Friday 31 May 2019

Book vouchers

are not simply the piece of card they are written on.
I bought one yesterday. The Senior Cat had asked me to get one. It is for the daughter of the person who comes to help him shower. We have met this child a number of times. She is about to turn ten. When it is school holiday time she comes and sits and reads while her mother helps the Senior Cat. She also loves to draw and shows considerable talent at that. I have talked to her about the sort of thing she likes to read. She borrows books from my shelves.
So the Senior Cat asked me, "Can you get me a book voucher for..... please? It's her birthday on Friday."
Of course. It is a way of showing our appreciation for her mother's always cheerful and able assistance.
But why a book voucher and not a book? We don't know which books she owns - although we know she has some. I have a fair idea of the sort of thing she likes to read - but she may already have it. Yes, both reasons not to buy an actual book.
But it is much more than that. It means that this child will visit the local indie book shop and choose her own book. Both those things are important. We know her mother will be more than happy to take her there.
I can remember taking MsW when she was very young. It was the Christmas after her mother died. Her father didn't feel like celebrating Christmas in the least but we both knew that it was essential to do the best we could for her. He took us both to the bookshop and went to do some other things while we looked at books. Ms W chose one for herself. We chose one for her father - the money she had saved was nowhere near enough but that didn't matter then. And, when she was looking at some of the things in the children's corner, I bought yet another to give her later.
We went each year for Christmas and birthday. Her father and I eventually swapped actual money for vouchers to be spent there. She is old enough to go alone now but she still remembers that first visit. I remember her clinging on to me. She was almost afraid to touch the books even though she had washed her hands three times before going in there.
"You can buy one - any one at all from these shelves," I told her showing her the special children's area. There were books she knew and books she did not know. It took a while to choose just one. It took a while for several years. Now she is likely to go in there with a specific book in mind - and even ask the shop if it can be ordered. She is prepared to wait for something she really wants. 
I saw her in there last weekend. She was buying a book voucher for a friend for her birthday.
"It was the best present ever," she told me once, "It was a book and I got to choose."
I think we have trained her well.

Thursday 30 May 2019

Friendship has to be worked at

- yes worked at.
There is a piece in the paper this morning. It has been written by someone who is retired but still writes the occasional column for the state newspaper.  He is the last surviving writer trained by the English teacher I had in my last year at school. I don't always agree with him but I like his writing. And I liked this morning's column.
He had things to say about friendship.
I was reminded, as I often am, of that English teacher. She became a friend although she was on verge of retiring and I was still very young. At first she would contact me until I had the courage to contact her one day - excited because I had found a recently published book I thought she might want to read. After that what had been a teacher-student relationship slowly grew into a friendship that remained until she died.
I have had other similar friendships with much older people. There was the woman who was the secretary of my mother's school. She maintained a relationship with my mother until my mother died and then, surprisingly, phoned me. Could we meet? I went. She was a lonely woman for all her activities. We would talk on the phone. I'd listen to her stories of her four boys and the day after one of them died I, with considerable trepidation, phoned her. It was the right thing to do. She wanted to meet. After that I would occasionally make the trek to the other side of the city and we would have "breakfast" at a cafe she liked in the big shopping centre near her home. In an odd way I do miss those occasions even though she was nothing like my English teacher. And yes, I suppose we were friends... perhaps better friends than she ever was with my mother.
I have a friend here, someone I have known since my teens. We don't see one another that often but  when we do we simply pick up where we left off.  She once remarked on that, saying how we could just feel comfortable with one another whatever was going on. It is the only friendship which has survived over that space of time. 
When you move, as I have, overseas or  to another state things do change. People I knew have married. I have no idea where they are or what they are doing. I know their lives will have changed. Some of their friends will now be the parents of the children their children went to school with. I have forgotten their names and what they looked like. They were probably never friends, just people I went to school with and had little to do with there or anywhere else. 
Last year I went to the funeral of the son of friends here. It was a very big funeral...there were hundreds of people there. As the eulogies were being given it was obvious that this man had worked at friendships. He would organise his mates into doing things - things he knew they wanted to do. One of them, a grown man, broke down as he spoke of how much that friendship had meant at a low point in his life. 
Most of my friends live in other places. I am grateful for social media. We can keep in touch much more easily now. It is a good use for social media. But social media in itself is not enough. You need to be there for the people with  whom you wish to be friends.
Friendship is a two way thing. 

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Why do people want to climb Mt Everest?

If someone can answer that question in a way that makes me actually understand then I will be grateful.
I have of course seen the photograph of the traffic jam going towards the summit. It genuinely puzzles me.
I can, sort of, understand Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing doing it. I still think it was a crazy sort of thing to do but, back then, it was  perhaps a little different. It had not been done before that anyone knew of and therefore, humans being humans, it was one of those things that they felt needed to be done.
Now so many people have done it that, while it may be a personal achievement of a sort, it really isn't so special any more. 
    "You've climbed Mt Everest?" I can hear myself asking and trying to sound interested.
I just can't understand why people want to go and do something which is so dangerous and which has, as far as I can see, no value to humanity. It is also very cold and filled with discomfort.
But then, as a cat, I fail to understand any desire for non-essential human activities that lead to such discomfort. Oh I think I understand the adrenalin flow of the footy or cricket game but even they have their dangers. 
I have to go out this morning - and the weather is foul. It is windy and raining and, at present, about 10'C. It could be worse, much worse but it doesn't mean I am going to enjoy going out. 
Do people actually enjoy getting bruised and battered while getting colder and colder and finding it more and more difficult to breathe? I am told it is possible to climb to the summit without oxygen but it is also very difficult.  Even much lower than that people have difficulty in breathing. When my brother went to the base he was appalled by the litter of throwaway oxygen containers.. 
Nepal is a poor country and I doubt they make much out of those who climb Mt Everest. Yes, it brings in the tourists but how much do the local people see of that money? Very little.
Nepal is also a country rich in history and culture and tradition. I think it would be better to go and experience that in a sensitive way than climb a mountain.

Tuesday 28 May 2019

There is a plea from the police

for people to be more careful on the roads.
I couldn't agree more. There have been 51 deaths in this state so far this year - compared with 30 last year. Thirty was too many.
What is more, according to the senior policeman who put the plea out, every death was avoidable.
Do people actually think about this when they get in to drive? I doubt it. I suspect that almost everyone simply gets in and drives off. 
I don't feel that way. I am a nervous cat on the roads. 
Yesterday someone, intending to be kind, gave way to me so I could get across a busy road - and then, as I backed rapidly, someone else pulled out around them with a blare of their horn and went ahead. They ignored the stop sign at the railway crossing and turned a corner two hundred metres ahead - on a red light. Where are the police when you need them?
I know a lot of people still believe that the stop sign only applies to the railway line. It doesn't. It applies to the roads that come in from either side. If I have to cross there - and I frequently do - then I have to wait until the road is completely clear or someone gives way to me. People do give way. It doesn't happen often and, if they do, it is usually completely safe. Yesterday though it wasn't. Someone was impatient and broke the law in several ways. I could have been hit if I had not been able to back or back quickly enough. Thankfully there was nobody behind me.
I see other people using their mobile phones too. They often sit and text or talk at the traffic lights. Do they think it is acceptable there?
Does anyone really not know it is against the law to use a hand held phone and drive at the same time? Do they also believe that orange means you speed up from one hundred metres down the road and go through on the red? There is barely enough time for the many elderly people in this district to get across the main road and, when this occurs, they often come close to being hit. And it is those same drivers who will turn ahead of people coming across - even though the green pedestrian sign is still showing.
Why is there this enormous need to be somewhere first or, if not first, fast? Why is everyone so impatient? 
I know I like to get to my destination. I always try to give myself more time than I think I might need to get there. It is better to be early than not get there at all.
But it seems I am an exception - and it scares me. 

