Sunday 30 September 2018

An exhibition of embroidery

lured me away from the things I should have been doing yesterday afternoon. (Actually I made time to go by getting up at a ridiculously early hour.)
I went partly because I was invited to do and partly out of curiosity and partly because embroidery interests me. 
Let it be said that I cannot embroider to save one of my nine lives (and I have already used eight of those it seems). I don't have the manual dexterity to embroider but that doesn't stop me being interested in it as a craft. Indeed I have, over the years, taught myself a good deal about it. I look at it in terms of "now how could I knit that idea?"
So I prowled off and was warmly greeted by a number of people sitting there sewing needles in hand. No, they didn't stitch me together. 
I ignored the offer of a catalogue. I prefer to look at such things with an open mind. As it was I recognised the work of a number of people. There was texture to look at, colour to look at, form and shape. 
My problem with embroidery tends to be, "It's beautiful and often incredibly skilful - but what in the heck do you do with it?" 
There is a limit to what you can put on the walls - particularly in a house where almost all the available wall space is taken up with bookshelves. 
I also like things to be useful - embroidered bags appeal to me. You can put books and knitting in those. Yes, you can see where my real interests lie. 
But embroidery, even the sort you "simply hang on the wall" is not a waste of time. There was an impressive range of work from the junior members of that guild. It was lively, colourful and creative. 
    "We lose them for a while," one of the convenors told me, "In their teens and twenties they are studying and going to work and don't find the time - but they often come back."
It was that "often come back" that was so important. We desperately need to give those juniors creative experiences, creative experiences they can enjoy so much that the urge to create something will, even if it lies dormant for a bit, resurface. 
We grow when we create.

Saturday 29 September 2018

It's the memory problem

again isn't it?
What if a certain judge who has been nominated for a position on the highest court in the US and a certain professor accusing him of unspeakable acts both honestly believe they are telling the truth?
No, hear me out please. This is a serious question.
It is a question of major importance to the law and one which has received far too little attention.
Our memories are faulty. We may genuinely believe we remember things, that they are so fixed in our memories that we will never forget them. We believe we will remember, can remember and will always remember the most minute of details.
We don't. 
We can even be wrong about the big things. They may have happened - or they may not have happened. They may have happened in a certain way - not have happened. People we know may or may not have been there.
In my family I am considered to be the person who can remember things. I know why this is so and I also know that my memory is far from perfect.
I remember things because I have the language to remember things. I can remember things from a very early time in my life but some are no more than vague impressions. I wouldn't want to have to give evidence about those. My slightly later memories are sharper because I had more language. By the time I started school I want to believe that my memories are sharp and clear and accurate. They aren't of course - although I have no doubt that I can remember more than many children.
The Senior Cat and I were discussing something yesterday. It was something that occurred in my early childhood.  He made some shelving for a small shed out of something called "dexion". That same dexion now  holds the pots he uses for gardening. It is no surprise that I know it exists - and can remember for what purpose it was first used. I also remember the shed. 
I know I don't remember the shed that well. I remember I was not allowed inside the shed. It had a range of things in it that were not safe for a very inquisitive small child. But I said to the Senior Cat 
"And I remember you painting the door of the shed. It was blue."
"No, it was green."
"It was blue."
"No, you're wrong. It was green."
We argued about this for a moment longer and then I said, "No, it had to be blue because you painted my first tricycle red but there wasn't enough paint so you painted the tray at the back blue."
The Senior Cat shrugged and we stopped discussing it.
Now, I honestly believe I am right about that but there is no way either of us can prove it.  I do remember watching the Senior Cat paint the second hand tricycle he was given for me. Am I right or wrong about the tray? 
That tricycle was an enormous event in my life. I could suddenly go places - and did I go! I don't think I will forget it - unless I am unfortunate enough to get Alzheimer's. But do I remember the colour correctly?
Of course we can argue that the judge's accuser was a lot older, the memory much more recent and much more.  But the reality is  that in a highly charged and very emotional setting memories about what actually happened and what we want to believe happened can be two different things. 
We can believe people are what they are not. It can depend entirely on whose side we are on. Do we believe that a murdered daughter is pretty well perfect and that the grieving family "deserves justice" and thus find someone guilty of her murder - or do we acknowledge that she was a drinker and a drug  user and that her death was an accident in which he played no part? The family and those who side with them will always want to believe the former. Those who know the man in question will no doubt always want to believe the latter.
And yes, those "year books" accurate are they? I've never seen any similar sort of thing here which is a completely accurate representation of those in it or the events which took place. They most certainly should not be used as character evidence. I can remember vicious comments written about a quiet girl from a remote area - simply because she had not joined in the alcohol fuelled events that had dominated her first year at university. It had been so cleverly done that other people thought it was funny at the time.  If she went for a job interview now and that was brought up she wouldn't get the job even though it was completely wrong.
Simply accusing someone and saying you remember what happened is not enough. Even corroborative evidence can be wrong if it simply relies on memory.
The law has a problem with all this. It is one which we have yet to overcome. 

Friday 28 September 2018

"We don't fail anyone"

was the message.
An acquaintance in the US sent me (and all his work colleagues) a story about a teacher in the US who has been fired for refusing to do something absurd. If the story is correct she refused to give students who failed to even pass an assignment in 50%.
Is there a school out there really expecting teachers to give students 50% for doing nothing at all? 
In all likelihood there is more than one school doing just that. They are also doing harm at the same time.
Universities are also doing the same thing with some students. I was told I couldn't fail a certain group of students. I challenged the decision with respect to one student. He was not doing the work. He expected to  be passed without making an effort. Daddy was a diplomat in another country. His son was arrogant. He didn't like me. He didn't want to be taught anything by a woman. All that was made obvious. What angered me though was that this young man had not done well enough to get into university in his own country and strings had been pulled to get him into university here. I was told, "He's bright. He can do the work."
Perhaps he was bright - but he didn't do the work.
At law school they were strict about assignments being handed in on time - and rightly so because the courts won't wait for you. That said genuine excuses (and a medical certificate for illness) would be accepted. They were not unreasonable. 
I remember the Dean telling me about a former student who had failed a subject. He had a good track record and the staff thought it was bit odd. As was always the case they questioned the failure. It was someone else who told them that the boy's father had died the night before the exam. He had done the exam in the morning and gone home to his family in the afternoon. 
      "We offered to pass him on the basis of his work during the year but he chose to sit the exam again." 
I know who the student was because he told me about it later. He's at the top of the profession now.
In teacher training college there were constant failures to pass things in on time. It must have been infuriating for the staff. Most of the time students didn't even bother to ask for an extension. They simply handed things in late. There would be a deluge on a lecturer's desk on Mondays - because things had been due in on the previous Friday.
I asked for an overnight extension once, just once.  We had been given a number of assignments due on the first day of the new college term. College terms and school terms were not the same but I had gone home to my parents in the country and continued to work on them. While I was there my maternal grandmother died suddenly. My mother was given the usual three days "compassionate" leave and, because there were no relief/supply teachers available, I took over her class. It took all my time and energy to deal with that. I did none of my college work.  I went back to the city on the Friday before the Monday start and tried desperately hard to finish my work. I was thankful that the "holiday" period meant assignments were due on Monday. I'd been told when I began my teacher training that, because of my disability and doubts about my ability to be a teacher at all, I would not be given extensions under any circumstances. If I couldn't keep up I would be out. At 4:50pm - assignment due ten minutes later - I went to the lecturer in question. I had written the required assignment but I had not finished typing it up. 
I told him what had happened. I showed him I had written the assignment. Could I hand it in the following morning? I can remember quite literally holding my breath waiting for his answer. My future career depended on it.
     "You've done the work Cat."
And that is what mattered to him. I'd done the work. I passed the assignment in first thing the following morning.
Throughout the rest of my tertiary education I was first a "junior housemistress" in a  boarding school and then held down tutoring jobs in order to keep myself.  It didn't leave much time and I didn't have much money but I passed the exams and I handed my assignments in on time. There were other students in a similar position. 
If we could do it then why couldn't other students? I don't think I was particularly dedicated. Some of the things I needed to learn bored me silly. I can't remember a lot of what I had to learn in law school. It simply wasn't relevant to my job. But, I had to do it in order to get where I not just wanted but needed to go.
I know life is tough for some "kids". I know they are almost certainly "bored" at school but getting something for nothing isn't helping them. Giving them a "50" for doing nothing isn't going to motivate them. Having positive expectations about them instead might help.

