Tuesday 31 December 2019

The last post

will be played tonight - played for the year 2019. We head into the "twenties" tomorrow. 
The year 2019 has been an "up and down" sort of year and I am not particularly looking forward to the rest of today. It's "the one day of the year" as far as I am concerned. (Those of you who know Alan Seymour's play will understand.
I wonder what the "twenties" will bring? The Senior Cat isn't old enough to remember the "roaring twenties" well. He was born in 1923 and has only vague, boy like memories of that time. For him it is more about starting school and going to the beach. 
His parents were not party goers although Hogmanay was celebrated at the Caledonian Society - where my grandfather was a member of the committee and, I think, the treasurer, for many years. There was folk dancing there - ball room dancing not being quite the thing for the Presbyterians.  My grandfather could play the violin and "do a great sword dance" according to his sister. My great aunt would play the piano, another great-uncle played the pipes. Other people helped to supply the music. There were sandwiches, cakes, cups of tea and a bit of whisky was brought in - "just for the night".
The Senior Cat remembers this only vaguely. I heard more about it from his mother. My paternal grandmother had been young, lively, and fit back then. She was a "stay at home" mother of course, like so many mothers were. That didn't mean she didn't work hard. She did. 
The Senior Cat can't remember them entertaining people as such.He does remember "strange people" coming for meals occasionally. They would have been the young sailors my grandfather would bring home for a meal. He was meticulous about asking my grandmother first because there had to be enough food available. Once that was done however he would invite a lonely young sailor home for a meal. They were often Muslims. Heading for the nearest pub was not an option for them. Grandpa's mother had been doing the same thing for years. The young men would simply turn up at her door. They knew, by word of mouth, that she would listen, give advice and help. Ship's captains were not above sending someone who needed the advice of a mother to her. My grandmother was expected to do some of the same. She was a good listener.
I thought of all those things this morning. One hundred years ago my grandmother was starting out on married life. She would have been to her first city ceilidh with my grandfather. They were hoping for a large family but that didn't happen.
What did happen in the twenties was the birth of two boys, the elder of whom is the Senior Cat. That is something for which to be grateful. Today though is really just another day.

Monday 30 December 2019

Activity packs for children

are something I mentioned a little while back. One of the regular readers of this blog sent me a message asking me to say something more about them.
The first thing to say is that they should be "fun". The second thing to say is that they should be "age appropriate".
Those things are surely obvious. 
After that there are things that I regard as essential. Yes, the child(ren) in question might already have such things around the house but the activity pack needs to contain them.
(1) sellotape on a roll attached to a holder where you can satisfyingly tear "just a little bit" or "a really big bit" off when you need it.
(2) envelopes - because you need to be able to put things in them
(3) paper and card of various shapes and sizes (save the off cuts all year)
(4) things to put on the paper - mostly "stickers" but sticky backed felt and glitter foam and foam pieces are all useful
(5) things to write with - depending on age pencils, crayons, felt pens, a biro or two
(6) something to rub out "mistakes" i.e. an eraser
(7) a sharpener for the inevitable breakages
(8) a cheap model kit, finger puppet kit or something similar if you can find one
(9) a colouring book - for older children find one that has additional activities
I add food - small packets of sultanas and a snack size pack of reduced sugar jelly dinosaurs went into the last packs along with savoury biscuts and (confession) a chocolate frog.
And this time there were "high bouncing" balls and a spiral back notebook each. I put all of them into a reusable nylon shopping bag - each a different colour.
I gathered the things together over the year as I saw things at reduced prices. Everything I bought was safe for even the four year old to use. 
Expensive? No - and at twice the price the peace, quiet and sheer pleasure of watching the kittens at work would have been worth every cent.

Sunday 29 December 2019

Please water your street trees

because they get thirsty too.
Some years ago there was a new street tree planted in front of our house. When it went in I happened to be home so, sometimes being a good little cat, I asked,
     "How often do I have to water it?"
The man planting it gave me a rather odd look and then said,
     "You know that's the first time anyone has ever asked me that question."
He then said he would water it in there and then and told me when I should water it again and how much. I have forgotten the exact instructions but he said that when it reached a certain size I  could then simply keep an eye on it.
     "They appreciate a bit more than we are scheduled to give them in the heat."
We now have a strong, healthy, shade giving street tree. The birds were sitting in it this morning waiting for me to top up the bird bath. (They also had fun diving through the water from the hose.)
I looked up and down our street this morning and all but one tree was looking reasonably perky - given the weather. I put a bucket in the tricycle basket, filled it with water and took it down to the little tree. It is quite new. It needs a bit more water. I gave it a bucket of water. 
As I was doing so P... who lives opposite came out and saw what I was doing.
     "Leave it Cat. I'll give it some more in a moment. They're still away."
So the occupants have apparently been watering it.
But how many people think that a street tree might need to be watered? In this heat they do need to be watered. Tomorrow is going to be another day of extreme temperatures and high winds. There should be a cooler day to follow but the temperature is going to rise again. So far summer has been much hotter than usual. No, it isn't "global warming" as such. A man who works for the "Weather Mob" (his description) tried to explain this to me the other day. 
     "Not much to be done about it but endure it," he told me, "Mind you we should be planting more trees. They help a lot."
So, I'll help the trees...and I like to think that faint rustling sound was our street tree saying, "Thank you."

Saturday 28 December 2019

It is hard to breathe this morning

and I wonder yet again how people manage to live in the tropics. We have had one small shower of rain - so small it will not even register on the official gauges. All it has left us with are a clearing sky and very high humidity.  At 8:30am it is already 31'C outside.
I do not do well in this sort of weather. The Senior Cat does not do well in this sort of weather. 
There are still 44 units working on the big fire in the hills behind us. Those in charge are worried that the weather will deteriorate and cause it to increase in size again. They are concerned that other fires may take hold.
And in all of that arsonists struck a school. They managed to destroy the administration block and some vital facilities. There is smoke damage to at least six more classrooms. The principal and the teachers are back at work now trying to clear the mess in the smoke damaged classrooms and work out how to carry on when school resumes at the end of January.
Many years ago arsonists hit the school my mother was the principal of. They didn't manage to do quite so much damage but I saw the devastated looks on the faces of the small children when I went out to help clear up the mess. They had lost things they treasured - like their library. It was "replaced" but it was never the same. People lost heart. It was not the first time it had happened in an area where there were a lot of social problems. It was very hard for the parents to raise any money for the "extras". The children simply had to go without.
I wonder what the arsonists were thinking? What sort of pleasure did they get from their actions? 

Friday 27 December 2019

They are cutting down trees

to make way for an "upgrade" to a main road so that people can shave a few minutes off the time it takes them to travel to work. 
The trees are mostly river red gums that  have been growing there for more than two hundred years. Most of them are probably older than the year in which the first white settlers came. They might be four, five or six hundred years old.
It is an absolutely stupid thing to be doing. The ever increasing demand for "shorter travel times" and "increased speed limits" on the main roads is not achieving anything. Our road toll has gone from 75 for the whole of last year to 108 so far this year but people are still demanding these things. They claim "boredom" and "frustration" are causing the accidents. 
Is cutting down trees and shaving three minutes off the time it takes to get to work going to solve the problem? 
We lost a river red gum in the local park a couple of years ago. It went naturally. It is fortunate that it fell into the park and not into the road. If it had fallen into the road or into any other direction it would have done immense harm . We mourned the loss of the tree but I was told that it was at least five hundred years old.  "It had a good life," someone told me, "I'm just sad that the birds have lost their homes as well."
And that is part of the problem. It isn't "just a tree". It's part of an entire ecosystem which is being lost every time they cut one of those trees down. We have lost so many trees up in the hills because of the fires. We have lost more than two thousand koalas and will lose many more when they succumb to their burns, injuries and lack of food. There are other native animals and birds who have received severe burns and other injuries or succumbed to smoke inhalation. The last thing we need to do right now is cut down any healthy tree.
People should be getting up a few minutes earlier instead of cutting trees down. 