Monday 27 May 2019

Eating breakfast

is done in two sessions in this house.
I am up before the Senior Cat. I set the table, collect the paper from the front lawn, eat and prowl briefly  through the paper in peace. 
The Senior Cat eventually surfaces and pads out to have his. 
It takes him a lot longer to eat his. He reads the paper rather more thoroughly and tends to stop eating as he reads it.
It used not to be this way.
Breakfast when I was a kitten tended to be chaotic. There were "grown ups" and four kittens who needed breakfast. We ate cereal and toast and drank milk. In one place we had milk flavoured with something called "Milo" - a chocolate sort of drink.  That was only allowed because the milk had to be made from milk powder. There was no fresh milk available. Everywhere else the milk, apart from our time in the city, had to be collected from the farm.
One of my earliest memories is sitting on the cross bar of the Senior Cat's bike and going to get the milk. The morning that remains clearest in my mind is the morning that we had to wait for the train to finish shunting before the Senior Cat could continue riding to the farm. It was a very cold morning, still dark and I can remember seeing the fuzzy drops of misty rain on my red mittens. They matched a red pixie hat I hated wearing because the strap which held the hat in place irritated my chin. I must have been about eighteen months old.
Why I was taken on these trips is something I will never know. The Senior Cat is puzzled too. "I suppose your mother didn't want you in the house while she was doing things."
She would have been pregnant with my brother by then so perhaps morning sickness was an issue.
It wasn't until my parents retired that breakfast became a slightly more relaxed affair - at least it was for the Senior Cat. He isn't one for lying in bed but, after years of getting up at five in the morning, he now tends to get up after seven. 
My mother could never do that. If I was up she would get up. She would complain about the fact I got up so early.
     "You don't need to get up," I would tell her again and again.
     "I can't lie there if I know you are up," she would tell me.
I tried being very quiet. It made no difference. 
Breakfasts were tense affairs. They were not the time for reading the paper or thinking about the day. Breakfast was a meal to get out of the way and then tackle the list of things that needed to be done - the list my mother had made.
    "Be thankful I am not like my mother,"  she would tell me. I was. Her mother was far worse but my mother was unable to recognise that  she was, in many ways, just like her mother. I just wanted to sit there and read the paper in peace. I wasn't ready for conversation.
I do read the paper in peace now. It never takes me that long. I leave it there neatly and tidily for the Senior Cat. He takes his time over the reading of it. 
And, if I do need to interrupt him, I apologise. But I try not to do that because breakfast is different now. 
The Senior Cat tells me we didn't talk much on those journeys to get the milk. 
We like quiet mornings.

Sunday 26 May 2019

Teaching adults

is not like teaching children. I think I have said that somewhere before.
I am teaching a class next weekend. It has taken me quite a while to prepare for it.
I taught a class on the same topic over the summer but this group is different. They have different skill levels and require a different approach and different sorts of information.
They won't appreciate the amount of work that has gone into preparing for it. That isn't because they aren't nice people but because they won't know how long it takes.
Of course I used some of my previous preparation - the weeks of work that went into making two sample hats and writing class notes. This time though I had to think again. I had tacked some information in a previous class I taught but some people won't have done that class, others will. I need to be ready for different skill levels and different demands.
As I was preparing hand outs for the class the Senior Cat asked me, "Is it worth going to all that bother?"
I thought about it - again. The answer is - yes but not for the same reasons as teaching children. 
If I was teaching children they would likely be a captive audience They would likely have to be there. They would likely be required to learn something. As an adult it would be my duty to make that possible. If I could do it in a way that they found challenging, satisfying and perhaps enjoyable that would be a good thing.
If I am teaching adults then they are, in these circumstances, there because they want to be there. They expect to enjoy themselves. It is supposed to be "fun". They expect the teacher to give a great deal more. They don't expect to have to discover as much for themselves. 
But, I do want them to discover things for themselves. I want them to explore colour this time. We all have different ideas about colour. Nobody sees colour in quite the way as anyone else. I know someone who is knitting a two colour garment at the moment. For me the colours clash but she sees them as absolutely right - and that makes them right for her. It will be the same on Saturday. 
I hope they will help one another and try something out. It is supposed to be a learning experience for them. 
Simply telling them to "do this" or "do that" won't work. They are adults and they need to be taught.

Saturday 25 May 2019

Protesting by blocking roads

is simply going to annoy people - and possibly even put lives at risk.
I was due to have a "meeting" with someone yesterday. Several other people were as well. She was a key person for the meeting, the person with some vital information.
I logged in at the right time. So did other people. There was no J.... She is one of those people who might, occasionally, be a few minutes late. If she is it will be unavoidable. Her working life is busy.
And then, about ten minutes later, one of the other members of the group sent out a message, "Just had a call from J... she can't get to the office just yet."
When she eventually arrived she sent out an apology saying that the "climate protestors" had blocked her way. She had difficulty extricating herself out of the consequent traffic issues and had, rightly, made certain an ambulance had gone ahead of her a little later even when it meant waiting for another cycle of lights.
Her sympathy for the protestors was nil.  
    "If they want to do something about climate change then go and spend their spare time working for Trees for Life," she growled.
I couldn't agree more.
The problem is doing something like that would require a sustained effort. It wouldn't cause the same sort of publicity. It wouldn't get the adrenalin flowing in the way blocking the roads does. 
If the convoy which went to protest about the Adani coal mine had simply written letters it would have been just as effective. If they had saved the money they spent on petrol and other things and put it to planting trees it would have been more effective. If they had talked to local people in an informed and positive way it would have been even more effective.
Blocking roads is not the answer.

Friday 24 May 2019

Making marmalade

has occupied most of my blogging time this morning. I prowled off to the Farmers' market to get the fruit last Sunday but only had time to cut it up yesterday. (The market trip was necessary because the greengrocer only sells waxed fruit.)
The marmalade is for the Senior Cat. He has it on his breakfast toast. We ran out of the homemade variety some weeks back. He has  been eating something labelled "marmalade" from the supermarket. It is supposed to be good quality and he didn't complain. He isn't a complaining sort of cat. It would have to be inedible before he would tell me he didn't like it.
But, I asked and got the response, "It isn't as nice as what you make."
Oh. Well, the necessary fruit was coming into season....
And I looked at the ingredients on the jar I had bought.
Now, to me, marmalade has three ingredients - the fruit, the sugar and the water. Nothing else.
Not so the supermarket variety. There were other things as well - colours, preservatives, a "gelling agent" and more.  I suppose they are necessary if you want the product to have a long shelf life and go on looking attractive.
But now we have some of the home made variety - including some jars for others in the wilderness of no marmalade..
But , I think I'll stick to Vegemite on my toast.

