Friday 30 November 2018

They want to close the only rail service

between the state I live in and a neighbouring state.
They say people can fly or catch a bus instead. They say the service is running at a loss and should no longer be subsidised.
This is wrong on so many levels.
I have used that service a number of times. It used to be a night service. I endured uncomfortable nights sitting up in an unheated carriage in the middle of winter. It wasn't fun but I did it because, that many years back, it cost about a tenth of the air fare.
Air fares are much more reasonable now and a day trip to the next state is not uncommon for business people, shopping or even a sports match. (Yes, some Downunderites are that fanatical about their football.)
And yes, there are multiple bus services with reasonable fares. The buses belt along the highway and get you there faster than the train which has to negotiate some passing loops because it is a single track service most of the way.
That's the problem....plane and bus get you there faster. Even if the price was comparable people want to use those means of transport for that reason.
There is however another problem, an entirely different problem. There is a tiny minority of people who cannot fly for medical reasons. Some of them might be able to use the buses but others can't.
I know someone (and I am telling you about him with his permission) who cannot fly and cannot travel in a car or bus. He has panic attacks ever since he was involved in a serious road accident involving a bus some years ago.  He walks to the railway station each morning and catches a train to work. I know other people have told him, "Get over it!" but it isn't that easy. He's still working on it. His daughter drove him around the block recently. She told me he was "a mess" on that short drive. He's been trying because he wants to go to his son's wedding next year - in the neighbouring state. They had planned to go on the train. The locations he would have needed to attend there were all accessible by suburban train.
If the service closes, as seems likely, he won't be going.
Yes, it is just one example and I know there are people who will say that he had just better get over his fear, that a service losing money can't be kept open just for him or people like him.
But why wasn't the service well patronised? Yes, it took longer to get there but the trip has been a daylight one for some years now. It must surely have been pleasant to sit there without traffic rushing past or at you. There was the possibility of getting up and moving around a little because there was more room and it was safer to do so.  You were not crammed into a small seat in too close proximity to an objectionable stranger smelling strongly of stale cigarette smoke. 
I did that daylight trip just once. I haven't needed to go  back since then and holidays have not been possible because of caring for the Senior Cat. 
That daylight trip was interesting and not just because of the passing scenery.  I observed people relaxing. When I had finished doing the work I needed to do I took out my knitting. A woman several seats away came and sat opposite me with her knitting. She was a German tourist. Her English was a little awkward but she showed me pictures of her fine lace work and we talked about knitting, her stay in my home city and where she was going next. A young American exchange student joined in. Her second host family was meeting her at the other end and she was, naturally, a little nervous. 
Not everyone wants that sort of experience - and I would have been content to knit and look out the window or even go on reading - but for me it was more relaxing than a bus trip.
And at the other end I briefly met the  host family of the young exchange student. They thanked me for my interest in her and she went off happily. The German tourist firmly removed her husband from what had apparently been a fascinating conversation about engineering of the rail line and they left too. 
I caught the suburban train to my destination.
Two days later I saw the German tourists in the city. They recognised me and crossed the road to say "hello".  They both said how much they had enjoyed the freedom to move around on the train and speak to me and the railway personnel who had told the husband about the line.
I suppose something similar could happen on a bus - but it's less likely...and the rail trip was infinitely more comfortable than the bus. 
What's not to like if you have the time and the price is comparable?

Thursday 29 November 2018

The media has much to answer for

and it needs to be reminded of the role it should be playing.
I am tired of the constant attempts to undermine people simply trying to do their jobs.
 I am tired of the lack of care taken so that listeners and readers are misinformed by reporters and journalists who are too lazy to check their "facts".
I am tired of those who "leak" information and disinformation not because it is in the public interest but out of a desire to harm and destabilise.
I am tired of the deliberate misreporting and bias of columnists who are trying to influence public opinion without the need to take responsibility for their actions.
I am tired of the "activists" who have the ear of the media and use it to push their own agenda regardless of the consequences.
I am tired of the trolls on social media who have nothing better to do than ridicule those who disagree with them.
And I am tired of seeing good, decent, hardworking people being cut down simply because it is seen as fashionable or fun to do so.

I wonder if it has occurred to anyone that we are not doing ourselves any favours here? The people who might be the best for the job - whatever that job may be - are simply not taking the job on because they know they won't get the support they need? Has it occurred to anyone that those who are trying to do the job are finding it even more difficult because they are constantly being undermined? 
And has it occurred to anyone how much harm this is doing all of us?
What brought this on? Someone I know and like is taking extended leave from work. He's not well. Trying to deal with the harm done by such people has had that effect on him.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

I saw the inside of this computer

this morning. It looks terribly complex.
Yes, I had an issue. My brother was going to look at it while he was here but didn't have an opportunity.
I sent an "help" squawk (email) to our friend S.... who has been very good in emergencies and said, "Not extremely urgent but does need attention".
He phoned late yesterday and asked, "What time do you turn it on?"
    "Er...u...about six in the morning," I said, "But I can leave messages for people and turn it on later."
    "No, I'll get there about then."
What? Then I realised he keeps very odd hours. S... lives alone. He is perhaps a little eccentric but he knows about computers - builds his own and so on. He is also kind and very interested in what I do.
I try to reciprocate the kindness although I can't reciprocate the interest.
Knowing he really did mean what he said I agreed to his suggested time and, sure enough, he arrived. 
He tells me a fan is wearing out - not the big issue one but one of the other two. He has fixed it for now and, if the problem reoccurs he will get another one and replace it. He tells me
    "Five minutes work Cat!"
All I can do is pay him for his time -
and give him breakfast!

Tuesday 27 November 2018

Adoption is not the answer

according to the "experts". Even where children are adopted they should have contact with their birth parents according to these experts.
Adoption is a curious process. I have known a number of adoptees in my life time. My godmother and her husband adopted two children. Their son once told me, "I'm so glad they did. They have been brilliant parents." Their daughter was quieter about it but, on the same occasion said, "I've had a much better life than I might have had."
Adoption clearly worked there. It didn't work for someone else I know - or so she claims. She was given every advantage, including expensive private schooling and a university education. She was encouraged to make contact with her birth mother. Her family did everything they should have done according to the textbooks and the research. In the end she met the "wrong" man and made a series of mistakes - all of which she has blamed on being adopted. 
And I know others that have been success stories, real success stories. There are the brother and sister who recently went to their birth country after being adopted and brought out here. Their parents have never made any secret about the circumstances surrounding their adoption and they have encouraged the children to learn about their birth country and the language. They were keen to visit their birth country - and very happy to come back here. 
    "This is home. I'm just so thankful we didn't have to stay there."
There was the girl going on a Rotary student exchange scholarship whose birth mother suddenly decided she wanted to make contact even though the girl had asked no contact be made. Her birth mother had been told of the girl's scholarship and didn't want her to go.
There are two boys I know whose mother is serving a life sentence in prison. They cannot be adopted.  Every month for almost eleven years the boys were taken to see their mother. Sometimes they would get there and she would refuse to see them or see them for just a few minutes. When they were young she would tear up pictures they had drawn for her. She would swear at them and tell them that it was all their fault she was there. They reacted by being difficult, very difficult. They were fostered together and then apart and then together again. Their foster relationship is stable now they are no longer forced to visit their mother but she can still interfere to some extent. Adoption into the right family would have solved many problems for them.
I don't believe adoption has to be a bad thing. It can be the right thing - the right thing for the child. It is a time when the best interests of the child have to take precedence.
I thought of all this yesterday when the middle kitten was trying to understand the concept of adoption. She knows she is not adopted.
    "But don't people want children to have a forever and ever family a really properly forever family?"
It's a good question.

