Thursday 28 February 2019

"No, you don't have the right to an opinion"

I was effectively told by a rather prominent Professor of Politics. As I was not actually expressing an opinion at the time I found this a little unnerving.
What I had actually put to the Professor was whether I had the right to an opinion if I had read and listened to all the available evidence. Please note the word "available". 
Courts and juries are supposed to work on the available evidence - the facts put before them. The presumption is made that the people giving that evidence are telling the truth.
The reality of course is different. The evidence given is the truth as it is remembered or the truth as it is known at the time - when people are telling the truth.
People lie under oath. They will lie for any number of reasons. They will also make statements which are not true because they have forgotten or they are confused or they believe something else.
"Evidence" is not an exact science.
Courts make mistakes. It is one of the reasons I am so strongly opposed to the death penalty. More than one innocent person has been put to death because of false evidence. 
It is also why I support the appeals process. It presents an opportunity to right a wrong. 
Now let it be said here that in the case of a certain very senior member of the Catholic church I was (a) not in court to hear the evidence presented and (b) have not read the transcripts. But, I still hold an opinion and it is this, he has the right to appeal. Yes, he has been convicted of an horrific crime but he still has the right to appeal. I have read the opinion pieces written by two people whose intellectual and academic integrity I trust - in so far as I trust anyone - and they are of the opinion that there are strong grounds for an appeal. My background in both psychology and law suggests to me that, on the evidence available to me, he is likely to appeal. His legal team has been instructed to appeal. 
That appeal may or may not succeed. The important thing is that it must be allowed to go ahead.
It must be allowed to go ahead free of the immense pressure being placed upon the court of appeal by the court of public opinion and the media. Right now that is not happening - and that is wrong. 
If I am wrong to hold that opinion then so be it - but I believe I have the right to hold it.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

The Pell verdict

was expected of course. Like many other people in Downunder I have been aware of it since December but I would have broken the law if I had commented publicly on it. 
I have a number of things I want to say here and I am well aware that they might not make me popular.
The first is this. The legal process is not yet finished. We have been informed that there will be an appeal. That may or may not succeed.
The second is this. The media and many others who have commented on the issue made up their minds long before the case even went to court that the defendant was guilty as charged. What is more they claimed he was guilty of everything he was accused of.
The third is this. Some charges against the defendant were thrown out. They were thrown out because the evidence was not there. The known facts showed there was not just no reasonable chance of a conviction but no chance at all. 
The fourth is this. The jury was under immense pressure to find the defendant guilty. The facts of the case in this instance were secondary to "getting" someone. The first trial failed because, it was said, the jury could not reach a verdict. The reality is that they came dangerously close to acquitting the defendant. I say "dangerously" because such an outcome would have been unacceptable.
Nobody wants to talk about these things. I tried, carefully and gently, to point this out to someone yesterday and I got accused of "supporting child sexual abuse". Nothing could be further from the truth. As a victim of it myself I am all too well aware of the harm it can cause.  I do not for one moment want to suggest that someone who has been subjected to it has not been harmed by it.
All evidence in such cases has to be treated with extreme caution. Any evidence given after forty years is tainted. People may not be lying but the truth, as they remember it, may not be what actually happened. Those claiming to be victims have too much to lose to even question to themselves the validity of their claims. The slightest touch given in sympathy can be remembered as violent assault when you turn against someone.
But, the verdict in this case may not be safe. We have to wait the outcome of the appeals process to know the answer to that.
There are other problems too. This morning's paper has made an enormous fuss about the case. That was only to be expected - but much of what they have to say is wrong. They are, quite deliberately, trying to ensure that any appeals process will fail. They are putting pressure on the judiciary to retain the verdict. It matters not to them whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. They want him to be guilty. They are also putting pressure on a religious organisation and those who run it. It matters not to them that this also puts pressure on all those who attend churches or synagogues or mosques or simply believe in a higher being.  It is telling them - stop believing because this is the sort of thing that happens when you believe. 
That's wrong. It's frightening. History shows humans have a need to believe in something be it Christianity, Communism, Confucianism or something else.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Bullying on social media

or something akin to it has apparently led to a well known knitwear designer taking extended leave.
I don't know what the story is apart from the fact that  her blog is not active. The "club" she had running is also in abeyance until September.  
Her blog is popular. It has hundreds of followers, perhaps more. The comments always seem positive.
I read her blog occasionally if I think she is going to talk about the design process. I always find it helpful to learn how other people approach the design process. In this particular case it is doubly useful because this designer had a stroke and had to relearn - or at least rediscover - many things. 
From her own comments I suspect she is, quite understandably, a little "spiky" or irritated at times. I sense her frustration when she can't manage to do something as quickly as she once could - and when the effort of doing it at all tires her. I don't know whether that is part of what went wrong. If it is then I imagine she will feel even worse. I just hope she can get through this and go on giving the people who do knit from her patterns the pleasure she was giving them before.
But the situation made me think about the problem of bullying again, especially bullying on social media. It seems everyone is aware of it but few people are prepared to do anything about it.
I have blocked a few extreme left-wing trolls in my time. I have blocked more  extreme right-wing trolls. I rarely comment on one newspaper site simply because there are a small band of almost constant commentators who seem to see the site as their personal domain. The site is "moderated" but this has not stopped this little group of making fun out of criticising even the most innocuous of comments. It undermines the whole purpose of the ability to comment.
I am wary of what I post but someone still took offence at something I intended as a compliment. I keep my Facebook account confined to a few people who are genuinely friends. The comment, "But Cat you could have hundreds of followers..." makes me shudder. I want to know people. If I was like the designer above I would set up a separate account for that purpose. 
Adults don't expect to be bullied. They don't always recognise bullying when it happens. They might acknowledge that someone isn't being very nice and avoid them but they won't realise the behaviour is that of a bully. One of the biggest problems is that those around them often don't recognise that sort of behaviour for what it is either.
Perhaps it is time people did recognise it.