Thursday 26 December 2019

There was too much food

but then there usually is. I have grown to expect that. 
Yes, Christmas Day.
In deference to the Senior Cat's energy levels Middle Cat did not pick  us up  until noon. By then I had done two loads of washing and hung it out, remade the Senior Cat's bed with fresh sheets, helped him have a shower, made a loaf of bread, brought the washing in again because it was hot enough for it to be dry.  I had also given the Senior Cat his Christmas present - two books and a pack of origami paper. He had given me his - a book voucher. The Senior Cat ate a bowl of cereal and, knowing what was to come, went back to sleep for a while. I wrote a very bad story for the blog  post. (You were lucky to get one at all so please don't criticise it too much or the cathedral cats may go on strike.)
Then Middle Cat was there and we were away to the other side of the city. Middle Cat's SIL lives about 35 minutes away by car and Middle Cat's driving style. My BIL was already there. He and a couple of other males were responsible for the traditional barbecue. There were only nineteen this time. Things have changed. It used to hover around thirty. The Senior Cat is now by far the oldest. He has somehow outlived all the elderly Greeks.
Middle Cat, Middle Cat's partner and I all wondered how the Senior Cat would manage the day. We needn't have worried. If it is his last Christmas Day like that then it will have been a good one. 
It will be a good one because, far from ignoring him, the younger generation - now all in their twenties - descended on him. They took it in turns. They told him what they had been doing during the year. They answered his many questions, repeating themselves when his hearing failed him. They showed him photographs and videos on their phones. 
While the Senior Cat sees his grandsons he does not see the rest of these young people during the year. They scarcely know him but they included him. As one of them was leaving to pick up his (very serious) girlfriend he said to me, "I had a great time with your Dad. He's so interested in everything, so full of questions."
Mmm...perhaps that is part of it. He is still a "curious cat" at nearly 97.
I am very thankful for those young people who took the trouble to talk to the Senior Cat, every single one of them. I left them to it, helped with putting food out - buffet style.
And today I have no need to cook or even prepare much food. There are lovely left overs! Nothing has gone to waste. Thank you to my adopted family. Middle Cat did more than well when she married into yours.

Wednesday 25 December 2019

The Cathedral Cats

had all settled down in a semi-circle around Bach. A Christmas story?  He purred at them.
They had worked hard today. Bach had sent the youngest and most agile of them up to clean the stained glass windows. The humans had been in of course but Bach could see the tiny marks that only a cathedral cat's tail could polish away. It was a job none of the cats ever minded doing. They liked to lie in the sun coming through the glass and watch their pale grey fur change colour. Bach felt sorry for the cats who lived outside the cathedral and could not see colour the way they did.
But it was Decani of course who had found something. He had finished cleaning his window first. Then he had climbed carefully down the wall and come padding slowly over to Bach. He had waited for Bach to tell Matins and Vespers to "clean right around the lead please" before asking,
     "Who is it?"
     "You know that. It's St Andrew."
     "No, the cat."
There was a cat by the feet of St Andrew. Decani liked St Andrew. He just knew St Andrew would have fed him fish. He had never been close enough to the window to see the cat before.
It had been years since Bach had looked at it that closely but he remembered. Of course he did!
    "It's the cat from the manger," he told Decani, "When you have all finished your work I'll tell you the story of what he did when he left."
That made them work!
Now they were there and Bach told them,
    "You know about the Three Wise Men?"
The cats looked at him.Yes, of course they did. 
    "Well they weren't really very wise at all."
Bach could see Decani thinking about this. With a twitch of his left ear he told Decani to keep quiet. The little cat had almost certainly worked it out for himself.
   "But they brought presents!" Matins protested. The cats liked the presents they got each year.
    "Yes, they did," Bach agreed, "but they were not useful presents."
    "Like tuna," Cantori said. He liked tuna.
    "No. They gave him gold. Joseph might have been able to buy something useful with that but they had to go to Egypt," Bach said. He was a bit vague about all this. All the cats knew what gold was because there was some in the cathedral. They thought it looked nice but they had to keep it clean.
    "And frankincense..." Vespers said. He had managed to learn the word this year and used it on every possible occasion. 
    "Useless stuff," Bach told him, "Kittens can't eat it or play with it and human kittens can't either."
     "Myrrh then?" Cantori asked. 
     "I wouldn't give Myrrh to a kitten!" his mother Cadenza sounded shocked.
      "Well that wasn't very clever of them," Matins told Bach.
      "They weren't wise," Vespers says.
      "They were not in the least bit smart," Cantori said, "Not like cats." He sounded smug.
       "No, they were really wise," Decani said.
       "What makes you think that?" Bach asked Decani. He thought the little cat might have worked it out.
        "They had their - all the mothers and sisters and that sort of human with them - their hair, no their harem. It was the harem who did the sensible things wasn't it?"
         "That's right. The cat at St Andrew's feet is the cat who went to find them. He told his litter brother who had travelled with them. The cats pulled out all the necessary things and the harem was smart enough to know there was a reason for it. They took all the things the baby needed. If the wise men had not listened to their harem then nothing would have happened."
     "Which is why Bach always listens to me," Cadenza told them. Decani looked at his parents and hoped that the cat in the window had been given some fish.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

How to wrap a parcel

is a subject which should be on the school curriculum.
I prowled into the local "cheap" shop yesterday because I needed some sellotape - "sticky tape". It is cheaper there than it is in the supermarket or the stationery shop. 
I did actually get what I wanted too. It was mostly because most people seemed to want tape with fancy patterns on it. There were still people buying rolls of cheap Christmas paper too...and Christmas lights...and Christmas decorations...and last minute presents.
    "I've been through rolls of this stuff," someone said. She took two more packs from the shelf. There wasn't much left there.
I just nodded. Someone else grabbed some. A man reached out for a large plain roll and took down a pack of two small rolls for me.
    "Is that all you need?" he asked.
    "Yes, these are going into activity packs for the neighbour's children."
He looked at me. I explained...a bag with sellotape, glue, cardboard, paper, envelopes, a colouring book, pencils, a sharpener, "stickers" and so on. As I was explaining he looked more and more interested.
Then he said, "Look, can you spare a minute? It's a fantastic idea. I'll just grab the boss."
"The boss" turned out to be his wife. He came back talking to her. She smiled at me and said, "If I have the right idea..."
It turns out their Christmas plans have had to change because of the fires. There will be children they don't know at the venue and they felt they should get something but had no idea what as they don't know the children. 
"The boss" made a quick call to check on the ages of the children and then with my help filled two small paper carry bags with a variety of craft like items.
While we were doing this her husband had gone to another part of the store.
"I know what he's getting. He does it every year. He gets string to tie up his parcels. He has absolutely no idea how to wrap a parcel and I love him for it. He buys sticky tape but then he adds string in case things come undone."
I smiled. I remember my paternal grandfather working in the dining room on Christmas Eve. He would be muttering to himself as he endeavoured to wrap his parcels and stuck things to himself. For an otherwise manually dexterous man he was not a skilled wrapper of parcels. He might have been better off with string. 
The woman I had been speaking to suddenly reached out for some Christmas wrapping "string". 
    "The kids are old enough to learn to use that....and perhaps I can teach them to play "Cat's cradle" with it too if they get bored."
They won't be bored and they will have had a lesson in "Parcel Wrapping 101". 
Everyone needs to learn that.