Monday 26 November 2018

The geat outdoors

is apparently only the backyard for most people. What?
Actually I read that without surprise this morning - and thought I was lucky because my niece at least believes in "out and active" rather than "in and passive".
Yes, the kittens arrived on Saturday. It was chaos as they explored their activity packs, consumed biscuits and only managed to spill a little water.  Even inside they were not still for long. They had been cooped up in a plane for over an hour and then a car for another twenty-five minutes!
Saturday evening they danced the night away - helped by my two nephews here. (At 32 and 30 they still have energy and the dance moves to go with it. The little kittens managed to learn quite a lot.)
Yesterday started with a phone call,
     "There's been a change of plan..."
Fine. Instead of heading south to a beach we went to a Christmas parade. The kittens, living where they do, had never seen one of those. They were fascinated
But, once it was over, they were off and running again. There is play equipment in a reserve near to where the parade was held. They were scrambling up to the top, sliding down, swinging, showing me their cartwheel skills - much improved from last year - and then back up to the top of the slide to go down again. They got soaking wet and ended the time there by getting their faces "painted" with reindeers and unicorns, stars and trees.
 Huge grins and nods - before they were off again.
We had lunch . They managed to sit still for a few minutes and then they were off again.
The Senior Cat needed his afternoon catnap so we came home and the kittens went off to where they were staying. A little peace and quiet.
Then, late afternoon my brother picked us up and we went to the caravan and cabin site the two families are staying at. There is a swimming pool there - and yes, they were in that. They can all swim well. The youngest, at four, is far better than many children twice her age or more.  Yes, of course she was being watched but there was no need to be in the water with her. That was just as well. The adults thought it was a "bit chilly". The kittens did not. They had another hour and a half of exercise. Eventually it was suggested that they might think about eating an evening meal and they left the pool area, changed into dry clothes - and then climbed on the play equipment next to the BBQ area while their fathers cooked the evening meal.
It is hard to believe but the youngest kitten could still run with her mother to use the pass that gets vehicles in and out of the gates to the park - at least another 200m and then back again. 
I crawled on to my sleeping mat exhausted. The Senior Cat had made it to his sleeping mat before me. All we were doing was watching them - with a little help from me now and then.
I thought of all that this morning as I saw the piece which said that most children only spend an hour a day outside - if that. The piece then spend four to five hours inside in a much less active way.
"Daylight saving" was supposed to get people outside and active after work. The reality is that the vast majority of people don't use the daylight that way. Their children don't use it either. They are indoors watching a screen.
The youngest kitten had a look of sheer joy on her face as she ran to the gate in the dark. I can't help feeling that some children miss out on an awful lot.  

Sunday 25 November 2018

A "former Prime Minister" was

out fighting fires yesterday. He's done it before and he will probably do it again. 
I have just seen some snide remarks that he was "only doing it because of the photo opportunities". That is not unexpected as the media love to hate him.
The problem is that this is also an insult to other fire fighters as well.
You do not get to be a firefighter by picking up a hose, turning on a tap and pointing it at the fire. I can't say I know what goes on in training sessions because I have never been to one. I do know though that it is a good deal more complicated than people think it is.  
I also know that, unless you have been to training sessions, you can't go out with your team. The "former Prime Minister" has therefore been committed enough to go to training sessions. He's part of a team. He has to work with the team. He has to take orders from someone on the team. 
And he is also doing something dangerous so that others can be safe.
So, why are we knocking this man and his efforts? In doing so are we also knocking the efforts of those working with him? It seems to me that we are.
I know a little about bush fires from personal experience. When I was in my teens the Senior Cat was head of a very big rural school. It had a small "farm" attached to it. In the last week of the summer school holidays we were home and my parents were getting ready for the new school year. Some of the teachers were back too. 
It was just as well because a fire broke out and threatened the school and the animals. 
I have an all too vivid memory of standing in the domestic science centre kitchen making sandwiches at 3 am in the morning. The men fighting the fire needed something to eat as they came in one at a time for a brief respite. They were exhausted - and had to keep going because there were not enough men to go around. 
The Senior Cat, who is not and never has been a big man, was taking orders from one of the fathers and trying to keep up with the pace.  My mother was making drinks and making sure the men drank enough - often more than they thought they needed.
My brother, age 12, was pumping water into the little overhead feeder (pressure) tank with one hand and spraying the back garden - into which the sheep had been herded.  When I had finished making sandwiches I was sent back to help him pump. 
I remember the noise, the heat and the smoke. The fire came close enough to burn half the school oval before it was  under control.
My sisters slept through it all.
Having been through that all I can say to people is - don't ever knock someone out there fighting a fire. It's dangerous. It's exhausting. It's terrifying. If you haven't been through it you may not understand but that's no excuse.
The "former Prime Minister" isn't out there for the photo opportunity. He's out there doing a job that has to be done sometimes. He deserves to be named in the news media instead of being referred to in that way. 
Thank you Tony Abbott and the men who work with you.

Saturday 24 November 2018

We are going to be invaded

shortly  - if the weather permits.
My brother 'phoned from the giant metropolis on the east coast to warn us that there may be a delay to the invasion. The wind there has been as bad as the wind here - no, not a hurricane or a tornado but apparently bad enough. There was only one runway open at the airport and that meant there was a backlog to clear. 
Such weather events must be a nightmare scenario for the air-traffic controllers. They have one of the most stressful jobs on the planet as it is.
I know my niece will have things for her kittens and her niece and nephew to do. She's very organised like that. Still you don't really want small kittens to be waiting longer than actually necessary.
It makes me think that, by the time they do get here the new "activity packs" may be welcomed even more by the parents than the kittens. I have packed food (the "wrong" sort of course - there are "jelly babies" and chocolate and biscuits in there) and colouring in books (with pencils AND a sharpener) and some small stamp kits and some card making materials and other odds and ends for the little kittens to get to work on.   It has all gone into a coloured re-usable shopping bag - a different colour for each kitten. If I have the colours "wrong" then too bad.
The Senior Cat has  been busy too. Teach them a magic trick? Of course.
What to teach them? It has to be very simple. They are only here until Monday for one family and Tuesday for the other. There is a lot else they want to do but they want to do something with their great-grandfather. It's a big thing to come and see him. 
My brother and I discussed this and we hope that the eldest two, now 9 and 8 will remember him quite clearly. The 7 and 6 year old kittens might also remember him, particularly the 6yr old - a very thoughtful and rather serious girl. The 4 year old might not but there will be photographs and video of  her with him.
Getting them here when he can no longer travel to them has required a good deal of planning.
This morning I consulted the airport website  and things do not look as bad as had been feared. Still, it will be a very rough flight. I would not  be a happy cat in the air. 
But I am a happy cat at the thought of the kittens and the Senior Cat playing together.

