said something like, "Talk to Cat. Communication issues are her thing."
So, we had a talk - a long talk. He asked a lot of questions. I sometimes had to say, "I don't know" and sometimes I could say, "I don't know but I'll find out."
He kept telling me how much he still had to do - not "wanted" but "had" to do. At that time he thought he would be dead within "just a few years at most".  
And VOCAs were not nearly as advanced as they are now. We also discussed other ways of helping him communicate when the time came. Thankfully he didn't need them because he was able to speak long enough for a decent VOCA to become available.
Our relationship didn't end there. Stephen almost ran me over later in the day as he rushed past in his electric wheelchair - top speed was the only one he apparently knew.
I wrote to him about a year later and asked him for his support for what became International Literacy Year. I wasn't sure if he would remember me but he clearly did  because a very positive response came back.  For a while I think he must have been telling everyone he met about the idea of a year devoted to literacy because I had supportive letters I was not expecting from some very interesting people in the university world. He opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.
Stephen strongly believed in the need for people to be not just literate but in the need for people to have a wide diversity of literacy skills in order to increase their understanding of science and the world around them. He was born on Newton's birthday and he died on Einstein's birthday. I think those facts would have amused him. He had a wicked sense of humour but he could also be difficult when things did not go the way he intended.  He could also be demanding.
Would he have been as well known if he had not had a disability? Almost certainly not but he used it to advance the cause of science and to denounce the changes to Britain's National Health System. He was concerned for many things, climate change,the environment, peace, religion and more all came under close scrutiny.
There have been a couple of his quotes doing the rounds of the internet. One is
      "Life would be tragic if it weren't funny".
The other is "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge."
Both of those quotes deserve to be applied to all our lives.
And I can add my own Stephen quote,
      "Out of the way Cat! Mind those rear paws."
They were his words to me as he sped on down the footpath. And later it was, "Don't give up Cat. Mind those rear paws. There's so much you still have to do."
He was right. There was more to minding those rear paws than simply not getting run over and we both knew it was "have" to do it - not simply "want" to do it. Thanks for the memories mate.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

I am fed up with robocalls

and people who don't answer emails and.... yes I am feeling a little scratchy this morning.
There were more robocalls yesterday. A friend who lives on the other side of the city in a "very safe" electorate hasn't had a single call. She hasn't even had election literature stuffed in her letter box. Yes, her electorate is considered to be that safe. Mind you, apparently the corflutes from an opposing party have been removed from all the stobie poles out there. (Stobie poles are the steel and concrete poles that carry power overhead in this state.)
But we had two more robocalls. The last official "surveys" were published yesterday so these "surveys" are of course not surveys at all.  
As these were automated I just hung up but it irritates me to have to answer the phone and discover that someone thought it would be a good idea to interrupt me when I am getting the Senior Cat his dinner or I am in the middle of writing a response to an email.
Oh yes, that email. I asked a question. It was a simple enough question. It amounted to "what do you want me to do?" 
The answer I got was not an answer at all.
Now how am I supposed to do my job if I don't get an answer? Is it any wonder I am feeling scratchy? I would actually like to be able to help but there is no point in providing information unless it can be - and is going to be - used.
Thankfully the library reopened yesterday and I was able to collect a large pile of books I needed to do another two jobs. The library staff, who know me well, had actually offered to get them to me earlier but I thought they had enough to do. The library will be at sixes and sevens until the building work is completed - and that is months away. The attitude of the library staff though is in complete contrast with the attitude of the people who sent me the email. I need to make cake for the library staff!
But last night there was another phone call. The person on the other end is one of the local candidates in this election. I was introduced to her in the local shopping centre a couple of weeks ago. She had asked me about something not election related and I had told her it might take me a week or so to get an answer for her. Last Friday I sent her an email with the information. And yes, last night she phoned me and thanked me for taking the trouble and apologising for not getting back straight away. 
Oh  yes I know she is also looking for votes - but she could simply have sent a return email saying "Thanks for the information." 
But that personal call was so much nicer than robocalls or emails that don't answer the question.  We need real human contact.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Home brand and then