Monday 25 February 2019

The best person for the job

is the person who should be chosen for the job.
It does not matter whether that person is black, white, blue, red, purple or something else. 
There have been criticisms because out of four women and one man the man got the job. In this case the job is being the candidate for a seat in federal parliament.  People are crying out, "A woman should have been selected."
No, the best person for the job should have been selected. The women may be good, even very good, but they still need to the best.
We are not doing ourselves any favours if we don't put the best person for the job in the position which needs to be filled. Many  years ago a woman I knew was appointed to be the head of a small special school. It was said to be an excellent choice, "a real breakthrough".  At the time though I had my doubts as did some of those who had been hoping to at least be considered for the position. My ultimate boss at the time had his doubts too.
   "It's going to hurt your chances Cat," he told me, "It's going to do a lot of damage."
And it did. This woman was appointed because she had a disability. She wasn't appointed on the basis that she was able to run a school. She had actually never taught and was not even trained to teach,  The appointment was a failure. She was not able to do the job because she simply did not have the qualifications. Her disability had nothing to do with her ability to do the job.
At the time I was not old enough or experienced enough to even think of applying for the position. When she left I was transferred to the school as an assistant. A new head was appointed. He was often away. When he was away I was responsible but I was told I would never be considered for the position, indeed for anything other than a classroom position - and that only reluctantly. 
My ultimate boss eventually told me, "Go back to university Cat, you need to do something else. Nobody is going to take chances again."
And they didn't. Some would say it was a good thing because it hastened the move to dismantle the special schools and place the students in mainstream classrooms. 
But it also did a lot of damage. Forty years down the track and there is still a reluctance to employ people with disabilities. My ultimate boss is no longer alive. The last time I saw him he spoke again of that appointment and the damage it had done.
     "I wanted to see more women at the top," he told me, "And it didn't happen. Now it is happening again but for the wrong reasons. The best women available are leaving to do other things. I don't blame them but look at what we have missed out on."
And perhaps it is also because of my own experience that I don't believe in appointing someone to a role simply because they happen to be one thing or another or another. I simply want the best person available to fill the position.  I don't think "quotas" work if they result in the best people not being chosen.
Is that wrong?


Sunday 24 February 2019

Japanese knitting - His work is incredibly neat

and extraordinarily even.
We taught S.... to knit last year. He came along to the knitting group at the library and said he wanted to learn. 
He didn't have needles or yarn so I gave him a crochet hook and a length of yarn and G.... showed him how to make a chain. S.... spent the rest of that time crocheting a chain and then pulling it undone and doing it again. We told him to come back with needles and yarn if he wanted to learn.
Would he come back? We weren't sure why he was there. There has never been another male in that group. He is Japanese. We sensed he was lonely and wanted companionship if not actual friendship.
But yes, he came back.
The second time I showed him how to cast on and do the knit stitch. What did he want to make? A scarf? I thought he might give up part way through that. No. He returned the next time with most of one big ball knitted. I showed him how to join the next ball. He finished the scarf.
G.... taught him the purl stitch. He made another scarf - stocking stitch with neat garter stitch borders. 
And his work was neat, neat, and neat. His stitches are even. He dropped a stitch. I showed him how to pick it up. He knits with rhythm. His tension is even. 
The third thing he made was a cowl, still in plain knitting. I wondered when he was going to ask to learn something a little more complicated. 
We wanted him to come along last weekend for the family day at the library but nobody knew how to get in touch with him. Would he come yesterday? I thought he wasn't going to be there. He is usually there early. No S.... He heard about the day and is hurt we didn't include him I thought.
No. He arrived late. We greeted him with relief, told him we need his email address so he is on the list. I told him why. He looked a little puzzled at first and then laughed as he does when he feels a little embarrassed. He gave me his email address. 
Then he pulled out his new project. He had designed it himself. It is another scarf but it is patterned.  He showed me a mistake four rows down. He wasn't sure how to fix it. We did it the easy way with him taking the stitches off the needle, undoing it to the mistake and then picking the stitches up again while I stood there and watched and told him how to do it.
He could not have left the mistake there. He's a perfectionist. He reminds me of someone else I know. Her work is beautiful too. She plans, weighs, measures and blocks in a way that no other knitter I know does. Nothing gets wasted. She can make something out of the most disparate scraps of yarn - and make it look as if the whole thing has been planned, that it was intended to be that way. S... really needs to meet her so he can see how he can do even more and still retain his desire to knit something as perfectly as possible.
Yesterday I also started someone else on her first pair of socks. She was, rightly for her, more concerned about understanding what she was doing than perfection but I could see S... was puzzled by this.
Should he wish to knit socks his will be the perfect pair. 
We are lucky to have him in the group. He's setting a good example.

Saturday 23 February 2019

A handpainted "afternoon tea" set

is something I never expected to own. I have never wanted to own one but now I suppose I do.
It belonged to my paternal grandmother. It was a wedding gift.  My siblings don't want it so I am going to be "allowed" to have it.
But let me start a little earlier than that. This is also about what you inherit. My sisters married and they inherited quite a number of household items. 
    "You don't need them Cat," I was told. Perhaps I didn't. They also inherited our mother's jewellry and her wedding ring and the rings that had belonged to both my grandmothers. I was told "You aren't married Cat. You can't wear them." Perhaps that was right.
There was quite a bit of "good" crockery and cutlery that the Black Cat probably did need - having moved and changed partners more times than I care to think about. Middle Cat needed the sewing machine - repairs to the clothing of her  (then) two small boys. Her mother-in-law took the overlocker - she was the only one who knew how to use it. And there were other things that went as well.
But, oddly, the afternoon tea set was left there in the cupboard. There are cups, saucers, plates, a cake stand, a milk jug and sugar bowl. The set is complete. (There was never a teapot.) The pieces are made from bone china - not quite white. They are painted in bands of gold and navy blue. Each piece is numbered. 
I am a clumsy cat. Just holding a piece terrifies me. I have never used it. I am never likely to use it. We don't have afternoon tea parties in this house.
So, do I want it? Why would I want it? I have thought about this long and hard. I do want to keep it but not for what it is. I want to keep it because it is another reminder of my paternal grandmother, the person who taught me all the important housekeeping skills, the person who kept telling me "you can do it" when other people said I couldn't, the person who taught me to knit, and more. Grandma was the person who came when I was in hospital as a very small kitten. She was the person, along with my grandfather, who came to the only graduation ceremony I attended.  
Grandma married my grandfather against the wishes of her own father. Apparently the old man was furious that he was losing a "free" pair of hands on the farm. He had taken her out of school after just three years to work on that same farm. She had to educate herself after that - and she did. It was my paternal great-grandmother who gave her the afternoon tea set. I look on it as an enormous vote of confidence in my grandmother. It said not just, "I accept you" but also, "I know you are going to be not merely a good wife but a great one."
I know the tea set was not used that often. It may have been used more in the early years of marriage. I know they would have people to afternoon tea on a Sunday. Dinner parties were not as common then. My brother has the dinner set, the one we used at Christmas and on rare family gatherings. It's good but it isn't like the afternoon tea set.  My brother has the dining room furniture too, the "great chair" and the nine chairs without arms and the table with the extension which winds out. 
But, I think I have the tea set. It is there in the cupboard. Nobody else seems to want it. I may not remind them of it. Is that selfish?
I have to move it today because a friend is coming to take the old sound system which has not been used for the past twenty-two years. The connections are at the back of the cupboard in which the tea set has been kept. To get at those I have to move the tea set.
I have a box. I know I can do it.
And when our friend S.....has removed the connections I will return the tea set pieces to their place in the cupboard. I will look at the numbers on each piece and wonder who painted them.
And most of all I will look at them and think of my great-grandmother and my grandmother. They were both extraordinary women. The tea set is a little piece of Grandma. I want to keep it for that reason. 

