Sunday 31 March 2019

Lance Armstrong was paid $1.5m

to race in the Tour Down Under  in 2009. That information has been kept from us until now  - kept from us under a secrecy agreement. 
He came twice more - and was paid on each occasion. Presumably he was paid about the same amount each time. If so he was, according to the report in the paper, paid about $5m. 
It is claimed that it was worth paying him this because, at the time, he was a highly regarded sportsperson and he brought a lot of money into the state. He made the Tour Down Under an international race. It has, according to those "in the know" been a huge financial success for the state.
Of course  Armstrong has since been shown to be a drug cheat. "Oh, he wasn't a drug cheat at the time" people have said. Really? You mean he hadn't been caught.
Winning is everything now in sport. It doesn't matter how you do it - just so long as you don't get caught. You take drugs. You tamper with the ball. You call your opponents vile names.  You do all this and much more. 
At the lower levels of any game you may be playing simply to win, to get a stripe on your school blazer or the "silver" cup in the display cabinet in the club rooms - but you had better get those things because it is winning that is important.
I know I have said this before but, along with the story about Armstrong's payment, there is another one about young people, some not even in their teens, taking illegal enhancement performing drugs. Some, perhaps most, may not even be aware of what they are taking but the culture of "winning" has become so important that they are being offered or given these things. 
And instead of backyard cricket or kicking a football in the street children are now "coached" and watched over by adults - adults who all too often want their young charges to win and be the next great sports star. 
The very fact that these things are happening should just not be ringing alarm bells but sending emergency services to the scene so that the situation can be repaired. It isn't happening because the pressure to "win" has become too great.
Is it any wonder that many children of lesser ability don't want to engage in physical activity? 

Saturday 30 March 2019

What I do in my "spare time" is

surely up to me? If I am not doing anything illegal or harming anyone else then surely I should be free to pursue my own interests?
I  really do wish people would stop telling me things like "you ought to get out more" and "you should join a book group" or "you could get involved in...."
Now there are times when I would like to get out more than I do but, realistically, I can't do that. I can't just drop everything and wander off for the day. Whether I like it or not I have other responsibilities. The Senior Cat needs to be cared for. He has reached the point where he can no longer safely make himself a cup of tea. Yes, I could leave a thermos full of tea and he would accept that but it is my responsibility to do one or the other. It means that if someone invites me to stop for a cup of tea myself and he is not expecting that I have to calculate the time available and let him know I will be later than he expects. I have had people say, "Why do you bother?"  Why would I not bother? He's my responsibility. He is old and frail and needs to be cared for.
I don't want to join a book group. I don't want to be told what to read. My reading time for pleasure is limited and there are already more books than time in my life.
And I don't want to be involved in any more groups. I can't volunteer at the local charity shop on a regular basis. They know that and they also know they can call on me when someone comes in needing help to fill out forms and the such like. Isn't that volunteering? I also have my regulars on the pedalling route. It may not be official but isn't it volunteering of a sort?
I want time to read and knit and crochet and keep up with friends in foreign parts via email and more. I don't want to go to meetings and allow even the things I am concerned about to take over my life. I spent years going to meetings, being on committees, writing letters,  organising events and more. Things are done differently now - and often in ways which are far less effective. It is up to the next generation and the generation after that. I'll still help with the occasional letter and giving up a day here or there if asked but no, I want some "me" time too. Remember, I am still working. Is it selfish to want "me" time?
I have been thinking a lot about this recently because someone asked me if I would again take on a position I once held. The answer to that is more complex but it has made me think.
I am going to do something I want to do each day. 

Friday 29 March 2019

Sec 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

 makes it unlawful for a person to behave (in public) in such a way that it is likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" a person of a certain race, colour or national or ethnic origin and the act was done because of one or more of those characteristics".
There are certain exemptions to this which allow for artistic expression and things like academic/scientific research. There are also, supposedly, exemptions for balanced media reporting and comment if they are deemed to be in the public interest.
I have said it elsewhere and I will say it again - we need to be rid of Sec 18C.  Racial discrimination is vile. It is wrong, absolutely wrong but this is not the way to be rid of it. I doubt it will ever be stamped out completely but something like this is not the answer. The case brought by Cindy Prior against the five university students and a university in Queensland showed just how ineffective this law is and how easily it can be abused. 
And the other problem is that the law is not equally applied. Attempts by some others to use the same section have failed. The young woman who complained about being called a "Kiwi" was told it wasn't discriminatory but a term of endearment. An Irishman I know who was told "you're all members of the IRA" was advised not to take the matter any further. There are people I know who have also simply accepted the unacceptable because they are afraid to say anything lest they be accused of being "racist". An assistant in a shop once told me, "That woman just stole something and I can't do a thing about it."
The woman in question was of a different racial appearance. The shop assistant admitted she was too afraid to confront the woman for fear of the consequences.
All this has come up again because the likely incoming government wants to extend the act even further - to cover religion.
Now the constitution does not allow the government to make laws about religion but it will be argued that this is a law about unlawful discrimination and not religion. The problem is that it may open the door to something much bigger than is intended. There are already calls for sharia law to be applied in areas like marriage and family relations. If someone wanted to argue that a failure to allow that was discrimination on the grounds of religion what would happen? Yes, it is likely to be very subtle at first but once a decision has set a precedent then such things can grow. 
The matter was raised by a member of the federal parliament who is female and Muslim. If she succeeds in being re-elected (likely) then she will be a powerful voice in support of this change. To go against her will be difficult to say the least.  There will be accusations of a sort that no government wishes to face. 
A well respected professor of law has expressed serious concern about the likely consequences of such a move to me. I think he is right to be concerned.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Compulsory preferential voting

is simply not democratic.
I will probably need to explain to readers in Upover about this peculiarity of the Downunder voting system.
At federal level and in this state we have "compulsory preferential voting". This means that, in order to cast a valid vote, you need to mark all the boxes on the ballot paper. They need to be marked in the order in which you would prefer the candidates. So you need to make "My Candidate" as "one" and "Your Candidate" as "two" and "Her Candidate" as "three" and "His Candidate" as "four".  If  "one" does not achieve enough votes to win outright then the vote is transferred to "two" and so on.
It is said to be "fairer" than first past the post or  the candidate with the most first preference votes wins. 
But is it really? The obvious answer is "no". I put it to the politics lecturer yesterday in this way.  I vote "one" for the candidate that does not support the death penalty. All other candidates support the death penalty and I do not wish to vote for them for that reason. Surely I should not be placed in the position of having to assist any of them obtain office by placing them in any order on the ballot paper?  The same could be said of other issues I feel strongly about such as the weakening of gun laws or the weakening of anti-terrorism laws.
The politics lecturer and I agree on this one.
If we must have preferential voting then it should, at very least, be not compulsory. I could then mark just one box if I disagreed strongly enough with the other candidates. It would dramatically reduce attempts to manipulate the outcome of an election.
The topic is of importance at the moment. We have a federal election coming up. The result is an almost certain win for the current opposition. I am deeply concerned about that because the leader of that party is a man who is not fit to lead the country. Many people, even inside his own party, recognise that but will still vote for the party. 
He has currently been goading the present Prime Minister on the subject of preferences - will the Prime Minister preference an abhorrent party last? The Prime Minister's answer has been "don't vote for that party". He knows that, the moment he says, "yes, my side of politics will put that party last" the Opposition Leader is going to say, "Got you!  You should be saying we will put "X" last." 
And he isn't answering the question himself - although he has appeared to do so.
It is time to be rid of compulsory preferential voting. I just don't want to have to acknowledge such people in any way at all.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Suppression orders don't work