Monday 23 December 2019

The importance of pets

should not be underestimated.
There is a letter in this morning's paper from someone I know. He is moaning about the amount of shelf space given over to pet food in the supermarket. He goes on to complain about the nuisance value of cats and dogs kept as pets.
I doubt he and his wife have ever had a pet of any sort. 
When I was at university one of the staff had a dog wished upon the family. 
   "I hate walking the dog!" I was told.
Really? The entire family fell in love with the dog. It was a "mutt"  of indeterminate breed who followed them around devotedly. When one member of the family became very ill the dog stayed by his side until the man died. The person who told me she had hated walking the dog - and had obviously not cared much for it at all - said, "I am grateful to that animal."
We have had cats over the years, the last two some time ago now.  The Senior Cat had major surgery when they were alive. When he came home and was still spending most of the time on the bed they moved in during the day. These two cats seemed to "know" he needed them there, just as a previous cat had slept on the desk Middle Cat studied at. If she tried to pet him then he would flick his tail and growl - as if to say, "Get on with your work human. I am here to supervise not to be played with."
Since his spaniel died a man on my pedalling route has not been the same. He has no reason to get up in the morning. He admitted this to me recently.  It is obvious he needs a dog.
Not much further away there is a man with an assistance dog. He has PTSD - post traumatic stress - after serving in Afghanistan. He copes much  better with life now he has the dog.
In the next suburb a young boy with severe epilepsy is much safer now that his new dog can alert his parents to his seizures.
There is a cat who sits quietly with an elderly couple until someone arrives to help them in the mornings. There is another who seems to be asleep but is watching a woman who loves to garden but is prone to falls. She tells me the cat has gone to her husband more than once when it has been "worried".
These pets are valuable. They serve a purpose.
I know there will be pets given as Christmas presents. Some will be abandoned when people realise that, like humans,  work is required to care for them. That always deeply disturbs me. We don't know how animals "think" or "feel" but their reactions tell us they do. I am not interested in "rainbow bridges" or words about "forever homes". I simply want people to care. 
I don't want them to be like the man complaining about the space pet food takes up in the supermarket. That's space that should be filled the way it is filled. Other people's choice of pet might not  be mine but they are the reason some people have to get out of bed in the morning.  And that is important.

Sunday 22 December 2019

Fire updates

are being monitored in this house for two reasons.
One is that I help to keep several people who need communication assistance in emergencies informed. I also need to be available as their communication assistant should they need it.  It was needed when the big fire started in the hills behind us. I... was home alone and frightened as he could see flames. His brother, down in the city, was unaware of how bad the situation was and could not be contacted immediately. I... sent me a message and I made a call. But, small communities being what they are, someone was already on the way to him "just in case".  It was just as well. They have lost an outbuilding and the fire came too close to the house for comfort.  As I...'s brother told me yesterday, "It's been unbelievably horrendous but our community is fantastic with I...."
That's a good thing.
And then my brother called yesterday. He knows I have been keeping an eye on their fire updates. They were safe as long as the fire did not come over the hill...and now it is over the hill. When he contacted us the massive fire front was about five kilometres from their home. They were, sensibly, getting out.  They were actually in their car driving into the city where they can stay with my niece. Her husband has recently finished building their new home and it includes a "granny flat" intended for use by his mother in the coming years. It means my brother and his partner will have their own space until it is safe to return...if they can return. 
They may be lucky. My brother, very aware of fire danger, had put everything in place that he could. Major fires like that are also completely unpredictable. They can burn almost an entire street - and leave one house untouched.
All we can do is wait - and think of those who have lost everything.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Criticising the Prime Minister

is a game isn't it? It's fun!
Or is it? 
I know we all like to criticise the Prime Minister of the day - and that some Prime Ministers get criticised more than others. I know it can also depend on which side of the political fence you sit how you will feel about any one Prime Minister or another.
But...yes, you knew that was coming didn't you, there is also such a thing as being fair and reasonable.
The present Prime Minister of Downunder has been severely criticised for taking his family on holiday in the middle of the catastrophic bushfires in another state. (Ours here didn't seem to warrant a mention in this instance.) The media kept telling us it "shows a lack of leadership".
Some years back a previous Prime Minister of Downunder, a certified firefighter, went out with his crew mates and actually fought a fire. The media said it was "just a photo opportunity", indeed tried to suggest he had only been out there for as long as it had taken for the media to take photographs.
So, what's going on?
Fire fighting is a state responsibility, not a federal one. The present Prime Minister knows nothing about fighting fires. He has admitted, "I don't hold a hose." He took his wife and two girls off for a short break and left the Deputy Prime Minister, a rural man who knows much more about fighting fires, in charge.  He was also at the other end of a phone, able to be contacted at any minute. 
I am not sure what people expected him to do if he was here. My own work has taught me that, in a crisis situation, the last thing people want is politicians putting in an appearance. Those involved simply want to get on with the job. 
He has come back under pressure and will go straight to a state's headquarters. Why? 
People are saying it is "too little, too late" and that he is in "damage control mode". Perhaps he is. I don't know. I do know that right now people are too  busy to want meetings with him.
Oh and he has also been blamed for the fires occurring in the first place. That they might have been caused by lightning strikes, fallen power lines, arsonists, people who throw live cigarette butts or use angle grinders and solid fuel barbecues on a day of high fire danger is  apparently something he is solely responsible for. He is also responsible for the climate change which causes the fires because his government is doing "nothing". 
All this is nonsense of course but the media loves it - just as  they had a field day criticising and poking fun at the Prime Minister who had been a volunteer fire fighter for years and was out there doing something. In past history the media criticised another Prime Minister for actually picking up a spade during another crisis too.
It seems the media simply find something to criticise if they can - particularly if they don't care for the political leaning of the Prime Minister in question.
All this interests me greatly because there is a former  Prime Minister and a former Leader of the Opposition who should both be facing a very serious criminal charges in the courts - separate charges and very different crimes. The media has barely mentioned these things. The police are withholding evidence and the public prosecutors who should be dealing with it have simply declined to take action. If the matters did go to trial the charges may or may not be proven but they are issues which should be tried in the courts. The media is remaining strangely silent about these things. It is not for fear of libel cases being  brought against them because there are ways to report such things without any likelihood of such action being taken.
I have no doubt that those putting pressure on the present Prime Minister feel pleased that they have been able to cause him to abandon his short break. They will claim it is action "in support of those who are out there fighting the fires".
Perhaps it is but the media needs to report other things that are also in the public interest...and those "protesting" outside the Prime Minister's residence should be out there  helping to fight the fires.

Friday 20 December 2019

A "catastrophic" fire day

has been forecast. 
Like a good little cat I went out and watered some plants this morning but I wonder whether they will survive another day of 46'C heat and, this time, winds with it.
We live just below the foothills. While I was watering I looked up and thought of all the housing which is tucked into the bush land up there. 
It's a crazy place to live. More and more people have moved there for "the life style". This is supposed to be "quiet" and "surrounded by natural beauty". The reality is that it is neither. The increased population means it is no longer quiet. Even more serious is that the ideas people have about "natural beauty" mean that they are making a mess of the landscape. They think it means you should not remove anything. The fire load up there is horrendous.
If we are lucky there won't be a catastrophe up there - but it will be luck and not good management.
So far we have escaped the appalling conditions in the neighbouring states. My brother lives in a semi-rural area. He and his partner have a "fire plan". Their car is packed with a few essentials. They are on "watch and act" still but we all know that can change in a matter of minutes.
We grew up in rural areas. We know the danger of fire better than people who have never had any contact with one. I can remember the frightening feeling of not being able to breathe properly and the fear of "what if they don't manage to put the fire out before it gets to the house?" I remember standing in the school's domestic science unit in the early hours of the morning making sandwiches. That was after my brother and I had helped to get the school sheep into our back garden, filled the overhead tank and were spraying them and the house to stop any embers catching.  I was fifteen and the perspiration dripping off me was nothing compared with the real exhaustion of the men who came in to eat the sandwiches. 
They would spray retardant now but there was no way to do that back then. What we did was in no way extraordinary. There were boys my brother's age fighting along with the men at the front line on an island with a very limited water supply. I doubt they would be allowed to do it now but things were very different back then.
And what really stuns me is that some of the fires have been deliberately lit or started to sheer stupidity. They lost forty houses yesterday alone, some of them not that far from my brother's home. They have lost thousands of square kilometres of animal habitat too.
Somebody told me yesterday, "The bush will grow again Cat."
I just wanted to walk away.  The person who said that has absolutely no idea.

