Tuesday 31 July 2018

The council rates bill

arrived last week.
It has been sitting there smiling malevolently at us ever since. It does not need to be paid until mid-September so I am tempted to ignore it completely.
   "What," the Senior Cat asked me, "Do we get for our council rates?"
It's a good question. Today is "bin" day. The council vehicle will come past and pick up our general waste. Two other people use our bin because, between us, we have so little general waste that it can all go in one bin.  This week is also "green (garden waste) bin" and another unit will come by and pick that up. We don't always put that bin out by any means. Most of our garden waste goes back into compost.
I said this. 
   "Mm...and I suppose the street sweeper came the other day," the Senior Cat said. 
    "Yes but M....(our neighbour) had swept everything up the day before."
    "And they water the tree occasionally."
    "I kept the poor thing watered right through the summer," I growled. Our entire street kept the trees alive over summer.
I thought about it some more. The council is responsible for the footpaths. The one in front of our place is in a shocking state. Nothing has been done to it since my parents moved in back in 1984.  
Of course there are other things the local council is responsible for and of course they can sometimes do a good job of doing it. All the same it was difficult to work out what else the Senior Cat was getting in the way of services.
    "There's the library," I said - trying to be helpful here.
The Senior Cat thought about that and then said,
    "I suppose so."
I know what he means though. We use the library but then the library also uses me. I don't mind that because of the way I view libraries as a vital part of community services. 
     "And we used the dog catcher once," the Senior Cat said.
Yes, of course we did. I remember that very likeable little dachshund who followed the Senior Cat home once. We had to shut her in the laundry and wait for the dog catcher to come and collect her. Fortunately she was chipped and he could return her to her owner. 
Perhaps that makes it all worthwhile...but it is an expensive way to return a pet to her owner.

Monday 30 July 2018


- are those people who read the stories that keep us connected with what is going on in the world, or perhaps what we are told is going on in the world.
I had occasion to look something up yesterday and, in doing so, came across a list of newsreaders for television. It made curious reading.
Now let it be said here that my television watching is extremely limited. I see around the first half hour of the SBS news. For those of you in Upover and elsewhere I must explain that the "SBS" is the national multi-cultural channel. Their news service, while it has a lot of national content, does tend to offer a bit more in the way of international news. I watch it so that I know what people are being told. It isn't always what I am being told by any means - but that is another story. Once they reach the sports section I switch off. As long as I have a vague notion about the cricket (and it is very vague) then I am not interested  in more sport.
But the news readers do interest me. They often seem to end up as somewhat of a celebrity. I am not sure why. Perhaps reading the news on a commercial channel is different? I don't know.
I don't for one minute think it is an easy job, just the opposite. It doesn't just mean sitting there and reading what is in front of you in a nice clear speaking voice. You need to understand what you are reading if you are going to make it make sense to other people.  You need to be prepared to do the occasional interview. You need to be prepared to finish a story and then, instead of going on to the next item, give out some "breaking" news. There is timing to consider...and how on earth do you pronounce some of those names even if there are phonetics there to help?
I have been interviewed on radio a number of times but those interviews have been leisurely affairs, planned ahead. (I cringe at the sound of my own voice on radio. I sound dreadful.) Those interviewing me have been able to ask questions, ask more questions to check things, review and edit. A journalist appearing behind a microphone and asking questions for television is under a lot more pressure - even if "live" does mean that short delay so that if someone says or does something disastrous you can cut to a commercial or have a "technical difficulty". 
The news readers I have seen over the years have varied. There is one I still miss. He was by far the best I have ever come across. He was trained by the BBC. His speech was excellent and he was, according to my hard of hearing friends, easy to lip read. I met him once after he had retired and he admitted that the job was stressful and that he used to dread news items coming in from certain places because of needing to be able to pronounce certain names.
The SBS has language specialists. It broadcasts in many different languages. There are news services in many languages - sixty eight of them at last count. 
Not all of those appear in the regular news service of course. That comes in English. 
Sometimes there is, for me, a curious little glitch. The story will include a news clip with someone speaking another language and there will be subtitles on the screen. If, as I usually am, I am looking down at the ironing or some knitting or something else that needs to be done I know I need to look up and read the subtitles. The problem is that the subtitles are only an approximation of what is being said - if that. I then find myself trying to listen and read and then, between the two, work out has actually been said. It's frustrating.
It also makes me realise again and again how complex the job of a good newsreader is.
The SBS has just said goodbye to a news reader of great skill. She was an Asian language specialist but she could seemingly get her tongue around a great many other languages as well.
I'll listen to the new people and wonder whether they will get their tongues around all the languages which go into telling us what is happening in the world. 

Sunday 29 July 2018

"Safety eyes"

for toys appeared as a question in my in box this morning. If you are not interested in the safety of small children and not interested in the making of toys for them then I suggest you go off and do something else.
E...., someone I have yet to meet, sent me a message. Her mother, whom I do know slightly, suggested she contact me. She has a small group of children trying to make things to put in the "junior" section of the handicraft area of the Show. Did I know whether buttons were considered to be "safe" as eyes on a  toy intended for small children.
The pattern the children are using is apparently nothing more than an oblong piece of knitting sewn up in some way with the addition of a  mouth...and the eyes. The pattern tells them to use buttons for eyes. 
Oh. Rightly, E... was inquiring about this. 
The answer is, "No, don't use buttons like that on a toy." It would particularly be the case if they are sewn on by children. They are unlikely to have the same skills as adults when sewing on buttons.
I have watched the judge of the adult section give each button on a garment a good tug. If it shifts then she will mark down the garment because buttons need to be firmly sewn in place. 
There is a soft toy class in the adult section.It is for a "cuddly toy". They are looking for the sort of toys which will be comforting for small chidren...the sort of thing you might go to bed with as tiny child. There the judge is looking for embroidered eyes, felted eyes or safety eyes. And,believe me, those safety eyes have to be very, very firmly attached. You do not use buttons. 
The Senior Cat once made some toys for sale at an "earth fair". He researched the topic thoroughly first. I sent him off to the first toy library in the state - something I had helped to set up - to talk to someone about their safety guidelines.
What the Senior Cat ended up making was made out of timber of course but the same sort of general rules applied. And there was and still is a general rule with respect to size.
Anything that fits into an old 35mm film canister is too small for a child who might still put things into their mouths. A film canister measures approximately 30mm across by 50mm long - 1.25 inches by 2 inches. If you can put something into that then it is too small. The same rule applies to making the "twiddle muffs" for dementia patients who might put something in their mouths. 
The answer to E...'s dilemma is to embroider the eyes or add felt eyes. The latter need to be sewn firmly in place too.  It is not good enough to glue them there. 
And don't use pipe cleaners, or glue on sparkling stars or stuff the toy with flammable filling or the sort of "beans" or beads used for bean bags.
Toys can still safe as well as fun without that.

Saturday 28 July 2018

"I hate walking the dog!"