Thursday 27 September 2018

"Nobody even said hello to me,"

she told me.
I find "pop up" stands selling things in the shopping centre irritating.  I am also, perhaps wrongly, irritated with the stands that try and "just tell you about" - often a charity looking for money.
Despite that I try to acknowledge all of them at least once as I go past.  It's polite. They are, after all, visitors.
There is someone among all these people I know slightly. She turns up a couple of times a year. Her job is not to sell so much as to make appointments for people who might be interested in buying gutter guards and blinds to speak to someone whose job it is to sell. She is not "in your face". That isn't her job. If you want to ask about the products she will tell you. If you want to make an appointment she will do it for you. 
She is pleasant, friendly and does the job as she has been told to do it. 
It is not her job to accost you. She doesn't rush at you with pamphlets in hand.
Perhaps that's the problem.
I met her several years ago. She arrived and, as I was passing, I saw she looked harassed. I did what I thought was the natural thing, I asked if she needed some information.
     "No, but I've just been told I need to move my car. I can't leave all this here. I just have to pack it up and take it back and..."
I told her I would stand there and watch over the load (and it was a load) while she went and shifted her car if she would trust me. 
Offer gratefully received she rushed off and a few minutes later she was back looking relieved. She wouldn't be fined for parking the car in the wrong spot. She would be "open" on time.
Since then if I have seen her there - or somewhere else - I have stopped and spoken to her. It has generally been nothing more than a brief hello but I have done it.
And yes, she is there this week. I saw her yesterday and asked, "Good day yesterday?" 
"No, not at all. Nobody even said hello to me."
I probed. No, it wasn't simply a lack of customers. Nobody had spoken to her as they went past. She had to stand there all day without anyone even bothering to say hello to her.
I think even I, who might be able to plan the next piece of writing, would be bored by that. She was, rightly, feeling very down about it. 
   "Oh, it was very quiet anyway. There weren't many people around," she told me. Yes, she was trying to be nice about it.
But it made me think - and then think again. We don't need gutter guard or  blinds but just greeting her as I pass need not take time. Once it would have been a given. People would at least acknowledge one another. Now people are "too busy" or they are looking at the screen on their phone or they can't be bothered.
I think the world was a safer place when I was a kitten. Not everyone had a car. Phones were only available at home. 
If we were out and about we actually talked to the people we saw. Perhaps we should try it again? 

Wednesday 26 September 2018

So, it's your birthday?

It's your birthday and some people don't like you celebrating your birthday? What can you do about it? Change the date of your birthday?
There is yet another argument erupting about celebrating Australia Day on the 26th January. Some members of the indigenous community see Australia Day as offensive. They claim it is Invasion Day...the day the "whites" took over  their country. They want the date changed, indeed they would prefer there was no such thing as Australia Day.
I got bailed up  in the shopping centre yesterday and asked for my opinion. It is the sort of thing I dread. It doesn't matter what you say someone is going to disagree with you.
I am however with the new Prime Minister on this issue. You don't change the date of your birthday. The birthday of Downunder is considered to be the day the First Fleet arrived in 1788 and Captain Philip raised the Union Jack in Sydney Cove. It should be left that way.
I know a considerable number of people with indigenous heritage and only two of around almost one hundred have reservations about "Australia Day".  They don't see any reason to change it. Those angling to change it do not appear to be in the majority. It is, as with many other things, a minority who claim they want it changed. 
One of them, a well educated and very aware man, has gone as far as to say, "Australia was not invaded. One fleet of ships does not make an invasion. People who say that don't understand their own history."
He may well be right. Some dreadful things were done to the indigenous population but the country is vast. People didn't move that far. It wasn't a nation. It was tribal. There were tribal wars. It took almost 200 years before contact was made with all the indigenous people.
 But the same educated man has said more than once, "What do people want? Do they want to go back to living the lifestyle of their far distant ancestors? Would they like everyone else to leave? Would they expect them to leave all the benefits behind or could they take all the schools and hospitals, the transport and communication?"
It's not a simple thing. It's not simply a matter of saying "you invaded us and took away our land". In many cases those saying such things have ancestors who are the people they now claim to be invaders. Some of the most outspoken are people whose indigenous heritage forms only a tiny part of their ancestry. The most outspoken person I know, one who would like "Australia Day wiped off the calendar", has just one indigenous great-great grandparent. The rest are a mix of Irish, Afghan and Chinese. That is something she would like to deny but it remains a fact. 
The new Prime Minister has suggested having a day which acknowledges those who were here before white settlement. Some would welcome that but it would not satisfy this outspoken person. She has already complained about that. 
My own view, apart from keeping the date as it is? I think it is time to look at the actual past, not the past people would like it to be - and weigh it up from there.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

The sacking of the Managing Director of the ABC

should come as no surprise. The only surprise is that Michelle Guthrie lasted as long as she did.
She was appointed with a lot of the sort of "we've got a woman in the job" type comments that should have made people suspicious from the start.
I am sure the Board of the ABC thought she was going to be a nice, compliant female who would do just as they wanted. I am sure that some of the staff thought they would be able to do just as they liked. 
There were complaints that she was "not a good communicator". Perhaps she wasn't. I don't know. I have never met her and I am never likely to meet her. 
I do know some people who work for the ABC. Several of them strongly believe they should be allowed "to do the job without interference". In other words they believe they should be allowed to work without being scrutinised and say whatever they want to say. One of them got very annoyed with me last year because I refused to be interviewed over an issue I feel strongly about. I knew her views on the topic were not mine. I did not want to jeopardise possible funding - which we got - because of the way she would likely have presented what I had to say. No publicity is better than bad publicity, especially when the publicity comes from a "respected" journalist within the ABC. 
Some ABC staff have been a law unto themselves for a long time now. They believe they are so senior and have reported on so many important issues they can do as they like. 
The ABC is supposed to be the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is a publicly funded organisation. It is supposed to be there to represent all points of view. The news is supposed to be presented in an impartial manner. Journalists are supposed to report the news in an impartial manner. 
It doesn't happen. It has probably never happened. Personal views will always get in the way although the best journalists will usually do their best to hide their thinking. 
But the ABC has been allowing bias to show for some time now. Of course journalists who want to enter politics are going to use their role to boost their chances. They will do it in the same way that other union members interested in a political career will endeavour to rise up the union ranks to the point where the conference members will endorse them or people in business will join a party and donate to it in the hope of pre-selection. The difference between journalists and other hopefuls is that journalists have another audience they can endeavour to influence.
A neighbour of ours was enthusiastic about a book she read last year. She thought it was "meticulously researched" and "very well written". She offered it to the Senior Cat. He looked carefully at it. He found errors of fact - facts that could easily have been checked. He told me, "I don't like style."
He passed the book over to me. Yes, errors of fact - I found some more. I sincerely hope my writing is much better than that of the journalist in question.
The book was written in haste by a journalist anxious to make a mark before a topic ceased to be news. It was written in a clear attempt not merely to inform but to present a point of view. The book has sold quite well. The high profile of the journalist in question ensured that it would. 
Our neighbour is a sensible and intelligent person but the book accords with her view of the world and that topic in particular. Her views have been confirmed by the journalist. Pointing out errors of fact to her does not help. She can't see them. They don't exist. The journalist "isn't like that".
It will be the same for many other people - and they will pass the book on to others to read. It will, and probably already has, done more harm than good. 
If Michelle Guthrie not only wanted to modernise the ABC but root out some of that sort of behaviour she didn't have a chance - whether she communicated well or not.   