Thursday 23 May 2019

So theLabor Party leader

is yet to be decided - or is it?
With the departure of the leader who lost the election which could not be lost there is the need to find a new leader. Simple... or so one would think.
You see there was a Deputy brother taught this deputy. She was in one of the maths classes he taught. He must sometimes wonder what he managed to teach her.  
You see she would have had the numbers but doesn't want the job of Leader of the Opposition. She claims it is because she has an eight year old and the extra time involved would take time away from her child.
The Senior Cat and I were discussing this. We were also discussing the overall reason why so few women enter politics. I have been thinking about it since because I have known and still know a number of female members of parliament. My state member is female. My federal member is female. There are two former Senators - opposite sides of the political divide - who are good friends. There was a member of the local "Democrats" and there are others I don't know well.
Yes, there are women around but many of them tend to be slightly older. Is that it? Do they wait? Is it because like the former Deputy Leader of the Opposition (who may yet get returned) they have children?
A former federal MP I know has two children. They were very young when he was in politics and he admits it was very hard on his wife. It would have been hard enough if he had been a state MP in a suburban electorate but as a federal MP who needed to be in the nation's capital on a regular basis it was even harder. When he was home he also had, in order to keep his registration up against the day he left politics, to work one day a week in his profession as a doctor. Their marriage has survived but it hasn't been easy.
It is probably easier for MPs if they aren't married. If they are married then they need a partner who is as committed to the cause as they are. They need some sort of career they can return to when they leave politics. Even the former Senators I know went on to sit on committees - or, more likely, chair them. 
The new Prime Minister has two young daughters. It isn't going to be easy for them because there will now be extra security. Their father will be constantly criticised in the media. His job isn't by any means certain - and he could easily be voted out three years from now.
I have been asked more than once why I didn't go in for politics. The answer to that has been that I would have needed to go in as an independent. I couldn't join a political party. There is no party I feel fits my views of the sort of society we should be working towards. I am not tough enough to face the constant criticism politicians are subjected to or the stamina to face it either. 
Someone else recently told me, "We should make it easier for women to enter politics." I am not sure I agree. It would be good to see more women there, particularly women who have experienced relationships and brought up children. 
I remember the day I was sitting in a lecture at law school. One of the former Senators was there as well. The lecturer, a professor of law, was talking about a case and about the ministerial intervention in it and how the case was decided. And then the Senator, who had been the Minister at the time, said, "The Minister is present and the Minister made the decision on the grounds that she is a wife and a mother and that is what she would have wanted if she was in that position."
It was a good decision too. It has formed the basis for many decisions since and helped many people.
Perhaps we need to look for leaders who are prepared to think like that. 

Wednesday 22 May 2019

I saw one of my first students

I had not seen him for some time. The last time I saw him was when he had demanded the right to make his will - not a simple matter for a man in his position.
I have sometimes wondered whether he is even still alive. He is so profoundly physically disabled that there was every possibility he was not.
Yesterday though there was that sound behind me, that sound I would have known anywhere. The one that commanded my intention. I turned automatically - all the years in between teaching him and now suddenly non-existent again.
There he was - grinning at me. He had recognised me from some distance away - before I even saw him.
I'd know that sound, that grin anywhere. It was the grin which says, "I know something! I need to talk."
P.... was the little boy whose migrant parents didn't speak much English, whose older brother had to come and translate. He was the child who was thought to be profoundly retarded when the only problem was that he simply didn't understand English when they first tested him. P... was the child who wanted to learn so much.
I gave P... an unfair amount of time. I know that I did but he was the one child capable of learning to read. I knew if I could teach him to read he could go on to educate himself. He was that sort of child.
P.... couldn't speak. He still can't speak. He still relies on eye gaze to communicate. He still uses the communication boards I made for him all those years ago. He has two - one in English and one in both Greek and English. It depends on the situation which one he uses. They both have 512 symbols - the maximum number for which we could eye code. When they are combined it is those symbols, Blissymbols, which give him a vocabulary of more than 3000 words - perfectly adequate for everyday conversations.
When I saw P... yesterday he was on his way to the local library with his sister-in-law. His parents, with whom he still lives, were away for a few days. "Wedding cousin" he told me. He "speaks" in a sort of short hand, especially with people who are likely to understand him when he does that.  His SIL just stood there letting the two of us talk. She didn't attempt to take over. That was good. They are obviously fond of one another.  
P... spends much of his day reading. He likes crime fiction, science fiction, non-fiction about all sorts of subjects. He's a well educated man - mostly self educated.
We didn't have long to chat but he asked me what I thought of the election result. There was a glint in his eye.
Yes, he voted. He made his own choice - for the party that has been returned. The candidate for his electorate didn't get elected. He didn't expect that but yes, he voted.
He's a full member of society because he voted according to his own wishes.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

"We can stop thgm in the Senate"

I was told yesterday. 
The person speaking to me was talking about the election results. It was an interesting comment. 
When I gently pointed out that this was not the way the Senate is supposed to work he just laughed and said, "That's not the point Cat. The point is that we can make life difficult for them. They won't be able to govern. With any luck they won't even last three years and we will be able to get on with the job we should have been elected to do. The media might give us proper support next time round."
I suppose it depends on where you are coming from but the media was giving the Opposition plenty of support I would have thought.
Much more worrying was this man's ideas about the role of the Senate. He's a seasoned political volunteer - once thought to be a likely candidate. He should know better.
The Senate is the house for the states. We have twelve Senators and their job is supposed to be to look after the interests of the overall state rather than an electorate. The Senate is a house of review - rather like the House of Lords. Their job is not to block legislation which comes through but to review it and suggest changes if the interests of the states are not being met. The Senate is also supposed to be non-partisan. Ultimately it can block supply and force an election.
It is none of those things. It has turned into a second partisan chamber which often prevents a government from getting things done. It does this not because the legislation is necessarily wrong or bad but simply because it can. This is all too often because people vote one way for the House of Representatives and another for the Senate. 
Now unlike some people I wouldn't want to do away with the Senate. I think we should retain it. I see it as the safety valve on the pressure cooker of parliament. I  also believe people need to be educated about what the intended role of the Senate is and the Senate needs to be held accountable in their intended role.
It is one of the things I am hoping to talk to my newly returned member. She has managed to get over the line - just. The redrawn electoral boundaries cut her majority to a wafer thin margin and she is going to have to work hard to get things done. 
But - it should not be about deliberately stopping elected governments doing their job. 

Monday 20 May 2019

Gloating and grinning, losing and sulking

seem to be the order of the day - or they were yesterday.
In this house we were quietly relieved by the result of the federal election. We haven't cheered or gloated. We are hoping that our local member will be returned but that result is still too close to call.
In the wider community though it seems to be a different story.
The Senior Cat went out with Middle Cat so, apart from things that needed to be done here, I went off to the "Farmers' Market" to get something I cannot buy at the greengrocer. It's a thirty minute pedal away so it isn't something I do unless there is a special reason to do it.
The market is one of those places people who are "environmentally conscious" use. I think it would be fair to say that many of those who go would be on the left side of politics and quite a lot of them would vote for the Greens. There's nothing wrong with that. The way they vote is their business anyway.
What was my business was getting out of the way of two people, one of whom was so incensed by the election result that he lashed out at another person who simply said very mildly, "No mate, I didn't vote Greens."
Fortunately for me I was at a stall where the owner whisked me behind the counter. The only thing knocked over was a box of bags of oranges. Perhaps that was enough to make the offender see sense. It could have been very nasty.
I didn't wander around looking. I just picked up the marmalade fruit and left. As I went though I could hear people talking.
    "Great result."
    "Unbelievable. We were ahead in the polls all the way."
    "A disaster for the country."
    "Wiped the smirk of his face."
    "We shouldn't have lost. Heads will roll."
    "What a waste of money all that was. We would be better off with a one party system."
    "I bet on the wrong side but still got my money back. Silly buggers paid out before the results went through." (They did too - someone collected $128,000 for backing the losers.)
    "We'll win the next one though - and in a landslide."
    "Yeah - we can really lay into them though. Union is up for it."
And so it went on. The head of the union movement is already claiming that the re-elected government doesn't have a mandate for industrial relations. (I met one of her underlings on the way out and he told me action is already being planned.)
I was asked how I had voted and whether I was pleased with the results. My responses no doubt frustrated those who asked me. I might talk politics here but I don't anyone lashing out at me in the market.
And there should be no gloating, just a determination to do the best possible job for the country. Losing and sulking isn't going to help either.

