Saturday 31 August 2019

One of my former students died

I remember him as an unhappy child. He had every reason to be unhappy. It was not his disability which made him unhappy but the fact that he was a severely abused child.
I will never forget the day he came to school so excited because his mother had told him that she had put a chicken sandwich in his lunch box. All morning he kept telling anyone who would listen that he had a chicken sandwich for lunch.
When lunchtime came the teacher aide took out his lunchbox. Inside it there was a dry roll with a single limp lettuce leaf in it. I can still hear his cry of "I don't want it!"
There were unexplained bruises. He couldn't walk so how could he "fall over"?  Even he knew better than to say anything to us - but we suspected any way. 
His mother, single and unemployed, wanted nothing to do with us. The centre's senior social worker could not get into the house to check.  The school bus driver responsible and her aide reported their concern more than once.
I was seeing him for individual work and both I and his classroom teacher kept reporting our concern. I left the school to go back to university and research. I felt I was deserting him - and the other children - but I knew that I couldn't remain where I was. He was too young to write to me but people told me of his progress.
Eventually things did get so bad that he was removed and put into state care. There he got properly fed and clothed and, quite suddenly, his schoolwork improved dramatically. He was no longer considered to be profoundly retarded. 
It was what I had suspected all along. My suspicion that he was hiding his intelligence for his own safety proved correct. He was transferred to another school and eventually went on to university. He became an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities. He was one of those instrumental in setting up our local radio station for the "print handicapped" - something used by many other people as well. 
We would occasionally see one another around the city. He would introduce me as "my reading teacher". 
Yes, I tried to read you too. I didn't always succeed. I still feel guilty about leaving you the way I did - even when you told me that I did the right thing. I did feel pride in your progress and the way you spoke out for others less able to speak out for themselves.
I don't think you were ever a  happy man but you were a thoughtful and caring man - and I liked you for it. 

Friday 30 August 2019

Are there too many pharmarcies?

I am posing today's question because of an article in this morning's paper. There is a chart there outlining the cost of producing some common drugs and then all the charges which are added to those drugs before the pharmacist reluctantly passes them over.  Charges are such that, in the case of one drug which costs less than two dollars to produce, people are paying almost twenty dollars. Yes,  pharmacists are making money.
They will of course claim that they have expenses and this is true but do they really have that many expenses? There is a discount chemist chain in Downunder. If you can access one of those stores then things are much cheaper. 
I  visit our chemist on a fairly regular basis. They know me by name in there. I take two drugs, for one of which I can only get thirty days at a time. That is ridiculous - and the chemist knows it. I could get sixty days and  halve the number of times I needed to visit if it was just for me. The other is a one hundred and eighty day supply.
Of course the Senior Cat takes more. It isn't a list as long as some people and, for his age, it isn't unreasonable but it still means I am in there on a more regular basis than is really necessary. 
And  when  I do go in? It is almost always, "About ten minutes Cat."  Sometimes it is longer than that. I head off to do the other shopping. 
Now the drugs we get are not complex. They come in packets and all the pharmacist has to do is look up our record, take the drug from the shelf and put a label with a name on it. I then pay for it. Well yes, slightly more complicated than that but it is what the transaction amounts to. Given ten minutes explanation I could do most of that myself, any halfway intelligent cat could do it. Humans may be even more capable. 
I will agree that an alert pharmacist might pick up a problem. Ours once told me of the occasion on which a doctor had prescribed ten times the normal dose of something. "But you would probably have questioned that too Cat." Yes, I think I would.
So, why the greatly increased costs? I know about things like rent and insurance and the costs associated with employing other people. These days the pharmacy can also dispense dietary advice, advice for diabetics, a huge range of non-prescription pills and potions, cosmetics, toothpaste, jelly beans and much more. The pharmacy is even a place where you can get your annual 'flu vaccination.  Our pharmacist is allowed to "compound" or mix certain drugs as well. This  is not something she is often called upon to do and it isn't something everyone could do. But, does that justify the added costs?
The answer is surely no. Pharmacies are making money. There are rules about how close a new pharmacy can come to an old one. They don't want too much competition. That "ten minutes" would be more convincing if it were sometimes five and sometimes fifty. 
I like our pharmacist. She is kind and always asks sincerely about the Senior Cat.  Still I know that she is being allowed to charge excessive amounts, indeed required to do so by  her guild. 
There shouldn't be that sort of price put on better health.

Thursday 29 August 2019

Find the time

and get things done on time.
An Upover (UK) friend of mine left a very short blog post saying that there was no time for keeping up the blog. I left a note on it saying that perhaps a photo and sentence or two occasionally would be enough. 
S..... is a busy woman. She is a parish priest in a rural community. I have some idea of the sort of life she leads and not just from her blog posts. I know some priests. I know they can be called on at any time. 
I also know what it was like for the Senior Cat to be the head of a big rural school where the children were brought in by bus from long distances. The Senior Cat was also expected to do things like take the Sunday church service if nobody else was available, be the local marriage guidance counsellor, the family psychologist and more. He was expected to run community events, visit the Scouts and Rural Youth and much more. 
He would be in his office at school by 7am and stayed until at least 6pm. There would often be meetings at night or he would work with the new young teachers who were struggling. 
S....'s role is a bit the same with the added stress of the highly emotional occasions of  baptisms, marriages and - most of all - funerals. I don't doubt she has the backing of the community but it is ultimately her responsibility. 
So, I wasn't scolding. It was just a hopeful plea that, sometimes, she would put  up a picture and a comment - so that I know she is still there.
And it had me thinking about time. Writing this blog takes time, of course it does. I am never too sure why I started. The very occasional comments on it are lovely to get but I don't expect them. Other people have busy lives too.
But there are times when it is essential to find the time to do something. There are times when things need to be done on time. It is a subject which will come up today and I will be very interested to see how it is approached. My guess is that the others involved will be more willing to be flexible. I won't agree but I will abide by the majority decision in the matter.
But I believe it is this sort of "flexibility" which leads to problems. There are times when we simply need to say, "No, you know what the rules said".  
Maybe I'm wrong. I know there are no rules about S.... posting on her blog page but there are rules in  other  parts of life and I think they need to be observed.

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Moving to Europe

is not something many Downunderites think about. They tend to think about Europeans coming here. There is also a tendency to believe that our Kiwi friends "across the ditch" move here rather than vice versa.
I am wondering if that is partly what is behind the failure of our Prime Minister to even consider the idea that there might be a free flow of people living and working here or in the UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Yes, I know there are problems with the idea but they could be overcome. To dismiss the idea out of hand is wrong. We have to stop the nonsense about "being part of the Asian region". We never will be even though we are thought of as a "multi-cultural" country. That in itself is something rather nonsensical. It is true that we have people from many different cultural backgrounds living here. The idea that we all jog along nicely together is less real in actuality - rather, more wishful thinking. We are said to "celebrate diversity" but that diversity only goes so far. At present we don't have sharia courts - but that may come one day. There are demands for a third chamber of federal parliament for "indigenous representation".  Whatever the arguments or reasoning behind these things they are divisive rather than cohesive ideas.
A "gap year" working in the UK or the rest of Europe is less common than it once was. There is now pressure on young people to "just get on with university". Not many of them get the chance to be "exchange" students. More of those who do are sent to Japan or Korea, Indonesia or Thailand to try and improve their limited foreign language skills - and yes, the experience probably does improve those. 
Going to work in the UK for a year might not improve your language skills but take a quick train journey under the channel and you are faced with a new language in a country where people drive on the other side of the road. The food is different there - although I believe it is possible to find a McDonald's if you are desperate. And there is history there on either side of the channel, history of the sort you don't find here. You can't miss it. It just happens to be right around you - quite different from the long suburban blocks with the little boxes sitting on each portion of the block.
Ms W went to Italy and Switzerland for Christmas and New Year two years ago. She is learning French at school and Italian as an extra subject. She could have done Japanese but, wisely, decided against it despite her love of languages. On her return from holiday she was even more convinced the decision was the right one and that Italian, although extra work, is worth working at.  A year abroad would help her in many ways but it isn't likely to happen. If she could go to the UK for a year that might be different. She might at least do more travel to Europe.
It's an idea worth thinking about, something that might open up the world to a lot of young people here. At present we are far too insular and isolated.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