in the internet age. I don't know if suppression orders have ever been really effective when someone is determined that news be spread. There always seems to be someone "in the know" who spreads the news that was supposed to be suppressed.
The news yesterday that the DPP wants to prosecute no less than thirty-six journalists for breaching a suppression order in respect of the case of Cardinal Pell came as no surprise to me. It won't surprise those involved either.
I knew about the outcome of the case before it could be reported here. Friends overseas - where it could be reported - advised me as soon as they knew. They knew I had an interest in the matter - not with respect to the defendant himself -  but with respect to the way in which the case was (and is) being handle.
There had been years of anti-Pell rhetoric in the media.  A journalist had written a book which "exposed" him. It had been widely available in the state in which he was tried - and then banned from sale. All that people had to do of course was go over the border into a neighbouring state and buy a copy. It meant even more people bought it and read it. The copy I saw was obtained in this way. 
I looked at the book. I did not read it all. I didn't read it simply because it was appallingly badly researched and written. It was one of those things done in haste when a journalist knows they are on to a good thing - sales wise. That it did immense harm to the defendant's case was precisely what it was intended to do. The media had made up their collective minds that the cardinal was guilty.  That was it. No other outcome was possible. 
The suppression order simply didn't work for those reasons. The media was determined. Things might not be published here but they knew things could be published overseas. 
One investigative journalist went so far as to travel overseas simply so he could publish information on his website - and that could be read by anyone who cared to look on the internet and type in a few simple search terms. By doing that he breached no law here but it allowed any interested person to inform themselves about the basic facts. 
Am I bothered by all of this? Yes, I am. I am aware of a book which has been written about other matters. These are matters which involve past and present politicians on the Labor side of government.  No publishing company will touch it - not because the information contained in it is necessarily wrong but because of the likely consequences associated with publication. The research that has gone into that book is, I believe, much more thorough and it has been written by a member of the legal profession. Rather than going on the uncorroborated evidence of one person there is a paper trail of evidentiary standard that can be followed. 
Nothing is being done about this by those who could bring the issue to court. The mainstream media won't touch the story. I have been warned not to say anything that might lead to identifying those involved or the issues which are of concern. As I have no first hand knowledge I also know it is wise to leave the matter to those who have.
What bothers me though is how differently the two matters have been treated  by those who should be enforcing the law and those whose  role it is to report these things. The courts can do little about either. 
If however the courts do manage to do more than give some of the journalists involved a slap on one wrist and a bag of lollies to hang on the other then I will be well pleased.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

The "to-do" list

is alarmingly long.
I do not write a lot of lists. I try to remember things instead. As a child I had to remember things. The effort of writing things down was so great that I preferred to keep what available time there was (outside school) for the important things - like writing down poetry and stories. Lists were things to keep in your head.
I still tend to do that. Don't use your capacity to memorise and you are likely to lose it, unless of course your are unfortunate enough to get Alzheimer's. So, I think lists. 
Yesterday's list was longer than usual. Four days away from the house meant there were things to catch up on. I didn't make a list but I remembered things, especially things I had promised to do for other people.
I posted a pattern for a Shetland wedding ring shawl off to a friend who has spun her own yarn for one. close to eighty and a "but I am determined to make one in my lifetime" sort of person. Yes, in all likelihood she will get there. 
Then there was the yarn for someone to mend something. I found that. She may or may not turn up at the bookshop group this afternoon. If she does then I will have fulfilled that "promise" as well.
I sent off eleven emails relating to things which had happened at the craft fair. No, I didn't remember all of that - I just remembered to do it.
I needed to go to the supermarket for milk - just a quick in and out. H.... who works in there was just about to close off her till and leave but said, "In a hurry Cat? Come on, it's only milk." Nice of her. I purred my appreciation!
I did other things too but something was niggling me. Was it something I needed to buy? Was it something I needed to do? Was it somewhere I needed to go?
I couldn't think of it.

This morning I was clearing away the pieces of paper and mail that seem to accumulate on the kitchen table and I came across something I had not seen. The Senior Cat or Middle Cat must have brought the mail in on Thursday or Friday of last week and not handed it to me or told me but there it was - a "little dental reminder" as the dental service puts it.
At that point I knew what had been bothering me. I had been expecting to get the card and it hadn't arrived. I had, much as I detest going to the dentist, been going to check. 
My mind feels different now. I know my memory is intact. I couldn't remember what it was because I did remember -  if that makes sense. I hadn't actually forgotten but my loathing of visiting the dentist meant that I had tried to forget.
I'll get more done today. I know I will. I need to convince myself of that because there are times when it seems nothing gets done.
But perhaps it is time to start writing lists? There is an advantage to writing lists.  My doctoral supervisor knew about that. He would come into the office each morning, sit down at his desk and rapidly write a list. He thought about the list as he ran into work from North London. When he had finished writing the list he would go back to the top and cross the first item off. It said "make list" of course. Like him, if I don't get anything else done in the day, I would be able to say I had done one thing on the list. 

Monday 25 March 2019

The four day craft fair

was a challenge. It always is. 
I like helping my friends. It is so very different from the sorts of things I spend the rest of the year doing that it is almost a holiday - but not quite.
I came away feeling relieved that there are still people who want to create beautiful things. To get to the venue I had to catch the train. It was a new venue in the city centre and I had time to watch people on the train. The early morning commuter train is a sad affair.  It was silent. Staring down the carriage all I could see were people staring at screens or sitting with their eyes closed and plugs in their ears - presumably listening to music. There were a couple of people reading books. Nobody was indulging in knitting or crochet. I suppose it was too early in the morning for that  unless you happen to be someone like me.
The morning commute though is different from when I did it on a regular basis - pre-screen days. The passengers often knew one another back then.
But in the venue it was a different story. Even before the doors are opened  to the general public there is a general chatter going on. I have helped out often enough now that people will say, "Hello Cat" as I go past or they go past me. On the first day when the stand was set up I could prowl a few metres down the same aisle and talk to the man who runs the craft book stand. He promptly passed me a book. Did I know it? What did I think of it? I could ask how a new volume of Japanese knitting patterns was selling. At another stand I was asked what I thought of a new product. The vendor knows I will never use it as I don't indulge in that particular craft but she was still interested to know. When I suggested another use for it as well she was even more interested. 
I had a quick chat to one of the wood turners so I could inquire after a friend I knew would not be there. Yes, they had spoken only last week and he's fine.
And at the stand itself I am asked about colour, the composition of yarn, what yarn might be used for and whether there is any of this or that or something else. I am asked how you do something and what my friend is teaching in her class. I take money and give change and laugh when someone comes back because they think they will get that skein of yarn they liked so much. Yes, but take it this time because some one else (yes, really) has looked at it too. My friend and I can tell someone else the pattern she has brought with her will be too long for her but if she shortens it here then yes there is enough  of that highly specialised stainless steel yarn in stock for her to make it. It isn't something I would even contemplate making but the buyer's personality suggests that she will not just make it but wear it with pride.
The profoundly deaf woman I met the last time I helped out came too. She looked around, saw me and smiled. There was relief in her smile as she came and, knowing how poor my sign language is, she slowly signed what she was looking for. I showed her. Yes, that's what she wanted. She gave me a thumbs-up. As she went off I admired the back of her beautifully made crochet top.
I lost count of the number of crochet hooks and knitting needles I sold. I kept saying "One skein will make this size and two skeins will make that size."
And I saw people go off with their purchases and thought of the hours of pleasure most of them had just bought.
It's not even over yet. Tomorrow I expect to see a visitor to our bookshop group. I am taking some yarn up there, a sort my friend does not stock, so that this woman can mend a precious scarf. She was a little startled when I said I would help with that but it is all part of the process of crafting. 
People need to create and it was a relief to see so many young people. 
Perhaps some of them will come to realise that they can use their time on public transport to knit.  

