Friday 31 August 2018

Need more exercise?

I have been contemplating this.
The Senior Cat says he does not get enough exercise. He was out in the garden for a short time  yesterday - before it started to rain. This is his "exercise" now - slowly pottering around the pots we have at waist height. 
He used to walk around the block and then walk around the block with his walker. That's too much now.
He has never played sport. His attempts to teach children to play sport at school ended up with a dislocated shoulder when he tried to throw a cricket ball. In the schools where he was the only male teacher and expected to teach the boys how to play football they kindly told him to "stand there and just watch us sir". The Senior Cat is, by his own description, "clumsy" and "the owner of two left feet".   
At one time he used to ride his bike to the school he was teaching at. He said it set a good example for the children - and probably the staff as well.  He continued to ride the bike until he was in his eighties and his knees started to trouble him. Middle Cat bought him a walking machine and he used that for another five or six years. 
The machine now sits there idle. It gets no exercise at all. I ride my trike - and yes, I should get more exercise than I do but at least I get some.  I should use the machine, especially if it is cold and wet and I don't feel much like getting cold and wet too. 
But there are people I know who get no exercise at all. They think they exercise. They do their housework at weekends and they sweep up the leaves in autumn. Someone else comes in to mow the lawn - if they have one. 
One of those people is in the process of having the lawn removed and a "no work" garden put in. 
   "All it will require is a bit of watering and someone to come in once in a while and tidy things up," he proudly told me, "It's all natives so it has to be a good thing."
I have watched this "garden" taking shape. I suppose it will suit him but, to me, it lacks colour and life. It doesn't mix well with the surrounding houses. It won't be green and cool. 
This same man complains that he sometimes doesn't know what to do with himself, especially if there is no sport to watch on television. 
I had to drop a prescription and some books in to his elderly neighbour yesterday. Her garden is still neat. Yes, someone else comes in to mow the lawn now and the "young lad" (he's almost 40) down the street a bit came in and did some pruning for her. 
    "I've got so much to do this week, " she told me, "Thanks for picking these up." 
She would have walked to the chemist and the library and back but she wanted to finish getting a garden bed ready so she could go to the garden shop with her daughter-in-law tomorrow.
     "And I'll be down to see all those wonderful things at the show next week."
She shakes her head over her neighbour's garden. 
     "That's not going to exercise his body or his brain."
We both agreed that exercise takes many forms and exercise of the mind is one. 

Thursday 30 August 2018

"An infectious laugh..."

has to be a good thing to be remembered by.
I went into the local library to pick up a book yesterday. It was supposed to be a quick visit.
I stayed a little longer. One of the staff took me quietly to one side and told me, 
    "We have something to tell you. J....has died."
The last time I had spoken to J... was about three months ago. She had admitted then that she was "not feeling too good" and then laughed and said, "But I'll be okay."
Since then the local library has  been in chaos because of the building works going on. A portion of it has been shifted to another location. The staff, who always work between two libraries, are working different shifts and I don't always see all of them. 
I was aware I hadn't seen J... but assumed she was working at the other library and I had just missed her.
No. She was very ill. She had not even told her work colleagues how ill until the last. Then one assumed another - who assumed yet another - had also told me how ill she was.
It mattered because I remember the day she started at the library. I was the first borrower she met - something she sometimes reminded me about. She was nervous - who wouldn't be starting work for the first time? She was also excited because she had always wanted to work in a library.
I think - indeed hope - it met her expectations. Like everyone else putting returned books back on shelves was not her favourite occupation - "but you often find something you want to read". She was not a fully qualified librarian and always said "I don't know much about that" but she did learn a lot over the years. She had no hesitation in asking me something if I happened to be around or introducing another reader with the words, "Cat knows all about that. She can show you."  I would tell her I didn't know "all" about anything and she would laugh and say, "Well you know more than I do about that." 
Perhaps I did but she was always ready to learn more. She would alert me to new books coming in and ask me to look at others. If she was choosing books for the housebound service she would sometimes say, "Do you know....? What do you think they would like?"
It was all typical of her interest in her work and the pleasure she found in the pleasure of others being able to read.
J.... was always grossly overweight. It was a genetic condition. It made treating the cancer from which she died that much more difficult. Her cheerful outlook on life also hid her condition from the rest of us for too long.
Her work colleagues will genuinely miss her - and so will I.   

Wednesday 29 August 2018

The cooks are apparently busy

this week. Scones, Anzac biscuits, fruit cake and sponges are coming out of their ovens.
I won't get to taste any of this. It doesn't bother me at all. I am not particularly interested in scones or cake or biscuits. I rarely cook any of them. My mother made "cheese scones" occasionally. People liked them but they would not have won prizes at a show as they were simply flung together and dumped unceremoniously in clumps of dough on a tray. She never bothered to roll them out. 
Once a year she would make a ginger sponge for the Senior Cat for his birthday. That was it.
Any cake making in between was done by us - when we were allowed in the kitchen. Middle Cat is an expert in chocolate cake - as long as it comes out of a packet. The Black Cat could probably follow the instructions on the packet. Our brother would be more ambitious. He does quite a lot of the cooking in his house. I doubt he would bother with cake unless it came out of a packet but he would try scones.
I thought of all this as I was reading an article in the state newspaper this morning about people entering the cookery classes in the annual state show. They apparently try the same recipes over and over again. One man takes his chocolate cakes into his work mates to taste test. I doubt other items made by other people are wasted either. Someone, somewhere is eating them. 
I know a young teen who is entering two items in the section reserved for schools. Her schoolmates are undoubtedly the beneficiaries of her efforts too.
And I also thought of all those country women I knew when I was a kitten who would just smile at the idea of having a temperature gauge on their trusty Metters wood  burning stoves. They simply opened the oven door and put their hand in and out as quickly as they could. Hot enough? No? Add a bit more wood to the fire chamber. Hot enough? Yes? In it goes. It will take getting the vegetables on to cook for it to finish baking - and other such measures.
Their sponge cakes were light. Their "patty cakes" (now called "cup cakes") were perfectly rounded. The shearers' sultana cake always seemed to have the sultanas evenly spread throughout.  That was the way it always seemed to be. They were experts.
I suppose it depends on how often you cook cake. I have cooked cake once this year.
I will not be entering anything in the cookery section.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

A net basked for cooking fish

was one of the many Victorian era oddities I came across on Sunday afternoon.  I was doing some searching for ideas for what we have called "The Queen Victoria Challenge". 
The QVC - as it has inevitably become abbreviated - will, hopefully, be part of next year's state show. The organisation which runs it began in the Victorian era and is called Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society. "It therefore seems fitting...."
Oh  yes, Sunday afternoon was interesting. I came across things like the "basket for cooking a whole fish" and "fireplace veils" and much more. (Yes, I am sure there will be more about those things at some point.)
One of the things that interested me was not just some of the strange things they chose to make but the description of them as "most useful".  I am still wondering how useful that "fish basket" would be. How many times did the lady of the house wish to have a whole fish cooked in that way - and how did you wash or clean the basket afterwards?
I also came across some "amusements for children". They included some games that present day children would consider extremely dull. What modern child would sit there reciting the same words over and over and merely adding another rhyming word at the end?
There were also descriptions of things for children to make - doll house furniture and toy theatres loom large. The lists of requirements include things that modern children would only use - if they used them at all - under strict supervision. How many modern children are allowed to use sharp knives to cut card? How many are allowed near matches without supervision?
Yesterday we had a meeting and went through a long list of sections in the handicraft section of the show. We want to put up suggestions of what people might like to try and make for next year's show. We  wondered to each other at some of the things that people made. Did all those pincushions in such strange shapes and representing such strange things ever get used? How many smoking caps did a man need? Did every corner have a "whatnot" dusted by a maid in a cap?
There is a list of suggestions being made and written up for people to take to start thinking about. There are thousands upon thousands more ideas out there. I have written a couple of sentences explaining these are only suggestions. If people can find something they want to make and can fit it into any class in the handicraft section then we will be more than happy to accommodate such entries.
And I wonder whether anyone will make a "most useful basket for cooking a whole fish"?