The police called yesterday

- twice. 
The first time it was one of those who had come to visit us following the burglary.
    "Just a bit concerned about your father. Is he okay?" he asked. I could assure him that, while angry and upset, the Senior Cat is "okay" in the sense that he is not sitting there quivering in fear.
But, it was nice of this man to ask. It is quite outside the remit of his duties.
And then, later in the day, there was a call from a female officer who was "following up" on the situation. Did we need any more help? Would we like someone to come out and do a security assessment?
I thought that was interesting. I know they follow up a call out if they can, just to assure themselves they haven't missed anything vital...but do a security assessment?
I thanked her and told her I know we need to replace the security screens. They are simply too old to do the job they once did. She said, "Well if you would like me to come out let me know."
And then she said,
     "And would you mind me asking but was your father once a school principal?"
Ah.... yes, she was a student at a school he was once in charge of. That is perhaps why she was taking more than the usual interest. She told me her mother had worked in the school at the time and that, while her mother is now deceased, both of them had fond memories of the Senior Cat. 
I almost wish I had said "Yes, please come." The Senior Cat could have met someone who still remembers him from more than half a century back - and remembers him with pleasure.

Monday 26 August 2019

Parking space issues for people with disabilities

are front page news again.
Apparently the number of people illegally parking in those spaces has jumped again. 
It doesn't surprise me. Twice in the past week I have seen someone use one without hanging their permit up before leaving the car. In one case I have to assume that the person was in no way disabled. He ran into the liquor outlet at the shopping centre. And did the other person forget or were the simply "dashing into the dry cleaner"?   I  suspect the latter but then perhaps I am too ready to condemn them?
But it brings me to another problem, the parking of the tricycle. I had to spend three days at the showgrounds last week. On the first day I had to pedal all the way there. The trains were not going to be running for part of the day and people were trying to get to work early. The train was already jam packed and I could not have got on, let alone got the tricycle on.  When I arrived at my destination there was a security guard at the gate. I expected that. It always happens at that time of the year. He told me I couldn't ride in. I was prepared for that.
    "If this was a wheelchair would you let me in?"
He conceded he would. I then politely pointed out that I needed my tricycle in the same way. Later in the day I was going to need my tricycle to go from one end of the big grounds to the other. He shrugged and let me in. The same thing happened on the second day.  The following day there were huge vehicles, no doubt carrying showground rides, in the way so I went a different way. I'd have to wait and then go back and park it later.  One of the very helpful men who set up the stands inside one of the big pavilions came along.
     "You won't be able to leave it there. Give me your lock and I'll take it through to where you were yesterday."
I was very grateful for that. He wheeled it off and I just went in to where everyone was about to start working. It is that sort of thoughtfulness that helps no end even if it doesn't entirely solve the problem.
I need to be at the showgrounds on four occasions over the next two weeks. Problem? Yes. While "the Show" is on there is nowhere at all to park the trike.  There isn't even a bicycle parking place. There should be but there isn't. I would happily pay for some parking but there is none. 
I won't be going there for the sheer pleasure of it. I am going to demonstrate and to talk to people about the handicrafts.  Other people know there is a problem and we still don't quite know what to do about it.  
A place to park the tricycle would help - a lot.

Sunday 25 August 2019

Someone has apparently written a book

about "milk bars" - and no, I do not mean an American sort of chocolate bar. I mean what we in this state would call a "corner" store  or "deli"  (short for delicatessan).
Not all of them were on corners of course but they were convenient sort of places that sold all sorts of useful things. I have known a few in my time.
There were two nearby when we first moved here. One was about 100 metres around the corner opposite a lone butcher. The butcher's shop has been demolished but the shop is now someone's home instead. I miss it. I used to take my nephews there if we were child minding and they could buy "orange juice ice-blocks" - which they loved. They don't make that sort of "ice-block" any more either. They still had a few mixed sweets on the counter - but not many. 
Long before that though there was "Short's" on the road that led to the beach at my paternal grandparents' place.  It was an enormous treat to visit that shop. It didn't happen very often but if we had been particularly good on a very hot day our grandfather would take me and my brother on a "Short walk" and all three of us would have a single scoop of vanilla ice cream (made by a company no longer in existence).  
The shop also sold milk (in pint bottles) and cream. The cream came from a churn. You had to provide your own container for the cream. If there was milk and cream left over the owner would make "milk ice blocks" for the local children - at a penny each. She would put them into little square wafer like cups. We thought they were very special too - perhaps because we almost never had money to spend. 
Along with that the shop sold things like newspapers, magazines, a few cards, bread, a few tinned goods  and other useful things. We children thought the mixed sweets behind the glass in the cabinet were useful but the adults never did. I remember those - and the difficult choice between the milk ice block and the small block of rock hard "lolly" that would last so long if we weren't caught  with it. Mum did not approve of those and would take them away from us. 
The shop is no longer there. It kept going until about 2001 and then "development" took place and the shop turned into something fancy that failed and then something that failed again. I think it is currently empty and that is sad.
There was the corner type shop in a street near my hall of residence in London. We students found that very useful when we ran out of biscuits for the endless tea breaks! 
And there was the corner shop I went to in Italy. I had a raging cold and I had spent a good five minutes working out how to ask for a box of tissues in Italian. I managed it and the elderly male behind the counter obviously thought I spoke more Italian than I did. He asked me where I had come from. I told him. He beamed. He had relatives there! 
In one of those strange little quirks of coincidence it turned out that the Senior Cat had taught his niece. He took me behind the counter out into the kitchen. I was fed soup and given something else for my raging cold.  Middle Cat went to visit the same couple several years later and, on that occasion, she and the friend she was travelling with slept on the floor in their sleeping bags.
Corner shops? Should we miss them? Of course we should. They are wonderful, magical places full of friendship. The supermarket can never compete!

Saturday 24 August 2019

We have been burgled

This must have happened while I was out yesterday afternoon.  I was not expecting to go out and, although I thought I had locked the back door I must have left it shut but unlocked although I still feel I did lock it.
I thought it was a little strange that the back screen door was wide open this morning. The Senior Cat cannot pull the catch that holds the spring open any more - and I am too short to reach. 
When the Senior Cat surfaced a little while ago he told me that, when he went to bed last night, he noticed the drawers in his dressing table had been opened. He then found his good watch, the one our mother gave him on the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, had gone. The money from his wallet has gone as well - but the credit cards have been left.
We were burgled once before. I wrote about it at the time. My gut feeling is that it could be the same person. He would know he couldn't use the credit cards but he would try to fence the watch and would use the money. He was extremely resentful that I was "rude" to him at the time - I caught him on the premises.
The money, there was only a little, doesn't bother us particularly. The watch does. It is engraved on the back but that may not help. That someone could take it angers me greatly. It was not hugely expensive in itself but it has enormous sentimental value to the Senior Cat. He is upset, very upset - and that upsets me.

