Thursday 31 May 2018

Rural education

is under the spotlight - again.
There is a call for city schools to stop "poaching" the best country teachers - again.
When the Senior Cat sees this report in this morning's paper he will groan and say, "Nothing has changed."
He should know. He worked in rural schools for most of his teaching career. 
I went to rural schools for most of my school life. They were not as good. They simply could not be as good. 
When I was a kitten my parents were offered a "two teacher" school. The Education Department was desperate for teachers at the time. My mother was one of those rare people not in full time employment, a qualified and certificated teacher. She had been doing some relieving or supply work but that meant my paternal grandmother had to care for the two youngest kittens who were not at school.  There was no such thing as day care. Anything like that meant not just my mother dropping everything but my grandmother too. On one occasion my mother took the class I was in for an entire week. It was not a happy experience for me.
But the Education Department clearly thought she was able (and she was a good teacher) so they offered my parents a school in a remote area. "Offer" I should say. The Senior Cat was informed he would be going there. It was considered "promotion" and it would only happen if his wife was willing to return to the workforce. I don't know what sort of discussions went on but I suspect my mother was happy to return to work. Middle Cat had started school by then. It was only Black Cat who, at just three, was not in school.
So we went. My parents spent two years teaching in that school and Black Cat wandered in and out of my mother's classroom for the first year before starting school at the age of four - when my mother discovered the brown snake a little too close to her youngest kitten for comfort.
The school had no amenities. (We had no running water or electricity to begin with.) My parents had to make every teaching aid they used. The Senior Cat stunned the local parents by arranging to borrow boxes of books each term from the Children's Country Lending Service. At the end of  his first year there he managed to persuade the parents to raise money to buy a "Fordograph" duplicating machine - simply because it was often too hot to use the "jelly" duplicating system.
My parents were considered good teachers. The Senior Cat had been working as a "demonstration" teacher - mentoring young student teachers. But, nothing could make up for the lack of facilities and the fact that my parents had to divide their time between different year levels. It did not make up for the fact that I had to go through the same lot of  history and geography that I had previously done simply because those things were taught to the entire group. 
We moved on after two years because the Senior Cat was given the task of setting up a new "area" school - a school where the students come in from outlying areas by bus. He was not only expected to do this but to teach English and maths. Yes, classes were "small" - around sixteen in number in my year - but work still had to be prepared. It also had to be prepared in a way that meant we could work alone while he did other essentials. The teachers he was allocated were young and inexperienced and needed a lot of help too.
My education continued rather like that. I was taught physics by someone who was literally one chapter ahead of us in the textbook and chemistry was not much better. I didn't want to do either subject but the "PEB" stream (think "O" level rather than GCSE) only catered for those subjects. You couldn't learn a language and I taught myself history. (The Senior Cat would set questions in the latter and mark them but it was up to me to learn how to answer them.) 
The schools lacked much in the way of facilities. They made up for them in a sort of community spirit where the older students cared for the younger students. My mother and all the other female teachers did "yard duty"  or playground supervision while knitting because there was so little actual supervision needed.
But in many ways it wasn't a good education and the Senior Cat knew that. He wanted teachers who were trained to teach the subjects they needed to teach. He wanted teachers who had experience who didn't need constant supervision and help. It wasn't laziness on his part at all. He wanted the best for the students and he was responsible for everything in a school that had children of five to teens of fifteen or more.
And some things have not changed. Teachers still feel isolated. Facilities still aren't as good.
And the students still aren't getting the education they need.

Wednesday 30 May 2018

The parcel has not arrived

and I am feeling angry, upset and disappointed.
Ten days ago I posted a small birthday present to our beloved R... my sister-in-law.  R... is one of the world's good, loving, warm, caring people.  My brother frequently refers to her as "the best person who ever happened to him".
She doesn't want a fuss made of her birthday but we like to acknowledge it with something small. The Senior Cat entrusts me with the buying or making of something and sending it to her.
This time I bought a really lovely hand painted scarf in colours I know she loves. It was light but warm and I knew she would appreciate the workmanship in it.
I took it to the local post office and the person behind the counter said, "That can go as letter size I think".
She found the appropriate envelope, weighed it. Yes, letter size. I handed over the address label I had typed. I watched her tape it very securely to the heavy duty envelope. 
      "Priority?" she asked
We agreed it would be a good idea. I paid for the postage and watched the stamps go on. The postal worker tossed it gently into a box behind the counter ready to send.
I went off confident the little parcel would arrive.
My confidence has been misplaced.
Yes, perhaps it got tangled up with something else but it should have been untangled and sent on. 
It is much more likely that it was delivered to the wrong address (even though I had the correct one on the envelope) and someone has not been honest enough to put it back in the post or a postal worker hasn't been honest.
I don't doubt the honesty of the local person. I know her. I have known her for a long time.
I suppose I should have sent it registered and insured but... I paid for it to be delivered. 

Tuesday 29 May 2018

There is a paedophile

asking to be released back into the community - and people are not happy about it.
This man has offended in five different states over more than thirty years - at least that is what is recorded.  There may well be incidents nothing is known about.
But, he still wants to be released. Under present law he could be released too - even if under strict conditions.
It is unlikely those conditions would make much difference to him. Someone who knows him says he is a performer worthy of an Oscar in his ability to act the "I am reformed" role. 
The problem is that he is doing just that - performing. 
Paedophiles are generally expert at covering  up their crimes. They don't announce them to the world. They don't go to confession and tell of their sins. They don't secretly tell other people what they have done. 
Unless their victims speak out they rarely get caught. 
One of the problems of course is that their victims rarely speak out - or they delay telling anyone else. They may delay for years and that brings about other problems.
But, should someone like this paedophile be released back into the community? The argument is that he has "served his time" and that he "deserves another chance". 
When we say that we forget that his victims are serving a life sentence....and that they don't have another chance. We also forget that it seems he isn't sorry for what he did - just sorry he got caught. 
When I was in my teens I attended a meeting to plan a camp for disadvantaged children. One of the people running that meeting disturbed me - "gave me the creeps" is how I described it. I  backed out of being involved and so did someone who is still a friend. We just didn't feel comfortable about him. Other people couldn't understand it because he was "such a nice man" and "doing so much for the community". At one point  he won an award for his work and then.....
Yes, he was a paedophile. All the wonderful work he seemed to be doing was aimed at one him unlimited access to vulnerable children who weren't going to say anything.
I have forgotten how he got caught now but I can remember one of the people who had continued to help plan and run the multiple camps he ran saying to me, "How did you know?"
P... was shattered by her failure to pick up his behaviour. She felt responsible and she ceased to work at something she loved because of it.
I really can't answer that. It was just "something about him". E.... felt the same way.  Perhaps we were still just young enough to sense something that adults don't sense?
He's dead now. If he wasn't would I be saying "lock him up and throw away the key"? Probably.

