Wednesday 31 July 2019

Women do more housework

than men. This is the absolutely amazing finding of some research conducted by a reputable university. It is true even if the woman is the partner earning the most.  That is even more amazing.
Mmm....pardon my sarcasm please.
The research was reported in today's paper. I am awaiting comments from the Senior Cat. He has not yet appeared in the kitchen for breakfast.
Now let it be said  here that the Senior Cat did help in the house. He would still help if he could. It infuriates him that I now need to do the things he could once do.
After my mother died he told me there were certain things he would do. He swept floors. He vacuumed the carpet. He did the dishes  and the household maintenance. He did the gardening and more. 
   "You cook meals and you are much better at ironing than I am."
This was and is true. The Senior Cat would not have starved. He once went to cooking classes. The ironing? Mmm....not good. I would rather not have scorched shirts. He was good at scrubbing the bathroom. 
Almost twenty years on however he doesn't have the physical capacity to do any of those things. It bothers him. He wasn't brought up to do the housework. His mother would not have expected that - although he and his brother were expected to make their beds, lay the table and help with the dishes. Housework just wasn't something boys were expected to do ninety years ago. 
My brother was expected to do it. Our mother had it all set out and for us all to see stuck to the fridge door. Each week it would go up with our names filled in. We knew exactly what we were expected to do. We were not supposed to negotiate changes with each other and woe betide us if something didn't get done. Mum was a full time teacher. The last thing she wanted was to deal with children at home as well. Mum still did the cooking and most of the ironing but Dad was chopping firewood and pumping water into the overhead feed tank.
Perhaps our parents divided up the tasks more evenly than most families. I know people expressed surprise at the things the Senior Cat did. He would still like to do many of those things.
And my brother can do all those things. 
I am also certain that, had I married, my partner would have helped with those things too. His mother had expected he would be able to do those things. 
Is that part of what it is going to take?

Tuesday 30 July 2019

"I know I should do it myself but...."

Ms W told me. She was standing in front of me with a ball of red wool and looking hopeful.
    "You know it would take me ages!"
I stood there looking at her. Ms W can knit. I taught her.  It was not because she particularly wanted to learn but because I told her "it might be useful one day".  I have knitted pullovers and cardigans, beanies and mittens for her.  
I will admit that  she does take care of them. For a young teenager she is very good about caring for her clothes. Her father can use the washing machine and put things on the line. He irons his own shirts but it is Ms W who sees to their woollens and the one who is most likely to sew a button on. Mending of any other sort will be taken to the mother of her best friend or brought to me with, "How do I do it?"
Ms W probably takes too much responsibility. She can cook and clean too. I taught her a lot of that, so did her best friend's mother. Now she will also search the internet for instructions. ("It's  useful for that but you have to work out which lot of instructions you want to use.") 
   "It's a square," I told her, "You can knit a square."
She heaved a sigh and said, "It's only a little square."
   "Yes, which is why you should do it yourself."
   "I did all the felt bits."
   "I know. I'll cast on for you and do the first couple of rows."
She smiled. It was that knowing smile. I knitted the square.
Ms W's "houses" are generally made from paper and cardboard but the head of the boarding house at her school wanted a woolly one to use as a tea cosy for her smallest pot. Ms W has made one for her out of felt although she isn't keen on sewing. It is supposed to represent the school boarding house. She wanted the roof to look like the tiles and that meant knitting it.
Knowing Ms W she will admit that I helped. 
I know that Ms W's gift will get used - and that is all that matters.

Monday 29 July 2019

School uniforms

are in the spotlight again.
I know they are "expensive" and "boring" and "stupid" and now they are apparently "sexist" as well.
Someone has apparently complained because their little darling was expected to wear a skirt instead of trousers to school. The Equal Opportunity Commissioner weighed in and said the little darling must be allowed to wear trousers. Then there were the usual comments about boys wearing dresses.
     "Stupid, stupid," was Ms W's comment, "Our uniform is nothing to do with all that." 
So, what did she think her uniform was about?
     "It's about belonging and before you say anything it isn't all about just everyone being the same."
Right, I got the message.
     "I know exactly what to wear and how to wear it. I don't have to think about it - well except for starting out tidy," she told me.
      "But what about the others?" I asked, "Do you think they might like to wear civvies all  the time?"
She gave this some thought and then, surprisingly, said, "No. You know that thing about competing over clothes? That would happen and some of them have really fancy stuff but most of us just have ordinary from Target and places like that."
     "And the charity shop?"
She grinned. Ms W likes to find things in the charity shop if she can. It's much cheaper and she can save her allowance for other things.  At home at weekends she looks as bad as her father or the Senior Cat.
     "At least we don't have those tunic things you had," she told me. 
Ms W finds it hard to believe that yes, like all of my generation and Middle Cat's generation and the Black Cat's generation, I wore those appalling box pleated  three pleats front and back tunics. We had a school blouse and a school tie and a V-neck pullover and a blazer. It was, apart from the tunic, a sort of uniform for boys I suppose. We wore it with berets in winter. In summer we switched to shirtwaist dresses and wore straw hats. We wore socks in primary school and stockings in secondary school....and we wore gloves all year round. 
The prefects checked us (including shiny shoes) as we went in and out. At one school the teachers were checked as well - the headmistress said that what was good enough for the students was good enough for the staff. Nobody wore trousers.
Would trousers have been nice? I suppose they might have been. I live in them now - but I work from home so I don't need to dress up. 
Did it do us any harm? The tunics were awful but we were all in the same position.  There was plenty of room for what we thought of as real clothes outside school. I suspect they got discussed rather a lot while I had my nose stuck in a book. I know some of the girls spent hours designing clothes but the idea of wearing them to school would not have appealed to them.
Ms W is right. You don't really have to think about school uniform. It is just there. You  wear it or you don't wear it.
I don't know whether that is a good thing or not. What I do know is that it is, strictly speaking, an equal opportunity issue. It is something that applies to everyone within Ms W's school community.  
No uniform would be a very different opportunity issue. 

Sunday 28 July 2019

"Think outside the square"

or,  in this case, the stitch.
The Knitting and Crochet Group met at the library yesterday. We actually had to find  a couple of extra chairs - a good thing. The youngest  member of the group is nine, the oldest about eight times older. The rest of us come in between.
Our lone male arrived. He started to learn to knit about this time last year. Yesterday he produced his latest project. He was "double knitting". For those of you who are not knitters (and perhaps for some who are) this is a technique where you can produce two pieces of fabric at the same time - back to back. It's tricky and fiddly. Our lone male is a Japanese engineer.   Such things appeal to him - and he was doing a brilliantly good job. The only  bit  of double knitting I have ever tried was a sample square - just done in order to make sure I knew how to do it if ever asked. S.... wants to tackle lace next. Like the Senior Cat he referred to it as having "holes" in it. I had to explain "lace". Soon S.... will be teaching us.
Someone who has not been able to come for a while was back yesterday. It was good to see her. She was working on something unusual and different, an entry for the upcoming state show. I was not at all surprised to find she was "thinking outside the stitch" as she put it. Her entry into the Queen Victoria challenge class should cause a bit of a stir! And she showed me what she is doing for the "toy" class...most people produce dolls and animals. This year Y.... is producing something entirely different. I like the idea and I think the judges will too.
We talked a bit about our planned Christmas tree - even more important if they do actually cancel the carols. I showed them the vest I had made so that they could see the one piece and no seams construction. 
Our youngest produced the square she had made for the Christmas tree - in the colours of the football team she supports. 
Things are happening in the group. It's good...perhaps it is because we meet in a good place - a library.