Monday 27 August 2018

The day John McCain

voted to retain Obamacare was the day I felt that there might still be some hope for my friends in America. 
McCain should have been an "independent". He was that sort of man. 
President Trump's message of condolence to McCain's family was barely civil. Other living US presidents, from both sides of politics, offered their sympathy in a much more genuine way.
And so they should have done because he was a basically decent man. I didn't always agree with what I read or heard about him and what he had done. But there was always a feeling there that he cared about other people - genuinely cared.
A McCain presidency would have been interesting.
Our new Prime Minister might be interesting too. Like Abbott, he is a devout Christian. Unlike Abbott he is Pentecostal not Catholic. There have already been questions asked about how his faith will affect his politics. I know there are people, journalists I know in particular, who will use his faith against him. There will be others too - particularly those who were so infuriated with his "stop the boats" stance. It is easy to condemn someone and their policies when you don't actually need to put policies in place yourself - and then maintain them.
He has already made some unexpected choices. He has made no secret of the fact that he has been consulting a previous Prime Minister - not his immediate predecessor. There are people who will condemn him for that too. 
I wonder what would happen if, for just once in our lives, we could give someone a chance to actually get on and do the job? What would happen if we let them do their job without interference from the media and from those who think they know it all? If we didn't like the results then we could vote them out at the next election.
Our Prime Minister has to go to the people next year. Should we give him a chance to do his job in the meantime?

Sunday 26 August 2018

"Young people are interested

so please don't tell me they aren't."
I was talking to two people after our regular library knitting group and one of them said,
    "Kids aren't interested in that sort of thing. I wouldn't waste my time trying to teach them."
The other person there came in rapidly with the "Young people are interested...." comment.  
I have to agree. They are interested. Not all of them are interested of course but there are enough of them for me to hope that many crafts will continue.
It is important that they do continue, not simply for the pleasure they can provide but for the skills they can teach.  Yet another  surgeon told me last week that the knitting and crochet skills she was taught by her grandmother had proved invaluable in increasing her manual dexterity before becoming a surgeon. She encourages all her students to take up some similar form of handicraft.
And the mental health benefits are immeasurable. There was a little flurry of excitement at the showgrounds last week. Of course the judging is done blind - only once in a long while is someone's work recognised. Even then it will be no more than "that's probably by.... it looks like it". It will happen because the same person has been putting in similar articles for many, many years. This year the lack of any entries from someone who used to produce incredibly fine baby articles was noted. People wondered if  G.... was "all right". In all likelihood she is or was a very elderly woman. Nobody has ever met her but we wondered.
And then there are the young ones. There is a "junior" section - and some wonderful things go into it - but it didn't cater for something one young person thought was important. She made a  hat for the homeless in the open section. It's told me something important. We shouldn't be ignoring the fact that some young people do want to be involved in this sort of thing. We need to consider a way of including them. There is another young girl who is seriously disabled by a chronic illness. She can't go to school full time but she can knit and crochet and she has made some delightful things. There are some things she still needs to learn but her work is very good and getting even better. It's her lifeline too. 
And there are the young people I taught earlier this year. One of them sent me a photograph recently - of something she will never see. She may be blind but her knitting skills are improving to the point where it has become a pleasure for her. One day she may feel confident enough to enter something in the section reserved for the visually impaired. Her mother had added a note, "She feels so good about herself."
There were young people there last Sunday. We had some lovely socks entered by one of them - and yes, they won a prize. There are two knitting groups at two of the local secondary schools. Most of them are beginners but I was invited over to have a look at some of their work recently. It's simple stuff but they were pleased and excited by what they are doing. Will they continue? I don't know. I hope so but, even if they don't, they will have discovered the satisfaction that comes with making something.
So, please don't think young people aren't interested in crafts.There are some who are, who will find the time and develop the skills. They will be computer savvy and learn from there as well but, if they need help, please give it to them. Then they can pass it on too.

Saturday 25 August 2018

I have just been reminded

yet again of a good friend - someone I never actually met in real life. Over the 'net though she was a friend - not just a casual acquaintance. 
Almost every day she would email me a little comment - and sometimes a much longer one - after reading my blog posts. How she found the time to do it was a mystery. She was an incredibly busy person and she lived a very full life.
    "When you come back to London you must spend at least a night with me," she wrote more than once, "We will have so much to talk about."
It never happened. She died far too soon. I know her authors still miss her, indeed the publishing world misses her. It was a post by one of them that hit me a short time ago.
But it made me think about other "friendships" too - those in politics.  The new Prime Minister had his arm around the old Prime Minister this last week - they were "good mates" then. Are they still "good mates"? 
I imagine there are other "friendships" under strain right now...while the Leader of the Opposition smiles, a smile that does not reach his eyes, and says nice things about the previous Prime Minister. (Does anyone actually believe what he said?) 
When I was living in the nation's capital there was an unlikely friendship - and I think it must have been a friendship because it was not one most people would have expected.  I know that, away from the floor of the House, politicians on opposite sides can be perfectly civil to one another. They can stop and chat. They will have coffee together or meet for lunch. They will work together on things.  That is usually about as far as it goes. In the nation's capital though there were two who rented a flat together - and they were from opposite sides of the house at a very tense time.  (I need to explain here that many of Downunder's federal politicians really do need to live away from their homes during the week when parliament is sitting as they can be not just hundreds but thousands of kilometres from their electorates.)   Their relationship outside the house appeared to be perfectly amicable. Neither man is there now and I wonder what they would make of the present shenanigans.
After her partner died a friend of mine wrote to his penfriends to let them know of his death. She had never had contact with them before. One did not reply. The other did with the words, "Please keep writing. I don't like to think I will lose you as well."
Friendship is a strange thing. It can cross strange boundaries. It can be found in unexpected places.

Friday 24 August 2018

I met a 9cm high dragon yesterday

and he was delightfully well behaved.
Mind you he might now be in danger of getting a swollen head because so many people admired his good looks.
Yes, he's green but he has lovely creamy inner ears and bright black eyes.
Oh, and he is not in the least bit fierce.  
Seriously? He was a tiny piece of amigurumi put into the state's annual show. He was crocheted from quilting thread on a tiny crochet hook - 0.2mm in size. 
I don't even own a crochet hook that size. I have an 0.6 size one that I have used for other purposes and even the thought of trying to crochet with that leaves me reeling. This was even smaller and the dragon had to be worked under a magnifying glass with many muttered curses.
I am told it is my fault that the dragon appeared because I had seen some other work being done by its owner and said, "Next you will be making something out of sewing thread."  So, she did and we have the dragon and he won the "best in show" in the crochet category. 
There was some other lovely work around yesterday of course. I am always in awe of what people do...and the hours they must spend doing it. I'd like to snuggle under some of those crochet rugs. I wish I was young enough to wear rather than just appreciate some of the small garments in both the knitting and the dressmaking.
And it was good to be able to tell someone who doesn't have access to the internet to see the results that she had won a second. As she hasn't been well this was especially pleasing.
Today I will help to put the last things on display. I will be able to admire them all over again. It's been interesting - and it has also been a privilege to be able to look so closely at some interesting work and hear the judge's reasoning. 
Next year? Yes, if I can then I will do it again. 