Friday 23 August 2019

A lace parasol

is lying open on the trestle table. Next to it there is a single "hand"  holding a dainty little crochet bag and two jugs with beaded covers. Another beaded cover, complete with a tiny crochet "teapot" lies next to them.
These are some of the entries for the "Queen Victoria Challenge" in  the Handicrafts section of the state's Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society annual "Show".
We have been accepting the items people have entered for the last two and a half hours. It's been busy.  People have been moving backwards and forwards putting things in the right places on the trestle tables ready for judging.
One woman  has come in with five exquisite pieces of lace knitting. It's the first time she has entered anything, She hopes they are good enough for display. I tell her "yes". I don't tell her that something will win a prize, possibly more than one thing. What I do know is that the judge is going to be delighted with the standard. 
Someone else comes in without the paperwork. She didn't actually get any but she shows us the email receipt for the online entry and the Convenor organises paperwork and apologies. I take entries from familiar faces. One person who tried last year is trying again and has taken on board all the advice he was given. (Later he gets a Commended which will please him immensely. He knows he is still learning.) 
There is a lovely "squishy" soft toy that everyone wants to hug. (It wins a first.) 
   "What's that?" someone ask and we all look at something for the 100gms or less class in knitting.  It's a belt with a purse and a pocket - to use while walking the dog...and yes, it won a first being both imaginative and well constructed.
The judge arrives and we all head off for a quick mug of tea and the excellent home made cake or scones the Country Women's Association makes. The woman who comes up from the canteen knows me by now and says, "Cheese salad sandwich for lunch Cat?" I tell her "Yes please" because they have to be among the best cheese salad sandwiches in the state. Yes, they do feed  the workers!
And then the judging begins. I leave the judge alone with the other steward for the first class  because I have broken my own rule and put something in this year.  I don't look when I get back from "talking to A... about something" either. I doubt it has won any prizes. There were other reasons to put it in. We all go on. The judge grumbles cheerfully about how hard it is to choose between two items of what she feels are of equal value. 
    "What do you think?" she asks people and explains her thinking about each. That helps her decide and, decision made, she moves on to the next class.
By mid-afternoon we have finished and the judge leaves us to put things in cabinets.
     "Well done," someone tells me. I think they are referring to my own very small entry in the Queen Victoria section. The Challenge was my idea so I felt bound to put something in there. I didn't expect it to win a prize but it has a third. 
     "Yes, that - and your vest. You got a first for that," J.... tells me. I look at her in disbelief and she says, "Come and look."
G.... has already put it in one of the display cabinets. For some reason it doesn't look like my work. I go back to what I was doing. We look for misplaced cards - a mild panic until someone realises that two have been stapled together. 
Things get juggled into cabinets. There never seems to be enough room but, somehow, things do get displayed.
This morning a professional will come in and deal with the big central display cabinet. The parasol, which has won best in section, will no doubt be hung from the top of that. I am pleased as I know the person who made it. I know how much work went into that. 
A lot of work goes into everything. The people I work with keep asking me "How do you do that?" of pieces of knitting and crochet and I try to explain. If they can knit or crochet it is easier  but not all of them can. They embroider, spin, weave, make mosaics or turn timber.  
And all of these are good because people are making things with their hands. 

Thursday 22 August 2019

Something for nothing?

There is a long tradition in a group I belong to - of expecting people to do something for nothing. I think that needs to change.
There may not be any monetary reward - after all we are supposed to help one another in the group. 
What I do think needs to change is the expectation that there is no need for recipients to put any effort in. 
I am shortly supposed to be teaching something. I agreed to do it and, if necessary, I will. I will do the rest of the preparation. It will involved some hours - probably close to twenty hours by the time I have knitted a graduated set of samples to show a process. 
But, at the moment, I don't feel inclined to do it. Despite claiming an interest earlier only three people had signed up for the class when I looked. (I am told there are now four.) Of those only one person has asked me about (and she has done) the necessary preparation. The other two are inclined to sign up for most things so this does not surprise me. I doubt they will do the preparation.
I thought it wise to speak to the person in charge of such things but she still thinks a workshop can be run.
There is still another meeting in between at which it can be mentioned but my feeling is that I should not be expected to teach less than five  people - and I should not be expected to teach people who cannot be bothered to make an effort. There are other people who feel the same way.
I am not sure what the answer is under the present circumstances. I know what I would like to do but doubt it will even get discussed, let alone implemented.
It is the old story though...if you get something for nothing then you are much less likely to appreciate it. 

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Someone has stolen

the computer which also acts as communication device for a thirteen year old girl.
Jessica has cerebral palsy. Her only means of communication, apart from "yes" (by looking up) and "no" (by looking down) is the special computer designed to allow her to "speak" in a manner similar to the late Stephen Hawking.
It was stolen from her mother's car on Monday.
No, I don't know Jessica but I do know a number of people like her. I have taught them. I know how immensely challenging it is to communicate in the way that Jessica does. I know how hard it is to learn to use such a device. I know how frustrating it is to communicate even with the help of one of those devices. It is very, very hard work. It isn't the free and easy means of communication that most of us enjoy. A communication barrier like that is a barrier to ALL social interaction with other people. When it comes to communicating with strangers the barrier can seem insurmountable. When eye-gaze is all you have your world is minuscule compared with that of those who can use their voice.
So, if by any faint chance, anyone happens to know anything about the rotten low-life who stole Jessica's computer then please do something now.  It's her world. Please!

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Today will bring unexpected

things. I already know that. I also know that there will be some beautiful things.
Yes, I am off to be a steward in the Handicraft section of the state's annual show again. I'll be down at the showgrounds several times this week.
It's hard work but it is also interesting in a way I never expected. As I was making sure I had all I needed last night I was thinking about the first time I did this.
I had no idea what to expect. I felt as if I was an absolute nuisance. Everyone else was rushing around and seemed to know exactly what they were doing.
I gave a piteous miaou, "What do you want me to do?"
Someone took pity on me. I did what I was told to do it. It was simple. I watched. I found out what else needed to be done. We were actually ready when the judge arrived for the section I was working on. I knew her and that was fine too.
The thing that I still remember most though was how much I managed to learn from watching the judge. She homed in on the first class, picked an item up and - before she had even apparently looked at it - she had turned it inside out and run her fingers along the seams. Then she shook her head and put it to one side. The process was repeated. There were seven or eight garments there and she put them in two piles. Then she went back to one pile and laid them out, right side out. She looked closely at each one and said, "The stitches could be better picked up along the neckline or I'd give that a first. I like this one because...." 
And so it went on. Occasionally she would scribble a little note to the exhibitor on the back of the entry card. 
The other steward was writing the results on the sheets provided. I folded things neatly, ready for later when we would put things into cabinets. 
And all the while I was learning...I was learning to pay real attention to detail. 
This morning I will take some items I have already been given down to the showgrounds. They will be locked into a cabinet ready for  Thursday - the day the knitting and crochet get judged. I have not looked at them yet. That's not my job. I'll wait until the judge is doing her job - and then I will learn some more.
Has my own knitting improved as a result of doing this? Yes, definitely. I've been very fortunate to be given the chance.  