Saturday 27 July 2019

University entrance requirements

are under review at last.
Whether they will change for the better is another question. I rather doubt it. It is likely that a great deal of pressure will be put on universities to make entry more "inclusive" and "diverse".
Let it be said I have absolutely no problems with inclusion and diversity - provided that people can meet the required standard and are willing to do the work involved. We should be giving people who can do both those things all the encouragement we can. 
I do have a problem with allowing people who cannot or won't do those things to be given places.  
Examination results at secondary school level may not be the best indicator. Work needs to be done on that.
I know all this because I didn't get a place at university when I left school. The reasons for that were not the  usual reasons but it did mean that I had to wait. I knew I was going to get there one day - because I wanted to get there. I worked for it. I worked while I was there. 
I didn't have an interview for the first university course I did but I did need to provide references. They were sent directly to the university so I don't know what was said in them but I trusted the people who wrote them to be honest. 
I didn't do things in the usual order or in the usual way but I knew what I wanted to do and that I would need to work for it.  When I later applied to do law I knew why I wanted to do it. I needed it.
I was sitting up in a hospital bed recovering from major knee surgery when I had an interview by telephone from half way across the country.  Why did I want to do the course? I explained and wondered if the fact that I did not actually want to be a lawyer  would go against me. It didn't. The person at the other end actually sounded interested, interested enough to say, "When you get here I'd like to know more about that." He wanted to know how I was going to support myself. I told him what I had done in the past and what I planned to do then.
And, at that point, they actually made it a little easier for me than I expected. They found students who needed extra tuition and paid me to do it. I had to work for it and it was often hard work. There is nothing like being given a very chauvinistic Japanese male who thinks it is beneath  his dignity to be taught by a woman to ensure I do the very best I can!
I thought of that recently when someone said, "You had it easy. They gave you some work." No, they didn't. I worked to get there. I know other people who worked just as hard to get there too - like my friend C.... who saved and saved and then crammed four years into three and still managed to get first class honours. Her family didn't want her to go to university and it was the only way she could do it. 
One of my current undergraduate students, one who is really struggling, admitted to me the other day, "Cat, I don't want to do this. I never wanted to do it. They sort of told me to do it because they have this thing about people like me doing it." She's indigenous. She feels compelled to try and finish the course but she isn't happy. We both know that she would be just as happy working as a teacher aide. It is in fact what she will probably end up doing. She doesn't want to be the teacher although she loves working with children. Getting her to do the course she is doing isn't really about inclusion or diversity. It is more about satisfying the demands of others that people like N... get included. 
It won't work like that. There need to be new ways of assessing people for  university.

Friday 26 July 2019

The council has cancelled the Christmas carols

enjoyed by thousands of people.
The move was announced yesterday and  has already caused outrage. I am angry. The Senior Cat is angry.
Now I need to explain about the carols. There is a memorial park near to us. It is the land on which the local library is built. There is a small creek which runs through it and it is a green space where children are often to be found simply running around and enjoying themselves. 
The same park is also the venue for the ANZAC and Remembrance Day ceremonies, weddings, large family gatherings and - once a year - the "Carols by the Creek" event. 
The carols usually attract about 5000 - 6000 people - depending on the weather. All sorts of people would go, not all of them churchgoers by any means. The Senior Cat and I don't go but we know people who do, who take children along. Last year the  Hindu family in the court opposite took their children along and reported back to me that there was a Sikh family they know there. Later a Muslim woman told me that her family had gone along too. They all wanted their children to experience what other children were experiencing.
But, according to the council, the event is not "inclusive" and "it concentrates on just one religion". They want to say the cost of running the event and "if the churches want it then they can do it". The council does not seem to have recognised that the local churches do play a large part in running the event. The local schools play a large part in the event too. It's a chance for them to show off the musical and acting talents of their students.
And people sing. There isn't much community singing in Downunder. It's rare to get the opportunity to belt out a carol. It highlights a few of the Downunder carols that many people don't know. I remember explaining to a refugee who went to the event one year that "orana" meant "welcome" in one of the indigenous languages. She stood there looking at me for a moment and then said softly, "That is mag-ni-fi-cent."   The word comes into one of the carols and it made her feel welcome. 
I wonder if the local council really understands what the event is about. It isn't "just about Christmas". It is about community, about coming together, about making everyone welcome.  It is a recognition of what our country is about.
I hope the councillors are cancelling their own Christmas party - but I doubt it.

Thursday 25 July 2019

Knitting is mathematical and musical

but it is not that, really it isn't.
The Senior Cat was watching a friend of ours yesterday. She had come for lunch and afterwards the two of us sat and knitted for a while. It was a good break, one I really needed. The Senior Cat had gone for a postprandial nap and then returned.
He really does want to know. Knitting fascinates him although he has no desire to try and do it again. (My late godmother tried to teach him when he was in hospital recovering from an appendectomy.) 
"But how do you know...?"
He has, I think, come to the conclusion that it is a little bit like playing a musical instrument. Your fingers know what to do. That would at least be true of the actual making of the stitch. The pattern is another matter. It is as if you know "this is Middle C" but  the skill is in how you play it and on what instrument. The pattern might be just a scale or it might be an entire orchestral score. 
If I think of it in those terms then W... was knitting scales (ribbing) and I was perhaps knitting a simple folk song. I have an orchestral score on the go - for the times when I can concentrate completely on that and nothing else. W... has a similar piece at home for the same reason. 
It's the way we knit. We need to keep up the scales and the folk songs in order to play the orchestral pieces.
I thought of this after W... had gone home. I want to try some new knitting patterns. They will be like folk songs in a foreign language - Japanese this time. I am fortunate enough to own a book of these patterns and I will add them to something like hats or fingerless mitts so that I can learn to use them. The borders and the palms will be like the scales and the tune will come into the rest.
And perhaps I might try knitting some actual music at some point? 

Wednesday 24 July 2019

"Nicole" from the National Broadband Network

has been really busy lately. I really don't know how she has time to eat, let alone sleep. And how does she have time to call all those other people as well?
In between the phone calls from her I had more than one from No Name who keeps telling me that she is doing a survey about "important issues" relating to this state. 
I keep simply hanging up on both of them. I know the first is not legitimate. "Nicole" is busy phoning other people as well. I answered the same call in the home of an elderly friend recently. "Nicole" has been bothering her too. 
    "I am tempted to press the button and tell her I am calling the police but her friends are probably in Russia," she told me. E.... knows full well it is a scam of some sort.
The other call might be legitimate but I never answer "surveys" of that sort over the phone. They are allowed under the "Do Not Call" scheme but they could still be a scam. A person could still find themselves giving away information which should not be given away.
I thought of all this again because yesterday I received a "new pin number" from the bank. Now yes it was legitimate. My new debit card arrived a couple of days ago. I was expecting the letter. But I had already been to the bank and dealt with the pin number issue. It is possible, indeed highly desirable, to choose your own pin number - providing of course that you do not choose something like "1234" or "4321". 
I am waiting however for the day when some evil individual out there manages to produce an entirely legitimate sounding survey about PINs and passwords.
People will answer it. I know they will. 