I had suggested to someone who said he needed some time to himself "just to think" that he might walk the dog.
His wife put me up to this and I was not sure it was a good idea from the start. 
Walking the dog is something she does if she gets the chance in between taking the children to school and going to work and running the household. The children are still too young to safely walk the dog or she would require them to do it.
Yes, he goes to work too. They both have fairly stressful jobs in the legal profession. Neither of them get enough exercise but she gets more exercise than he does.
Walking the dog would be good for him.
There is someone else I can't say I know - but we acknowledge one another in passing - who does walk his dog. I see them coming down our street on quite a regular basis. The dog is a large "German Shepherd". That breed does not have the best of reputations but this one is a total softie. He moves slowly, investigates trees, sniffs at fences and generally seems to enjoy finding new smells and whatever else it is dogs do on a walk. His owner follows on slowly behind, waits patiently and then moves on.It's the sort of thing dog owners everywhere do every day. There is nothing at all unusual about this at all - except for one thing. The owner of this dog has only one leg. He has no prosthesis and uses crutches to get around.  
He still walks his dog.
The Senior Cat would love to have a dog and a cat. We have neither. We won't be having either. Our last cat lived to nearly 21 and, while we both still miss him, we know that we need to be a pet free household. The Senior Cat couldn't walk a dog. He couldn't train one now. He couldn't bath one either. He could very easily trip over an animal. We couldn't get an animal to the vet easily in an emergency because we don't have a car. I couldn't walk a dog and I don't have the time to train one. I suppose we could use  a mobile dog wash but....
Animals are a responsibility. Middle Cat, who has two cats, suggested once that I could have a cat at some point in the future. No. 
I like other people's animals. It isn't unusual for me to know a cat or a dog before I know the human they own. I've been told things like,
    "He never talks to anyone else."
Do the passing humans talk to him?
I must sound ridiculous sometimes.
And the idea of walking a dog? Well if I didn't ride my tricycle and I needed exercise and I needed thinking time then it seems to me that walking a dog might be a good way to get  both. 
Perhaps that is what is wrong with walking a dog. People don't want to exercise...and they don't want thinking time. 

Friday 27 July 2018

"I need to know something"

"I put something in the wrong place and...."
I am a steward for the handicraft section of the state's annual show. (For those of you in the US think "state fair".) It is my job to answer questions about all sorts of things.
Yesterday I had an email from someone I have never met. We have corresponded by email before. I am sure she is a nice person, certainly she always says "thank you", but yesterday she sounded flustered.
    "I put an entry in and I put it in the wrong place...."
Oh. She isn't the first person to have done that...and she won't be the last. 
Entries have to be in by a certain date in June. There is a further seven day period in which you can put in a late entry if you pay three times the original entry fee. There is also a very strict rule that this is an end to the matter. You cannot put any further entries in after that.
Now she hasn't finished the entry - and admitted that she might not finish it in time. What she wanted to do was put another entry into another class instead - and use her entry fee that way.
No. You can't do that. That would be like putting in a very, very late entry.  I told her she could, if she finished it, still put her original entry into the wrong class. It won't get judged but, if there is room, it would get displayed. It is up to the competitor to put his or her entries into the right class.
She accepted it with good grace and said, "It was my fault."
I hope we don't have any more of those this year. It is always disappointing. Last year there was a lovely piece of work, work which would have won a prize, put into the wrong class. I remember the judge standing there and looking carefully at it and then saying, "I wish I could give this a first." 
It always bothers me when something like this happens. I don't like people to be disappointed.
While I never put anything in to the wrong class and can no longer put anything in - well I could but I don't think it is appropriate to be standing there while someone is judging my work - I remember the nervous thrill of filling out the form, of paying the fee, of taking your work in, of waiting for the results. On the first occasion I didn't even need to do all those things because someone else told me of the shawl I had made,
    "I'll have that for the show please."'
There are a lot more entries now. We have more display space - although not nearly enough - and the new Convenors of the area have had some really innovative ideas that are making people take much more interest.
But, it all depends on people reading the schedule carefully - and putting things in the right class.
So the person who contacted me yesterday says she will try again next year.
I hope she does.

Thursday 26 July 2018

"Surprise" peas

were around in my childhood. 
I was reminded of them yesterday when someone I know mentioned she was researching something to do with "survivalist preparations."
I do not know much about such preparations but I do know something about the peas....and other dried oddities.
In my kittenhood my parents were appointed to a two teacher school in a very remote location. It was not quite "the outback" but it was on the edge of it.
The little "town" was bigger than some. It had seventeen houses. It also had a "general store". There was a counter in the general store which was "the post office" and a petrol pump. There was also a branch of the state's bank, a police station, a pub, and a community hall.  Slightly away from all this was the two teacher school and the railway siding. This hamlet - it wasn't really much more - had these things because this was where you left from to go to the "stations" to the north-west. It was a departure point for the vast sheep stations and the biggest salt lakes.
Food was an issue in that community. When we arrived one of the local farmers came to see Mum. He had some sort of contract to supply meat to everyone in the town. He would, he told her, supply a hind quarter of mutton one week and a fore quarter of mutton the next. That was it. There was no choice. You had that or nothing. Mum took it of course.
But what do about vegetables. It was the only place we ever lived in that the Senior Cat did not have a vegetable garden. The earth was the dry ochre dusty earth of the desert. The water came from a reservoir more than two hundred kilometres away. It was salty and, in summer, often too hot to put your hands in to wash them. Rainwater was scarce and used for drinking.
The general store held a solution of sorts. You could buy potatoes and pumpkin there. If you were very lucky you might be able to buy a few carrots. (Word would go around about the carrots. All the children would line up outside waiting to see if their mothers had managed to buy enough carrots to allow them to give at least a piece of carrot to each child. We treated carrots the same way some children now treat sweets.)
There was also something quite new to the general store. I don't know how long they had been around before then but I can remember the store owner telling the women of the township about the new item he was bringing in. Peas! 
We were going to have peas? Yes! 
The peas came in little packets. They were dried in some way and you had to reconstitute them. There were beans as well but Mum didn't bother with those for some reason. She did buy the peas. She also bought packets of dehydrated mixed vegetables. 
Night after night after night we sat down to much the same meal - mutton stew with potato, pumpkin and peas. 
About once a month we would head off to a much larger town on the coast. Mum would go to the tiny green grocer there.  She would buy carrots and beans and apples. If they had any she might buy us a banana each. That was about it. We would go back to the potatoes, the pumpkin - and those strange "surprise" peas. 
I suppose they were healthy enough. We kittens didn't get scurvy anyway.
The soup mixes you can now get and mix up in a cup always remind me of those peas. Some flavours actually have peas in them. I looked at one the other day. 
The peas were an unlikely shade of bright green. Were the "surprise" peas that shade too?

Wednesday 25 July 2018

To the person who left a tissue

in their pocket and then, helpfully, put their clothes in the washing machine....
I am ready to strangle you!
What is it with tissues? Yes, I know they are useful. If you happen to have a snuffly, sneezing sort of cold or you want to wipe the ice cream laden lips and nose of a toddler then a tissue is ideal.
But, they are NOT designed to be washed.
I am not sure how environmentally friendly a tissue is. It is probably not a particularly good thing. I know only a little about their manufacture - and I only know that because my late godmother's husband was the accountant for a major paper mill that produced those things - along with toilet paper.
Like everyone else I know I prowl into the supermarket and, if I need a new box, then I go to the last aisle before the freezer section and buy a box. They are commonplace these days. You can buy them in small packets, small boxes, middle size boxes and large boxes. They mostly come in white now - although they once came in all sorts of pastel colours. Occasionally something impregnated with "lavender" or "rose" or "eucalyptus" or "aloe vera" will appear. I prowl past those and reach for plain white in whatever brand happens to be "on special" or, at least, the cheapest.
They are convenient. I pass the box over to visitors on occasion and their look of relief is thanks in itself. I grabbed a wodge of them the other day and gave them to a workman on the street - while his mate went back to their first aid kit in the vehicle parked in the next street. Yes, they are good for holding around a minor cut too.
When I was teaching we made flowers out of tissues. I've forgotten how to do it now but the children thought they were nice and took them home to their mothers.
Yes, tissues are definitely useful.
The Senior Cat gets through rather a lot of tissues these days. We both regret the fact that the genuinely "man-size" tissues seem to be a thing of the past. The current version of tissues are a "one-blow and discard" sort only. 
So, what on earth was he doing with a tissue in his pocket?  And why do they disintegrate into thousands of pieces?