Thursday 19 December 2019

Drilling for oil in the Bight

is something I would much rather they did not do. I would much prefer they left the whales to swim undisturbed.
It is going to happen of course. It is also better that it happens the way that is planned rather than we be invaded by a hostile nation wanting the oil they think is there.
All this has made me think still more about "renewable" energy sources.
We have solar panels on the roof of the house. There are two lots. One is for the hot water system and the other is what we "feed" back  into the grid. We are trying to do our bit for the environment although I wonder about the energy and waste from the production of the panels. 
The panels for the hot water work well. We can tell that. On a sunny day the hot water is much warmer. There is actually a limiting device to stop the water from over-heating. I am sure that has been working to capacity for the last couple of days. It will be doing the same today and tomorrow - forecast temperatures of 44'C and 45 'C will see to that.
We have to assume that they others work as they are intended to work. My BIL, who knows about such things, has checked them. We get a tiny rebate on our electricity bill.
We are going to need it. I have had the air conditioning on trying to keep the Senior Cat comfortable in the heat. He likes it warmer than I do but he does need to be cooler than it has been. I have set the temperature to his comfort, not mine. He slept through most of yesterday and may well do the same today and tomorrow. 
He was reminiscing last night. His mother had nothing more than a small personal fan. His father had nothing at all. If his father wanted to cool down he would head for the beach, a few minutes walk away. His father swam year round until the last few years of his life. Then, even in a nursing home on the beach front, a staff member would see him across the road and he would "take a dip" in summer. When he had finished he would patiently wait for someone to come along and see him across the road - essential because his eyesight had failed to the point where he could not see well enough to do so safely.
He couldn't do that now. The beach is no longer the clean white beach we children spent so many hours on in the summer. There are seemingly endless metres of seaweed and, with it, snakes. It is no longer safe. "Development" has done this.
It makes me think of drilling for oil in the Bight and what it might do to the environment in which the whales and other marine creatures live. "Development" is not always for the better.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

The Prime MInister is responsible

for lightning strikes. He is also responsible for people who fail to clear the dry vegetation around houses. He is responsible for people who throw out live cigarette butts. He is responsible for people who use angle grinders and other equipment likely to cause a fire. He is responsible for arsonists. He is responsible for drought. He is also responsible for climate change.
If you believe the media and the trolls you will believe all that.You will also believe that preventing bush/wild fires is a simple matter. 
I thought of all that this week because of something else entirely. The Prime Minister has been criticised for taking a short holiday out of the country. Apparently he should be here directing operations with respect to the various catastrophic fires around the country.
There is actually very little, if anything, he could do. He is not an expert in fire fighting. He knows far less about it than a previous Prime Minister who has been out there actually fighting fires. The present Prime Minister will take advice. He is at the other end of a mobile phone if a national decision needs to be taken. Fire fighting is a state responsibility, not a national one. 
And, like everyone else, the Prime Minister needs a break - even if  it just a short one. He won't work effectively unless he has one.
The same has to be said of someone else I know. Ms W's father has a high level legal role. He works very long hours, often under a lot of pressure. He should be taking his annual break right now. The election in the UK and certain other matters within the EU mean that he is still working. He is in Europe now. When he was told he would need to go he pointed out that school holidays were about to start and that he had planned a getaway with Ms W. Each year they try to go somewhere. He leaves work behind for a bit. They spend time together. Often it has been spent at a beach somewhere with a pile of books. It is what they both want. 
I thought it might change as Ms W has grown older but she seems to be more certain than ever that this is how they spend their holiday together.
So, this year? Ms W's father needs to be there right up until Christmas and then after Christmas. Some things may close down but others, things the rest of us usually know nothing about, will continue to be worked on. Ms W needed to go somewhere but her father was not prepared to simply pack her off to the only family they have. The nation's capital is no place to spend Christmas with people you really don't know well and don't particularly like. "My aunt's okay I suppose but her boys aren't." 
When Ms W's father said he at least wanted to delay his trip long enough to get Ms W there his boss had another solution.  He is already aware that Ms W is a weekly boarder at school - and sometimes needs to stay weekends - because of her father's work load. Somehow he pulled strings and Ms W left for Europe yesterday. She is supposedly in the care of another staff member headed for the same destination. When I met his wife yesterday she told me, "It is a matter of her looking after him, not him looking after her."
Ms W has been to Europe before - Switzerland and Italy last year. This trip was unexpected but still welcome. "I'd go to the middle of the Sahara if I can be with my Dad." 
At first she will be staying with people her father and I both know. I also know that they will give her a good time and that she will be a sensible and thoughtful guest. Her father will have a short time away from work over the Christmas and New Year period. He needs it and he needs her as much as she needs him. 
I thought of this as I was reading criticism of the Prime Minister for being absent. Is it really the wrong thing to take a short break and come back refreshed and ready for another year of hard work? Is it really wrong to do that if there is nothing you can usefully do? It seems to me that this is more about politics than reality.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Two standard drinks

a day and not more than ten standard drinks in a week are what the new "safe" guidelines for alcohol are now saying. They are also saying that anyone under eighteen years of age should not drink alcohol at all.
I saw this yesterday. It was reported in the paper this morning....and tomorrow morning there will be a slew of letters complaining about it.
Now I will have to confess here that I don't drink alcohol at all. I don't use vinegar either. The very good reason for this is that I happen to be allergic to something in them. It won't kill me but the reaction is sufficient to prevent me from even wanting to try. The Senior Cat doesn't drink alcohol either - by choice. It's just not his "thing" at all. He is the cat of Scots descent who thinks whisky "tastes like engine oil".
I suppose as such I should not even be commenting on the issue. However, I really do wish that there would be a serious campaign to tell people it is possible to have a good time without having too much to drink.
I know what will happen on Christmas Day. There will be alcohol available. There will be two people who will drink more than they should. Their partners will do the driving. They don't get violent when they have had too much to drink but, for me, they are less pleasant to be around. The same will go for a number of other people present. I don't know whether it is wrong of us to feel that way or wrong of them to get into that state. It simply puzzles me.
Perhaps it is because I have never experienced the supposed "buzz" of alcohol?
I do know that, given the opportunity, I would make alcohol much less readily available. When I was at teacher training college it wasn't legal for eighteen year old students, of which there were many, to drink. There was no "bar" on the university premises. Now there are three universities, multiple campuses and multiple bars. From what the students have to say a good many of the social and emotional problems arise from the presence of alcohol selling venues on campus.
It has been that way for a while. I won't forget the girl who arrived from a small country community who was forcibly fed alcohol at "O" (Orientation) week and ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning. She was so traumatised she didn't actually want to start her course at all. The students responsible went unpunished because it was considered to be "stupid but the sort of thing that happens". It isn't "stupid". It is downright dangerous and should have been treated as assault. The students responsible for holding her down and forcing the alcohol down her throat had of course been drinking themselves. I was at law school thirty years ago when that happened. 
If people really limited themselves to the guidelines laid down there might be other issues but they would surely be fewer. Alcohol consumption fuels violence and contributes to the road toll. There is growing evidence that it contributes to the likelihood of succumbing to a range of cancers. 
Despite all that people will go on consuming alcohol. Alcohol production is an industry worth billions of dollars in this country alone. Around the world it is worth trillions.That's not going to change because I don't drink it and dislike the culture which goes with it. I don't even want to stop other people from having some now and then.
I just wish they would stick to the guidelines - or have even less.