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Something about crime fiction....

"I can’t do thrillers and I can’t do spy novels. I can’t do any genre-fiction books, really, none of them. I just get bored with the prose. I don’t find any rhythm in it. It’s blank, it’s nothing; it’s like watching TV. " - Colm Toibin
My thanks to Ian Rankin  and Susan Hill for the above quote. Yes, I happen to like crime fiction - good crime fiction. 
There are a great many books in our local library I have not read. I am never likely to read them.There are others that, given time, I might read again. It's not likely but that will simply be because there are other things I do want to read.
What I do not want to read is what I call "navel-gazing, introspective fiction" where the author is trying to be clever  but really has nothing to say. I don't have time for that sort of thing. I don't want to read books where the story line is disjointed rather than developed, where the characters are flat rather than firm. No, the characters don't need to be finished - a really good character will have me thinking, "I wonder what they think about X...". 
The Senior Cat, who also enjoys crime fiction, has a very high regard for Ian Rankin. His only complaint is that he can read faster than the author writes. 
"It's the characters and the sense of place," the Senior Cat tells me. Yes, I know. I retweeted the "tweet" saying I would recognise Rebus if I met him. I would recognise Susan Hill's Serraillier too. They are quite, quite different but they are both "real".  You don't actually know, unless it is mentioned in the writing, what they had for breakfast - but you can take a fair guess.
Last night I skimmed a book called "Blood on the wall" by Jim Eldridge. A friend of mine had enjoyed it and passed it on. I know he will expect to talk about it but I found it flat and improbable. The characters won't remain with me the way Rebus and Serraillier and others do.
When Ms W was much younger she kept asking me to write her a book, another book about someone else's characters. It also had to have her in it or, to be more exact, "someone who is a little bit me and a little bit you." I eventually did it - and learned a great deal more about the other characters in the process. (She still has the book, indeed her father got it properly bound for her.) I would know those characters if I met them too - not because of what I wrote but because of what the original author wrote. 
And that is the way it surely ought to be? In a good book the writing should be such that you come to know the major character or characters so well that you know, without being told, what they might like to eat for breakfast, whether or not they clean their shoes and much more. It might not matter in the least to the plot but it does matter to how you understand the character.
And the idea that this sort of genre is "blank" is surely wrong? Of course it isn't blank. It is seething with humanity, some of which we know better than the rest.
And, for the record - Rebus doesn't clean his shoes but Serraillier does. 

Monday 22 July 2019

Mealtime discussions

can be lively in this house.
The Senior Cat still takes a lively interest in many things. I am asked, "Did you see the article about...?"  and "What do you think...?" or "Do you know anything about...?"
I don't take this for granted. It is important. I like the way he still thinks about things. Our discussions can range over politics, gardening, literature, theology, food, something one of us is making and much more. 
I was saddened but not surprised to read about the research which apparently shows that a majority of families don't even eat together, let alone discuss things.
As kittens my siblings and I ate with our parents. It was rare for us not to all sit down together. We were expected to do it. Our mother had the meal on the table at a set time. We were expected to be there and eat it then. We even managed to have breakfast together most of the time although that could vary a little.
At breakfast time we were expected to be not silent but fairly quiet. The Senior Cat would listen to the news service on the radio before going across to whichever school we were living next to at the time. We understood that it was important he knew what was going on in the world.
Did we discuss that? Not a lot. There were occasional items which came up that, if we asked questions, would be explained and that was about it. 
My brother and I read the state newspaper from the time we could read it unaided. We didn't read all of it of course but we read things we thought might be interesting. We read more and more of it as we got older and occasionally those things might come up in conversation.
At the evening meal my parents would talk about our school work, about what had happened during the day. The Senior Cat and my brother would discuss things like the canoe and the dinghy they built together. The Senior Cat would talk to me about  a book I had just read. World events didn't get discussed a lot because Middle Cat and the Black Cat were considered too young to hear such things until they were in their teens.
Our mother discussed clothes, cleanliness, household chores,  homework and the like. Looking back I realise that I  had no idea what her political beliefs might be. I had no idea what she might be reading for pleasure either. I knew she sewed - our clothes depended on that. I knew she knitted - being warm in winter depended on that too. We didn't talk about those things until I was an adult. Even then our discussions were confined to "how" something should be done and the roles were often reversed. I would be telling her.  
Even in my teens though we mostly ate together as a family. My mother liked that for the sheer convenience of it. Anything else really didn't suit her. I can remember the one chaotic weekend when we had a writer friend staying with us and someone who had been on the Senior Cat's staff  came to leave his beloved cat with us when he went off  to London to teach. People were coming in and out to see us, the writer and say goodbye to the staff member.  There were multiple meals and multiple pots of tea made - twenty-three meals for various people in the end and probably more potsof tea. My mother didn't like it at all. She liked things to be orderly. Who can blame her? She had a school to run during the week. Weekends were supposed to be quieter! Even though Middle Cat and I did most of the work while Brother Cat and the Senior Cat ferried people to and from the airport and more it was too much for our mother. 
    "Never again!" she told us.
But we still talked over mealtimes...and we talk now. As kittens we were described as being "articulate". The Senior Cat thought it was important that we could talk not just to people but with people. My siblings have brought their children up the same way. What little I have seen of my niece and nephew interstate - the two who have children - they are doing the same.  They say things like, "Put that away. It is time to eat. You can tell me about it instead."
And are their children "articulate" too? They seem to be growing that way. 
I hope so. You can't learn to talk with other people by simply looking at a screen.

Sunday 21 July 2019

"What were you doing on the day

they landed on the moon?"
Ms W asked me this yesterday. She is a post millennium child and, as her father pointed out, "even I was not around when that happened". 
I was of course. So was the Senior Cat. My siblings were all around as well.
The Senior Cat had something going on at school...there had been a "space race" of some sort. All the classes had been involved. The students in the secondary section of the school had made a telescope (not powerful enough to see them land) and the younger students were tearing around in pretend space suits. There had been "space maths" and "space physics" and poems about space and the moon and much more.
Now a space craft blasts off to the International Space Station and it doesn't even make the news service.
I was at teacher training college. Someone had managed to set up a television set in one of the "temporary pre-fabs" we were housed in and students were dashing in and out between lectures to see what was going on.  I can remember one of the staff saying to me,
     "Come and have a look Cat."
There were the grainy black and white pictures. It all looked so terribly unlikely and uncomfortable and dangerous. I knew it was supposed to be some sort of momentous event but I just hoped they would land on Earth safely. 
The contrast between their tiny space craft and our college buildings, dreadful though they were, could not have been greater. My paternal grandparents had finally succumbed to a television set - although they rarely watched it. I went off to them after the college day was over and my grandfather actually sat and watched the replay on the news.
    "Shocking that they should be asked to take those risks," he said.
I wonder what he would make of Andy Thomas's notion that this will be the century men land on Mars? My grandfather had been born before Henry Ford built his first car. It is little wonder that he thought the moon landing was a risk.
And yes it was of course. It was because nobody really knew much at all. They thought they did but they didn't really know in the way that they needed to know in order to make it at least relatively safe. 
"Space" isn't really "safe" even now. We may not think of it as dangerous in the way we once did but the risks are still enormous.
And some of the magic has gone too with the increasing number of successful launches. We don't have entire schools of children getting excited about "lift off" and "landing" any more. 
Ms W thought it was "interesting I guess but sort of history now".
That's really rather sad. 