Friday 23 November 2018

Politics in the classroom

is making me glad I do not have kittens attending school.
Yesterday the Senior Cat's cousin, his wife, daughter and granddaughter came to visit. We haven't seen them for quite a while and we all thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
Conversation got around to teaching - as it often does. The Senior Cat's cousin was a teacher. His daughter trained as a teacher and has home-schooled her six children.
The Senior Cat's cousin mentioned a small piece in the paper about a teacher who has not been reprimanded for expressing her political views in the classroom. There have been complaints about her doing so and the union is supporting her "right" to do so.
There is no such right. Teachers may have strong views, indeed many of them do.  They do not, at least in state funded schools, have the right to pass those views on to their students - at least in ways which tell students "you must believe this". 
I was aware of the political views of many of my teachers - but not inside the classroom.  The Senior Cat was almost always the head of the school I attended. I saw the teachers outside the classroom. They came for meals. I was often expected to do things like the duplicating on the old Roneo and Gestetner machines. I cut up paper, stamped things, covered library books and much more. I have made sandwiches at 3 am in the morning with the domestic science and history teachers - to feed the teachers and others fighting a fire that threatened the school farm. You learn a lot about teachers that way - and you learn to keep your mouth shut too. 
Although I was aware of their views on many things I cannot remember a single occasion on which they attempted to influence me or any other student. 
It seems to be different now. Ms W came home one weekend saying a teacher had given her a certain point of view. Her father countered it with another point of view. He didn't need to approach Ms W's school. Other parents did that. The first expression of concern actually came from a parent who shared the teacher's view.  It could be done in that school - but not, apparently, in other schools.
Young T... across the way is about to start school. He is at preschool now and he is already being taught the politically correct views about a range of topics. His parents are trying to give him alternate views where they feel he needs them but they are aware it is confusing for a five year old. 
    "I don't want him just being told what to think. I want him to think for himself."
It seems though that politics, especially "politically correct" politics takes precedence. 
Yesterday it was interesting to watch the thirteen  year old who was present. The Senior Cat's cousin, her grandfather, presented her with two opposing points of view in the course of conversation. She looked confused for a little while - and then she started to think. He challenged her statements. He was helping her come to her own conclusion. 
That's the way it ought to be.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Removing a Prime Minister from office

is not something a party does lightly. It is a particularly serious issue if the Prime Minister in question is (unlike some) more popular than the Opposition Leader.
It is not done without reason either.  A long streak of poll losses may have something to do with the issue. There may well be other reasons as well.
The previous Downunder Prime Minister lost his job as Prime Minister. He did not lose his job as the member for his electorate. He had no business to resign from that. He should have waited until the election and simply said he was not going to stand again. People would have accepted that, expected it even. 
Since then he failed to endorse the party's candidate for the seat ("I'm not commenting. I'm not in politics any longer."), criticised government policy, undermined government relations with another country, and yet again showed his contempt for the man he ousted  in a way designed to undermine his chances of re-election.
Now a party group is asking he be expelled from the party. That would of course allow him to be even more bitter and vindictive than he has already been. And yes, he is bitter and vindictive. He is not a "nice" person at all. I have heard first hand observations of his behaviour from more than one source - and they are not kind. 
But the answer isn't to expel him. It is to ask him to show cause as to why he should not be expelled.
That way he  can (a) explain his behaviour or (b) resign. Yes?

Wednesday 21 November 2018

"The teachers are going out on strike"

I was told yesterday and the piece in this morning's paper would seem to confirm their union is thinking of it.
If what I read is also correct then there doesn't seem to be any need to go out on strike. The children are not in danger.
Conditions have not changed for the worse either. Nor are they likely to change. 
So, why go out on strike? 
I think most parents will be puzzled by this. Some teachers will be puzzled too. 
The answer is probably fairly simple - it is because they can. The "wrong" side of politics is now in power and the union is not happy. The little things that they have been quietly agitating for have suddenly become "issues". 
Class sizes are much smaller than they were. I had nineteen children in a class of profoundly physically and mentally disabled children. Now T..., the extremely bright child across the way, will start at the local state school in a class of much the same size. His one classroom will be filled with items I and my colleagues would have happily shared between all of us.
Teaching has changed - unless you go to a much more conservative fee-paying school like Ms W does. In her school they still have some lessons where everyone faces the teacher without having to twist around in their seats. It's a rare thing.
Their NAPLAN results are good too, very good. The teachers' union would claim this is because the classes are small, the facilities are very good...and so on. I don't think it is just that - if that makes much difference at all. In fact Ms W's classes are only a little smaller - an average overall of two less perhaps.
What is different is the attitude towards work. The school expects everyone to work - and work hard. There is no expectation that anyone needs to be "first" or "top". The expectation is that you will do the best you can - all the time.
I have been in and out of Ms W's school on numerous occasions. I have also been in and out of the local state schools. There is something I have noticed. Ms W's school is much quieter. It's a working quiet, a disciplined quiet. It isn't absolute and nobody would want it to be.  In the middle and senior areas of the school they move from one place to another in an orderly but self-disciplined way. 
I have no doubt it is easier to get students to do this when most of them have been in the same school all their lives. The youngest will see what the older students are doing and come to learn what is expected of them. Still, it has to be worked at as well. The students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds and cultures.
There's a uniform of course - and high expectations of cleanliness and tidiness. There are also expectations of what teachers will wear.  There are no ragged jeans or t-shirts or flip-flops there. The girls don't call their teachers by their given names either. 
I have heard these things criticised by outsiders, as if they are somehow abnormal. Ms W and her friends and peers don't see it like that. They see it as normal...and perhaps they should.
There are problems there of course. The place isn't perfect. Ms W's form teacher  had the class read and discuss Nicola Morgan's "The Teenage Guide to Life Online"  because she is aware of what could happen. She will do the same next year too. 
But, that sort of thing is discussed - and growing up is taken seriously.  There isn't any need to go on strike in Ms W's school. The staff and students are simply expected to respect one another and expect the best.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

There was an accident on

the major road not far from here. I heard it happen and did what I always do if I can. I avoided the intersection and went "the long way around". It isn't actually that much further and it makes sense.
There was nothing I could do to help. I don't need to see what has happened in such circumstances. 
I was told later that nobody was hurt. For once it seems that both drivers were at fault - and admitted it. What is more they managed to get their damaged vehicles out of the traffic stream very quickly. That must have made a nice change for the police.  They were there very quickly
That was some weeks ago. No doubt both drivers are still dealing with the aftermath.
Yesterday was different. There was a very minor bump but it caused a major disruption. Someone, impatient to enter the early morning traffic stream pulled out of the car park by the chicken shop. He had already blocked my path and that of a mother walking two children to school. When he did pull out in a way that even I could see was unsafe his car clipped the bumper bar of another car. The traffic was moving slowly. The damage to the other car was minimal and the other driver parked - legally- to see what  had 
There was a little more damage to Mr Impatient's car but not much. He left it where it was - half way into the traffic stream. His "road rage" was frightening.  The other driver was backing away from him.
Traffic was also banking up rapidly. People began to use their horns. Others got out to see what happened. The shouting began. 
The mother with the two school children hurried them away after helping me get the trike over the very small concrete barrier at the edge of the car park. Apart from thanking her I said nothing. I know she was thinking what I was thinking, "Let's get out of here before violence erupts."
And apparently Mr Impatient did need to be restrained after he began to hit the other driver. Someone did call the police. It is likely there will be serious consequences. I hope so. 
Mr Impatient had lashed out at a young man with an obvious physical disability who would have been quite incapable of defending himself. 