Monday 16 December 2019

Unisex toilets

are under discussion in this morning's paper. There are claims that some girls are trying not to use them in schools.
I don't know who thought they would be a good idea. It apparently has something to do with catering for "gender diversification" and the "everyone uses the same toilets at home" argument.
Neither of these arguments work for me. The very small minority of people who identify as gender neutral or a different gender from their original biological gender will normally have the option of using another facility - usually one also used by people with disabilities. Those facilities are usually placed in such a way that they are unisex and gender neutral. They should be provided as a matter of course. (There are more around than there once were but we have a long way to go before I will be satisfied by the provision of such facilities.)
But the other argument that "everyone uses the same toilet at home" is not an argument at all. What happens within a family unit is entirely different from sharing a space for what is a very private act with complete strangers. In many cultures it is simply unacceptable - even forbidden. 
This is not a matter of "catering for a minority". It is imposing something on everyone for the demands of a "politically correct" view that is held by very few. I know people who claim unisex toilets "discourage sexual abuse and violence against women". I would be interested to know if there is any actual research with respect to this. My belief is that the opposite is more likely to be true. Unisex toilets would hardly seem to be the answer among body conscious teenagers with a growing sexual awareness.
Maybe I am wrong but I don't think so. Tell me if I am. 

Sunday 15 December 2019

An offer to help

is not something I give lightly. Middle Cat is much more "spur of the moment" about such things than I am.
I suppose I have always been rather cautious about such things. I tend to be uncertain about whether I will really be welcome.  If I offer to do something I know, because I will have thought about it, that I can do it. Of course that excludes the same circumstances that would exclude anyone else but, apart from that, I have thought about it. 
I think about things like where an activity is going to be held and how I am going to get there as well as what is required of those  involved. I think about how much time is likely to be involved and much more. 
No, it isn't that I spend a lot of time contemplating these things but they do pass through my small feline brain before I put my paw up.
So some weeks ago I volunteered to help with something. It is just for a few hours this week. I did it because I am not preparing for a big Christmas lunch or dinner. I knew the weather was likely to be hot and the other likely volunteers would be older than I am. 
As it turns out the weather is going to very hot. Middle Cat told me she would take me to the venue...a few minutes in the car but a good twenty-five on the trike. I could also stay a little longer than I had originally planned if it would help the person running the event.
There was an email from the organiser to the  helpers...she is a well organised person and gets things done. I emailed back and offered the extra time if she needed it. 
The response has left me puzzled. It was a "thanks for offering to help...if the others can't get there I will let you know". Does the organiser want me to help or not? I had assumed from the first email that I was needed at least part of the time. Now I am not sure I am needed at all. I emailed back and I am waiting for an answer.
But it has made me think about other volunteers as well. All too often we hear the words, "It's always the same few people who volunteer".  I know that's true. Some people never volunteer and others do so only reluctantly or have to be asked to help. But, if we do want people to volunteer, then it seems to me that it needs to be made very clear they are wanted and what they are expected to do.  They also need to be thanked once the job is done.

Saturday 14 December 2019

The UK election results

have left me stunned. The Senior Cat has been shaking his head in disbelief.  A former resident of the UK phoned me about something else but added, "Move too far left and you just get overtaken."
It isn't the election result my friends in Upover were looking for. At the same time I can't imagine that any of them would approve of the  "rioting" being reported.
But who is responsible for the result? Is it Johnson or Corbyn or their parties and their policies or is it....the people who didn't vote? Apparently about 32% of eligible voters did not vote. 
Now some of them may not have been able to vote for good reasons. Others though will have been of the "can't be bothered" brigade and the "it won't make any difference" brigade. 
The first group can be forgiven. Things do happen which prevent people from voting. The second and third groups cannot be forgiven. They are what cause democracies to disintegrate. Democracy requires effort. If we want to live in a democratic society then we have to participate.
I am opposed to Downunder's system of "compulsory attendance at the ballot box". I think that is wrong. It is undemocratic. It is also undemocratic to compel voters to mark their preferences. I have always said I have a  duty to vote but I should not  be compelled to vote, wherever I place them, for anyone who supports something I find abhorrent - such as the death penalty. People who don't vote when they could vote put us in danger of allowing such things as the return of the death penalty to happen - and they are often the first to complain when such things do happen.
To "get Brexit done" won't be easy. The legislation will probably go through on the 17th and the UK will "leave" at the end of January next year but there is a lot of mopping up and tidying away and sorting out to be done.  The rest of the EU is not going to make this easy. There are plenty of sour grapes to be swallowed there too. It has been an immense blow to Merkel and Macron in particular. They will want to make the remainder of the process as difficult and as expensive as possible. It will be used as a warning to other countries like Greece and Italy to remain or face financial and trading consequences. 
All this might have been avoided if 30% of the UK population had thought about the likely consequences of not voting. 

Friday 13 December 2019

The UK General Election

results will affect us here in Downunder as well. 
I think I have said elsewhere in this blog that we have made a major mistake in trying to become "part of the Asian region". Downunder is not an Asian country. It never was and it never will be. 
We aren't European either - although we have now been part of that curious event known as Eurovision. We sit somewhere between the two I suppose - and on the rim of the Pacific Island nations. It isn't comfortable.
Asia does not want us. It is time we accepted that. Asian countries will do business with us. That makes sense. Asian countries will also tolerate us but we are, at best, "neighbours". We are not "family". We are seen as Westerners, even as European. For all our much lauded "multi-cultural" credentials we are not seen as Asian. When we come to terms with that then we might have a more settled place in the world. 
I am aware that this is not a popular view among those who spruik the multi-cultural message. They tell me, "Look at the X festival, the Y festival, and the Z festival. They are all Asian. You're wrong."
No, I am right. For all those things get reported in the media there are still only a minority of Downunderites who attend these things - and even fewer who truly understand what they are about.
Middle Cat married into the Greek-Cypriot community here. It is a community which still has annual events such as the Blessing of the Waters. It will probably be reported in the media. It usually is. My nephews here have never been although they were baptised Greek Orthodox. If I asked them they would struggle to tell me what it was about. They don't go to church. It is an event which, apart from the few genuinely faithful, is more about an excuse to get together among some and for politicians and the media to perpetuate the myth of multi-culturalism. Many other festive events come into the same category. What is being "celebrated" has little, if anything, to do with the actual meaning of the event in the country in which it originated. It is like the Japanese celebrating "Christmas". Very few Japanese are Christians but many of them enjoy Christmas trees, lights, presents and the like. Nobody there would suggest they are Western because of it.
I don't know which way the residents of the United Kingdom will jump. We will find out in a few hours. The European Union, which sparked this election, is of course an entirely different idea from our multi-cultural idea. In nature it is more ASEAN and other trading blocks. It is important and the UK should be part of it. We should have a much stronger association with it than we have.
We might have helped the UK remain in the EU far more than we have if we had taken much more interest in the EU. 