more home brand and more home brand and....
      "Where did you get this stuff?" the Senior Cat asked me yesterday.
      "In the supermarket," I told him, "It was the only sort available."
      "Well please don't buy it again. It's useless."
Yes the "sticky tape" (sellotape or Scotch tape for those of you in the northern hemisphere) was not working well. He was a very frustrated cat. 
We sorted out the problem between us but the job was not as neat as it should have been. That did not please the Senior Cat and it infuriated me.
It infuriated me because the tape I had bought was the only brand available in the supermarket. It looked the same as other brands. From memory it was no cheaper than other brands.
On close inspection - only possible once we had opened the roll and started to use it - it seemed thinner than the Senior Cat's preferred brand. It tore down the middle as he was trying to use it and seemed to lack any strength at all. What is more it didn't "stick" particularly well.
I was not impressed. I am not impressed by a good many of the supposedly cheaper "home brand" and "own brand" items available in the supermarkets. 
There are two supermarkets in our local shopping centre - and another across the road. The one across the road is one of those European derived stores that offers no choice. I poked my nose in there out of curiosity but I usually shop in the independently owned supermarket in the shopping centre. 
Yes, that is slightly more expensive - or it is if you don't take other factors into account.  It is owned by local people. It employs a lot of students. The shelves have some "home brand" items but there are also branded items and items I can't find anywhere else. The store tries to stock items in different sizes too. That's also a deliberate policy because the manager is aware that there are a lot of older people who live alone in the district. There are also a considerable number of students of different ethnic backgrounds who cook for themselves. Both groups want smaller quantities. There is also a great range of "ethnic" food. They stock the soy sauce I like to use and a good taco spice mix. 
On Thursdays they give "seniors and pensioners" a small discount. Shop on Thursdays and it is no more expensive than it would be in the other supermarket.
Oh yes, that other supermarket. There is row upon row of "home brand" and very little else - or so it would seem. The packaging looks vaguely familiar - until you look at it closely. It seems cheap - until you look at the size of the packet and consider the quality. Ask Ms W about the home brand baked beans or the softness of the tissues on a cold-ridden nose if you doubt me.
Yes, I do buy things there occasionally. There are things my favourite supermarket does not stock - it has almost no stationery  and no longer stocks light globes - so I am forced to shop in the other place at times.
I don't like it though. I come unstuck there. 

Monday 12 March 2018

Bullying someone

will get you nowhere.
There is a report in this morning's paper about a man who has been threatened with police action because he won't give up trying to talk to the present Leader of the Opposition in this state.  He runs an indoor plant hire business and a policy of the opposition would see his business drastically reduced. That's his claim anyway. He says that "all (he) wants to do is talk to them and explain".
I might have some sympathy if I thought that this was the whole story  but it is very likely a good deal more complicated than that.
For a start this man either doesn't know or doesn't care about  the way in which you approach a politician.
My preferred method is to write a letter, a one page letter. In it I state the problem, the likely consequences and the action I would like to see taken. I will, even if I am feeling angry, annoyed, upset, fed up  and so on, be polite. Now okay I know that I can write a letter. I have written thousands and thousands of letters. Most of the time they get results. Although they may not always be the results I want and I may need to compromise something will happen.
Not everyone can write a letter. I know that. I help other people write letters too. 
      "Cat, can you help me do a one-pager?" or something like that is common enough. I am sure many other people get asked a similar thing at times.  Certainly I am by no means the only one who gets asked for help in our local district.
If you can't write a letter then you can make an appointment. Most politicians will run a "clinic" of some sort for their local members. If you have a problem then you can put it to your local member at the clinic. You will still be asked to state what sort of problem you want to talk about but the man running the plant hire business could have said,"It's about a policy issue which will seriously affect my business." That would almost certainly have got him an interview. No politician wants to be held responsible for the folding of business. 
My suspicions are that the plant hire man did not set about it this way. Did he simply march in to the receptionist and demand to talk? Was he rude or threatening? Has he refused to listen to an explanation? 
In the lead up to next Saturday's election I know that politicians will have been inundated with all sorts of questions and demands. There will be people in their offices trying to sort these out. It is rare for a really important issue or request to go unanswered - however briefly. Ignoring something might lose you a vote and, in a tight election, that matters. Politicians will answer for their own benefit if nothing else.
And of course the other naughty explanation which occurs to me is that he supports the other major party and is out to get the opposition some negative publicity.