Monday 24 September 2018

There is a new nursing home

opening not far from here. An acquaintance of mine had the details because her mother is currently in hospital and will  be going into the nursing home for some "respite care". She will not in fact being going home again - but she will not be staying in that nursing home either.
Oh yes, her daughter would be very happy to have her mother in that nursing home  but....the bond is $850,000 up front.
    "We don't have that sort of money."
I wonder how many do have that sort of money. There won't be many. We certainly couldn't afford it. 
On top of that of course there are the fees for staying there. While this woman is there on respite the fees are reasonable enough. Her daughter, the only child, will be able to find the money although it won't be easy. After that there are all sorts of problems.
A lot of those problems come about because this woman gets part of her late husband's superannuation. She doesn't get the pension. 
I won't go into the complex financial details but people like her and people like the Senior Cat (who has superannuation but no pension) can be in serious difficulties  because of the way the system works.
There is another problem the Senior Cat is unaware of and which we have no intention of telling him. If he needs to go into a nursing home at any point then the house must be sold. I can't go on living here. I should be able to do that at least while he is alive but the system works in such a way that I won't be able to do that. 
I should be able to get what is called a "carer's allowance" - a small amount of money the government provides for people who care for a disabled or frail aged person at home. I can't get that because of the Senior Cat's superannuation. His superannuation payments are  under a government scheme. They stop the day he dies. He can't do what many people have done and reduce his assets in order to get even a tiny part-pension. As many people I know have said to me, "It's not getting the pension. It's getting the perks which go with it."
They have actually spent money in order to be better off.
It's an odd system and one which is inherently unfair but it is unlikely to change because it saves the government money. 
Now my acquaintance has the time her mother is in respite to find a place in another nursing home, a place where the bond will still be perhaps $500,000. Her mother could die in six weeks, six months or six years. There is no way of knowing that. Her mother is barely mobile and is now in a moderate stage of dementia. She will, from my own observations, soon be unable to care for herself at all and her daughter cannot physically handle someone her mother's size or with her mother's needs. 
     "Someone has to die so there is a place for Mum. I hate wishing that," her daughter told me.
I'd hate wishing that for the Senior Cat too. He would hate being in a nursing home, perhaps having to share a room. 
Why do we treat the elderly in such an appalling fashion? Yes, it is time for that Royal Commission into aged care.

Sunday 23 September 2018

"There's a knot in it,"

I was told.
Half way through the row of a beginner knitter this is nothing short of disaster...or is it?
A new knitter in the group is making a scarf. Her work is slow and painstaking. It is also exquisitely even. When she gains confidence she is going to be an excellent knitter. 
But for now she is making herself a plain garter stitch scarf out of acrylic yarn. It is not what I would have chosen for a first project but she is happy with it as well as old enough and patient enough to persist with it to the end. 
Yesterday she came across a knot in the yarn she was using. She is nearing the end of her first 100gm ball of yarn and we had discussed what she needed to do when joining in the second. You can't splice that sort of yarn - and I am not keen on splicing anyway.
I explained what to do - and I made her do it herself.
As I was doing it I tried to remember what my grandmother had taught me. I don't remember coming across a knot. I know that the first time I needed to add a new piece of yarn it was because my grandmother was helping me to make yet another pot holder but,  in her wisdom, this second one was striped. 
"You will be able to see it grow," she told me - and she was right.  I could see it go from blue to pale blue to yellow to brown. I was simply using the left over yarn she had from other projects. I know she must have sewn all the ends in because my manual dexterity did not extend to holding a sewing needle of any sort. All the same I knitted those stripes and I saw it grow. 
I was also taught about the magic of splicing. Grandma was an expert - or so it seemed to me. Even looking back after all this time I think she was probably very good at it. Of course there was no such thing as "machine washable" yarn when she was taught to knit so it was much easier to divide the strands of yarn, remove some an then join the old onto the new. I remember Grandma explaining how you didn't want knots in your knitting, particularly in socks. Seeing someone splice yarn always takes me back to watching Grandma join in another ball of yarn, grey yarn for Grandpa's socks. Yarn came in skeins too - held by me as she wound it.
That never seemed to tangle or knot.
I wonder about all that now. New knitters can learn what to do about a knot but they rarely learn about splicing and, most of the time, yarn comes ready wound. 
It's not nearly as much fun.

Saturday 22 September 2018

"When can you let us have the patterns?"

"What patterns?"  I asked.
Okay I knew what patterns she was talking about but I had no intention of saying so. This person wants something for nothing. She probably won't use the patterns. She just wants to have them.
I am tired of this already.
The Queen Victoria Challenge is fine. I am still enthusiastic about it, very enthusiastic perhaps. I want it to be a success.
What I am not enthusiastic about is the expectations of some other people. 
Yes, I expected to give people some help but how much help? 
I think I explained somewhere that Victorian era knitting patterns do not say things like, "Two balls of X yarn, a pair of Y mm needles. Tension/gauge Z sts to 10cms." Nor do they say things like, "Cast on 10/15/20 sts and knit 20 rows in k2 p2 rib"
They are much more likely to call for "fine" yarn and "fine" needles. They often say nothing about tension/gauge. It is possible that they will even say things like "make sufficient stitches" and then - if you are lucky - they might tell you to "knit two inches in rib pattern".
The Victorians assumed people knew far more and that they would be able to get help when they needed it. They were reasonable assumptions too. People did more knitting and sewing and the like.They had to or they would not have been clothed. Only the wealthiest people could rely on others to help them - and if you had servants what did you do with your time anyway?
Reading the patterns is interesting and sometimes frustrating. The abbreviations are not necessarily explained - indeed, likely not explained.  It took me more than a moment to realise that "tto" was an abbreviation for a form of double decrease - decreasing two stitches at the same time.  The writer was probably thinking "take two over".  
I made the Balmoral bonnet (yesterday's post)without a pattern. I couldn't find one with the pictures I found. (If anyone has any idea where to find one from the Victorian era I would appreciate knowing.) In all probability the people who made them did so without a pattern. I can write a pattern - but it will be a modern interpretation of the traditional item.
There are other patterns though. I've seen some "poetry mittens" - mittens with verses written into them. The verses are often of a religious or moral nature. Should I chart a pair? Would anyone make them if I did? Then there are the wonderful collars and cuffs, the gloves, the stockings. the  reticules and the shawls...and so much more. I can't translate all of it so I will stay with small things, things more likely people will try to make.
Yes, I will try to "translate" the patterns into a modern form but I am wondering just what people expect and want....and whether they will really be interested. 

Friday 21 September 2018

I am about to felt something

I have knitted - deliberately.
It's a "Balmoral bonnet" - one of those beret like hats with a chequered band. They were popular in Victorian times and probably worn on an everyday basis by some men. Now their use tends to be more restricted butt  they are often worn with other highland dress. 
I made one to see if I could work out how they could be knitted - and then felted. 
They are not shaped quite the same way as a beret. They don't have a ribbed border in order to fit snugly to the head. That was a problem for a start. How many stitches would I need? It needed to be a multiple of four for the chequered band. 
I made it with a knitted facing. If I make another I might just make it with a grosgrain ribbon facing instead. It won't be as thick. It will be more comfortable to wear.  If I did make one with a knitted facing I would start with a provisional cast on. (For the non-knitters among you that means putting the stitches on the needle in such a way that you can undo something and then pick the stitches up and work in the opposite direction. ) That would solve the problem with the band. 
If you are making a beret you dramatically increase the number of stitches  after the band.  With the Balmoral I felt the shaping was different. I increased gradually. I have also increased at not just eight different points on every second row but I have increased in a spiral in the hope that this will make it more rounded. When it looked wide enough and deep enough (allowing for the felting) I decreased again for the crown. 
Now I need to tidy away some ends and...the moment of truth will arrive. It may work. It may be a disaster. If it works I have no idea who will wear it. The Senior Cat detests wearing any sort of hat apart from his ancient cotton gardening hat - and even that bothers him. If it doesn't work I will have wasted some good wool and a week's worth of knitting.  We will see.
I am reminded however of the Senior Cat doing some washing in the absence of my mother. He put everything in the washing machine at the same time. That included something red belonging to the Black Cat and his own fairly good blue woollen pullover. The pullover came out with a purplish tinge and it no longer fitted him. It was worn by me and then my brother and then Middle Cat. It wasn't wasted  but it was not what my mother had intended. 
It is for that reason that each year at university I undertook the task of explaining how to wash a woollen garment. Impecunious students actually listened to that lecture.