Monday 28 May 2018


- you know those things that are a convenience food...something supposedly tasty between two slices of bread.  
The story is that they were invented by the Earl of Sandwich - because he wanted something he could eat while still at the gaming tables.  True? I don't know. I doubt it. I suspect sandwiches were around long before that. They are much too convenient not to have been "invented" long before the Earl put his name to them.
But some people do some curious things with sandwiches. I have a "cook book" - given to me - full of curious ideas that I will probably never try. This will be not just because they don't particularly appeal to me but because they contain ingredients we are unlikely to have. The book is American in origin and that doesn't help but there are also things there that I don't see going in a sandwich at all - like "peanut butter and grape jelly". I believe that's popular across the Pacific pond. Peanut butter (we used to call it peanut paste and the Senior Cat still does) is an ingredient I can just about understand but "grape jelly"? 
I have never been one for a "jam" sandwich. We kittens were never allowed to have such a thing when small. I am not particularly fond of jam of any sort. 
On Saturday morning in the supermarket I overheard someone say,
"He's back on the fish finger sandwiches. I thought I'd got him off those. What's wrong with tuna for goodness' sake?"
The last time I ate a fish finger was in a school - somewhere in Essex I think. It was a school lunch. The children demolished their fish fingers in no time at all. I was told it was a popular meal.  
I know a man who has only ever eaten cheese and pickle sandwiches. It was the first sandwich he ever had - on the first day at school - and it is the only sort he has eaten ever since.  Variety? Well he would prefer plain, white sliced bread but he will tolerate some other type of bread in an emergency. 
We had a banana shortage here several years ago. When you could buy a banana they were expensive - several dollars expensive each in the local greengrocer. One mother admitted that her son was going to school with bread and butter for lunch because she could not afford to buy bananas and the only sort of sandwich he would eat was a banana sandwich. That was something else we kittens were never allowed to have. Now that I could the idea doesn't appeal at all.
The Senior Cat will eat all sorts of sandwiches. I know his favourite - beef and tomato - and I will try to supply that if he needs to take a sandwich somewhere.  
The grand-kittens across the road will only eat Vegemite (rather like Marmite) sandwiches.
But I used to have to provide supper sandwiches for people who were meeting here. Cousin M.... only likes "fritz" (a sort of luncheon meat) and tomato so I would buy a few slices from the butcher. If there were any left over he would take them home for lunch the next day because the Senior Cat and I do not eat "fritz". 
I would then sneak in some things I thought were a little more interesting like "curried egg and grated carrot" (a favourite of Cousin M's wife), or "cream cheese, walnut and celery" . There were never any of those left.
I may need to take a sandwich to a meeting later in the week. There isn't any cream cheese in the house and I can't justify buying some just for a sandwich.
Do I have egg? Do I have cheese? Those things need salad with them.
I really should try something new....what?


Sunday 27 May 2018

I have been researching knitting

patterns from the Victorian era.
It is part of an idea for our state's Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show next year. This is of course all my own fault because I was silly enough to say, "Next year is the bicentenary of Queen Victoria's birth. Perhaps we could do something to celebrate it."
Did I mention this idea somewhere before in this blog? Possibly.
I have done a bit of work on it....some weeks of work on and off and in between other work.
I headed off to a favourite site of mine - the "Antique Pattern Library".  Every time I log on to that I am amazed by the people who keep it going. It's an immensely valuable resource of out-of-copyright patterns in a wide variety of crafts from Basketry to Woodworking. Crochet and knitting both appear. There are some items in knitting that are yet to be put up that I am impatient to see but give the people who do it time. It's not easy to get old patterns scanned and processed in ways that make it easy for others to download them.
But, I was interested in some "classics" of the knitting world such as, 

Gaugain, Jane.
Lady's Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting and Crotchet,
Illustrated by Fifteen Engravings, Showing Various Stitches in the Art of Netting.
Edinburgh, I.J. Gaugain's, 1840, 210 pgs. 
Watts, Miss 
"Miss Watts' Selection of Knitting Netting and Crochet" 
London, J Miland, 1843, 96pgs.  

At the time these were published there were very few "receipts" or patterns around. They were not written in the form we now expect. Instead of telling us what sort of yarn, what needles, what tension (gauge to you in the US) and how many stitches to cast on the instructions tend to go along the lines of, "Take up sufficient stitches...."  Oh, right. Nothing about the sort of yarn, the size of the needles or how many stitches to aim for so that the item doesn't fall out of shape immediately it is used.
I think this is one of the things which is of the greatest interest to me. It is the assumption of so much knowledge - or perhaps the availability of it from other sources. You were taught how to knit. It was a skill it was simply assumed you would acquire. It was passed down from one generation to the next and it was an essential part of your schooling - along with other "needle arts". 
I say essential because clothing yourself and others depended, for the most part, on being able to do these things. It really wasn't until the mid-20th century that mass produced clothing became so common that it was possible to avoid learning something about sewing and knitting - if for no other reason than to mend items made by others. The very wealthy may have had their clothing made for them but women still knew about those things and they could still do "fine sewing", "embroidery" and "other needle arts".
Yesterday I was taking a closer look at 

"The knitted lace collar receipt book" 
Mrs G Baynes, fourth edition; London, Simpkin and Marshall 1846

This small book has, as the title suggests, patterns for lace collars. I also looked at a book of Japanese patterns for similar items. The contrast could not be greater. The patterns in the first book are of the most basic nature. There are no charts and really very little information for a modern knitter. The Japanese book on the other hand  has a chart which is constructed along the strictly uniform lines the Japanese knitting industry has insisted on. I don't read the Japanese language but I can read the chart. The Pacific leap between the two is extraordinary.     

But I am going to spend some more time on those old patterns because I know I can still learn a lot from them.


Saturday 26 May 2018

A notice to all blog "followers"

 The following notice appeared on another part of my blog site yesterday

European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used and data collected on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

Out of courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.

You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog, and that it displays. If you employ other cookies, for example by adding third-party features, this notice may not work for you. If you include functionality from other providers there may be extra information collected from your users

 I am repeating it here  because I have no idea how to deal with it.  I cannot see it displayed - perhaps someone else can tell me whether it appears.
As a notice it doesn't bother me. I don't collect data from anyone. The only issue would appear to be the list of "followers". Now I have to say those people put themselves there. I haven't looked at the list in detail for years. It's been useful because very occasionally it has allowed me to (a) contact someone because of information they have put up themselves and (b) find something else. 
One of you, perfectly reasonably, asked me to remove her from the list. I tried to find out how to do that and it seems I can't do it without blocking her access to the blog. She's a friend so I don't want to do that.  I've been told it might also mean turning this blog from "public" to "private". Ms W's father showed me how to see how many "hits" it was getting and where from. Having seen where it is read I don't want to do that either. She can however stop "following" me herself. 
At the request of a number of people I put a link to the day's blog post up on Twitter and Facebook each day. What that means, apart from people being able to access the blog, I have no idea. 
I don't mention children by name and, for the most part, adults will only be mentioned by initial. 
Twice I have been accused of making fun of someone who apparently feels she has cause to dislike me. I wasn't. I was actually being positive about her approach to tasks - which is meticulous. (Our current crop of politicians could learn a lot from her.)  It may be that she is a regular reader of this blog too but if information is collected about that it has to be because she clicks on to it and I can do nothing about that.
There have been a couple of occasions when people have disagreed sufficiently to be defamatory. I have just deleted what they had to say. I have deleted some spam. I don't advertise for other people so the Adsense thingy is not relevant.
And, I have no way of contacting most of the people who "follow" me. They would have done so when I began writing these posts . I have no idea whether they still follow me or not. 
But the notice is at the beginning of this post. If you wish to "unfollow" me then please do - but I am not spying on you. 
I will now fold my paws neatly in front of me and await your responses. 

Friday 25 May 2018

Am I really expected to sympathise

with those who are complaining about the date of the by-elections brought on by those who cannot obey the law of the land?
I was stunned to hear a certain Senator accuse the head of the AEC of bias because that same Electoral Commission had given a great deal of thought to the matter and chosen the most suitable Saturday for the elections to take place.
There will be five elections.  One is being held because an elected representative has resigned - for family reasons. He has apparently discovered that being a federal politician means he is not seeing much of  his young family. Someone should have explained to him that this is part of the job.  Politics and parenting don't really mix. 
The other four are being held because those elected were found to be dual citizens - a breach of sec.44 of the Constitution. Those breaches were entirely avoidable. Those involved have only themselves to blame.
The Leader of the Opposition was so absolutely certain that nobody on that side of the House has anything to worry about. Now he is said to be "furious" about the date because yes, there were people on that side of the  House who had something to worry about. There might be others - on both sides. I have no doubt it is being looked at now. 
But the date? I have no sympathy at all with the fact that it clashes with a major party event. It clashes with the national conference of a particular political party? Oh dear. 
I imagine it clashes with all sorts of other things as well and that it is going to be highly inconvenient for many people. They did their civic duty believing they would not need to do it again until the next election - barring illness or death. They should not need to do it again. They are  the people who should be angry. 
The rest of us should be angry too because of the cost - which will run into millions of dollars. 
To even suggest that the date has been set to somehow disrupt the national conference of a particular party is nonsense of course. Such a claim is designed to try and elicit sympathy from the electorate, "look at how the nasty AEC is trying to make it so difficult for our wonderful people caught out by that silly requirement in the Constitution".
Those wonderful people may well get back in - elections are like that - but there is even more reason now to suggest that by-elections which arise out of wrong doing like that should be paid for by the party of the wrong doer. 