Thursday 23 August 2018

Will there be a new Prime Minister

before the end of the week - perhaps even today? 
Will there be a new Prime Minister before the end of the month?
The answer to the first question is "perhaps" - and to the second question is "it seems likely".
Is the government shooting itself in the foot? The answer is "probably, even almost certainly".
The present  Prime Minister has been relying on  his apparent personal popularity to do as he wishes. He is not a good listener. He dislikes advice.
He doesn't have a former Prime Minister's temper but, although on opposite sides of the political fence, he has much the same almost autocratic "do as I say" style. He is at odds with his party over some key policy issues - and out of step with much of the electorate on some too.
He has been "popular" and the "preferred Prime Minister" because he comes across as intelligent, erudite, sophisticated and unlikely to embarrass the country on the world stage. The man he ousted was seen as an embarrassment, a fool, lacking in intelligence and sophistication - or that was the way he was portrayed in the media.
They wanted the current man.
It has clearly become a different story inside his own party room. There are many people there who are nervous, not just about losing their own seats but about losing the next election - something most people think is a foregone conclusion if the opinion polls are correct.
This morning there was a piece in the paper saying that these people were being selfish in wanting a change of Prime Minister now. 
Really? Is it selfish to want to dump a man who is trying to push through his  own agenda? Make no mistake about it the tax cuts for business was his idea and not a popular one in his own party. They knew it wouldn't go down well with the electorate. Even if it made good economic sense it would be hard to sell. It's been ditched - but not before the damage was done. The push towards "renewable" energy is an economic and environmental disaster waiting to happen - because, if the current Opposition wins (as it likely will) , their targets are unrealistically high and, even in the unlikely even of being achieved, would bankrupt the country. The electorate needs to be informed about the economic as well as the real environmental costs of energy policies. Failing to inform people is simply endeavouring to give the public what they believe they want without explaining the consequences. It isn't leadership. It won't unite people. Their Leader - the Prime Minister in Waiting is not popular. There is good cause for that. He's a union man - some would say a union thug. His personal morals are questionable. He has had a far better run with the media than he deserves - but it helps to have mates there.
The present Prime Minister's predecessor had something interesting to say in a public statement yesterday. He talked about the work that is necessary in order to unite people behind you and in order to be able to lead them. He also said it was necessary to earn loyalty. Although he is right those things won't get the publicity they deserve.
Politics is a nasty business.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

There were people of all shapes and sizes

who brought in objects of all shapes and sizes yesterday. 
There is a size limit for the handicraft section of the state's annual show. It is probably just as well. Some people make large things. Other people make tiny things. Some people only enter one thing. Other people enter many things.
There is a section in the schedule which says, "Handicraft for others."  The first year it was just a section for soft toys made for patients at the children's hospital. Now there are three more sections. The first to be added was a "memory box" - given to mothers who lose a child at or close to birth. The next was "chemo caps" for chemotherapy patients. The last, added this  year, was "hats for the homeless."
There were some beautiful items donated this year. The work that has gone into them is extraordinary. Yes, you can get a "ribbon" for your work but that is not the point. A mother came in and delivered two items.
    "Better than I could do," she told the person who took them. Her daughter is apparently just thirteen and was "excited" by the idea that she had made something to be given away. What is more she was putting the items in an "open" class because there was nowhere else to put them. If she won anything it would be competing against adults. 
I eyed the hat off. It wasn't perfect seaming but the knitting was very, very even. That was beautifully done even if it was just simple garter stitch stripes. 
We put it with the other hats ready for judging. There were hats there not as good as that -- but the important thing is that each hat  was something that could be worn and someone will no doubt be happy to have one of them.
There was a wonderful cuddly white lion - the sort of soft toy a  child will be able to hold by arm, leg or tail and take to bed in perfect safety. It was also soft and "squishy" and exactly fitted the term "cuddle toy". Someone had put a lot of work into that others had put into other cuddly toys. I know how much they can mean to young children in hospital who have left everything  behind.
We sorted them all into piles ready for judging and I mentioned how pleased I was that the section was growing. The person helping me agreed, "It's supposed to be a show for everyone in the state."
And the striped garter stitch hat had a "commended" ribbon placed on it. I hope it encourages a thirteen year old girl to believe in herself - and other people. 

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Aretha Franklin

had an extraordinary voice. She also lived an extraordinary life but I don't think it was a very happy one.
I know a lot of people who will look no further than, "But she sold all those records. She must have been rich."
I think there is a difference between having a great deal of money and being rich. 
Yes, I know - there is nothing new in that idea.
I also think that there are a great many people like Aretha Franklin. They have managed to earn a lot of money. They apparently have crowds of adoring admirers. 
    "They should be happy" and "It must be marvellous to be like that".
No. Perhaps some of them are happy - or think they are happy. I doubt that it is marvellous.
And then there was Kofi Annan. Famous? Perhaps. Once he was out of the spotlight of being the UN Secretary General most people would have forgotten him. He had a frustrating and thankless job trying to head a largely dysfunctional organisation that achieves far less than was intended, far less than it should. He was rich - even very rich - if you compared him with many of his countrymen. Ghana is not a rich country. I doubt he saw himself as rich. I am sure he saw himself as frustrated - and he must have sometimes felt a failure when the things he tried so hard to negotiate fell apart. He was also heavily criticised at times - sometimes for decisions he did not personally make, especially when people do not understand how the UN is supposed to be run and the limitations put on him.
I was reminded of both those things when the little boy asked me, "Are you famous?"
I don't want to be famous. I'd much rather be useful.

Monday 20 August 2018

"Are you famous?"

The  question came from a small boy.  He looked at me with his head slightly side on and in a clearly puzzled sort of way.
     "No," I told him and then asked, "Why?"
     "Well people keep saying hello to you."
     "That's because I am sitting here," I told him. 
I am not sure that answer satisfied him. It wasn't a completely correct answer either.
Yesterday was the local crafty event I was involved in. Please note the word "local". It meant that there were a good many people from the immediate district who decided it might be worth wandering in to see what was going on. 
The organiser had asked me to go and talk about two local groups and a couple of other things - if people came and asked. I went. I put up notices about the groups. I put out information about other things. People had to go past me to get to other things. 
   "Hello Cat."
   "Hi Cat."
   "Thought I'd see you here Cat."
And so it went on.
People stopped. We talked. They asked what I was working on. I explained. 
Someone who had done a class with me two years ago had actually brought a book along in the hope that I would be there. Could she ask me a question? Of course. I was really pleased, in fact quietly thrilled, to think that she had gone on to further explore an aspect of knitting on her own.  I must have taught her something.
I showed several people how to do something and discussed the way that some very old patterns - those almost two hundred years old - had been written. 
It quietened down at lunch time and I took a short while to prowl around the rest of the event. A friend who does outstandingly good hand-dyed work was there. We chatted. She took down an idea from something I had just finished making. I bought a skein of yarn from her to give to a friend for her  birthday - no, she will make something herself!
I caught up with someone I had not seen since I was in high school - and then her husband. He had taught under the Senior Cat. All of them are long since "retired".
The afternoon was slower  but still busy enough for the small boy to ask,
      "Are you famous?"
No, definitely not. I am glad I am not. Just saying hello to all those people left me with very little "miaou". But, it was all interesting and I think some people looking for crafty company might feel comfortable about coming along to one or other group. 
Humans need company. 

