Saturday 29 February 2020

Making a circle

and cutting it out sound simple doesn't it?
I need to block a knitted cotton hat. For the non-knitters among you this involves pulling - sometimes gently, sometimes vigorously - your knitting into the desired shape. It also has the effect of ironing it. It is an essential part of finishing your knitting.
Most things can be blocked flat. I have a number of polystyrene sheets (scrounged from a white goods shop) for this purpose. I also have "blocking wires" and "t-pins. I would really like one of those "woolly boards" for garments but they are expensive to buy and making one is now beyond the Senior Cat. I should have asked him at least ten years ago.
These things though do not work for hats. A hat is an entirely different shape. I have blocked other cotton hats over the top of a straw hat or a plastic form that I rescued from a shop which was throwing it out. (G..., who gave it to me, was amazed I wanted what she thought of as rubbish but the Senior Cat covered it in a little papier mache and it has served me well. 
The problem is that both these things have been slightly larger than I actually wanted and there is no way of changing the size. I need something smaller.
Hat "forms" or "blocks" are extraordinarily expensive. I could not justify the expense. 
I went on line and looked at possibilities. All of them would still need me to do something about the brim. Hmmm... I bought a "head" in the right size. I worked out how I could put the  head in a circle of cardboard and work from there.
And that is where we have run into strife. Middle Cat cut out a circle but it proved a teeny bit too small. The Senior Cat asked me to order a Stanley knife "because I want it for other things as well". (I didn't know he was going to cut carpet but...). 
I ordered said knife. It has come. The Senior Cat and I investigated. We finally worked out how to put the blade in - but the blade has jammed. He cannot cut the extra half centimetre from around the edge of the circle. The cardboard is much too thick to do it that precisely with scissors.
When he has worked out how to release the blade and get it to work he might be able to do the job.  Then I will  block and stiffen the hat  - at least I hope I will.
In the meantime I am thinking it would be easier to knit woolly hats without brims. They still need to be blocked but the same problems do not present themselves. 
And really, all I need is a circle cut to the right size.... sigh. 

Friday 28 February 2020

The bank statement made

no sense at all.
I have one of those "long term deposits" - the sort which is supposed to earn you a little extra interest.  The deposit is not for a huge amount of money. 
I do not have a huge amount of money and I need to be very careful with what I do have. Even the long term deposit earns me so very little interest the actual amount, allowing for inflation, is going backwards. At the present time I can do nothing about that. It is the way things have to be.
But then I had a letter from the bank. It was a bank statement of sorts. There was my long term deposit number. The rest of the statement said "$0.00" - each line of it.
By the time I got the statement the bank had closed for the day. It was useless phoning the number you need to phone. If someone had cleaned out my long term deposit then they had done it days ago. I couldn't work out how that was possible. I don't do electronic banking and any purchases I make over the internet are through Paypal or using a separate card with a very limited amount of money on it - one which has no association with the bank at all. 
No, I wasn't panicking - well, not yet. I was worried. The Senior Cat was worried too. I had to tell him what had happened because it meant another trip to the bank. (I had been the day before and had hoped it would not be necessary to go again for at least another six months.)
It takes me half an hour to pedal to the bank. That in itself was infuriating. I didn't have the time but I had to make the time. I had to wait until it was safe to leave the Senior Cat.
Would there be a queue at the bank?
There was a fine misty rain all the way. That made me crosser than ever. 
At the bank the "meet and greet" man looked at the letter and said to me,
    "All it means is that you have closed off the account."
    "No, I have not!" I told him.
    "But you must have. We don't send letters like that out unless you have."
     "I haven't touched the account. It is due up for renewal next month. I want to speak to someone about it."
     "You'll have to wait."
     "I will wait."
     "It might be some time," he told me, "I am sure if you think about it you will realise what you have done."
He smirked. There was no other word for it. I could see  him thinking, 
     "Stupid, elderly, female, doesn't know what she has done...."
     "I don't mind charging you if you keep me waiting too long," I told him, "My rate for my clients is...."
I got no further. He hastily told me to sit down. There was one person ahead of me. Whatever they wanted was quickly dealt with. I heard Mr Smirk telling the clerk about me. It wasn't very polite.
The young bank clerk looked a little wary of me but I smiled nicely. I purred nicely at him.
He took the letter. He looked up the records on his computer. We looked at the screen together. My deposit was still sitting there - as I thought it almost certainly would be. 
The young bank clerk looked at me. I looked at him.
     "Thank you," I told him.
     "I'll let them know what has happened," he told me.
I nodded and prowled out past Mr Smirk. He wasn't looking at me but, as I passed, I couldn't resist saying.
      "All sorted. Perhaps it was a computer glitch."
I hope that wiped the smirk from his face.

Thursday 27 February 2020

Asking for help takes courage

in some circumstances. Surely we should therefore be careful about how we respond?
Asking for help or advice or even just information is not  uncommon on social media.There is also plenty of "help" and "advice" handed out  -not all of it welcome.
I was therefore a little puzzled when someone who is apparently a student in the area of textiles asked for some ideas for her thesis and had some, to my mind, less than helpful responses. Some were critical of the student even asking for help. 
    "Shouldn't you be thinking about this yourself?" someone asked.
I presumed the student was and was having the courage to look for ideas from further afield in a language not his or her own.
Of course there were people who would have no idea what sort of thing such a student might be expected to produce. There were plenty of responses which suggested politically related topics. Some of the topics suggested would make good subjects for research - but not in the area of textiles. Others might be challenging but  I doubt they would be suited to a thesis in textiles.
I was sure that the topic would need to have a practical component and some people ignored this. They did this even though the request for advice and information had come up on textile list which is concerned with actual textile work rather than any discussion about theory or artistic philosophy.
Textiles is a huge area. In a life time of study you will barely scratch the surface. I can understand a student seeking help. It won't necessarily be because they don't have any idea what they might work on. It is more likely that they do have ideas, too many ideas, and they are trying to work out just what they can do in a limited amount of time and space.
Having raised the issue of a practical component - more for the sake of some people who had commented than for the student - I did make a suggestion. I didn't say "do this" or "do that". I kept politics strictly out of it. The student's name gave me a clue as to cultural heritage. I put the suggestion as a question - something to get the student thinking in a more focussed way. 
I was talking to someone else yesterday and she said,
   "But you could do that because you are a teacher."
Is that true? I don't think so. I don't teach textiles to students at that level.  I was making an educated guess at the sort of thing a student is likely to be asked to produce. I wanted to encourage the student to think so that the idea they eventually pursue comes from them.
What is more the student actually helped me think. I've solved a problem as a result. 
I might just send them a message and tell them that. Asking for help can have unexpected consequences for others too.