Sunday 19 May 2019

Still no result in our electorate

although the incumbent is about 8000  votes ahead before preferences. 
Those preferences are a worry. 
I don't like "compulsory" preferences. I never have. For those of you who don't have the system I should explain. In Downunder there is compulsory attendance at the ballot box. Then, in order to have your vote count, you need to mark the boxes from (1) - your first choice - to  however many candidates there are on the ballot paper. You are supposed to do this in accordance with the way you would like them to represent you. 
Now this might sound all very good. If the candidate you want to represent you doesn't get in and there is someone else there that you think would be a good alternative then you can put a (2) beside their name - and so on down the line.
The problem comes about when it is compulsory to do this in order to have your vote count. The example I use is this. Say the reintroduction of the death penalty is an election issue. (It wasn't but suppose that it was.) What  if you have six candidates and only one of them opposes the death penalty? You oppose the death penalty so you mark them one...but then you have to go on and mark the others whether you agree with them or not. Your (2) or even your (3) could help to get a candidate whose views you strongly oppose over the line.
I don't like that. It could happen in our electorate where the views of the other major candidate - who could still get there - are of more than some concern to me. If we must have preferences they should not be compulsory.
As for the other result? Unexpected. I am profoundly grateful for the fact that a man who may yet have to face court on a serious criminal offence is not going to be the leader of the nation. Both major parties have ideas I like and ideas I don't like. Nothing is perfect.
And Open Day was noisy. There was a good crowd through the door. I bought a lovely skein of yarn I didn't need but will use to make something for a friend who needs a little extra support right, maybe I did need it for her. 
Today the Senior Cat is going out with Middle Cat. I can defrost the freezer! 

Saturday 18 May 2019

Today is polling day

and it is also Open Day for the knitting guild I belong to. 
As some readers of this blog know I have already voted and, after assisting two visually impaired friends this morning, I can go and - hopefully - help set up the display.
Open Day coincides with History Month - a statewide affair. This year's theme for the guild is "knitting in the late 20thC".
A request was made for items from that era - if people had any.  I had to smile to myself. The Senior Cat's wardrobe has more than one item like that. I have some too.
We make clothes last in this house. It is only a couple of weeks back that Middle Cat and I finally persuaded the Senior Cat he needed to be rid of "the winter dressing gown". It was a relic from the early days of his marriage. It was there before I was born. It was one of those very heavy woollen affairs. (Anyone old enough to remember back that far will know exactly what I mean.) It was frayed and worn - and recently a tear appeared where the fabric had grown thinner still. Oh yes, the dressing gown. 
The Senior Cat complained that he was finding it hard to get it on and off - but he refused to give it up. No, it wasn't something our mother had given him. His mother had bought it for him at the draper about 100m from their home on Military Rd. 
My paternal grandmother was very careful of clothes. Her wardrobe was sparse. She didn't see the need for a lot of clothes. She would buy good things and care for them. They were classic rather than high fashion. It is yet another thing I was taught by her - although by example rather than direct teaching.  
The dressing gown? She would have told the Senior  Cat it needed to go some years ago.
And I looked at his "woollies". Almost all the hand knits  were made by my mother. 
   "How can you tell the difference?" the Senior Cat asked as I put something to one side saying I had made it.
   "Hers have side seams. Mine are knitted in one piece," I told him. Mine are too recently made for the Open Day. I took two garments that were "TV knits"...from those seemingly endless plain pattern instructions that were popular when television became more common here.  He still wears them - around the house. They date back to the late 60's and early 70's. I remember them being made. 
My mother was not really interested in knitting. It was something she did because it had been necessary at first - and then later because she thought she should. Her garments were plain stocking stitch for the most part. The one garment she made me with a pattern in it had a major mistake in it. Fortunately I was not living at home at the time. My paternal grandmother quietly undid what needed to be undone and knitted it again - sans mistake. 
I have passed over some things I have made too. They can use what they like - or nothing at all. I have kept things for years - and they are still able to be worn. There is my Norwegian pullover, the vest with the rampant lion and the cardigan with the Aran thistle. I designed them all myself because I am too lazy to use patterns designed by other people.
But there is one thing I have not included and that is the "gardening jumpers" - those pullovers made out of whatever happened to be lying around or picked up cheaply at the charity shop. They are old enough. My mother made them and she died almost twenty years ago. Those disreputable garments are older than that.  I looked at them. They have all been mended. I have re-knitted the cuffs and the bottom bands. I have darned them and one has a knitted patch where it was caught on something. They are covered in paint and varnish stains.
I may have to knit another "gardening jumper".

Friday 17 May 2019

Bob Hawke was a larrikin

- or at least liked to be seen that way.
He was also a lot of other things - not all of them good but not all of them bad either.
Another former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has described him as being a "Labor leader with a Liberal heart".  That isn't going to go down too well in some quarters but it may not be as far off the mark as they would like.
Hawke wasn't your usual Labor leader even if he was a  unionist. He was smart enough to realise that you had to nurture business - because business is what brings the money in. Yes, workers were important to him but he knew that it was the people who employed the workers who were taking the risks. No Labor leader since then has acknowledged that. The present man would even have you believe that he is anti-employer and pro-worker. 
Hawke knew that old-style socialism wouldn't work. The party he led still has to recognise that fact.
His "no child will live in poverty" speech was, I believe, from the heart - but it was doomed to failure. He must have known that his plans would not succeed.
I never met the man but I met his first wife and, before she married him, his second. I liked his first wife although I felt she was out of her depth on the occasion I met her. Perhaps it is why she seemed happy to chat to some mere law students while her husband mixed with the great and powerful. She was friendly and appeared to be genuinely interested in other people and their everyday lives. No, she wasn't an "intellectual" but she was more intelligent than was ever acknowledged. Hawke's treatment of her was arrogant. She stuck by him through some of his worst behaviour, his drinking in particular. Without her help he would never have become Prime Minister. 
His second wife is a writer. I met her at Writer's Week one year. She was completely dismissive of me the first time - and a good many other people too.  Was she good for Hawke? Probably. She was more openly his intellectual equal but I imagine there were some fiery moments in their marriage.
He was a complex man. There were things about him I liked and others that I loathed. Overall I am not sure I liked him as the "lovable larrikin", the womaniser, the philanderer and more. He was a better leader than Keating, Rudd or Gillard but his time was over - perhaps even before he left formal politics. Of course he never left the political arena. He was here to almost the last. He backed the Opposition Leader in the present campaign and believed that he will see victory in tomorrow's vote.
There's just one thing I would like to know. Did Hawke, on the grounds of ill health, put in an early vote this time?

Thursday 16 May 2019

Political robocalls do not

come under the "do not call" legislation - more's the pity.
I answer the phone. I hang up. I have never listened to any of the messages all the way through. 
There is a letter in this morning's paper suggesting that these calls do more harm than good. The writer may be right. I know that they won't cause me to change my mind. (I can't anyway. I have already voted.)
We have also had a forest of election material in the letter box. The "no advertising material", "no junk mail", and even (on one box I saw) "NO ELECTION RUBBISH" won't stop people putting things in the letter box.  I have looked at that material - because I like to be able to pick out the half-truths and the lies. Some of it is rather clever but most of it is just plain dreadful.
Yesterday there were no "automated surveys". I never answer those either. We had one from the party trying to retain power, one from the party the opinion polls tell us will win, another from a party even further to the left than that one, and a call from GetUp. The latter claims not to be a political party but seems to be comfortably in bed with the far left and even the far, far left. 
And I was accosted by GetUp in the street and then a member of Labor in the cheap shop when I was trying to get something for the Senior Cat. 
Trying to explain to these people that I vote according to party's policies about the things which matter most to me - like the environment, health, social services, education, housing, transport and the arts - doesn't seem to go down well. They don't want thinking voters. They simply want you to vote for them. It doesn't matter if you only agree with one policy.
I know how the Senior Cat voted. He told me this time. He discussd his preferences with me. It isn't something he has done before but he has ceased to watch the news. He doesn't want "that sort of negativity" in his life. Who can blame him? He reads the paper and, with my help, he has found the websites of the major parties. He has read their "policies" - and made some suitably acerbic comments about some.
We both know he may not cast another vote in his life time but he thought about what he was doing.
But he hangs up on robocalls too. Really the parties are not getting anyone to accept their invitation to the cake by inviting people this way.