Sunday 19 August 2018

Queen Victoria will be most amused

if you would like to be involved....
I am off to answer questions about a number of things at the local art and craft centre. They are running a yarn day called "Twisted".  My role today is to answer questions about two local knitting groups and the "challenge" we are setting for the state's annual Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society show. 
One of the local knitting groups meets in the library once a month. There has never been a lot of space but when the rebuilding has finished we may have more space and I am going to make inquiries about a second group and other possible meeting times because some people don't find the Saturday afternoon convenient. There is also a charity knitting group which might like some of their members to meet at the library. I am going to  be sounding people out about that too  -  and other things.
Then there is the bookshop group. The numbers vary and the space is limited - but we could always spill out into the atrium. It brings people into the shop and raises funds for a charity - the Fred Hollows Foundation (you can look that up.) It's a friendly, chatty group. People help one another.
And of course there is Queen Victoria's Challenge to consider. She will be 200 next year. That's quite an age. We thought we should celebrate it. Queen Victoria was a very able craftswoman across a number of areas. Her Majesty has provided us with a picture of herself at her spinning wheel. She will be keeping a stern eye on our efforts. Her Secretary has given me information to pass out and I am taking more. I hope her Subjects will be interested.
There will  be spinners, weavers, knitters, crocheters, lace makers, embroiderers and more up there today - anything you can do with yarn of some sort or another.  
I will be interested to see who comes along. There should be quite a few local people. I will know at least some of them.
And I might even manage to get some knitting done!

Saturday 18 August 2018

No photographs of

your resident cat will appear on these pages. 
I have however had a photograph taken of the latest ridiculous creation that has managed, somehow, to fall from my paws.
Here it is below. I have not worked out how to put it into the middle of the text - where all you more technologically able people would no doubt manage to put it without any difficulty. 
Now there needs to be an explanation of the madness this represents.  I had, as I think I said yesterday, one skein of the variegated blue cotton given to me by my wonderful friend M.... in the US.
It took time to work out what to do with it. I liked it a lot. I wanted to put it into something that could be worn - so that other people could see it. Knit stripes? No. That was not the answer. 
I had done the vest with the nameless flowers - nothing like real life flowers. I had made other vests with odd shapes - but I had knitted those. It still did not seem right to knit this  yarn. I would crochet it.
I used up all but the last 3cms of the yarn and made a lot of shapes. As I was working on that I kept looking for other yarn that might go with it. There was yarn left over from other, not quite right. 
I could not match the blues. Nothing seemed right. I looked at the other colours in the skein. What did I put with it? Someone gave me a cone of wild silk - what was left from something she had made. It has some texture and it presented possibilities. It is a strange shade of not quite grey or brown or green. Alone I couldn't handle the colour at all but I made more shapes. Then I added dark grey and very pale grey.
I made the outline, as I had done before, with some i-cord on a piece of polystyrene. The pieces went down at random all over the outline. I changed things around...that piece would fit better there. This piece needs balancing out. I need another shape similar to that piece. And so it went on. I left it there for days. 
It still looked dull and lifeless. I was wondering what I could add when someone else I know called in and said,
        "You need something like that."
        "I know. I but I don't have anything like that."
But, after she had gone, I thought of something else. The idea seemed almost counter intuitive but I tried it by  making a couple of small pieces of the tan. I put them in. Yes, that was more like it. It still wasn't quite right but it was on the way. 
I did more thinking and went hunting in the stash for the yellow left over from the flower vest. Mmm...if I used it then then pieces needed to be small or it would overpower everything, detract from the variegated blue I liked so much. I made tiny pieces and added them. 
The larger pieces are all geometric shapes - squares, circles, pentagons, hexagons, triangles and octagons. The tan and yellow pieces have been made to fill in the gaps. I would chain a few stitches and see if they would fit the edge of a space, decrease or increase as seemed to fit using single, double and treble crochet stitches to make the shape. 
I put most of it together with a crochet hook. 
And yes, it's done. But,as I said yesterday, that slight insanity has hit again. I have ideas. I may have a new train project...the pieces for another one. Should I do it?No automatic alt text available.

Friday 17 August 2018

Today is about knitting and

and crochet and other such things. If you are not interested then please cease to read now.
I have just finished a vest. If I am fortunate I may be able to get our neighbour V... to take a photograph. We will see. I need a camera of some sort but even then V.... will  be much better at these things.
This vest is a crochet deal. It came about because my very good friend M.... in the United States gave me a wonderful skein of hand dyed cotton. The cotton is some of the best I have ever used. It had an almost silk like sheen. It had the right amount of twist and sheen and the colour was predominantly blue. 
The question was, "what do I do with one skein?"  The eventual answer was, "Put it with other  yarn - but try to do it in a way that doesn't ruin it please." 
I left it there and thought about it. I couldn't match the blue - and believe me I tried. In the end I went for other colours instead...some unexpected colours at that.
It has taken a while to make too. I've done little bits of it here and there and while waiting for other things to happen or finish happening. But, it's done.
I have been working on something else as well of course. This is knitting, Fair Isle knitting to be exact for the class I am teaching at a Summer School. It is another "not really portable" project. There are too many balls of yarn. It involves thought and graph paper and other things.  I like, indeed love, Fair Isle but it is not knitting for the short train journeys I need to take. 
So there is the third thing, usually a beanie or socks, which is my "take it with you" knitting. I recently made two scarves. One was a sampler to see how the yarn would knit up. (Yes, cashmere was nice with which to work.) The other was an 80th birthday present.  I am feeling rather anxious right now as I do not have anything else like that started. 
But  yesterday another neighbour called in to pick something up and looked at the vest.
     "I suppose you made the pieces on the train," she told me.
No, I didn't...but I could.
I have yarn...and I have an idea I want to try. 

Thursday 16 August 2018

Trusting other people

is something I am always cautious about. 
This week has shown me I am right to be wary.
My youngest sibling, the Black Cat, has been giving cause for concern again. The Senior Cat should not be worrying about her the way he has for the past few days.  She should be well and truly financially independent and employed or otherwise fully occupied at her age. She is neither. 
Middle Cat, who is closest to her in age and other ways, has told her - yet again - that the Senior Cat is frail. Black Cat has not seen him for a long time. He was fairly fit the last time she did see him. Black Cat talks to him by phone each week. He still sounds (and is) alert.  He's tried explaining he is less physically able. Middle Cat has tried to explain. Our brother has visited the Black Cat when on holiday in the state she lives in and he has tried to explain. She says impatiently that "of course" she knows what he is like. On the one occasion I tried to tell her all was not well she simply put the phone down and refused to listen at all. (The Senior Cat was in  hospital at the time.)
I think the reality would shock her.  She is simply not listening at all.
It has made me think of news services yet again. There were reports on the news last night of the maiden speech made by a new Senator. In this morning's paper there were more reports.  His speech was widely condemned. Certainly there were things in it with which I would strongly disagree. I wonder though whether those reporting it actually heard the entire speech - and whether they actually listened to what he said or whether they were simply reporting what they thought he said. I wonder whether the politicians who so roundly condemned him actually listened to him, whether they read the Hansard transcript or whether they relied on the excited buzz of being able to "get" someone who  has arrived in parliament through a quirk of the voting system rather than the popular vote.
I am all too well aware of what happens when people don't listen, when they rely on what they have been told to think rather than knowing the actual facts. 
It is sometimes good to be in possession of at least basic facts.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