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Falls in the elderly

can be very, very serious. They can be the "beginning of the end" and more. I think we all know that.
 So finding that the Senior Cat had managed to fall over yet again was alarming. 
He was outside planting bulbs in to the planter boxes we have at waist height. It is the only way he can do any gardening these days. He was sitting on his walker (rollater) and had tried to stand. This is an awkward business these days. It requires much effort on his part. I always hold my breath as I watch him. 
This time he didn't manage it. He landed on the grass. I found him sitting there. He was extremely cross - with himself.
And he should have been cross with himself.
He was not carrying the little buzzer that my BIL had set up. That can call me if he needs help while he is outside.
He was not wearing his "beeper". If he presses that it calls the ambulance service.
He should not have tried to stand up by himself when he had his walker in such an awkward location. (In fact he should not have sat down there. He should have had the walker facing the other way so that it was stable.)
I found him sitting there.
There is no way I can help him stand.
    "No, I haven't hurt myself," he told me, "See if J.... is at home."
    "It's Tuesday. J... is at work."
There was nobody else around either, not on a Tuesday lunchtime.
I tried to get hold of Middle Cat. She knows assorted people who might have been able to help. She was not answering her phone.
    "I'll have to get the ambulance service."
    "But they will insist on taking me to hospital and there is nothing wrong."
    "I can't leave you sitting there."
He sighed and growled at himself and used a mild swear word. Using such a word meant that he was very upset indeed.
I went inside and pressed his alarm button. I explained the situation. I told them it was not urgent but yes we did need "lifting assistance". 
The ambulance arrived about forty minutes later. I had by then put his hat back on his head, put a hat on my head and sat with him in such a way that endeavoured to keep the sun off him. 
Two nice men came in, checked him out before helping him stand. He nearly fell over again in the process and they looked at me. I looked at them. He managed to get inside and sank into a chair in just the way Middle Cat tells him off for doing. They checked him out some more. I handed over the list of his medications. We keep it under a magnet on the fridge these days.
    "Sorry, we have to take you in,"they told him. 
He could refuse to go but I know they need to cover themselves because of one lot of medication he is on - a "blood thinner". By now he was feeling even more annoyed with himself and apologetic to them.
I managed to get Middle Cat. She sighed and said, "I'll deal with it. Tell them I'll see them there."
Lunch was ruined. It didn't seem to matter. I knew the Senior Cat had not really hurt himself. He wasn't abusing the ambulance men or threatening them with violence or any of the other things I know can happen. I knew he didn't need me so I didn't go with him.
I did the things I needed to do and Middle Cat brought him home about five in the afternoon. 
We were lucky this time. I hope there isn't a next time although I know it is likely.
And we are lucky in the ambulance service, very lucky indeed.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

"Net zero emissions by 2050"

sounds as good as "abracadabra" doesn't it? 
It's absolutely magical isn't it? 
Think about it. If we reach that target we have solved the problem. Really?
The more I hear those words the more I doubt we are going to solve the problem. I doubt it because there is more than one problem to solve. There are a lot of problems. 
There was a news clip last night which mentioned that "renewables" - energy we get from renewable sources - are not without their problems. They have in fact been causing some problems because our energy system has not been set up in such a way that it can deal with the more extreme fluctuations in supply and demand. There are other problems here too.
If we can't deal with the problems then how will countries without basic infrastructure deal with them? The Leader of the Opposition as good as admitted that Downunder will be selling coal to China in 2050. He is admitting this while saying that we will be "carbon neutral" by 2050. 
No, we won't be carbon neutral. We will simply have handed the problem on to China. 
China isn't going to plant the millions, perhaps billions, of trees we need. They will, like Brazil, probably cut down more than they grow. Asia is likely to do the same. They need to feed people.
In the corridors of our Federal Parliament yesterday there was a bit of a stoush between one of our more colourful politicians and another less well known one. The less well known one was trying to suggest that changing our diet could solve the problem of CO2 emissions. Presumably he is suggesting we all go vegan - which would lead to the end of the human race. (No, you don't need to eat meat but you do need other things non-human animals supply if you are going to be healthy and continue to produce children - and that includes vaccines.)
So when are we going to start planting more trees? Why aren't we planning this now? There should be an entire government department devoted to this. The healthy and able unemployed should be out there doing it.
That this is not happening is, to me, far more disturbing than the unrealistic "abracadabra". This is something we could do but apparently do not want to do. Is it because it is too hard? Is it because it is too expensive? Is it really harder and more expensive than "solving the technological issues"? 
Or is the real problem that there is a lot of money invested in technology and that is making a very small number of people very rich? 

Monday 24 February 2020

I cannot read

and I cannot spell. My "academic English" is hopeless. I just cannot use all those long words and awkward sentences that seem to be so essential.
There is a piece in this morning's paper about teacher training students seeking extra tuition in the hope of passing the required literacy and numeracy tests. I have had students approach me about such things. 
Some of them are simply students who should never have been allowed to start a university course. They should never have passed year twelve English - or any other subject.
There was also the FB post by a friend of mine. It appeared in my time line this morning. She was "wondering" if she would reach the "required" standard to get the ten points in the "immigration" test.  Her English is so good she earns her living as a writer. Someone else who commented on the post (who also writes books) said that her idea of what is "good" English and those who set such tests was a very long way apart. 
When I started in teacher training college I wrote what I thought of as "ordinary" English. I knew, because I had been told, that I would never get more than a "pass" on anything. (The Principal of the college in question  had hauled me in on the first day I was there and told me this. He did not think I should be there at all and had directed the staff that I was not to be given more than a "pass" for anything.) I don't know what the staff thought of it because nothing was ever said.
I was also being mentored by the late Judith Wright. She had no time for "convoluted academic English full of words for which you need a dictionary". 
I went on to university and I wrote the sort of English that Judith approved of. I could not write any other way. My lecturers never queried it. They probably thought I was simply immature. (That might also have been true.) I passed though - and I passed well. The content must have been there.
When I started to write my first thesis though my supervisor told me, 
    "It doesn't sound academic enough Cat!"
I responded with, "But I want people to understand what I am saying."
     "Yes I know but this is a thesis and it has to sound as if you know what you are talking about."
We never did agree - but I did get my doctorate.
I have written more theses since then. I wrote all of them with virtually no supervision. (You need to understand I did things in the "wrong" order in that I began by doing a higher degree rather than a first degree. I did get help for the first one.)
And I wrote all of them in the sort "plain" English that I hoped people would be able to read.
I have written a lot of other things since then, including far too many blog posts. 
I don't know what the academics think. I assume they can understand me because they passed me but I suspect they think my writing is still immature.
A little while ago I was in a group and we were discussing something which needed to be done.
    "Get Cat to write it so that everyone will understand it," someone else said.
    "But, it's instructions. I'm no good at writing instructions!" I told them all.
They all looked at me with a look that says,
    "Well learn to be a little more sophisticated and  you won't get asked."