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Am I responsible for something

someone else says or does?
There has been a recent court ruling here that someone who is described as a "serial political candidate" must pay damages because he not only defamed someone on his Facebook page but he also allowed others to do the same thing.
I haven't read the actual reasoning of the judge and the matter will certainly go to appeal but it should raise alarm bells. If the judgment is upheld then it would bring social media and news websites to a juddering halt.
I would seriously contemplate no longer writing this blog.  It would not be because I plan on defaming anyone. I hope I have never done that. The problem is that I could not take the risk of being held responsible for the actions of another person - actions over which I have no control.
Some months ago someone I know was accused of committing a serious criminal offence - using a "carriage service" (in this case the internet) to "malign" (defame) someone else. There was no truth in the accusation. It is actually highly defamatory. Those responsible for making the accusation may well not have been fully informed when they made it. Almost certainly they simply believed what they were told by someone else, jumped in and made the completely unwarranted  accusation. An expression of genuine concern for someone else was simply (ab)used in a way it should not have been. It has done untold harm to an individual and to a group but the damage has probably been largely limited to them. Still, the damage is there. You can't take words back. 
But who would be responsible if it had ended up on social media? What if it had ended up on a "closed" group on Facebook? Would the court say that the publication  was "limited"? How could it be when anyone belonging to that group would be able to pass the  information on?
News sites like those belonging to major media groups often allow public comment. They are supposedly moderated but the reality is that a lot of defamatory comments do get through. Words get twisted - and some serial commenters are masters at it - and people get hurt.
Is it the price we have to pay for being able to use the internet - or do we try to stop it?
The ruling in the present case is likely to be complex. Defamation is a very complex area of the law, one I know very little about.
What I do know is that you can't take words back - and of course there are times when I would have said things differently too.

Monday 23 July 2018

I have been making a birthday card

for someone about to turn 80.
Now I need to explain about birthday cards. I am not a calligrapher. I am not good at making pretty cards with stamps and cut outs and the appropriate verses. 
There are people I know who can do that sort of thing. They do it so well that I would not even begin to try and complete with them. They work with precision and care and skill. 
I try to work with care but I am not a precise or skilled sort of cat. There is no chance I will ever make that sort of birthday card.
At the same time I have strong objections to buying a card for a special birthday. 
The card is likely to be expensive and, more importantly, meaningless.
Oh yes it will say things about "happy birthday" and "80" or whatever age the person happens to be. The problem is that it is all too obvious that I just prowled into the newsagent and picked up a card. It also all too likely that someone else will have done the same thing and chosen exactly the same card in yet another newsagent. 
The solution to the problem would seem to be to make one. 
It took me a while to work out how to do this. Nobody wants illegible paw prints all over the card so obviously I needed to type something. 
The question has been, "What do I type?"
The answer has been, "As many quotations as the birthday - plus one for the coming year."
I keep a list of quotations in a computer file because there are some that might do for more than one person. I also go hunting for quotations that might suit a particular person. The idea is to capture them, cut them, and paste them firmly in place.
The intended recipient of this card is a former politician. I spent some time finding some suitable quotations from her particular side of politics - quotations that, on the whole, I rather like and think she will like.  Then, naughtily, I have flung in a couple of quotations from another party as well.  I think she may find those interesting as well.
Then there are quotations from all over the place. I don't always agree with what they say but that is not the idea. The idea is that they might give someone else something to think about or simply enjoy.
Some years ago now I made a card for a man turning 70. He is a friend of sorts of the Senior Cat I suppose. He has never married and is a shy, almost reclusive man. I found out about his birthday by accident because he needed his signature witnessed on a form and asked me to do it. 
I made him a card and put it in his letter box. A week or so later I was told, "Thanks for the card."
Knowing how he feels about people making any sort of fuss I just nodded.
But recently I saw him in the library. He was checking out some books. He nodded to me and then, unusually for him, he said,
      "Have you ever read any of....?"
We had a short chat about the author.
      "What got you started on him?" I asked.
      "Oh that's your fault. There was a quote in that card you made me once. I thought if he could say that then it might be worth finding out what else he had to say. Interesting man."
I think I'll go on making cards just in case someone else finds someone interesting.

Sunday 22 July 2018

I was given some flowers

last week. Youngest Nephew's girlfriend gave them to me.
She gave the Senior Cat some chocolates at the same time. 
And of course we have both shared both those things. It has been even nicer to share than usual because there was no particular reason to give either of us those things. She just did it "because...." and shrugged and smiled.
The flowers are still there. They were very fresh when she gave them to me. The two roses are now looking a little tired but the daisies and the lilies that went into the little pot still look lovely.
I have to confess I am not "cut flowers" sort of person. I much prefer to leave them in the garden and stare out the window at them. They last longer that way and it always bothers me to cut them off from their source of nutrients.
When my parents first moved into this house there was a very elderly man living in the house over the rear fence. Every summer his backyard would look a bit like an impressionist painting - Monet comes to mind. 
There would be hundreds and hundreds, perhaps a thousand more, gladioli planted there. He belonged to "the Gladioli society" - something we had never heard of but he was passionate about. The gladioli he grew ranged from stark white through palest cream, pink, lavender, mauve and apricot to brilliant fire engine red, deep purple, shocking pink and sunset yellow. There were others with stripes and borders. They were plain and frilled too. 
He knew the name of each variety. He would bring my mother great swathes of the ones that were not good enough to show. The two of them would stand in the kitchen and go through the merits of each one. 
The old man's wife always had more in their house, along with the roses he grew in the front garden. She would take my mother in and show her and quietly tell her she had no idea what they were called.
It didn't really matter.
I have no idea at all. We have jonquils out in the garden now. They will stay there. There are daffodils coming up. There are hyacinths looking as if they might flower despite having been left too long last year. The Senior Cat might get a tulip or two.
We will leave them all in the garden. Most of them are at the side of the house. The Senior Cat can look out his bedroom window and enjoy them there. He will pass them on the way to his beloved shed if he is still able to use it at all in the spring.
And, to me, that's the way it ought to be. If we cut them and brought them inside neither of us would really see them much at all because we don't work in the places where the flowers would need to be.
And they will last longer outside.  

Saturday 21 July 2018

Extending rail lines

seems like a good idea to me. 
It came up in the news again this week and I know a lot of people in the immediate vicinity who would be only too happy to see the lengthy goods trains go through the relatively flat area north of the city. It can take far too long for such a train to travel through suburbia. The delays at level crossings can be dangerous. If a train breaks down or must come to a halt for some reason then it is even more dangerous. 
I suppose when the first railway line was built those who built it had no idea how the population would grow or what the potential dangers would one day be. 
But, we need to extend the rail network. It is not a matter of whether it might be a good idea. It is essential.
And then we need to make people use it. 
Let's be realistic about this. It is much easier to walk a few steps to the car and then sit in it and drive to work or wherever else you want to go.  Humans will take the easy way out. It's understandable. It's unrealistic to expect anything else.
But..it has to change. It makes sense to transport two, three, four or more carriages filled with people to a destination than have several hundred cars on the road. If it is used to capacity then public transport can run at a profit. It may not be a monetary profit but there will be a profit in other ways if people use the time.
I tried explaining this to someone yesterday. He's a former railway man who held a fairly senior position. I thought he would be in favour of extending the rail network but all he can apparently see is the cost involved in actually extending it or renewing the rail lines that were once there.
     "No Cat. It can't be done. It would cost far too much. You just don't have any idea how much it would cost - billions."
Billions? Actually I can imagine it might cost a great deal but that isn't the point. It is what it would also save on road accidents, the life long care of the injured, on mental health services and on any number of other things. 
Use time spent on public transport wisely and there could be immense benefits for everyone.  I know I have said this elsewhere and I will probably say it again.
I couldn't say anything to the person I was talking with because he would not be aware but using public transport saved the life of someone we both know. 
This other man is still young, not yet 30. He lost his much loved wife very suddenly. Perhaps fortunately there were no children but he was devastated and finding it very hard to cope with even the activities of daily living. He knew he had to go back to work but he was finding it almost impossible to get himself out of bed in the mornings.
His doctor told him not to drive. It wasn't safe. 
On the railway station platform that morning there was a young Asian man with very little English who asked for information. He gave it and told him the correct way to ask. They chatted briefly. The next day the young Asian man was there again. This time he had a friend with him. They chatted again.
Now the two young Asians have an English lesson each morning on the way into the city. It's given the grieving man a purpose in life.
He caught the train instead. He caught the train and he told me,
     "It saved my life. Instead of jumping in front of the train I jumped on to it."
Now tell me, what's a life worth? Isn't it worth more than the billions it might cost to extend the rail network?