Thursday 20 September 2018

How could you murder your wife

and then live with the fact for forty-five years without confessing or giving yourself away? 
That story in the paper has me bewildered. It seems, if the reports are correct, that the man in question has gone on living in the same house where he has apparently buried the body on the same property.
The very idea of even accidentally injuring someone or any other living thing worries me. The idea of murdering someone is beyond my emotional comprehension. 
The Senior Cat has always said he would do violence to protect his family. Perhaps he would but it would have a devastating effect on him. Caning children was still permitted when he was in the teaching service. He hated it. He didn't allow his staff to do it. He  would cane for two reasons. One was for throwing stones and the other was for gross insubordination to a teacher. In the first instance there had to be an intent to harm the other person by throwing the stone and in the second there had to be a failure to apologise. On the two occasions he caned that I knew about in his forty or so years of teaching he came home with a raging headache. He hated doing it. 
Compared with murder the three hits with a cane - which is all he would give - were I suppose minimal violence. If he ever murdered someone it would be immediately obvious that something was very, very wrong. 
And yet this other man has apparently managed to live for forty-five years and tell the same story over and over again - the story that his wife walked out on him. It is the story he told not just the police but his family, his wife's family and - his children. I can't help wondering what they think, what his grandchildren,and what other family and friends think. They are almost certainly ordinary, decent people. 
I am sorry for them.


Wednesday 19 September 2018

Being late for appointments

or meetings is something I don't like at all.
I would rather be early and wait.
Recently I was "late" in that there was a genuine misunderstanding about the time I was to meet two other people. One person had made the time. I assumed the other knew. It was a muddle and I worried that person - who has had more than enough to cope with this year.
It wasn't deliberate but I still felt badly about it.
I am always bothered by the fact that it is only good luck that will get me to a regular Saturday meeting on time. It begins at 1:30 and I really need to be there at least five minutes beforehand to sign in and find a seat.  I hate having to creep in after the meeting has started.  Leaving before the Senior Cat has finished eating also bothers me these days.  (If I am totally honest leaving the Senior Cat bothers me. We both know I need to go out sometimes and he wants me to go but, even with the security pendant, how safe is he?)
And then there is Middle Cat. Middle Cat muddles through life. She has never been "organised". Her youngest has summed it up as 
"There is ordinary time, Greek time, and Mum time."
It has always been a problem. She is responsible for the Senior Cat's medical appointments. He hates being late even more than I do. Yesterday she was late. She arrived at the time they should have actually been at the podiatrist. It wasn't a disaster. The podiatrist was very nice to the Senior Cat - perhaps realising that it wasn't his fault in the slightest. She just said, "I managed to get some paperwork done." 
But that doesn't help the Senior Cat. He is still feeling upset this morning.
Middle Cat was late because she lay down - and fell asleep. I know her lifestyle is chaotic compared with ours but....
Now I am wondering, do I just say what I know the Senior Cat would like me to say, "Next time I'll go with you in a taxi"? I know that means ordering a taxi far too early (because they can be late too) and waiting. Anything we do like that is much more difficult for the Senior Cat. Middle Cat's vehicle is much easier to access. Middle Cat knows how to help him get in and out too.  
But he worries so much about her being late - and this is not the first time - that I wonder whether that anxiety and his embarrassment about being late would be cancelled out by the alternative.
I love Middle Cat. I just wish she would organise herself. 

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Putting needles into strawberries

is not "vandalism". It is an attack on public safety, on public health - and on the livelihoods of those who grow them, distribute them and sell them.
For those of you in Upover and elsewhere unaware of the story let me tell you. A criminal idiot with no regard to public health and safety decided s/he would contaminate a punnet of strawberries by placing a sewing needle inside a strawberry. 
The repercussions have been immense. For reasons of public health and safety the matter had to be made public. There may have been more needles inside strawberries and failing to tell people would have been irresponsible in the extreme.
And that meant there have been more criminal idiots who have decided to do the same thing. There have been at least seven confirmed cases of contamination now. 
It doesn't sound like much does it? Just think about it for a moment.  The big buyers stopped buying from the first grower. I don't know what has happened to the first grower, the business, the people it employs. I hope they recover. Then the copycat attacks mean that other growers are under a cloud too. 
Thousands upon thousands of punnets of strawberries have been thrown out for fear of contamination. What a waste of food!
I went into the supermarket yesterday. I don't buy my fruit and vegetables there but I noticed they had removed all the strawberries. 
I went around to the greengrocer and saw they had also removed all their strawberries. Then one of the staff there pounced on me and said, "Cat, I hope you didn't use the strawberries you bought on Saturday. We'll replace them later."
No, I didn't. I had bought them on my way home from a meeting and intended to use them on Sunday. Then came the warning that there had been two needles found in that brand. Rather than risk anything at all I threw out what was probably a perfectly all right punnet of strawberries.  The Senior Cat is too old to handle that sort of potential trauma.  
I resented doing it. The strawberries were a very reasonable price. They looked very good quality. They were intended as a Sunday treat for us.  The thought of slicing them finely went through my mind but the Senior Cat looked so anxious I threw them in the bin - and found that our neighbours had done the same because they have small children. 
It is putting people off eating fruit - and we want people to eat more fruit and vegetables. 
Strawberry growing is a $100m industry in this state alone. A lot of it goes overseas. If the growers can't supply then their buyers will go elsewhere and more people will lose their jobs with all the effects that flow on from that.  
One "small" act of vandalism has caused millions of dollars worth of damage.  
I don't want the punnet I bought replaced. I want people to keep their jobs - and enjoy eating strawberries.

Monday 17 September 2018

A Royal Commission into Aged Care

is long overdue.
I spend too much time going in and out of local aged care facilities. I know too many "old" people in them.
Yesterday I was pondering this as I pedalled  up to the shopping centre because, almost unbelievably, the optician's business is open - albeit for limited services.
One of those services was the minor repair to the Senior Cat's glasses. The girl there dealt with the problem quickly and cheerfully. She informed me why the problem occurred (and may occur again) and cleaned his glasses rather more effectively than he does.  (No, it is one of those things he can do for himself. I do not do it.)
We agreed that, at 95, if he can read and wants to read then he should be able to read. He most certainly should not have to wait for days to get something that simple fixed.
It is for the same sort of reason that I go in and out of the local nursing homes. I know people there. They often have no other visitors who can do small things like that.
No, it isn't that I like doing it or want to do it or that it makes me feel good. If I am honest I don't like doing it and I don't want to do it and it makes me feel depressed.
It makes me feel depressed because all the aged care homes I need to visit smell of overcooked vegetables, disinfectant and those indefinable smells of "institution", "lack of care" and "neglect".  You are assailed by the sound of the television set in the "day lounge" or the sound of voices at "community singing" or a member of staff complaining that someone has not made it to the bathroom on time...and so it goes on.
I have bought clothes for people who can no longer go out to shop but still want to look good - even when they no longer get visitors more than a couple of times a year. I have taken in library books they want to read - not the light romances and westerns it is thought they want to read. I have taken in knitting yarn, needles, patterns, and other craft materials. I have taken delivery of hats and blankets and baby items they, both men and women, have knitted and crocheted for other people.
Yes, they can still think of others even when others are no longer thinking of them. "It makes me feel as if I am still of some use dear."
It is said that around 40% of people in nursing homes never get visitors...and that another 20% are visited only rarely, perhaps on occasions such as birthdays or when something needs to be done - all too often to the advantage of the visitor. That leaves a mere 40% who do get visitors.
I prowl in and see hopeful, eager faces. A visitor? Who is it? Is it someone I know? Have they come to see me? It's why I will stop, even when I really don't have the time. I'll stop and chat just for a few minutes. They know I am busy and will often send me on my way after a moment or two. "Off you go girl. I know you have things to do. Come back soon though."
I listen to their tales. I hug them when one of their number leaves them as inevitably they must. 
I have been ordered out of rooms by angry relatives fearful of losing their inheritance - and hugged by others who have lived in places as far away as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Washington DC.  "Thank you so much for looking after Mum - or Dad" - when all I did was visit occasionally, do a little shopping now and then or simply listen to what they wanted to tell me.
It is the people who have families, families that are not close knit and close by, who are most at risk. They are the least likely to get visitors. It is, odd though it may seem, single people who have developed and maintained their own social networks who are most likely to get visitors. And of course it all depends on remaining mentally alert and able.
I know the staff are watching me. I am a deliberately irregular visitor. If they don't know when I am coming then they need to be prepared for me to be there at any time. It should not but does make for better care of those I go to see.
My siblings and I know that this is not what we want for the Senior Cat. He would hate it. He would hate the lack of privacy, the meals taken with others, the "entertainment" and much more. I know many of those already there detest it too. 
We have an ageing population in this state and in many other places. It is time to rethink aged care. 