Sunday 23 February 2020

Should dogs be allowed on buses?

That is the question being put in this morning's paper. 
Middle Cat took time to take a friend's dog to the vet recently. The friend is not well and is unable to drive. If she had been able to take the dog on the bus she might have been able to go by herself.
Now of course you can take assistance dogs on public transport. Guide dogs and other assistance dogs are supposed to be welcome on public transport. Someone I know can get himself to work because he can take his assistance dog on the train. His dog is trained to detect a medical condition. There have been occasional issues but the dog wears a special coat and the man in question wears a medical alert button. I suspect that most of the train drivers know him.
But what about people who simply want to take their dogs with them for a day at the beach or to help with child minding the grandchildren?
I can see arguments for and against allowing dogs and other pets on public transport. Guide dogs and other assistance dogs go through rigorous training. They are taught to use public transport and to behave in all sorts of situations. It is very, very rare for any sort of assistance dog to be abused by the person it is there to assist. The cost of providing such dogs is so high that nobody wants to risk that.
Other dogs might be trained. They might go to "obedience school" or be given "good manners" training at home. It isn't the same sort of training as assistance dogs are given. Will they always behave? What do you do if someone deliberately goads the dog or the dog attacks someone because their instinct says their human is in danger?
Some time ago I had an interesting experience when a dog I know very well came rushing towards me in a very threatening manner. I froze - and the dog went past me and stopped a man. The dog's owner and I decided that the dog somehow felt I was in danger. The man who was stopped was not happy about it although he did eventually agree that his behaviour had at least been inappropriate. Much as I am grateful that the dog was apparently willing to protect me I did not enjoy the experience. That dog has been to obedience school and is normally extremely well behaved. It is the sort of dog who sits down at each corner on a walk - without being told to do so. What would have happened though if the man  with the inappropriate behaviour and the dog had been on a bus?
Perhaps if you want to take your dog on a bus your dog needs to have reached a level of behaviour which allows it to wear a coat that, like an assistance dog, proclaims, "I am trained - but be wary of behaving badly in front of me"?

Saturday 22 February 2020

The Access Cab driver

is a Sikh. He is Middle Cat's friend and we like him very much.
We needed one of the Access Cabs yesterday to get the Senior Cat to the funeral of my godfather's wife. Middle Cat spoke to S... a week ago and there he was at the requested time.
None of us knew how heavy the traffic would be. It was all because of a something.... car race being held in the park lands adjacent to the CBD.
It gave us time to chat. His wife gave birth to their first child six months ago. The baby had the six month immunisation jab today and was feeling a bit fractious. His wife was tired and overwhelmed.  We talked about how important breast feeding is and much more. S.... is still full of questions about the Downunder way of doing things. It's good. Middle Cat is helping his wife learn more English. We talked about that too.
We got on to the topic of what we ate for breakfast. He has chapatis and dhal, yoghurt  and so on. I had to explain what muesli was. He was fascinated by that and even more fascinated by porridge - especially the old Scots way of eating it. No sugar? No honey? 
The funeral fascinated him too, especially the idea that nobody is allowed to do a home cremation. In his former village in the Punjab people still collect the wood and do this for themselves. I had to explain that would be illegal here. He was shocked.
I thought about this as I watched my godfather walk up and touch his wife's coffin. He was using a walker and his son had to steady him. He looked much older and much frailer than he did when we last saw him a couple of weeks ago. And, from the expression on the Senior Cat's face, I knew he was also remembering another funeral twenty years ago.  After the service was over they sat together for a short while, sat in silence holding each hands in an extended hand shake.
I wonder how they would cope with building a funeral pyre in the back garden and watching the flames. Is it better that way or much worse? I will never know. 
S... tells me that a long life followed by inevitable death is truly celebrated in his former village.  It seems to me that is a good thing.

Friday 21 February 2020

Bullying doesn't just happen

at school.
I saw an incident of it out in the community yesterday. It was perhaps what should be called "elder abuse". I won't detail it here. All I will say is that two of us stood there and stared in disbelief at the behaviour of the younger woman towards her mother. She saw us staring and tried to justify her  behaviour but it was unjustifiable and she knew it. I felt deeply disturbed by what I saw.
It made me wonder how much more of this sort of thing goes on out there.  I hope it is obvious that I love the Senior Cat and he is my first priority. He is my responsibility. If he does something silly or dangerous and I growl we almost always end up laughing at the same time. If we didn't we couldn't live together. 
Other people seem to think there is something extraordinary about this. There isn't. It is what should happen if it needs to happen - and it does need to happen.
But there are also parents who bully their children. When the woman and her mother had left (with the older woman in tears) the person I was with told me of something she had seen on social media - footage of a young boy with "dwarfism" crying and saying he wanted to kill himself because of bullying at school. His mother has apparently filmed this and put it up on the internet. If that is true then I am appalled. I am appalled (but not surprised) that he is being bullied at school but I am just as appalled that his mother can film it and then show it to the world. Okay, it apparently garnered a lot of support for the child but how is he going to feel about being used in that way? His mother obviously isn't coping with the situation either. I don't doubt that she was sincere but it is still a form of abuse. There are other ways to handle the situation - and what is the child's school doing about it?
I got bullied at school. In the end I retreated into books - until I went to a new school of all girls. I had come from a small rural school to an all girls high school. I was homesick. The class teacher had ridiculed my handwriting in front of the other 52 girls in the class. I would never have dared to try and defend myself.
Something must have snapped in one of the other girls because the first thing she did was say,
    "Come and eat lunch with us."
There were three girls who seemed to sit together. I sat next to them and listened while they talked about "the Beatles". It meant absolutely nothing to me. I had come from a dairying district and cows prefer classical music - seriously. The students in the other school rarely talked about "pop" music. I couldn't join in. I thought, "This is it. They won't want me to sit with them tomorrow."
The girls had organised themselves to see "the film". I was boarding in a hostel and going to a film was not the sort of thing I thought I would be allowed to do. I wasn't even going to ask.
But I did see the film. All the girls who were going - and only the Exclusive Brethren girls were not - all put in a small amount of their pocket money, probably no more than tuppence each. (Yes, this was before decimal currency.) One of the other girls arranged for her father to pick me up and take me back to the hostel. Her mother had obtained permission and Miss G... who was in charge did not consult my mother (who would have said "no")  she simply thought I should go too.
    "Come on. It's all organised. You're going too."
I still felt homesick and the class teacher still ridiculed me but suddenly I wasn't being bullied. It only lasted two terms before I had to move again but it was good. 
It was just one girl to start with - and that's enough. One person can make a difference. 
I've gone on trying to remember that. I hope the boy I heard about gets his one person too...not the adults apparently rallying around him but someone his own age who "just wants to be friends."