Sunday 11 March 2018

School uniform

is a hotly debated topic.
Some people love them. Other people hate them. Most parents seem to welcome them.
Schools around here use them. Ms W has one. I wore them. My siblings wore them. 
I was once a housemistress in a boarding school which dictated the entire clothing needs of the child - down to the sort of underwear they wore.  And, should you think that is  unusual, the mother of my godchildren was once sent home from school as a six year old for wearing non-regulation underwear.
Yes, that is going too far.
School uniforms have changed over the years. I remember my mother, then principal of an "infants" school, having a meeting with parents about uniform. What they came up with was eminently sensible. Tops with the school logo and shorts or trousers (for either sex) or skirts - all of which you could throw in the washing machine. The school provided the tops at cost price. There was no compulsion to wear it - but everyone did. 
Several other schools did the same thing at the same time and now it is much more common.
Most parents like it. Children may have mixed views but it saves arguments.
Uniforms are of course supposed to be the great equaliser. They are also supposed to be a matter of pride.
I went through a variety of uniforms as the Senior Cat was moved from one school to the next by the Education Department. (It was the way the Education Department worked.) Mine were always secondhand. We were not going to be there more than a couple of years so my mother saw no point in buying any of us new uniforms. 
I don't think I felt any particular pride in any of them. It was just what you wore to school - like everyone else. I suspect most children feel the same way now. 
Ms W's uniform is, on the whole, practical and easy to care for. It has changed since she started school but even then it was fairly practical and easy to care for. There was a discussion as to whether the girls in the last two years of school needed to wear uniform. The girls were consulted at the time and, oddly perhaps, decided to stay with uniform. As one of them said to me, "It's easy. You don't have to think about it. There's no competition."
As Ms W's school is a fee paying all girls school that might well be an issue. It would be an issue for Ms W who is there because she needs to be a weekly boarder.  She would be "competing" against girls whose mothers spend more on one item of clothing than I would spend on my entire wardrobe in a year. 
But something much more interesting came up about uniform  yesterday. The head of the boarding house said to me,
    "It's a security issue now. When all the girls are in uniform then we can tell at a glance if there is someone else on the school property who shouldn't be there."
I have to admit I had never considered that. It makes sense. Yes, someone could "borrow" a uniform - but that's unlikely.
As for Ms W? Her attitude is a shrug and,  yesterday, "It means I don't have to bother. All I have to do is sew my own buttons on."

Saturday 10 March 2018

Election day is

a week away.
Will it end the seemingly endless "robocalls"?  There have been more than ever this time around. 
We are on the "Do Not Call" register. That is supposed to stop people calling us and touting for business - but political parties are exempt from that. Some calls still reach us - people who are apparently happy to ignore the law. There is a real estate company I will never do business with because they insist that they aren't "selling" anything, merely informing us about the sale of a house in our  area.  There is a company which sells fertiliser who insisted we were customers and they had every right to ring us. There is the solar panel company which refused to believe we already have solar panels on our roof. (I told them to come and look from the street and that we would never do business with them either.)
And there are the companies who conduct "surveys". Oh yes, there have been a number of those. I just hang up.
This election there have been, by my count,  eighteen calls from "survey" companies about the election. Two came yesterday. They have been robocalls.
This didn't happen at the last election. 
What it means of course if that, now that the boundary has changed, the incumbent is worried about losing her seat and the hopeful is anxious to get as many votes as possible. There are also the minor players. One of those is responsible for at least five of those calls.  He won't win in this electorate. The real concern here will be to get the preferences of those who do not vote for a candidate from one of the two biggest parties. 
Do political parties really believe that all this push-polling gains votes? 
There is a small party running candidates in a number of seats. They have almost no money. They haven't put up any corflutes. They won't have enough people to man every polling booth all day and hand out "how to vote" cards. With luck they may get their single candidate back into the upper house. I hope they do because she has worked hard and done a very good job - far better than anyone expected -and achieved a great deal. They most definitely are not doing the "survey" type robocalls. I doubt it would win them any votes. 
So why do people bother with robocalls? Have they been proven to make a difference?
A former Prime Minister phoned me once - accidentally. In the short and pleasant exchange between us we joked about him not being a  robot. He would not have considered using robocalls. He had the manpower to reach his electorate without that, indeed to reach the nation without that.
A really good candidate will have the capacity to do that as well. There will be something there that will tell people, "Yes, you can vote for me and I will work for you."
Such politicians are few and far between.