Sunday 24 March 2019

Wearing an hijab

must be uncomfortable - in more ways than one.
I have never liked the idea of things tight around my face. I don't like wearing scarves very much. It doesn't get cold enough here to need them. The idea of wearing one tied over my head and knotted under my chin doesn't appeal either.  I don't like my bicycle helmet but I wear that because it is (a) required by law and (b) might offer me some minimal protection. I can pull on a beanie and  keep my ears warm in a cold climate.
But, the idea of always wearing a head covering in public does not appeal in the slightest. My Muslim friends tell me that it does have a physical effect.  I have seen it for myself. They will walk into their homes and pull their hijab off and shake their heads. Some have long hair underneath, others short but they will still shake their heads as if they loosening up. There is a difference in how well they can hear.
All of that however pales into insignificance when you consider that wearing their hijab in public marks them out. 
There was an absolutely delightful young Muslim woman who came to the stand at the craft fair yesterday. She was wearing her hijab and was dressed in long sleeves and darker clothing despite the heat -  yes, fairly traditional. She had been buying quilting materials but stopped to ask me about knitting and crochet. I told her about what we had there and asked if she could do  either or both. She told me she could knit plain squares and that she sewed them into blankets but would like to learn more. I suggested coming to a group I belong to.
At that her expression changed. She looked - frightened? Almost that at least. I said, "You would be very welcome. There's someone younger than you - still at school."
It was the only way I could think of trying to reassure her. She didn't look entirely convinced so I added, "And they meet on Saturday afternoons. One of  us will be  happy to help you. We have ...." I told her about a couple of members of the group and gave her some more information which she copied into her phone. We went back to discussing what she needed, she bought it and left. The sad thing though is that I am fairly certain I won't see her again. I probably haven't managed to convince her she really would be welcome. If she did come she would be the only person wearing an hijab. It wouldn't matter that the people in the group come from a variety of cultures and backgrounds and that they would be welcoming. She can't know that until she experiences it for herself - and wearing her hijab makes it difficult to do that even if she genuinely chooses to wear one.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Deliberately misreporting the news

or failing to report the news in a fair and reasonable fashion seems to be becoming more frequent.
I am not talking about "fake news" but attempts by journalists, columnists and presenters/interviewers to deliberately skew a story to fit with their own view of the world.
If we were to believe a recent story in the Downunder press then we would have to believe that our current Prime Minister is a racist bigot opposed to Muslim immigration and much more. 
Now I don't know this Prime Minister. I have never met him. I have met other Prime Ministers - from both sides of the political divide - and I know the media can be unkind, very unkind. But, I do know people who know him or have met him and spent sufficient time in his company to know the man rather than the media about the man. What they have told me is very different from the reports that have recently surfaced. They speak of a man who is deeply concerned about racism and attitudes towards Muslims. They speak of a man who has Muslim friends, who is welcome at their mosque, and gets invited to Muslim events not simple as Prime Minister but as a friend.
So, where do the reports come from and who is responsible for them?
I suspect much of the blame lies with a small coterie of highly influential journalists who believe they have the right to try and influence the electorate to think otherwise. These journalists are in effect political campaigners and they wield a great deal of power.
What is more, in the last few years, they have managed to get away with it. They know how to use social media to their advantage. They know their message is going to reach hundreds of thousands more than it once did. They also know that people are all too inclined to simply believe what they read or hear from a source they consider "reliable" - such as a state newspaper or major television network.
I tried pointing out to someone that indulging  in the sort of behaviour that one such presenter indulged in on Thursday evening was not merely wrong but dangerous. Politicians and other people of influence are not going to agree to appear on some programs to be interviewed by some presenters if they are then faced with a deliberate attempt to undermine and discredit them. If that happens then we won't get a balanced coverage of the news - and we all know where that leads.

Friday 22 March 2019

"You're Cat and you're here to help

on......'s stand," the young man at the entrance said.
How on earth did he know that?
I am glad I caught the earlier train yesterday. The ticket machine would not take my tickets for some reason. Fortunately there were no ticket inspectors on the train and it was just after nine when I arrived at the station in the city.  I had to go and sort that problem out but without the ignominy of being fined for not paying a fare. The girl was actually helpful and sympathetic - but, as she pointed out, most people would just walk out without paying. (I pointed out to her that I still needed to be able to get home that afternoon and would need a ticket for me and a ticket for the trike in order to do it.)
Then I went to the venue and tried to find somewhere to park the trike. There are no bike racks along the street and I was not inclined to tie the trike to a lamp post. I looked in the car park but the bicycle space there only takes two wheelers - you have to hang your bike upside down. Out into the street again. I found somewhere that looked as if it might do and locked the trike to it.
The venue however is on a higher level. You can go up stairs or an escalator to reach it. I reached the top - and discovered bicycle parks! I trailed down and rescued the tricycle and pushed it up the ramp next to the stairs and parked. (The trike looked happier, much happier.) Then I tried to find my way. No, not that way. No, I don't have to queue and buy a ticket because I am working there.
Being a now sensible cat I asked.
    "Over there." 
I went. I still wasn't much wiser. I asked again.
    "Oh yes, down there - on your left. You can't see it unless you are going right past."
Oh, right. 
I found it and, before I could say anything, the nice young man with the clipboard had said, "You're Cat and you're here to help..... You're on the list...straight down that aisle and almost to the end on your right."
I didn't get a chance to ask. It was ten minutes to opening. I had to find my friend, put my bag  under the trestle counter and look around the stall so that I knew where things were. 
I had made it in time...just. This morning I hope I can get there a little earlier - so I know where other things are too!
How did he know that? I didn't get a chance to ask him.

Thursday 21 March 2019

I think the mobile phone

may at last be working.
I have mixed feelings about this. It will mean that, should he need to do so, the Senior Cat can reach me over the next four days. That is a "good thing". 
Unfortunately it also means that Middle Cat will also be able to reach me. Much as I love Middle Cat I do not trust her to only call me in an emergency. 
Middle Cat uses her mobile phone a lot. She has an internet connection on it of course and photos and videos and all sorts of information and.... well, you know the sort of thing I mean. 
My mobile phone will allow me to do nothing more than make and receive a call. I have put the minimum amount allowed on it. I can top that up should I ever need to do it.
I explained all this as being what I wanted to the nice young man in the shop yesterday. He looked a little startled when I told him, "All I want it for is so that I can be contacted in an emergency - or contact someone in an emergency."
We worked out that what I had tried to do earlier was logical and that it should have worked. He did things and sent me off and told me I should be able to make and receive calls within thirty minutes. He was wrong about that - very wrong. It was not his fault of course. It took almost a day before the connection was finally made. But, this morning, I will forgive him for that piece of misinformation because I tried again. I cautiously pressed buttons as the screen lit up (at last - it was black) and finally made the all important call from our house line to the number. It worked. I didn't bother to answer myself...I know to push the green button to do that. Enough.
Now I just have to ensure that Middle Cat does not give multiple people my number. 
If she does I might have to start all over again. 