Monday 19 August 2019

Shopping silently

or how to do a supermarket shop without speaking to anyone is the subject of a column in today's paper.  The writer, a now semi-retired columnist, described going into his local supermarket. He did his shopping, used the self-service checkout and spoke to nobody at all. I could do that too - if I bothered to learn how to use the self-service checkout. 
Our local library has self-service checkouts. It is possible to walk in there and speak to nobody.
I went into the "cheap" shop recently. It's a good place to buy things like glue and cheap wrapping paper. The person who served me in there told me she was in danger of losing her job because a "secret shopper" had reported her for not trying to push the stale chocolates on the counter.
I went to the local "untidy" shop - the one which sells everything from manchester to knitting needles and craft items. The woman who served me in there was clearly upset and close to tears. I asked, "Are you okay?"
No, she wasn't. Someone had been incredibly rude to her while she was serving him. He told her to "just shut  the f... up" because he was looking at his phone.  
I don't use the self-service checkouts in the supermarket. Instead I try to know the staff. I do know some of them. I call them by name. I occasionally help the university students who work there. The more permanent staff have told me about their children and grumbled (in a cheerful sort of way) about early starts.  When I am served by one person in particular she will ask, really wanting to know, "How's your dad?"
When I go into the local greengrocer I often get a hug from one of the women. The owner will tell me things like, "Don't bother with those yet Cat but try the...." 
The assistant reported by the "secret shopper" happens to be rather good at her job. A rough diamond? Yes - but she is kind and caring and good with the elderly (of whom there are many).
And when I went back to the  untidy shop the following day to get something for the Senior Cat the same assistant served me. She remembered me from the previous day.
I don't see shopping as a social occasion. I don't particularly like shopping - unless it is for books or yarn. Despite all that I think it is probably a pleasanter experience for me than it is for a lot of people. 
The fishmonger insists on me asking for the fish in Greek. It's a joke between us. I get teased by the boys in the butcher. The boys who work for the greengrocer will give me a wave when they are out and about in the van. The woman who works in one of the dress shops stopped me the other day and told me her mother was about to have an aged care assessment.
How does all this happen when other people can do their entire weekly shop without saying a word to anyone?  I am not particularly friendly or outgoing. I don't like being the centre of attention. I am always nervous about teaching - because I don't want to waste someone else's time. 
I could go on - and I know it might surprise some people who like to think I am a confident, outgoing sort of cat who is absolutely certain people like me. I am not certain about that at all and, in the last three years. my self-confidence has taken another battering that I am still trying to overcome.
But, I know people for one simple reason. I try to be polite. I say "hello" to the people who serve me in a shop. I ask them how they are feeling - and I listen to the answer.  It's not hard to do. It does take a bit of an effort at times but it is worth doing. I've had people about to close their till and go for a break. They have seen me coming and say, "Hello Cat, I'll put you through before I go."  I appreciate that more than I can say.
And at Christmas I'll make them biscuits - just because I want to say "Thank you." 
You have to pay for service with more than money.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Entries for the Royal Show

are already coming in. 
At least they are coming in to me. I usually take some people's  entries with me on the first day of my stewarding duties and then again on the day that the knitting and crochet entries need to be there.
I was given some yesterday. It was more important than usual because there is a train stoppage between  9am and 1pm on Tuesday. This will make it difficult for some people to get to the showgrounds. If they don't drive it would mean buses - not always convenient, especially with awkward loads. (The trains are much more forgiving of all that.) 
I need to be there by 8am so it won't be quite such a problem for me - or it should not be.
At least they have had advance notice of all this. Entries must  be in before 11am.Judging starts then.
And this  year we have another issue. Queen Victoria is celebrating her 200th birthday. HRH has insisted on celebrating for the entire year so we have special classes in the  Handicrafts and Cookery sections. 
Yesterday one of the things given to me was for  one of the special classes. I haven't looked at it. If they are wrapped up I never do look - tempting though it is. I wait until we put items out on the tables ready for the judges to come along an look. 
But, I could hear it. It is a sound that took me back to my early childhood. My paternal grandmother had one of those. It made the same tinkling sound.
You won't guess - why should you - but it is a milk jug cover. The person who has made it has sourced some real glass beads to hold the edge down.
Grandma's was crocheted from white cotton in a simple star pattern. The beads were made from blue Caithness glass. It had belonged to her mother-in-law - my paternal great-grandmother.
I think they must have had a good relationship because I know my grandmother treasured it. 
    "It always reminds me of her. She was a good woman."
As a very small child I would be allowed to gently put the cover on the jug. I think back now to the enormous risk my grandmother was taking because my paws might all too easily have knocked the little milk jug over. But it was one of those little pleasures of being with Grandma. She trusted me to do it.
I thought of this as I pedalled home with this little jug and the jug cover and the other things I had been given.
Someone is trusting me to get those things there safely. I must not let them down or Queen Victoria will not be amused.   


Saturday 17 August 2019

People who put tissues in the wash will be hung

from the clothesline!
I suppose it was my fault. I should have checked the Senior Cat's pyjama pocket as well as all the other pockets. But, in my defence, he doesn't put tissues in his pyjama pocket in the usual way. He uses handkerchiefs.
Whatever, there was a tissue in the wash and it was clear where it had come from because there was a little bit left in the pocket. I am not impressed. It has taken a good ten minutes to get the pieces of tissue off the other clothes.  
I had to do that before I could put the load containing his incredibly dirty trousers into the machine. If you must "garden" in pots then it is wiser not to tip compost all over yourself. Sigh...
It actually made me sympathise, slightly, with parents who have to wash the muddy football gear of their offspring. I actually thought of this and other grubbiness as I dealt with the clothes this morning. I remembered A.... who lived in the next street. He made a living, sort of, out of collecting and sorting scrap metal. He never, and I mean never, showered or washed. He should have been a pale skinned Anglo-Saxon. His skin was tar black with filth. 
    "He must have been mentally ill too," someone said to me recently. She had known him as well. 
No, he wasn't. He was odd but he did have a grip on reality. He wasn't like the mentally ill man we were watching from the far end of the street. It was a cold day but he was standing out there in shorts, a singlet and barefoot. He was shouting at the sky but the sounds made no sense. One of the neighbours had again rung for the mental health unit because he can get violent when he behaves like this.
I don't know what happened but I will check on his 86yr old mother today. He lives in his own unit at the back of her house but he is still a constant worry for her.
    "I'm so tired of it," she told me.
And she shouldn't have the worry, a worry she has had for almost eighty years. He was only seven when he had the first noticeable episode.
Compared with that sort of thing a tissue in the wash is merely irritating. I may not hang the Senior Cat on the line to brush the tissues out after all.