Thursday 20 February 2020

Men's clothing

is normally a simpler matter - or is it?
The Senior Cat's "wardrobe" has to be reviewed. One of the things he hates doing these days is getting dressed and undressed. He finds it extremely difficult to do. It is slow and time consuming.
Yes, I have offered to help. The response I get - most of the time - is,
    "I can do it myself."
Fair enough. He can do it himself - with a little help from me. 
Part of the problem is that he is the ultra-conservative. He still likes to wear white shirts if he is "going out", traditional grey  trousers and so on.
His  "around home" clothing is appalling...and he loves it. His "work trousers" have multiple pockets in them - in which he keeps his pocket knives (the knives which end up in the wash if I am not careful),  pieces of binder twine he uses in the garden, a screw or two, the small screwdriver, a pencil stub, a handkerchief or two and much more. The shirts are no better. I threw out two last year. I threw them out after showing him they had simply shredded in the washing machine they were so old. Could I buy him some more? I said I would look "but they don't make shirts like that any more". He was not happy.
There are glue and paint stains - and other, unidentifiable, stains on the work clothes. These are left over from days spent in the garden and in the shed.
S...., who comes to help him shower, tries to get him to wear something slightly more respectable. She cannot understand that  the better clothes are not there to be worn just around the home. They are still "too good" for that.
It was comforting to read a BBC article about Fair Isle and the fact that one gentleman still owns a pullover which  is at least fifty years old. 
The Senior Cat's older tweed jacket has turned seventy-five. If I had known the exact date I might have given it a party. And yes, he can and does still wear it. 

Wednesday 19 February 2020

Holden cars

will no longer be/people prefer an SUV.
Yes, it does rhyme.
More seriously the "iconic" Holden is apparently not  going to be produced any longer. It comes as no surprise. The manufacturing plants in this state closed some time ago.
As a kitten I remember "Holden's" on the Port Road. Back then it was a "real traffic jam" if you happened to be trying to get somewhere when there was a shift change. I don't know whether we would look at it like that now but we children were always amazed by the sight of what seemed like thousands of men pouring out of the factory gates. In reality it was probably only hundreds but it was a very big workforce. Get a job there and you had a job for life back then. Men worked there for their entire working lives. All that went long ago. 
Things moved to the north, to the satellite city named after Queen Elizabeth. Men still thought they had jobs for life, indeed many of them did.
But things changed. Asia industrialised. The unions here priced the workforce out of contention with their ever increasing demands for "better wages and conditions" while Asia used (and often still uses) what amounted to almost slave labour. 
The federal government started to prop the industry up, a loan here and a loan there...more money and then more money. The unions kept flexing their muscles. It became more and more expensive.
And then something else happened too. People began to want something different. A standard Holden car was no longer the thing. It became possible to buy not just the rival Ford but many other sorts of cars. Vehicles like Mitsubishi and Toyota, Honda, Suzuki, Kia, Lexus, Audi, Subaru and many more became much more readily available. There were all the 4WDs that people seemed to think were essential for merely suburban driving.
A friend of mine at university had a 4WD. It was a battered thing which had done a lot of serious travelling on rough terrain. He retained it simply because, as a mature age self-supporting student, he couldn't afford to replace it with anything else. He was not impressed by people who bought the same sort of vehicle with no intention of doing more than a limited amount of suburban travel.
If C.... was still alive I am sure he would be saying that the loss of the Holden is as much to do with the fact  that people have bought themselves a "Land Cruiser" as the cost of manufacturing it here.
I had to go past the local high school the other day just as school had ended for the day. There were no less than eleven of those huge vehicles picking students up - students who could probably walk or ride home.
No wonder the Holden car has ceased to be produced. 

Tuesday 18 February 2020

No, it wasn't true

and it wasn't fair either.
I had to keep an eye on the Twitter feed yesterday because I needed to know what was being reported about an incident elsewhere - and whether I would need to take action.
But there was something else that caught my eye too. It was the story of a man called "Paul Parker".  
Now Mr Parker is to be admired for volunteering as a fire fighter. It's a dirty, dangerous job and I would be among the first to support a fire fighter who was dismissed from the role simply because he had criticised the Prime Minister in some strong Anglo-Saxon language. I don't doubt that there were many other fire fighters who cursed the Prime Minister, every MP, the federal, state and local governments and a great many other things as well. That wasn't the problem.
The problem is that the story, which was repeated over and over again, simply wasn't true. The fire fighter in question had not been dismissed. He wasn't telling anyone that. People were buying him drinks at his local pub thinking he was some sort of hero for criticising the Prime Minister and being wrongfully dismissed for doing so.
He even raised the question, "How can a volunteer be dismissed?" (It is possible to dismiss a volunteer who brings discredit on an organisation - and so it should be.) 
Mr Parker however had not been dismissed. He was using the situation and so were a great many other people. Among them was a particularly high profile media commentator. Even after he must have known the story was not true he kept repeating it.
He kept repeating it until it was discovered that the fire fighter in question was not the far left wing Labor supporter or the Green that everyone had supposed him to be. He is apparently a supporter of the far right instead.  There has been silence from the high profile media commentator and silence from some of the usual suspects. 
It doesn't change what Mr Parker has said but apparently it changes their opinion of him. 
I am not really surprised by this. The high profile commentator (for my Downunder readers this was not Andrew Bolt for once) has not been silent for long. He is back this morning - this time criticising the Prime Minister for not continuing to subsidise the ailing Holden car industry.  What he is simply ignoring is that Holden has already had millions of dollars of taxpayer money and, despite that, people were not buying Holden cars. Why should the government give taxpayer money to a company which is making a product people no longer want to buy?
It is convenient of course for the commentator in question to simply forget this awkward fact. He's not in the business of facts. He is in the business of trying to bring down the government. The worrying thing is that he also teaches politics and journalism at one of Downunder's more reputable universities. It is worrying because, as an academic, he should be more aware of the dangers of what he is doing. 
But yesterday was a good reminder to me. "Don't believe what you read on the Twitter feed. check your facts." What I needed to know eventually came up - with a link to something I read quietly and carefully. Having done that I sent two emails. Something was done and a potentially serious situation was averted by someone who had taken the trouble to check with me and several other people. It felt good to have a small part in that process. I just wish everyone was as careful as the person who alerted me and the others involved that something needed to be done. 