Saturday 20 July 2019

Medical appointments

for the Senior Cat are the responsibility of Middle Cat - not me.
They are her responsibility because (a) she has more medical training than I do and (b) she has the ability to get him there in her vehicle.
Appointment reminders are supposed to go to her.
Appointments go on the wall calendar.
You can see where I am going can't you?
The Senior Cat had an appointment with the eye specialist on Thursday. Thursday was the day that I was a bit "under the weather"  - an  inner ear issue was not making me want to prowl anywhere. I did not check the calendar.
In fact I did not check the calendar until late yesterday - and then I saw the appointment. Oh....
I left Middle Cat a message. She had forgotten too - and she apparently had not been sent a reminder.
    "I'll phone and apologise and reschedule..."
And yes, she will....and yes, I suppose that this happens quite often, especially with older people, but it must be frustrating for the medical profession. The Senior Cat will be upset when he finds out. He hates to do anything like this, sees it as extremely discourteous.
It isn't his fault but he will still feel embarrassed about it.
And I am cursing that I didn't make the effort to look at the calendar. These days  the Senior Cat mostly forgets to do that. 
Those reminder calls are a good thing....yes?

Friday 19 July 2019

Dietary needs of the elderly

have come under scrutiny in the last few days. One of our local food celebrities, Maggie Beer, has said that feeding people well on $7 a day in nursing homes is not possible. 
I doubt it would be possible to feed elderly people on $7 a day too.
This is despite the fact that I am, I think, a careful shopper. I know what the Senior Cat needs in the way of nutrition and I know how I need to give it to him. 
There is a constant "tension" of sorts here because my dietary needs  - as a younger female - are not the same as his. He doesn't like "great lumps of protein" but he needs protein. Thankfully the Senior Cat will eat fruit and vegetables. He isn't fond of cake and puddings but he does like good bread. Those things help. 
He would hate the food I have seen in nursing homes. I spent years living in university accommodation and, while the students complained,  the food there was better than the food in the nursing homes I have visited. School dinners in Britain (and I had a few) were better than the food in nursing homes. 
I know it is difficult. There are dietary restrictions and feeding issues as well as the financial issues. But, does it always have to look and smell the same? Is cheap beef mince the only meat they can buy?  
We aren't treating the elderly well but it seems we are also starving some of them. 
I was told off recently for slipping an elderly man of my acquaintance a bar of good quality dark chocolate. He doesn't have diabetes and there are no other medical issues to suggest he should not have it but the staff member told me, "We don't like people bringing things like that in because some people can't have them."
Take in a birthday cake? They would rather you didn't do it but, if you must, then it can't be shared of you end up taking most of it away with you. And yes, I know why - but it does make things even more difficult.
A friend of mine took the same elderly gentleman out to lunch the other day. They "dined in style" he told me. What they ate is not what the nursing home would have approved of but he enjoyed it, thoroughly enjoyed it. His friend J... told me it was well worth the effort of taking him out he enjoyed it so much and made his appreciation very obvious.
I was reminded of someone I knew. At 101, she was taken out by a nursing home on New Year's Eve. Along with four other centenarian residents who were alert they were taken in comfort to look down at the city lights from a vantage point just before the new century came in. They had "champagne and orange juice" and some "nibbles".
When I saw her a couple of days later she told me, "It was magical. I can't thank the staff enough for giving me the experience." 
When M... died about three months later she was still talking about it.
That particular nursing home is outstanding - but very, very expensive. The staff had still given up their own time to make the outing possible.

Was it worth doing? Someone asked me what the point was when the residents didn't have much longer to live. Why shouldn't they have enjoyed an outing? 
Why shouldn't they enjoy their food? There may be very little else they can do - and perhaps they would do more with good food. 

Thursday 18 July 2019

There are some occupations

where people don't seem to stop working - even after they have officially "retired".
The Senior Cat has gone on teaching.  I have known doctors who have worked into their 80's.  I  know an architect who still does "little" jobs - like a garden shed. Gardeners never seem to retire either.  
And there are priests. I was talking to one yesterday.
   "I've  just been up to the cemetery,"he told me as he shook some rain off, "to check on D.....'s grave. His parents will be here for afternoon tea."
I remember D...'s funeral. He was four. He died very suddenly when his father was the young curate at the church my parents attended.  I was asked to go up to the church and start getting ready for the afternoon tea which followed the service - so that all the parishioners could attend the service.
The church was standing room only. The young curate had been a submariner before moving into the priesthood.  His navy colleagues had all come as well. I was busy in the kitchen when one of the funeral director's staff came in looking for water to take aspirin for a severe headache - and it was more than that because he broke down in tears over the funeral of a young child.
That was more than twenty years ago. The young curate is now about to be installed as a bishop - and he will do well at that role.  But, yesterday, he was coming back to the man who had mentored him all those years ago. 
A..., now in his late eighties, didn't need to tell me why. He would not have said anything but I know that D...'s father will have gone to him for more than a simple cup of tea. A.... is a wise old man. He has always respected my beliefs - as I respect his. He knows he can still tell me things I need to know about his former parishioners - and that they will go no further. Yesterday's news was just given as news, good news.
But I thought it was typical of A... that he should have gone to check on little D...'s grave before D...'s parents went there. They have been living hundreds of kilometres away so it would be a rare visit.
And yes, he had "tidied it up" before they got there.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

"Can you read it to me?"

was the request.
No, it wasn't from a small child this time. It wasn't from an adult lacking in literacy skills either.
This time it was from someone I know with almost no eyesight. She still lives alone although she does get help with cleaning, gardening and shopping. She cooks her own meals and does many other things. She leads a fairly social life - much more social than mine.
I called in yesterday on my way back from another appointment. The receptionist in that place knows I know her and knows I will pass her little place on my way home. Could I take a referral letter to her? It would be faster than posting it.
So, I call in to see H... on the way home. It's a letter? She won't be able to read it. Could I read it to her? Yes, I was expecting to do that.  
When I have done that she hesitates and then asks,
   "Have you got another moment? Could you see if you could find another letter? I asked T.... to put it in the box..."
T... is the person who comes into help with the cleaning. 
H...'s home is not cluttered but I can't see the letter anywhere. Perhaps it is in the file box I suggest? In the wrong place? What should it be filed under?
H.... tells me, "But you won't be able to read...."
    "I can read Braille well enough to read the labels," I told her, "I'll find it."
I found it - filed before and not after the label. I refiled it. H... gave me a quick hug,
    "Thanks Cat. I had no idea you could read Braille."
    "I can't really. I have long since forgotten the contractions but I can usually work simple things out."
She laughed and said it was still a very useful thing to know. 
It is actually a very long time since I used it - but you never know when something like that might be useful.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