The right to defend yourself

and appeal against a conviction is apparently under question. Mr Commonsense's death has also resulted in the birth of a great many more legal experts. 
There has been a good sized chunk of the news given over to the sentencing of someone found guilty of covering up child sexual abuse.  It is only in the very last part of a lengthy piece in this morning's paper that anything has been said about the fact that the person who has been convicted plans to appeal.
He has not apologised. He has not expressed any contrition. He has not admitted to any crime. He plans to appeal.
Now let it be said here that I in no way condone an attempt to cover up anything like child sexual abuse. Mr "It's not my responsibility" needs to be shown the door. You need to deal with the problem as a matter of urgency. 
That won't always be easy. If the accused is a member of your family, or someone else you are close to, or a colleague then it becomes even more difficult.
It is also often very difficult to believe any such action on the part of someone we know. It would be particularly difficult if the accuser was someone we did not know or if we had some reason to doubt them. 
Evidence in cases of sexual abuse is particularly difficult. A great deal of reliance is placed on the victim's account. In this instance the events took place forty years ago. There are all sorts of problems with those accounts.  They can grow and change in people's minds. No, they aren't lying. They believe what they are saying. That's part of the problem. 
But in all of that there are people who are guilty and people who are not guilty. There are people who should have acted and did not act. 
There is also an appeals process and, until that has run its course, the legal "experts" outside the court room should wait before accusing anyone of not showing contrition.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

An Obituary for "the death

of Common Sense" is once again being passed around.
It did not, as many people believe, first appear in "The Times" but in an American newspaper, "The Indianapolis Star". There are various versions doing the rounds. 
The one I received is still worth reading

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- And maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers;
- I Know My Rights
- I Want It Now
- Someone Else Is To Blame
- I'm A Victim
- Pay me for Doing Nothing
Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing.

I mourn his loss but that is not the reason for repeating it here. There was an "accident" yesterday. A car went into a much larger stationary vehicle legally parked in a rest bay on the side of one of the major highways going north. 
The police spent all day at the scene. They will no doubt be back there today. The marks will be there for some time to come. Two families will be mourning the loss of the two men travelling in the car. The owner of the other vehicle will be facing a loss of income and one of his employees will be wondering whether he has a job.
There will be many other people involved. They will all be involved in cleaning up the mess, not just at the scene but in other people's lives.  It will  be a long, slow, complex process. It may be years before it is all sorted out and there are people who will never fully recover from the loss of a child, husband, father, brother, cousin and so on. 
The rest of us look on this from afar. We behave as if it doesn't have anything to do with us - although we should be far more aware of the cost to the taxpayer. (The cost will run to several million dollars.)
When I read that "obituary" again I thought about it and realised there is "stepbrother" missing. His name is, "It's Not My Responsibility".
Worth thinking about? 

Monday 13 August 2018

There is no doctor

available in more and more rural communities in Downunder.
I saw a letter written by a young girl yesterday. I even did something unusual for me. I posted it on social media and asked,
"Anyone want an adventure?"
Actually it would be a very stressful adventure. Being a doctor is stressful enough. Being a lone doctor in a rural area is extremely stressful.
There are complaints in this morning's paper that those doctors who are there are reluctant to treat mental health patients too. I can understand that.
Before anyone condemns them for not wanting to do that I'd ask you to consider the stress these doctors are under.
When I was a kitten and we lived in a remote community there was no doctor. The nearest doctor was almost an hour away on an unsealed road. We were considered fortunate because there were people who were much further away than that.
The doctor lived in a small "town" - a village by Upover standards. He was the only doctor and his practice spread over hundreds of square miles. He was in charge of not just his practice but the "hospital" - a few beds in a house that had finally been built for the purpose. He was expected to be able to perform emergency surgery.  He had to do all the paper work with a limited amount of assistance from a part-time nurse/receptionist. 
My mother had to have a medical examination to return to teaching full time so we met the doctor. When we met him he was performing outside surgery on the plumbing - so he could wash his  hands and go on being a doctor.
The local community considered him slightly "barmy" and willing to try anything to save a life. He once did a major medical procedure on the roadside at night under the light of car headlights and lanterns. The man he performed this cardiac surgery on lived to tell the tale.
But it all took a toll on the doctor. He died relatively young. 
Nowadays doctors and their "union" are more aware of the likely problems and doctors often last only a couple of years in rural areas. They simply cannot cope with needing to be available 24/7,  often without a nurse/receptionist to back them up. The paper work has increased, internet connections are poor or even non-existent. There are no back up facilities within a reasonable distance. They are no longer permitted to do some of the things that the doctor we knew performed as a matter of course.  That means making decisions about the urgency of a matter and considering the logistics of getting a patient to where they can be treated - which might mean travelling hundreds of kilometres. Patients in rural areas often don't have any private health insurance and doctors are sometimes not getting paid anything for seeing patients with mental health issues - and waiting months for what the government gives them for seeing other patients. If they suspect a patient is suicidal they can do nothing more than get a relative to take them to a hospital in the nearest community with a mental health facility - and those facilities are few and far between.
There is also something else that they have to cope with and that is the internet. Almost all schools have some sort of internet connection - even if it is not particularly good. Communities now use the school libraries as community libraries, including computers. People can and do "research" their illness on line. They have their own ideas about how they should be treated. It puts doctors under even more pressure. There is an increased fear of litigation.
The Senior Cat remembers another young doctor in another isolated community. He misdiagnosed a patient. While he was away another doctor saw the patient and changed the diagnosis. With new treatment the patient began to improve. It wasn't fatal but the young doctor was devastated. He thought it would be all over the community. (It was - but the community was surprisingly sympathetic with comments like, "You can't be right all the time".) Despite that it nearly broke him because, left untreated, it could have been fatal. 
I have immense sympathy and concern for young, inexperienced doctors who are expected to work alone. They have to make so many serious decisions every day. There is no let up. They can't discuss their patients with their colleagues the way city doctors do. They don't have the resources city doctors have. They don't have the same support services.
And on top of all that they know we need a healthy rural community because it is the rural community which feeds the rest of us.
Rural doctors need support just as much as the farmers they are supporting. 

Sunday 12 August 2018

I am preparing to teach a class

at a summer school. (It is in Downunder so the class is in January.) As usual I have my concerns about being well prepared, very well prepared. Recently I was reminded - yet again - that teaching adults is quite different from teaching children.
Yes, there may be the occasional child who will say, "You're wrong". That child may go on to show they have done the research and can tell you from reliable sources that  they are indeed right and you are wrong.
With adults it is a different story. They will look something up. Some of them will look at the source of information and judge whether it is reliable or not - others won't. They will simply say, "You're wrong. I read this on the internet. It has to be right." (Yes, I know it used to be "I read it in a book.")
In beginning to prepare for the class I went back to my original sources.  These are books, leaflets, patterns, old duplicated sheets and a few letters from people  who were - and sometimes still are - working in the field. There is no reason to suppose that they always had everything right when they committed words to paper. What I am relying on of course is that the information they have given me individually is information they would generally agree on with each other. 