Thursday 12 December 2019

Christmas Markets

are  now on the agenda.
I am supposed to be helping on a stall at one next week. The forecast temperature is 41'C so I doubt that "knitting" will be of much interest to the hordes which attend. Actually I doubt the hordes will attend. It will simply be too hot. Numbers would not have been high on a Tuesday afternoon anyway and the weather will simply make the numbers even lower.
I feel sorry for the organisers. There will have been a considerable amount of work go into it even though it is only open for four hours. 
It has made me think of the UK election being held in what is today in this part of the world and tomorrow there. There will have been postal votes - and the political director of the BBC would have us believe she already knows what the outcome is likely to be - but the weather may well put people off from voting there too. I wonder what difference it will make?
Do they design polling places around Christmas markets? The idea of being able to buy a nice woolly hat or a pair of mittens in your party's colours might appeal to some people.
I am sure people go to such markets with the idea of finding small things at bargain prices - stocking fillers rather than major presents.
I gave the person in charge of our stall some soap bags - with good soap but otherwise cheap and practical. They might sell.
Apart from that and sending some cards overseas I have done almost nothing about Christmas. At the request of the Senior Cat I have bought book vouchers. Middle Cat is supposed to be getting plants for two gardeners to whom we give gifts. That is all I have done. 
I haven't even made shortbread or lebkuchen for the greengrocer's staff. I think I had better do that much at least. They might not let me have any salad vegetables when it is hot. 

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Falls in the elderly

are a serious problem. We all know that. So, why do the elderly do stupid, idiotic, ridiculous things?
The Senior Cat is all right - he may have a bruise or two but he is all right. He should not be.
The silly cat came home from hospital yesterday. You would think he would have managed to learn a lesson or two? No.
He was padding down the passage way at about 9:30pm  when he slipped and fell. The reason he slipped? His rear paws were bare. He had been told that, under no circumstances, was he to move around in bare rear paws. 
More seriously, his feet are not in good shape. He has had incredibly flat feet all his life.  When he was small nobody thought about this. When he was a little older the navy (his first choice for service during the way) rejected him on that and eyesight grounds. At the time they were taking almost everyone who applied so he really was unfit. Both problems remain with him. He was hopeless at all forms of sport.
Middle Cat has been monitoring the situation but there have been additional problems in the last few months. So, non-slip safety socks or shoes everywhere
Last night showed him why. There was the dreaded thump and the clatter of his walker against the wall. I pounded out the other door to see what had happened.
    "I'm all right."
I investigated. No, he hadn't broken anything - but how was he going to get up again?
    "I can do it!" he told me.
I knew he couldn't but I let him try. Twenty-two minutes later he admitted defeat. I pressed the emergency button and explained the situation, emphasised "not urgent" and then phoned Middle Cat to let her know.
     "Has he hurt himself?" was her question after a mild swear word, "No, don't let them take him back to hospital. It won't do his confidence any good."
I was well aware of this but I also knew that they would insist. They have to do it. 
 "Well see if you can cancel the call and S.... and I will come over and do it. I can check him out if necessary."
I called the emergency service and told them what was going on.
"Call us back if you need us - and don't hesitate to call us if the situation changes."
Middle Cat and her husband arrived. It took the combined efforts of the three of us.  One of them on each side and me to rush the chair underneath.
Then S....prowled the house and suggested more changes to the way things are laid out. That wouldn't have helped in this instance but it kept him occupied while Middle Cat gently scolded the Senior Cat.
She saw him into bed and told him he was to phone her "even at two in the morning" if necessary.
I had been awake since 4:30am (don't ask) and I was tired. Could I sleep? No. 
I wonder how much longer we can cope if this sort of thing keeps happening. 


Tuesday 10 December 2019

Staying in hospital

is not fun and it turns out we could have had the Senior Cat home last week.
I did not see the Senior Cat  yesterday. I intended to but Middle Cat had to take her husband to another hospital for some minor surgery.  As always things were running late and she went off to see the Senior Cat without picking me up. 
The reason for this was that she wanted to be there in time to go with him for his appointment with the podiatry specialist. It was this appointment that was his reason for staying in until today.
It didn't happen. 
The ward staff knew nothing about it. They could find no record of it. The podiatry department knew nothing about it. They could find no record of it. Was it in Outpatients? No. They knew nothing about it.
Middle Cat  phoned me to let me know all this. She was, rightly, very annoyed. As she said to me, "I couldn't get angry with the ward staff. It isn't their fault."
I suspect I know where the fault lies. It would be in podiatry where someone was distracted before putting the appointment in - and then simply forgetting.
When I could not get there on Sunday I tried phoning. The ward phone was eventually answered after a long wait. Instead of asking to speak to the Senior Cat I just said,
    "I'm sorry to bother you. Could you just give my father a very short message instead of taking the phone to him?"
The response was, "Of course. I'll let him know straight away."
This meant peace of mind for the Senior Cat and less work for the person on shift. Of course there are people who take their mobile phones into hospital with them but the Senior Cat, while he can use his, is not confident about it and was worried he might lose it.  
But I do wish that, within the hospital, there were better lines of communication. The Senior Cat's appointment was not life threatening but it was important. Now it will mean Middle Cat has to get him to and from the hospital. If she can't do it then I will have to get an Access Cab both ways and, given their unreliability, it could be an all day affair. Seeing him while he was in hospital was simply a matter of getting him to and from the relevant department.
This is the sort of thing that happens all the time of course. Nobody seems to take the lack of good communication lines very seriously. They should. It could save a great deal of time and trouble.
It could also save lives.

Monday 9 December 2019


and chalk, dip pens, ink monitors, Friday tests, tonic solfa, box pleated tunics...
    "What was school like when you were little?" 
I was "interviewed" by a child yesterday. Apparently I am now old enough to be classed as "old" for the purposes of a school project. 
    "Find an adult older than your parents..."
Then the idea was to ask them some questions about what it was like when they went to school.
    S.... understood blackboards and chalk simply because they had these things to play with earlier.
    "But you can just rub it off. How did the teacher keep things?"
The idea of having to keep piles of paper in a filing system was too much for S.... 
Dip pens? This completely bewildered S.... "But why didn't you just use a biro?"
Trying to explain that, although these writing tools were around when I was a kitten, they were not actually in widespread use was almost too much for him. I told him that it was not legal to sign a cheque with a biro. He does know what a cheque is because his father is an accountant and still sees cheques in his work. I suppose that is something.
We went on from that. I explained about daily "mental", spelling lists, handwriting lessons, our "reader" (the one book used by the entire class for the year) and more.
Music lessons with "tonic solfa" and art lessons with "geometric drawing" were met with more disbelief.
As for the weekly tests we had on Friday? He thought that was a "really, really bad" thing to have. His school doesn't test apart from NAPLAN requirements.
Discipline? The idea that we got punished for talking in class was something he didn't really believe. That we all sat facing the blackboard was "weird".
His grandmother had been hunting around among some photograph albums while I was answering his questions.
    "And I can show you what Cat and I had to wear and what your mother did too."
There she was in her box pleated tunic, three pleats at the back and three pleats at the front, her long sleeved white blouse, her school tie, her hat, her gloves, her stockings, her clunky shoes and her school blazer with the prefect's badge.
   "That looks awful...Mum never did wear that!"
   "Yes, she did. Here."
The photographs are almost identical.
   "Can I take it to school?"
   "May I...no. I'll make a copy - well actually you can go and make a copy now. Do both of them and you can put them with your work sheet."
S...went off. In a modern household there is the capacity to do such things instantaneously.
When he came back with the copies he said,
    "I didn't think Mum was that old and you aren't really old either. Did you have a  computer at school?"
His grandfather had just arrived home. His grandmother and I left him to explain about computers.
It is nice to know I am not "really old".