Sunday 16 September 2018

"A lens just popped out of my glasses,"

the Senior Cat told me.
He sounded more than a little anxious about this - as well he might. The Senior Cat doesn't see that well even with his glasses these days.
He has worn glasses since early childhood. His eyesight has been such that sport was a mystery to him. He could never see the ball even when it was coming directly towards him. 
When he dutifully went off to enlist in the armed services (non-combat please) they took one look at him and said, "Not with that eyesight and those flat feet." They may have been desperate - but not that desperate.
He wore the same pair of sturdy frames for years. Last year the optician insisted the frames had to be changed. They could not, they claimed, fit the new prescription into the old frames. The Senior Cat sighed and bought new frames. They looked almost identical to the old frames but - they are not as sturdy.
I took them up to the optician once and asked them to fix them because a lens had popped out. Yes, they had twisted slightly. 
Over the past week the Senior Cat has been complaining that "the table is sloping". I told him it wasn't. He insisted it was. He even went to get the spirit level from his workshop to show me. It was not sloping. 
I was worried, particularly when he seemed dramatically clumsier than usual. I was actually very worried. There had to be something wrong. 
As nothing else had changed I assumed that there had been a sudden and dramatic change in his  ieyesight. Middle Cat was about to phone the eye specialist he sees for his glaucoma and ask for an appointment.
And then...a lens popped out again. He takes them off for his afternoon catnap of course. I came home just as he was getting up. He came out and sat in his chair to clean the lenses - and said one had come out. He couldn't see it.
I hunted and hunted. I got him to take his pullover off in case it had got caught in that. No. I got the torch and looked under his chair. No easy feet and a reminder that I need to vacuum under there and not just around it. I took everything on the big wicker container next to his chair off. No, it wasn't there. 
I wasted twenty minutes searching - and not finding. He insisted that he had "felt it pop out" when he was cleaning them. I went towards the bedroom to look there but he called me back. It was not in the bedroom. I hunted some more. He told me to stop.
I finished making him a cup of tea and, when he was sitting there drinking it, I prowled off to the bedroom.
Yes, there was the lens - where I thought it might be. He took it with an embarrassed sort of purr and fitted it back in. He cleaned both lenses and put his glasses on.
The table was no longer sloping. I had actually thought it might not be. While I had been hunting my thought had been that perhaps the lens had just shifted slightly at first but not enough to pop out. That would have made a difference.
I will have to make a trip to the optician. The Senior Cat will not have to make a trip to the specialist. 

Saturday 15 September 2018

Yellow roses and other yellow and white

flowers were laid out across the top of the coffin. There were brightly coloured pictures drawn by young children right around the church.
R.... was a grandmother who loved her garden, loved flowers and, above all else, loved her family and other people - unconditionally.  Yes, another funeral yesterday. A full Catholic Mass for the sister of our good friend P....
Middle Cat and I went. It would have been too much for the Senior Cat to handle. P... understood that.
R... and I were friends too. She had wit and a very incisive mind. I enjoyed both. The Senior Cat thoroughly enjoyed conversation with her about a wide range of issues. 
She was one of those women who, born a generation later, would almost certainly have gone on to work in a profession of some sort. As it was she was the secretary at a school for most of her working life. She undertook courses in other things to better do the job - and then courses in archaeology and anthropology for her own interest. 
She brought up six children of her own on a very tight budget - and still found room to foster other children from troubled backgrounds.
It was one of those occasions in which it was clear that the priest did know her. The church was the one in which she was baptised, confirmed, married and then farewelled. It was rare for her to miss a Sunday. When she travelled she found other places of worship but, apart from that,  only the severest illness prevented her from attending her own.
For all that her views about religion were - shall I say "robust"? They were not unthinking. Watching her two sisters go through the ritual of placing a cloth on her coffin - and later removing it - I wondered how much she, as the eldest, had influenced them. P... is a nun - although it would be difficult to recognise her as one. I could not help thinking that fifty-four years ago when she entered the convent she did not expect to even go home again. Had her sister's funeral been held then she would have been given permission to attend but another nun would have been at her side - and the service would have been in Latin. Now P... travels alone. She does not own a habit. Her friends include non-Catholics. Above all she has been free to help her older sister in the last few difficult months of her life.
Her sister approved of the changes. She was someone who looked forward, not back. There was someone in the gathered company who had a magnificent singing voice, the sort of voice that can lift and carry the generally appalling singing to a different level. I don't know who she was and I didn't get a chance to thank her but it made me even more appreciative of a life well lived and lived to the full.

Friday 14 September 2018

Common courtesy

is fast disappearing - or so it would seem.
I was in the Post Office yesterday. I was served by someone I didn't know but he dealt efficiently with me. As he was finishing and I was saying thank you one of the staff I do know well finished with someone else and then glared at his back view as he left. 
There were just the three of us left in the post office which is probably what made her feel she could say something. The man had come in talking on his phone. He had passed over some paperwork and a card - presumably to pay for something - taken the paperwork with the receipt and the card and walked out again. He made no effort at all to even meet the eyes of the person attending to him. Before you ask - it was a social conversation.  He didn't bother to interrupt it to say thank you or even nod an acknowledgment. The manner in which he behaved was discourteous in the extreme.
I like K.... the post office person a lot. I like all the staff in there. They have been very good about sorting out how to send things to strange addresses - something my job sometimes demands. They will always work out the cheapest way to send something or the best way to pack something too. 
Yesterday afternoon a friend called in to deliver something I was planning on taking to a meeting tomorrow. In the course of our brief conversation she informed me that she had been invited to talk to the group about the same  topic at some point. I don't have an issue with that. I do have an issue with the fact that the group has not informed me what they expect of me. At the last meeting I was put on the spot because the topic arose and I was asked to speak about it. I couldn't. I wasn't prepared. I didn't have the necessary information or materials with me.  I had been told that the issue was coming up in the October committee meeting and I expected to be told if they wanted me to talk about it after that. I felt embarrassed and I apologised - although I am not sure why I felt it was necessary. Nothing was said to me though. Now I don't know whether I am expected to provide the information I planned to provide or not. The friend who told me isn't sure what they want to know because, as she put it, "you're the one with all the information".  
Common courtesy would solve the problem. All it would take is a quick email saying the group wants the information or it doesn't and when they want it if they do want it.
And then, very late yesterday afternoon, the parcel delivery girl turned up. She has replaced the young man who replaced the very efficient person the Downunder Post decided was not right for the job for reasons which are a mystery to everyone - including the local post office staff and the man himself. The new delivery person is pleasant but not efficient or, I suspect, particularly intelligent. She is struggling with the job. We have got to know her because she has had to deliver a string of parcels to us for other people in the street.
(The Senior Cat being almost always home this is convenient for everyone. It makes him feel useful too.) 
But this time there was no parcel. She had been earlier in the day and delivered one which I was about to go and give to a neighbour. There should have been two parcels. She had lost one. Had someone brought it around? 
She stood there and I could see the panic and the tears. It had been a terrible day for her. She had dropped a parcel containing a very expensive bottle of wine. Something else had gone wrong at home. And there was another issue I can't mention here. 
I looked at her and said, "It's not the end of the world. Give me the tracking number and I'll look it up. I think I know what it is. It can be replaced if nobody hands it in."
Although I was feeling a little more than irritated by the time that all this will waste there was no point in getting angry with her. That would just have made matters even worse. Instead I tried to be courteous, to find a solution and to think about it from her point of view. 
I wish the man who had come into the post office earlier in the day had thought about it from K....'s point of view and that the people who expected me to do something had thought I might need to know so I could my best for them. 
It's just common courtesy.  