Monday 19 November 2018

Moving the embassy to Jerusalem

is an idea that has not gone down well. The Downunder Prime Minister has been criticised for suggesting  it even be thought about. It made me think about embassies, diplomacy and more.
Sir Henry Wotton was the one who said, " An ambassador is an honest gentleman who is sent to lie abroad for the good of his country."
And it was the Senior Cat's cousin, a very senior such man, who first told me that.
Diplomacy is apparently about lying and spying as much as anything else.  It is also about making connections for the benefit of your country and using them.
What it is not about is doing the bidding of any other country.
And that's the problem isn't it?
The Downunder Prime Minister is apparently no diplomat but does that mean we should give in to the demands being made? 
Or, could we look at it in another way? Could we look at it as support for (a) a genuine peace process which involves (b) a two state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both?
Let's face it. The peace process isn't going anywhere. It hasn't been going anywhere for a long time. It won't go anywhere until people start to take steps in that direction. 
I know it is all much more complex than this but...what if we looked at moving the embassy not as support of Israel but as support of a peace process?
If  other countries are opposed to that then surely we have the right to ask, "why"?

Sunday 18 November 2018

Committing suicide is

the ultimately selfish act. It is probably why we prefer to say that someone has killed himself "while the balance of his mind was disturbed".
Perhaps that is so but does it really help those left? Maybe.
I went to a regular meeting yesterday and asked an elderly friend if she was okay. Her eyes filled with tears and she asked,
    "Have you heard my news?"
    "No, what is it?"
    "My son committed suicide."
You know how they write something feels like being punched in the stomach? This was like being punched in the throat. I couldn't speak. All I could do was put my arm around her and hold her until I could say, "Oh M..... I am so very, very sorry."
And I am. 
She doesn't deserve this. M.... has lost her sister, her husband and another relative all in a very short space of time - and now this. What is worse is that it was no spur of the moment thing. It had been meticulously planned and, as so often, nobody had any idea at all.
It has shattered her. She came to the meeting because, "if I don't it will just be harder next time". Yes, she is right about that but the courage it took to turn up was extraordinary. She recognised that she needs the group - needs them more than ever now- but it will only work if we give her the support she needs. That means being there, talking to her as we always would - and, above all else, listening when she wants to talk.
But the act of suicide ripples out far beyond the immediate family. It ripples out to friends, workmates, local community and anyone who knew the person - or that person's family. It ripples out to anyone who cares at all, anyone who thinks they might have made a difference. We have failed someone.
We have failed someone and that means we need to try harder with those who remain.

Saturday 17 November 2018

She is grossly overweight.

She can barely walk. She is lonely and unhappy.
I am saying those things without someone's permission. It won't matter because she has no idea how to use a computer and you won't know her.
I also want to say that, despite appearances, she is kind and she does her job extremely well. Her co-workers rely on her knowledge. It's all "Ask X..." and "If X was here she would know..."
I don't see her that often, perhaps once a week. She knows me. She will acknowledge me outside her workplace. We have  had the occasional short chat, often as she waits for a taxi to take her home - to where she lives alone. She finds it hard to read and doesn't do any craft. She doesn't belong to any groups. We have nothing at all in common. All things considered though the two of us also get along well together.
I don't avoid her the way so many people do. I ignore her apparent impatience on her bad days, days when the pain is almost too much to bear. 
    "I don't know why you bother," people have said to me. That bothers me. 
It bothers me when, as yesterday, someone completely ignored her as she was serving them. He was on his phone the entire time. He didn't look at her or even acknowledge her. It bothers me when the next person told her, "Well, if you'd cheer up and lose some weight people might want to talk to you."
That reduced her to tears. The next person ignored her too - perhaps embarrassed by her obvious distress. 
I was next in the queue and the other girl serving was about to serve me. We looked at each other and she asked quietly, "Can you wait a moment?"
I knew what she meant. She pretended to rush off to put something back, something that could have waited.
And there we were, just the two of us. I smiled as sympathetically as I could and asked,
     "Bad day?"
She nodded. I handed things over. I told her of a small funny thing that had happened earlier and there was a faint smile. I thanked her for my change and I left.
I was packing things into the tricycle basket when the store manager came out to see about a delivery. He waved to the driver but then stopped and said to me,
      "Thanks for that."
Then he went on. I knew what he meant but I don't deserve that because I hadn't done anything at all really. It was her co-worker who gave me the opportunity to be friendly. to be polite, to give a lonely and unhappy person some support. It is the same co-worker who will give her a lift home if they both end their shift at the same time.
I have hopes of her co-worker. She's a student who wants to work in a career where good human relations are vital. I just hope she can teach her students to care for people like X.

Friday 16 November 2018

ICAC will be as corrupt

as the corruption it is intended to investigate if the present state legislation remains in place.
The present government may not be the best but the present Opposition left behind a litany of disasters and underhand dealings. Why on earth did they want to goad the Attorney-General into "breaching the provisions" of the legislation? 
Parliament was where the problems started. I haven't read the Hansard transcripts but an inner source tells me that was not the only problem. The Opposition was well aware of the answers to the questions it was asking because those involved were appointed by them when in government. They were going to take it further whatever the A-G did. That they themselves were actually responsible for the cause of what the Independent Commission against Corruption is investigating is, in their minds, beside the point.
The media has tended to portray the A-G as being out of her depth. They should perhaps be more on her side. She is the one who is attempting to bring in legislation to make the ICAC proceedings much more public. At the present time nobody is even supposed to know if people are under investigation by ICAC. The new proposals would allow the media to report much more.
I have mixed feelings about all this. People's lives can be ruined by media reporting. It isn't simply those under investigation who can suffer damage. It isn't just their colleagues either. Families and even friends can suffer harm. I remember the intense misery of the two sons of a former federal A-G turned High Court judge who was investigated. They were primary school age children then and, I am told, have never really recovered from what happened then. 
But, if we don't open up the commission which deals with corruption then it is in danger of becoming corrupt too. What is really needed is genuinely responsible media reporting of such things, not simply stories designed to sell the news.
The question then surely becomes (if I have my Latin right) is not "quis custodiet ispsos  custodes"  but "quis custodiet ipsos media"?