Friday 22 February 2019

"Training day"

are words which make me shudder. 
I was supposed to be attending one today. It was for some "voluntary" work I do.
Fortunately for me the person organising it said,
    "No point in you coming Cat. It's pitched at those who do tea duty."
No, it isn't actually tea duty but I knew what she meant. It is a compulsory unit for the people who go along on a regular basis to do something entirely different. I attend this venue when I am called in to help with communication issues. Although it is a "volunteer" position in that I am not paid I am there as a professional person. There are so few of us who work like this and we face such varied issues that a "training day" would be almost impossible to put together even if we were some sort of "group". 
But "training days" seem to be compulsory for everyone now. There was a "training day" at the local charity shop recently. They closed the place for the morning and an outsider came in.
The staff told me about it later. Fortunately the people who work there have a good sense of humour. They needed it because the "trainer" was trying to teach them about "customer relations". 
    "She was a lovely person Cat but she had no idea about so many of the people we see in here." (It's a big organisation which runs many services and many of their clients are welfare recipients who need a lot of help.) 
They had the "occupational health and safety" people in last year too. There were arguments about the way things were organised and handled. The volunteers there were prepared to listen but they despaired of the "suggestions" made.  Safety is an issue there and everyone knows it - because most of the people who work there are elderly. They are the people who have the time. The problem is they do things differently from some bright young "trainer" spark with definite ideas.
I am very glad I don't have to go to a training day which tells me how to make the tea or hold someone's hand in a crisis situation. 
Yesterday I asked P.... who works in the charity shop what she would have liked as part of the training day. She thought about it for a moment,
     "Well teaching us all how to use the new cash register would have been good."
Then she gave me a wicked little smile and said, "And perhaps they could come and train the customers to put things back where they found them?"
Now that would be training worth having. 

Thursday 21 February 2019

63,000 yards of thread

went into making this christening gown
Image may contain: textIt apparently took the knitter five months to knit working seven hours a day - and there are over a million stitches in it. 
No, something like that could not be made by machine even now. You could get something that look similar perhaps but it would not be the same. 
There is something different about something handmade. There are those tiny little differences that make it easier to look at - yes, easier, not more difficult. We need those little differences. 
A friend of mine has been looking at houses recently. His brother is moving back here after many years abroad. He has been sending his brother pictures of possible houses and his brother has been "driving (him) crazy because he doesn't like them". I asked him what sort of houses he had been showing his brother and he pulled up some websites on his phone. I looked.They were very new and very modern.
    "I think they might be too new," I said.
    "What do you mean?"
    "Your brother has been living in one of the oldest cities in the world. He is used to being surrounded by old architecture not new. He doesn't want to live in a box."
    "But a new house would be so easy to maintain and...."
    "It is still a box. Send him something that is at least 70  years old. That will be new in his book."
He sighed, scrolled through some more and said, "More this sort of thing?"
     "Yes...if he can afford it."
     "He can afford it. I just don't think...."
I don't know whether any decisions have yet been made but apparently his brother is "feeling more hopeful" after being shown what is, for this city, an "old" house or two. (That would mean built about 80 years ago not 180 years ago.)
Yes, those "clean lines" are not what everyone wants. 
I suppose life really was slower back then.How else did Sarah Ann Cunliffe find the time to spend seven hours a day for five months knitting something that may not have been used more than once? I think we might have lost sight of something here.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

School zones

not school traffic zones but school zones are back in the news.
The Little Drummer Boy - not so little now - has just started high school. He is highly intelligent (although I wonder about the drumming) and his parents were relieved when he "won" a place at one high school rather than another. 
The high school he is now attending has a specialist maths unit for the most able students and they are keen for him to take advantage of it. When I asked him about it he shrugged and said, "It's okay."
It doesn't do to look too enthusiastic about school.
His new school is the one my mother attended and the one my brother attended for his final year. In my mother's case she lived almost literally next door to the school and, all those years ago, it didn't have the same reputation.  By the time my brother went there it was a "zoned" school. He was able to attend because he had earned a Commonwealth Bursary and we were, briefly and disastrously, living with my maternal grandmother while our parents were still  a long way from the city. (The school my father was the head of finished at the end of what is now Year 11 - not  Year 12.)
At that time the school had a good reputation - one perhaps not entirely deserved. It now has a mixed reputation but  it is still popular and still zoned.
The alternative for the Little Drummer Boy was a slightly closer school. The enrolment numbers at that one had dropped to a point that raised questions about closing it. Why? 
The Senior Cat and I know that, on the other side of a major road there is a different social demographic. At one time the school was popular because it catered for students interested in doing more technical and hands on subjects. The curriculum changed and those subjects are no longer taught. Other schools which had more desirable academic results proved more popular. 
Oh, it's more complex than that of course but both schools are now in the news because the boundaries have changed again. The primary schools are already zoned - for much the same reasons. Parents with more money to spend have added more facilities to some schools than others. It may be state funded education - but only up to a point.  
Those same parents, and others, have been buying houses "inside the zone" of the schools they want their children to attend. Houses for sale are even advertised as being "zoned for...". The redrawing of the boundaries has caused fury among those who are no longer in their desired zone. One parent, father of four year old and an eighteen month old,  has complained that the value of his house has dropped "overnight" because of the announcement. 
Will things be the same when his four year starts high school in seven years? It's unlikely. Things could be very different.
My siblings and I did almost all our schooling in "area" schools. These were country schools where children of all ages were taught. My father, the headmaster of more than one of these schools, struggled with teachers who were almost always very young and very inexperienced. They were often not qualified to teach the subjects they were required to teach. They drove the school buses morning and night - making their days far longer than those of their city counterparts. The facilities were poor. You went into the Public Examinations Board stream or the Agricultural stream. There were no subject choices for students apart from girls doing "Home Economics" and boys doing "Woodwork" - and that lone girl who asked to do Woodwork. (The Senior Cat let her do it too.)
It wasn't a good education by any means. But it produced more than one doctor, a  university lecturer in mathematics, a lawyer, a number of teachers and nurses, a pharmacist and an agricultural research worker just among the years my brother and I were in. My brother and I have multiple degrees as well. 
No, it wasn't easy. Yes, we missed out on some of the many facilities of the big city schools. 
We did get there though. It isn't just the schools. It is the students as well. 