Thursday 13 September 2018

Newspaper cartoons are

not meant to be kind. They are generally there to make fun of a person or situation or event.
That does not mean that they are racist statements or that the people who draw the cartoons are racist.
The cartoon about Serena Williams was commenting on the behaviour of a supposedly professional sportswoman. Serena Williams was setting a very poor example and she deserved to be lampooned. Did that have anything to do with her race? 
Let's look at it another way. If she had won the match then a cartoon depicting her in caricature and praising her would almost certainly not have drawn any comment at all. 
Remember the uproar over the cartoon that Bill Leak drew of the two young boys and the policeman? That cartoon landed him in trouble with the Equal Opportunity Commission but there was nothing racist about the cartoon. Leak was simply commenting on a situation that the rest of us needed to be reminded about.
If the PC police are going to insist that only Anglo-Saxons can be depicted in cartoons then cartoonists might as well retire. It is becoming like too many other things that the PC police have had their fingers on lately.  
Recently the "golliwogs" were taken from the display cabinets at the showgrounds on the (mistaken) belief that they depicted something "racist". By no means all of the indigenous community agreed with that decision but they too had to abide by the demands of a minority within it. 
There is a local preschool that did not celebrate Christmas because, while the majority wanted it, one person objected. They did have activities for Eid though. In all likelihood those who object to the celebration of Christmas would take their shoes off to enter a mosque - as they should. What's the difference?
Yesterday there were reports about a nine year old in another state not standing for the national anthem because, it is said, she sees it as "racist".  Where does a nine year old get those sort of ideas and what does she really understand about such issues? Has she spoken to Cathy Freeman who has not just stood for the flag but carried it with pride? Do schools stop teaching the national anthem simply because one child objects? I don't like the words or the tune but it is the national anthem and I stand for it.
Racism is abhorrent and totally unacceptable but depicting someone as they are is not racist even if it is unkind.  Denying some people the right to celebrate their religious festivals while encouraging others to do so is also wrong. Refusing to stand for the national anthem which is intended to encompass everyone is wrong too.
We need cartoonists to make us aware of these acts and absurdities.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

So nearly half our year 12 students

don't finish school according to a report in this morning's paper.
What they were talking about was students finishing and achieving a SACE certificate - something that would allow many of them to head off to university.
There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. "This is not good enough!" Apparently at least a quarter of students leave with nothing at all, not even a school based acknowledgment of what they have (or have not) managed to learn.
I had prowled out to pick up the paper thinking about what I wanted to say in this morning's blog post. The report confirmed my view that I need to say this,
Yesterday was "pick  up" day for people who had put items into the state's annual show. It's a very busy morning as there are over 1500 items on display in the area I am involved in alone - and it is not the only area. 
Most of the people who put things in are older adults. They are the people who have the time to do the beautiful work that comes in about two weeks before the show begins. But, there are an increasing number of younger people. Some of those younger people are very, very good too. They have, against the odds, managed to learn the skills to create all sorts of arts and crafts objects.  Yes, those beautiful socks were knitted by someone not yet 21. That "hat for the homeless" was knitted by a 13yr old who taught herself to knit by watching YouTube videos and that hat was made by a man in his early 20s. I could go on. 
The socks won a second and so did the hat made by the young man. The hat for the homeless got a commendation - a junior competing in the open section.
The mother of the junior came in to pick her ribbon up and said,
   "She will be thrilled. I couldn't do it."
Of course she probably could if she tried but it was interesting that the girl had taught herself.
   "Nobody else in the family does anything like that," her mother told me, "We're all a bit sporty actually."
I asked if she was doing well at school. 
    "Yes, very well but she will have to give up art next year. She can't afford to waste time on that and I don't know if she will have the time to go on with this sort of thing."
I am afraid I looked at her mother and said, "If you want her to go on doing well at school then perhaps she really needs to go on doing art.  It isn't a waste of time at all. It might not look like it but it is a vital part of her education." 
I told this woman how a school inspector had, in the Senior Cat's early years as a teacher, told him, "Man is a skill hungry animal." He was referring to the desire of people to learn the skills that allow them to create things. 
We seem to have forgotten that. Schools, teachers, parents, students are obsessed with "not wasting time" on arts and crafts and creating things. Doing maths, physics, chemistry, IT, coding and other science is all considered more important than learning an art or a craft. If that is all that school consists of is it any wonder if the students are bored and want to drop out or don't complete their certificates? 
Sadly my guess is that the 13yr old won't be allowed to continue doing art at school. I just have to hope she will find the time to go on creating something at home.  

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Question time in parliament

was an even bigger shambles than usual yesterday.
It was only to be expected that the Opposition would fire at the Government over the ousting of one Prime Minister in favour of another. That they did this themselves is, of course, beside the point. That they not only did it but recycled a previous Prime Minister is also beside the point. They had ammunition and they used it.
There is also the ongoing saga of "did he or didn't he help out a mate? 
A neighbour passed on a "report" written by someone else involved in the latter saga.  If it really is an official report by a high ranking border force person then it is a disgrace. It reads like a very bad attempt to write the opening chapter to a first spy novel with romantic  overtones.  The person who wrote it lost their job over another issue and is bitter and angry. He is milking the situation - and so is the Opposition.
Closer to home the union movement is threatening strike action because of "privatisation" - something they could have avoided by making more reasonable demands over the years.  That is going to end in tears for both sides because the money is no longer there to give them what they are demanding. The issue is taking up time that needs to be spent on other things.
Mind you the "officials" are running around all the sports venues with a view to the 2026 Commonwealth Games. I suppose that's a bit like offering people cake instead of bread to eat?
Whatever was going on yesterday our elected representatives  were not running the country. 
I am off to hand back beautifully made craft work to people instead. It will be a pleasure.