I have looked up the same sources on the internet if they have a presence there. Are they still saying the same thing? Who else is saying this now?
I have emailed some contacts in the area. What's their view on a certain issue? They'll get my class notes later and, where appropriate, a mention in the class of a name to look for in the area. 
Yesterday a visitor looked at the beginnings of my preparation and asked me, "Why are you bothering with all that? Why don't you just show them how to do it and let them get on with it?"
She went on to tell me "it isn't worth it" and "they won't be interested in  all that history and stuff".
I disagree. Of course I could simply show them something but that isn't the same at all. If people understand what they are doing then they will be able to repeat it later when I am not there. I might also have been able to teach them something they can use again or which will help them understand something else. 
It isn't just because people will be paying to do a class. They won't be the only people paying to do a class at the same event. It is because people will have signed up to do a class because they do want to learn something. 
Almost two years ago I taught another class at a similar event run by the same group. There was a very elderly woman in the class. She struggled and I wasn't sure I had actually managed to teach her much at all. I told her that she could have some extra help if she needed it. Her daughter promised to make arrangements if it was necessary.
Not so long ago I saw them both. No, she hadn't finished the project but she was still working on it and was, she thought, about two-thirds done.
     "I went home dear and when it was all quiet and I could think again I realised I had managed to learn such a lot."
She was relying  heavily on the notes I had prepared. 
     "I couldn't have done it without those. I'm so glad I did do the class."
That's why I'll do the same sort of preparation again. That's why it is worth trying to do the best I can.

Saturday 11 August 2018

"Did you make it?"

"How can you tell?"
"It has side seams."
The Senior Cat looks at me in an even more puzzled way. He has just removed a pullover I have told him is something he most definitely cannot wear "out". It is a "house" one.
"But it is nice and warm."
"Yes, I know. You have others which are just as warm. That's a "h.o.u.s.e" one...and I know I didn't make it because it has side seams and I only knit things like that in the round. It is also the wrong colour to go with your trousers and it has a glue stain there at the bottom."
He sighs. I hand over his  heavy blue cardigan. It is much easier to put on (and off) and it is probably warmer. (It has a zip up the front which means it does not have that "wind gap" feature of so many cardigans.)
The Senior Cat has a number of hand knitted pullovers. Most of them were made by my mother. They were mostly made out of "left overs" and their "house" purpose is obvious. They are striped and the stripes don't match. They are every colour imaginable - one of them even has a pink stripe in it. They are not pretty garments, simply warm garments - or they were. They are getting thin. I have mended them more than once. One of them is on the third set of cuffs. 
And then there is the "vile green" one and the "sort of beige" one.
My mother bought the wool for those from a yarn shop going out of business. It was cheap. She didn't like the colours but she thought they would "do". I remember her knitting the green one because she attempted to put a cable pattern into it - which merely added to the awfulness of it. I had to undo it a number of times and correct the cable before she could go on knitting it. This is why the cable only appears on the front of the garment. Yes, my mother could knit but she did not care for it as a craft. She was impatient and wanted it out of the way. This may be why both garments are in heavy wool.
The "sort of beige" garment has an odd neckline. She ran out of wool and insisted we fudge the result, "Because if it is all one colour he can wear it for best." 
And therein likes the problem. The Senior Cat was told it was "for best". His father may have been  a tailor but the Senior Cat has very little idea about clothes. A pullover "for best" means that it is always "for best" even when you have much better pullovers or cardigans. 
I am going to tie multiple pieces of yarn into the back of the neck and remind him they mean "house". 
And if I needed reminding that he doesn't really notice clothes as I was about to leave the room he said to me,
     "I like the one you have on. Is it new?"
     "No. I made it - about thirty years ago."
We make things that last in this house. 

Friday 10 August 2018

Our neighbours

are back.
They have spent the past seven weeks in Europe, in the country in which S.... was born. It is one of those former Communist countries and from what S.... has to say it is still suffering the consequences of having been one.
I wonder how many generations it is going to take to move away from some of the excesses of Communism? According to S.... officials still need to be bribed. Older people have expectations of the state - expectations of both good and bad with which they grew up.
They didn't bother to send the boys to school there. Although it might have improved their second language skills the time was too short. According to S.... there would have been other issues too. Education there is run along quite different lines.
I know when I see S.... she will tell me that she is glad to be back here even while she misses her family there.
Each time she has done this it has made me wonder about the way people migrate. I have an Italian friend who came here when she was twelve. She is now seventy-six and she has never been back to Italy. Would she like to go? I think she would but she won't. It isn't a journey she could physically make now.
I have English friends who have been backwards and forwards many times but don't want to live there any more. I have Vietnamese friends who went once about eight years ago - and came back "home" early even though they talked of going "home". Vietnam was not  home any more. They didn't like it there. 
My BIL's family migrated from Cyprus. Yes, he and his siblings were born here but they are the first generation to have been born here. 
I have other friends from other places and they all have their own views about where "home" is. 
We say things like, "I'm going home" and "I'm leaving home". We mean the place where we will sleep that night or where we will no longer sleep in the future. But is that all "home" is. It seems to me that "home" is more than that.
For other reasons I was reminded of Chapter 5 in Wind in the Willows - "Dulce Domum". Somehow Kenneth Grahame has managed to portray the essence of the word "home" in that chapter. I went and reread it again - and it made me feel "homesick" again. It is not a comfortable feeling. My second cousin's wife once described it as "the worst feeling in the world". It is. It is also one of the feelings which make us human. 
I think "home" is memories.

Thursday 9 August 2018

So Boris is in trouble again?

I am not sure what to make of Boris Johnson's latest comments on the clothing of some Muslim women. It is even more confusing for me now because two of my female Muslim friends agree with him. They may not have put it in quite the same way but they tell me they have "had enough" of the dress codes that they are expected to abide by at home.
They are students here and they revel in the freedom to wear what they want to wear. 
    "I don't want to stand out," one of them told me yesterday. 
I know the feeling. 
    "And our clothes there are so stuffy Cat! You have no idea. My father insists on at least the abaya because his father tells him we must."
When M.... arrived here she was wearing a long dress with long sleeves and her hijab. I remember seeing her like this the day after she arrived. Eighteen months later she is wearing jeans, a fleece top and a scarf that only partially covers her hair.  It isn't my influence but the influence of her housemates.  
They dress "properly" only to go to the mosque. The rest of the time I suppose they endeavour to blend in. It reminds me of the time when women used to go to church on Sunday wearing a hat and gloves. I suppose there are women who still do that but even our friend P..., a nun, doesn't do it any more. She might even be wearing trousers "because there's no heating".  She doesn't own a traditional habit any more.
I have been asked my view about the various Muslim dress codes more than once. My feeling is that nobody - male as well as female - should deliberately dress provocatively. I don't think it is appropriate to wear your bathers but nothing else on the train even if you are going to the beach or - worse - coming home and they are still damp. At the same time I don't think burqas are healthy or necessary. They certainly aren't required by the Koran.
Those things are extremes. 
The Senior Cat and I once knew someone, now deceased, who made his living by repairing rental properties.  He would doors, windows, locks and other "small" jobs. On one occasion he had to go to a property to repair a window. The woman who answered the door was wearing a burqa...because she had answered the door to a man she did not know.
There was one problem with this. R....was getting very deaf by then. He relied heavily on being able to see what people were saying to him. He explained this to the woman.
Later he told us,
     "She stood there and just stared at me. I was about to tell her I would come back when her husband was home when she invited me in with a gesture."
He went to do the job he had been asked to do. When he had finished and was about to leave he went to find her. He found her waiting for him. She had made him tea and offered him home made biscuits.
And she had taken her burqa off. She was wearing the hijab but otherwise was dressed in a way he considered normal. She apparently offered her apologies to him in her limited English.
I often wonder what she did later, whether she told her husband, whether she continued to answer the door wearing her burqa and so on. 
And it made me think. A dress code shouldn't cut you off from other people. 