Thursday 24 May 2018

What is "academic freedom"?

It is curious that I should have come across an article by Andrew Bolt on that very topic in this morning's paper.  I spent part of yesterday reading a piece of research a colleague cannot get published.
In frustration he sent it to me and asked, "Am I missing something? Can you see the flaw in what I did? They keep saying I am wrong."
I read it and read it again. I asked someone else I know to look at the methodology. Then I went off to do some banking for the Senior Cat and I thought about it. The person I consulted on the methodology works in another area entirely but he has a reputation for meticulous work and his methodology has received accolades over the years. No, nothing there that he could see.
I have just sent an email saying that I can't see anything wrong and that I think the problem is that the results don't back up the previous research. There were questions raised about the methodology used in a previous paper but they were dismissed.
It is likely that he will just have to accept that the paper won't be published in a reputable academic journal. He can put it up on the internet in another way - if he dares.
And there is the problem. His colleagues in the field are not going to like his findings. He is going to be accused of going against the present theories.
It's not a politically sensitive area like climate change - the area that has Andrew Bolt's subject, Professor Ridd, in so much trouble he has lost his job over it. It is a potentially useful area in visual perception. 
I made one suggestion - that he sees if he can get someone else to replicate the results. The message came back, "Yes, on to that."
I thought he would be.
It is a problem I faced when I was doing my doctorate. There was absolutely no intention on my part to question the results of research done by people who were almost household names. It just happened. I couldn't get the results I was supposed to be getting in order to go on and do what I had planned. My chief supervisor was beside himself.
    "You must be doing something..."
No, I wasn't. We found three more potential subjects. He came and watched. Someone else came and watched. I got the same results. At the end of it I was told to go on with what I was doing. I realise now I should have been told to write it up - but mere students are not meant to question the results of their elders. I just did as I was told.  When I defended my thesis the only really searching questions were about the preliminary testing I had done.  The rest of what I had written was accepted with barely an interested squeak.  
I wonder now what would have happened if I had pursued a career in academia. What would have happened if I had insisted on writing up the work I did in the preliminary testing stage? Perhaps my supervisor was right. I simply would not have got anywhere. 
Research isn't about open and shut answers to questions. It is much more likely to be about questions which lead to more questions. 
The real problems start when people don't want to acknowledge that....when they want to stifle academic freedom to express doubts and new ideas.
Remember Galileo?

Wednesday 23 May 2018

Gender neutral

language gone mad is the only way to describe it.
There is now a demand in a neighbouring state that any book which does not have gender neutral characters should be removed from library shelves. 
Goodbye Thomas the Tank Engine... and how many other books? 
I think I am a "girl". I think the Senior Cat is a "boy". I think you need both to make a baby. Yes? Have I got that wrong?
How in the heck do you teach children about sex if you aren't supposed to differentiate between girls and boys? 
I get the "equal" idea. Perhaps I get the equal idea because my father, and even my paternal grandfather mid-Victorian though he was in many ways, think and thought women are and were equal but different and demanding of equal respect. That doesn't mean to say that they don't and didn't see differences.
I see differences - and not just outward differences of appearance.
My teaching experience told me that boys and girls are different in their learning needs and patterns. It has absolutely nothing to do with language which isn't "gender neutral" or expectations. It is something much more subtle than that. 
We are attempting to stifle diversity and impose sameness on everyone. We are doing this even while we supposedly celebrate "multi-cultural values" in an "ethnically diverse" country. 
"Girls should be allowed to be on the football team!" comes the cry. Really? I don't doubt a girl can football just as well as boy - Middle Cat was rather better at it - but should a girl of slender build and 150cms in height go up against a man twice her weight and 50cms taller in a game which requires close and often dangerous physical contact? Should we allow it  to happen in childhood just in order to teach "gender neutrality".
Is it simply old fashioned of me to think that you can be "feminist" and "feminine"? Do we really want everyone dressed in uniform?
I actually believe you can learn something from books that are not gender neutral. I don't think they necessarily need to confirm stereotypes. There is no doubt in my mind that someone is going to haul Peter Rabbit off the shelves because it is the "boy" rabbit who is naughty and not Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cotton-tail.  But, children can learn about the consequences of not behaving from it.
If Ann Holm's book, "I am David"  had been a book about a girl rather than a boy would it have even been close to believable? Pauline, in Margaret Storey's book of the same name is definitely a girl. Her cousin Paul is another finely drawn character but a gender reversal simply would not have worked. 
I could go on...and on. I won't. Could we just think "different but equal"?

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Keeping a pig as a pet

does not appeal to me as an idea.
Pork does not appear on the menu in this house either.  It never has. We aren't Jewish or Muslim but pork has never been part of our diet. 
My paternal grandmother refused to use it. As a quite young kitten I remember visiting the butcher with her. There was a new assistant in the shop. Whatever my grandmother wanted in the way of a "nice roast" was not available. He offered something like, "I could let you have a nice bit of pork."  My grandmother refused.
On the way home she explained to me, "Pork is not good meat. Pigs will eat anything. They are fed on rubbish. Your grandfather won't touch it and I am very glad about that."
I have not forgotten that incident. Regulations have been tightened drastically since my childhood - rightly so. Still, I can't eat pork. 
Ms W won't eat pork either. "Charlotte's Web" did that for her years ago. She cried every time the book was mentioned and, at school, refused to eat pork. The boarding house staff gave up in the end. Now she knows "it was a story of course but I just can't do it"
I thought of all this as I glanced over a story about "Bacon". Bacon is the name of a miniature pig kept as a pet. Pork doesn't get eaten in his household either. 
He's a well trained pig, part of the family. He has apparently been to dog obedience school - and passed. There is mention of him going for walks on a lead and a picture of him going for a ride in a car.
I am sure his owners find him a pleasure to have around the place because pigs can learn to be clean and obedient. 
I still wouldn't want a pig as a pet. Animal lover that I am I really don't want another pet at all. I don't have the capacity to care for one in the way I think an animal should be cared for.
It is said that "cats look down on people, dogs look up to people and pigs is equal". This Cat thinks there is something about pigs....and I sincerely hope I don't look down on people.


Monday 21 May 2018

"Unconditional love"

is a nice phrase. It sounds good.
But what does it mean?
I didn't see much of the wedding speech which seems to have stirred up so much controversy. I have now read it.  
May I say that I suspect a lot of people who heard it didn't actually listen to it?  They heard the words. They heard the style in which it was delivered but they didn't actually listen to what Bishop Curry was saying.
What a lot of people seemed to like was the fact (as they saw it) that a "black man" was in the position of being able to lecture a lot of "white people".  Yes, more than one person I know said gleeful things like, "The Queen hated it."
Really? How do they know that? 
I  doubt very much that the Queen hated it. It isn't in her nature to hate. It is much more likely that she was listening intently to a delivery style which required concentration. 
Yes of course the style of service was "different".  It was after all a service for the two getting married, particularly the bride. It wasn't for  the others gathered there or for the enormous television audience.  
The sermon or homily was for them too - and it also addressed everyone else, including those of who were not present.  It wasn't about a "black" man lecturing "white" people. The message was about something we often forget about - love.
Love is a word most of us like to use rather a lot. The problem is we use it in the wrong way. "I love my new shoes" and "I love that colour on you" or "I'm in love with  X (a footballer or actor perhaps)" and so it goes on. Those things are not love. 
Love is often little things - not grand gestures. It's there when a friend of mine  comes up from behind and kisses the top of his wife's head in public - because they had been apart for an hour. It's there when someone has done a great injury to another through wrongful behaviour and the injured person forgives them.  It doesn't mean forgiving the behaviour - but it does mean forgiving the person. Love is there in a book like Ronald Searle's "Les Tres Riches Heures de Mrs Mole". It's not a great work of literature but a simple series of drawings done for his wife undergoing chemotherapy - telling her he loves her in sickness and in health.  It is Prince Charles accepting his son's choice and then stepping in to give her that very public act of acceptance into the family. It is my friend T... a Catholic marrying her M....her Muslim husband and the marriage lasting for forty-seven years before his untimely death. It is an acquaintance A... forgiving her son for the ultimate betrayal of killing her husband -  and visiting that same son in prison week on week for over a decade.
Love isn't an easy idea. It isn't a comfortable idea. Love, real love, requires immense commitment. It requires the ability to forgive, to comfort and care for someone without clinging to them or expecting anything in return. How many of us are good at that? 
Instead of gloating over a false belief that the Bishop was  using the occasion to make a political point we should have been listening. Instead of gloating over the assumed reaction to what he  said we should be acting on those ideas.
We need to think about love.