Friday 20 July 2018

Plastic straws

and the banning thereof have been in the news here too.
There is something I would like to say on this issue, something you may not have thought about.
Let me begin by saying that I am very conscious of the dangers of plastic to the environment, to wildlife and more. It worries me. I would like to see all plastic recycled and made use of in environmentally friendly ways. 
I also know that is not going to happen. A lot more could be done. How many unemployed people with no qualifications could be employed to collect plastic waste and trained in the technology of recycling it into road surfaces, garden furniture, building materials and the like? 
     "It can't be done Cat!" 
I have been told this impatiently by people who "know" about these things. Am I not allowed to dream that it might be done? If I can think of it as part of the solution then can't someone, somewhere turn it into reality?
But there is another problem entirely with a ban on plastic straws. There are people who depend on them. 
I don't mean the normal person who buys an "iced coffee" in a container and uses a straw with it.  I don't mean normal people poking a red, green, blue or black straw into a soft drink bottle or container and using it.
I mean people with disabilities who rely on straws to be able to drink at all or people like me who have a problem holding a glass and bringing it to my mouth.  
My good friend J.... went out for a rare coffee with friends the other day. It meant putting his wheelchair into his mate's van and manhandling him in. It's an effort for all concerned but one of his gang was having a small celebratory moment and wanted J... there because J... has mentored him through the study process.
They went off to a wheelchair accessible place in the city. They even managed to get an access park not too far away. All was going well.
Then they went in and ordered coffee...and discovered there were no straws. The owner of the venue had ceased stocking them for "environmental" reasons.  J...needs a straw to be able to drink. He can't hold anything. At the same time he is a highly intelligent man who does not want someone else to feed him in public thank you very much.
Now to be fair to the owner when the situation was explained to him he sent someone off to get a straw from a nearby business. He also apologised and said he would keep a packet on the premises for people who need them. 
J.... has plenty of sense and good manners and he took it well but we are both acutely aware that this is a problem. What seems like a good idea has had unexpected consequences. 
Yesterday another straw dependent friend sent me a link which I, unusually for me, posted on the internet. It added to my concerns about the lack of plastic straws in some venues.  The article mentioned alternatives to plastic straws. Ah yes, glass, bamboo, and paper of course. 
     "I can't use those Cat!" 
No, he can't. He can't speak at all. Put something between his teeth and he grips it so hard it is as if it is in a vice. He would break glass, crush bamboo and paper is useless. He has enough problems with plastic. 
I am not happy about the idea of glass. It seems to me there are safety issues for a start. Would glass straws just get thrown away too? Bamboo might work...and there might be other natural fibres that would work. The problem is that, for now, they are not commonly available and the way they are made needs considerable improvement.  Paper? Paper has two  problems, one is that it is generally covered in some sort of wax (or even plastic) and this tends to melt in anything hot and the straw quickly becomes a soggy mess. The other is that paper is not exactly the strongest material in the world and, for some people, it simply doesn't work.
Yes of course some of us carry straws with us. J... usually does but the outing was arranged at the last moment and they were going to a venue which sells a wide variety of hot and cold drinks. It was reasonable to expect there would be a straw available.
So what seems like a sensible idea is already having unexpected consequences for a small number of people. 
And what if they stop making plastic straws?

Thursday 19 July 2018

Making cake

- yes, I did say "cake" is not something I do very often.
The Senior Cat and I do not eat cake very often. We get cake given to us at Christmas time by our friend P.... She makes a very, very superior fruit cake. 
It is extremely rich cake. It takes us a very long time to eat it. We ate the last two pieces in February this  year. 
But, I need to make cake. The library staff need cake. Next week they are moving books, a lot of books, from one location to another.
It is all part of the renovation process. Yes, they need cake.
Moving books is hard work.
The Senior Cat made the mistake of packing his books in tea chests when we moved from one location to another. It seemed sensible at the time but the removal men did not like it. The Senior Cat felt dreadful. He had no idea that a tea chest of books could weigh so much...and there was of course more than one tea chest. 
I was given an almost thigh high pile of knitting books recently.  Sadly the only sensible thing to do was pass them on - although I was greatly tempted to keep some of the new books in the pile I knew I had to give them all away. 
There was no way I could have put them all in the basket on the back of the trike so I told the long suffering Secretary of the group I belonged to and yesterday she came to pick them. Like a sensible woman she brought bags with her. They were still heavy but she weighed down the rear of her car with them and the Senior Cat is no longer in danger of falling over that pile. 
But the library cannot be rid of books like that so the staff need to shift them. I would offer to help but I would be more nuisance than I am worth trying to do that. So, on talking to one member of the staff it was, "Why don't you make us some cake Cat? We'll need something to keep us going."
Yes. Good idea. Cake. Cake can solve a lot of problems. Cake can be shared. You can have mugs of tea with cake.
Perhaps I had better deliver some tea bags as well?

Wednesday 18 July 2018

So what is the location for the book?

There's a Twittering on at present about where  books for YA and children are set in the UK. Well someone asked and someone I know answered the question...and other people went on to answer the question.
And it went on...and on - rightly so - and it made me think.
A lot of books are set in imaginary places of course. That makes it much easier for the author.  It is much easier to write "somewhere in Cornwall" or "on holiday in Wales" or, vaguely, "in London". 
I wrote a book some time ago. It was set on the east coast of Downunder.  The young hero makes a journey from a small place near the coast to the capital. 
I gave it to someone else to read and it was returned to me with the comment, "It's terrific but you can't go from X to Y in like that."
Actually you can. I checked. I didn't do the journey myself but I checked the railway timetables and then I asked someone who was actually doing the first part of the journey to check. Could he have done it? Easily.
It was more difficult to find a believable way of getting a slightly underage boy on to the last train to do the last part of the journey. It isn't a local train he uses. It's an interstate train and different rules apply to children travelling alone. I needed to know about those things. 
Yes, it took some research. 
I always marvel at the amount of research which must go in to even apparently simple historical novels. Get something wrong and one of your readers is bound to tell you. If you get something wrong in present day novels then there will probably be even more people who will pick it up and tell you "that's wrong" or "it's in the wrong place" or "you can't do that". As for the thought of writing serious science fiction....I wouldn't even consider it. I don't know enough.
So perhaps it is easier to set things in the present but in a fictional location? I am not even sure about that. You still need to do research. Can that black haired child really have two blonde parents? It seems a bit unlikely...so where does the child come from? Is there a job which requires someone to leave the house at precisely the same time every morning? 
There are all sorts of things you need to know. If writers set their books in real locations as well then surely they are to be admired?