Wednesday 20 March 2019

A senior journalist

asked for three things people like about their neighbourhood.
It made for a positive thought in all the gloom and doom of the past week.
I responded by saying, "the trees, it is mostly quiet - and we have great neighbours". 
Yes, there are still plenty of trees around here. I hope it stays that way. I would be happier still if more of them were food producing trees - even if it meant an invasion of noisy sulphur-crested cockatoos eating green walnuts. (Those birds must have a cast iron digestive system.)  
Middle Cat and I had a close look at our avocado tree yesterday. We never intended to have an avocado tree. It came up by accident. My mother, who knew about such things, realised what it was when it was just tiny and left it there. It doesn't produce much fruit - you apparently need two trees for that to happen - but it does produce a little for the possums. If they would only stop playing night hockey with the stones on the carport roof I wouldn't mind them having that either. 
The rest of the neighbourhood is relatively quiet. We haven't had the Tactical Response Group out for the past few years. That suggests the mentally ill man in the next street is still taking his medication. There is the occasional motor bike left running but there haven't been any fights or anything else requiring emergency police presence.  Parties? There have been a few in the distance but nothing close at hand now that one family has moved. 
We've been lucky.
And our neighbours? We said a sad farewell to one of our "over the road" neighbours in January. It is not entirely farewell as they have only moved about two and a half kilometres away but we don't see them on an almost daily basis now. The little boys next door to them are really missing them. 
But new people moved in. We have met the father, the two small children and his parents. The mother works and although we have seen her rushing to and fro we haven't spoken yet. The rest of the family is nice and we expect she will be too.  
We know our other neighbours - know them by name and know them well enough to have the occasional conversation over the fence or pick up their mail or water their garden if they happen to be away.  One older neighbour puts our bins out each week. I could do it but she insists because she has so little rubbish she just adds it to our bin rather than using hers. One of them is a paediatrician and has told me, "Never hesitate if you need a doctor for the Senior Cat. If I am home I'll come." 
I hope I never need to call her but I will if I need to do just that. If she isn't there I know someone else might well be there and that, if they can, they will help. I know I would reciprocate if I could too. It's all part of what makes this neighbourhood just that - a neighbourhood. I feel sorry for people who don't have trees in a quiet place where they know their neighbours.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

"I am addicted to

yarn, any sort of yarn" my visitor told me, "But I can't keep this. I'd like to. It's yummy."
Oh yes? 
I like yarn too but I hope I am not addicted the way she is or, worse, the way her mother was.
Yes,  it was another one of those homes that used yarn as insulation, a place that resembled a wool shop. If there was a sale on then H... would buy yarn. She had no hope of using it in her life time but thought her daughter would  use whatever was left. Her daughter was also buying yarn. There were two lots of yarn.
Her daughter and her husband have decided to retire to a much warmer place. She is taking the cotton with her - boxes and boxes of it. She is leaving the acrylic - very little - and the wool and the odds and ends.
I suggested offering some of it to the group of young people I work with but she didn't want to do that. She thought they might not appreciate it. They would - more than most adults I know - but I was to find somewhere else.
   "You can sell it for your Africans if you like."
Unfortunately that's not possible. I sorted and packed some yesterday. Odd balls and acrylics can go to an organisation which knits for charities and the rest can go to the guild of which I am a member. I hope that way it will get used by people who will appreciate it. 
There is more to sort yet. There is another group which I know will use and donate to charity. 
It has made me realise that I also need to work through my own stash. I have been given yarn over the years. There is still some there. I know I am not likely to use it. Some of it is nice enough but some isn't at all attractive. Why did people buy it? Come to that, why did people design it in the first place?  Others might use it.  I will sort and pack some more.
The last two experiences of other people's yarn stashes have made me determined that I am not going to be the same. I will give yarn away. I will pass it on to charity. I am not going to leave a house - not merely a room  - stacked high with  yarn and unused craft materials. It's wrong. Those things are meant to be used. 
They will be used.

Monday 18 March 2019

You need a security clearance

of sorts to get a mobile phone. By that I mean you have to provide some form of photographic ID.
Most adult humans in this country would use their driver's licence. I don't have a driver's licence. I do have a "proof of age" card with a photograph on it. It makes me look something like a human rather than a cat. I also have a passport.
Yes, please note I have two forms of "photo ID". I also used the passport as ID to get the "proof of age" card. 
I know I am not a terrorist and I doubt anyone else believes I am but I still need to provide that photographic ID to get a mobile phone number.
And I also need an "activation code". Youngest Nephew was in and out briefly on Friday and we thought we had all this sorted out...but none of us could read the activation code. It was printed so badly that, even with a magnifying glass none of  us could work it out. We gave up. Today I will have to try and get a new activation code. 
All this is designed to "stop terrorists" or something like that. It doesn't of course. The events of the last few days have shown that in a particularly shocking and terrifying way.  A friend in New Zealand has just left a message saying that her family in Christchurch, while traumatised, is coping. 
All the same I wonder about the long term effect on people more closely associated with the event. You can't keep that sort of information entirely away from children. You can think you have educated them into accepting cultural differences and the like but does it always work? One of my local Muslim friends told me, "We are partly to blame. We keep ourselves a bit isolated and don't mix as much as we should." It's an interesting thought.
But the proof of identity requirements for getting a mobile phone number are pretty well meaningless. It would be the work of a moment for someone bent on evil to obtain access to the network without proof.  They would simply need temporary access to an acceptable document. Then you can do the whole thing via the internet. There are multiple other ways to do it as well.
It has been easier for me to obtain more than one security clearance to view other documents than it has been to get a phone number. It makes no sense at all.

Sunday 17 March 2019

We need to think about creativity

and how it might be achieved. 
In the middle of all the horrific news of this last week - there was also yet another massacre of Christians in Nigeria that doesn't seem to have made any news headlines at all - I was trying to get some work done.
I am hoping to spend four days helping a friend at a craft fair in this coming week. It is something I have done several times before and it is a "holiday" of sorts for me because it is so totally different from what I usually do. 
My usual working life has more to do with destruction than creation. I don't destroy things. The people I work with don't destroy things. They are the people who are out there trying to rebuild after nature or humans or both have done their worst. 
The people I work with have a variety of hobbies - at least those I know something about. They often don't have a lot of time for such things but, when they do, their hobbies are often of the "make something" variety. There have even been occasional requests such as "Cat, this has nothing to do with work but you can knit can't you? I can't work this out."
They are following a pattern and that's fine because they are still creating something. What is more they are wrong when they say it has nothing to do with work. It has everything to do with work. They need that act of creating something positive. I need it too.
It will, as always, be interesting to help other people in their quest to create something when I see them at the craft fair.
But, I'll be going along with something to create too. At quieter moments my friend and I will both be working on something. We approach the creative process from slightly different directions. Rather than use patterns written by others we make our own. We write patterns for other people to use and, within that, we both encourage other people to be creative.
The first time I spent four full days helping my friend she wasn't even there.  She was away teaching on the other side of the world. I was more than a little uncertain about helping. I am no salesperson. A mutual friend was responsible for the stand. She is another lovely and creative person. At the end of the last day though we had run out of yarn packs for rug kits. I found myself on the floor, surrounded by balls of yarn, helping someone put together the colours for a kit we were making up for her. I hadn't thought about this again until I was stopped in the shopping centre this last week.
    "You won't remember me but you helped me put the yarn together for a rug ages ago now."
She jogged my memory.
    "Did you finish it?"
    "Oh yes. It - well "saved my life" would be an exaggeration but it helped a lot to have that on hand because I was going through a really rough time at work. It took me about a year to finish it. I've made a few things since then but I might see if I can get there over the weekend and get something else nice. It just feels so good to do something like that."
Yesterday I went to a meeting of our knitting guild. I had to go because I had promised those who had attended my workshop earlier in the month that I would be there to help if they needed it.
All but one of them had tried to finish their "homework". One had done it on very fine needles and the result was exquisite. I looked around the room. People were working on projects. They were following patterns. It doesn't matter. They were creating things. 
We need more of that. We need to teach children to create. We want more young adults who, instead of going to the climate rally on Friday, are going off to plant trees today. It is their gesture towards climate change - and one they plan to continue. They want to help re-create a forest. 
Perhaps if we stopped concentrating so much on the negatives we could find more time to be creative. It's time to start thinking about that.  