Friday 16 August 2019

"I was wondering if I could

come and have a cup of tea with the Senior Cat?" the voice at the other end of the phone asked.
   "That's sounds like a lovely idea," was my prompt response.
It is a lovely idea for more than one reason. 
The Senior Cat very much likes the person who asked. The person who asked is conscious that the Senior Cat could not go to see him. They can talk about "magic" (conjuring). 
It is also this person's ongoing thanks for the equipment the Senior Cat passed on to him. 
This man makes his living out of being an entertainer. He is one of the very few professional magicians in Downunder - and he is very good at his job. The Senior Cat made equipment for him for many years. This man still uses it. 
He was also the person who refused to allow the Senior Cat to pay him for a small show at the 90th birthday celebrations. (The Senior Cat got even by making him something.) P.... is one of those rare, in my experience, entertainers who is thoughtful of others. He is the only magician/conjurer person of my acquaintance who has brought not just himself but a contribution to morning tea.  Apparently he said he would bring biscuits today too. I wouldn't be surprised if he has made them himself.
I left the Senior Cat to make the arrangements as to "when" P... would come. Unfortunately P... will be here this morning. I have to pedal off to the biennial "breast screen" (not something I am looking forward to in the least). I may not be here before he arrives.
But... I know I can leave him a message and ask him to put the kettle on and make the tea. It's something the Senior Cat no longer feels safe doing.
The Senior Cat was musing over all this last night at the meal table. I remember the Senior Cat's father saying to me, "I've lived too long. All my friends have died before me."
The Senior Cat is also aware that many of his friends are no longer here. His closest friend now has Alzheimer's. His other close friend L... , my godfather, recently broke his hip and has not been able to get over to see us. Getting the Senior Cat anywhere is rather more complex these days.
So P...'s visit is especially welcome. I want to be home in time to thank him for coming. 

Thursday 15 August 2019

We have our first tulip out

and I was not the one to see it.
This is a good thing. The Senior Cat had not put a paw outdoors for several days. It has been too cold, too wet, too windy. He has remained indoors.
Yesterday the sun was actually shining again and he ventured out cautiously.
    "Come and look at this!" he called to me. 
I went out and there it was. It wasn't fully out but there was the wonderful splash of scarlet against the green leaves, the mottled grey of the fence and they greying brown of the timber upright. 
Tulips are not easy to grow here. It doesn't get cold enough in the winter. The bulbs need to go into the refrigerator for months...or you need to buy them from the supplier after they have kept them in one.
Last year was a little chaotic. I did not rescue the bulbs in time. (They need to be lifted at the end of the season and well before it turns hot in summer.) We bought some more...because the Senior Cat loves them and I felt guilty.
It's been worth it.
I did rescue some hyacinths and they poked their heads up and said hello recently. The daffodils and the jonquils looked after themselves despite the heat. 
And yesterday I noticed one tiny little grape hyacinth looking around. It seemed to be asking whether it was worth coming out. I told it yes. I told it, "You give the Senior Cat a great deal of pleasure. This is what flowers in pots are supposed to do when people get too old to dig the ground."
I think it smiled at me...and it brought out a little companion this morning.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Rubbish collection

is an  issue in our street. 
Our street is short and narrow and, leading off it, is an even shorter public roadway into "the Court" - a group of single storey "units". The rubbish compactors don't go into the Court. Those who live there have to wheel their bins out into our street.
And some of them don't. They simply dump their rubbish in other people's bins.
Rubbish collection was earlier than usual yesterday. I went out to discover our general waste bin had been emptied - and then filled again. It was about half full - of someone else's rubbish.
There is a move afoot to fine people for putting the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin. (There are three bins here, one for general waste, one for things which can be recycled, and one for garden cuttings and the like.) I have no problem with getting people to put their rubbish in the right bin. I do have a problem with being fined because someone else does the wrong thing. How they are going to avoid that I have no idea. Will I be expected to sit there, paws tucked neatly in front and tail curled out of the way waiting  until the compactor arrives?
I can remember that, as children, we used to go and watch the "rubbish men" as they went down the street my grandparents lived in. There would be three men. One of them was the driver and the other two were the "runners". They would run to a bin, grab it and sling the contents into the "big bin" before running it back into place. Then they would swing themselves on to a platform at the back and go on to the next lot. We thought it was amazing that they were allowed to do this. It seemed very dangerous to us - and yes, it probably was.
I remember those bins were metal, not heavy duty plastic. Now I also remember the size of those bins. They were small, much smaller than the general waste bin we have now. And people don't have just one bin. They have three. General waste goes out each week. The other two go out on alternate weeks.
There are weeks when we don't put our bins out simply because there is little, sometimes nothing, in them. One of our neighbours is much the same.
We were discussing the new proposal to fine people. We agree it won't work fairly if people get fined for others who dump waste.
But we also wanted to know, 
     "Where does all the rubbish come from?"

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Delays in the court system

are under the spotlight again.
There was a new "system" put in place under the last term of the previous government in this state. It was criticised at the time and it is being criticised again. There is a backlog of serious criminal cases - murder, rape and more - that need to be dealt with but could be years away from a day in court.
In the meantime there are people on remand, on home detention and out on the streets who are yet to appear in court and answer to the charges laid against them.
Even more important there are the victims of these alleged offenders. Some of them are living not just without "closure" but in fear.
The delays can't be put down just to the new system which is in place - although it certainly has some fundamental flaws in it. Part of the problem is the "victim" culture that now seems to surround every defendant.
    "I did it because I was bullied at school..." and "I did it because my marriage had just broken up..." and "I did it because..." Put your own words in there. 
And of road accidents, "I wasn't speeding. It was the condition of the road..." and "Well the speed limit is too low so everyone breaks the law..." and "Someone must have spiked my drink..."
There was a cop car waiting in a favoured location yesterday. They were catching people failing to obey a stop sign. Yes, it is a slightly confusing location but the stop sign applies to the road, not the railway. I always stop there and even then I have nearly been hit a number of times -  by people who don't stop. And of course, if  there was an accident I would, even though I had abided by the law, be held partially responsible - simply because I was there and because the driver would not want to take full responsibility. 
The cop actually smiled at me as I went past. (Believe me, this is rare. Our cops don't smile at people, let alone cats on tricycles.)
But seriously, this delay in the courts system has me thinking. There must be people  around who have degrees in law who are perhaps retired but wouldn't mind a little extra work. What would happen if they put together a few tribunals and had the defendants in any case not involving a possible life sentence appear before them?
Would it work? 
It's not a new idea of course. It is one of the oldest around. It did work once - and justice was done.

Monday 12 August 2019

Why is everyone in such a hurry

to get everywhere?
I, foolishly, posted this question in the comments on an article in our local press. They are considering reducing the speed limit on a short stretch of road near the airport. It is being done with safety in mind - or so they say.
According to those commenting on the article it would apparently cause more problems than it would solve. They were saying that reducing the speed limit would cause more accidents.
I find that hard to believe - but then, I am merely a cat. I ride a tricycle. I prowl slowly relative to the traffic which rushes past me.
And I do not understand this constant need to hurry - or seem to hurry.
I have long since lost count of the number of times I have reached a set of traffic lights ahead of the cars which have rushed past me and then had to brake. I have simply pedalled at a consistent speed and arrived there - aware of my surroundings. Surely all these people who are in such a hurry should be well ahead of me?
And why are they in such a hurry? 
The answer came back to me, "Because, unlike you, some of us have places we need to get to."
Oh, right. I have nowhere to go? Then why am I out and about? I have places to go, things to do, people to see. I am used to organising my life in such a way that I make time to get there. I have to make that time or I simply wouldn't go anywhere. I hate being late for things. I feel it is discourteous.I avoid it if I possibly can. 
But, I still don't rush. I don't rush because I will almost certainly get there at the same time if I don't rush. 
   "I don't have time..." and "I always seem to be in a hurry..." and - well you know the sort of comments people make. All those labour saving devices that are supposed to save time don't seem to help either.
And nobody seems to be able to answer the question,
   "Why is everyone in such a hurry?"