Tuesday 17 July 2018

There was a dental crisis

over the weekend.
On Friday evening the Senior Cat's "plate" came out. This is a denture with three front teeth. It replaces the teeth he lost years ago when he was hit in the face with a cricket ball. (Is it any wonder he is no lover of sport? He couldn't see the ball coming at him.) This particular denture is one which is held permanently in place.
It is Middle Cat who deals with his medical issues so he was on the phone to her before I was even aware of what had happened.
     "I am falling to pieces," he told her. He actually sounded shaken. I felt shaken by the words too. As I listened to him explain I calmed down. Yes, a bit of a crisis - but not life threatening.
Middle Cat got me to look. I looked. I explained. No, the denture was not broken. It had merely come loose. I could see what had happened. The Senior Cat is losing bone density and it no longer fitted well.
Middle Cat heaved a sigh of both relief and frustration. We agreed that, as he was in no pain, nothing could be done until Monday. I would phone the dental centre associated with our health fund first thing.
It was an interesting weekend. I had to rethink meals - something of an issue at the best of times. The Senior Cat couldn't speak properly which infuriated him. We went to Middle Cat's home on Saturday evening because Youngest Grandson was there for the weekend. 
I wondered if the Senior Cat would manage the outing. He is never steady on his rear paws these days but he was much worse than usual.
Yesterday morning I was on the phone the moment the dental centre opened. Could they fit him in and at least assess the problem? No, the denture was not broken but it might need an adjustment. The girl at the other end was kind and sympathetic. It is school holidays this week and the place would be teeming with children but she would ask the dental technician to have a look. She slotted the Senior Cat into a fifteen minute appointment later in the morning. 
He was still so shaky that Middle Cat took him off  in an access cab in a wheelchair. If it had not been school holidays she may not have managed to snare such a cab even with her contacts in the industry.
That was one good thing about it being school holiday time.
They were home a couple of hours later. The dental technician had worked wonders. The plate was back in. The Senior Cat has a follow up appointment with the dentist in a couple of weeks.
By late yesterday afternoon he seemed somewhat better but the whole episode has made me aware of something too. Our elderly need to be cared for. It takes time and energy for them to deal with even a small crisis. The rest of us need to understand that.

Monday 16 July 2018

Knitting books

No, I don't mean those thin pamphlet type affairs. I mean heavy, hardcover affairs or substantial paperbacks. 
I have rather a lot of them on my shelves. I have collected them over the years. 
It began with a search in my teens. There was a book in the library - where else? - that I picked up. It was called "A knitters' almanac" by one Elizabeth Zimmermann. The book was not exactly a revelation to me, more of a relief. You could, according to Mrs Z, break the rules of knitting and still come out with something useful, wearable, interesting and actually your own work. That suited me. The problem was that I could not find a copy of the book anywhere else. I asked at three bookshops in the city and they all said they couldn't order it because, although it was in print, it wasn't on some list or other.  
The book did not fade from my memory although it disappeared from the library shelves and I did not see it again for many years.
When I did see it I bought a copy and I went on to buy copies of other books by Mrs Z - all of them interesting. There were other books too...and yarn...and more yarn...and then more books...and more yarn.  
And then I started to review books for a major knitting magazine. I could have collected those books too but I passed them on to a knitting guild. The magazine is now defunct. This is probably just as well because the guild told me they didn't want any more. I might have been tempted to keep the review copies for myself - indeed sometimes wish I had. There were some lovely books there. I would not have used them as such but they were good to look at.
So yesterday someone I know arrived with a large pile of knitting books.
     "I am sure you can use these Cat...if you can't, sell them for your African friends perhaps?"
Circumstances mean I can't do that but she left them anyway. They are sitting in a large pile by the front door. Some of them are very old and of little value but there are others which are lovely. No, I can't use them. I don't have room on the shelves...and when did I last knit a pattern that someone else wrote? 
But other people do use patterns so I sent off an email. Perhaps someone will relieve me of the pile later this week?

Sunday 15 July 2018

Buying from China

is fraught with difficulty.
I needed something recently. It is something unavailable where I live - a Japanese book. It was not available from the only shop which stocks Japanese books and has an on-line service in another state. The person whose knitting problem I was trying to solve told me she was "prepared to pay" for the book she had seen in Japan but she had no idea how to get it.
So, I did the obvious thing. I searched the internet. I looked at "images". I clicked on "images". Eventually I came upon a site that apparently sold the book I needed.
Oh. It was in Chinese. 
Did I go next door and bother my neighbours - who come from Taiwan - or did I do it myself? That problem was solved by discovering they were away. Their son was home but he had no clue. 
      "It's a rotten language Cat. I never did get the hang of reading it."  (As his mother used to teach Classical Chinese Literature I wonder what she thinks of that.)
So, I search further. Ah, another site. It was another Chinese site. This was one was in English - of a sort.  I managed to make sense of it. The only way to pay was by credit card. I don't own a credit card but I solved the problem by getting something similar from the Post Office. 
Then I made the transaction with extreme care. It didn't want to take my money at first but I tried twice more and succeeded. According to the website the book should arrive on or about a certain date. Yes, it would take time. I was prepared to wait. They sent me a message saying it had been posted.
I waited. I waited. I waited some more. They sent a message. Would I please confirm I had it? No, I didn't have it. I could not "track" it either. They tracked it. It was still in China.They apologised. I waited again.
It finally arrived yesterday. The friendly person who sometimes delivers parcels on a Saturday "because I just like to get out and get things done" came to the door and said,
    "I think this might be what you have been looking for."
I had told her what it was. 
She actually waited until I had opened the outsize envelope it was in and we both looked at it.
     "Can you read that?" she asked me.
     "No, " I told her, "but Japanese knitting books are strictly controlled in the way they can present things. I can read the charts and the diagrams."
I showed her. She was impressed. I am impressed by the book. Now I know what I need to know. Japanese knitters are fortunate indeed. All their written materials seem to be designed in a wonderfully uniform way.
Yesterday I spent an hour showing the knitter how to read the charts and the diagrams and helping her understand how to start the pattern she had chosen. She won't wear it this winter but she might wear it next winter.
But I do wish she had bought the wretched book when she was in Japan. And why didn't the Japanese have it on the Japanese version of Amazon? Life would have been so much simpler.

Saturday 14 July 2018

The space race is

heating up here in Downunder. Which state will get the proposed new facilities?
There will be complaints from the losers whatever decision is made.
I don't know nearly enough to even voice an informed opinion about whether the state I live in should get the prize.
What I do know is that my maternal uncle worked for the space industry. I have  no idea what he did. The only people who would have known were his colleagues in the same industry.
When I was in my teens my uncle would disappear periodically. The only thing we knew was that he was going to Woomera. There was what we called a "rocket range" there. You had to have a permit to visit the place.  
My uncle would go and, sometime in the next few days, there would be news of a successful - or not successful "rocket launch".
My brother and I, the only two of the four of us who were aware our uncle was even involved, knew better than to say anything to the other children at school. We had been told not to say anything.
I don't know what all the secrecy was about but apparently it was thought necessary.  
There was a school in the Woomera township. I know the Senior Cat hoped he would never be posted there. It was not just in a very remote location it was also isolated in other ways. Unless you had a permit you had to get permission even to just pass through - not that it was on the way to anywhere else. You were in the middle of the desert - marvellous for launching rockets. 
The Senior Cat had been posted to another isolated school when Yuri Gagarin went into space in April 1961. We were living much closer to Woomera than we had been but we were still too far awy to see rockets being launched and we only had very poor radio reception or days old newspapers to give us news. My uncle was away for weeks that time. Did he go to Russia? We will never know. I think it is unlikely. He didn't speak Russian - apart from a few polite phrases. 
By July 1969 men had landed on the moon. I remember seeing the grainy pictures on all the available television sets. The available film was shown all over the teacher training college. People marvelled at it...and yes, it was something to marvel at.
Now there are satellites...and more satellites. They provide us with the internet and other telecommunications. They monitor our every move.
And there is Mir - the International Space Station. People live up there for months at a time. They do "space walks" from there.
I'd hate it. The very idea terrifies me to the point that even thinking about it to write this makes me feel as if I am on the edge of a cliff looking down from an extreme height.
But, out there past all those things, there are the planets in our solar system and beyond that more stars than there are grains of sand on this planet. 
And yesterday they were boasting about catching a "neutrino". I wonder what they will think about that in fifty years from now?  