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Emma Darwin's new book

arrived in the post  yesterday and the Senior Cat promptly took it from me. He did not get a lot else done. He says I'll like it - a lot.
I am sure I will.
You see Emma and I have something in common, just as Christopher Milne and I had something in common.  I haven't yet met Emma - although it would be good to meet her.
But let me start at the beginning.  I am someone's daughter and somebody else's granddaughter. I have even, on some occasions, been somebody's great-granddaughter - and yes, the street is named after him.  Of course I am also "that person who writes the letters to the paper" and "the person who..."
And I am Cat... I am me.
As a kitten I was almost always introduced as "This is ...... 's grand/daughter." Small kittens usually are known like this but, for me and my siblings, this has continued into adult life.
We live in a small city. Fifty years ago it was even smaller. People did know one another. You didn't need to be terribly well known to be widely known.
My paternal grandfather was well known. He was a tailor but he wasn't just anyone's tailor. My grandfather was a specialist. He made uniforms, uniforms for the governors of the state. They were military men back then. He also made uniforms for the sea captains. There were sea captains who would wait until they docked in the port and then visit my grandfather. He would measure, cut, tack, fit and send them on their way in the time they were in port and then, when they next visited the final fitting and finishing would be done. It was stressful work. 
My grandfather's work lasted for years. The Senior Cat still has the Harris Tweed jacket his father made for him in 1947 - the year he got married. It has been relined a number of times. It does look a little worse for wear now but it can still be worn. I know of one person who still has a suit my grandfather made for him in the 1960's.  "It didn't fit when I put on weight but I can wear it again now - but just for funerals these days." Right.
But Grandpa had an impact in other ways too. He was not merely "a tailor". He was very active in church and community. He was fiercely proud of his Scots heritage and led the Caledonian Society and, like his mother before him, all the social welfare work that went with it. At a time when Presbyterians and Catholics barely spoke to one another he was instrumental in bringing them together. He knew people from all over the world, from all faiths and backgrounds, at a time when the word "multi-cultural" was unknown to the community at large. Not so long ago I did some work for a man who lives in another country and, as we finished it, in his last email to me he asked,"I've been meaning to ask are you by any chance related to....  My grandfather...." and the answer was "Yes, he was my grandfather."
So yes, I am still his granddaughter. I am also the Senior Cat's daughter. He's the one who did this and that and something else in the education system....I'll leave it at that.
A long time ago when I was in London and we went to visit some schools outside it a friend took me and a couple of others in her car. On the way back she told the other two,
    "I have to stop at a bookshop. I need to pick up something from a friend. Cat, it's someone you need to meet."
And so we went into the bookshop and my friend H.... said to the man in there, "I want you to meet Cat... she is and she is not .....'s daughter. She can answer your question about...."
The man turned out to be Christopher Robin Milne. Her way of introducing me was quite deliberate. He was not at all fond of being someone else's child. 
I am proud of the Senior Cat, of his father, of his father's father. I don't mind in the least that I am related to them. They are and were good people. They have all had a larger than usual impact on the community.
But yes, I am me too. On Sunday morning there was a phone call from another state. Someone was looking for a man I happen to know. He was a policeman. We share the same surname. He belongs to another branch of the family. I have no idea where he lives now but the person at the other end suddenly said,
    "Oh, I'm sorry you must be..."
Yes. I am. But - I am me too. I am not the letters I have written. I am Cat.
And, while Emma is obviously and justifiably proud of her family she is also Emma, a person in her own right. Christopher was not "just Christopher Robin" but a person in his own right.
As Ms W once said,
    "I am me and nobody else is me."

Monday 18 February 2019

A Royal Commission into the abuse of preople with disabilities

has been proposed by a Greens Senator who identifies as disabled.
I have little sympathy with the Greens as a party. Their website is full of policies that would simply never work. One senior member of the  Greens once went as far as to admit to me that, while the policies were what they would like, they knew they would never get them.
I don't know whether they will get the Royal Commission either.
The difficulty is that, although the Federal government is in favour of the idea, the states would have to come on board because services to people with disabilities are largely run by the states. I have a feeling that, given the record of the states, the idea may not be popular. 
But this is one Royal Commission I would like to see happen. It is long overdue. 
I have given evidence to more than one inquiry that has supposedly had the power to investigate some issues but nothing has come of those investigations. "Policy" announcements have been made but nothing has happened. What has happened is that "squeaky wheels" pushing their own agenda - all too often disguised as "equal opportunity" - have sometimes managed to achieve what they want but they have left the majority behind. 
There have been people who have spent years trying to ensure that transport services have, at very least, been retained. Yes, we now have a fleet of "accessible" buses - but there are still people who cannot access them. For them the transport fight isn't over but there is a belief, even in the disability sector, that the fight is all but over. There has been a push to have all children with disabilities "integrated" into the normal school system. That's been fine for some children but nobody has  yet taken a good hard look at the real consequences of this policy. Nobody has yet acknowledged that, without the specialist education some of these children might have received, they are simply not achieving what they might once have achieved. Nobody wants to acknowledge that the cost of truly integrating some children is so much higher than simply placing them in a classroom with a little bit of "support". 
Nobody has acknowledged that some of those who once went to "sheltered" workshops now have nowhere to go. There is a failure to acknowledge the "niche" roles they might once have filled in the general workforce have been taken over by others - if they even exist.
Moving people out of institutions into the community has not stopped abuse either. In all likelihood it has actually increased it. My own observations tell me that many people with disabilities who live in these group houses are even more isolated than before. The quality of care they are getting is not getting the scrutiny it should get. 
More than once person has said that how we treat the most vulnerable members of society is a reflection of society itself. We aren't doing as well as we should.
I'll support a Royal Commission because I am one of the lucky ones.  If you can't communicate, you can't complain - and I hope I can communicate.