Sunday 20 May 2018

I made a journey yesterday

but I don't know whether I will be making that journey again. No, for once, nobody is dying but there are problems and I am not sure I can do any more but....
Yesterday I was also very conscious of the building I was in.  By Downunder standards it is a very old building. It is made from rough stone. There are a thousand shades of brown, beige, coffee, hazel, cocoa, umber, tan, fawn and caramel in those stones. There are hints of red, cream, orange, grey and blue as well.  All of those colours are a reflection of what the building now stands for.
It was once a chapel. The primary purpose then was, of course, a place of worship. It is still a place of worship at times. 
It is a building in which returned service personnel meet - the RSL or Returned and Services League. 
I went in there thinking of marriages - marriages and war. 
Yesterday there was a marriage in England that attracted attention right around the world. I suspect some of it came as a surprise to many people, even some of those who were present  in the chapel where it took place.
They should not have been. It was a celebration of life, of love, of hope for the future. It is exactly what the groom's mother would have hoped for her younger son. His father's gesture of kindness was also a public gesture of the acceptance and welcome I have no doubt he genuinely feels. 
The guest list was diverse. Of course there were people who are rich and famous - but there were also some people who are not. 
I took a look at a video on a news site this morning before writing this. I didn't see any of the coverage last night. It isn't in my nature to sit and watch television coverage of such things. But I was curious to see how it was being covered after a week or more of what can only be described as snide coverage. 
Thankfully the tone had changed. I watched as the commentator spoke of some of the rich and famous going in to the chapel. Behind them though I caught a glimpse of another face, the face of someone I know well. He wasn't avoiding the cameras but he wasn't looking at them either. It isn't in his nature to do that. I suspected he might have been invited but I doubt anyone other than his own personal secretary would have known about the invitation. It isn't in his nature to talk about such things.
And yes, he knows about war and the needs of those who return from war. He would take a moment of quiet reflection in the chapel part of the building I was in yesterday.
I know he would tell me, "Give it one more try Cat."
Yes J.... I'll try. There's hope in the world when you are on the guest list.

Saturday 19 May 2018

"Where else in the world...?"

could you leave a bicycle in the morning, catch the bus and then come back at night and find it still there?"
A fellow knitter posted a picture of a bicycle leaning against a dry stone wall on the island she lives on in the Shetland archipelago - and asked that question.
I responded saying I once lived on an island where you could have done the same thing. At least, you could have left the bicycle and nobody would have taken it. There would not have been a bus unless you happened to be on a route that one of the school buses took during the school week. 
And yes, people did that sort of thing. They left their houses unlocked and their cars with the keys in them. 
Trouble, if trouble came at all, was generally from the "mainlanders". 
I said this to the Senior Cat yesterday. He frowned and said, "There was that, they were from here too, weren't they?"
Yes, they were.
I will probably never forget that night. There was a very bad accident on a slight rise near the school and the school house. Some teenage boys from the city had, somehow, managed to get on to the island. They had stolen a car - with disastrous consequences. The injured had to be flown to the city hospital. 
There was no air ambulance in those days. The helicopters that are used were not in existence. The injured were flown out in a "crop duster", a tiny plane used for spraying crops. The pilot who did it made multiple trips in one night - alone with his patients. 
I don't remember what happened to the injured -  if I ever knew. I do remember the pilot working through the night and into the next day. His lights shone directly into the bedroom I shared with my sisters as he used the unsealed road outside our home as a runway. Even at the time I realised that what he was doing was very, very dangerous. 
After that people on the island were told to take their car keys with them. They did for a while but, as one farmer pointed out, "That sort don't need keys to start anything."
I don't know what they do about keys now. The island has changed character. It is now a tourist destination. I suspect people do lock their houses and their cars.
We lived in other places where people did not lock their doors too. The Senior Cat was required to lock the school but, in one place, the only other place that was locked was the police station. On the outlying farms some of the houses didn't even have keys to the doors. There might have been keys to begin with but nobody knew where they were because they had not been used for years, if they had been used at all.
I explained this to Ms W yesterday. She was amazed. As a city child she is thoroughly familiar with keys and the necessity of locking things.
She thought about it for a bit and then, as she was going out the door, she said,
    "I suppose it is different when you all know each other."
Yes, it is.

Friday 18 May 2018

I had an unexpected piece of correspondence

It came in the form of "message" on a site I don't check into every day. Although there is a link to my blog there I don't expect messages to appear very often. 
The writer was kind enough to say she enjoyed reading my witterings here. Thankyou. I enjoyed reading what you had to say about yourself too. Learning you had once lived in a remote area without electricity is the sort of information about other people I always find interesting.
This morning there was an email that I wasn't sure I would get. I had written to someone on a rather remote island asking a question I was not sure could be answered. There was a delayed response this morning with apologies for not getting back to me sooner. They were in the midst of lambing. I should have thought of that!
There are only 55 people living on that island. It's Fair Isle - a tiny dot  somewhere between Shetland and Norway. 
And yes, I had an answer to my question. The writer also provided some other very useful information I will be able to use. 
I have often found that people who do live in rather remote parts of the world can be very friendly. They haven't isolated themselves at all. Visitors? Nice to see you. Come along in. I have some work that must be done but do stay for a cuppa while I finish it.
I remember visiting a fairly remote sheep station as a child. There were six of us and another family of five - eleven altogether. We arrived unannounced, although the Senior Cat knew he would be talking to the parents about the correspondence and School of the Air classes they children were doing.  We had taken our own picnic and all we wanted was permission to light a small fire in order to make tea for the adults.
What? They were horrified. Weren't we going to have a meal with them? Weren't we going to stay the night? 
Next thing we children were sent off to explore with the station children - including finding a "billy cart" so that they could pull me along and keep up over the wide area of land to cover. I don't know about my parents but we children had a wonderful day.
We didn't stay the night but we had a meal with them - and toasted our own sandwiches the following day. 
That is all so different from the way I sometimes have to remind my colleagues that they have not given me a vital piece of information so that I can do something to help them. It is so different from the complete lack of response to a registered letter I sent some weeks ago.
When communication is so easy it sometimes seems to become much more difficult.