Wednesday 15 May 2019

"Unconditional love"

- two powerful words when they are joined together.
Our present Prime Minister has a strong Christian faith. It would seem he genuinely tries to live by the commandment to "Love one another".
He was challenged yesterday and accused of being "homophobic" because (1) he didn't vote in support of the bill that allowed same sex marriage and (2) he hadn't condemned the actions of the rugby player who posted the item that suggested certain individuals would go to hell.
In response he said quite quietly that  he didn't mix his religion with politics but, as he felt he had to answer, he didn't agree with the rugby player. That was the right answer - but it hasn't satisfied his critics. Nothing will satisfy them, especially at the present time. 
People here are not often as open about their religious beliefs as some others are. What is more they can sometimes be ridiculed for them.
A previous Prime Minister started out training in the Catholic priesthood. He came to the conclusion it was not right for him but he has retained his faith. People have made fun of him for it, just as they make fun of the way he volunteers - and has done for many years. They are actually admirable things and should have been used as a positive example. 
The present Prime Minister attends church on a regular basis but has been criticised too - especially since his choice of church is one seen as "happy-clappy" or "fundamental".  The criticism went as far as saying he was giving a Nazi style salute. That's an unacceptable thing to say about someone who would find Nazi ideals abhorrent.
But both these men appear to try and live by the ideal of "unconditional love" even when they disagree with the beliefs of others or need to condemn the acts of those who break the law.  
The current Leader of the Opposition sees life differently. He wants to do away with the opening prayer in parliament. In the last parliament we had Jews and Muslims who made no objection to the tradition, indeed say it should remain.
And my view is that it doesn't matter whether you believe or not that tradition should stay - as a reminder that those there do not represent themselves but the people they have been elected to serve. It serves as a reminder of their duty to others  - and of the need to try and live by the creed of "unconditional love".

Tuesday 14 May 2019

"It's all because of people like you"

I was told after yesterday's blog post.
And no, he wasn't being nice. He was angry. He had come across my blog via someone who works for one of the local politicians. (She reads it and occasionally passes it on to her boss.) This man's role, as he sees it, is to make life as difficult as possible for both of them. The girl in the MP's office had told him to read what I had to say and he didn't like it.
That doesn't surprise me. He is perhaps what any reasonable person would call "one-eyed". He can only see one side of any story. His mind is made up before he is in full possession of the facts. Try telling him anything or adding anything to his knowledge after he has made his mind up and you are wrong. 
He has been campaigning for the far left. Even a friend of mine who belongs to the Greens party says of him, "He's a bit extreme."
That is an understatement.
The only time he has ever approved of me is the first time I met him. He approved of the fact that I was pedalling rather than driving a car.  He was very disappointed when I told him that it wasn't so much a matter of choice  but a matter of necessity. Still we were at least civil to one another.
Yesterday was different. I suspect the polling reported in this morning's paper may have had something to do with it. He knows the Greens candidate for this electorate cannot win. What is now worrying him is that his second choice may not get over the line either.  Most people I know, even those who would vote for his second choice, are quietly hoping that the incumbent will be returned.
You see, she's a nice person. She does genuinely care about people. She knows she can't do everything for everyone but she wants to do the most she can for as many people as possible. One term in office has not killed that desire. I hope she wins and another term in office doesn't do that. 
But our man will not be happy - and yet, in a way, he will be happy. He will be able to continue his visits to the electoral office to harangue her staff. He will be able to go on writing letters and demanding action. He will be able to attend community meetings and tell other attendees how she is not listening... and much more.
And what if his Greens candidate somehow managed to pull off an upset victory? Would he be happy?
I doubt it. He is happier being able to be the angry man.
I think I would rather be content knowing that nobody can do everything for everyone - and some people just do the best they can.

Monday 13 May 2019

"You are not allowed to disagree"

or "you are wrong" and "you can't say that".
There is an interesting article in this morning's paper - written by Andrew Bolt. He's a controversial columnist but this time he has a point.
Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition was saying that the Murdoch press should out itself as a political party - for the conservative side. He also said that he would try to find ways of reducing its control over a substantial portion of the media.
That would be going down a very dangerous path indeed.
However much you may loathe the Murdoch empire it has to be acknowledged that they do have writers from across the political spectrum. It could even be argued that they lean slightly left rather than right. 
They are a very sensitive bunch too - especially the left wingers. One of their more senior figures got angry simply because I gently pointed out he had made a factual error. He called me a "fool" and blocked me  on Twitter. It's a pity. We might have managed to learn something else from one another. 
There is also that well known Professor of Politics who has not blocked me  but who, despite his protestations to the contrary, is most definitely biased towards the left. I often wonder what he teaches his students.  
Another left winger - rather more openly so - phoned me one day and said, "I didn't want that bloody letter printed Cat! You're a damn nuisance!" (When he had calmed down a bit he did say, "But keep on writing.") 
There are other more conservative, more cautious, more well researched writers. They make interesting reading too. But they are the writers that the Leader of the Opposition is anxious to be rid of. You see they don't share his opinion. If you don't share his opinion then you are wrong. 
There are also things about which you are simply not allowed to have another opinion - global warming and the causes thereof,  same sex marriage, religious freedom, the causes of terrorism, the teaching of gender fluidity in school, the right of teachers to indoctrinate students with respect to all sorts of issues, the right to use marijuana for recreational purposes and the right to own a gun - the list goes on.  Opinions on any of those things range from one extreme to another.
The problem is that many people only want one opinion available, especially to the young. There can be no room for debate. You mustn't ask questions. They deny they want everyone to think the same way - as long as they think the same way as they do. 
In other words it is better not to think at all.
I don't know what to do about that but the Leader of the Opposition seems to be suggesting that he is not to be criticised or even questioned. In a week from now he is likely to be the Prime Minister elect. 
But I won't say anything because I am not allowed to disagree.

Sunday 12 May 2019

The bedtime story

was an important part of my life - until I could read them for myself.
One of my earliest memories is sitting on my father's bony knees close to the warmth of our "Metters No. 5" - the standard type of wood burning stove provided all departmental housing for teachers. The Senior Cat would have one arm around me and that hand holding the book. His other hand would point to each word as he read to me. I was about eighteen months old at the time. 
I don't know what the "squiggles" on the page meant at that time. I do know that, according to the Senior Cat, I could recognise some words by the time I was two.  
My mother didn't read to me. Perhaps she was too busy with other things. I don't know. I cannot remember her ever reading to me at bedtime. It was the Senior Cat's role. He loved to read. Even now he reads. He hasn't watched television for years. I only watch a half hour a day - an international news service. Occasionally something gets advertised and I think, "that might be interesting". I never remember to watch. We read.
I read for myself early. I could read for myself by the time I was four. My mother did help with that. The house was covered in words I had asked for. My mother would print it in her beautiful "infant school" print and stick it or pin it to whatever the object was or add it to the lists of words on the refrigerator and cupboards. I was taught to "sound the word" out.
But what did I read? The question came up some days ago when the mother of  T...-across-the-road told me that he was enjoying "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". T's mother is a paediatrician and well aware of the importance of bedtime stories.T... is five and well on the way to reading - and he gets a bed time story. The question came up in the sense that we were wondering what T... should experience next. The answer to that will probably be one of the Moomin books. I think they will appeal to him.
But yes, what did I read? There weren't nearly as many books around then. I had things like "The story about Ping" and "Make way for ducklings", "Millions of Cats" and the "Little Golden Books" like "The little taxi that hurried" and "Splish Splash Rainy Day".  I had Peter Rabbit,  Winnie the Pooh, Little Grey Rabbit and Madeline. When I could read for my myself  I graduated to Joyce Lancaster Brisley's books about "Milly-Molly-Mandy" and Hugh Lofting's "Dr Dolittle" books.  The "Little House on the Prairie" books were there too. There were the short stories of Alison Uttley and Eleanor Farjeon and the fairy tales of Andrew Lang.
And there were more.  When we moved to the city for a while I read about Homer the Tortoise, the Moomins, Pippi Longstocking, Susan and her friend R. Dragon.
T... won't have all of those. He will have some - and others - because I have them. Many of them are no longer available in libraries. They have, understandably, been replaced by other things. He won't be interested in some but I hope he will enjoy others. He may have some he would not read for himself read to him instead. That's good.
But I think I was lucky. I grew up in a golden age of children's literature. There were no television or other screens to distract me. I was read to until I could read for myself. 