Sunday 17 February 2019

The library doesn't get used?

I couldn't believe it. Someone actually said, "It was a waste of money. The library doesn't get used. If you want to read something you do it on line these days."
He has no idea. There were more than a thousand people through the doors of the new library facilities yesterday. My friend G and I answered questions about the Knitting and Crochet Group until we were hoarse. 
I had one of those incredible, wonderful moments of seeing the absolute awe and delight of a four  year discovering how to "knit" a single stitch. There was the woman who said shyly, "I had a stroke last year and I'd like to get back to knitting. Could I come along?"
Of course she could and we will help if she needs it. There was the moment when a man, married for more than thirty years, showed his wife that he could knit.
   "I've been married to him all this time and I never knew he could knit."
   "No. You might have made me do it," he told her. They went off holding hands like teenagers.
We explained the difference between knitting and crochet.
All the time around us people were having tours of the new facilities. The children were hunting for answers to the clues they had been given, lining up to have their faces painted with story book characters, listening to stories and more. The adults were exploring the book sale, the Book Groups, the Card and Board Games Group and the French Conversation group next to us. I even managed to say to someone who asked if we were the French group, "Non, je suis un tricoteur". I pointed to the next meeting room. Trying to work out the French for "that group is in the next room" failed me - and I doubt he would have understood anyway.
Outside it was noisy. There was a band playing. There was a sausage sizzle, a coffee stand, potatoes on sticks, popcorn, a climbing wall, and a bouncy castle for the smallest children on the park side. On the other side it was much quieter with just a curious solar powered machine "drawing" a story. 
And you could still borrow books and return them. There were small queues waiting to return books or check them. I looked around at the crowds. No it isn't always nearly that busy but the library is used every day of the week and it is used by many, many people. It's an important part of the community -  perhaps the most important part. I didn't want to leave but I had another meeting to go to. I picked up my inter-library loan and left.
I'll be back there during the week.

Saturday 16 February 2019

The new library

facilities are being celebrated today with a "Family Fun Day".  There will be face painting, music, a bouncy castle, craft activities, tours of the new facilities, story telling, the French Conversation group, the Book Club groups and more. When the idea was first raised the library staff said, "And Cat has to bring the knitters and get the children to knit."
They won't knit of course but we are going and we are prepared to show them how it is done - and perhaps even help them knit a stitch.
I have obtained some cheap yarn from the local charity shop and straight needles - also from the charity shop. I have cast on a "sufficient number" of stitches and knitted a few rows of two scarves.
These will be the basis of two "knit a row and go" scarves. They are just long strips of knit/garter stitch that anyone who can knit can add to and that are later given to someone to give to charity. Given that everyone knits slightly differently I don't suppose they turn out too badly but nobody could call them beautiful.  It is however an easy way to involve people.
The vast majority of children, perhaps people, cannot knit. Some children don't even know what knitting is. They have never seen anyone do it. If we can encourage any of them to actually do a stitch with help from one of the group that will be good. 
We will be next to the French conversation group. I am wondering whether any of them will tell a child, "Je suis  un tricoteur"? I am sure they will be encouraging young children to try a word or two of French. 
I thought about all of this last night as I was packing things ready to take. We are extraordinarily fortunate that our local library is not being closed, that it has actually been expanded.  
The new facilities are wonderful. They are open, light and airy. They will be used to their full capacity, indeed the range of activities can now be expanded. 
I saw one of our neighbours in there during the week. She had her three year  and her five month old baby in there. They were borrowing a pile of picture books.
    "Isn't this marvellous!" she told me.
 Yes. This is what children should be growing up with. They should see libraries as magical places and say, like the small boy told me, "This is the best place!"

Friday 15 February 2019

Learning to read

is not easy. Learning to read English if your first language is Chinese is not easy either.
The Senior Cat has now reached the time in his life where he needs some help to shower. I could do this and I have done it on occasion but he is eligible for the subsidised service and, after consideration, we decided to take advantage of it on safety grounds. Thus S.... arrives and helps.
S.... is Chinese. Her  husband lectures at the university so we assume his English is excellent. Hers is fair - but she can also speak fluent German. This last time she arrived and announced, "I have come for my English lesson." 
We laughed but I know what she meant. When she cannot find the right word in English I will give it to her. She will repeat it and use it again. Sometimes she gets me to spell it and she will write it down. I will correct her grammar and construction too. Her English has improved greatly over the twelve months she has been coming to us. 
For the Chinese Lunar New Year she showed us a picture of something her family had bought in our local Chinatown shopping area. It featured a knot. This was a fairly simple knot but Chinese knotwork can be very complex and very beautiful. I know a little about it  and have two books on the subject. I brought them out and showed S... Could she borrow one? Of course. I have used them in the way I intended and no longer need them.
And so she had taken the book home with her.
The books are written in English of course. Although I can recognise a few characters I don't read Chinese. 
And I have been reminded yet again that reading instructions in a second language is even harder than simply reading straightforward information. S.... has asked me for help with phrases like "pass it through underneath". How can something be "through" and "underneath"?  
At university I taught more than one Chinese and Japanese student to read a knitting pattern in English. All those abbreviations I could read automatically had to be explained one by one.  The modern Japanese way of writing a pattern has much to commend it. I can actually struggle through one of those but, like S... with the knot, it would always be good to have someone who could help.
When someone who knits questions why we are so willing to help S.... with her English - and they often do - then I think I might ask them if they can read a pattern in Japanese. 
I think the answer will almost certainly be no. 

Thursday 14 February 2019

The first year reading or "phonics check" has apparently

produced some unexpected results. If the report is correct just over half the state's children failed the test.
It was forty word test and to "pass" children were expected to be able to read twenty eight of these words.