Sunday 11 August 2019

An art exhibition

is not something I normally get to see. All too often they are held in places where (or at times when) I cannot go.
I thought I would not make it there yesterday either. The weather has been against it. The Senior Cat worries if I am out in cold, wet and windy weather. (Given the way people drive in such conditions I can hardly blame him.)
But there were only showers yesterday. I said I'd go in between showers...and I did.
Our state has a "living artists" festival. It is held each year with the idea of promoting the work of local artists and encouraging people to take an interest in various forms of art. 
One of those art forms is embroidery. Embroidery is something that interests me, partly because of the incredible range of art forms within it and the purposes to which they have been put.  I don't do embroidery myself. My paws are too clumsy for that. But, I have read a good deal about it and I like to look at the work of others when I get the chance.
And the Embroiderers' Guild had an exhibition. I had already seen some photographs of some  of the pieces on display but seeing a photograph is not the same as seeing the actual object. There were things I wanted to see.
So, I prowled off after lunch. (The Senior Cat was taking a catnap.)
Ooh yes. I avoided the rain. There were people on duty I knew and I was warmly welcomed. That's always nice. 
Their exhibition was based around the theme of "water". One of the first things I saw was that the materials I had passed on from a friend had been well used. The junior embroiderers had made some marvellous, colourful fish - swimming through ribbons of "seaweed".  Their work is the sort of thing that gives me hope for the future. These youngsters may stop for a while in their teens and twenties but they will likely come back to embroidery again when their lives calm down.
I  prowled on. I am fond of sea horses an there were quite a few of those. There were rock pools, sandy lace, the reef and more. I even  found a knitted rug embellished with surface embroidery. Some items were for sale and I bought a necklace of hand made paper beads. It isn't the sort of thing I would ever wear but I know it will be perfect for my SIL - next year's birthday present! What is more it has the added advantage that I can tell my SIL, "I know the person who made it. She is a friend of mine."
While I was prowling other people came in to look. A couple came in and I wondered whether the female had brought the male as is often the case. No. He was as keen, if not keener, than she was. Halfway around the room I heard him call out to his partner,
    "Look! And it's for sale."
And yes, they bought it.
The Senior Cat and I both like to make things people can actually use. I wouldn't make something simply to hang it on the wall. I always felt a little strange that, when we raffled off the Peace Blanket, the winner wanted me to add tabs so she could hang it on the wall. I had intended it to keep someone's knees warm. But it is as well other people do like to make such things.
I enjoyed looking - and I do like sea horses.

Saturday 10 August 2019

A friend has died

and  I am, for a moment, looking back on fifty plus years. 
We met over the Girl Guides.
That particular Guide Company met at school in the lunch break. Yes, it sounds odd but it was an Extension group - a group for girls with disabilities. I was a "Cadet" at the time -  in training to be a Guide leader.  It was part of my teacher training. I had to do something like that. I wasn't permitted to use my time in the residential nursery school for the deaf so I went off to the school instead. (It's all a long story. I won't repeat it here.)
And it was there I met J..... She was the oldest member of the group - not much younger than me. Even then she was the "sensible" and "reliable" one. She could haul the others into line - and they listened to her. 
We understood one another well from the start. We shared experiences.  "You do it like that?" and "Have you tried it like this?" and "What if we start this way?" all became part of the weekly meeting.  
"Captain" was one of the staff of course but she welcomed my presence and often left me entirely alone because there were so many other demands on her time. That was fine by me. We worked through what the girls - all seven of them - could do. I sought help from my own Cadet leader. One lunch time she took time off work and came and "tested" some of them for what they could do. What a day that was for J....  an award at last. What is more it was awarded on an equal basis with everyone else with the exception of the one thing she found physically impossible. We had, with negotiation, found a substitute.
When I had to cease helping  I was sorry. It had been a challenge and great fun. I knew what I would miss most was the challenge of all of us finding our way around the things we found difficult. J... was always there in the thick of it with her positive, "What if we try it this way?"
    "Don't lose touch,"J.... told me. I knew it wouldn't be easy. It wasn't as if either of us could simply get in a car and go to see the other. But J... was the one to write the first letter.  It was short. Writing was difficult for her. I was typing mine and that was easier.
Over the years we corresponded spasmodically.  Then the school reunions started. The woman who had been the headmistress realised the importance of those  reunions. She sent me an invitation as well. On it was a note, "Cat, please come. You are part of our community."
I don't much care for reunions but I went. J... was there of course. Good to see her? Yes. It was good to see the others as well. We just picked up where we had left off.
It went on like that over the years. We would see one another at the annual reunions. We wrote in between - not often but enough to keep up contact. 
I was abroad when she lost her brother in an horrific accident. All I could do was write to her.
I was abroad when she married too. For a few years she lived in army accommodation. Find it tough? No. She went out of her way to organise a group for the women who were finding it tough. 
The internet came along and, with it, email. It meant we could make contact more easily.  That was just as well because eventually the reunions stopped. The former headmistress was over 90 when she organised the last one. She went into a nursing home. The school's purpose changed and there was nowhere to meet. 
J....and I maintained our contact but she was living more than two hundred kilometres away.
She is being buried in the same cemetery as her parents and her brother.  It's in a small community in the north of the state. I know that's what she wanted. 
So this is goodbye J... Thank you for your friendship - and all you taught me.

Friday 9 August 2019

Chinese expansion into the Pacific

region should concern us. 
The Chinese government got upset yesterday when one of the government's back bench criticised the way China is moving into the Pacific. China is offering "loans" to countries which desperately need money to pay for infrastructure - but who won't be able to repay those loans on China's terms. They are sending in "business" people who are taking over from the local people with promises of employment  - on  Chinese terms. Of course they are not loans in the usual sense. They come at an immense cost.
China has done the same thing in Africa and elsewhere. It is colonisation by stealth. It's subtle and clever. To claim that is not what is happening is nonsense - but the Chinese government will do it anyway.
It has happened here in Downunder too. A cash strapped northern state negotiated the sale of a strategic port to the Chinese. It should not have happened. Getting it back is going to be difficult and expensive. It happened under the watch of a Prime Minister who believed he could speak Chinese well enough to handle the Chinese. That was always going to be a mistake.
And so our man on the back bench said something. He is a former military man. He knows what he is talking about. He has seen the Chinese in action in other parts of the world. He knows what they are doing and how they are doing it. As a back bench man he can still say those things. 
The Prime Minister was being careful yesterday. It is very likely he holds the same views although he is not able to express them.  He knows that China believes it is above any sort of criticism  - even in external affairs.
Friends in Hong Kong are deeply concerned about events there. If, as could well happen, the Chinese government simply moves in and takes over, there will be little anyone can do there. It may well embolden them to make a move on Taiwan as well.  "If the rest of  the world allows the mainland to move further into the Pacific as well then we will be in such a powerful position...." one of my Chinese friends wrote to me.
Is that what we want? Is that why the military man on the bank bench has not been censured by those around him? 
Should we be worried? 