Saturday 11 May 2019

Economics 101

has not been passed by the Opposition. I never thought it would be. Their economic record in government has always been dismal. It won't be any better this time around. The problem is that they are still working on the Robin Hood version of economics - tax the rich and give to the poor. 
It sounds good in theory - the way communism sounds good in principle.  The problem is that it doesn't work.  Human beings don't function that way. 
If you work hard and succeed then most people want to keep as much of that as they can. It isn't necessarily greed. Some people are planning for the future. They will save for the deposit on a house. They will go without other things to get there.
A piano tuner of my acquaintance has been self-employed all his life. He's a bit of an odd-bod I suppose. He is most definitely a bachelor. The idea of living with anyone else appalls him. His childhood might explain that. Over the years he has acquired three houses. He also has money invested for his old age. He has tried to be responsible. 
He is also extremely generous with his time and, while careful, financially supportive of others.
The likely incoming government will, if their policies go through, likely wipe almost all that and eventually leave him on the age pension. He's not happy. I wouldn't be either. 
One of his fellow piano tuners has been in almost identical employment and life circumstances and is now getting a pension because he didn't save.  There are many more like him. 
The problem of course is that either the piano tuner helps to pay or the next generation has to pay - or they both have to pay - for someone who is essentially now getting more than their fair share. 
Of course not everyone could save. I recognise that. All sorts of things can go wrong in people's lives. Where someone has succeeded by doing the right thing though it does seem unfair.
The Opposition says it will get the "big end of town" to pay. That won't happen. We have already lost too much business off-shore. We are one of the highest taxing countries in the world. Taxation has limits - and I suggest our limit has been reached.
We need plans, workable plans, that will employ more people but there are none. There are plans to have greater control over the way businesses are run - and for the unions to have a greater say in how people are employed. That won't encourage enterprise either.
The plans of the Opposition are simply going to cause the economy to slow still further - in all likelihood go backwards.  But, it means a little money in the pocket - enough for a coffee - now. Some people can't wait to save for their caffeine fix.

Friday 10 May 2019

"Penny Wong refused to shake hands

with Simon Birmingham" I was told.
I thought it was unlikely - until I saw the footage for myself. Here was the woman who is likely to be the next Foreign Minister very publicly refusing to shake hands with the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment.  Apparently she was upset because he did not like former Prime Minister Keating's criticisms of the intelligence services in this country. 
Birmingham was right not to like what the former Prime Minister said. The former Prime Minister should not have said what he said. You don't undermine the intelligence services and raise questions about the security of the country. It is a very dangerous thing to do. So why did Keating do it?
There are probably a number of reasons. One would be that he does not want to see the present government returned to office. As he is a member of the party of the present Opposition this is understandable - but not the way to go about it.
Another is that he has been appointed to the advisory council of the Chinese Development Bank. Naturally this means he is not going to do or say anything that might upset the CDB. He would also be supporting the Chinese onWeChat who are criticising the present  government,  indeed he is almost certainly helping them to undermine the standing of the present Downunder government in the eyes of the Chinese. (No, don't take my word for it - this is the view of academics who know about these things.) 
A third reason may well be that the policies of the present Opposition-about-to-be-government are alarming the security and intelligence services - and they should. 
This country is not "part of the Asian region". It is located adjacent to it but it is not, despite an influx of migrants from diverse Asian countries, an Asian country. Indeed Keating once rudely described the location as being at the "arse end of the world". 
Nothing is going to change the location and unless we introduce something like Sharia law and completely change the way we live then nothing is going to make us "Asian"...and I imagine that the indigenous residents of  the country might have something to say about that. They don't see themselves as Asian. If anything they are more closely aligned to the Pacific region.
But that doesn't stop the current Opposition from trying to do things like get us into ASEAN. Yes, it is a huge trading block. Yes, we do a lot of business with some countries in it.
And no, we don't have the same sort of values on things like human rights and democracy. 
Simon Birmingham is right and so are many academics. Penny Wong is wrong  to dismiss the concerns out of hand and, as foreign minister, she must not. 
Will she also refuse to shake hands with people when they annoy her and she is on the international stage?

Thursday 9 May 2019

The Prime Minister got "egged"

on Tuesday. 
The girl who did it has, rightly, been charged with assault. She caused an elderly woman to fall. Had that woman broken a hip or wrist or otherwise been injured she could be facing a charge of "assault causing actual bodily harm". That  would  be a far more serious charge - and it would be a well deserved one. This girl is getting off lightly in my book. 
It is the second such incident of this election campaign. The "accidental" Senator - the one who got in on just eleven votes - was also assaulted in this way. Some might say he deserved it because of his views - and most right minded people would find them abhorrent. 
But no, you still don't assault someone. Instead, don't vote for them. Don't give them media coverage if something like that happens. (And perhaps, change the system so people with just eleven votes are not eligible when people with far greater numbers of votes don't get in.)
I was heavily criticised in this morning's paper for pointing out that someone who had been disendorsed by his party was still on the ballot paper despite making vile "jokes" about rape and other equally distasteful comments. If he wins - and he might because of the leanings in that electorate - then he will undoubtedly be welcomed back into the fold or, at very least, his vote will be accepted. Other candidates have been disendorsed, for lesser offences, but a hung parliament would see the vote of any of them accepted if it meant forming government or staying in office. I know all that and so does everyone else. What I was commenting on was the delay in disendorsing the candidate. The party leader only did it when it became clear that the story was a distraction.
And the story about the leader's mother...the one that he was tearful about? I think his mother was one of those hardworking women who, like many women in her generation, didn't manage to start out on the career path she would have liked.  
My mother would have liked to go to university. Like this man's mother she would have liked to go to university but had to go to teachers' college instead. I was never taught by my mother but people said she was a good teacher. She finished her career as the head of what was known as a "Class 1" school - the top of the tree - so I must assume the assessment of her abilities was correct. 
The leader's mother wanted to  be a lawyer but first went to teachers' college and then taught. Now, note that word "first". She later did do a degree in law and did practice as a solicitor - and very successfully from all accounts.
The problem with the story? The leader left the latter half, the lawyer half, out of what he was saying. He was trying to give the impression that she didn't manage to do as she wanted because of her circumstances. In reality her situation was no worse - indeed better in some ways - than many women of her generation who were left to fend for themselves.
Was the media right to raise the omission? Opinions vary. My own view is that using a story about your mother in a less than completely open and honest way says something about you as a person. When you get upset because people question it then it says more still. It might have been better to say nothing.
I have to go out to deal with more people and their postal votes this morning.  I have to keep my mouth firmly shut. It has to be their choice on the ballot paper. I cannot influence it in any way. 
But, heavy rain is forecast. I will be a wet, cross cat because I know that these people will be upset by the leader's behaviour.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Political polls