Easy fake words: pib, vus, yop, elt, desh, chab, poil, queep, stin, proom, sarps, thend
Easy real words: chip, jazz, farm, thorn, stop, truck, jump, lords
Harder fake words: kigh, girst, baim, yune, flods, groiks, strom, splaw
Harder real words: fair, flute, goat, shine, crept, shrubs, scrap, stroke, index, turnip, waiting, portrait

 Now please note there are some "fake" words there. It was the child's ability to "decode" a word which was being tested. Only 43% of children managed to get to that mark of twenty-eight out of forty.
I could read long before I went to school - and I mean actually read. Our house had labels all over it. My mother's "infant school printing" remains deeply scored into my memory. Both my parents were teaching me to read. I don't think they consciously set out to teach me. The Senior Cat says that was not the case. I wanted to learn to read. 
I know I would ask for words. It would be written on a scrap of paper. If it was an object it could be attached to it would be attached to that object. There were lists attached to the fridge and the kitchen cupboards.
And I was taught to "sound out the words". I was taught to decode the new words I came across. Yes, by the time I went to school I was an independent reader.
Of course I still came across words I didn't know but I had the skills to at least try and work them out for myself. 
I know that, for my mother, it was a means of saving herself the time of having to read things to me. It was the Senior Cat who read my bedtime stories to me. Right from the beginning he would put his finger under each word as he read to me. 
Those things were a wonderful start. At school I read even more. I was in trouble not because I could not read but because I could read too much. I had read our "reader" for the year from cover to cover before the end of the first day. 
We had to do a "daily sentence" in our "daily diary" too.  Other children were asking for "I played with my dog". I was getting frustrated because the teacher didn't want to write, "I went to the Maritime Authority office with my grandfather." I remember being told, "You can only have that if you can spell it." I spelt it.  Phonics helped. It was the same for my brother. My sisters also had a good start. Our parents were firm believers in getting excellent "word attack" skills.
For a while there was something called the "whole word" approach. My parents quietly went on getting the teachers under them to teach phonics. 
When I taught a profoundly physically disabled child with no speech to read I would say to him, "P.... listen to the sound. Say the sound inside your head." I knew the day that his hard work and mine paid off. He was able to indicate to me that he had come across a new word - and worked it out for himself. After that his confidence knew no bounds. He knew he would be able to read.
So I wonder about  the children who failed this test. No doubt they aren't getting the same amount of help at home. The help we got was exceptional and few children ever get anything like that.
Young T... across the road has just started school. His mother is a paediatrician and she is well aware of the need to read. T... did an on-line reading program before he went to school. There was nothing forced about it. He had  indicated a strong desire to learn to read for himself and the program was fun as well as educational. I am sure if he was given the words  in the test now, in "Prep" he would do better than the majority of Year One students. He's highly intelligent, wants to learn, and has been taught some phonics.
I wonder what the children who were tested are being taught and when they are being taught it. Are we too busy teaching them other things - things they could learn themselves if they had the reading skills?

Wednesday 13 February 2019

All those gloating over the government's loss

with respect to the asylum seeker bill may be less happy when they realise the likely consequences.
Within minutes of the government's defeat I had an email from someone in Indonesia telling me that preparations were being made for a boatload of "sick asylum seekers" to set  out. It may take a little while but there will be those who attempt the journey. They will not listen to the fact that the legislation only applies to those now in off-shore detention - indeed they may not be told that. They will simply told "if you are ill - or pretend to be ill - you will get to where you want to go".
The bill is a disaster waiting to happen. Both sides of politics knows that but one side is so bent on winning an election that they have done what they believe will be popular with the electorate.
It is quite wrong to say that the present government does not want refugees. I don't think there is anyone in it who would refuse a genuine refugee entry. I certainly hope there isn't. I would always want to give someone in genuine fear of their life a safe place to stay. I hope all politicians are like that.
But - and it is a huge "but" - there are massive problems in simply allowing anyone who sets out on a leaky boat to claim asylum. Many of those who remain in off-shore detention have long criminal records in their home countries. There are murderers and rapists among them - people who would be locked away here for many years. They face the death penalty in their home countries so they cannot, under our obligations in international law, be sent  back. They cannot be prosecuted here because their crimes did not occur in this country. In other words they are, if we simply let them in, going to get away with murder and rape. This is the reason so many of them are still in detention. It is not simply because they tried to come by circuitous means.
What is more, despite arguments to the contrary, there are better medical facilities available to many of those in off-shore detention than there are in many remote areas of this country.  There are better mental health options in off-shore detention than there are for many people here. It all comes free of charge too.
Had our obligations under international law allowed it would have been better to require anyone coming here for treatment to return to off-shore detention without being able to appeal. Their claims should then continue to proceed in exactly the same way as before. That would be fairer to everyone. 
I would much prefer we welcomed ten or twenty or more law abiding refugees who are willing to assimilate than one violent criminal who is not. Is that wrong?
I know that saying all this is not going to make me popular but I am not "anti-refugee".  I hope the many refugees who know me would say I have been one of their strongest supporters. I just want to see things done in a safe and orderly manner.
Refugee "advocates" have much to answer for in the harm they do.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Where does milk come from?

No, it is not a silly question.
While we did not have a working fridge I had to buy milk in small cardboard cartons. (We don't have glass milk bottles in this state any more.) It was an inefficient and expensive way to buy it because we get through rather a lot of milk in this house.
It made me think again about where the milk was actually coming from.
I suspect that this is something most people rarely think about. They simply take the milk off the shelf in the supermarket. In some parts of the world I know it still magically appears on the doorstep each morning. 
One of my memories as a kitten is of sitting on the cross bar of the Senior Cat's bicycle and going to get the milk from the dairy. Milk was not delivered but every morning there would be a little queue of people lined up waiting for the farmer to finish milking the cows. When he was ready people would hand over their "billy cans" and get their milk - straight from the cow.
Today's health inspectors would be horrified.  Nevertheless I grew up on genuinely full cream milk. Nothing was added to it and nothing was taken away. I simply drank milk when it was put in front of me.
Just before I started secondary school we moved to an area which was mostly dairy farms. By then I was quite old enough to be very conscious of what people did for a living - and how they did it. I hope I have been conscious of dairy farming ever since then.
All over the valley in the mornings and the evenings you would hear the soft putt-putt noise of the milking machines at work. You would hear the cows calling to one another, the occasional shout or a farmer or the bark of a dog. If the wind was blowing in the right direction you could hear the radio playing classical music as the cows were milked. (Cows much prefer classical music - and no, I am not being funny.)
 And that happened every single day. There was no let up. Cows have to be milked whatever the weather, however the farmer feels, whether it is Christmas, Easter, your birthday or any other day. It requires discipline and commitment. Life in the valley revolved around the cows and their timetable. School, church, football, meetings, social occasions and more all had to fit in with the timetable the cows set. If a farmer was late for any reason you could hear his cows - and that would set other cows off too.
I know it has changed a little now in that the farms have been consolidated. The herds are much bigger. It has all become much more "scientific" and "computerised". But, one thing  has not changed. The cows still have to be milked.
It is hard physical work every day. There may be milking machines but there is still plenty to do.
I try to remember that when my paw reaches out for a container of milk in the supermarket. I thought of it again this morning when there was a story of a family who has had to cease dairy farming because they were no longer getting an income from it.  And I know that milk is a ridiculously low price for the work involved. 
I won't mind if the price of milk goes up - but only if the dairy farmers get the money. 