Friday 9 March 2018

Man bites dog

...and I know you read that twice and said, "Cat isn't making sense today. She got that the wrong way around."
Well no, the man didn't actually bite the dog but I have it on good authority that the man was responsible for injuries to the dog.
Imagine yourself walking quietly and legally through the local park with your  golden retriever.  He has been bounding after a stick you have thrown for, catches it and returns it to you. You throw it again. It's a great game. You are both enjoying it.
There are children around watching it. They are enjoying it too. 
And then, someone interferes. He's a complete stranger. He doesn't like dogs. He most certainly doesn't like dogs enjoying a bit of fun in the park.
The dog is young and friendly. It has been trained not to give things to strangers but  the man tries to pull the stick from the dog's mouth. The dog resists and, as it tries to run back to you, the man lashes out. He grabs the dog and attacks it. The dog bites but not hard enough to cause any serious damage.
What ensued next was ridiculous. An ambulance was called. The owner was racially abused. The incident was reported as a dangerous dog incident. There were demands first for the dog to be put down, then for it to be muzzled. The matter ended up in court. The matter went the dog owner's way. The matter was appealed and still went the dog owner's way. The dog has not been muzzled - but it is probably not the same friendly, confident pup it once was. 
Middle Cat knows the owners of the dog and helped them through the process. It isn't a pretty story. They had reached a point where they were prepared to muzzle their dog just to have the matter over and done with but that would have let the wrong person win and they had plenty of support from those who witnessed the incident.
I thought of all this yesterday because I was chased by a dog out on the loose.  It was a small thing of indeterminate breed and anything on wheels was likely to get chased. 
I stopped pedalling and it rushed up to me barking furiously  but with tail wagging fast. Oh yes, soon we would be best friends forever.  I gave it a stern look and spoke equally sternly. It looked at me, head side on, and then sat down in the roadway with a thump.
Now I am not stupid enough to try and catch a dog I know nothing about. There are local dogs I know well enough that, if they were out on the loose, I would know where they belonged and I might try to encourage them home. Not this one.
It was a stand off. Did I go on pedalling and hoping that Dog would simply go back where it belonged? 
Fortunately the owner came out of a nearby house. He was visiting.
     "Little wretch. He won't hurt you. He must have got under the gate. Thanks for stopping because he would just have gone on chasing you."
Dog decided I was his Best Friend Forever. Owner and I discussed Dog and Dog's behaviour briefly and then I pedalled on. 
But, what if I hadn't stopped?  What if I had stopped and lashed out? What if I had thrown something and hit the dog?
I know dogs can be very dangerous. Dogs can kill. I am not happy about meeting dogs I don't know out on the loose and unattended.
But, I knew the late local vet well and she taught me that few dogs will attack unless provoked.
The man in the park only had himself to blame. 

Thursday 8 March 2018

It is International Women's Day

and yes, I suppose it is important to have a day which celebrates the superior half of the human race. (Actually it is slightly more than half - or should be, if certain countries didn't place more importance on males than females.)
I am old enough to remember when Germaine Greer first hit the scene. I also remember some scathing comments about her from the likes of Judith Wright, Mary Durack, and a slew of other women at a Writers' Week in our then biennial festival. 
Yes, there might have been a wee bit of jealousy there. Greer was getting the sort of publicity that most writers can only dream of. But these women were, as writers go, well known. 
They had worked at it. They were "rich" in recognition at the time - but they were not financially well off. Judith Wright was staying with my family so that she could afford to be there at all - even though she was a star attraction at the week.  Mary Durack was staying with relatives. 
I don't know exactly where other writers were staying but many of them were billeted out with local writers and librarians and arts people. It was the only way the event could be run. Oh yes there were a very international "big" names - Edna O'Brien was there one year - who were given hotel accommodation but that was all. 
The situation is different now but I doubt that guest writers are being paid what they are worth - and are the women being paid as much as the men? Do the organisers still believe that the "increased book sales and publicity" make it worth the author's time? 
There was a concert here last night - given by Ed Sheeran. The tickets were expensive. You could have bought a number of books for the price of one ticket. I know of one household where both parents and three teenage children were going. The total cost was, to me, an extraordinary sum of money to spend on a couple of hours of entertainment.  What is more they would not have considered spending the same amount to go to an orchestral event where far more people would have been performing - and only after many years of hard work.
It seems to me that writing, especially writing by women, is more like the orchestral concert than the Sheeran event. It involves far more work. I may be doing the likes of Mr Sheeran a disservice of course. I don't know enough about him. He might spend at least eight hours a day working on his performances. Even if he does he gets paid a great deal more than the musicians I know.
I thought about all this as I was putting out the Senior Cat's cereal bowl and coffee mug this morning. He has been a supporter of equal pay for women for years. He thinks writers should be paid far more than what he calls "pop stars". He knows how much work goes into performing. 
And he knows it is International Women's Day because another event in this house has made him very aware of it. He will mutter things about Germaine Greer and equal pay and wonder all over again why writers get paid less than popular performers.
I don't have an answer.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Next year will be the bicentenary of