Wednesday 8 August 2018

You know those DNA tests

the sort you can take that will tell you a bit about your family and your ancestors?
Somebody I know just posted her results up - and she's happy with them. That's good.
Not so long ago I was talking to someone who was shocked by hers. 
Earlier than that a relative by marriage told me about her mother taking - and discovering that the man she thought of as her father not being her father at all.  That had been a shock too. Her mother's parents died some time ago so  she can't talk to them about it.
But things were even worse for this woman. She discovered that neither of the people she viewed as parents were related to her. Then her two brothers took tests as well. No, they were not blood related either - to their parents, each other or her. All three of them had been adopted and never told about it. Not only that but the information about their adoption had been successfully kept from their extended family because they were living in another part of the country when the adoptions took place. 
      "It's not so much the adoptions," this woman told me, "We can live with that. We were given everything we needed. My birth mother died long ago and I certainly don't want anything to do with her family. They are not nice people. It's the same for B...and R... We have families, just not the families we thought they were. It's the same for our children and will be for their children.  What bothers us is that our mother went on and on about how hard it was to conceive us and how difficult each pregnancy was - and she still keeps saying it. She keeps telling me that the tests are wrong." 
Yes, they had the tests done again at even greater expense. The results did not change. 
This woman wonders what her adopted father thought of all this. He died some years ago.
How their parents kept three adoptions secret is a mystery. Her mother won't admit to anything - even when faced with the paperwork. 
When I was told all of this and asked to write something on my blog I said, "Are you sure you want me to do this?"
The answer was, "Yes, just tell people to be prepared to be told something they would rather not know if they take the test."
That's not bad advice.

Tuesday 7 August 2018

Someone is knitting the Princess Shawl

or rather they are about to embark on the adventure.
No, it isn't me. I don't use other people's patterns.
About 18 months ago I ran a class which was supposed to be an introduction to Shetland lace knitting. I must have taught them something because  word got around and then someone who knew someone who knew someone else got in touch with me and said,
"Can you help? I want to knit the Princess Shawl".
Oh. Right.
Now I need to explain here that the Princess  Shawl is a pattern by Sharon Miller. Miller is an expert at Shetland Lace. She has written a very valuable (and expensive) book about the topic. My copy is looking distinctly "used". It's a rather technical book - not for raw beginners. There is a lot of valuable information in there.
But all that is of little help to a woman who lives in a remote area of this state who tells me she loves to knit lace. She has done a lot of it. She sent me some photographs of her work. 
Yes, she has knitted many Danish, Estonian and German patterns.  From the photographs they are lovely. I would say she was a skilled knitter.
But, the Princess Shawl? Even she has some qualms about it. The pattern runs to pages and pages. It costs £15. Yes, a lot of money for a single pattern. Someone in the United States sent me a copy. There is a young adult I know working towards going to Europe to study such things and we have both looked at the pattern in detail. She won't knit it yet - may never knit it - but we know about it now. What is good about it is that both A.... and I have managed to learn a great deal from looking at it so closely.
It is finely constructed. There are finished examples on Ravelry. 
The pattern is not one I would want to knit even if I did knit other people's patterns. I wouldn't want to knit it because it simply would not be practical. It is very big. It needs to be but, while it would make a magnificent wedding veil, it isn't an every day or even an occasional sort of item.
I like things to be a little more practical than that. I have made shawls, many shawls. They are designed to be used. Not so long ago I saw one I had made being worn. I didn't know the person wearing it because it had been raffled off for charity. I assume she won it - or someone else won it and gave it to her. I didn't speak to her about it either but I had a momentary thrill as she pulled it a little tighter around her in the cold.  It was a relatively simple knit.
The Princess Shawl is complex. It has more than one part, edging, border and more.  It requires the ability to use extremely fine  yarn - yarn which is called "cobweb" in the craft...and yes, it is that fine. I don't think I could manage that - and I have other things I would prefer to do.
But I will knit this shawl virtually. I will work with this woman who has the courage to try something new to her. A.... might learn something too. It's going to be interesting and challenging.
I am looking forward to it. 

Monday 6 August 2018

Being a carer

for anyone, for an animal, for a plant, for any object of value is a responsibility. 
I am the Senior Cat's carer now. I hope I do the job responsibly and to the very best of my ability.
It isn't that I am concerned about right now. I had a phone call yesterday. It was from a member of the knitting guild. As a result of that phone call I contacted another member of the guild because she had not received the paper work which would allow her to put her entries into the state's annual show.
      "I gave the form to one of my carers to post," she told me, "Perhaps she forgot."
I hope she hasn't forgotten. I have already sent an urgent message to the person who deals with such things and I know I will get a reply as soon as she has time to look into it.
But it bothers me because there is a good chance the carer did forget to post it. Sometimes it would be possible to say, "That's not good but there's nothing that can be done about it now. Try again next year."
That's more difficult here. This person is 92 and in a fragile state of health. She lost her husband recently. She still wants to put her entries in - if they got the form. I think we both know that this is almost certainly the last time she will be able to do anything like this.
It may seem a little thing to other people. Oh, it was "just a letter" and "it wasn't about anything really important" will probably go through at least one person's mind. No, it's much more than that. This woman has done some magnificent knitting in her life time. It has been award winning. It should be recognised one last time if that is at all possible. 
If, as I suspect will be the case, she can't put her entries in then I have had another idea. I am not sure it can be done but at least I can try.
And, if someone did fail to post the letter, then they might not feel quite so bad - because most carers do care.

Sunday 5 August 2018

Do you believe in ghosts?

This is a serious question.
I have just been reading something put up by someone I have never met but I would have thought was a very down-to-earth sort of person. I still think she is that sort of person. She used to be in the police force. The police are not generally known for fantasies of the sort she was describing.
I won't go into details. It's her story, not mine.
I can tell you another story - or two. 
Recently I went to the funeral of a man in his late 90's. If anyone was a down-to-earth sort of man then he was. He was quiet, calm, analytical to a point which drove those around him "up the wall". He was a scientist. He dealt in facts, not fiction.
I knew him most of my life and he always seemed to be the same - apart from once. There was a blip in his life that he could never explain. It bothered him.
I might never have found out about it except that I happened to arrive at his home one Saturday and he was standing outside looking down the street.
     "Did someone just go past you?" he asked me and his wife as we came across the street. He was looking agitated.
     "No," I echoed.
     "I know I didn't leave the house unlocked. I had to use the keys to get in."
I should explain here that it took two keys to enter their house. Security was tight because of the work he was doing at the time.
He then told  us that he had been out too. When he came home he unlocked the back door and went in. As he went up the passage someone had come out of the room he  used as his study.When challenged he had just nodded at this man and walked past him as if nothing was wrong.
     "I felt him walk past me."
He had immediately gone to the front door - and had to unlock that. 
When we went into the house he and his wife checked every window and tested all the locks. There was no sign of a break-in.
She said he must have been imagining it - but she also knew that imagination of that sort was completely out of character for him.
He went into his study. It was one of those  ultra-tidy sort of places, in keeping with his personality. There were papers scattered across the desk.
He never did find an explanation.
I don't know what the answer is either. All I can think of is that he had some sort of "episode" and had done it all himself while momentarily mentally disturbed.  He never experienced a similar episode but it bothered him for the rest of his life.
Other people I have known have told me of other incidents that they have not been able to fully explain too. They have usually been people with a great deal of imagination or people I have considered to be prone to believing things they are told without questioning them at all.
I think I have imagination too - probably too much of it. It is probably that which caused both my brother and I to do something which was/is out of character. When we were in our teens my maternal grandmother died. We were, very reluctantly, living with her at the time - something we both deeply resented. She was not a nice woman at all, indeed a dreadful one in many ways. 
She went to lie down after lunch one afternoon and didn't wake up. My brother found her. It was a shocking experience for a sixteen year old boy. I was not there at the time or I would no doubt have been the one to check why she has not woken from her usual afternoon nap. 
We children did not attend the funeral - such as it was. Even the Senior Cat did not attend it - at our mother's request. Our grandmother had not had friends. By then she had alienated everyone around her. 
About a week later my brother and I were alone in the house. In the middle of the afternoon I felt an urge to leave the house. There was no reason to do it. I came out of the room I was sleeping in and found my brother had just come out of the room he was sleeping in.
    "Let's get out of here," he told me.
We went outside. A moment later, in the room my grandmother had died in, there was a small bang - as if something had hit the floor. There was nobody in there.  
When we finally went back into the house I found the powder compact she had used on the floor. It seemed to have been flung down with great force because it had broken. There was no explanation for it although logic tells me that it must have been knocked to the edge by my mother and then fallen. 
But why did we both feel the need to leave the house at that point - and how could we hear a powder compact falling on a carpet from outside the house?
I am sure there have to be reasonable explanations for these things - and many others.
I just don't know what they are. Any suggestions?