Sunday 8 December 2019

Christmas letters

- did I hear a groan?
I haven't finished writing mine yet - and I should have had them posted on Friday.
I normally do better than this because there are friends who look forward to the annual letter from Downunder - even if there is no news of particular consequence from the Cat Clan Outpost. It is not kind of me to make the humans in Upover and elsewhere wait.
But it has just taken me nearly two hours to do enough watering to (I sincerely hope) keep the garden at least alive on a day which is forecast to be 36'C. Part of that time was blogging time and part of it was letter writing time. 
I know people like Christmas letters. It is, I suppose, easy enough to write on a card, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, put it in the letter box - and then leave the rest of it up to the mysteries of the postal service. (As a mere cat I do not understand how the postal service work. All I know is that it is inconsistent.) 
Writing a Christmas letter is another thing altogether. The Senior Cat's friend G...produces four pages - complete with photographs. 
I might manage a page - but no photographs. I have no way of taking a photograph. The camera we once had refuses to take a picture any more.  I am not technically minded. I will write a couple of pages and leave it at that.
It also means that I cannot take a photograph of "the hat". I put "the hat" in the "100gms or less" challenge for the knitting guild's Christmas party yesterday. I thought I should put something in but, on seeing what was there, I did not expect to win a prize. There were some "Christmas puddings"and a green sparkly tree, a baby cardigan, a couple of crochet animals (I liked the cat!), and a proper Fair Isle beret among other things. I gave my two voting beads to someone else so I wouldn't be tempted to give myself one lonely bead for at least one thing. (I put in a very hippy belt with flowers as well.) "The hat" won a prize. I will endeavour to get a photograph at some point. I can still improve on the technique of stiffening it. (I did it with a mixture of PVA glue and water but I had to brush it on. It needs to be sprayed on.) Now that the event is over I might also risk spraying "the hat" with clear acrylic to make it a little stiffer and waterproof - or perhaps perspiration proof as is is a summer hat. I needs thought.
The Christmas letter needs thought too...I had better finish it.

Saturday 7 December 2019

Exam results

are due out for final year students in this state on 17 December.
One of the students in question is already in a fine state of nerves about her possible results. I suspect that the greater than usual "grouchiness" of one of the boys is for the same reason - not that he will admit it.
These are a couple of the teens I have read essays for through the year. They are a couple of the teens with very demanding parents.
   "I tried telling my Dad that not everyone can come top and even if you do come top sometimes it won't be all the time. He won't listen."
Knowing the father in question I don't doubt this. There is a permanent monument to his stupidity in a major piece of civil engineering. It needs repairing but he won't even acknowledge there is a problem with it. I am no engineer but even I could see there was a problem.  
His son has no desire to follow in his father's footsteps.
    "Just imagine Cat...having everyone ask you if you are D...'s son for the rest of your life."
I can imagine. It happens to me even now. Visiting the Senior Cat in hospital is a hazard. Middle Cat has been teaching the young physiotherapy student who was there on placement. The staff member responsible for his supervision was only too happy to have her help.
Of course Middle Cat mentioned my work and, on my way out yesterday, I was stopped and asked if I could get anything out of a patient who wasn't responding. I don't like doing that sort of thing if I know nothing about the circumstances but I tried any way because "he just stares into space like he isn't there at all". 
I tried. Deaf? Yes. Hearing aids? No. Sign? Yes. He was also very elderly and, from his surname, I guessed he came from a background where English was not his first language - if he spoke any at all - and where nodding your head means "no" and not "yes". I explained this to the staff member who had stopped me. She was amazed.
    "I'll email a simple communication board through. He might not be able to read or write. It can help you when there is no family around."
    "That's what we need but can you ask him about his pain level?" I tried some likely gestures. He frowned slightly and then held up seven fingers so I think he understood.
What I understood was, as I was about to leave, he reached out and grabbed my hand for a moment and smiled.
The boy who doesn't want to be a civil engineer wants to be a doctor. I told him about this last night. 
    "Yeah, if I do well enough then I can maybe do something to help people like that."
That would be good. He can work with the worried girl who wants to do Speech Pathology. 
I hope they do well enough because they would both be good at what they want to do.

Friday 6 December 2019

The bus service to the hospital

is not something I am familiar with as I do not use buses. It is years since I travelled on a bus. I cannot take my tricycle on a bus.
But Middle Cat is in the neighbouring capital city and the Senior Cat needed things. I could have asked a number of people. All of them would have willingly dropped what they were doing and ferried me up the hill to the hospital. 
I could also get myself there if I could work out how to do it.
I thought about this. I looked at the local transit site on the internet. I considered the hazards of crossing roads but the bus terminal is directly outside the hospital. There is no need to cross a busy road up there. The cars at the drop off and pick up point have to watch for patients and others with varying degrees of mobility. I am not the snail in this situation.
And this end I could pedal my trike to a bus stop and lock it to the shelter.
All that remained was to get across the road - once. I could do that couldn't I? It is not that busy a road. On the way home I would be on the side where my tricycle was parked. I would pedal across the road.
I parked and locked and was about to cross the road when a very elderly man alighted from the bus going in the other direction. He stood nervously on the edge of the footpath peering anxiously in both directions. Two cars went past. He was about to step out when a car came in the other direction. 
I decided that a driver was more likely to see two of us together and slow down because of it.
    "I'm going over to the other bus stop," I told him.
    "Thank you," he said, "I've come too far. I need to go back to stop nineteen. I told the driver but he forgot."
I had timed my arrival so as not to wait too long and the bus was only a couple of minutes late. 
We boarded and the very elderly man explained what had happened.
    "You sit there mate," the driver told him, "And out the front door when we get there."
We arrived at stop nineteen. The driver stopped. As the elderly man was getting out and nearly lost his balance the driver got out too.
    "Do you need to cross the road?" he asked
    "Yes, I can..."
    "Mate, I'm going to see you across the road."
Perhaps it took a minute and the driver made up some lost time before being held up by the road works near the hospital.
There were two other passengers on the bus besides myself. At our destination the other two left, as required, by the central door. The driver looked at me though and said,
     "Out the front door love. Don't want any accidents...and the old chap told me you had seen him across the road."
Little did he know how grateful I was that the old man needed some help!
I managed to sneak out the front door on the way back too.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Elton John was performing

in the city last night.
No, I didn't go. It was way beyond my financial means. Also, it was outside and most people were expected to stand.
Middle Cat and her husband went - the tickets were a gift. I haven't yet heard what they thought of it but they were told they could take two light folding chairs - needed because Middle Cat has a disability parking permit - for the days when her back is really worrying her - and S...(her husband) had a surgical procedure just over a week ago. They both wanted to go - more out of curiosity than anything else. 
It made me realise that this sort of concert going is not common in our family. My two nephews who lived here while growing up had their own quite successful pop-duo. They often got gigs around town and they did some recordings too. But they weren't concert goers. Even if the money had been there they would not have been interested. I know they went to a couple of concerts of people they were particularly interested in but they weren't the noisy, lights flashing, drug fuelled rock concerts that get the headlines.
I have never been to that sort of concert. I have no desire to go. My concert going when a student was confined to the cheapest seats. My fellow students were the same. Someone would see there was something on that might interest the rest of us. A head count would be done and we would take it in turns to queue to try and get cheap seats for all of us. It was a system which worked pretty well.  I saw Gielgud in a brilliant performance of Murder in the Cathedral that way - something I am never likely to forget. It was a far cry from a rock concert.  To me rock music is mostly just a noise I don't understand. Rock artists seem to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. 
Elton John did make the headlines. There was a list of  "do and do not do" for his concert in the paper yesterday. This morning there was a glowing review of his performance and the way the crowd behaved. I suspect the crowd was a little older than the teens who flock to rock concerts.   