Queen Victoria's birth. If bicentenaries of that nature are to be celebrated then this is surely one worth celebrating?
Some of us thought so anyway. We had an informal meeting about it and then a formal meeting about it.  I undertook to do certain things - and I have done them.
There have been people who have been mildly interested, others more interested and some enthusiastic. Yes, about what I expected.
And there have been some who are not interested. 
That's fine. I know not everyone will be interested.  It's not their "thing" - even some of the startlingly modern takes on "Victoriana" are of no interest to them. They aren't like S....who sees it in terms of "steampunk" and does some amazing things with that.
And then there is that group I belong to. I should have known better I suppose. 
I wrote a letter, a rather formal letter, to them. It was something I was asked to do. I spent some time thinking about it and did my best to describe what we were thinking of and how people might choose to participate. The letter was sent in mid-January - and I had no response.  I followed it up and there was still no response. I followed it up again and, yesterday, had a brief response to the effect that the committee had discussed it and decided it was not a project for the group as such. 
It had not been put to the group. I have been told it was not even mentioned in the "correspondence received" section of two possible meetings. I have to assume that is correct. I couldn't get to the first and I couldn't get into the second. Members were given no opportunity to hear about it, let alone ask questions or discuss it.
It would surely have been simple to, at very least, let people know there had been a letter and say,
       "The committee has decided we should not be involved. If individual people want to know more they can ask Cat."
The decision should really have been made by the members of course. It may well have been the same decision as the committee made but at least people would have been informed and felt involved.
I know what will now happen. I will be criticised for "not letting people know".
I don't think I am going to win this one. 

Tuesday 6 March 2018

"There's nowhere to park the car"

I was told.
For most people this is an inconvenience but the person telling me this uses a wheelchair. He needs to be able to park his car within a reasonable distance of his final destination...and he still needs to be able to get to his destination after that.
It is becoming an increasing problem even in suburban streets. The old "house on a quarter acre block" so beloved of Downunderites is rapidly disappearing in favour of a "duplex" or "semi-detached" or a "unit" or a "town house" or a "flat". (Readers in the US think "condominium" please.) 
There used to be perhaps one car - if that - in the driveway of those houses on quarter acre blocks. My mother walked everywhere, first with me then with me sitting uncomfortably in front of my baby brother on the pram. Then there was the "pusher" or "stroller" - a canvas and wood folding affair or I used my tricycle. There were even occasions on which I used my tricycle, my brother used his and my mother had my two sisters in the pram. Somehow we always made it to our destination - or we just didn't go somewhere.
Now everyone goes in one of the cars.
Yes, many households have two cars. There are an increasing number of places where the council has found it necessary to provide parking permits for residents. People are lively in closer proximity to one another and they  own more cars.
My youngest nephew now lives in another state. He shares a flat. There are two car spaces - but one is on top of the other. He keeps his car on top  because getting it out is a problem and he rarely uses his. He takes the tram to work - and walks at each end. He has ridden his bike but it isn't particularly safe because there are so many cars on the road.
There are in fact simply too many cars being used by people who don't really need to use them. They could catch public transport. Their children, particularly the older children, could walk to school. (I know someone who drives her three boys two blocks to the local high school each morning.)
And it means that people like T.... find their lives more difficult than they should be. He needs his car. He's not confident with the buses having tipped out of his wheelchair once when trying to access a supposedly "accessible" bus that had stopped at an awkward angle.  Most of the time he uses the train but yesterday that was not an option. 
On hearing his message one of the other people at the meeting went out to see if he could find anyone to shift their car. He knows someone in the next building and their car is usually parked outside.
Yes, he was there. Shift his car for T....? Sure but I'm just  loading stuff into it. Tell him to drive down the lane. The boss is away this week and he can have that space - there's enough room for him to get out. I'll tell our receptionist.
It was all done fairly quickly then - but it was sheer good fortune that the owner of the vehicle was there.
The problem was solved because the man who was asked was aware enough to realise that not only was a parking space needed but the space had to be wide enough for unload his wheelchair, get into it and wheel out. 
After the meeting was over T.... said to me, "It's happening more and more. I can't get along the footpath past our house any more. There are two new duplexes in the street. In one there are three young lads and they all have cars. If they are all home one is always parked across the footpath."
I have been to T...'s home. It is close enough to two bus services and a train service for people to catch public transport easily. T... himself catches the train when he can. 
There are too many cars - and nowhere to park.
Perhaps it is just as well I don't know how to drive a car. I'd just add to the congestion.