Monday 10 September 2018

Millions of dollars on yet another

art gallery - this time reserved for indigenous art?
There is already an art gallery for indigenous art in our city. There is also an indigenous cultural centre.
The former will be found by those who are interested but who cannot be bothered to travel much further north. Whether what is in there is genuinely indigenous art is another question.
The latter is something that tourists are taken to in the belief that they  will then leave the state "informed" about indigenous culture.
Do I sound cynical?
Perhaps I am. "Indigenous art" is a commercial business these days.  Indigenous culture is too.
When I was a kitten we lived for a couple of years in a remote area of the state. It wasn't the most remote area possible but it was on the edge of the great ochre coloured desert. 
Not far from the school house we lived in there was a "humpy" which had been built by a very elderly aboriginal gentleman. Our mothers were not at all keen on the children mixing with him. He rarely spoke to adults and, lacking any sort of bathroom, he was probably filthy dirty.
But, looking back, his little campsite was tidy enough. People I assume were his family would appear from time to time and he would get angry with them and order us to help him tidy up and dispose of rubbish they had left. His English was not wonderful. He had probably grown up speaking one of the many desert languages. I doubt he could read or write and what he ate or did all day is a mystery to me. Still, there was no harm in him and we children recognised that.  We stayed away from him unless he indicated that he was ready for company - which was not often - but when he was willing to talk to us he told us stories. 
I wish now that I'd had the capacity to record those stories in one way or another - or do I? They were stories about his childhood and stories he was told as a child. As a child they were simply stories to me too - the stories any adult might tell. 
Now I am aware that someone "preserving" the culture of the indigenous community might try and get this old man to tell his stories to them so that they could be recorded. I am also quite certain he would not have wanted that. He seemed happy enough to tell us as children but if an adult appeared he would stop. We knew better than to expect that he would continue.  It probably  made adults suspicious of him and his intentions. I suspect he simply didn't want to tell adults his stories. They would not have listened in the same way. 
All that leaves me wondering about spending millions of dollars on a building devoted to indigenous art. I wonder what we would really be looking at? What would we be seeing - and hearing? 
Whatever it was - or indeed is - I am sure it isn't what that old man would have seen and heard.

Sunday 9 September 2018

"The back of beyond?"

Is it really...or is it almost next door?
Someone in Edinburgh has commented in her blog that ten to twelve miles out of Lerwick (Mainland, Shetland, Scotland) is in the "glorious back of beyond".  And yes, in that part of the world, it must seem a considerable distance.
In my part of the world it is much less than that. My nephews all travel further than that to work each day. There are many, many more people who travel still further. 
Many years ago the Senior Cat was the headmaster of an "area" school in the middle of an island. Most of the children came to school in buses. The longest bus run was about 53 miles or 86 kilometres - one way. It brought children from a point well inside a nature reserve into the school each day.
The buses were the big yellow sort you sometimes see in pictures of American schools. They were driven by the teachers - often into the sun in the morning and then into the sun in the afternoon - on unsealed roads. The run might start at 7:15 am and finish at 5:15pm - or thereabouts. There was a spare bus at the school in case of breakdowns. Teachers had to be able to change a tyre when a puncture occurred - often with the help of any older boys on the bus. The smallest children would often fall asleep on the way to and from school.
There were no mobile phones back then - and coverage would be poor even now. In the case of a breakdown someone would set off for the closest farm - which might well be some distance away. 
The buses, the maintenance, the routes etc. were not the Senior Cat's usual responsibility. That lay with his deputy-headmaster. If something went wrong then the deputy would have to take the spare bus out and pick the children up.
It was not easy.  
But these children did not consider themselves to be living in the back of beyond. They considered themselves fortunate to be going to school, fortunate not to be doing correspondence lessons with occasional contact through the "School of the Air".
I wonder about all that now I live in a city again. I know my siblings and I considered ourselves very fortunate we only had to walk out the gate and into the schoolyard next door when we living there. Travelling on those unsealed roads was no fun. If the graders had not been around for a while then then the car would jolt you over each rut. Broken windscreens - from stones flung up by passing vehicles - were common. There was always the danger of hitting a kangaroo or sliding on a snake crossing the road. 
I have sometimes tried to explain to people how, out in "the bush", people will travel hundreds of kilometres in a day just to go to a football match.  It may not be quite "next door" but they don't see it as any particularly great distance - especially if it means seeing people they know. When there is just you, your partner and your children on the farm and you are alone all day out in the paddocks or alone in the house then that social contact is important enough to spend an hour and the petrol money.
Distance is relative. What matters is getting there.

Saturday 8 September 2018

"Make sure you have your beeper on,"

I said as I rushed out the front door.
I had to spend yesterday at the showgrounds. I was on duty in the handicraft area again. I needed to be there in time to give someone else a ticket to enter the grounds as well. 
Middle Cat was taking me. She was running late because my BIL was blocking the driveway with the vehicle he was taking interstate. That vehicle was hitched to a heavy trailer loaded with two go-karts and all the other paraphernalia involved in a weekend of racing. No, don't ask!
The person who comes in to help the Senior Cat shower had already arrived so all I did was say, "Make sure you have your beeper on."
Oh yes, he would. The person who sees to his showering said she would too.
Confident that all was well I went off believing that the Senior Cat would be wearing his security pendant or, as he calls it, "beeper".
When I arrived home late yesterday afternoon the Senior Cat said rather hesitantly,
    "Your father is getting dopey."
    "What have you done now?"
    "Well I didn't tell you because I knew you had to go out but I can't find my beeper."
I looked at him - and tried very hard not to get very, very angry.
    "I put it on the handle of the walker when I was getting dressed and I think it fell off in the access cab yesterday. I didn't want to tell you so...."
I went on looking at him.
    "Well I looked everywhere - three times - and I still couldn't find it so I rang the ambulance service and they sent a new one by courier." (The ambulance service is in charge on the security pendant service he uses.)
All right I suppose he had another one within two hours and the courier service they use would have made certain he answered the door and was wearing the new one before they left but....
I would not have left the house if I had known he could not find it. I would have waited until the situation was sorted out.
The Senior Cat hates wearing the pendant. I don't blame him. It's a reminder of all sorts of things he would prefer not to think about. He doesn't like things hanging around his neck - the safest option by far -  and he has set it off accidentally on a couple of occasions. (They answer promptly and he has had to explain he's fine and it was accidental. They seem to be used to those sort of calls! On the two occasions we have needed to call them urgently they have been there promptly and he has been taken to hospital. It's a wonderful service and makes my life much easier too.)
But, he does need to wear it. It is peace of mind for both of us - and it would not have been yesterday if I had known what was going on. 
Next time I see S.... when she comes to help him shower on Monday I am going to ask her to check he is wearing it before she leaves and, if he ever loses it again, to make sure he has called Middle Cat  before she leaves the house. 
Middle Cat will growl much more effectively than I can because she doesn't have to live with him.

Friday 7 September 2018

"If we can get the kids involved,

it would be really great."
Yes, it would be. I was talking to people yesterday about what we have called, "The Queen Victoria Challenge."
I can imagine Queen Victoria sitting there. She is busy at her spinning wheel because she wastes no time and she is issuing orders.
    "You will make...and you will make...."
Her Majesty rather likes the idea of encouraging the young to create, to be busy, to be active - and of course to be seen and not heard and keep out of all mischief.  What can they make?
I like the idea of children being creative, busy, active and keeping out of mischief. They will be seen and heard of course. There have been some around the showgrounds who have been seen and heard in very positive ways. They are showing animals they have helped to breed. They are showing others their technical expertise. They are talking about projects they are involved in. 
Occasionally they have come through the handicrafts area and looked at things other children have made...and what adults have made.
Next year in particular we want more of them to be involved. The convenors of the junior art and craft and then the junior textiles came and talked to me yesterday. They looked at some of the material I had gathered and asked me about other material. There is a lot of material out there on the internet. There are plenty of ideas that children can become involved. We want them to be involved.
    "We would love  it if we had the problem of too much rather than too little," the Convenor in charge of the Open Art and Craft told them. 
I have no idea what we would do or how we would do it but we would want to display everything that came in, especially anything made by a child.  They come looking to see if their work is there and then see other things.
    "How did they do that?" and "Look at that!" and "That is way cool!" 
Yesterday someone stopped and asked me where to find the junior textiles section. I was just about to show someone where to find her very elderly mother's work in an adjacent display cabinet so I took them all down there. I pointed out the relevant display cabinet to the adult who said she knew her mother's work and would show it to her friend. Then I took the mother and father and child to where the child's work was on display. Children don't get prizes as such but they do get commendations. 
And there was the little girl's work with a commendation on it. She looked at it and then her face broke into a smile. 
    "Pretty good?" I asked.
She nodded and whispered, "Thank you."
It gave her parents a moment to compose themselves. I could see why. She was sitting in a tiny wheelchair with an oxygen bottle on the back and her father told me as she and her mother went a little further down to find her sister's work,
     "Thank you. It is the only chance she had."
No, she won't be with us next year.
If we can do even just that much for one more child then it will be worth getting the children involved.