"There is nothing sacred about Uluru"

is what I have been told.
Uluru was once known as Ayre's Rock. It is a lump of rock  in the middle of the country with no significant lumps of rock around it. In other words it does not look like part of a mountain range.
I once taught a child whose father was one of the Rangers there. He knew the local indigenous population well. 
    "There is nothing sacred about the rock," he told me, "I think I'd know.  There are some places around the base which aren't safe. The elders tell the young ones stories about those - to keep them safe."
That was his view.
My late friend R..., a full heritage/blood indigenous woman, was also of the view there was nothing sacred about Uluru. 
    "It's like so-called "secret women's business", she told me, "Don't let anyone go telling you that the place is something sacred. It isn't."
Now it seems that Uluru is sacred. The local clans have now decided it is sacred. That means it can't be touched.
It isn't sacred. If anything is sacred it is the tourist dollar and that may well drop in value if people can no longer climb the rock. So far there is a belief that  stopping climbing won't affect tourism. I doubt that and so do many others. 
Climbing Uluru is one of the reasons many people have gone to visit.  That is about to stop. Every year there are accidents or heart attacks on the stiff climb up. (It takes about four hours for an averagely fit person to do the climb.) There are claims too that people deposit rubbish on the way up and down. Yes, they probably do.  
I have no desire to climb Uluru. I don't even want to visit it. I had enough of the red desert in my childhood. My siblings feel the same way. But if other people want to do it?
I have never understood the desire to climb mountains. "Because it's there" doesn't seem like reason enough to me. I suppose there is a sense of achievement about climbing something. The view from the top might be good. At the right vantage point on a good day you could see a long way. It might give you a sense of the vastness of the country.
Telling people they can no longer climb Uluru however is simply going to make it more desirable to try - illegally. There will still be some who want to do it - and will do it.
If it is no longer legal to do it then they must be prosecuted - but please don't prosecute them because it is "sacred". It isn't.

Monday 15 July 2019

I went hunting yesterday

and no I didn't kill anything.
I went hunting in the computer files. Hunting? Searching? Something anyway. 
I was looking for a group of patterns that I need to show someone. They are for a potential group project next year.  
It is, so I am reliably informed by one of my United Nations contacts, going to be the International Year of Plant Health. My ears and whiskers twitched. My tail tip flicked in interest. We could knit a garden or a mural or trees  or.... 
It has been done before of course. There is nothing new about the idea but I put it to someone else. Yes it sounded interesting to her too. I left her to put it to the meeting as I wasn't there. (I was being a good little cat and taking a turn to do something else for the group.) She reported back that there seemed to be some interest in the idea. 
I promised I would find patterns. It should not be too difficult. I do have  books with patterns and I know where to find those. 
I also have computer files with patterns. Do I know where to find those?
Mm... I think that, after yesterday, I had better do some refiling. I thought the knitting patterns were organised. They aren't. They are a jumble.
I think this may have something to do with the fact that I do not use other people's patterns as patterns. I may use ideas from them. I  may keep something because it tells me how someone did something.  None of that helps when you are looking for a group of patterns. 
They had to be in there somewhere. I went through three sets of files. It made me realise that I really need to discard some things. I don't need them any more. Why have I saved the instructions I gave the Senior Cat for a domestic duty from over twenty years ago? Why have I saved the book reviews (all printed elsewhere) and the pattern I wrote for someone whose husband had lost his forearm? Nobody else will use those. 
I left them there as I went on searching but today I might start on the task of deleting some files.
And then, just as I was wondering if I had actually deleted the files I wanted I found them. There they were and of course the file name was obvious
    "The Odd Bunch - knit flowers".

Sunday 14 July 2019

Place names, street names

and names in because of and in honour of and more of....
The powers that be are apparently going to rename a cycling track because the person it has been named after has been caught dealing drugs. Mmm....probably don't want to support him.
It made me think of our national capital. It has a very recent history in terms of world affairs. It was planned from the start. It isn't one of those places which has "just grown". The suburbs are named after Prime Ministers and the like.  Major landmarks are named after others of importance or significant parts of our way of government. There is a whole history of the city in the names alone - if you know how the name came to be important. I doubt the locals think about it too much. I know I didn't when I spent four years living there. Perhaps they teach something about it in school?
I think they have largely managed to avoid scandal with respect to the names. They wait until people have died before they give major areas or landmarks a name in their honour. It is probably just as well.
But names in other places are just as interesting. We once lived in a place the name of which meant "wild turkey" in the local indigenous language. There was another nearby which meant "no man's land".  Along the coast there were names associated with exploration and sailing. There were landmarks named after early explorers - and which early explorers had named after themselves and those in their party. There are names which appear to be meaningless and names which appear to lack any sort of many places have a "First Street", "Second Street" and so on? 
And what about those with "romantic" names like "Three Legs o' Man Creek"? Surely there is a story in that?
There is a street named after my paternal great-grandfather and, if you know the history, an adjacent street named after his colleague. They were named for their work as maritime cartographers - something which allowed more exploration and more places to be named.
I thought of all this yesterday because I filled out a questionnaire which was passed on to me. It was for research about the influence of early landscape on mental health. I don't doubt that the landscapes people are surrounded by influence their lives. 
But I also wonder whether the name of the place has an influence too? How do you feel about afternoon tea if you live in Adlestrop?

Saturday 13 July 2019

I nearly got killed yesterday

- and it was not my fault, genuinely not my fault.
I was on the footpath waiting to cross the road when a car swerved on to the footpath. It missed the front tyre of my trike  by no more than a few centimetres. It knocked the shopping bag of the person who was standing just next to me.
And the driver simply carried on despite the car horns and the shouts. The driver was simply too busy using a mobile phone while he hurried off to wherever it was so important to be.
I don't know if anyone got his number or pulled him over. (There is never a police car around when you need one.) I was too busy helping someone pick up their shopping. Broken eggs make a mess. We were both shaking. Someone else pulled over in their car and came to see if we were okay. She was lovely. I said I'd be fine but....
     "Were you walking? I'll take you home in the car but I'll get you some more eggs first. Is everything else all right?"
I waited until the elderly woman was safely in the car. She still looked far too pale. 
    "I'll see her right into the house. Do you know her?"
I do actually. I know where she lives, not the number but the house. I told her which street it was in and told her what the house is like.
     "Thanks. And you will be okay?"
I was. I am. I am but I am still shaken. I haven't told the Senior Cat what happened. It would worry him. He worries anyway. 
I don't blame him for worrying. We could easily have been killed. It is a wonder we weren't injured, that my little set of wheels wasn't damaged beyond repair.
People scattered again fairly quickly. It was one of those "almost" events that leaves everyone shaken for a moment. Things quickly return to normal for most people because it hasn't happened to them.
I am wondering how the elderly woman is today. I don't know her well and I don't want to fuss. Perhaps I will leave a note in the letter box. 

Friday 12 July 2019

Code of conduct?