Thursday 17 May 2018

A young couple are getting married

and it should be a happy occasion.
But there are some problems. The bride's father is ill. He won't be there to walk her down the aisle. There seems to be some intense jealousy among other members of her family at her good fortune.
And the republicans, especially those in the media, are having a field day with all sorts of snide remarks.
I have had about enough. A wedding where the bride and groom are willing participants is an occasion to be celebrated. It should not be hijacked by the media for their own purposes. 
Complain about the cost to the public? Well if the media made less fuss then the need for intense security would not be nearly as great. The family is paying for the rest themselves. 
There was a particularly nasty feature in our state newspaper yesterday. I don't know why it was published but it mocked the groom's father as someone who "talks to plants". It was highly inappropriate.
Today there is another nasty little piece about the bride's "dysfunctional" family.  They aren't marrying the groom and they are not even immediate siblings. But the media has chosen to show them arriving at an airport with piles of luggage. (I wonder too whether some of that luggage wasn't borrowed for the purposes of the photograph.)
In all the fuss about who will be there and the cost (to the public), what people will be wearing and how they will behave something else is being forgotten.
The groom's mother will not be there. She is no longer alive. She died in a car accident - being chased by the same media which is now having a field day at her son's expense. 
So, to all of you who might think that the media reports lampooning the groom's father are funny or that the security is a waste of money perhaps you could remember that a very decent young man who is, like his brother, carrying on caring about other people won't have his mother there today - and much of the blame for that has to be laid at the feet of the media.
I knew their mother, not well but well enough to experience her kindness on more than one occasion. Show some respect please. Her children are a credit to her.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Altering clothes

is not something I know a lot about. I am fine with the idea of taking up a hem. (Being a very short cat this has been an essential piece of knowledge I have gained over many years.) Anything else is something I lack almost any experience of and am unlikely to obtain.
I was in the charity shop a couple of days ago. (I wanted an old saucepan and it seemed a likely place to find one.) Of course I prowled past a rack of clothes. I saw a tag on one.
Yes, a new garment somebody obviously did not want. The colour was not me at all but I knew it was one which suited our neighbour-across-the-road. She has done a good many things for us and, like me, is happy to shop for clothes in a charity shop.
I pulled the garment out. It was a short sleeved cashmere-merino jumper (sweater to those of you in the US). Would it fit her? I wasn't sure. There was something about the style that didn't look quite right but, for a very few dollars, I bought it. If it didn't fit her I thought it might fit the Black Cat. There was no suitable saucepan. They were all much too good for the intended purpose.
I passed the garment over to her husband to give to her. Yesterday she came over. No, it didn't exactly fit but....would I mind if she altered it? 
      "It's yours," I told her, "Do what you like with it."
She immediately launched into her plans for it. The explanation puzzled me somewhat but it is obviously clear in her mind. I have to say here that she is a very skilled dressmaker. Whatever she has planned will no doubt work. She will have a new top of some sort. It will be a bit of effort but, to her, obviously worth that effort.
I am glad I made the purchase.
Later that day her husband came over - with a saucepan. He had taken his young granddaughter to another charity shop and they had found a saucepan. This saucepan was small enough and old enough for my purposes.
I think we both did well out of this exchange of charity shop purchases. 

Tuesday 15 May 2018

"You're not old yet"

I can hear the young ones saying that.
There is a piece in the paper this morning about a plan for a school to mix with an aged care home and have both the young and the old in the same classroom for lessons in things like history, music, art, cookery and perhaps other things. The idea is to keep older minds active and give younger minds the benefit of the experience of older minds.
Will it work? I don't know. If it can be done and people want to participate then I think the idea has merit. 
There are all sorts of practical issues and legal issues which would need to be overcome of course. I can only assume that those planning this have thought these through.
And then there is this... teaching adults and teaching children are two very different things. I have said elsewhere that there are certain assumptions I can make when teaching adults  in some settings. 
In just over two weeks from now I have to teach a small group of adults to do something. It is not, for reasons aside from the teaching, something I am very happy about but I said I would so I will. I have put a lot of thought and preparation into what I will do and how I will do it.
It's knitting. I will ask people to cast on a certain number of stitches. Now I will assume that everyone in the class knows (a) how to cast on and (b) that they can count and will have the right number of stitches. I might say "double check" because I know that everyone, including myself, might make a mistake when counting stitches. It is a relatively small number of stitches and easy to check. If it was a much larger number I would tell them one of the ways in which knitters can count a large number of stitches accurately. That would not be assuming they cannot count. It would simply be saying, "There's a less frustrating way of getting the count right."
With children in a small group I would individually check with them because not having the right number of stitches would mean they couldn't do the next step.  They would not be as experienced at casting on stitches and might have done something like make an extra stitch by accidentally putting the yarn over the needle.
Being aware of such things is all part of the teaching process. 
I will go on to the knitting and talk about things like "in front" and "behind" and "carrying the yarn across" and "keeping the same tension across the row". Adults who can do even just basic knitting will know something about these things. Children would need to be reminded unless they were, unusually, experienced and confident knitters. 
Having both children and adults in the same classroom in order to teach them would be an enormous challenge for teachers. The immense variation in levels of skill and understanding would require constant awareness. It would be interesting to try.
Perhaps though what will happen is that the adults will help to teach the children. That would be no bad thing.
And mixing younger and older can work. The Danish project which has mixed university students with the aged is apparently still working well. Not all students want to do it of course and I don't doubt that those involved are watched for any number of reasons. But, it means that the young need to confront the realities of old age and even death while gaining from the experience of their elders. 
That can be a very good thing I hope the mixing of the two will go ahead and that it works. We might all learn from it. 

Monday 14 May 2018

Being someone else

is a curious thing.
I was reading Emma Darwin's post on her blog about her new book, "This is not a book about Charles Darwin."
Her family tree is littered with names that are very familiar to many people.If you would like to read a fascinating post then I  hope this link works:

But, in a much smaller way, I do understand what the, "This is X's child, grandchild and great-grandchild" is all about.
My great-grandfather was the one who migrated to Downunder. He started his working life as a sailor. My family tree  is littered with mariners, teachers or "dominies", engineers and members of the medical profession. All of them typical Scots occupations. 
Great-grandpa migrated from Scotland of course. He became a ship's pilot and, much more importantly, a marine cartographer.  I have no idea how he learned the skills to be a marine cartographer. He was almost certainly self-taught because there was no course available for such things in this part of the world at that time. 
However he managed to learn to do it he seems to have been very, very good at  the job. 
    "Your great-grandfather was the one who mapped the river," I was told as a child, as a teen, and even as an adult.
The "river" isn't actually a river at all. It's an inlet. Navigating it is very difficult even now. They keep dredging the passage the ships need to go through. The biggest vessels dock in the "outer" harbour now.
But my great-grandfather made it possible for the ships of his day to get to the docks further up.  It made an enormous difference to the economy of the state - which was loaded with debts. He also mapped a great deal of the coastline.
Those maps were used as the basis of all other maps until computer aided technology came into being. 
So I would sometimes be introduced to people as, "This is Donald .... great-granddaughter." They were mostly maritime people - but the maritime community still plays a vital part in the economy of the state.
And then, if it wasn't great-grandpa, it might be grandpa, "This is Ben..... granddaughter."
Yes, Grandpa was the one who dressed all those important ship's captains and the governors of the state in their uniforms. He made suits for the Premiers and academic and ecclesiastical vestments for the university (there was only one university then) and the church communities. The day I had morning tea at Government House the then Governor, Sir Eric Neal, showed me how many times he had found my grandfather's signature in the visitors books...over and over again. 
Then of course we went off to the country. The Senior Cat was the school principal so we kittens were introduced as, "This is (the Senior Cat's) daughter - or son" 
We were always someone else's something, never ourselves. We were proud of our great-grandfather's achievements. We adored our grandfather and took pride in knowing that the uniform worn by the governor had been made by him. The Senior Cat is the centre of our lives and love.
But I still get, "This is (the Senior Cat's) daughter."
Years ago in England a friend did a detour on the way home from some school visits. She told the other two passengers to wait in the car and she took me into a bookshop.
    "I want you to meet a friend of mine," she told me but didn't say who it was.
When we went in she spoke to a man putting books on a shelf and said,
       "I have someone I want you to meet."
He didn't look very enthusiastic until she added, "This is not (the Senior Cat's) daughter. Cat, this is Christopher Milne."
Christopher Milne detested being Christopher Robin. We sympathised with each other and he was suddenly friendly and curious about where I had come from. H.... picked up the book she had asked him to find for her and we left with an invitation to me to, "Call in any time."
I never did manage to go back but, if I had, I would have discussed anything other than his childhood.
Being someone else's something is sometimes awkward. At least now I often get something else as well,
     "This is Cat...she's the one who writes the letters to the paper."
And, darn it all, that can be awkward too - when they disagree with what I have said.