Thursday 15 November 2018

The priest at the church

on the hill - the church the Senior Cat attends - has been spending some time in the shopping centre lately. 
The idea has been that he will just be there and his parishioners and others can just stop and chat about anything.
Recently the same priest also sent out an email asking for people's views on the various mid week church activities. As the Senior Cat does not use email I printed it off for him to think about at leisure. He can tell D.... what he thinks on Sunday if he wants to say anything.
But I sent D.... a message yesterday. I might or might not bump into him in the shopping centre tomorrow but it won't be the best place to tell him what I had to say.
Let me start at the beginning though. The first priest the Senior Cat knew at the church was a gentle, kind man. I have never known anyone to say an unkind word about him. No, he wasn't perfect. Nobody is. He was and is loved. He still lives in the district but, rightly, goes elsewhere to church. Once in a while he has officiated by invitation. He is old now but he has not lost the capacity to listen. It's not unusual to see him having coffee with people in the shopping centre but he could never be accused of interfering. I got to know him quite well. Would I run the book stall at the church fete? Of course. He is the sort of person you don't mind doing things for because he always said thank you to people - and meant it.
His support was welcomed by the next priest, a much younger man. We got on well too. On more than one occasion we would meet in the shopping centre and he would run an idea past me for the thesis he was writing. His curate, also writing a thesis, would do the same. I didn't (and don't) pretend to know anything about theology but perhaps that helped me pick the flaws in their arguments?
He left too and was replaced by a man I never got to know. We spoke face to face once and on the phone once. This was before the "prayer circle" messages were emailed out and when I told him the Senior Cat was not available he said something along the lines of he supposed I could take the message as I had apparently doing it for years. Well yes, I had. It was hardly a ringing endorsement but I simply took the message.
And then D.... arrived. Cat gets the messages? He simply accepted it. They are confidential messages. You don't pass them on - except in my case to the Senior Cat. 
But it means that I know things. I am told things. Those others who are involved know that I know. They can tell me more if needs be. That's important. The congregation, like congregations in many other places,  is older and dwindling. There are often people who are ill, who have lost someone close to them, or simply need just a little extra "TLC". 
I thought of all this when D... sent his request for thoughts about mid-week activities. Then I responded by telling him that I thought the most important thing he had done this year was to start coming to the shopping centre for "coffee and conversation".  It means he is out there in the community. He's visible. He's available - available to anyone. That's far more useful than a mid-week service which must, at most, be attended by four or five people.
I have no idea how many people actually talk to him but there always seems to be at least one.  It isn't "church" or "religion" - I caught him with someone one day and they were looking at cruises on his i-phone.
That isn't what matters. What matters is that he's there. He's available. People can recognise him.
He's not the only priest I know by any means. One or two others have other ways of getting to know not just their congregations but the people they live among.  I know it's hard work. Priests haven't had a good press lately.
But, the vast majority of them are good, caring people. If they choose to trust me with confidential information then I need to trust them as well.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

He was the graffiti cleaner

at the local railway station - and much more.
Every morning C...would take his bucket and brush and other equipment and he would go and clean off the graffiti left at the local railway station. He would pick up any rubbish left lying around, mend anything broken by vandals and help to tend the garden.
He was the good neighbour. Away on holiday and need the bins put out? Not a problem. He kept the plants alive too. He was the Neighbourhood Watch representative. The local council knew him well - and not because he complained but because there had been a small problem and C.... had fixed it before it became any worse.
His own garden was the best in the street and the produce from it was shared freely. 
He once bailed up a couple of young troublemakers and told them, "Come and have a look at this."
He took them and showed them the old signal box, told them how it worked and asked them to keep an eye on anyone trying to damage it. They supported him ever after.
C... would bail me up as I passed and say, "We need to write a letter."
      "C.... you write it," I would say but I always knew that I would be the one who would end up writing it. 
He knew each successive MP both state and federal, alerted them to issues he knew they could fix with simply the letter "we" had written. 
And, unfairly, while being treated for cancer, he had a bout of shingles. The pain must have been horrendous. It was too much. 
He did not manage to last until they unveiled the little statue honouring all he had done. It's there next to the bicycle racks at the railway station for which he did so much.
I understood when his wife told me, 
     "I can still say hello to him."

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Food banks are

important and an unfortunately necessary part of life today. Please don't misunderstand my support for them.
There was however a news item yesterday which suggested that the government was cutting support for them. This is wrong. The same amount of money is there. It is just being divided between the various organisations in a different way.
I have been advised that the idea behind this was "to ensure that  more people in ethnically diverse communities across a greater geographic area can be serviced". In other words the idea is to try and help more people, some of whom live in areas where there is no service.
It didn't make any difference of course. The people who run the largest service cried "cuts" and then the media screamed "cuts" and more people got in on the act.
I know people who work at two different food banks. They have called on me to give people "communication assistance" at times... the sort of "s/he needs some help with a form" sort of assistance when someone can't read and write.  I've heard some appalling stories of abuse and deprivation. 
There are people out there who need help - need it through no fault of their own. They are ill, have had an accident, been laid off, had a house fire and so on. There are others who should not need it but they have partners who gamble, drink, take drugs and have committed acts which have landed them in prison.  None of it is good. 
It is why I put items in the Senior Cat's walker every Sunday morning and he puts them in the box in the narthex of the church he attends. It is why I stop at the local charity shop and, in a quiet back room, I'll help someone fill out the endless government forms needed before they can get proper assistance. 
And no, it isn't "good" of me because I know it could easily be me looking for that assistance. It could happen to anyone. It frightens me.
I remember the story I was told about the young children who went to their local food bank, something they had never used before. They asked if they could have some milk because the eldest couldn't use their mother's card to buy some. Someone went around to the house to find out what was going on. Their mother was in bed with the sort of migraine which meant she was unable to care for the children. They were doing the best they could to care for themselves - and doing a very good job of it -  but they needed some help. The food bank staff saw to it that they got the help they needed, including the milk. Some time later their mother took them there again - to "return the milk". 
That is what food banks should be about.
So yes, I am concerned if the "cuts" mean a cut to the service but to simply say that the funding has been cut when it has been redistributed is wrong. 
Perhaps what the media should be saying at this time of the year is something along the lines of "the need is so great that the government has decided to redistribute the available money and your help is needed, help as volunteers as well as in donations". It would surely help if people were made more aware of who uses food banks and why people need to use them.
The media story was not helpful. It will have left too many people thinking that the food bank is somehow "the government's responsibility and they don't care". 
It's our responsibility and we need to care. 