Saturday 16 March 2019

"I don't want all the trees and birds to die!"

was the hysterical cry from a five year old yesterday. 
I don't know what was going on at school and neither does his mother. She was still trying to work it out, even after talking to the teacher.
His mother was also angry - and rightly so. The smallest children in this school had not been expected to attend yesterday's "climate rally" but they had been "given information about climate change".
Now yes,  we need to be concerned about the environment - very concerned. Yes, we also need to be doing something about it.
But we don't need to be frightening small children who simply don't understand by telling them that all the trees and birds are going to die. 
No, it probably wasn't put quite like that but that is how the child understood it. The frightening thing is that he comes from a household which does care about these things. His parents built a house about eight or nine years ago. It was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. There are solar panels on the roof. There is rainwater catchment. The garden is designed to be low maintenance  but still green and water friendly. It has features designed to reduce electricity consumption. 
They do have a car but his parents cycle or use public transport to get to work. As a family they are doing the right thing - perhaps even a bit over-the-top right thing.
What is more his parents have talked about these things. They thought their five year old understood.
    "Now I realise he still has no real idea," his mother told me, "And I have to deal with ideas from the school that are obviously designed to frighten him."
Had the teacher said that all the trees and birds would die? Apparently his teacher had said that this "could" happen if people didn't do the right thing. 
I find that a totally unacceptable thing to be telling small children. 

Friday 15 March 2019

Get Up needs to

get out.
I'm sorry but I have had enough of "Get Up". It's a wrecking ball. I don't mind people making themselves heard as a group. That sort of activism can be a good and positive thing. It can lead to good and positive change.
Get Up isn't doing that. There was some material left in our letter box yesterday. It came from Get Up. It was entirely negative about our local Federal MP. It didn't have a good word to say about her. Is she really that bad? 
I happen to know our local Federal MP. She isn't an "in your face" or "I'm all about publicity" sort of person. It's not her style. Her style has been to get on with the job and get some results. And yes, she has got some results. There are people I know all over the place that have told me, "I went to ..... like you suggested and she...." Letters have been written. Phone calls have been made. People have been asked to do things. What is more these things have been followed up. No, it hasn't been noisy. She has simply got on with doing the job. 
But Get Up is complaining not because she was doing her job but because she backed what they consider to have been the wrong person in the leadership spill. According to them she is responsible for the "turmoil" in the government. 
What absolute rubbish! She backed a vote on the leadership but it was more than time for that to happen. Subsequent events have shown that to the case. 
Now, in this morning's paper, there is a discussion of how Get Up plans to "flood" the electorate with phone calls. I wonder how they plan to do this. I doubt their members will be trawling through the phone book looking for addresses in the electorate.  Have they obtained a list of phone numbers from somewhere? If they have then it cannot have been obtained legally. 
And I think that says it all for such organisations. They don't mind what tactics they use to get their message across. They believe they are above the law because, or so they believe, their message is more important than abiding by the law.
It is time to stop this sort of nonsense. As I said yesterday, if you want to protest  then sit down and write a letter. Send me some reasoned and individual letters members of Get Up. I'll read them. I may not change my mind but you have more hope of getting me to listen. 

Thursday 14 March 2019

Striking school children

are apparently heading off to "protest" about climate change. 
I am glad they are concerned about the environment but I am alarmed that they believe this is the way to show their concern.
Oh  yes they will get away from school for a few hours, perhaps even an entire day. It will be "fun". The adrenalin will flow. They will  feel important and part of something big - for a short time.
It will also disrupt schools and cause tension between those who want to attend, their parents and those who act in loco parentis.
The students at Ms W's school are not permitted to attend. Any student who dares to do so will find themselves in serious trouble. It is a policy agreed by the students themselves as well as their parents and the staff. The students actually voted on the issue. 
Ms W informed about all of this over the weekend. She informed me that "A couple of the girls thought it would be okay to go but they are the sort of person who doesn't think. "
So what made the others think? 
   "Well we talked about it and what the best way is to tell the government you are worried about something. It's what you have your member of parliament for so we thought about that  too. "  
Ah, right. Ms W's father works for politicians of all descriptions. He is one of those who does things like draft legislation and much more. She knows about these things because he believes she should know what  he does. She knows members of parliament of all persuasions too. 
And she knows that going off to "protest" is going to get some publicity but that it isn't going to change anything. 
    "So we are going to do what you said ages ago," Ms W informed me, "And Mrs..... (her current form teacher) wants to know if you will come and talk to us about it again." 
Oh, right. There was an email from her teacher asking just that. 
So I went in yesterday morning. It had to be first thing in their pre-class time. It took five minutes to remind them of how to write the letter and why writing a letter is so much more effective. They know that just one letter isn't going to get far but they also know that if others take the same action then something might happen. I reminded them that it might take time too. But I also reminded them that this is the much more adult way of going about "protesting". 
I left them deciding what they were going to say. I know they will get an answer from the MP in whose district the school stands. I also know it will be a considered letter because he is concerned about their concerns.
It is all so very different from the way the Leader of the Opposition in another state was encouraging the students to "go out on strike". His support for their actions was irresponsible in the extreme. Of course students have a right to be heard but encouraging teenagers to gather together like that is not responsible.
He could have encouraged them to write letters as well, actual letters not emails. If they had written hundreds of those in a thoughtful way and with the correct spelling and grammar that would have an impact. 
I don't think schools are any place for partisan politics or protests of any sort. Whatever views teachers hold they should keep those views to themselves and present students with a balanced picture on all issues. That doesn't prevent teachers from teaching students how to protest effectively. It might just make their students more effective at protesting.

Wednesday 13 March 2019

The bird observatory on Fair Isle

on Fair Isle has been destroyed by fire.
This is something that I wouldn't normally comment on. I like birds but I know very little about them and I wouldn't want to go bird watching. I just enjoy the birds around me and encourage them by keeping an untidy garden with water available. 
Our cats never chased birds. Our cats only once brought a bird inside. The cat which did this was incredibly gentle. The bird had a broken wing. The cat simply put it down in front of my mother and sat there looking at her and giving her a small "miaou" as if to say, "Can you fix it?" (There are people I know who say this could not have happened but a neighbour saw the bird hit glass and injure itself. It was not injured by the cat.)
But, although I know little about them, I do know that birds are an incredibly important part of nature and we have some wonderful birds here. We  have everything from the tiny honey-eaters and sparrows  to the big kookaburras and rowdy corellas.
I know Fair Isle is the same. There are more than 300 varieties of bird to be seen there. It's a destination for bird lovers from all over the world.
The island depends on the income these incomers bring for their short stays. They depend on the research which is being done from there.
Fair Isle is tiny. It is a tiny bump of land in the sea a long way from anywhere else. The people there are hardy. They need to be. They are not well off even now and they once lived in abject poverty. 
Why am I bothered? Because there is also a rich knitting heritage there. In January this year I taught a class called "An introduction to Fair Isle knitting" and I tried to introduce the students I had to the immensely rich and diverse colour work knitting that is the islanders' contribution to the art and craft of knitting. 
In preparing for the class I contacted the information centre on Fair Isle to check on some facts. The woman who responded seemed warm and friendly and more than happy to answer questions. I understood some of where she was coming from in her comments because my family lived on an island for a while. It was larger than Fair Isle but all islands share certain things which set them apart from the rest of the world. 
I know that woman will be devastated and that there will be many islanders without an income as a result of the fire. They will need help and I hope they get it in a timely fashion. I  don't know if the link below will work but this was the STV news clip. Think of them please!