I was sent a "code  of conduct" yesterday. It came out of a group I belong to and is one of those documents supposed to ensure a "safe" place.
When I joined the group such a thing would not have been necessary. It would not even have been contemplated. The members of the group simply treated one another with respect. That is not to say that they don't treat one another with respect now but, despite occasional differences of opinion, the group twenty years ago didn't need the document.
I suspect "social media" is partly to blame for the change in attitudes - and the way people treat one another. It is much too easy to send something out - like this blog post - without really thinking about what we have said and what sort of impact it might have on other people. 
Are we getting more like that in real life too? 
Recently I politely requested one of the above group did not publicly thank me for something which would embarrass me. She went ahead and did it anyway - in my absence. That does not make it right. It was what might be called "pro forma" thanks. In some ways that actually makes it worse. On telling me what had happened another member said, "That's simply rude. What have we got a code of conduct for if it doesn't apply to everyone?"
And perhaps that's the problem. Do we look on a code of conduct as applying to other people but not to ourselves?  Are good manners and thought for others something which apply only to other people?
The Senior Cat is entirely dependent on other people if he wants to go anywhere. He has friends who take him to church and to a monthly social event. Middle Cat takes him to medical appointments and they might have coffee somewhere after the appointment. Going out at all is an effort - although he likes to do it.
I know that taking him anywhere is a big responsibility and that his friends are not getting any younger either. They tell me, "It gives you a break too." Yes, for a couple of hours I can get things done that I cannot always do while he is around. I know too that, in an emergency, one of them will call in and check if I need it and Middle Cat can't do it. 
    "We don't mind Cat. He's lovely. He always appreciates it."
I can believe that because he appreciates what I do too. He says "thank you" frequently - and he means it every time he says it. 
I wish I was that good about thanking people.

Thursday 11 July 2019

We are heading for Constitutional division

and no it won't be "Constitutional Recognition".
There are plans afoot to work towards a referendum in this term of federal parliament. The purpose of that referendum would be to insert something into the constitution which recognises indigenous inhabitants of this as the first inhabitants, those here before white settlement and to give them a "voice" in parliament.
This is going to be a divisive debate. It is also an unnecessary one. 
Let me start by saying that referenda to change the constitution are notoriously hard to pass. You need a majority of people and a majority of states overall in order for something to pass. Something like this might well get through - because a majority will not want to be considered "racist".  That's not a good basis on which to vote for something or against something. A decision needs to be made on the basis that this is the right thing to do for other reasons.
One of the arguments being used for "constitutional recognition" is that our indigenous people do not have a "voice" in parliament. That's nonsense. There are four members of federal parliament who identify as aboriginal. At the last election I was rather hoping that there might be one more but she was knocked out by someone who has been there far too many years. I hope she tries again next time. She speaks a lot of common sense.
But a lot is now being made of the "Uluru Statement from the heart" - the idea that came out of the indigenous "conference" held in the centre of the country, the one which said that indigenous people do not have a voice and that we need what could end up being a third chamber of parliament if it is not handled well.  We don't need that.
Despite claims to the contrary indigenous residents of this country do have a voice. They have many voices. They not only have the right to vote they have the right to put people up for election to parliament. We have indigenous members in state parliaments. 
As a child I remember meeting the late Neville Bonner. He was a Senator in our federal parliament. My paternal great-grandmother had known him through indigenous people she knew, liked and often helped. The Senator also knew my paternal grandfather of course and he knew my late friend R.... He was held up as an example to R... 's children and to me. You get where you are going by your own efforts, not those of other people, was his attitude.  I think it is fair to say he would not have been happy with the present turn of events.  
There are all sorts of councils, committees, working parties, consultative groups and so on - all for indigenous members of the community. They get more legal aid in court - and yes they are over represented in the crime statistics but as R....'s son points out to young offenders, "That's because of the decisions you made, not the decisions which were made for you."
R...'s son and I have discussed the issue of constitutional recognition at length and he is of the opinion that it will do nothing to help and may even harm. I know it is something he has thought long and hard about. He has asked me constitutional legal questions for which I don't have the answers - for which I doubt actual constitutional lawyers would have the answers.
It sounds so simple - just give indigenous people recognition in the constitution. What will that do? 
The answer is that it may create problems. It won't solve problems. 
At the start of each meeting of a group I go to we "acknowledge" that we are meeting on the land of a particular group. R....'s son disapproves strongly of us doing that. It was started when one person, no longer a member, was President. It is a statement which is losing any meaning - if it ever had any. Constitutional recognition may well have the same sort of effect. R...'s son would prefer it was reserved for special occasions, meaningful and related occasions. 
We need to start thinking - or we could do more harm than good. 

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Police checks

are causing issues again.
There was a  little piece in the paper this morning about the need for all volunteers working with children under the age of 18 to have the relevant check.
Perhaps it is necessary and at least they have waived the $95 fee for this. 
It still  bothers me. It bothers me because I am not at all certain it is going to solve the problems of sexual abuse, violence, fraud, theft and more.
People volunteer for many reasons and most of those reasons are good. The vast majority of people who volunteer do so for the best of reasons. They are to be encouraged and assisted to volunteer.  We want young people to volunteer.
One of the reasons for encouraging young people to volunteer is that far too many of our current volunteers are over eighty. It used to be that that majority of volunteers was over sixty (women) and sixty-five (men).  That is, people were volunteering when they retired. 
Now people are working longer. Some who are no longer in the paid workforce are involuntary child minders for their  children. They can't volunteer on a regular basis when they have to be available to take their grandchildren to and from school and to and from after-school activities and take care of them during the school holidays. All the service organisations I know of are finding their numbers are dwindling. The average age of the volunteers in the local charity shop  is well over eighty. They would love some young volunteers to discover what it means to volunteer and to get into the habit of regular volunteering  - but young volunteers can only work with people who have police checks.
We need volunteers. Our taxes don't cover everything. The local library was asking for weekend shelvers recently. I haven't put my paw up but the staff don't expect me to do so. They know I often shelve books anyway. I also look after the knitting group - and yes, that is fun but it is also volunteering.What's more they want young people to be the volunteers. All the staff have police checks of course.
And unfortunately police checks, while they might help, are not  going to solve the problems. The people who have certificates fall into two categories - those who have never offended and those who have not been caught yet. 
It is not good news for the future of volunteering.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

A letter from the bank

arrived  yesterday.
I had, rightly, growled gently about getting an unsolicited phone call from them. Yes, it turns out that the call was a legitimate one. That just made the incident even more disturbing.
I think I told you about the young man who was all, "Hi Cat, I'm P.... from the bank."
As a marketing exercise to tell you that pass books were being phased out and they wanted you to make an appointment to "discuss the options" it was poorly thought out. It simply isn't safe. Safety says that you ring the bank about these things. The bank does not ring you about these things. The bank staff talk to you about it the next time you go in. They wait. Yes, it might be annoying for them but the bank has your money. They use it and they make money out of it.
I growled politely but I growled. In my growl I said "you don't know me, don't address me by my first name and don't make unsolicited phone calls to older account holders. Send them a letter."
I think I stirred something up there. I had a letter. It addressed me by my family name. It said that they had taken the matter on board as a formal complaint and that it was going back to the relevant department for review. I can complain further to another authority if I so wish - details provided.
Yes, I still have a pass book. The money in it isn't actually mine but money I hold in trust. I will need to consult someone else to decide how we handle it.
I will miss those pass books!