Saturday 4 August 2018

Is the tax on tampons

finally going to be removed?
It is of course utterly wrong that there was ever a tax on an essential item associated with feminine hygiene...or any other item associated with feminine hygiene. It isn't essential for men to shave but there is no tax on razor blades. Why?
The Federal Treasurer is asking the state Treasurers to agree that the tax should be removed. They don't want to lose the $30m a year that the tax generates. He is saying "find something else to tax".
I am sure there is something they can find.
I have long been opposed to the tax on tampons. If they keep those letters for ever and a day - which I doubt - there will be a record of yours truly writing to her local state MP and her federal MP about this. They actually agreed with me. My former federal MP had also trained as a doctor and was well aware of the problem.
It also made me aware of some other oddities about the Downunder "GST" (think VAT ). 
There is a tax on books. Knowledge - or the acquisition thereof - should not be taxed. Books are expensive anyway - for a number of reasons that has nothing to do with their actual cost - and this makes them even more expensive.
There is a tax on some items of food but not on others. Plain milk is GST free, flavoured milk attracts GST, a sugary glaze is GST free but icing on the item makes it attract GST.  Toothbrushes are GST free but toothpaste attracts GST.  Yes, it is complicated - unnecessarily so. Governments always want more money.
My maternal grandfather was a "precision engineer". He made and repaired then very complex items for hospitals, university laboratories, surveyors, the space research industry and so on.  He worked in extremely small metric measurements - and they really were tiny. It was often extremely slow work and required intense concentration. 
I can therefore imagine his reaction to the fact that GST is applied to knitting needles because they are classed as "precision" instruments. The variation between needles which are all supposed to be the same size can, in his terms, be considered enormous.
In his younger days the Senior Cat made many beautiful boxes from rare, naturally fallen, timber. All of them required "joints" to fit the pieces together. They had to be made with great precision too. Yes, GST applied to some of the tools he used - but not to others.
I have given up trying to understand how the GST works. What I do know is that it should never have applied to tampons...and that if they want to tax my knitting needles as precision instruments then they should make sure they are the precise measurement they say they are.

Friday 3 August 2018

A "gender free" day?

Apparently a public service department in another state is now asking/telling staff that the first Wednesday of every month now needs to be a "they day", a "gender free" day. Don't use "he" or "she" on that day, use "they instead".
 The following comes from the article I was sent,
 "A memo emailed to staff said, ‘They Day’ is promoted as a “new recurring calendar event” that aims to raise awareness of “gendered pronouns.” “Non-binary identities are just as valid as binary gender identities… Names don’t always correspond to a person’s gender. There may be gaps between a person’s gender identity and your perception of the persons. Saying ‘they’ is more flowing and inclusive than saying ‘he’ or ‘she.'”

I had to read that twice to make sure I was reading what I thought I was reading.  If it is true then it is surely political correctness gone mad?
Yes of course there is a tiny minority of people who do not identify as "he" or "she" and there is another tiny minority who go through the long and complex physical and psychological process of moving from "he" to "she" or vice versa.  We need to be aware of their needs.
What we surely don't need is to try and suggest that everyone becomes "they"? Why? It seems to me we are tackling this "problem" in completely the wrong way. What we need is respect, respect for differences. We need to be able to say that there are differences between the sexes and that is all the more reason why everyone should be treated with equal respect in all aspects of life. It isn't going to change the fact that it is women who are the child bearers. But - equal respect, genuine equal respect, would bring about equal pay, an equal share of the housework, an equal number of women on the board of a big company, an equal number of men working in retail and so on. Equal respect would mean that my friend R... and his partner J.....- a same sex couple -would be treated with equal respect.  It would mean that I wouldn't have to endure people talking about me and my tricycle as if I was a two year old who doesn't understand what is being said. (I let them go on for a bit about that yesterday and then said, "The tricycle runs on banana power and I am about to go home and read a doctoral thesis."  Naughty of me perhaps but I'd had enough.)
It isn't "gendered" language which is the problem. It's the way we treat other people. 

Thursday 2 August 2018

Learning to listen

is important. 
I had a long session on the phone yesterday. Someone else needed to talk. It was the second such conversation in the day. (I hope the man who is supposed to call us about the leaking tank did not give up in disgust at what must have been an almost constant engaged signal.)
Later I thought about both conversations.  One of them was about equal I suppose - equal in that we both had about the same amount to say. The other meant I said very little. The other person needed to talk...and talk...and then talk some more. 
I let her go on. She needed to say things. I didn't agree with most of what she was saying and I know most people she knows won't agree with her either. I am hoping that having said it all to me once she will bother other people less - although I rather doubt it.
While I was letting her talk I could, because of modern technology, do some things one handed - things like clearing away the week's collection of papers.
Afterwards the Senior Cat said to me,
     "Well at least you could do something. You couldn't have done anything if she had been here."
No, I couldn't have done anything. I wouldn't even have been able to pick up my knitting. She wouldn't have understood that at all. She doesn't knit.
The person who had rung me earlier does knit. She would have brought her knitting with her if she expected to sit and talk. We have had some quite serious conversations over knitting.
But even for her there are times when I would cease knitting and just listen.  
I have had to learn this over the years - and keep reminding myself about it. It is important to listen to what someone is saying. It is not just enough to hear what they are saying. Really listening requires more than that. 
I was listening to the first person. I asked questions. She asked me some. She told me things. I told her things. I wanted to know what she was telling me. There was some useful feedback about something I had done and I told her something she didn't know but needed to know. It was a good conversation.
I was hearing the second person and I could even tell you what she had been talking about and what she was thinking but I ignored the minute details. They simply weren't relevant to what she was telling me. 
It would have been much more difficult face to face. I would have needed to stop doing everything and looked as if I was giving her my complete attention. It would have been extremely difficult to be patient with her, not to argue.
I need to hone my listening/hearing skills again.