Sunday 13 May 2018

I still don't get the Eurovision thing

and yes, I know that it might be just that I am well...too old? 
No, not that. I could understand  a Euro-folk or a Euro-portrait (like the Archibald) sort of thing. 
I just don't understand the point in getting up and making a noise in front of flashing lights and then getting other people to vote on it. (The vote is probably rigged anyway.)
Yes, I was forced to endure a little of this during the international news service last night. No, it isn't my "thing". The Senior Cat was in the room at the crucial point and asked me,
    "What on earth is  that?"
I tried, not very successfully, to explain. He went off muttering to himself about it not being music.
The Senior Cat's taste in music tends to be Gilbert and Sullivan, other "light opera" - with tunes he "recognises". Mozart and the like are fine but his tolerance for the "long and slow and wandering" pieces of Bach has decreased. (That's his description, not mine.)  He doesn't  pretend to know much about music and can't remember how to read the treble line - something he once thought he knew for the purposes of teaching.  He can't sing in tune.
My musical knowledge is, thankfully, superior to his. Those music theory lessons with Sister S.... were not wasted. I wanted to know. That dear nun taught me a great deal and it has been very useful. I wonder what she would make of "Eurovision"? She was a tolerant person - good grief, she taught me and my siblings! - but I think 
Eurovision might have been a step too far.
But it is obviously something that a lot of people do enjoy, rather like fashion house "collections" attract other people, or people wander around in muddy fields looking at horses or old cars or - something.
You know what would be nice? A Euro-knit. Imagine everyone out there knitting away?
It should happen. It is going to happen. It will be "World Wide Knit in Public Day" on 9 June.
But it won't get the coverage of Eurovision.  I can't understand that.

Saturday 12 May 2018

Someone smashed into the gate

at the playground the night before last. I saw the damage as I was going to do some essential shopping.
It isn't just any gate. It is a memorial gate to the person who donated the land for the playground. Repairing it is something which is  unlikely to happen. The damage is too bad for that. The council will need to build a new gate.
Yes, they need the gate. It keeps small children safely inside the playground. The gate and the arch which surrounds it were in danger of falling on someone - particularly if a child tried to swing on it, as children are apt to do.
Someone who lives close to the playground was taking photographs of the damage and told me,
    "I heard the bang about 8:30 last night. Apparently the driver was drunk. He tried to drive off. A couple of young men across the road held him until the police arrived."
Put like that it sounds relatively simple but there was no sign of council activity in mid-morning so I hurried home and sent an urgent email knowing who would be monitoring their mail that morning and they needed to have it "in writing". I was about to pick up the phone and follow it with a quick call when a reply came back thanking me and saying they would deal with it - immediately.
It actually took a couple of hours for them to get around to it. Going back to the Post Office because the Senior Cat had forgotten a bill he needed to pay straight away I saw eight council workers "on the job". Well, two of them were doing the work. The other six were standing there. 
At least that was being dealt with but I  thought about all the other problems this "accident" will cause. There is the police time, the court time, the council time and more time in other places. The man who drove into the gate will lose his licence (if he had one).He has written off his  car (if it is his). He has no insurance cover (if he had any in the first place) because he was inebriated. He is liable to pay for the damage and the cost of repairs. All that simply assumes he has no prior convictions which could lead to even harsher penalties.
I know nothing about the incident but I do know it would be wrong to call it an "accident". Getting behind the wheel of a car in the state he was allegedly in is still a deliberate choice, the wrong choice. 
It is all too likely that the cost of the damage will be borne by someone else, in this case the ratepayers, because few people have the resources to pay out thousands upon thousands of dollars for that sort of idiocy.
And the other thing which worries me is the effect on the  children who use the playground. They will learn what has happened and more than one of them will wonder,
     "What if I had been swinging on the gate when the car hit it?"

Friday 11 May 2018

"Have we got any biscuits?"

the Senior Cat asked me.
It was an unusual question from him,  unusual enough for me to ask, 
      "Didn't I feed you at lunchtime?"
He doesn't usually eat between meals. If our lovely neighbour across the road asks  us over for afternoon tea  he will, out of politeness, eat a scone. (She makes excellent scones. Even I, no lover of such things, will eat hers.) 
Biscuits? I keep a few in the  cupboard for him to nibble on if he wants something else after his evening snack.
I think part of the problem is that we eat our main meal in the middle of the day. That was at the suggestion of a doctor who attended to him more than twenty years ago. It proved a good move him. Now he is at an age where the idea of a heavier meal later in the day doesn't appeal at all.
It is sometimes awkward with respect to timing and getting things done. Once in a very long while I need to buy something ready made - a ready cooked chicken some time back is an example. I try to keep at least a half a dozen frozen meals on hand so that we can use those when time is short.
But biscuits? I make shortbread and lebkuchen at Christmas time and Anzac (oatmeal) biscuits for Anzac Day. If  we need biscuits in between I buy them - and yes, of course I keep a supply on hand for him. He deserves it. He is much thinner than I or the doctor would like. It isn't because I don't feed him or because he doesn't eat. He simply doesn't put on weight.
So, biscuits? Well the supermarket had a "special" on chocolate biscuits recently. I bought a packet. I also bought a packet of plain "digestive"  biscuits, another "special". 
I produced these. Which did he want? 
A choice? 
No, he really shouldn't eat between meals. He would have one tonight.
I put the biscuits back. It was no use trying to persuade him.
He had one of each in the evening instead. 
I'd get rid of the baking book but it has the recipe for wholemeal shortbread in it. He likes those.
Biscuits? Perhaps I should make them?

Thursday 10 May 2018

If you want to be a politician

isn't it also necessary to be a citizen of the country in whose parliament you intend to sit?
The founding fathers of this country thought so. They wrote sec.44 of the Constitution with that in mind. 
People say things have changed since then. Yes, the makeup of the population has changed dramatically. Downunder has gone from being a fairly simple mix of the first inhabitants and white settlers mostly from England to a much more complex mix of people who have migrated from all over the world. 
Interesting? Yes. 
But does it mean that we should change sec. 44 of the Constitution and allow people who hold dual (or even triple) nationality to represent others in parliament?  The men who wrote sec. 44 recognised that there might be circumstances when someone was not able to renounce their citizenship of another county. But, where people can, then the section says they must before they stand for election. 
Up until last year nobody really questioned that requirement. Last year one side of politics thought it was going to be able to be rid of a thorn on the other side. They challenged someone's right to be there - and won. He was returned in a by-election - an expensive by-election. Still the leader of the challenging party thought he was on to a good thing. 
Or was he? 
More questions were raised about the eligibility of other politicians. The High Court was asked to rule on their eligibility. I may get around to reading their judgments at some point  but I suspect there will be a hint of irritation in them. Some of those who claimed to have taken all the necessary steps before nominating - as they were required to do - clearly had not done so.
    "There wasn't enough time," came the wail. Sorry, I cannot sympathise. Not only do I think that sec. 44 should stay as it is but, if you want to stand for parliament, you have to prepare long beforehand - or you should.
Perhaps that is part of the problem. People don't see the role in the way they should. They want to be there for themselves, perhaps for the party they belong to, rather than the people they are supposed to represent. 
Because of the debacle there will be a by-election in this state. The seat was once held by the just retired High Commissioner to London. Now his daughter is said to be looking at running in the by-election. If she does she may not get in but she will have a far better idea than most people about what the job entails. Her grandfather was a minister in the Menzies government and later High Commissioner in London. Her great-grandfather was a Premier of this state. That may not work in her favour though. Downunderites are wary of political "dynasties".
But, there will be no doubt about her citizenship. 
The question others have to ask themselves is whether they are willing to be so committed to representing others that they are willing to renounce the citizenship of any other country. There is no room for loyalty to one country if you are representing another one in parliament is there?