Monday 5 March 2018

Updating information

seems to be something we forget about. 
I asked someone to update some information yesterday. A group I belong to meets on the last Tuesday of the month and the information in another website said, "on the fourth Tuesday". Ummm...sometimes there are five Tuesdays in the month. 
I pointed this out to the person who showed me the information. She looked at me in a rather puzzled way.
     "No, there can only be four Tuesdays in a month," she told me. I showed her there couldn't be and she gave a shame-faced sort of smile and said, "Silly me...of course."
So I sent a message off to the person who runs the website and she updated the information very promptly. Thankyou. It doesn't always happen that way. 
I was sent on a wild goose chase recently. I checked a website and everything looked up to date. The information was even showing 2018 dates. So, being fairly close to hand, I pedalled off - and disovered that there was nothing there. There has been nothing there for some time. 
I am currently collating information for an event. It means a bit of searching. I know I won't get everything right. I will have to tell people. "This was the information available. I had no way of checking it but there might still be a group meeting there if you want to investigate."  That seems the best I can do. I can't prowl around remote areas of the city at night to check. 
Apparently it is very difficult to get information taken down from the internet. People tend to leave it there instead. They forget the information was there in the first place. Information is too available now. It seems of less importance than it used to be. No wonder the internet is getting clogged. 

Sunday 4 March 2018

I tried to go to a meeting

Now I will admit I was late. That was unavoidable. I would have been there on time but there was an accident on the road and that meant I had to do a detour and, because of the detour, I had to wait for a train to pass through. As I only ever have just enough time to get there it's a problem I have faced before.
Normally I can prowl in quietly and not be disruptive. There is a back door to the hall and a front door. If I am lucky the back door will be open and there will be almost no disruption. The front door will usually be closed against the traffic noise from the street but a quiet knock on the door will usually get someone in. 
Yesterday the back door was shut. The person who usually has it open was, for once, sitting inside. (He comes but doesn't usually sit in the meeting.) I tried the front door and nobody answered it although I knew there would be people on "door duty". I tried several times. I tried to knock as cars were not passing and nobody answered.
I ended up waiting outside for more than twenty minutes waiting for the formal part of the meeting to finish. If it had not been for the fact that I had promised to deliver something to someone at the meeting I would have been tempted just to leave.
Even when the formal meeting was over and I could bang rather more loudly on the door it was some minutes before anyone answered it. I didn't say anything to the person who answered the door. I let the Secretary know later - by email. I was in no mood to confront her and it wasn't her fault anyway.
The answer would be to have the back door open for late comers. It would not be a security issue. There is nothing of any value in the tiny passage which leads into the hall and anyone going into the kitchen would be seen - and are thieves really going to wander off with the  urn?
All this makes me feel irritated and scratchy. It takes me half an hour to pedal to the meeting and a little more to get home. Other people simply get into their cars. Some even get picked up by other people. One or two catch a bus but, for most, it's a matter of a car journey. They aren't out in the weather. Yesterday the weather was pleasant enough but there have been times when I have pedalled in the heat or the cold and rain.
The other annoying thing of course is that there are now things I do not know about . The person who would be most likely to make sure I knew these things was not there. I should have been able to tell her instead.
Would it be that hard to make sure people who are unavoidably late could actually get in?