Monday 17 February 2020

"You can't take that to school"

seems to be said more and more often.
There is a piece in the paper this morning by Andrew Bolt, a writer of whom I am wary.  Is he correct in saying that a school in another state has banned "cupcakes"?
Now I am not particularly fond of cake. This is probably because it rarely appeared in my school lunch box. When I was too small a kitten to make my own lunch I would find (1) a Vegemite (sort of Marmite) sandwich and (2) a piece of fruit already peeled or cut up or something. If I had been "very good" there might be a biscuit. I would eye off with envy the jam sandwiches, peanut "paste" (not "butter" back then) sandwiches, the cheese sandwiches, egg sandwiches and so on. The other children seemed to have cake and biscuits on a regular basis. I don't think they had as much fruit. We all ate white bread because brown, grain, rye, seed etc was almost unheard of. 
But, back to the cake. There was plenty of cake around. If you bought your lunch from the school canteen then it was likely a pie, pasty or sausage roll and a bun of some sort. (Oh how I envied those children who, on a cold winter's day, were tucking in to a hot pie or pasty.) Nobody considered that the "cream bun" - a stodgy white dough like affair slit diagonally and filled with a dab of sweet red "jam" and ersatz cream - was bad for you. Home made sultana cake was common too. I remember watching other children consume that and leaving crumbs everywhere.
When I was old enough to make my own lunch things didn't change much. They didn't change much because my mother would tell me and my brother what we could have -but we had to do it ourselves. There wasn't any cake to be had. Cake was something that appeared on birthdays and when we went to visit our grandmothers. Our mother would occasionally make a batch of biscuits. This would likely happen when visitors who needed more than a batch of scones were expected. The remaining biscuits were a treat. We only had "bought biscuits" in other people's houses and the strict rule was that we could only have one - even if we were offered another one.
I suppose our mother thought all of this was good for us. Perhaps it was. I do eat fruit in preference to cake - or is it that I am too lazy to make cake? I do buy biscuits occasionally but neither the Senior nor I eat much of that sort of thing. 
But, it doesn't mean that I would stop other people eating that sort of thing. I wouldn't police what goes into a lunch box to the extent of banning "cupcakes" or "muesli bars" or anything else. I can remember the day one of the children in the Year 6 class I once taught brought cake to school. It came in a huge tray, enough for the entire class. His grandmother had made it. She was Greek and spoke not a word of English but she knew that one of the other children in the class had a birthday and that his mother would not be able to afford anything at all. Her grandson and this boy had often done small things to help her and she wanted to repay the boy. 
The cake was divided. We all had a piece. It was magnificent cake, moist and lemony.  We discussed how it had been made. There was no nonsense about gluten free vegan diets or anything else. Even the boy in the class who was diabetic had a small piece  after we worked out that it was within his allowance for the day. 
Sharing food is a way of showing our care and concern and pleasure in the company of others. Yes, there are some issues to think about but an outright ban on cupcakes is probably doing more harm than good.

Sunday 16 February 2020

The power of the internet

or the "world wide web" is not to be underestimated. And, when it acts as a force for good, it can be very good indeed.
Yesterday one of my knitting colleagues, who lives in far off Kirkwall, put up a notice on her Facebook page to say that the beanie pattern we designed between us had raised A$750 to donate to a GoFundMe page for the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park. Add another A$75 "tip" to that and  there is $825. 
It is perhaps only a "drop in the ocean" when you consider what is actually needed but it is a start. 
And yesterday afternoon I had a short conversation with one of the islanders. He was over here briefly for a long standing medical appointment - from which there was some much needed good news. 
Of course I asked how things were going. He was one of the fortunate ones who did not lose his home.
    "Still clearing debris Cat,"  he told me, "S.... reckons I look like something out of a coal pit each night." his partner. I went to school with her mother.
    "How is she coping?"
    "Don't know how she is doing it. She has the kids off to school and then she is just hard at it. We're both absolutely knackered at the end of the day."
The fire came to within metres of their house. They consider themselves "one of the lucky ones". And yes, in a way they are. I know some of that "debris" will be animals that did not survive and whose carcasses now need to be buried. There are trees that need to come down because they are no longer safe. S....has been out there wielding a chainsaw to help him and his brother.
He asked after the Senior Cat. His father was taught by the Senior Cat. He's been out there too - out until it is too dark to be safe most days. 
I told him how the shed clearing had started. 
   "Piddling little job,"he told me with a wry smile.
I know.
And the good news from his point of view?
   "We found a little cluster of koalas on Tuesday - moved them to a new location on Wednesday - took us half the day to do it."
I wondered how they had done it. Turns out his eleven year old son had done some tree climbing - before and after school.
They are working incredibly hard - but they will get there.

Saturday 15 February 2020

"Are they the biggest ones ever?"

T.... wants to know. He is looking at the knitting needles my brother made. He has picked them up and pretended to knit with them.
    "That's really hard to do."
I go to hand over two smaller needles. He is not interested. He takes the two big needles to his mother,
    "Look Cat  has two ginormous ones for doing knitting."
His mother has already seen them but she dutifully looks at them again.
     "Cat's brother made those."
I explain as best I can without the machinery there to show him. His father is not a "hammer and nails" man.  He nods and then asks,
     "Have you got any really, really little ones?"
I show him a pair of 1.5mm needles.
     "No, they aren't the same."
     "They do the same thing. They are still knitting needles," I tell him.
      "No. Those are different."
      "Yes. They are smaller."
      "No, not different like that."
      "What do you mean?"
He frowns. Eventually after a long silence he says,
      "They are made from different stuff. The big ones feel nicer."
He's right. There is a difference. Wood does feel nicer than metal here.
      "You are absolutely right," I tell him, "They do feel different. I like the way the wooden needles feel too."
      "They should always be wood ones then."
Do I try to explain why some knitting needles need to be metal?
In the end I didn't but I thought how wise T...'s mother has been. He has almost no plastic toys. His parents have bought wooden toys and asked his close relatives to do the same. His father may not be a "hammer and nails" man but T... is still growing up to appreciate the feel of timber and the pleasure of holding it.
I might even teach him about the pleasure of knitting real wool on real timber needles one day.