are analysed and scruitinised and given earnest media attention... especially around election time.
Yesterday there was an article in our state newspaper about those polls. It was written by one of the local journalists and it probably answered a few questions for anyone who bothered to read it.
I read it because I was curious about what said journalist would cover and how she would cover it.
The article covered things like the number of people who are asked, how they are chosen and the "margin for error" (how accurate these processes are) and so on.
It failed to mention two things of importance. The first is this. Some people refuse to answer. These people are not necessarily "undecided" voters. Some of them simply don't want to answer. They can't be bothered or they object to the nature of the questions.
I am one who won't answer questions about how I vote. It is no business of a complete stranger how I intend to vote or who I will be "preferencing". My answers are not "anonymous". If it is a person at the other end they know the number they have called. It is a simple process from there to find out who I am if they are so minded. 
And if it is one of those increasingly prevalent and even more irritating "robocalls"? Why should I answer to a machine? Indeed why should I answer at all?
And there is the other thing that nobody ever seems to mention in talking about the results of these calls. It is the number of people who don't answer accurately, who simply lie when they answer.
I know people who do that. Like me they see it as no business of the caller. Unlike me they decide they will have a little fun. They pretend to be far right or far left or, if of either persuasion, they pretend to be centrist. 
Perhaps if enough people do that then the results end up being reasonably accurate. The pollsters seem to be happy enough.
I once had a long discussion with a man who runs a big polling company. 
    "Cat, if you want to make my life difficult but interesting then think about those things" he told me of the issues I have just mentioned, "Our results influence results."
Perhaps they do.
It still doesn't mean I am going to tell a machine how I will vote or have voted. 

Tuesday 7 May 2019

The Labor Leader

should be a drag on the party's hope of winning the election. He isn't - but he should be.
He isn't as popular as the very new and relatively unknown current Prime Minister. That should be sending alarm bells through the community.
But, things that should be said are simply not being said. Why?
This is a man who is alleged to have raped someone. The matter never got to court with the police claiming there was insufficient evidence and that it was uncorroborated. In reality the evidence is a great deal stronger than the uncorroborated evidence which recently sent another high profile figure inside.
He had an affair outside his first marriage - with a married woman and made her pregnant. He divorced his first wife and married the second. Both women had a status that greatly enhanced his career. (The mother of his second wife was once the Governor-General.)
Nothing much has been made of that but his party was heavily critical of the member of another party who had a relationship outside marriage. They may have got him on citizenship grounds but they made a lot of his infidelity while never mentioning that of their own leader.
And this man was a union boss - a union boss who did not do the right thing by the workers. A Royal Commission was supposed to sort that out but it is the person who blew the whistle who is facing criminal proceedings not this man. Despite this the workers at Unibuilt, Chiquita Mushrooms, Cleanevent and others will still do as their unions tell them and vote for him - the man who cost them thousands of dollars each. They will vote for him even though he lined the union coffers with vast sums of money now being used in a very nasty election campaign.
I voted yesterday. I have two things I need to do on polling day - both outside the electorate. I might make it to a polling booth but it would be a rush and there is that slight chance I might not make it.
Voting early also meant that I didn't need to stand in the queue. I still had to run the gauntlet of those handing out "how to vote" cards. (I didn't take any. I told them all, "I know how I am going to vote" - and they actually cheered me. It helps when you know at least half of the people doing it - my friends come from across a fair range of the political field.)
It was a hard choice this year. People like the Leader of the Opposition make it difficult. 

Monday 6 May 2019

The politics of "the red party"

is how the present Opposition was described to me yesterday.
A friend came in to witness the Senior Cat's signature on the envelope of his postal vote.  I could have done this but I was advised that it is better to get someone outside the family to do it and P.... was happy to help.
The two of them were sitting at the kitchen table and discussing the election while I was getting lunch ready. I told P.... I planned to vote early.
He asked whether I would I be handing out "how to vote" cards. I told him no.
I would never do this simply because I think if you haven't made up your mind beforehand then why are you bothering to vote? I really believe they should give away with how to vote cards and all the other advertising material littering the stobie (telegraph) poles. The photographs on some of the corflutes  are years out of date. The corflutes are expensive to buy and the printing of the other material is expensive as well. 
Although it would never happen I would actually like all political advertising to be banned. Anyone running for election would have the right to send out just one lot of information. "These are our policies. This how we plan to fund them and this is how we plan to deliver them."  No sniping at one another and no chance to change mid-stream because your opponents said one thing or another.
Of course politics would be no "fun" then. There wouldn't be that adrenalin rush that leaves everyone simply exhausted and, whatever the result, glad the actual process is over.
I arranged postal votes for a number of other people this time. Last election it became obvious to me that if they were going to actually use their vote themselves then it was better for them to have a postal vote. I won't go into all the details but these are people with disabilities who have a vote but don't really understand what they are doing. They understand the concept of choosing between people but they have no understanding of what policy is. I try to explain it in simple terms. I make it very clear that they have to choose and that I cannot tell them what to do. I tell them I cannot tell them how I am going to vote. Some of them have been used to voting as their carers tell them for years.  There are "carers" out there who have had multiple votes for years simply because they tell their clients how to mark their ballot papers - or even mark the papers for them. They see nothing wrong with this.
And I see "how to vote" cards in much the same way. They say, "Do this. Don't think, just do it."
Could we be rid of them please?

Sunday 5 May 2019

Frightened children

feature in the paper this morning.
These are normal children but they are being frightened by the news, by social media posts, by political advertising, by their peers, by their teachers and more.
School is not a safe haven. They "need to know about...." and so on.
I remember school. I don't remember it fondly. I was bored most of the time. It was one reason why I was constantly in trouble for "reading under the desk". 
What would I be doing now? I would probably be reading something I was not supposed to be reading but I would be reading it on the screen in front of me.  I know I would be bored but worried - worried about the state of the world.
My goddaughter, now training to be a doctor, was not allowed to see the newspapers or watch the news on television until she was in her teens. This was not an edict by her parents but an edict by her school - a prestigious school for girls in London. The school had (and still has) very high academic standards. It isn't a school that would suit everyone because it still has strict rules about these things and about the use of social media.  It can't limit those things entirely but anyone abusing the rules can find themselves booted out after repeat offences. 
The school gets outstanding examination results. Going through the school the girls grumble. When they leave they say it has been a good thing.
Ms W's school is not quite as strict - but they do have rules. Students are expected to abide by those rules. Ms W has a phone but it is kept in the boarding house office and she only uses it to talk to her father each evening. At weekends she has it with her to contact her father if she is out with someone else. Her friends have phones and use them a great deal more than she does - but only outside school. Using a phone in school is simply not allowed. Being caught with one has serious consequences.
The school can't stop social media now. Using it is discouraged and anyone using it to abuse someone else is liable to suspension.
Ms W still doesn't have her own email account. She has thought about it - and decided she rarely writes emails. If she does it is a matter of, "I haven't got anything to hide from my Dad and he won't read what I write anyway. I don't read his." 
I know - Ms W is a bit unusual.
I thought of all this yesterday and then again this morning. Do children and teens really need all the news and the social media? My goddaughter has done outstandingly well without it. Ms W is doing extremely well too. My nephews couldn't be bothered with those things - and their current Facebook pages are apparently nothing more than letting friends in other parts of the world know the results of their go-kart races (and the problems they have faced) and similar innocuous things. Middle Cat's page is full of animal videos, family photos and the like. I am not "friends" with any of them because mine is limited to people I know and like but don't see and want to be in touch with. I have other ways of talking to family members. 
As Ms W puts it, "If I want to talk to my friends I want to really talk to them. I don't want to push buttons."
As for the news she tells me, "I have to know some of that stuff but I don't have to know it all the time. And at least I can ask my Dad about it."
Yes, she can. She's fortunate.His job requires him to be constantly aware of what is going on in the world.
Perhaps that's part of the problem. Do parents and other adults believe that the media and social media can educate their children for them? 
If they do then that is alarming.