Tuesday 12 March 2019

A public holiday for

a horse race is ridiculous. I think I have said it before. I will no doubt say it again.
I do not like horse racing, I never have and I can never see myself as enjoying it. Anything is possible of course. Someone might be able to change my mind. You can try if you like. I think it is unlikely. I just see it as cruel and wrong.
Horses are wonderful animals. They have served humans well for centuries and they will no doubt go on doing so. It does not mean that they should be abused by being highly bred into being racing machines for the pleasure of others. It does not mean that they should be employed in other ways which abuse these animals.
Yes I also know that the "racing industry" employs a  lot of people. It supposedly contributes to the economy of the state and the nation. People make their living from it. There are those who will lead the precarious life style of the jockey and other related occupations just in order to be around the animals all the time.  
And there are other problems. Someone I know went off to "the races"  yesterday. Her husband was "invited" to go for the purposes of work. You know the sort of thing I mean. It was a "social occasion" at which he and his wife would be closely observed  by the powers-that-be in his particular industry. He's in line for promotion overseas - if they behave in acceptable ways.
    "I am not buying an outfit Cat," she told me. She spends most of her time in jeans and t-shirts. The idea of dressing up in very high heels, a "fancy" dress, and a ridiculous hat does not appeal to her.
I heard from her last night. 
     "Don't ever go. M...'s boss's wife and I both agreed it would have been good to escape to the beach, kick the heels off and walk along the sand - but she liked the hat."
The hat? You wore the hat? I know she only has one "good" hat. It is lacey. I knitted it. She blocked it and stiffened it and decorated it. Between the two of us she has a hat that cost her far less than any of those ridiculous little "fascinator" sort of headpieces. It has a brim and actually does the job of keeping the sun off. It is what she wore to an outdoor wedding. 
And yes, she wore it. I don't mind admitting that it looked a great deal better by the time she had finished with it. I had handed over what looked like a piece of limp silk with holes in it and she turned it into a lace creation. It suits her. It's different.
Did they place a bet? 
"We had to find out how to do it. M...put one small bet on but we agreed beforehand that he would ask me first. We lost it of course but the boss's wife told me her husband only ever does the same."
There were people in the group who bet far more than that. 
And have a drink?
"M... was driving so he could say he wasn't drinking at all - and I stuck to tonic water."
Wise of them.
There were other women in the group but I know this woman would have stood out - and the boss's wife apparently recognised that. 
Her husband has a meeting with his boss this morning. I hope he has noticed all this too.
It is just a pity that a horse race is seen as some sort of social occasion for an extended interview.

Monday 11 March 2019

Political correctness

is driving me insane.
There are two articles in today's paper which just add to my extreme frustration from yesterday and before that.
One article in the paper is about a man who apparently told someone working in a bottle shop attached to an hotel that it was nice to see her wearing shorts.
Now perhaps that wasn't the most sensible thing to say given sexist sensibilities but he apparently meant it as a compliment - that it was a sensible thing to be wearing in the hot weather.  No, she took it as an insult and put in a complaint. He's been banned from the place even though he offered an apology - for offering the compliment.
My own feeling is that someone working in that position should not have been wearing shorts. She wasn't at home or on the beach. 
The other article is about nursery rhymes. Apparently the BBC has taken on itself to change the words of Humpty Dumpty - apparently instead of not being able to put him together again the king's horses and men make him happy again. You can't go upsetting small children with the original version. 
What absolute rubbish! The original version has been around for a very long time.  I know a great many other nursery rhymes have been tampered with too - for being sexist, for being offensive and much more.
The politically correct brigade is out of control. 
Yesterday I was in the local library. A child had chosen some books and his mother was telling him he couldn't have two of them. Why? They didn't meet her standards of political correctness.They sent the "wrong" message. 
    "I'll have to put in another complaint," she told me, "They must be tired of me doing it but we really do need to get rid of this sort of thing."
I pointed out that one of them was an award winning picture book. Her response was, "That just makes it worse don't you think?"
I know she isn't the only mother to feel that way. There is a group of them all trying to bring their children up to be asexual. What it really means is that their daughters are not allowed to wear dresses and the boys are dressed in pink t-shirts. There are no princesses or fairy tales, nursery rhymes are taboo, and non-fiction is favoured over fiction. 
I am happy, indeed very happy, for children to read non-fiction but they need fiction too. They need nursery rhymes and Winnie-the-Pooh and Harry Potter and Thomas the Tank Engine and all the other commercialised favourites as well.
And last week my would-be PhD student had his research proposal turned down. The proposal was good. He had put a lot of work into it. Everyone agreed that there was nothing wrong with the proposal itself apart from one thing - it would be considered to be politically incorrect because it does not include both sexes. Trying to find suitable female subjects for the project will be very difficult. It won't add to the potential value of the project and may even mean that the outcomes will be quite different. That apparently doesn't matter to the politically correct brigade - one of whom is at the top of the department in question.I have reminded her that I am doing her and the department a favour but I doubt that will help.
Political "correctness" really is out of control. It has long since ceased to be about treating people with equal respect while acknowledging different needs. 
It has become a power and control issue.

Sunday 10 March 2019

"High profile" lawyers

who suddenly decide to run for politics - particularly for a minor party - do not appeal to me.
Julian Burnside is one such man. I have never met the man and hope I never do. I have clashed with him virtually on more than one occasion. I know people who do know him - and know him well. They quietly share my opinion of him. 
Mr Burnside has decided to run for the Greens. That should ring alarm bells for a start. 
The Greens are not the friendly, loving, tree hugging and "we care for the environment" party that many people believe they are. Go and read their policy platform and you realise that these are people who want the rest of us to believe that Utopia is possible.  
Mr Burnside knows Utopia will never be achieved. He knows that nothing close to it will ever be achieved, especially not under the waffling policies of the Greens.
And would Mr Burnside, a powerful opponent in court and somewhere at the top of his profession (although, interestingly, not on the bench) be satisfied as a politician in a minor party?
Yes, the Greens could end up holding the balance of power - and that would make them a force to be reckoned with - but it is not the same as being in power. 
I just can't see Mr Burnside doing this. He may well get elected. His Twitter feed is full of fawning admiration from the far left. But, if he gets there, what then? Will he continue to "speak out" for "minority and disadvantaged" groups? Oh yes he could do that. 
He is a wealthy man. He was, until very recently, a member of a swish all men's "club" - and only resigned when it was pointed out to him that his membership of that club was incompatible with the values he is supposed to support. He lives well - yes, to a point, he works for it. He makes sure he takes on some high profile pro-bono cases. They have done him no harm at all, indeed done him a great deal of good. 
He really isn't risking anything by running for the Greens. He doesn't need to worry about housing or food on the table. He has a job he can fall back on if he fails.
I would be much more interested in a Greens candidate who would be unemployed and homeless if s/he lost, someone who was really giving up everything for what they said they believed in.