Friday 14 February 2020

Chinese students

who did not return home for the summer break are, rightly, concerned about their fellow students now stuck in China.
    "They should just allow them to return here if they are not sick," one of the girls told me yesterday. 
I explained what the problem was and she looked even more worried, indeed close to tears.
    "I do not know Cat. It is bad."
Officials in China are apparently trying to put pressure on authorities here to once again allow travel to occur. I hope that the relevant authorities here will not succumb to pressure and put more lives at risk. The cost of succumbing to that pressure might well be much higher than remaining firm.
We have had two reported cases in this state. They were Chinese nationals who attended a house sale. The real estate agent had to close for at least a fortnight. Other people at the same sale had to be traced. There has been no more news - yet. I hope there isn't.
We have a good healthcare system here but it would be quickly overloaded. Unlike China we could not build a "hospital" in a week.
The woman who comes to help the Senior Cat shower is Chinese. We like her very much. Her brother is a doctor in China. She has told us something about his working conditions and they are not good. She has told us something about the health care available in China. It is limited, especially for the poor - of whom there are many. Life expectancy is lower - although not as low as many people might think. (It is around 76 and here in Downunder it is around 82.) The number of people who use tobacco in China is much higher than it is here and that too is likely one reason the death toll has risen so quickly there.
But we would still be very vulnerable here. We wouldn't be cured with a course of antibiotics.
Yes, the financial implications are huge - but what is a human life worth compared with that?

Thursday 13 February 2020

Reading bands or reading levels

as they are known here still puzzle me. The idea that you cannot put a word into something "because it is not on the list" seems strange to me.
Let me explain.
When I was a very small kitten, around two years of age, I wanted to learn to read. The very best part of each day for me was sitting on the Senior Cat's bony knees and being read to. We would choose my "bedtime" story and then he would hold his left arm around me. The book would be in his left hand. With his right hand he would point to each word as he read it.
I couldn't read then but I did associate words with marks on the page. I could recognise my name.
By the time I was three there were words all over the house. My mother would, in best "infant school print" label objects. There was a list of "little words" - words like "the", "for", "and", "is", "on", "up", "yes" and "no" on the kitchen cupboard. The Senior Cat would put them together in sentences for me. I would get very cross indeed if we couldn't do some "reading" every day.
I knew the word "elephant" because there was an elephant in one of the Little Golden books. I knew the "ph" was the same as it was in "photo". I could also read "plough" and "scythe" because we lived in an area where those things were used.  
At the age of four I went to school. Back then you could start school in the year you turned five. My birthday was at the end of the year but why wait? My mother was only too glad to have me out of the house. She had two more to care for at that time. 
Of course at school we had a "reader". I had already read that and the next "reader" and quite a few more as well. The Senior Cat had been bringing them home, along with books from the tiny school library shelves. He never suggested I couldn't read something. I was left to find that out for myself.
We went through much the same process with my brother and my nephews here and then I did it with Ms W when she wanted to learn to read. My brother reads a lot, one of my nephews does too. Ms W kicked up a real fuss when they tried to prevent her from reading what she wanted to read at school. I had to go along and say, "Yes, she can read and understand that. Listen to her."
So all this reading bands or reading levels business puzzles me a bit. It seems fine as guidance with respect to what we might expect a child to do but it shouldn't stop words being used. After all there is a child who lives in the next street who informed me the other day,
   "I am going to be a paleo-biologist and look after the dinosaurs' bones."
He turned four last week. He knows more about dinosaurs than I do.  He can read a great many things.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

"Stuck on a cruise ship

somewhere out on the ocean - and not by choice."
Someone I know in the sort of vague "I recognise you from the library" way was saying this as I passed her yesterday. She gave me a nod of acknowledgment and I realised her mother was not with her. They usually come into the library together. Her mother is a voracious reader and I was going to give her some details about something else as well.
So, I asked.
    "Mum's gone to look after my grandfather. My grandmother is on that cruise ship that docked in Hong Kong - the one that no other port will take. She's with my great aunt. I'm worried sick. There haven't been any cases of that virus yet but if there are it will go through the ship like wild fire and those two would have no chance. What in the hell did the captain think he was doing?"
I could understand her concern. I'd be worried too. The Senior Cat would stand no chance at his age and her grandmother, although ten years younger, is not in the best state of health. It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. It was supposed to be real respite from looking after her invalid husband. 
I wonder just how many other people on that ship are in a similar situation? Someone else cheerfully said to me, "Think of it - all that holiday!"
It wouldn't be a holiday. I doubt people are mixing. The news suggests people are staying in their own cabins. Being stuck in one of those, particularly in an inner one where there is no natural light or air,  would be worse than house arrest. What would you do all day?
I am not likely to go cruising. If I ever do please remind me to take a lot of knitting and a lot to read - oh and a large pile of notebooks and pens to write up the experience ready for the blog. 

Tuesday 11 February 2020

The Public Service

is not a "public" service.
I had a phone call yesterday. It was from one of those delightfully named "public servants" who really should know better by now.
   "Cat, I am wondering if you could do something for me..."
   "No, I don't even want to know what it is," I told her.
   "Oh, come least let me tell you."
 I listened. Yes, a "training day" and could I come along and talk about...
    "And are you prepared to pay me?"
    "We haven't got any money to pay you but I'll get you a couple of taxi vouchers."
    "No, sorry. I am not going to do it. If you want me to do it then I want to be paid. It will be a lot of preparation. I would have to get someone to check on the Senior Cat and that's the day before something else I am preparing for."
She was not best pleased. 
   "Oh really Cat! We depend on people like you."
And that is the problem. There are far too many public servants without nearly enough to do. I know of one who is quietly studying for a degree in a different area as he waits for "redeployment". He was smart enough to see where things were heading and is willing to do the work.  Unlike some he also recognised the need to retrain.  
They need to retrain some more in areas where people are needed or get rid of them and put in people who do have training. 
But they don't need to do it using people like me. I have occasionally helped out - when I have thought the well being of people with profound physical and intellectual disabilities was seriously at risk. That wasn't the case this time and I have in fact said that they need to find other people now. There are younger people around who are more in tune with "the way things are done now". 
The "we have no money" excuse is unacceptable. If it is worth asking someone to do something then it is worth paying them. If there is no money then money has to be found elsewhere. Surely some of those with no role could be retrained or offered separation packages? Why should people like myself be expected to work for nothing when that sort of thing is going on? 
No, I don't particularly want the money - although that would be nice - I just want to be treated with some respect. Failing to pay me and others like me isn't doing that.
    "Well, I'll see if T.... can do it," my caller said.
I phoned T.... 
    "Thanks Cat. She can find someone else," T... said.
The problem is she probably will but it won't be me or T... or the person T... thought the caller might try. Will the message get through? I doubt it.  