Monday 12 November 2018

Our local cemetery is full of

history. It is one of the earliest in the state. Some of those buried there are people who actually founded the state. There are names anyone who has done any history of the state in school would recognise. 
And there are other people. There are of course the very young who died in a time where medical care was not what it is today, if it was available at all. There are others who met with accidents because of the type of work done. 
Some graves are much newer than others. Some are cared for and others are gradually decaying as no family members are even present in the state to remember them.
Ms W came in on Saturday looking very serious and said,
     "My Dad has to go to the big thing in the city. I don't want to go because I'll just cry again. Are you going?"
I told her I wasn't and asked,
     "Is there something else you want to do?"
She nodded.
     "Is it silly but I want to go and put some flowers on Uncle Peter's grave? Nobody else will."
     "It's not silly," I told her, "It means you are thinking of him - and that also means you are thinking of everyone like him. I think your  father will be pleased you are doing that."   
"Uncle Peter" was a neighbour not a member of her family. He was her substitute grandfather for some years, a returned serviceman who never spoke of the war. He left his war service medals to Ms W's father because he had no other close relatives - and Ms W's father has none either.
We sorted out some arrangements and yesterday we pedalled over there.  It was quiet but not empty. There were more tributes around than usual. People had been in and I guessed there would be more people in as the afternoon progressed. 
We found the grave in question, no easy task because the cemetery is not numbered in the way that many here are. The headstone is very plain. It is the burial place of several members of the same family.
Ms W put the flowers, flowers she had grown herself, on the grave. We pulled out several very small stray weeds but the place was tidy.
     "Someone has tidied it up," Ms W said.
I suspect the "friends" group has been busy. 
Ms W stood there for a moment and then hugged me and said,
      "Thank you. I still sort of miss him."
I know she does.
      "And I know maybe I shouldn't have asked you but I didn't want anyone else - except maybe my dad and he said not to worry about not going with him because he would be too busy and anyway he was going to tell people we had something else important to do."
And yes, it was important.  There aren't many young teens who would have thought of doing this but I didn't want her to get more upset so I said, 
     "Come and have a look at the places some interesting people are buried - if I can remember where to find them. Some of the inscriptions are interesting. I think I can show you where T...'s great-great grandfather is buried."
T... is a work colleague of her father. We wandered slowly down the next path and turned the corner. The grave was where I remembered it. 
     "He was pretty important wasn't he?" Ms W asked.
     "He certainly did a lot to help get the state started," I said.
 Someone had put flowers on that grave. 
People were coming in, some with flowers and others without. Ms W looked at a young boy running down one of the paths and said,
     "Let's go. I'd rather be here when it was quiet."
I would too. 
     "I think I'll come back one day and find some more history. My dad will probably like it too."
He will but I am glad her mother's ashes were, like those of my mother, buried under a newly planted tree somewhere in the hills behind us. She doesn't need to visit that grave.


Sunday 11 November 2018

One hundred years ago today

marked the official end of the fighting. It is seen as the end of WWI but the reality is that there were still a great many problems.
And then we had WWII. We had Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and numerous other wars and skirmishes which have killed people and animals and destroyed the lives of future generations.
    "My Dad died when I was four. I didn't know then but it was a result of the war," someone told me recently. She is almost 90 and her father fought in WWI. It has been a matter of life-long regret that she never really knew him, that all she has are vague memories of him. I felt for her and thought perhaps I had been lucky although it didn't seem like that.
When the two of us and a couple of other people handed over the wreath our knitting guild had made I was struggling to maintain my composure because forty-one years ago, almost to the day, the man I intended to marry was killed as a result of another war.  He was in Vietnam at the time - on government work. He hadn't wanted to go. We had decided to delay announcing our engagement until he came back. He didn't come back, or not that way.  He was killed on a street corner by someone who took exception to his presence there -  the killer believed that all Westerners were bad because a Westerner had killed his family. 
It didn't matter that David was barely old enough to have even fought in that war and had nothing to do with it. He was, in the mind of that man, a "bad" person. I wonder how many more Vietnamese, particularly older Vietnamese, still feel that way? It may not even be a conscious thing, just an underlying uneasiness. I know it took me some years before I could relax in the company of any Vietnamese students I met. I didn't blame them for what happened. I never told them and they would have been embarrassed and upset if I had but I still couldn't quite relax. 
Now I have acquaintances from many countries, cultures, religious and political backgrounds. That is as it should be. Some of those acquaintances are also friends but I realise I don't have any Vietnamese friends. It hasn't been a conscious decision on my part, simply something that has just happened. Have I been unconsciously avoiding the big Vietnamese community here - or have our paths just not crossed? I don't know. I hope it is the latter but it does make me realise that all we can acknowledge today is the official end of a conflict that cost far too many lives.
And every year David's father has sent me a message on the anniversary of  his son's death. His father is now a very old man indeed and I doubt there will be any more messages. I think he knows it too because this one said,
      "Thinking of you and what might have been my almost-daughter."
And that did make me weep - for an old man who lost his son in a war that neither of them fought in.  

Saturday 10 November 2018

"Booked for speeding?"

I asked.
He nodded. The elderly man on my bicycle route looked shocked and confused.
He showed me the paperwork which had just come in the post. 
    "I don't know who was using the car Cat. I was in hospital at the time."
    "Could someone  have been using the car? Did you give the keys to anyone?"
     "No A...(his immediate neighbour) knows where they are but she doesn't drive."
     "Anyone else?"
He shook  his head.
     "I suppose I'll have to pay it."
 I told him not to and suggested he check.
     "It's obviously a mistake," I told him.
He shrugged and I left him. 
On my way back his even more elderly neighbour A.... stopped me. She was upset too.
     "I was supposed to be looking after his place while he was in there. I'm sure nobody used his car."
The car itself is elderly - but well cared for. 
As I don't drive it had not occurred to me immediately but I had the answer. 
     "N.... I can check for you. Can you give me the paperwork?"
     "How? You don't have to go anywhere do you? I can do it."
     "No need for that. I can check on the computer. There will be a photograph."
He handed over the paper work. I took it home and looked up the photograph. 
Yes, there was a photograph - a photograph of another elderly car. The car was not the same...and there was something about the number plate...
I reported the fact that someone is out there using the same number plate registration as the elderly man on my bicycle route.  
He isn't paying the fine and he said a member of the police force had come to see him and reassure him that something was being done about it.
I hope they catch the driver of the other vehicle very quickly.

Friday 9 November 2018

"Guns don't kill people,

people using guns kill people".
Well, if you don't have a gun then you can't use it to shoot someone.
This morning I have had a work email to say that someone I was doing some work for won't be going to do what he planned to do for another week or so. He's going to a funeral instead. His neighbour's son was killed. He was killed by a complete stranger with a gun - while trying to save the life of someone else.
    "He was such a great kid."
That great kid had just started medical school. He was going to be a doctor. He had dreams of following in his neighbour's footsteps, the man for whom I was doing some work.
I never met. I didn't even know about him until I read the email this morning. I've never met the doctor who asked me for some help and it is almost certain I never will.
I don't know most of the people who ask for help. I will never meet them. All I have is some small sense of what they are like from their requests.  They come in all shapes and sizes of personality but they all have one thing in common. Every one of them is going to do something for other people on a voluntary basis. 
Over the years I have known aid workers to die. Some of them go into incredibly dangerous situations. They know they are risking their lives. It is a risk they are prepared to take. Some of them feel they have nothing to lose. There are all sorts of complex reasons why people feel compelled to do such things.
And the young man who was killed yesterday, killed by a complete stranger for no reason that makes sense was one of those people. He may well have been in his own home country where suburbia is supposed to be safe from such things but he would have known there was a huge risk involved in what he did.  He went to help anyway. His country has lost someone who had the potential to save lives.
When will America learn that people with guns can kill people?