Saturday 4 May 2019

According to the Leader of the Opposition

"If you don't know about it, don't worry about it."
And this man will soon be our Prime Minister? Is he saying, "Don't make an informed decision"?
It would seem he is. His comment apparently specifically concerned something known as "franking credits" but it would also appear to apply to many other things. He is not telling us what we need to know.
We simply aren't being told enough and, when we are told things, they are all too often completely wrong. That's wrong.
There was a news item last night which showed students protesting  about climate change. They had taken time off school again to do it as they had once before. One of the girls was in tears. She looked about thirteen or fourteen - that age when everything from breaking the tip on your pencil or breaking up with your best friend seems like a major tragedy. These students, and some much younger than that, have obviously been scared witless about climate change. They were spouting things like, "we've only got twelve years" and "what's the point of going to school if we haven't got a world to live in?"
I remember T... across the road coming home from day care in tears because "all the animals are going to die". He was four at the time.
What on earth is going on?
Of course we need people to be educated about issues but they need to be educated with facts and they need, at very least, to have positive courses of action presented to them. Protesting in the way the students were doing it is not positive. It might get the adrenalin going for an hour or two but long term action is hard work. 
I know. I've been there. I spent years of my life working towards something that I believed would make a difference. I believe it did make a difference and that it will go on making a difference. It has actually helped those young people protesting throughout the world. 
But they have to work out ways to make a difference too - and that will mean changing their life styles and maintaining those changes. That is as hard as sticking to a diet to lose weight. It's a life time thing. 
When the Opposition Leader says "if you don't know about it don't worry about it" he is really saying, "Give us the power to manipulate you into doing what we want while you remain ignorant."
That worries me.

Friday 3 May 2019

We had an election trespasser

He was the first but he probably won't be the last in this election campaign.
Now let's be quite clear about the law. If someone, anyone, is on your property and you ask them to leave they must. The only exceptions to this are the emergency services if a life or property is at risk. Even the police do not have the right to enter your property unless they have a warrant. That said, it would be better to allow the police to go about their business just as you would allow firefighters or ambulance staff to go about theirs. 
But, you don't need to allow anyone door knocking on your premises. If they are asked to leave, and I always start out politely, they must leave.
Yesterday's visitor thought differently. He was not from a political party but he still believed he had some sort of right because he wanted to talk to me about politics. I asked him to leave. He didn't want to do that until he had talked to me - and he said this very rudely. I told him I was calling the police and shut the door. I didn't call the police of course because there was nothing they could do once he had left the premises. But, I did watch him leave.
I am getting totally fed up with the way we are being bombarded with "information" this election. It is getting very nasty indeed. One of the state senators sent out some information yesterday. It contained an outright lie but she will almost certainly get away with it. It isn't something the media will want to call her out on. 
There are always vandalised corflutes but swastikas on those of Jewish candidates are more prevalent. Websites are being hacked and false claims are being made. 
    "Whatever it takes to win Cat," I was told. A staffer  of the current Opposition has been quite open about it. He has openly admitted that they will lie, that they will promise the earth and riches for all but "the rich", in order to win government. After that,  or so he tells me, "it doesn't matter". The old tactic of blaming the previous government and their new opponents will be all that is needed to excuse failure to deliver on promises they cannot possibly keep.
The Senior Cat has a general postal vote now. He won't have to run the gauntlet of those trying to hand out "how to vote" cards. I just say, "Thank you. I know what I am going to do" and go into the polling booth.
We need to be rid of "how to vote" cards. People should know how they intend to vote before arriving at a polling station. There should be up to date websites stating policies clearly. There should be regular appearances of all candidates in parks, libraries, shopping centres and the like - where they can be challenged about policies.
We need to be rid of the "election material" cluttering our letter box.  We need to be rid of the "short automated survey" phone calls which are electioneering in disguise.
We need to be rid of the trespassers too. 

Thursday 2 May 2019

Academic freedom and the right

to hold certain views came under discussion in a meeting at the university yesterday.
I had been called in to see whether it would be possible for me to co-supervise another doctoral student. In order to be fair to the student in question I went along to discuss the possibility - and I have declined.
I have declined because I am not comfortable about the topic or the way the research is being conducted.  
Thankfully I have the freedom to make such decisions. I don't have to deal with all the issues and concerns surrounding any sort of research. The university staff do need to worry about those things. The proposal passed the ethics committee although the student's main supervisor admitted there had been some "vigorous discussion". It was passed - perhaps because the student has some funding.
After the student had gone we discussed academic freedom and research in a more general way. I was given a link to an article about one Dr Noah Carl - relevant because one of his papers was brought up earlier.  We discussed this and the cases of two academics who have been in the news here. 
I have not read Carl's work so I cannot comment on it. I have read the article about him and the statement by the Cambridge college on why he was sacked. Shall I just they make interesting reading?
Here one person was sacked for his views on climate change. (From what I can gather he agrees it exists but questions some of the research. You don't do that.) His sacking was found to be unlawful.
The other pulled out of teaching a course because a student objected to a non-indigenous person teaching anything about indigenous language and culture. The teaching responsibility was handed to a member of staff the student was ready to accept.   
Now it seems to me that 
(a) we need a diversity of views on climate change if the research into it is to go forward and we are to find ways of handling it, and
(b) we don't have the right to simply tell someone who accepts that climate change occurs but questions the causes and the research, "You're wrong. You're sacked."
I suspect the problem may have something to do with research funding.  It is still a denial of academic freedom.
The other case was even more disturbing. Here was a student dictating who could teach, what could be taught and how it could be taught. An acquaintance who works in the same institution told me, "Political correctness gone mad Cat - but none of us dare say anything."  That's wrong.
I have done research myself, indeed am doing another small piece at the moment. Perhaps I am fortunate in that I have never had a proposal rejected even though a question has been asked here and there  - and helped me improve on what I was doing. My areas of interest - psycho-linguistics, language planning and so on are not without controversy but perhaps I am simply not looking at the controversial issues or looking at them in controversial ways. Other people I know are being frustrated by the limits being placed on them. They are limits being placed on them because their institutions are worried about anything that might appear to be controversial - however unlikely.
Academic freedom does have limits of course but they should only be the same limits as those placed on the rest of society. If the limits are any greater than that and we restrict diversity of thought and teaching then we have a problem.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

The Labor leader

is apparently already publicly backing away from one of his "flagship" policies - the one that says  fifty percent of all new vehicles on the road by 2030 must be electric.
Well, it was never going to work given the geography of Downunder but it is interesting that he has admitted this before the election.
There are some other things that are not going to work either but he is unlikely to  back down on those until after the election.  I have been told as much by a Labor staffer.  It was an interesting conversation. 
This man knows that I am a highly sceptical cat. I believe very little of what I am told unless I can see the evidence. I try to be an intelligent voter. I seek out the policies of the parties on such issues as education, health and disability issues, the environment, indigenous affairs, refugees and foreign aid, libraries and the arts - and more. These are the things that I am particularly interested in. 
I also look at the record of the parties on these things - not the perceived record but the actual record. What have you actually done? How have you done it? If you didn't do it, why didn't you do it?
I know there can be major issues with getting even simple policies implemented. There can be major obstacles in the way of getting things done. 
Labor has come up with one more plan to sell votes to pensioners - a thousand dollars worth of free dental care every two years.  It was just pulled out of the air. They have no idea how it might work or even if it would work. The dentists may not be available, especially in rural areas. What sort of work would be covered? How long would people have to wait? Those are just a few of the issues for which there were no answers. I don't think anyone would disagree that dental care is essential to good health but the detail is lacking.
I said this to the staffer. He looked at me.
    "Cat, you should know better...."
In other words it is simply being said in an attempt to win votes. 
    "And the childcare plans?" I asked.
He laughed.  We both know that's not going to work the way that is being proposed. 
But these are signature policies, big ticket items that are being sold to the electorate to win votes.
All this scares me.