Friday 13 July 2018

Badly taught?

I was watching an instructional DVD yesterday. It is on Fair Isle Knitting by Hazel Tindall. 
There are two parts to it and, so far, I have seen only one. So far she has not taught me anything about FI knitting I don't know but that was not the purpose of watching it.  I wanted to see what she taught and how she taught it and whether there were things included in the DVD that I should include in a class I will be teaching next January.
And yes, in that sense the DVD has taught me something. I tried to look at it as if I was just beginning to knit.
It is very, very difficult to teach knitting in this way. Knitting is not something you do rapidly. It often involves repeating the same movement over and over again. That makes for rather boring watching. No teacher can be blamed for that. The watcher has to develop the skills in question.
But, if you were a raw beginner, the DVD is in many ways very good. It is divided into small bites of learning. You could stop and start again, stop and repeat in a useful way. There are places where you could get a close up of what has just happened because the photography is good. She is working on an uncluttered surface so that nothing else distracts you. Ms Tindall does not talk constantly which is also good when you are trying to watch.
There may be something more said in the second DVD but, in the first one, she appears to make an assumption that anyone watching the DVD will already know about something called a "steek". That jarred with me. It is one of the things I plan to teach. 
And that is one of the many reasons it is good for me to watch that sort of thing. It is why it is good for me to do my own homework thoroughly. I can learn from other people.
It made me think again back to my own student days. I didn't much like school. For the most part I was thoroughly bored there. I liked my English teacher in my "Leaving" year because she gave me a lot of extra reading to do. She recognised I wanted to learn - but all she did was supply that extra reading. I had to do it from there. There is one lesson that stands out in Modern History - the day the teacher walked in and said, "Put your books away. I am going to tell you what is going to happen." His analysis of the situation in what eventually became Zimbabwe was absolutely correct. But, for all that, his lessons were pedestrian.  
I suppose I was the "odd kid out" - the one who wandered off to the university library because there was nothing in the school library that told me what I wanted to know. (And no, I had no right to use the university library but the staff there knew me and tolerated my presence...even helped me find things on occasion.) But I still didn't get the sort of teaching that some people say they had, the sort that sets their world alight. 
If I am going to teach other people about anything then I don't know that I can set their world alight now but I still want to try and make them enthusiastic enough to both start and finish a project. I want them to have the satisfaction that they have achieved something. 
So today I will watch the second DVD and I know I will learn something I should be teaching. 

Thursday 12 July 2018

Maths frightens me

I am not frightened of basic arithmetic or even basic geometry or algebra. I can still get the right change, multiply, divide, do basic statistics and the like.
It's the "big" stuff that bothers me. I have absolutely no idea.
A friend sent me a link to a piece of research yesterday. The title was "Geometry and elasticity of a knitted fabric."  I think she hoped I would have more idea than she did about what it all meant.
I read it - or tried to. 
I struggled with things like "an inhomogeneous displacement field that quantifies the deviation from the absolute reference configuration" - especially when it was surrounded with mathematical symbols I understand not at all. 
I was not taught mathematics at all well. I had basic arithmetic drilled into me. We chanted the "times-tables" at school. At home my mother would often challenge us unexpectedly with words like "Nine eights?"  If we couldn't answer instantly we would find ourselves learning the answer all over again. 
I  gave up maths at the end of the "Leaving" (O level). That year I was taught by a man who was still teaching at 77. He consistently failed me in algebra when I was supposed to draw a graph and couldn't and in geometry when I could not draw something like a right angled triangle with a square on the hypotenuse. I simply ceased to be interested in something I could not pass.
I started teaching just as "set theory" was coming in. We were appallingly badly taught about it and "how" to teach it in teacher training college. There must be an entire generation in this state who have no idea even now. I only taught primary school for a year before moving on to other things and it is just as well. I did my best but I know it wasn't good enough - although one of my former students became a mathematician it was no thanks to me. 
At university I had to do "statistics". It was a compulsory subject.
     "Cat, it's basic mathematics" the lecturer told me, "You'll be able to do it. I don't want you to draw anything."
No, only those strange Greek characters. (I did pass statistics - quite respectably.)
But serious "pure" maths and vital "applied" maths beyond all this is beyond me. 
The Senior Cat saw what I was attempting to read and asked,
    "What on earth is all that about?"
I tried to explain - and did not do a good job.
    "Well, what use it?"
I thought about that and then said,
    "I think it has an application for things like designing fabric for safety clothing and some building materials."
He nodded.
I might be completely wrong about that but he was happy with the answer...and so am I - unless someone wants to explain in Plain English.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

I am going to a funeral today

- for  a kind, courteous and able man. 
He was over 90. People will say he had a "good" life. Yes, perhaps he did. He has left a frail wife  behind him. I think people will say it was a "good" marriage too.
I didn't know him well. I know his wife. I visited her in hospital some months back and of course he was there. They cared for each other.
He was one of the "old" school - a man who opened doors for women. 
I have been thinking of this yet again because I was bailed up in the library yesterday by someone who disagreed strongly with what I consider to be common courtesy. How dare I suggest that it is all right for a man to open a door for a woman - or indeed give any assistance at all?
When I tried to gently point out that some people, myself included, sometimes need some help she was not prepared to concede her point. For her, men are the weaker sex. They are to be reviled. 
I came home and told the Senior Cat what had happened.
The Senior Cat is most definitely "old" school. It worries him that he can no longer open doors for women, that they now need to open doors for him. 
When he began his teaching career women were paid less than men - to do exactly the same work. There are still women being paid less than men - to do exactly the same work. The Senior Cat is appalled that when he was in his first year of teaching "it didn't even occur to me that this was wrong". By the end of that first year though he had observed what was happening and, to his credit, has fought against it ever since. 
When he was newly promoted from classroom teacher to the head of a two teacher school his teaching partner was my mother. She was not a "feminist" in the modern sense of the term. She just knew that she was equal in the teaching profession - and the Senior Cat treated her as an equal.
And the man to whose funeral I am going would, I think, have been the same. A friend told me how he had helped her learn a role she had to perform. 
      "He was patient. He never suggested that I couldn't do the job."
We need more people like that. 
I am worried that a tiny minority of very outspoken women are doing so much harm. Most women I know are happy to have doors opened for them - not just actual doors but all doors. They are happy to have it done not because they are a particular sex but because it is common courtesy to do it. It makes life easier for everyone.
It means my darling but increasingly frail and anxious Senior Cat can still enjoy the occasional outing. 
Please don't stop the common courtesies of life.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

I have been told more about caves

than I want to know in the last fortnight.
No, I didn't have to write a communication board this time - which is just as well because Thai is not a language I know a lot about even now. I have extreme difficulty with anything related to it. 
But people I know are peripherally involved in the immensely complex operation and several times I have been asked, "How would you say this in Plain English so that I can explain...?"
It has made me acutely aware yet again of how difficult it is to not just write instructions but to issue them even when you speak the same language as those you are instructing. When you are doing it in your second language or those you are instructing use English as a second language or foreign language - there's a difference between those two things - it can be very difficult indeed. When the lives of other people depend on being able to communicate accurately and rapidly then the sense of responsibility becomes immense.
I know I shouldn't feel responsible. I don't have to make the decisions. Those working on the problem have to make the decisions.
But, these are young people - all of them. What if I could have helped to explain something just a little better so that communication was just a little better, a little faster, a little more accurate? 
I won't be able to do anything about any of the diseases you can catch from being stuck in a damp cave - some of which might not show up for years. I understand that. I can't physically dive in and guide those young non-swimmers out through those narrow, rough passages filled with now filthy and freezing water.  I understand that.
But I still feel some sense of responsibility for them. One of the people who supplied some of the advice about the equipment they might now be using feels the same sense of responsibility. His, "Are they using the best available? What if it fails Cat? How will I feel?" wasn't selfish. It was just his enormous sense of responsibility for the life of any other human.
And I look at the faces of those parents waiting....and waiting... the hope mixed with the despair and the guilt. Each second is a year to them, each minute a life-time of waiting. And it won't be over even if they get everyone out safely...there is a lifetime of facing the experience for those who were trapped there, for those who have gone in to rescue them.
It's like that in other settings too - the sort that never make the news because they are in the middle of a war or a disaster. 
There are times when I hate my job because of those things - hate it while I know I couldn't do anything else.
Sarah Doudney had it right when she said, 
     "But the waiting time my brothers
       Is the hardest time of all."