Thursday 8 November 2018

Well the workmen still haven't turned up

and it seems they won't be here today either. The item they are supposed to install has not been delivered to them.
Middle Cat came over to take the Senior Cat to an appointment and returned the gopher/scooter to the carport so that it can be reconnected to the power which supplies the trickle charge to the battery. Right. (Middle Cat is still "barking like a dog" with the cough but our GP told her she was no longer infectious. That at least means I do not need to get the Senior Cat to places in a taxi.)
So when the receptionist, secretary and, I suspect wife-mother-general fixer-upper of all administrative issues person, phoned and said they would not be there I told her the problem about the gopher/scooter and said the men might have to move it.
    "Not a problem. Not your fault."
Thank you.
Now all we need to do is wait...sigh.
It allowed me time to sort out some other issues. I had sent a message to the organisation I am teaching for in January. Middle Cat cannot, as planned, take me to the venue. She will be interstate so it is impossible to even juggle things. All I wanted to know was whether I could take one lot of materials down to the venue on the day before. 
Now let it be said here that I am quite happy to do this. I am being paid to teach the class. I do not expect humans to run around after me. I had worked out how to do it on the train - well, two trains. It was not particularly difficult. The venue is right next to a railway station. Two trips, one on the day before, would have done it.
No, someone will come and pick the materials up.
I am grateful but am now wondering what I can do in return. Making something will take too long. Shortbread? It will be after Christmas. I'll find something.
She also said that she was going to try and arrange with someone else to pick me up on the days I am teaching. That would be nice but it isn't necessary. If they insist then providing the person suggested with a little gift won't be a problem. She knits.
And I finished making something. It isn't the sort of thing I usually make at all but I am not entirely displeased by the result. Grafting together two ends of i-cord was a real challenge. I am still not sure how I managed this. It isn't entirely invisible but the join is also hidden under the other loop of i-cord.  You will have to imagine a long length of i-cord (tomboy stitch, French knitting, spool knitting - call it what you will) looped around and tied into a moderately complex Celtic knot which can be hung around a human's neck. (We cats do not wear such things.) 
I made it from some silver rayon thread I had. It is quite heavy and definitely rather slippery. It would not go through the little machine that makes i-cord so I had to do it  by hand. That was a challenge, especially as I had to do it at rather a tight gauge. I wanted to make the pendant so that it looked as if it was one long continuous thread and it works I think. I might try something like that again with machine made i-cord and see if I can make an even more complex knot. I like the idea of Celtic knots.
And all that was done in between some real work. You can achieve a lot if you don't need to go out. A day entirely at home was rather nice. 

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Workmen who do not arrive

when they say will arrive are not merely a nuisance but can cause serious security risks.
We were expecting someone to come yesterday. Middle Cat has been ill and I had to get the Senior Cat to an appointment by taxi.
That is a major undertaking these days. 
It also meant that I had to clear the carport of assorted detritus and get a neighbour to park the Senior Cat's gopher/scooter - which he can no longer safely use - on the lawn.  The neighbours were also going to keep a watch out for the workmen.
I took the Senior Cat off to his appointment - new building and not very accessible as we had to negotiate two steps. 
    "I hope they've arrived," the Senior Cat said as we were coming back.
Nothing, nobody, no and no and no. We waited...and waited some more. Nobody was answering their phone. I left a message and email. Still nothing.
We had to leave the little vehicle on the front lawn last night. It's a quiet enough neighbourhood and you need a key to start it of course but....
I did not sleep well. I don't sleep particularly well anyway these days. I always have "one ear open" in case the Senior Cat needs me. Last night I had both ears wide open. 
Will they turn up today? If they don't the neighbour will return the  little vehicle to the charge point (it's electric) and the workmen can simply shift it themselves. As it is the man who mows the lawn will need to shift it if they don't come and get the things they need to get through into place before he arrives. 
And no, I can't shift it because if I damaged it the insurance on it would be void because I am not supposed to drive it. I think I could shift it that far but I am not going to take the risk. 
But the worst thing is seeing the frustration on the Senior Cat's face. He wants to do these things himself - and he can't.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Teaching knitting is

a lot of work - or it is if you do it as I think it should be done.
It isn't a simple matter of telling people "you do it like this".
Someone I consider to be an acquaintance rather than a friend - I barely know her - phoned me yesterday to find out what I would be teaching next year at the guild to which I belong.
My answer was "nothing".
I am sure that was not the answer she was expecting.
    "Oh, it's not worth joining then," she told me.
    "That's up to you," I responded.
I didn't tell her that I am responsible for one workshop but it will be a little different from the usual sort of thing in that I won't be teaching a specific skill. I hope I can still make it interesting and worthwhile. I have some ideas for activities that might help people learn something.
But, teaching? The person who organises the workshops will have to ask me if she wants me to be involved.So far I have not been asked but I want to know in time to design a small project, write the pattern, write up some notes and so on. All that takes time.
It isn't the sort of thing the person who phoned me would realise. 
Recently I emailed someone I do regard as a friend. She does a lot of teaching in another area of craft. I know from what others have said that she is highly regarded as a teacher. That doesn't surprise me as she is a very intelligent person and also a very practical one. She has read, researched and published in her area. I had a query and I put it to her. She answered and I have written notes using her response. But, I kept it all brief. She's busy. It's the professional way to handle something.
I don't mind being asked something, especially if someone is having a problem. We should be able to help one another. At the same time I think I should be helping someone else solve the problem. There is not much point in saying "do this" unless the person understands why they need to "do this".  If they understand what they are doing they can often do it and other things by themselves in the future. 
So if people want to learn and I am asked I will teach - and I will also learn by teaching.  

Monday 5 November 2018

So Noumea has voted

against independence - for now?
The "unexpectedly tight" result is already predicted to be likely to cause further demands for "independence".
My late friend E.... spent a lot of time in Noumea. She was well aware of the "independence" movement there, thought it might happen eventually - and that it would be a mistake.
I know other people who think differently. My friend R..., a former Downunder Senator, would vote for independence. She  believes that the "Commonwealth" - that group of countries which were once part of the British Empire - is a waste of time and money and that it serves no purpose. It is one of the things we strongly disagree on. I don't care if the only thing the Commonwealth countries ever do is play sport with one another. The important thing for me is  that they are doing something together - and doing anything together brings about a better understanding of each other.
And it doesn't hurt the French to be responsible for some things in a far off place. They've used it. They can care for it. In reality Noumea is independent in most things. The economic "divide" in Noumea is not going to be erased by independence. It will almost certainly become much worse. 
E... kept going there - eleven times in all - and coming back. Each time she stayed about six or seven weeks, once for four months. It was long enough to get to know something about the place. It was her belief that there was nothing "unfair" about the economic divide, rather it had been created by different approaches to life.
    "Oh we have the mining and that will bring in an income," the independence side is saying in Noumea. But the mines will eventually run out and they won't have the same bargaining power. It will be "well you need the money to survive so we won't offer you a higher price".
Independence sounds good of course. "Let's  be all grown up and go it alone" is the message but it's the wrong message. Noumea is already grown up. It's supposed to be working in partnership with the rest of the family. 
When E... died I needed to contact people in Noumea. I needed to find a number of people. I wrote to the relevant authorities. I did it in French, not English. I had no response so I tried again...and then again. Eventually I got a response and with it came the understanding that some people were prepared to do their jobs conscientiously and others were not. Some people thought an inheritance even for a local indigenous family was of insufficient interest to respond and others thought it was important. Of course it may not be a reflection of the actual start of affairs but it raised questions in my mind. It doesn't help the economic divide if you have the power to change something and you choose to do nothing about it.