Monday 8 July 2019

Family histories

can lead to curious places.
The latest request to land on the website maintained by my brother is not an unusual one. It is simply someone asking if we have any information that might lead to someone finding his grandfather. My  brother sent it to me and, knowing nothing, I passed it on to Cousin M... who did most of the research. If he has come across the name in relation to the family he will let this person know.
Nobody has to do these things of course but genealogy can be important and it can even save lives. It is why some people set out on the journey to find out more about their family. 
There will undoubtedly be some interesting stories uncovered in a new television series called "Every family has a secret". I won't be watching it but I know one person who was approached to take part in it.  She declined. 
Her daughter told us that, in the course of researching what she thought was her family history, her mother discovered that she was not blood-related to her "father". It was a shock.
Her "father" was no longer alive but her mother is. I imagine the conversation between them was very difficult. It has not changed the way this woman feels about the man she had always thought of her as her father. He had no idea.
Apparently such things are not uncommon - but it is the risk you take when you delve into family history.
I remember my mother's shock when I, at her request, tried to find out a little about her family history. She knew something about her father's family and remembered her mother's sister. She knew there was a brother "somewhere". I went off to the local genealogy society one afternoon. It is conveniently located not far from here. I looked up the records and came home. 
When I presented my mother with the information I was told I must have been looking up the wrong family. No, I had not. There was an uncle my mother knew nothing about. He had never been mentioned. No, he hadn't done anything wrong. His sister, my grandmother,  had simply never mentioned him. 
It actually solved a mystery. My grandmother always claimed she had been "given away" to relatives. What had obviously happened was that her mother had been very ill during her pregnancy with  the next (and last) child. My grandmother had been sent to stay with her relatives until the baby was born. She was jealous, so jealous that she never mentioned him again. The family scattered. We know of no issue of any of her siblings. The person I know at the genealogy society very kindly tried to find out more but told me he could find no records. 
Perhaps we do have distant cousins out there somewhere? I don't know. 
What I do know is that the extended clan on the Senior Cat's side actually try to keep in touch.
And that is good. 

Sunday 7 July 2019

I have been working at craft fairs

for long enough now that I know quite a number of the regular stall holders. Yesterday was no different.
I was doing my turn for our local knitting guild this time. I had the choice of arriving early and having plenty of time or arriving a little late.
Arriving a little late would not have mattered but it isn't polite and it would have felt like rushing. I don't like either of those things so I prowled in early and made my way to the stall.
    "Hello Cat!"
    "Morning Cat...
    "Hey Cat I want to ask you something..."
    "Cat, can you pop back in a moment..."
It is nice that people want to say hello like that.
I located the whereabouts of both the book stalls - and checked out the contents. (No, I didn't buy any.)
I found the people selling yarn. Now I happen to know all of them - I wonder why?
Yes, someone wanted to ask me about the heels of socks. These are knitted in a special way. I am taking some information to her today. Another stall holder wanted to show me something she is thinking of stocking...what did I think?
I caught up on news of a friend who has had back surgery and another who has been ill.
And there were all the visitors to the fair who said things like, "Thought I might find you here" and "Glad you are here because I wanted to ask..."  Yes, I live in a small city - and the craftspeople are an even smaller group.
We sold things from the stall - so much we had to rearrange things to cover the gaps which had appeared. It's a good time of the year to sell beanies!
I have to go back today but I won't be there for as long. I am telling myself I won't succumb to yarn or books or yarn or books....
Really, I won't!

Saturday 6 July 2019

No more straws?

"Fantastic, no plastic" the headline shouts. Apparently this state is going to "lead the way" in getting rid of all things plastic - including straws and foam cups and takeaway containers. The next to go will be plastic cutlery and plastic lined drink containers.
Ooh it sounds good.
I am more than happy to see a massive decline in the use of plastic. Bamboo? Yes, it is probably a good alternative in many instances.
More expensive? Perhaps - but anything that will end up saving plastic waste from the ocean, from waterways, from landfill and more is likely to be expensive. We need to pay for it.
I don't know enough about the environmental goodness of things like bamboo to comment. It just seems like a good idea.
But there is something that bothers me. I was talking to someone who runs a small "coffee" place recently. He said that the ban on plastic would save him having to buy any straws.
Really? I wonder how many other food outlet people believe the same thing?
I think straws might still be needed. My paws do not cope with some drinking containers. I know other people who cannot drink at all unless they have a straw - and yes, they might carry straws with them but that doesn't allow for emergencies. And bamboo straws are not the same - can even be dangerous.
And then the article in the paper came up with something else.
Could we get rid of some of those ghastly cheap plastic toys which break so easily?
How about some good, solid wooden toys. It might make a huge difference.

Friday 5 July 2019

The "pence jug" is finished

- for which I am duly thankful.
   "And what," I hear you ask, "is a pence jug?"
It is one of those Victorian era oddities. They were made to keep things like loose coins in - before wallets and coin purses became common.  They were actually made in the shape of jugs.
It is the sort of thing the Victorians excelled at. The pence jugs were even made with a lip...although you did not pour the coins out.
These little things were only ever a few inches high. They are very fiddly to knit because they are made in the round. 
Mine is made from a tiny amount of pale grey silk left over from the chemo caps my then teen knitters were making. There wasn't enough to do anything else - except perhaps a couple of book marks and the cone it was on had been sitting there for a couple of years. It is the authentic sort of thing from which to make a pence jug. There were no artificial fibres in mid-Victorian times. Pence jugs were made from cotton, silk or wool.
I made it with the materials to hand - as the Victorians would have done - and in just one colour  but two colours were also common. It is knitted at a tighter tension than I would normally use for that yarn but that is also right. You don't want to lose your sovereigns and guineas!
Right now it  has some pennies in it too  - although not from the Victorian era. The Senior Cat had some pennies - left over from something else. They make the little jug sit rather nicely.
Pence jugs were sometimes beaded - but that was beyond me. Even if I could have sourced the right sort of beads (steel) I doubt my paws would have managed to work with them. No, mine is plain pale grey. 
There are any number of instructions for pence jugs in Victorian era knitting books.  Mine comes from the "recipe" in "Miss Lambert's Knitting Book" (1844) As with most patterns of the era it was not a simple matter of following the instructions.  The writers of the day assumed that the knitter knew things and would do it in their own way.
I knew some things. I have worked out other things. It is done. I have something ready for the display in September. 
Now all I need to do is write a description because the Senior Cat asked, "What on earth is that thing?"