Monday 10 February 2020

Of droughts and flooding rains

 There is a poem by Dorothea McKellar, "My Country" which is probably still taught to children in school here.  I think I endured it every year through the primary school. For those of you who don't know it I have copied it (legally) below. 
It is the second verse which most children know. When I was taught it the first verse was  usually ignored - and, more often than not, the last four were as well.  The Senior Cat thought otherwise but undoubtedly struggled to teach children in a small "bush school" what "field and coppice" and the like actually meant. The children in that far off place were used to "paddocks" and "saltbush". 
It isn't a poem I particularly like but the Senior Cat quoted the second verse yesterday just after speaking to my brother and SIL. They left yesterday. Their plane was delayed because of the weather in the eastern states. My brother said it was the roughest trip he had ever done. He was clearly relieved to be on the ground - wet though it might have been. 
But, they couldn't get home. They ended up spending the night with my niece and her family. The drought had turned to floods. Almost a metre of water had been measured over the bridge on the road leading into the town where they live. People were being asked to stay off the roads if possible.  My brother wasn't going to risk travelling if they had somewhere to stay. It also meant he could help my nephew-in-law pump water from their property.
The "climate change" doomsayers told us there wouldn't be any rain for at least six months. They told us that when it came there would not be much of it. The Bureau of Meteorology was a little more positive than the doomsayers but they didn't forecast this. The eldest member of a farming family I know was even more positive,
    "I tell you Cat that mob don't know what they are talking about. It will rain. It always does in the end."
Perhaps we should be listening to farmers who have lived for nearly a century? 

Here's "My Country" 

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze ...

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.


Sunday 9 February 2020

Bullying in schools

seems to be on the increase here. 
There has been a case reported in the media here about a new high school student who ended up in hospital after a group of older girls attacked her. It's an extreme case but a deeply disturbing one. 
I personally know of another new high school student who was also attacked. On his first day at high school a group of older boys grabbed him pulled him into the toilets, threw his belongings around and stamped on them. They then held his head down into a toilet bowl and flushed it. 
The police and courts are involved in the first case. The two main perpetrators have been suspended. It is said one of them won't be returning to the school. The victim is still not well enough to return to school she was so badly injured.
The school is involved in the second case. The police probably should be but the school "decided to deal with it internally". It's a state high school that says it has "a reputation to consider". The victim is apparently less important than the reputation of the school because the parents have been given legal advice to say nothing. The victim is on the smaller side for his age, wears glasses and has difficulty walking following a road accident. He didn't stand a chance against five boys three or four years older than he is. 
Right now he doesn't want to go to school. Who can blame him?  His sister is being subjected to "comments on social media" because "he is a cry-baby" and a "wimp" and more. 
The other boys were not suspended because the school didn't want them to miss out on the first weeks of the new school year. I suspect there is more to it than that.  One of the boys alleged to be involved has a father who wields considerable influence. 
Both these schools have "anti-bullying programs". I just wonder what good they are doing. Are they having an opposite effect than the one intended - at least on some students? Are they just making some students more aware of what they can get away with?

Saturday 8 February 2020

Writing a review

of my "shopping experience" or being asked to "tell us how we did" and more are beginning to make me want to scream.
This seems to be part of the "on-line shopping experience". It doesn't occur in the bricks and mortar world. 
If I go into my local bookshop (a place I love) the staff know me. I can buy what I need or want, pay for it and say "thank you" like a good little well brought up cat and that is it. I do not have to "review" my experience.
The "on line" buying world doesn't seem to operate by the same rules. They want me to "review" and tell them "how (they) did". They say it is so that others will know that they are reliable and safe to buy from. Perhaps. It seems more likely that they want their customers to do their advertising for them.
I bought something for the Senior Cat recently. The item was not available here. We made inquiries and the most likely and most helpful place here told us "only available on line".  They could order it or we could order it. It would be faster if we ordered it. I ordered it. And yes, it arrived promptly. I acknowledged the arrival and thanked them.
It should have been an end to the matter but I then had a request from them to "review my shopping experience". I ignored it. I then had another "reminder" that I had not yet done this. I ignored that too. I then had a "query". What was wrong? Why hadn't I done this? I have ignored that too.
I fill out enough forms in my day job. I don't need to do this. I thanked them and that should be sufficient.
And it isn't even just on line shops that are trying to demand feedback now. The Post Office has sent messages wanting to know what I thought of their service. The bank asked me the other day. (They warned me in advance it was going to happen.) A "public service" department asked me after I had given them information they had requested.  (It would have been much more appropriate for me to be asking them for feedback about my performance!)
It seems that everyone wants "feedback" in order to advertise themselves or perhaps, in a small number of cases, to reassure themselves. Thanking people apparently isn't sufficient any more.
I have thought about this. I am wondering if it is because we don't have enough face-to-face contact any more?

Friday 7 February 2020

Photocopying is

rather different these days.
Do you remember those enormous machines which worked very slowly and kept on jamming? There was a machine in the basement of the building I worked in at the university in London. My little "office" was next door to it. I would hear the thumps and bangs and occasional swear words as people tried to get it to work. Sometimes a face would appear around my door and someone would say,
    "Cat, do you know anything about..." or "Cat, can you get the wretched thing to work?"
I would go in and look. It wasn't because I believed I would be any more successful than the person who asked. It was simply because I sympathised. I wanted to give moral support. Once or twice I even managed to pull out a piece of paper which had jammed. 
I knew how to load paper into the machine - and do it the right way up too. If you didn't do that then the machine would sulk. They were temperamental things.
The copying was only in black and white of course. We still thought it was pretty good. It meant I only had to type my first thesis once. Photocopies of the required copies were acceptable - and they hid a mass of correction tape.
All this had to be done page by page from the original document.  You had to get the piece of paper you were copying lined up straight on the screen and close the lid and....hope for the best.
We moved on to photocopiers that could do colour printing. I never had much to do with those. 
Libraries put photocopiers in. Our local library now had three machines. You can scan anything in up to A3 size and print it off.  There were dire warnings about copyright. Sadly people seem to think that copying anything in any amount is acceptable. It isn't but I doubt it will change. 
You can copy at home. You can even print in colour at home. I have never ventured into colour printing at home. The printer attached to this computer chugs along in simple black and white.
But I needed something a bit more than that.
I went off to the big stationery business a few train stops away. I prowled in and lined up behind the people waiting. When it came to my turn I handed over  what I wanted copied.
    "Be about ten minutes. I think. There's still a big job ahead of you," the boy told me.
    "Can you bind it as well?" I asked, "I think the margins are big enough."
    "Sure thing."
Eight minutes later he waved me over again. He passed me over a copy of my recent thesis - the one I never intended to write. It was on better paper than I have  here at home. It was bound in simple comb binding. The front page has the university logo in colour. There is clear plastic cover over the top. It cost me about a fifth of what it once would, if that.
And with it he handed back a USB that had all the information the machine had needed to give me the hard copy.  I really do like modern technology when it means I don't need to carry vast quantities of paper around and feed them slowly into a machine one by one.