Thursday 8 August 2019

Spelling is under

the spotlight right now.
It began with a mother complaining that her child was being given an American English reading scheme at school. Of course that means the spelling is also American. Not surprisingly her child finds that confusing.
There used to be a time, many years ago, when we were not permitted to import books for children with American English in them. I grew up reading only English - as I understood it. I think I was in my teens before I came across an entire book in American English although the Senior Cat had taught me about the spelling differences before that.
When I was a mere kitten I was also taught to spell. Every week we would have a new page of words to learn in our "spellers". The Senior Cat would also give me, my brother, and the bank manager's son extra words. He was determined we would (a) expand our vocabularies and (b) learn to spell the words involved.  It was one of those things we just did at the time.
At home we had one of those middling size Oxford English Dictionaries - we still have it - and, from the time I could read independently, I was expected to use it. We still have that dictionary although it has had so much use that it is falling to pieces. I have a large two volume version as well. I also have an "American" dictionary.
My computer is set to British English - which is the closest to Downunder English. I need to be aware of all the differences. I don't always succeed. Doubtless readers of this blog find spelling errors as well as grammatical errors on a regular basis. 
    "Does it matter?" I was asked yesterday, "Surely all that matters is that we can make ourselves understood?"
The person who said this pointed out that I could write an entire sentence with no vowels and I would almost certainly still be understood. Perhaps I would but is it the same thing? Isn't there something about the shape of words that matters? If you are going to argue about "centre" and "center" shouldn't you be thinking about "senter" or even "senta" instead? 
The English language is full of inconsistencies. It isn't an easy language to learn. 
But, I don't live in America. I use a different version of English. I need to know about "courgette" and "zucchini" as well as "boot" and "trunk" and any number of other differences.
And children need to be taught to spell. Is it beyond the capacity of the education system to tell children, 
    "This is how we do it. Some people do it differently."

Wednesday 7 August 2019

A blind knitter

needs some help - help to join in.
There is a Shetland Lace group I belong to. Some members of it are doing a "KAL" - or "knit-along". It means they are all making the same pattern and supporting each other as they go.
I don't knit other people's patterns but I am happy to help where I can. Yesterday a message came up from someone in the group. She asked to be taken off the list because everyone else was using a chart for this one and she can't see the charts. She relies on written instructions.
And the wonderful thing is that there was an almost instant outcry of "Don't leave!" and "We'll help!"
And there are ways of helping. Years ago now, before there was any such thing as a computer program for knitters, a totally blind woman wanted to knit a pattern I had written. The pattern is for a "peace blanket". It has the word for "peace" in twenty different languages and the Blissymbol for "peace" in rows in between the words. It isn't an easy knit but R.... wanted to make it. 
I have never met R... and I am not likely to but we corresponded and I put out a request for help on an old knitting group. Yes, people would help. We "translated" the pattern into words for her - and she made the blanket. I didn't see it but then someone else contacted me if R... had made did I think P.... could do it too? She needed a bit of help but she finished it. It was a gift to her very young nephew. He's about twenty now and the blanket went with him when he began  university this year even though it is more lap rug size. 
Now there is a computer program, probably more than one, which will automatically produce the written instructions as you make the chart. We should, with the pattern owner's permission, be able to make the charts again and automatically produce the charts for the blind knitter. I have sent messages off and am awaiting the outcome.
Extra work for other people? Yes. "She shouldn't have said anything and just accepted she couldn't do it?" NO! 
I will shortly be writing another pattern. I will be including the written instructions. The blind knitter has as much right as others to try the pattern and every right to join in.

Tuesday 6 August 2019

Dogs need to be walked

and they need to be walked often.
I was talking to someone on my regular pedalling route yesterday - the one that gets me to the library and the shopping centre.  He is missing having a dog. His last dog died almost two years ago.
   "I'd love another dog but I couldn't walk it any more. That's not fair on a dog."
Yes, he's realistic. He walked his last dog, the one I knew, twice a day. One walk would be short, perhaps just around a couple of suburban blocks. It might be quite brisk too. But the dog knew that the other walk would be much more leisurely. Sometimes the two of them would head off in the car - just to find a new place to explore. His dog was lovely. It was well behaved, friendly without being the sort which is all over you, and alert. 
I really believe a lot of that was down to good training and all the exercise.
Next door we have a chihuahua. The owners tell me it does not need to be walked at all. It is too small for that. I don't agree. It barks a lot. It will attack people entering the property (and, for a small dog, it can do a lot of damage). It isn't trained at all. On the rare occasions it has been taken out for a walk - perhaps once every ten to twelve weeks - it is quieter and calmer.
Can dogs have mental health issues? I think they can. Like humans they need stimulation - the right sort.
Ms W's neighbours were away this last weekend. They could have put their dog in kennels but Ms W and her father cared for it instead. Their own lifestyle precludes a pet of any sort but they could manage the weekend. And off they went. They took the dog exploring on Saturday. The dog knows them well. He was a happy dog after the first hour or so.  Did he understand, "Yes, they will be back on Sunday"? I doubt it but he followed Ms W around the entire weekend. On Sunday they took him to the dog friendly park and played "frisby" and "chase the  ball". He was a very tired dog at the end of it. He slept most of the afternoon, just opened one eye when I took something in to Ms W's father. 
I've been told he was waiting at the gate when he heard his owner's car return. What would he have told his humans if he could speak?
Do people realise how much a dog needs to be walked? Cats can take themselves - even if it annoys some humans - but dogs need help to explore. 

Monday 5 August 2019

When will the "gun lobby" recognise

that guns, if available, do kill people. How did those shooters in yesterday's appalling crimes access those weapons? 
Yesterday a life-long rabid "Labor voter" in this country admitted to me, "I never ever thought I would agree with the Coalition on anything but I will be forever grateful that John Howard brought those gun laws in."
He was of course referring to our much, much stronger legislation about who can own what in the way of guns. Before that happened we had our own tragedy here - the Port Arthur massacre.
People don't need guns here, don't need them unless they live on a farm where there is livestock or work in certain situations. People are nervous around guns, even those who carry them. 
A little while ago I was in the local shopping centre and there were two security guards there. One was filling the teller machine near the coffee shop. The other was watching. His eyes were moving constantly as he watched people going backwards and forwards. His hand was close to the gun in his holster as he watched two men walk towards them. They went on and he visibly relaxed. I would not want his job.  Having a gun does not make it safe.
I have spoken to Americans who carry guns at all times when they are home. They talk about "safety" but it shouldn't be like that. Is it really safer? I doubt it. 
People should be able to do their weekly shop without fear but I wonder if at least some of those involved will ever be able to walk into a Walmart again.  I wonder because I know someone here who worked in a bank. This was before the tougher gun laws came in. The bank was held up. She was one of the tellers on duty at the time. Years later she still cannot walk into a bank. She never worked again. The perpetrators would be long out of prison - if they haven't returned there.
There is still the possibility that guns can fall into the hands of criminals but it is much harder to get a gun legally - and that is the way the vast majority of people want it to be. 
When I came indoors again yesterday I sat here and thought about this. I thought about how very, very fortunate we have been. Yes, there have been some incidents, incidents we find shocking because, since Port Arthur, nobody has walked into a crowded place and started shooting at strangers indiscriminately.  That doesn't mean that it won't happen. It happened all too recently in New Zealand.  But, our laws mean it is less likely to happen.  
I just hope it never happens. 