Wednesday 4 December 2019

"Refugees" who are not refugees

pose a genuine problem for many countries around the world.
There is currently some legislation before our national parliament concerning what have been called "Medevac" laws - laws which allow the transfer of those seeking asylum but whose cases have not yet been settled or have been found not to be refugees to come here for medical treatment.
The government put the laws in place for good reasons. People who have not had their claim for refugee status approved have arrived and refused to leave after medical treatment. Others have backed them. Still others have deliberately self-harmed in order to be transferred here. Others have backed them too. 
There is a very powerful "refugee lobby" here. The problem is that it often does more to harm than it does to help.
Someone asked in this morning's paper why the government doesn't simply take up the offer of our Kiwi neighbours to take the people who are seeking asylum but who remain on islands to the north of us. It sounds like a simple solution doesn't it?
It isn't. There are all sorts of problems involved. 
International law is very complex. Granting someone refugee status is a long process. Granting someone "asylum" can be even more complex.  It isn't a simple matter of someone arriving and saying, "I'm a refugee" or someone else saying, "I'm being persecuted. I need asylum."
It is a natural tendency to think of anyone who claims these things as being honest, truthful, sincere and desperate. The reality unfortunately is quite different. Many people who genuinely have nowhere safe to go are stuck in appalling conditions in refugee camps. They have no means of leaving and no way of putting forward their cases to be granted refugee status. It is highly likely that thousands of such people will die in refugee camps - die from inadequate food, shelter and clothing. Children will die from disease or, if they don't, they will not have an education. 
Those seeking asylum - and this is not quite the same thing as being a refugee with nowhere to go - are all too often those who have broken the law in their own country. If they face the death penalty they cannot be sent back. They may also face what seem to us to be unduly harsh and unfair punishments and they will be trying to avoid those. The legal systems in their countries may be very different from ours. But what if these people have broken the law? What if someone has murdered or raped or caused other harm? Do we simply allow them in to escape justice?
All this needs to be considered. People will lie to get what they want - and what they even believe they deserve. We don't want to believe that but we do need to consider it.
It may be that the government will one day take up the offer of our Kiwi neighbours - if it can be done without encouraging others to make dangerous journeys - but the idea that you can simply say "Yes" and send people there is not without great dangers.
We need to be realistic about what can and should be done even while our natural sympathies might lie with saying "let them come".

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Old people in hospital

have been very much on my mind of late. 
The Senior Cat is still in hospital. Yesterday we thought he would be coming home first tomorrow and then today. Now they say he will be there another week.
I can see what is happening. I think Middle Cat can too, as can our brother. 
The problem this time is that the Senior Cat has been wearing those non-slip safety socks - the sort with the little bits of rubber that are supposed to decrease the risk of falls. He has not been wearing shoes even though he has been spending most of his time out of bed.
He should have been wearing shoes. Middle Cat told them this. As a physiotherapist she is well aware of the condition of his feet. His circulation is not great these days and that adds to the other problems of "some of the flattest feet in the universe". Now he has another problem on one foot and, on seeing it, the podiatrist and Middle Cat had a discussion and then they had a discussion with the OT. Then they said, "Another week..."
I have not spoken to the Senior Cat since then. Yesterday I saw him before all this occurred. He will be frustrated in the extreme. He says he feels a "fraud" because he isn't really ill.
The staff have, variously, told me, "We like having him here."
I can understand that. He is "one of the few people we can have a conversation with". 
In order to enter the Senior Cat's ward you need to be "buzzed" in and out by staff who have access to the electronic lock on their lanyards.  Some patients would otherwise go wandering. They would quickly end up lost and confused - if they are not already lost and confused. 
The Senior Cat is by far the most mentally alert person there. Provided he can understand one of the many accents among the staff he can actually have a conversation with them. Many of the others remind me of the people in the dementia unit I visited for several years. The person I visited there did not have dementia but she was unable to communicate except via her communication board. The only other person in the area without dementia used to sit with her and they would hold slow conversations. The staff did not have time to help. 
At the hospital the staff do seem to have some time, at least a little. This is probably because, in that area, the patients don't need nursing care. They do need other things - like appropriate stimulation. Some of that might help the man opposite. He seems normal on casual acquaintance but he wanders around restlessly unless he is watching television. He won't eat the hospital food and relies on a friend who brings in food from a fast food chain each day. He has been there for seventeen weeks now and the staff don't know what will happen to him.
We know what will happen to the Senior Cat if certain other things happen. We don't want him in a nursing home. He would go. He isn't that stupid or that selfish. But, he would hate it and we would too. We would rather he was home.
And that is what we are all working towards.

Monday 2 December 2019

Tourism numbers are down

in this state - or so they claim. I suppose they must know. I believe they go on the occupancy rate of the available beds or some such thing.
There always seem to be some lost souls wandering dazedly around. It would help if there were a lot more signs saying, "Middle of town" and "Go this way to get to the edge of town" or "The end of town is this way". Well, not quite but you know the sort of thing I mean. It is far too often that people stop me and ask things like where the nearest railway station is. 
And that is just part of the problem. We have to get people to come here in the first place. 
Oh yes, the cricket has been on "at the oval". Locals all know what that means. There is a street race for "motor heads" - something that causes the locals to believe they can do the same sort of thing outside the circuit. There is a bicycle race for people who think there is some fun to be had pedalling up hills in the heat. We have a "Festival of Arts" and "The Fringe" and they do attract people but they aren't cheap.
And of course there is food and wine. Those things aren't cheap either but they are often excellent.
But we also have some other attractions which don't get the attention they deserve. There are some which are readily accessible - like the Maritime Museum - but many others need a car to get there, things like a wild life park and all the many small towns brimming over with history.  They need public transport to get there and information about them to be readily available. 
Having the youngest kittens here last week also reminded me of how little there is for children to do, especially if it is too wet to be outdoors. You really need to be very local to know about some activities and, even if you do, then it is likely they are there just for a day.
We need to diversify. We need to get away from sport - because, surprising though it may seem, not everyone is interested in sport. We need to stop relying on food and wine too. It isn't possible to spend all day every day of a holiday eating and drinking. 
Some shorter walking trails might help the more energetic. More public transport to places would certainly help. 
And better signage would help. It would tell people where they are and, even better, where they are going. 

Sunday 1 December 2019

The first woman to

be a policewoman in this state was also the first female police constable in the world to be granted the same powers as a male constable. 
It cannot have been easy for her. She was not given any instruction  but had to educate herself by reading the law books.
Perhaps it was that and her experiences which led her to try and help children in trouble, particularly girls. She had homeless girls living in her own home. Later there was a home for unmarried mothers and their babies at a time when unmarried mothers were, more often than not, completely ostracised. 
The home was still there when I was in my teens and through teacher training college. I had to visit it on more than one occasion because, almost inevitably, many of the girls had low literacy and numeracy skills. 
I met one of the former residents recently. I didn't recognise her but she recognised me. 
   "You didn't really have anything to do with me. I always like to read."
When she reminded me I remembered the very quiet girl who had  been raped by a stranger on her way home from school. Everything about that situation should have turned this woman into a psychiatric basket case. Her intensely cult-like religious family turned her out. Her baby died the day he was born. Other things happened to her that should not happen to anyone. She hasn't married but I saw her recently.
    "I wanted to be a nurse but I didn't have the stamina. I love history though so I managed to get a bonded scholarship to teach. I was in college the year after you left. I spent a couple of years in the state system but then I was offered a job in PNG. I was there for three years and then came back and went into the private system - ended up last year. Since then I have been doing some genealogical research."
That surprised me. I wondered if she was in contact with her family again. It isn't the sort of question you can ask but she answered it without that,
     "I wanted to find out more about the woman who founded the place," she told me, meaning the home she had been sent to on getting raped.
She told me a little, including the woman's place of birth. When she told me the place and the date a little piece of my mother's likely family history fell into place. Her father lost his father when he was very young. On the day of his death the family was helped by a young police woman - we know this from the only letter to have survived. It mentions that the policewoman knew the family as she had come from the same small town.
I told her this and she smiled,
    "That sounds just like her."
It isn't something we can prove but it is almost certain and it is a tiny link to a woman who did so much for women in need. I wonder what my maternal great-grandmother made of her?