Monday 9 July 2018

Andrew Bolt's piece about misandrists

in this morning's paper is something I have to agree with. Let it be said that I do not often agree with Mr Bolt  but this piece is one for which I have some sympathy.
I was immediately reminded of the first lecture I attended in Law School. It had nothing to do with the law we would be studying. 
The Dean delivered the lecture. He outlined the services we would be able to access. (I never did get to the Student Union Bar and I only accessed the Study Skills Unit to provide them with some help.)  He told us what was expected of us with respect to our studies. (There was a massive amount of reading to be done.) He told us how to hand in written work. (To be handed to the front office who would date/time stamp it and put it in the correct pigeon hole.) 
And he told us about the standard of behaviour which was expected. I don't know whether he did that every year. I suspect he did but perhaps he was looking at a trio of "bib and braces" women in the front row. Their style of clothing said, "We are radical feminists. Don't mess with us."
He explained that there were very definite rules of behaviour in court. Breach those rules and you  might find yourself in serious trouble. Fair enough. 
But he also went on. He told us that, in the law school, men were expected to open doors for women. That included male staff opening doors for female students - even lowly first year students. 
    "You will allow that to happen," he said, "Because that is the way things are done here. Conversely of course if a woman sees a man with both hands full she will open the door for him. You will all thank each other."
The radical feminist group was not happy about that. They should have been. I was not happy that he had felt it was even necessary to say such a thing. He should not have needed to speak to us about what should be common courtesy.
I like men to open doors for me. It makes my life much easier because I normally have a walking stick in one hand and a bag in the other. I have been known to fall over trying to open a heavy door.  When a man helps me lift my tricycle on to the train I am genuinely grateful. When a man moves an obstacle out of the way - or even lifts the trike and, on a couple of occasions me, over an obstacle caused by footpath or road works, I am only too happy to accept the help.  AND I make very, very sure I say "thank you".
Yes, it is courteous to do those things. It is also essential for my safety to accept those things.  
If help is not offered because men have had women be discourteous and spurn assistance then it is not just the men who are the victims - it is women who need help and don't get it.

Sunday 8 July 2018

When will the football

be over? 
It's supposed to be a "game" isn't it? It seems more like a major international war.
I really don't care who wins or who loses. I am tired of the "analysis" and dissection of the play of each member of a team. It reminds me of the nonsense spoken about wine. You know the sort of thing I mean - the rubbish about "bouquet" having "an underlying hint of vanilla" or a "touch of blackcurrant". (That's an insult to blackcurrants in my view.)
There are obscene amounts of money being spent on all this so-called game. I wonder how many people have spent thousands of dollars they cannot afford to go and scream themselves silly while watching people kick a bit of leather around a field?
Yes, I know....for some people this is important. It's the highlight of the year for them...or is it every two years? 
Coming home yesterday I had to brake very suddenly - in the middle of the pedestrian crossing - because someone dressed in football supporter clothing dashed in front of me. They were jay-running (I can't say "walking") in order to catch a bus to get to their all important match.  The person coming behind me walked into me and started to yell at me - until he realised what had happened. He did have the grace to apologise but it wasn't pleasant, especially as I was already feeling very upset about something else which had happened a little earlier.
I couldn't help wondering what would have happened if the pedestrian lights had been red rather than green. Would the jay-runner have run out into the traffic? Quite possibly. 
It frightens me. 

Saturday 7 July 2018

There was a power cut

in the night. I woke because there was a "bang" somewhere. It was not the sort of "thump" that I am worried about these days... the sort of thump which says the Senior Cat has fallen over and which would mean calling for help in the middle of the night.
No, a bang somewhere. The power was out so I can only assume that something went wrong at the sub-station not too far from here. If it had been an accident there would have been sirens very quickly as there is an ambulance and fire station not too far away as well.
I thought of all this as I wondered exactly what the time was and whether it was worth trying to go back to sleep or whether I should just get up early.
I got up and looked at my watch. No, too early to get up. I prowled back to bed and curled up feeling cross. Then I thought I should not feel cross because someone was out there in the rain and wind trying to fix the problem. Yes, they were being paid for it but it was still an unpleasant thing to have to do - and possibly dangerous as well. 
The council was doing some work in our street yesterday. One of the workers told me to wait while they moved something out of the way so I could pedal past. Aware that tires and hot tar don't mix very well I went round the long way...and got an approving nod. That's a messy job too.
In a street much closer to my destination I suddenly came face-to-face with an enormous  vehicle. The tyres on that were taller than I am.  It was moving very slowly along the street.
Not even feeling safe on the footpath I was about to turn tail and go another way when it stopped. 
     "Come on love. You're safe," a workman called, "He's a blimin' snail, this one."
I zipped past as fast as I could calling out my thanks.
That thing was so big they were having trouble with it. I'd  hate to have the responsibility for it.  What it was or what it was  doing remains a mystery. It's just another job I would hate to have to do.
I pedalled on thinking of those trying to rescue the boys trapped in the cave. I hate enclosed dark spaces. A childhood experience comes back to me each time I am in anything even remotely resembling it. 
The world is full of jobs I would not want to do in the least. I am just lucky other people seem willing to do them.

Friday 6 July 2018

"This is the Australian Federal Police"

said the voice at the other end of the line when I answered the phone. 
The voice went on to tell me that there had been a complaint about me from the Tax Office and that there was a warrant out for my arrest.  It told me to ring the number I was given and ended with an ominous sounding "Do not ignore".
I have of course ignored it. It is one of the current scams making life a misery for so many people.
Even I, with a completely clear tax-conscience, felt a little bump when the first automated words were said. Police? What's going on?
Had they asked the Federal Police to call on behalf of the state police somewhere? Were my siblings and their families all right? 
Tax Office? No, that's a scam.
Out of curiosity I listened to the entire message. It was an automated voice, one rather like the announcements you hear on a train telling you which station you are about to arrive at. There was very little said. The time was probably just within the limit that makes it difficult to track if a phone is being monitored. And yes, the telephone number they gave to call (repeated twice) had the local area code.  
I know that, were I foolish enough to ring such a number, it would be deftly diverted to somewhere else in the world. If I rang it then they would want my "credit card" details to pay the "debt".  And yes, they were clever enough to keep the line "open" for some time.  I had to wait until the phone rang again and there was silence and then the engaged signal before I could make a call out. 
Now I knew about the scam. I also know I don't owe any overdue tax. But I can see how easily people would get caught by this. It catches you unexpectedly. Oh! Do I owe money? I thought I'd done the right thing but perhaps I had better check? Maybe that claim for work clothing was disallowed? But it can't be more than a few dollars? The ATO is getting really tough. I suppose I had better...
It would have been interesting - if very disturbing - to have an actual conversation with someone at the other end of the number they provided. 
It would be good to be able to lead them on and then say,
     "The police are now at your door." 