Thursday 6 September 2018

There will be trouble today

because my letter about those golliwogs has appeared on the pages of our state newspaper. 
I know what is going to happen. Yes, I'll get plenty of support for what I have said. I will also get some angry responses from people who disagree.  It is just as well I will be out today. The only people who have my mobile phone number are Middle Cat and the Senior Cat. The house phone can ring...and ring...and ring.
Over the years of writing letters to the press - and I have written a good many - I have had a number of phone calls. People are often supportive but I have also had to deal with some irate people who have strongly disagreed with what I have had to say.
    "You are entitled to your point of view," I tell them. It often makes little difference. Indeed one man - I won't call him a gentleman because he wasn't - told me, "Well you aren't entitled to yours."
I even tell people, "I don't always agree with myself. I write things to make people think - think about other possible points of view."
    "You were mentioned this morning Cat," a journalist once told me.
I looked at her in alarm and she laughed.
     "Oh if there is a letter from you someone will say, "There's a letter from Cat. We know it means there is something we can use."
Someone, who was intending to write a book about people who wrote letters to the paper, once interviewed me about my letter writing. He wanted to know how often I wrote and how often my letters got published. I told him that I didn't write letters every day but that they almost always got published - or ended up being used by the person writing the editorial.  The book never got written. Perhaps I put the poor man off writing it. 
And today's letter is there to make people think - if they read the letters to the editor pages. It is there to put another possible point of view, one I hope is of support to both sides of the debate.
Today and tomorrow I will put my paws on my knitting when I get a chance. I will talk to people who ask questions - and, if anyone disagrees with me, I will tell them,
    "You are entitled to your point of view - but please think about the views of others as well."

Wednesday 5 September 2018

"We do not support

the removal of the golliwogs...." and "I don't think they should have been taken from the cabinets..."
And so it went on. 
I spent yesterday at the showgrounds in the handicraft section. I will be back there tomorrow - and on Friday. Perhaps things will have calmed down by then.
I know one person who commented on yesterday's blog post disagrees with me. We will have to agree to disagree. There was just one person yesterday who thought that "maybe" it was the right decision. At no time did I raise the issue. (Those of us on duty had agreed that we would not.) It was members of the public who were raising it with us.
Members of the public come to this event in all shapes, sizes, colours, races, religions, educations, and backgrounds. Some of them wandered in to say things like, "I'm not really interested in this sort of stuff (the handicrafts) but I just wanted to tell you...."
Of course it is easier to agree face to face on a controversial issue than it is to face up to someone with whom you disagree. Nevertheless I know that nobody on duty was shouted at, indeed up until the point where I left (late in the afternoon) nobody had anyone who had supported the decision to remove the golliwogs from the cabinet. Those who objected to the decision included members of the community who were apparently so offended that they needed to be removed.
We had information there ready to explain if it was necessary but even that was not used. People simply did not see them as being offensive. Children wondered what the fuss was about and asked if we were going to remove the clown from the same cabinet and "what would happen if you had a doll like Milly?"  (Milly was wearing an hijab.) That was an interesting question because those who strictly observe Islam would object to any face being represented and a doll dressed that way....?
I will be interested to see what happens tomorrow and Friday - although by then it may be old news and people won't be talking about it.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Banning "Golliwogs"

from the state's show is not going to reduce racism. It will contribute to it.
There has been a "backlash" - a complaint - from someone in the local Kaurna community about the presence of some of these dolls in the show. My belief, shared by a number of other people, is that it was a mistake to complain and a mistake to give that complaint any publicity. 
Before people start shouting me down let me explain something. My late friend R.... was a "full blood" indigenous woman. She was also a very intelligent, caring and empathetic woman. In many ways she was my "other-mother" and, if Rosie told me something, I listened. I listened even as a rebellious and angry teenager. Rosie made you listen even you didn't want to hear.
Rosie didn't just say things. She did things. One of the things she did was make her own children - a boy and girl - "golliwogs". She knitted them from a pattern in a woman's magazine because she thought they were "rather cute". She saw absolutely nothing "racist" about them at all.  Her daughter had other dolls, both dark and light skinned, but the golliwog was soft and cuddly and the toy she took to bed with her.
Before I wrote this I sent a message to her son, a youth worker, asking him if he thought their toys had been racist. 
This was his reply,
      "Go for it Cat. There's nothing racist about them - except in the minds of people like J...." ("J" being the person who initiated the complaint.)
There was some research done somewhere once - if I could find the reference I would quote it but it was pre-internet days and doesn't appear to be on line. The research involved racial behaviour in young children from various racial backgrounds. They were given an array of dolls and asked to choose one with which to play. There were dolls of more than one racial grouping, including "black" dolls.  The research showed that all the children preferenced the "white" dolls over "black" dolls. 
It is difficult, but not impossible, to find "black" dolls. It is actually easier to find Asian dolls or Mexican dolls. I had a look at the big "American Girl" dolls that seem to be so popular in the United States. There were some dark skinned dolls - but the features did not look right. "Miniland" does better - but they are baby dolls. More alarmingly the "Australian Girl" site has no dark skinned dolls - all the dolls are Anglo-Saxon in appearance. 
I think we need golliwogs - to have them as soft, cuddly, comfort toys that will encourage children to believe the same of people. Banning them sends the wrong message, a racist message. It is the opposite of what the complainant intends but it needs to be thought about.

Monday 3 September 2018

Lifelines come in all sorts

forms. They have probably saved the lives of millions over the centuries since they were first used. 
I have no idea where or how they were first used but I do know that the use of what are called "life lines" in knitting are relatively new. 
That may be why the knitter who called on me yesterday was not aware of them.
For  the uninitiated among you lifelines are used by savvy lace knitters in case they make errors (and who doesn't) and they need to unpick part of their work. You thread a piece of finer (and preferably contrasting) yarn through your stitches at intervals. If you need to unpick your work then it is easier to pick your stitches up again. If you drop a stitch (me, frequently) then they will only go back to that point. Oh yes, very useful.
So yesterday I met a knitter. She lives in the far west of this state. She is over for the week of the show. Her husband is here about sheep. She is here to help. (There is a lot to this sheep business.) This woman knits. She likes to knit lace but she knits in isolation on a remote station "not as remote as some but still a long way from anywhere".  All she has had to go by are patterns, needles, yarn and her own determination to do something she finds beautiful. There isn't a lot of call for lace garments so she makes other things.
I came into contact with her because she wants to make an incredibly beautiful but very complex shawl for her daughter to use as a wedding veil. 
It was a new venture for her. She will be using "cobweb" weight yarn rather than fine cotton and the difference in knitting experience will be immense. The pattern is Shetland in design - rather than German or Dutch, Scandinavian or Baltic. 
I am familiar with the pattern. I haven't knitted it myself because I don't knit other people's patterns but I have corresponded with the creator. I am aware of groups which are there to support each other through the knitting of it - yes, it is that complex. 
Yesterday I sat down with this lovely, rather quiet country woman and we went through the pattern together. It took a while. I explained the differences between it and the work she has been used to doing. She asked questions and took notes. I could see her uncertainty about knitting it receding.
And then I said, "And I'd put a lifeline here and here...."
     "What do you mean?"
I explained about lifelines. Her smile turned into a laugh.
     "What a wonderful idea! I've never heard of such things."
I can't take credit for the idea of lifelines but I am glad I could pass the idea on. 
She has set herself an achievable goal for each day and given herself a month to spare. It is undoubtedly typical of the way she has to organise her life on a busy sheep station.
I will think of her sitting in her favourite chair for her allotted knitting time each day.   She has promised to send me a photograph of her daughter wearing it. 
   "Don't forget to remove the lifelines," I told her.
   "They will stay there as long as I need them."