Thursday 4 July 2019


and in particular sheets came under review in this household yesterday.
The Senior Cat came out of his room for breakfast and mewed apologetically,
    "I don't know how but I've torn the top sheet."
Now the bottom sheet I could understand...almost. That gets a fair pounding. The Senior Cat is a very restless sleeper. 
The Senior Cat's mother, my paternal grandmother, told me that she used to pin the blankets down because he was  such a restless sleeper. She showed me one of the giant safety pins she had used in her efforts to keep the bedclothes on him and keep him warm at night.
When they married my parents did not get a double bed. It would have meant the relationship would not have lasted a week. They had separate beds side by side - except in one location where the small size of the bedroom made that impossible. (Yes, somehow, they still managed to have four kittens.)
And now of course the Senior Cat sleeps alone. We bought a new mattress for him a couple of years ago. Middle Cat, who knows about such things, decided it was essential. Has it helped him sleep? Perhaps it has - a little. 
But he is still restless. He will always be restless. The bed requires completely remaking every day. In winter he has two blankets - one of them goes sideways so that there is a greater length to tuck under the mattress. That strategy lasts about half the night. He also has a duvet/doona/eiderdown (call it what you will) and my old mohair rug from university days. 
As he feels the cold these days all this seems to be essential. And no, before you ask, he does not have an electric blanket. That would be dangerous. 
Every morning he pulls the bedclothes up in a half hearted attempt to make his own bed. I then go and do it because he is too old a cat to have to be worrying about such things. 
But yesterday.... I surveyed the sheet. It was ruined. It was  not a particularly old sheet or even particularly thin. Somehow though it was no longer a sheet. 
    "Can't you mend it?" he asked.
    "No, even if I had a sewing machine, that cannot be mended. I'll buy some more sheets."
Thankfully we can afford new sheets, good new sheets. I pedalled off to a shop some distance away. It sells sheets, towels, table ware and the like. I have been there before - some time ago. It is the time of the year when, if you are lucky, things are on sale.
And they were. I stood there. I looked at sheets. They come in the most amazing array of colours and patterns. No, none of that will do. 
The young woman working there smiled and asked if she could help. I explained the problem. She laughed.
    "That sounds just like my father! I shouldn't ask but do your parents sleep in the same bed?"
I explained and she went on laughing.
    "Oh that is so like my father!"
I told her what I wanted. Plain, preferably white. The Senior Cat is very conservative. Something with a high thread count please?
She considered the problem.  Showed me some on a display bed. Exactly right.  Yes, they had a set for a single bed in white - half price. I considered. Was there a second set available? Yes, but pale blue.Hmm... the Senior Cat might put up with plain pale blue as well. I bought both. 
They are good solid 1200 count pure cotton sheets. I hope the Senior Cat won't put his paws through those any time soon.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

"It's my right..."

I was told yesterday. 
As soon as I heard that I knew I wasn't going to win any argument with the person who said it. It was not a good day.
He is a familiar figure around the shopping centre. He was standing right next to where I had (legally) parked my trike and he was smoking. 
There is a smoker's "bin" about  ten metres away. It is, quite deliberately, where people who do smoke won't impinge on the rights of those who do not smoke.
     "You reformed smokers are all the same..."
Hold on, I have never even tried to smoke - but I say nothing.
He went on and on as I packed things into the trike basket and tried to get around him.
     "You aren't going anywhere until I've finished..."
He told me this and deliberately blew cigarette smoke into my face. I could not get around him to unlock the trike from the railing. I knew I would not be going anywhere until he decided I could. Someone else was coming up the ramp that leads into the shopping centre. 
     "You all right?" he asked me rather warily.
     "I just need to unlock," I told him, "I'll be fine."
He just stood there. Neither man moved. I didn't want a fight to break out and I know the smoker might react that way.
A couple came up the ramp. They stopped for a moment and then hurried in. People came out through the sliding doors that lead into the centre and hastily went on. 
And then one of the local care hostel staff came out.
    "Hello Cat... T....bothering you?"
    "I just need to get going," I told her.
    "T.... and I need to get going too. T... can you carry these for me please?"
She handed over two supermarket bags. He took them with a volley of fine Anglo-Saxon words and started off.
    "Sorry Cat. He got away while I was waiting for the meat."
    "Will you be okay?" I asked, "I can ride back with you if you like?"
She hesitated and then shook her head,
     "No. He's done as I asked. We should be all right."
This man is mentally ill, seriously mentally ill. Most of the time he is docile enough but there are times when he does get violent. When that happens they try to keep him contained but it is difficult. I watched her walk off rapidly - before he stepped out into the traffic without looking in either direction.
What a responsibility. 

Tuesday 2 July 2019

There was a swearing in ceremony

for the new Governor-General yesterday.
I wasn't there. I wasn't invited. I didn't expect to be invited. There was no reason for me to be invited.
But, all the current crop of politicians in the nation's capital were invited and should have been there. They should have been there because the role Governor-General is important. It is a dual role. The Governor-General is the Queen's representative and our "Head of State".  Like the Queen they wield considerable power and yet no power at all. 
No, that isn't as ridiculous as it sounds. As Bagehot famously put it, they have "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage and the right to warn". Like the Queen the Governor-General does not make laws  but does sign the documents which bring the laws into being. The Governor-General is sworn in at a ceremony in parliament and everyone who works there in a parliamentary capacity is expected to attend.
There was one group however which failed to attend yesterday. They claimed they were "too busy" having a meeting. They were the Greens - all of them undoubtedly "republicans" to a (wo)man. 
It isn't going to win them any friends. There are other "republicans" in parliament but they attended. They will have attended because, unlike the Greens, they will acknowledge and respect the way the country is governed. They know it is completely independent.
Interestingly the Greens failure to attend was not mentioned in the news service last night, nor is it in the paper this morning. I still have hopes that they will be reprimanded for their failure to attend. It will have been a deliberate snub  - not just to the role of the Governor-General but our parliament and the way we are governed.
That's unacceptable. 

Monday 1 July 2019

Yarn, thick yarn, thin yarn

and more yarn was lined  up on shelves, on racks, on trestle tables and tumbling into bags.
I went to a "yarn festival" yesterday afternoon. It was actually a day long event and, had I been a good little cat, I might have been doing some demonstrating at it. I did last year. I gave it a miss this year but I went up to see what was going on.
There were people I knew there - of course. I stopped to speak to two of them first - and catch my breath. (The pedal up the hill had warmed me up but also left me in need of a moment or two to recover.)
One of them was weaving on a simple rigid heddle loom. It was a slow meander through blues and greens. Weaving is not fast but I love to look at weaving patterns.
I prowled on and stopped to speak to a friend who was selling her simple but effective cards and covers for all sorts of items. It had not been a particularly busy day for her but she was cheerful. We chatted about the upcoming RAHS show where we are both stewards.
I looked at some old buttons and some African cloth. I kept my paws firmly off some cashmere yarn. (It was expensive.) I wandered into the next room where people were spinning and a man was using an ancient sock machine. 
And I watched people watching these people. I have seen plenty of spinning in my time.I have even tried a little myself - because I wanted to know more about the process. 
I have previously seen the sock machine in action too. Now it is much more interesting to watch the total fascination and the complete concentration of the very young and the not-so-young as they watch to see how it is done.
I wandered through to where more yarn was being sold. In there I asked a friend if she happened to have a needle in the size I wanted for an elderly friend. No, she didn't. Nobody else had one either. If I had wanted to buy the cable and ends that would have been fine but I don't see her coping with those. I looked at the books on the second hand book stall. No, I didn't buy any books. 
I looked at felting and spinning fibre - and I didn't buy any of that either. Tempted? Of course I was because it is simply good to look at!
I padded quietly on into the last room - and succumbed. I bought one skein of brightly coloured sock wool. It leapt out at me - the perfect combination of colours for someone I know. I need to make her something. It won't take too long and it will replace what I have twice mended for her.
Oh yes, yarn... thick yarn, thin yarn, yarn of every possible colour and shade...useful yarn.
But one skein was enough. I had other yarn that would have done - but the colour was absolutely right. That matters too.