Thursday 5 July 2018

The "gopher" or "scooter"

has been sitting in the carport for five and a half months now. 
We got rid of the car years ago.
The Senior Cat made the decision to cease driving a car. It was something he never really enjoyed doing. He was not a particularly good driver but the only accident he ever had was genuinely not his fault. He was stationary at the time. The taxi driver reading a street map who rolled into the rear of the Senior Cat's car was at fault.
But, the Senior Cat wanted wheels...wheels of some sort. A gopher/scooter - call it what you will - seemed to be the answer. 
He bought one. It was red. He used it a lot. He actually rode that one from our home on one side of the city to visit Middle Cat in hospital on the northern side of the CBD. I wasn't even too worried about that. He was thirteen years younger than he is now.
The problem with the red one was that there was no protection against the weather.  The Senior Cat got too cold. He got wet. He thought about it. 
The Senior Cat's mate N... used to work servicing those vehicles. He knew a lot about them. No, that one could not have a hood. They looked for one that might be able to be fitted with a hood. The Senior Cat finally found one. He traded in the old one and happily zipped around in the new one. 
It took him to church, to the doctor and to the all important hardware and gardening centre. He was a happy cat. He had wheels. If he needed to go further than those wheels would take him then he would get a taxi or Middle Cat or, sometimes, friends would take him. Problem solved.
And then, about eight months ago, people along my regular route began to hint to me that perhaps he should not be using it. Then one day one of them told me outright that he no longer thought the Senior Cat was safe.  
I observed. I agreed. The Senior Cat did not want to give it up. He agreed to restrict his use of it but it still worried me. 
Just before Christmas the walker he was using with the gopher broke. He bought a new walker and discovered that he couldn't lift it onto the bar at the back of the gopher. My BIL tried lowering the bar but it couldn't be done safely.
The Senior Cat insisted on trying for a bit but then the doctor told him, "No!" 
The Senior Cat came home growling. I felt both upset and relieved. The gopher sat there...and sat there. 
Did I want to use it? No. Thank you very much but no. To me it is big and clumsy and I would not feel in control of it. For now I can manage pedal power. If I need a gopher I want something much smaller than that. 
But Middle Cat? Middle Cat has had both knees replaced. Would she like it? Yes!
Nothing happened of course. They still have to work out how to store it at her place. 
But yesterday Middle Cat came. They cleaned the gopher. They checked the tires. Middle Cat helped the Senior Cat into the seat. He switched it on. Would it work after all this time? He wasn't sure even though it had been on trickle charge all the time.
But yes, he drove it out of the carport and up the driveway slope. Middle Cat looked at me and then said,
     "Just give it a run along the street. Let me know if it feels all right."
He gave it one last short drive. I watched to see how far he would go. Two houses down he turned around and came back again at the slowest speed. It was enough.
Middle Cat took a turn. She was off at top speed.
I just wish it had been the Senior Cat riding off at top speed.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

"What Senator Leyonhjelm

said was completely unacceptable and no woman should be subjected to that sort of behaviour."
Isn't it time that someone actually said that?
For those of you in Upover - there is a row over the vile, sexist remarks that one of our male Senators made to another - female - Senator.  He is refusing to apologise. She is seeking legal advice.
It could end up being very nasty.
They are both at fault. Both of them are also right.
Both of them are at fault for showing disrespect. They are both right in saying that disrespect for the opposite sex is far too prevalent. Neither of them, along with most other politicians, seem to realise that they are there to serve the people who elected them. They are not there to serve their own interests but the interests of those who elected them. They are both lacking in respect for those who elected them - both female and male. 
Not all men are misogynists - far from it. It is time to recognise that and use it to show those who are how to behave. Not all women are misandrists either. It is time to recognise and use that fact too. If we emphasise the positive then we might overcome some of the negative - even if it doesn't make the sort of coverage the media loves.
I have been extraordinarily fortunate in that the Senior Cat, my brother, my nephews, and every male I know in my wider paternal clan treat women with respect. Women treat men the same way. Those who have married into the clan do the same. My paternal grandfather and his siblings were taught the highest standards of behaviour by my paternal great-grandmother. Those standards have carried on. It has made for a close knit and supportive clan.
I wonder who taught the two Senators how to behave. 

Tuesday 3 July 2018

Cuts to the local library staff

are not on. 
Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a frequent user and passionate supporter of our local library.  I joined the local library in my adolescence. It was one of the first things my brother and I did on returning to the city to continue our education. The idea of having our own library tickets and being able to choose our own books was something we wanted as soon as possible. 
Back then the library occupied only a small space. Inside it there were still smaller areas for very young children, children, "teens", and then the fiction and non-fiction for adults. The library was often crowded. 
They eventually expanded the library. Yes, that would do. No, not for long. It soon became obvious that the expansion was not nearly large enough. 
The problem was that the library was being used - and used more and more. They have had to expand into providing computer facilities, DVDs, CDs, "graphic novels", and groups which teach English (and French). There are book groups (with waiting lists), board game groups, chess, Scrabble, and craft groups. There are visiting speakers and other events. There is a JP service there at certain times. The teens had a clothing exchange recently... welcomed by parents who have fast growing teens. People meet there for all sorts of reasons.
The library staff are a mix of fully qualified librarians and people who have "library aide" certificates. There are also volunteers who help to shelve books and do the deliveries for the  home-bound service.  There are people like me who get called upon to use our specialist knowledge of subject areas if we happen to be in the library. 
Now the library is being expanded yet again. It is being expanded so that there will be more shelf space, more meeting space and a place to have coffee. The Toy Library, currently in a separate location, will be moved into the new building when it is complete.
So I was appalled to learn that the council is considering sacking all the library staff - apart from one librarian. It is proposed that it will then attempt to run the library on volunteers.
That simply won't work. It is clear that, to even suggest the idea, the council has no idea what librarians actually do.  It also has no idea how the library is used or how it functions as much more than "a place to borrow books". 
Keeping the library staff they have now, an outstanding team of people, will actually save money in the end. The library is vital to the mental and social health of the community. It keeps some teens off the streets. The resources are helping to instill a love of learning into the very young. It is providing a safe haven for some of the vulnerable members of the local community. Older people can find intellectual companionship there.
I could go on.
And yes, I know this problem is being faced in other places. It is time that the real value of libraries is made known. They are the very lifeblood of our communities. 

Monday 2 July 2018

Penalties for the use of

illegal drugs may be set to rise in this state - at least for the use of "weed". 
There has of course also been an immediate outcry that it is a  "health" issue, not a criminal issue.
Sorry. It's both. And it is also something else. It's a "choice" issue.
Like alcohol and tobacco there is no law which says you must use marijuana. It is something people can choose to use - or not. In doing so then there is a need to consider the consequences, not just the personal consequences but the consequences for those around you. 
I have never as much as tried to smoke a cigarette but my own health has been compromised by the large amounts of secondary cigarette smoke I was forced to inhale in the staff rooms of schools, in other meeting places and enclosed spaces on  public transport. There are far fewer places where people can smoke now - and rightly so. Yes, tobacco is "legal" but it is not legal to assault other people - and putting others into the position of not being able to avoid cigarette smoke does amount to assault. 
And if you drink and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle and have an accident in which you injure someone or cause a death....well, that's a choice. It isn't something you must do. The consequences should reflect this. 
Yes, you've "heard it all before". There will be people who read this who will say that, simply because it is legal, they have a "right"  to smoke and everyone else should put up with it. There will be those who say that the legal limit for alcohol is "too low" - simply  because they believe they are still in full control when their blood alcohol readings are higher.
Our neighbour across the way has recently completed some research into the literature. I read the resultant paper on drug use and driving. He feels that the use of marijuana does not affect a person's ability to drive. I am not fully convinced by the findings. There are some issues with the way some of the research was conducted. Even if it does not affect the ability to drive there are other health and social issues associated with the use of marijuana.
That is beside the point anyway. The law says you should not be driving under the influence of illegal drugs. If you want to change that then campaign for a change in the law. 
I doubt you will win.