Monday 11 February 2019

The "medical transfer" bill

currently set to go before parliament is not a "medical solution to a medical problem". It is a bill that takes control of our borders and places that control in the hands of people who will not be accountable if things go wrong.
The bill, so it is said, would allow doctors to make a decision as to whether someone in "off-shore" detention was so ill that they needed to be transferred here.  That decision could be appealed by the Minister and subsequently referred to a panel. All that would have to take place within 24 hours. 
It is bad legislation because it is unworkable.  
Yes, people will become ill in detention. Some people are ill before they arrive in detention. There is also a higher rate of mental illness among those in detention. All those things are facts. People will die in detention. That is a fact too.  All that does not mean the legislation is good legislation or that it is a medical solution to a medical problem.
There is a story floating around that a woman was flown out with severe abdominal pains. She was found to be constipated. Refugee advocates though got wind of her arrival and the processes were begun to ensure that she was not be returned to detention. She would not have travelled as far as she did alone so the next step will be to "reunite" her with her family.  
I don't know whether that story is true or not but I have heard similar stories from medical staff in other parts of the world. One young woman was "married" to four different young men and they used her "pregnancy" to get across a border each time. Partially hearing and partially sighted she was raped by all of them and then left stranded in a refugee camp. Her story only came to light when someone recognised her on the fourth border crossing. She is pregnant - but by which of the young men it would be impossible to know.
The young men are in Europe and claiming refugee status - which they will almost certainly be granted. She has been left in a refugee camp. Those sort of stories are more common than we want to recognise. 
We need to get over the idea that simply because someone is claiming to be a refugee they are good, honest, upright citizens who have simply been through some terrible experiences and lost everything. It is much, much more complicated than that.
If it were not for international law then there would be a solution to the issue of medical transfers. People would simply be required to sign a legally binding agreement to return to detention once treated and would not be permitted to live in the community while here.  It sounds harsh - and it is - but it would stop the abuse of the law. It should not be framed in such a way that it prevents them from ever gaining residency or ever visiting but it would say, "You are going for medical treatment - nothing more and nothing less."
There is no "queue" for refugees but it angers me that some people have been able to buy their way in, people who may not necessarily be the most deserving but simply the most wealthy.  There are others who have been used and left behind. Those who do that need to face the full force of the law in the countries in which they seek asylum.
And it is still those who are fleeing persecution and don't reach places of safety at all who worry me the most. I wish that, instead of trying to make political mileage out of a situation which is much more complex than most realise, those supporting the present bill would give such people far more consideration. 

Sunday 10 February 2019

A "Kitchener bun" is

apparently almost unique to the state I live in so I had best explain what it is.
It is a lump of sweet doughnut like dough that is occasionally baked but usually deep fried to a pale golden brown. It is then cooled down, split open and filled with raspberry jam and a LOT of cream before being finished with a dusting of caster sugar. They are much like "Berliner buns" or Pfannkuchen.
They are not healthy eating. The Senior Cat likes them. I like them about as much as I like doughnuts to which my response is "Thank you but no." The calorie count is high.
For the Senior Cat this does not matter. He is thin, too thin. All our attempts to add a little weight in the right places have failed. I concentrate on providing him with healthy things to eat - things that he also likes. 
A friend called in yesterday and brought the Senior Cat a Kitchener bun as a small birthday present. It was good of her and he appreciated it. 
I can't remember them as a child. They were probably there but I never had one. We were allowed to buy our lunch at the school canteen once at the end of each term. Our paternal grandmother used to supply the money for that and we were allowed to have a pasty and a bun.  Pies were considered too messy. 
The pasties have not changed over all the years I have known them. I still see them being eaten. They have almost no meat in them. Instead they are filled with potato, carrot, swede and onion. 
The buns have changed. You could get currant buns with a sticky sugar glaze. The school buns were not as good as the buns made by the baker in the tiny rural town where I was born. They did not have as many currants - but we still liked them.
There were "finger buns" - yeast buns in the shape of an eclair with pink icing and coconut on top.
You could also get "cream buns". These were yeast buns with "raspberry jam" and "cream" pushed into a split at the side. The raspberry jam was  not jam, just some sort of sweet gel like paste. The cream was not cream either - just some sort of fluffy white mixture.
I remember watching with envy as other children devoured these things on an apparently regular basis. Even there sandwiches seemed more interesting than mine. They had "fritz" (a type of processed sausage meat) or cheese, beef or ham, and even jam sandwiches - all on white bread of course. My brother and I had Vegemite sandwiches or, very occasionally, tomato sandwiches. That once a term treat meant everything to us. On that day we felt like the other children. We savoured every mouthful of our pasty and our currant bun. It was one of the things we missed when we moved back to the bush - where there was no school canteen.
Not that long ago I had to buy a loaf of bread at a bakery I had not been to before. There, in the display cabinet, was a cream bun. It  looked just like the buns the school canteen used to sell.
I bought it out of curiosity. I took it home. I cut it in half. The Senior Cat and I shared it. 
Never again. After all those years I discovered that I hadn't really missed anything at all. The bun was overly sweet. The "jam" was still not jam. The "cream" was nothing like cream. 
I prefer the memory.
But the Kitchener bun has real jam and real cream. They do need to be eaten on the day they are made - but perhaps that tells me something about fresh ingredients?

Saturday 9 February 2019

What do you give prisoners to read?