Saturday 9 March 2019

"His licence has been suspended

and I just can't handle the traffic up there," my elderly acquaintance told me.
They are both in their 80's. He's been in hospital recently and he still isn't really well, indeed may never be really well again. They need to get backwards and forwards to hospital appointments and their doctor.
She had brought the car as far as the shopping centre to do some essential shopping but I could see she wasn't happy about that either. 
It isn't a good way to be driving at all. She knows that but they don't live close enough to public transport to get to where they need to go.  One of their children helps but also works and is not always available.
So far the only transport assistance they have had is a temporary permit for use in designated parking space. 
    "And I don't like to use those places because there are other people who need them even more."
No, she is thoughtful of others. She would rather totter into the supermarket and the chemist using a shopping trolley as a walking aid.
It is obvious to me that they need transport assistance. She knew nothing about the transport assistance scheme. 
     "I'll down load the forms and bring them around I told her."
She thought it was "good" of me. It isn't. I just think of it as something that has to be done. It is what their doctor should have done months ago. I shouldn't have to be the person telling her about it and getting the forms. Doctors have all that sort of information available to them. They should be using it. I know some do. Our previous GP arranged taxi vouchers for the Senior Cat when he broke his leg. Towards the end of that time when the doctor realised there were going to be longer term problems he arranged for the situation to move from temporary to permanent. The Senior Cat has been sparing in his use of them. He has relied on Middle Cat for appointments whenever possible. His friends have returned all the favours he did for them over the years and got him to church and occasional social events. 
It still means his social life has been curtailed. It is the same with this elderly couple. It is the same for so many other people I know who don't have the ability to use transport independently.
Someone said to me recently, "Accessible buses are all very well if you can access the buses."
I know what he meant. He can't actually get to a bus stop. I could get to a bus stop but if I can't put the trike on the bus then there isn't any point in catching the bus. 
Someone wanted me to help with a day long event recently. I would like to have supported her but it is being held on the other side of the city. It would have meant catching a train or bus into the city, a bus to another location and then yet another bus from there to the venue. I worked the journey out and, even if I could walk at a normal speed and crossed major roads safely on foot, it would have taken about two and a half hours on a Saturday. In a car the same journey would take about forty minutes. 
I explained to the person asking for help and she sighed and agreed with me that it just wasn't possible. 
In just under a fortnight I will need to go into the city for four days straight to help a friend at the craft fair. Fortunately the venue is not far from the main railway station. I can take my trike on the train and pedal there and back. I won't even need to cross a road in the city to get there. I can do that but I had to think of that before I agreed - although I know she would find transport for me if necessary. 
But we shouldn't need to think about things like that. These aren't things we do simply for pleasure. They are part of what we do which makes us human. Everyone should be able to access transport conveniently and at a reasonable price.
I hope when I see my elderly acquaintance again her doctor has signed the form and they can feel more secure about getting to their appointments.

Friday 8 March 2019

Mobile phones

and electric scooters and far too many school children.
I had to go into the city yesterday. I do not like going into the city. I only go in if I absolutely must.
Yesterday was a must. Middle Cat  has insisted I "must" have a mobile phone. She sneakily didn't get at me. She got at the Senior Cat and made him so worried that he insisted. 
I had a mobile phone. I used it twice in more than that many years. On both occasions it was to warn the Senior Cat that I would be later than we both anticipated. I would leave it on so that he could contact me if he needed to - but he never did.
And then the wretched thing would not work. My nephew said it was the old network and I needed a new phone. I put it off - mostly because the Senior Cat never uses his now. Twice when I was out all day I took his with me but I told him and Middle Cat that they were only to call me in an emergency. 
I ordered a new phone - one with buttons that suit my paws. It eventually arrived. I went to get the SIM card fitted into it. I put it on to charge. 
Nothing has happened. It doesn't work. It is not the phone. It is the SIM card. No, I don't have the code for it. I was not given a code for it. I remember setting up the old phone. Youngest Nephew helped. I had to answer all sorts of questions about my date of birth and location and what I did for a living and the numbers of my passport and my proof of age card and my birth certificate and half a dozen other things. I was told all of this was for "security" and to stop people like terrorists accessing phones - all nonsense of course. But, I was definitely not given a code for it because I took the original packing that came with the SIM card and the paperwork that went with it. For once, because it was so horrendously difficult, I actually kept everything - and I mean everything.
Now I am told I have to make  yet another trip into the city with my passport and a string of other documentation just so that Middle Cat can stop harassing the Senior Cat. 
We all managed for years without these wretched things. Yes, there were times when it would have been convenient to have one but we managed. 
What will really infuriate me now is if Middle Cat does what she is almost certain to do. When I finally get this issue sorted out and I have a working phone she is likely to give the number to other people. Nothing will irritate me more than being out and about and having the wretched thing ring. 
If that happens I am likely to ignore it altogether - and then they won't be able to contact me in an emergency. 

Thursday 7 March 2019

Plastic straws

are vital for some people.
The State Government is thinking about banning them. I have said elsewhere that this might not work.
Now someone has attempted to argue with me on Twitter. S/he (and I suspect he) has said,"Take your own."
It is not that simple. Many people with disabilities who need a straw to drink with don't have the capacity to do that. They have to rely on other people. Carers can be notoriously unreliable and forgetful. I know just what could happen in those circumstances. Everyone heads out the door and, shopping done, they decide to  have a drink at the local cafe before heading home.
Oops! The cafe no longer provides plastic straws. The paper straws provided are no good to Sam/antha because of a bite reflex. That person then faces the indignity of being fed  in public instead of being able to discreetly use a straw.
Should have brought your own? Yes, it is an argument that could be made but straws are being provided so why not provide the sort everyone can use? 
Not available at the cafe? Does that also mean not available in the supermarket? Quite possibly it could. Will the government eventually ban the import of them? 
The physical act of drinking is a complex task. It may not seem like that to people who can unthinkingly fill a glass with water, lift it to their lips and swallow it - but it is. There are many people with disabilities who cannot manage it. Some of those rely on straws.
Banning something seems a simple way of solving a problem - and I agree that single use plastics are a problem. In this case however it creates another problem. It further disadvantages a group of people who are already disadvantaged. It takes away their right to a small act of independence and their dignity.
It is another example of "one size fits all". That is an approach which never works.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Undelivered parcels

are infuriating. They are more of an issue now than they have ever been before of course. On line shopping means that there are more parcels even though there may be less letters.
We had a very good parcel delivery person. He was quick and efficient. He knew people. He stopped his van once as I was pedalling past.
    "I have a parcel for you. It has to be signed for so I couldn't leave it. Do you want it now? It is only small."
Yes please!
Our neighbours were out one day and he couldn't leave the parcel safely so, seeing me in the front garden and knowing that I knew them well, he asked if he could leave it with me.
    "I know that Mr... is looking for it. I'll leave a note in their box."
Why not?
Around Christmas he worked over time. He delivered at weekends although he didn't need to do it.
He lost his job three weeks before Christmas the following year. It wasn't because he was doing it badly. He wasn't dishonest. There was nothing wrong at all. The problem was that it is contracted work and somebody offered to do the job more cheaply.
But, they can't do the job nearly as well. Things have gone missing. Other things have been broken or damaged.
I bought something recently. I waited and waited. The company is usually very efficient but there had been a warning there might be a short delay so I was not too concerned. Then I had a refund notice. I inquired, couldn't they supply? No, it wasn't that. The correctly addressed parcel had been returned with "NONEED" written on it. Quite apart from the fact that it was an extremely rude way to return the parcel I wanted what was in there. I wanted it for someone else. If you do want to return something I was told long ago to put "RTS please" (return to sender).
I have made inquiries on line with the Post Office but they say they need a tracking number. I hope the company in question will supply it although I have a nasty suspicion it won't get me any further. 
But I am angry because other people are complaining as well. Someone in the next street had a note left in their letter box to pick a parcel up from the Post Office even though he was home and working (in full view) on his car in the driveway. Around the corner from him a parcel was left just inside the gate in the only rain we have had in weeks. 
The post office may believe they are saving money on a cheaper contractor but it isn't cheaper for the customer.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Domestic violence is back on the