Sunday 4 August 2019

Severe depression

is physically as well as mentally draining. I really wish people who have never been clinically depressed themselves could understand this.
I am not sure I understand it myself. I don't want to be that depressed myself,  of course I don't. I do want to understand though - at least sufficiently well to know what to do.
A friend of mine, someone of whom I am very fond, is going through a period of severe depression right now. It's hard to watch - but it is much, much harder for her.
I've hugged her and she has responded. She knows I am there for her if she needs me - really knows it. No, it isn't empty words. I would sit there quietly and listen if she wanted to talk - but she can't talk. That's the hard part. She just can't do it. 
She just can't do it. It doesn't matter how much she wants to talk the words won't come. Talking  isn't going to help right now. She knows she is loved and supported but it isn't, for now, making her feel any better. 
And I simply didn't know what to do yesterday. She was coming out of a room full of people yesterday. She had made herself go to a committee meeting. Nobody had said anything wrong or done anything wrong but, she told me, it had all got too much. It was too noisy. She needed quiet. 
Her husband was coming to get her. He's been incredibly supportive but it is hard on him too. 
I had not yet gone into the meeting. I asked her if she wanted me to just stay with her until her husband came. She hesitated and then said, "No. I just want to be quiet."
I hugged her silently and left it at that. But I am still wondering whether perhaps I should not have asked, whether I should just have said, "I'll wait with you. I won't say anything. I'll just be here."
The meeting could have proceeded without me. If the others had not understood then too bad. Some of them would have understood and would have backed me to the hilt if I had not gone in for that reason.
I didn't really want to be there myself but I had to deliver some "housekeeping" sort of messages. It was someone else's birthday. There was cake for afternoon tea. I don't eat cake very often - and never there. People sang "Happy Birthday" to the birthday person. I was conscious of my friend, surely by now collected? I couldn't imagine anything worse about that than hearing people inside singing while she was out feeling as if the sun was never going to shine again.
There was something else happening after the cake and cups of tea but I really didn't need to be there. I just couldn't face it. I left. 
No, I am not depressed. Like everyone else there are times when I feel "down". Right now it is hard to watch my beloved Senior Cat struggling but I know that this is not the sort of depression my friend feels.
I just wish I could help.

Saturday 3 August 2019

"Try something different,"

I suggested.
A friend is knitting the same cardigan pattern for the third time. She doesn't like it and she told me, "It's boring but I know how to do that one". 
I know she will finish it but she gets no pleasure from her knitting. It is something she simply believes she should do. She makes socks for her husband. The pattern is always the same. The only thing that varies there is the colour - grey,  black, navy or brown. His  pullovers are the same.
Her work is beautifully crafted. Her knitting is far better than most of us could ever dream of but she still lacks confidence that she can do anything else.
Her husband asked me, "Can you do something about it? I'd love one of those things with the twists in it - you know, like rope. I'm sure she could do it."
I am too.  I left a little pile of Aran patterns for him at his place of work. I put them in one of those big yellow envelopes with nothing more than his name on the outside. He likes all of them and wanted to know which one would be the simplest to make. I showed him.
Yes, that one is particularly nice! 
And where does he buy the wool? I told him that too. He ordered the lovely pale grey. 
When it arrived he had a moment of doubt. He was planning on "just asking her" but was worried she might think he wasn't happy with what she had made.
So, yesterday I dealt with the matter. I arrived. He pulled the pattern and the yarn out of the boot of his car and we went inside.
I told good her knitting was and then I told her how much he wanted an Aran but was worried about asking her in case she thought he didn't appreciate what she had made for him over the years.
She looked at me in absolute silence. I pulled the pattern out nervously and said, "He'd like this one...and here's the wool. If you run into trouble then I'll help."
She went on looking at me for a moment and then she looked at her husband.
I prowled out while they were hugging each other. Somehow I think he might get the Aran he wants - and much more. 

Friday 2 August 2019

Volunteering seems to be

going out of fashion.
I was in the local charity shop yesterday. I was called in to do something for which there is an occasional need. The manager there knows that she can call on me if necessary. She also knows that I can't volunteer on a regular basis.
   "You do enough," she told me. I am not sure I do even though I try. 
I am also conscious that the people who work there are not getting any younger. One of them, P... is 92. She spends a day a week there. It is something she has done since she retired thirty-two years ago.  She is still physically able, alert, capable and an information resource that will be missed when she finally gives up.  
But there are supposed to be younger people there. They are not exactly "volunteers". They are people on "Newstart" - or unemployment benefits. To get "Newstart" you need to be actively looking for work (and be able to show it) and you also need to be doing some "voluntary" work if at all possible. There is, supposedly, a queue of people who "want to volunteer".  They are told it will look good on their job applications. 
It might look good on their job applications if they had been volunteering from their school days.  There was a boy in this district who desperately wanted a job. He knew he would need one the moment he turned sixteen. His family was going to need the little extra he would be able to earn working in perhaps the supermarket or the greengrocer - both of which make a point of employing young students. When he started high school he went to the then manager of the charity shop and told her what he wanted to do and why. She listened, wondered if it would actually work and told him to come and talk to her again at the end of the term if he was really interested.  If he came she would find things for him to do.
He went back. He volunteered until he could get a paid job and help his family out. Now he still does odd jobs for the shop if he gets a chance because the organisation helped him. He will probably volunteer in one way or another all his life. He is all too rare.  
But what of all those other people who "volunteer" only because they must? Almost all of them give up. They "can't be bothered". They don't like the work and more. Some of them have complained to me about all this while we are sitting there filling out forms and I am helping them write applications. Those people almost certainly won't make the best employees.I would not want to employ them.
Why should a 92yr old still feel she "must" be there on a very cold morning when a 19yr old who is unemployed resents being there at all?
Could we start getting much younger people, those just starting high school perhaps, into the volunteering habit? Would that help? We need volunteers.

Thursday 1 August 2019

"How to write instructions"

or perhaps "How to write instructions for dummies" or "Teach yourself how to write instructions."
There is a need for a book like this. 
I do not like writing instructions. I do not like writing patterns. In my real life work I often need to write instructions. I don't like doing it but it has to be done. 
Those instructions are often very simple and I try to keep them in very plain English. There are several reasons for this. Not everyone I work has English as a first language. The  instructions will sometimes be translated into another language using symbols. The instructions might also be directly translated into another language. People have different ways of reading and understanding what they read. 
I don't always succeed - although the humans in my life are kind and tell me that most of the time they do understand.
And then...sometimes I need to write a knitting pattern. Oh. That's another situation altogether. Knitting has a language unique unto itself. Where else do you find things like "k2tog" and then "k2togtbl" or "ssk" or "psso"? And that is just a start.
I have a simple computer programme which will "crunch the numbers" - or tell me how many stitches I might need to cast on. (I say "might" because I will invariably need to do something different and all I can hope for is an approximate guide. If I was not such a lazy sort of cat I could do this for myself I suppose.) It will also give me an approximate idea of how much yarn I might need to use.
Yesterday I contemplated a new ball of yarn. It is a single, lonely and lost ball of yarn. It looked at me hopefully and said, "Hat? If you make me into a hat then I can go and live with someone and be useful."  I told the yarn I would make it into a hat while I contemplate the next and more  complex project. 
Of course the computer programme does not do hats. I had to work it out for myself. I looked at patterns for knitted hats on the internet. There were a lot of them. None of them were any help. The yarn told me, "Start me from the top down then you can stop when you get to the end of me." Right.
I started. The yarn told me, "You are supposed to be writing the pattern so you can do it again."
I told the yarn, "There is just one ball of you."
We are arguing. Does the yarn have any idea how much I hate writing patterns? Where is the book on "how to..." when I need it?