Sunday 4 November 2018

We nearly made a grown man cry

yesterday - and I am glad we did.
Remember I said we were making the poppy wreath? 
The President of the returned servicemen and women's group in whose hall we meet came to get the wreath yesterday. It had been decided not to make a formal presentation or any sort of fuss, simply to pass it over. Indeed, it had been suggested one of the committee members simply pass it on.
But, the President himself came to get it. I am not sure what he expected. I am sure it was not what he was given. He actually had difficulty speaking for a moment and his eyes filled with tears. His voice sounded a little hoarser than it had a minute or so earlier. 
He didn't stay long. I don't think a room full of women knitting and crocheting was quite his thing. He expressed surprise at that too. Although he knew of course that we met there he said he had "no idea there were so many" or "how busy" the group was.
I am glad we made it. I didn't think I could bear to make another poppy but it was worth the effort.
He appreciated the work that had gone into making it and that means his fellow servicemen and women will as well.
But it all seemed so little when I thought of what they had done.

Saturday 3 November 2018

If I catch two trains to

the nearest station and then ride to the bus that....and then.... no it won't work. It would take more than half the day to get there even if the bus ran at the right time.
I told someone I couldn't go to a meeting at their choice of location. I explained that simply getting there by 9:30am wasn't possible.
   "Can't you just drive over here?" he asked.
   "I don't drive. I don't have a car," I told him.
   "Well a taxi then," he said.
   "Are you paying?" I asked.
I am doing these people a favour. I am not getting paid to go and help. It isn't something I want to do in the first place. A taxi both ways would cost around $70 - probably more in the early morning traffic.
There was a sigh at the other end.
    "We can't change the meeting time."
No, there are two members of the legal profession, a doctor and others involved.
    "If you want me there then someone can pick me up at the station," I told him.
    "We need you there. I'll pick you up myself. I didn't realise you don't drive. No, hang on. I'll pick you up in the city so you don't have to put your trike on the train."
We finally sort the details out, including what make and colour of car he drives so that I can look out for it.
I don't normally look for rides, let alone ask for them. If I can't go somewhere under my own pedal power then I don't go.  This was one of the rare occasions on which it was different. I had been contacted and asked for  help. Normally I would not have agreed to help because everyone else at the meeting apart from the client and myself is being paid to do a job.  This time though P.... is an old student of mine. He can only communicate with eye movements, head up or head down for  "yes" and "no".  For legal reasons no member of his family can be present so he has asked for me. He can use a communication board by using eye movements. I have already explained all this but he wants me there and everyone else needs me there to "interpret".
P...'s father died recently, a not unexpected death. There is special provision for P... in his will but no mention of what should happen to that if P...dies intestate. P told his brother he wanted to make a will and his brother talked to the solicitor on his behalf. The question was whether P... was competent to make a will. Did he even understand what a will was?
So, I went to the meeting. I explained I might need to rephrase some questions so that P... could answer them himself.  I asked him some questions myself so those present would know he knows what he is doing.
And he made his will. It is very simple. It does what the law would do if he died intestate but that was no reason for him not to have his own. He signed it with his thumb print. 
I didn't need to get a taxi there and back - but I reckon it might have been worth it for that.

Friday 2 November 2018

I met a "refugee" yesterday

- at least that is what he claims to be.
I seriously doubt his status for a number of reasons and so does the person who introduced me - a person who is a very experienced and able counsellor for refugees. She has accepted the claims of people I would sometimes have been wary of and if she has doubts there are good reasons for it. Two of her colleagues have doubts too.
I was introduced to the claimant for several reasons, some of which I cannot divulge here  but I was asked to do something. I did it. He failed the test set and a formal decision will be made about his future today.
He has supporters of course, one of them a "refugee advocate" who may well fight hard to keep him here. 
      "You don't understand!" is what the counsellor and her colleagues will be told, "You are making a mistake! Of course he's a refugee! Why else would he come here and claim asylum?"
 There is a natural tendency to believe anyone who claims to be a refugee. More than one aid worker has told me that they have been asked about the story someone should tell in order to be able to go to another, more desirable, country.  Some of those asking would have every right to seek asylum elsewhere and are simply advised to tell the truth. There's no need to embellish the story. It is often too horrific as it is.
But there are others claiming refugee status who are not refugees. For them story telling is seen as a way of migrating. They may be fleeing poverty but they are not fleeing persecution. They are not in fear of their lives. They simply want a better life somewhere else. I sympathise - but it does not make them refugees. There are far too many refugees in the world as it is, people who can't go home even though they would like that more than anything else. Homesickness is a dreadful state to be in - and for some people it has lasted  years and  years. 
Many refugees also cling to their culture, cling to it in the hope they will one day be able to go "home". They do it even while they seem to embrace the culture of the country which has welcomed them. They want their children to know the language and the traditions of the country they have come from. I understand that too.
The "refugee" I spoke to  yesterday has been refusing to speak the language of the area he claims to have come from. He claims not to be able to read although schooling is compulsory for boys and he can read a little English. He couldn't draw a map of his "village". Although one building is of great significance to the people who live there he wouldn't acknowledge photographs of  it. There are many other things which suggest he is not the person he claims to be.
We all know what is going to happen next. The "refugee advocate" will take his case up and fight to keep him here. It will take hours and hours of time and far too much money. He will most likely end up in detention but it won't necessarily be immediately.  Other families in desperate need of a safe place will have to wait even longer.
And the fatherless family who claim to know him will be living in fear of him.

Thursday 1 November 2018

The not-bucket list?

It isn't something I have given a lot of thought to recently but it came up yesterday when a friend was mentioning things she would like to do when she turns 50. What, she wanted to know, would we want to do?
Fifty? That was a very long time ago. It was the year in my life when my mother died. The Senior Cat has outlived her by many, many years. It was the year in my life when I had no chance of doing anything I might have wanted to do because I was trying to keep on top of work, nurse my "Christian Scientist" mother  (who refused to even acknowledge she was ill, let alone how ill), care for the Senior Cat and try to keep the Black Cat from causing even more chaos.
When V.... asked about the not-bucket list I realised that things have not changed much. The only thing I am not doing is caring for my mother. I have added some other responsibilities. In all that time I have slept away for five nights - the trip Middle Cat, the Senior Cat and I took to a neighbouring state. I'm glad we did that trip then. We couldn't do it now and I wouldn't want to do it again anyway.
No, if the increasingly frail Senior Cat is still with us, I won't be going anywhere next year. 
So the non-bucket list has to be the sort of thing that I can do here. 
Write more...knit more...write more of the ever increasing pile of unread  books....write more....teach more...write more...cut back on work...and did I say, write more?
The real bucket list may never be achieved. It is the stuff of day dreams...the things I would like to do given the time, money and physical capacity.  But - is there anything wrong with dreaming?
A little while back now a friend of mine went to China. It is somewhere she had dreamed of visiting for years. Once she had dreams of going there alone but she decided she was much too old for that now. She went on a tour instead. Enjoyed it? Yes - and no. She is glad she went but it wasn't the experienced she imagined it would be. Group tours are not really her thing. It didn't give her the time and the space she needed.
     "But, better than not going at all," she told me. She has crossed it off her list of things to do. (Hers is an actual physical list. It includes things like "fly in a glider" and "visit Easter Island" - both crossed off.)
So should I write an actual list? No. I would look at it and think, "that's not likely to happen" or "I don't have the physical capacity to do that". 
It's better to dream...and you never know...