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Archbishop Leonard Faulkner

was a man before his time.
It  has become fashionable to malign the clergy, particularly the Roman Catholic clergy but I have yet to hear anyone say anything against the Archbishop. Criticise him for a decision? Yes, of course. Everyone gets criticised. He would have been the first to admit he wasn't perfect, that he made mistakes. 
He was a good man.  
And I know that in a very particular way.
I met him just twice. Once was at a meeting when he was introduced to me because he had some questions about a young student of mine who wanted to be confirmed. His parish priest was not sure P.... really understood because P... had no capacity to speak. I had no doubt at all that P.... understood. P... had a very strong sense of what was right and what was wrong. Injustice bothered him.
      "Thank you," was about all the Archbishop said at the end of our conversation. He didn't tell me what his decision was going to be but P....came to school on Monday with a note from his much older brother to say that "Fr ....has accepted him as a candidate". P... just gave me one of his quiet smiles. 
I have no doubt the Archbishop intervened because many years later I went to the celebration mass of our friend P's 50 years as a Dominican Order sister.
No, I am not a Catholic. The Senior Cat is not a Catholic. We know P... through one of the women's refuges. She was working there. The Senior Cat worked there too on a voluntary basis. They needed someone to do "handyman" type work. The abused women in there were not too certain about having a man on the premises but the sight of the previous volunteer was failing and someone mentioned the Senior Cat might be able to mend something. He went. He mended not just one thing but many before he could no longer do things. He came to know P.... who was responsible for such things before she too retired.
But P....still visits us and her visits are very welcome. We have wonderful conversations. Her extended family included the Archbishop. He was her uncle...and not the only priest, monk or nun in the family.
The Archbishop, by then retired, came to conduct the Mass that formed the centre of P...'s celebration and I had a chance to see him at work again. He was something of a revelation. His approach was relaxed, very relaxed. He had women assisting with the service and his short sermon (homily) was not simply addressed to P... but inclusive of everyone in the room - believer or not.
But even more than that I noticed something very interesting after it was over and people were having afternoon tea. The children present, and there were quite a number of them who are related to P... , went to talk to him. The adults didn't get much opportunity because the dozen or so children present were too eager to tell him all sorts of things. Most of them were old enough to realise that he was not just a great-uncle but someone who had been, as one put it to me, "in charge of the other priests". 
I don't think he would have seen it as being quite like that though. It seems more likely that he would have simply seen it as his responsibility to guide them - and do it by example.
We spoke briefly that afternoon. He came to me and mentioned that he remembered meeting me over "the young lad who must be an adult now".  I told him about the quiet smile I had been given and... I got a quiet smile in return.
He was good man. 

Tuesday 8 May 2018

"Just for a 'flu vaccination?"

the receptionist asked when I 'phoned her.
    "Yes, C....(our doctor) told me to phone today about it, " I said and explained that Middle Cat was taking the Senior Cat for his this morning.
    "I think you had better come in then too. It will only take a minute."
I thought about all the other things that needed to be done. I thought about being protected. I went.
Being of a certain age the Senior Cat and I do not have to pay to get an annual 'flu jab now. Middle Cat, who has some chronic health issues, does not pay either. The government isn't being kind. For once they have worked out that it is cheaper to have people vaccinated. 
We know that from experience. The Senior Cat and I had a bout of Influenza A last year - not covered by the vaccination. At the time the doctor said that having the added protection of the vaccination probably saved the Senior Cat's life.
C... was pleased to see all three of us at the same time. Middle Cat and the Senior Cat know her rather well.  C....tells me she would rather not know me that well. I know what she means. It isn't that she doesn't like me but she is happy if I don't need to see her. 
       "Good. We don't need a repeat of last year," she said on seeing all three of us.
        "No, I'd rather not feel like that again," the Senior Cat told her.
You can never tell how another person feels but if the Senior Cat felt even just as bad as I did last year then I am very glad we had those jabs. I remember not wanting to do anything for days. The Senior Cat didn't do anything for weeks. It was, to put it mildly, an anxious time.
My upper right fore paw feels sore this morning - at the point where then nurse injected into the muscle - but I would rather feel sore. It will be gone in a day.
And I thought of those people who can't be vaccinated for medical reasons. Then I thought of those people who refuse to be vaccinated and refuse to have their children vaccinated.
My mother, a Christian Scientist, didn't want us to be vaccinated against anything. My father did. He enlisted the aid of my godmother, a nurse. We kittens were vaccinated against the usual range of diseases. There is an even greater range of vaccinations available now.
I am glad we were given what protection was available. It just seems sensible.

Monday 7 May 2018

"He's just been found dead

in....(another country). They think it might have been his medical condition."
Middle Cat phoned us last night to give us the news that someone we know and like very much had just lost her son. He was a young man, not yet 30. 
Good friends of mine also lost their son recently. I wrote about it in an earlier post. He was twenty years older - but that doesn't make it any easier. 
This young man wasn't married. Towards the end of last year he went off to the other side of the world to work. He was looking forward to it. The application process had taken months but he had kept at it and, although a little homesick at times, he was enthusiastic about his new life. 
He was good about keeping in touch too. "He rings me at least once a week, often twice," his mother would say.
Yes, being a member of the younger generation, he didn't write letters.
And that brought me up with a jolt. What will his mother have left of his recent life? Did he send any written correspondence from the other side of the world?
My mother was a letter writer. Her handwriting appeared effortless. It flowed. It was highly legible. When her three eldest kittens were aware she wrote to them twice a week and to her mother once a week. The letters would be short, sometimes no more than half a page. They were simply to keep us informed about what was going on or to tell us what to do. We were expected to respond, and respond promptly.
When we left school the letters were cut back to one a week. We were still expected to respond. At university on the other side of the world I would write home every Friday. Back in Downunder when I went to another state to do more study I did the same thing. It didn't matter that I was trying to work to support myself and study full time. I had to find time to write a letter. Of course long-distance phone calls were expensive - timed in units of three minutes  - but it was more than that. 
My mother did not keep our letters. She wasn't in the least bit sentimental about such things. I had kept some of hers. She found them when she was going through some of my things - that I was I well and truly an adult then did not mean I had any right to privacy - and  she threw them all out. I have nothing left. 
My brother, who lives interstate, kept his. He says they are a reminder of "what could have been". 
I would, at very least, have kept my letters out of curiosity. They would have been a tangible reminder of my mother. There would have been a "here" and a "now" as well as "once" and "then" about them.
By not writing personal letters we are losing more than the news they deliver.

Sunday 6 May 2018

"Those colours don't go together"

I heard someone I know saying.
She was standing there at a rack in the doorway of a clothing shop in the local shopping centre with a friend. The two of them were looking at a garment.
      "Yes they do," her friend said.
      "No, they don't. It's the lighting."
They saw me and pounced.
      "What do you think Cat?"
      "I don't wear pink," I said trying to wriggle out of replying.
It diverted them.
       "No, you don't. Why? It would suit you."
       "No, it wouldn't."
They were back at it.
        "Why don't you wear pink?"
        "I don't like pink on me," I said.
My maternal grandmother insisted that, "Little girls wear pink."
I did not like my maternal grandmother. I am not sure if anyone did. She was not a nice person. 
When I was a kitten she would make clothes for me because my mother had, unusually in those days, returned to full time teaching. She made clothes for my siblings too. 
They were adequately made but they were not made with the same skill or love of my paternal grandmother. "Nana", as we called her, would get  cheap "remnants" from the "bargain basement" of a big store in the city.  There used to be great piles of them spread across several tables. They would be sorted into "lengths" so that, if you knew approximately how much you needed, you could search on a particular table. Cotton would be mixed in with wool and the widths would vary but someone must have thought the system worked. The quality of the remnants varied but she considered them to be "good enough". I know part of it was the amount of money available to clothe us but I remember the day that I was with her and my mother and they were looking at pieces. My mother held up a piece of blue and white striped fabric and said, "This should do."
My grandmother said, "No. Little girls should wear pink."
She went on searching for something pink even though I said I liked the blue piece. (I would have agreed to dark brown or black or dull grey to avoid pink.) 
I was never sufficiently "grateful" for those garments.
    "Give Nana a kiss. She made it just for you."
"Grandma", my paternal grandmother, on the other hand would take me to the drapery not far from where they lived. She would look at the remnants there if there happened to be any and she would look at the bolts of fabric. She would explain to me that what she was going to make for me or my siblings could be made out of certain things. Which one did we like the most? Even my brother was allowed to choose  his own shirt material if Grandma was making it. (Grandpa, a tailor, made all my brother's trousers.)  
      "How else are they going to learn?" my paternal grandmother would say.
She showed me how patterns were drafted, how the pieces had to be laid out on the fabric - and why. As she was sewing things together on her old treadle machine she would explain why the seams were made in certain ways. 
Nana did none of those things. She had, to us children, a magical sewing machine powered by electricity. Looking back I realise that she did far less sewing than Grandma but she would have considered her machine to be far superior. 
I was taught a good deal about dressmaking by Grandma and I was also taught something else. She chose colours with care. It wasn't something she had ever been taught because she had a mere three years of schooling before being put to work on the farm.  She had an innate sense of colour. 
    "Look at this," she would tell me handing me a piece of tweed from my grandfather's tailoring business, "How many colours can you see in that?"
At school I was taught that "blue and green don't go together" but Grandma said, "Nonsense. It's how you put them together that matters."
Yes, there was blue and green in that tweed. 
Did the colours go together in that garment I was being shown? Instinctively I didn't like the garment. It looked flimsy and shapeless to me. It was not well made. The price was outrageous  for what it was but perhaps someone would like it.
Fortunately I didn't have to utter a further opinion. One of them took another garment from the rack and asked the other, 
     "What do you think of this one?"
I escaped.