political agenda. Yes, there is an election coming up.
Both sides of politics are promising to spend more on the issue. They seem however to be promising to do so in distinctly different ways.
One side is saying that it will provide lawyers and money that can be spent on rent and other sorts of practical assistance. The other is saying that they will provide much the same sort of practical assistance with less emphasis on lawyers and more on education.
I think I prefer the latter approach. 
The Senior Cat is one of those people others describe as a "gentleman". He could no more commit an act of domestic violence than fly a fighter jet and drop bombs. His friends are the same. 
They were brought up in a generation where men opened doors for women and walked on the outside of the pavement as a matter of course. 
Yes of course there was domestic violence when they were young. There has always been domestic violence. 
Has it become worse - or are people just more aware of it?  I suspect it is both. Women's "liberation" didn't help. It was the wrong approach. "Equality" hasn't helped either. That's been mistaken as "same".  Equal doesn't necessarily mean "same". It can mean "different" but treated with the same respect. Two people doing the same job with equal competence should be paid an equal amount but they may do it in different ways. 
Yes, we all know those things.
I don't think the answer to the problems of domestic violence is to make more lawyers available. They may be useful but it isn't going to tackle the actual problem of violence. 
It would be a great deal more useful if domestic violence awareness and respect for one another could be taught. That's hard to do, very hard. 
I have been reading two books written by people who finally left  abusive sects. One escaped physical violence as well as the stifling nature of her upbringing. The other was not subjected to external physical violence but subjected herself to it internally in the form of an eating disorder and, at one point, admits to punching her partner. 
These people didn't need lawyers but they did need help of other sorts. I know other people who have been in similar situations and say the same thing. They want someone to talk to, perhaps someone who can issue an order for the former partner or some other person not to approach but a lawyer is not going to sort out the physical and psychological mess which is domestic violence.
It seems to me that one side has gone for the populist approach of "Look, we will spend all this money and a lawyer can get you what you want". The other side has gone for "Yes, we will spend money and make some legal services available but you will have to do some of the work yourselves."
I know which side the public will go for - and it won't be the most effective one.

Monday 4 March 2019

There was an emergency

near here yesterday and I saw the ambulance come screaming down the road with the siren blaring and the lights flashing.
The pedestrian crossing near the library had just been activated for pedestrians to cross. I stayed on the footpath and I yelled at someone on the other side who was about to cross,
    "Wait for the ambulance!"
She stepped back and the ambulance went through.
As we crossed on the next cycle instead she said in passing,
   "I wasn't thinking."
At least she waited when I yelled.
I know that there are occasions when every second can count. I have no idea who was in the ambulance or what the situation was but they don't do what they did yesterday unless it is life-threatening. 
When I arrived home I relived the moment because someone I know had posted a picture of heavy equipment which had been chained to a tree by "Greens" activists. The equipment was wanted to help fight a bush fire and could not be used. The "Greens" were protesting about a forest area. 
If the picture was an accurate record of what had happened then I am appalled. Please don't misunderstand me. I have no objection to people protesting. What I object to is people who do it in an irresponsible way.  I don't mind if people want to protest in a law abiding way. 
Actions like that though are not law abiding. You wait for the ambulance to go through. It has right of way. It doesn't matter if you are in a hurry. It doesn't matter if you miss the bus or you are late to an appointment. What matters is that you wait because it might save someone's life and it doesn't endanger the lives of those working to save that life. 
And you don't do anything at all that might prevent a fire being fought. Fires kill people and  animals. Fires destroy homes and habitat and livelihoods. If you can't fight a fire then all that lovely natural bush is going to go up in flames anyway. It's a serious criminal offence to do anything which might prevent others from doing their job in those circumstances. You aren't "saving" anything. You are likely destroying it.
I suppose that, if I am honest, I am no lover of those "activists" who indulge in noisy protests. Yes, protesting undoubtedly gets their adrenalin running, particularly when the leaders get up and shout their message into a microphone. It is however generally an ineffective way of seeking action or change. 
A well thought out letter mentally composed while waiting for the ambulance to pass will do a lot more to get the message across.

Sunday 3 March 2019

Teaching adults is a different

sort of challenge from teaching children. I think I have said that before.
I taught a workshop yesterday. It was a very brief introduction to the knitting of the Victorian era, part of the "Queen Victoria Challenge" for this year's state Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show. 
There were eleven people who made the effort to turn up - despite the extreme heat. (Believe me, if it had not been for having committed to do it, I would not have been there in the heat.)
But I talked a little about how Victorian era patterns were written. It was in the early part of Queen Victoria's life that patterns came to be available on a commercial basis and they were quite different from modern patterns. They really resemble not much more than vague instructions. Assumptions were made that people knew how to do many things - or could, at very least, get help to do them.
And then I gave people a pattern to try for themselves. It was a pattern for a border for a bedspread. The idea was that they would try to knit one very small unit of the border but do it on much finer needles and with much yarn because so much the Victorians knitted was finer than the yarn we now work with.
Nobody finished working out how to do it but they all took their pieces home to try again. I hope someone does puzzle it out. I have puzzled it out and I know someone who could not be there will puzzle it out. 
It's a challenge though and it was very interesting to watch the different ways people approached the problem. One member of the group knits in the "continental" style and she found a different problem from everyone else in following the instructions. Some people worked together while others worked alone. They asked questions of me - which I tried not to answer to readily as they had to work it out for themselves. They asked questions of each other and that was good. 
I'll be interested to see if anyone turns up in a fortnight with the motif knitted. 
And I must do my own before then.

Saturday 2 March 2019

Not enough sleep is

not good for you.
Yes, I know that.
You can't make up lost sleep by lying in at weekends.
Yes, I know that.
Not enough sleep can cause you to be overweight.
Yes, I know that.
And so the litany goes on. 
You need eight hours sleep a night.
I'd be lucky. I doubt I would have had eight hours sleep a night since kittenhood.
Right now I am tired and the day has barely started. It was very hot yesterday and will be about the same - or slightly warmer - today. There is no way to sleep comfortably in such weather. We can't, for a number of reasons, leave the air conditioning on all night. The Senior Cat is restless and gets up and down...which also keeps me awake. I sleep with "one ear open" and have done for years now. I suppose I am what is called a "light" sleeper. On the rare occasions the Senior Cat has not been here or in hospital I have slept more least I think I have. 
This afternoon I have to go to a meeting. If I wasn't running a workshop session after the meeting I would not be going at all. I  would be tempted to do what the Senior Cat does and take a siesta on my sleeping mat.
Cooler tomorrow? Cooler still next week? I don't want to wish my life away but I am looking forward to that!

Friday 1 March 2019

There is no such thing as "compulsory voting"

in Downunder. 
It may be that there is in some other parts of the world. Perhaps they stand there with a gun pointed at you and make you vote - but I doubt it.
There is in this country a legal requirement for eligible people to enrol to vote and, having done that, attend a polling booth on polling day. (There are also provisions for postal voting, pre-poll voting and absentee voting.) There is a requirement to take the papers given to you, mark them and place them in the correct ballot boxes.
There is absolutely no requirement that you mark the ballot papers in such a way that might be considered a vote. 
It is, rightly, an offence to discourage people from voting. This is possibly what allows the Electoral Commission and others to make statements like "Remember, voting is compulsory."
There are people who don't vote. They forget. Something happens so they cannot get there. They don't want to vote. They don't understand what they have to do. There are any number of reasons. I didn't vote one year because the Electoral Commission made a mistake - but I did go to a polling booth.  It would not have made any difference to the outcome but I put in a formal complaint and I believe an office procedure was changed as a result. When other people don't go to a polling booth or make other arrangements they sometimes get fined. It is only a very small number of people who don't vote for religious reasons or who are barred from voting.
But I have just read yet another piece about "compulsory voting" and how it makes this country one of the best in the world, how it makes for a fairer outcome and one of the most stable democracies.
I don't believe those things because the vast majority of people vote for the same party all their lives. They have little or no interest in politics or the policies of political parties. They have no idea how we are governed or how government works. 
We may not have to contend with the worries of an out of control President in one country or Brexit in another country but we have other problems - including frequent changes of Prime Minister. We have politicians who are lazy about the political process, especially in their "safe" seats. They may word hard in other ways but they don't need to work to get all votes, just sufficient votes to swing the seat in their favour. We have an entire country which is lazy about democracy and which takes it for granted.
I am not sure that is a good thing.