I was alerted to and asked to comment on an article which has now appeared in today's paper.
It concerns a prisoner doing a 32 year stretch for murder. He isn't due for release until 2028 - when he will be deported. He spends most of his time in solitary confinement and has a range of other restrictions placed on him. Yes, his crimes were horrific. 
If the reporting is correct he has been behaving himself in prison. There is no suggestion of more violence, no drugs, no attempt to escape.
He has spent his long periods in solitary reading. What little money he has at his disposal has been spent on magazines about computing,  wooden boat building, and motorcycles. He has done sudoku and crosswords.
Obviously he is not one of the many, many prisoners who have low levels of literacy.
Now the system is changing and a list of "approved" magazines has come out. I saw the list. I can see that most of them would appeal to people with a limited capacity to read. They are full of pictures. They are not what this man wants to read. They won't challenge him in any way. 
And they won't prepare him for life on the outside. If he does get released in 2028 he is going to return to a very different world. What is more he will be deported to another country and, even though the language is the same, he will not have any support network there. 
The prison authorities seem unsympathetic. Perhaps there is a good reason for that. I find it hard to believe though that there is some good reason to deny someone reading matter of that nature. It seems to me it is the very sort of reading matter  which should be encouraged if someone shows an interest in it.  It seems to me that if someone is busy building a wooden boat  he isn't going to be nearly as interested in potentially criminal activities of any sort.
I know there is an immense need for literacy skills to be taught in prison and an equally great need for reading matter which is suited to the literacy levels and interests of those who are there. To do anything to prevent those who can read well from continuing to do so seems wrong. Of course what is being read will need to be checked but a glance would tell you that boat building is not bomb building.
People who create things are less likely to destroy things.  Surely that is to be encouraged?

Friday 8 February 2019

Do we really need all toilets to be

I was approached yesterday and asked to comment on whether one of the post-secondary institutions in this state should insist on having all toilets on campus "unisex". 
I was told, "If you are home then you use a unisex toilet. Why not do the same if you are out? It's only fair to people who are LGBTIQ."
I have thought about this before. It came up somewhere else and I have considered that issue. My answer remains the same. Not all public toilets should be unisex. There is a vast difference between members of the same family using something and strangers doing so. 
It isn't a topic I have discussed with men but it is a topic I have discussed with women. The vast majority of women I know don't feel comfortable with the idea. Put simply men and women behave differently in such places. I am told men do not speak to one another in such places. Women very often do - or at least acknowledge the presence of another woman while washing their hands or applying fresh make up. When discussing this one woman told me, "They can be used as a refuge too. They're somewhere men can't come. When I was breaking up with my ex I could go into one and have a good howl. Women understand that sort of thing."
Those who do like the idea have accused me of being "homophobic", "anti-gay" and more. I don't think I am. I have gay and lesbian friends. I feel comfortable in their company - and I hope they feel comfortable in mine. Do they want unisex toilets everywhere? No, they don't.
People from certain cultural groups also feel uncomfortable with the idea of all public toilets being unisex. In a supposedly multi-cultural society how did we handle this?
Following that approach yesterday I came home and saw a piece about  two groups in another state demanding that there be training for people working in emergency situations, specifically bush fires, to be "sensitive" towards the special needs of those who are LGBTIQ . My response to that was (and is) that , in that sort of Complex Humanitarian Emergency, there is no time to consider somebody's sexuality. There isn't time to stop and ask people, "Are you LGBTIQ? If so, how would you like to be treated or how would you like to help?" There are people with far greater needs - the very young, the very old, people with disabilities will all need help. 
My friend R.... who is in a stable gay relationship told me once, "Sexuality is or should be a private affair."
I personally don't care in the least if people are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or trans-gender. I'd like to think that everyone else thought that way too. I know that isn't the case and it bothers me so I'll stick up for their right to be the way they are. 
But I will only support making all public toilets unisex when everyone treats everyone else with sufficient respect that everyone feels comfortable.

Thursday 7 February 2019

Railway lines

are back in the news as people are suddenly realising they might be a "good" thing. 
There is a new development planned north of the city. The passenger train line does not extend that far. 
It did once. At the point they are talking about it branched off in a number of useful directions.
It went north and north east. You could travel into the "mid north" too. There were both goods and passenger trains. 
What happened?
The, perhaps overly simple, answer is cars and heavy goods vehicles happened - but particularly the cars. People bought cars. They used cars. It meant they could go anywhere at any time. They didn't have to wait for the trains. People then became "too busy" to use trains. They didn't have "enough time" to  use the trains.
The trains that transported people in and out of one of the best wine producing areas in the world gave way to tourist buses and the rail stops dedicated to the wine industry gave way to tankers of the liquid red and white gold.
There was a train service which ran through the small country town where I was born. People used it then because, while farmers had vehicles and the townspeople might, people still thought of the trains as a way to go south to the city and north to other towns. They would even go to the junction north of the city and then catch another train to go north east. 
The trains were magical things to all the young kittens around the place. We would mount our little tricycles with the carriers on the back and descend in a group on the local railway station when the train was due to arrive. We would line up and the station master and the porter and the guard would load our carriers with small parcels which we would then take to the parcel office. If the train was running late and there was no time for this fun we would leave dejected but with the words, "Next time" following us.  How did the adults find time for this? I'll never know but I still think of it as "fun". We loved doing it. It was exciting!
We were no more than three or four years of age but we were out and about on our own. Of course traffic was very light and everyone knew who we were.  
Our mothers would visit the railway station too because the "Mothers and Babies"  van was there. This was the railway carriage that was attached to trains all over the state. It was the medical clinic for mothers with young infants. Babies were weighed and checked and advice was given. I have the vaguest of vague memories of being weighed there - something that must have happened before I was two. It was a service intended for "well babies" but it no doubt allowed nurses to keep an eye on some children. 
And of course we travelled on the train into the city. It was so much better than going in the car. The trains were steam trains of course. I remember that, on one occasion, my brother was actually allowed to wave the flag used by the guard.  No doubt that was strictly against the rules - but it was more fun. 
We could kneel on the seats and look out the windows for the familiar landmarks on the journey. The conductor would come along and clip the tickets. If we were lucky he might clip a piece of cardboard as a "ticket" for us as well.
The trains stopped running to many of those places by the time I was in my teens. It wasn't even thought necessary to keep the lines there "in case". Some parts are still there but others have gone. The cost of renewing them would be enormous. Steam trains have long gone too. It's all cars and buses and lorries and tankers and trucks. You have to sit still in the car and play on your screen instead.
Children don't have nearly as much fun now.