Saturday 5 May 2018

In childcare for more than 50 hours a week?

Apparently there are more than 40,000 children across the country who are in childcare for more than 50 hours a week. It is said they are there because their parents need to work to make ends meet.
There is also a push to raise the pension age from 67 to 70. 
And some people who want to work cannot find work.
As regular readers of this blog know I ended up creating my own job because I couldn't get one anywhere else - although I kept applying even while I was self-employed. I was over-qualified and seen as disabled.  Perhaps if my qualifications had been in a different area, such as IT, I might have had more success. The reality though is that I know other people in my position. We have degrees, higher degrees and even doctorates. I know three people with doctorates who are serving in shops because it is the only work they can get.  One is doing another degree in teaching in the hope that it will get him into teaching at a technical and further education college. He isn't holding his breath but, as he said, "At least I am trying. I thought there was work for an engineer when I started out." 
And yet we have other household where both parents are working so many hours that their children are in day care for incredibly long hours.  
I wonder what the economics of this really are? Does it actually pay to put your child(ren) into daycare for so long? Is the amount you earn really worth that effort? Why do you need to do it in the first place? 
I know. I've said it all before - said it elsewhere and more than once. 
But there is the other thing I worry about.  What is happening to those children who spend such a long time in daycare? 
If a child is spending that long in daycare and then going home to sleep at night how much time are they getting with their parents? When they get home their parents still have all the normal household tasks to do. It is  unlikely the child is getting much attention.
    "Oh, it's the quality of time, not the quantity."
I've been told this more than once. Really? Of course the quality of parenting is important but if it comes in minuscule amounts is that going to be enough? Will the children understand who their parents are and the role they are supposed to play in their lives? What sort of relationship will they have later on? 
And if grandparents are also going to work until 70 then there is even less chance of children learning about life at home. 
Many readers of this blog will know Lois Lowry's book, "The Giver". There are faint, almost imperceptible, hints of that book in the idea of a child spending so much time in childcare - time where things are inevitably done in ways that mean "sameness" is more important than diversity.
I ended up doing something completely different and I have been able to pass that idea on to others. Perhaps I was lucky not to have been employed  by someone else.

Friday 4 May 2018

"I don't know how you are going to teach

her to knit," her mother told me, "But she says she wants to learn."
I wasn't going to write about this because I didn't have the permission of the girl involved. I didn't have the permission of her friends or the other people involved either. I do now.
And that matters.
The girl in question is blind. She apparently has some sense of light and dark but that is all. 
Her mother can't knit but she enjoys other crafts. Mother and daughter went to a woolly event recently. I was there. We met and later her mother asked if I would teach her daughter and two other girls to knit. The other two girls have intellectual disabilities and some manual dexterity issues. All three were on a school holiday art and craft program. The organiser was struggling to find something R... (who has the vision impairment) could do and something that might engage the interest of the other two.
I swallowed hard and said I would try - and I knew that failure was not an option.  
R... is of at least a little above average intelligence. She's a really lovely girl who has, according to her mother, "tried everything". 
    "If you don't know where to start then show me and I'll help," her mother said.
No. If we were going to do it we would do it in a way that R...and I felt comfortable with. 
I suspected R...would really make an effort but she still needed a small project she could finish quickly for her first attempt. The other two also needed a small project for the same reason. I made inquiries about the Downunder passion for sport and which football teams they  support. Simple, they all support the same, red and gold colours. 
I hunted out a pair of very large needles I have and some thick cotton cord. I also took along smaller needles and thick, but not too thick, wool in the right colours. I made what I planned they should make.
Teaching R... was an experience. I first got her to feel what she was going to make. Then I had her explore the large needles and the cord. The other two were keener to start than I thought they might be. For them I decided to cast on the stitches. If they managed to learn to make a stitch we would have achieved something. But R... wanted to know how to start as well. 
I showed her on the large needles, getting her to use her fingers to follow the cord around. I went back to the other two while she was doing it and then saw that she had tried to cast on a stitch. I guided her fingers through it again. She made another attempt. We tried again...and again....and again. Eventually yes she did it. Five stitches was all she needed. Then we went through the process of making a stitch.  I had to be conscious of the fact that her experiences of the terms "over", "under", around" and "through" would be different from mine.
 That was as far as we got on the first day. Achievement? Yes, I think so. 
The other two had done two uneven rows by then - with a lot of help.  They wanted to go on. 
R....was absolutely determined to go on. Yes, I told her, I would be back tomorrow.
We went through the same process the next day.
"So I remember," she told me. Fair enough. She had remembered but it was still awkward. I told her we had limited time but now that she knew someone else could help if she wanted to cast on again, "But make sure they let you do it because you can," I told her. 
We went on to the knit stitch. Again I had her feel her way around the big needles so she knew what she needed to do on the smaller needles. 
"Relax," I told her, "You know you can do it and it will be much easier if you relax."
She managed four rows - a mere twenty stitches but an entire garment of concentration. 
I helped the other two change colours. Their work was knitting of a sort. It wasn't wonderful but they were achieving something even if I had to put the stitches back on the needles and sort out the tangles and more. 
R....had no tangles. She felt each row as she finished it. Five stitches meant five "overs" she could feel each time. The third day meant a few more rows...and some frustration when she accidentally pulled the entire row out. Helping her to pick up the stitches (because she had to do it herself) nearly reduced me to tears of frustration for her but we got there.
Trying to explain to the other two how to count rows was too much for them. They were taking in about as much as they could hope to achieve. We measured their knitting instead - 5cms and they could change colour.
R...could learn to count the rows by feel I decided - and she did. First feel for the "right" side and then feel for the ridges. I gave her a piece of card I had cut with a notch at 5cms. How many rows to the notch? Change colour when she reached it? We were in business.   
Her mother turned up on the third day and asked me for some instructions she could put into Braille. I said R....should do it herself and that I would see them tomorrow. It was tonight's homework. Her mother hesitated but I said,
    "If R....writes them she will remember them."
R.... got her own back by telling me, "You need to read it then, not Mum."
And yes, I checked her work - and told her she had a spelling error.
My ability to read Braille is very limited. I have forgotten the contractions but I can remember enough to do that. 
 On the fourth day we changed colours - twice. R...told me that there was a different feel to the darkest colour. She was counting rows and stitches. When she lost a stitch she persisted until she had it back on the needle. 
On the fifth day she had knitted the 15cms of 5 stitch rows in three different colours. I taught her how to take the stitches off the needle by threading the yarn through with a very large wool needle she managed to thread herself.  That was something she had done before under her mother's tuition. 
We tied the ends off because there was no time left to learn more. The other two tied their ends off as well. Their work was not nearly as neat but they were pleased with themselves and I was pleased for them.  R..s mother sewed the ends together for everyone at the end of the session.
But R....? Pleased with herself? Yes, I think so.  Wanted to try more? Absolutely. 
Now that she has the basics someone else will help her do some more.  She has her football bangle. Now she is going to make a cover for her phone. 
Soon she will be covering  herself.
Her work isn't perfect but it is better than most beginners.