Thursday 6 February 2020

Clearing out the shed

is something I am leaving to Brother Cat and his partner unless they find things that need my attention.
    "Cat, there are two boxes there. Can you take a look please? It's stuff that looks as if it might belong to you."
Now I know that there are some things in the shed which belong to me. I thought they were in the small blue trunk. It is always possible of course that things have been shifted around without my knowledge.
I went out to look a little later. No, these things don't belong to me. They belonged to my mother. Why they were out in the shed is a mystery which will never be solved. It means they have been there more than twenty years.
I sort it. A tiny English-French dictionary my mother took on their trip to Europe. Her schoolgirl French was barely up to the task even with the dictionary but the Senior Cat knew none at all. The friends they travelled with believed everyone would speak English.
A couple of handbags - no, not good enough to be passed on. An old set of school pencils, a "rolling ruler", some cloth only fit for throwing out, a small carved box, and a t-shirt still in the packet  all come to light. I don't know who the t-shirt was intended for. It might have fit a child in the junior school. It's fine. The charity shop can have that.
In the other box I come across no less than eleven printed tapestry canvases. Where on earth did my mother get those? Tapestry would never have been her "thing". It would have been much too slow for her. There is some embroidery fabric too...the expensive Irish even  weave sort of linen. It's another mystery. My mother was never an embroiderer, or at least not by hand. She tried some machine embroidery for a while but she was too impatient to really enjoy it.
At the bottom of it all is some knitting yarn.
I had just found that when a friend called in to see the Senior Cat and wish him Happy Birthday. (He turned 97 yesterday.) J....belongs to the same group I belong to. I show her the yarn. 
    "Looks as if it might be okay," she said inspecting one lot closely.
"Might make a prayer shawl. Do you want me to wash it?" 
    "You can have it," I tell her.
I pass it over in the sure knowledge it will get used and pull the rest out.
     "This looks okay too. It just needs washing." 
It's another job I need to do. I'll skein it up and wash it carefully. If it is all right then it will survive washing. Then I can put it back into balls again and.... well, someone will use it.
I just hope they don't find any more yarn out there or, if they do, it doesn't need washing before I can give it to someone for the Replanting Australia project. 
I suppose that at some point today or tomorrow a box of books will be found in the shed...and they will get the blue trunk down from where it sits on top of the old cabinet-dryer that ceased working forty years ago.
Sheds contain unexpected rubbish - and treasures.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

Men's sheds

are nothing like those comfortable cosy craft spaces belonging to other humans.
The Senior Cat has a shed. He hasn't been able to use it for the last couple of years. Middle Cat read the Riot Act and told him he was not permitted to use the circular saw several years ago. He meekly agreed. Since then he has done little things but now he feels unsafe.
He has now passed the contents of the shed over to my brother. 
My brother has less space than the Senior Cat. He looked at the shed when he was here in November last year. He came into me looking a little pale.
    "Heck Cat! The mess out there...."
    "I know," I told him, "It's not safe to even venture in."
It isn't quite that bad but it isn't good. The friend from the Senior Cat's church who helps us with two hours of very heavy gardening once a fortnight needed some duct tape yesterday. I knew there was some in the shed.
     "It's in the drawers on the side," the Senior Cat told me.
     "No, it isn't. I thought it was too."
     "I had better come and look."
     "No, just think."
     "Well it is somewhere on the side. He can have a look."
I went back to our friend. We found it in one of the cupboards. His parting words were,
     "It's just as well your brother will be over tonight."
And yes, Brother Cat and his partner arrived last night. They are staying with Middle Cat and they will spend the next three days clearing out the shed - or as much of it as they can in that time. They came to see us before they settled in for the night and discussed how this was to be done.
     "But it might be useful...." the Senior Cat started to say. Brother Cat shook his head. 
      "I don't use slotted screws any more." 
Oh. The Senior Cat slumped.
      "I've got a couple of old golf ball typewriters out there. I picked them up for nothing. I used some of the springs..."
      "They are land fill now..."
And so it went on.
Brother Cat hugged the Senior Cat before they left - not common these days. They love one another deeply but it seems men of a certain age don't hug one another.
After they had gone to Middle Cat's place the Senior Cat sat there staring into space for a long time. I know he isn't happy about not being able to use the shed and watching so much of it go is going to be even harder.
I went on clearing away the tea things. Then I heard him sigh and mutter,
     "At least  he'll get rid of those rusty old paint tins."

Tuesday 4 February 2020

"I've been diagnosed as having Alzheimer's"

S.... told me yesterday.
He had been sitting, as he often does, in a chair by his front door. He had given me a wave and  I had stopped briefly to speak to him. I know it had taken all he had to admit this to me. 
S...lives alone. He has never married. He worked for the further education sector but had been retired for about ten years. In that time he has done very little. He reads and he gardens. He goes for solitary walks. Occasionally, very occasionally, he goes out with a nephew who lives on the other side of the city. His sister lives in another state. 
I met him after his very elderly neighbour, now deceased, introduced me. S.... was going into hospital and she thought he needed to know that I was the person who sometimes took her prescriptions to the chemist. He didn't want me to do that. He was fiercely independent.
    "I don't want to be beholden to anyone," he had growled.
    "And if you don't let anyone check on you and you end up on the floor then you will be an even bigger nuisance," I told him. I sensed he was the sort of person who had to be told that. He was. He agreed reluctantly that, if he needed help, I would do the chemist and the milk run.
He asked for help twice. I left prescriptions at the chemist. I later discovered that he had bought a supply of "long-life" milk to see him through his convalescence. 
His neighbours have never been into the house. I have never been into his house or his garden. I simply picked the prescription up out of his letter box. He has never directly said please or thank you but  he did start to talk to me if he happened to be out working in his garden. Three years in a row though he gave me his lavender cuttings with a rough, "You might be able to use those."
And now?
I don't know what he will do. He isn't the sort of man you can ask. He knows I will help if he needs help of the sort I can give. It must have cost an enormous amount for this intensely private man to admit  his problem to me. I certainly couldn't tell him that I had wondered recently whether there wasn't a serious issue there. He had seemed confused and forgetful and he hasn't fully understand the diagnosis of another serious condition.
I wonder what will happen to him. Will he go on staying there to the point where he can't care for himself and the house, which is not in good repair anyway, starts to fall down around him? Will his nephew, a busy man by all accounts, have to try and help? It won't be wanted. 
I know I'll need to go on making contact when he wants it - and that won't be often. How long before he "forgets" who I am?
How do you help someone like him?

Monday 3 February 2020

The proposed nuclear dump

which has been under discussion in this state was back in the paper this morning. This time there was a picture of some children who "oppose" it.
Now let me explain about the proposed depository - and yes, it is a "depository" and not a "dump". "Depository" suggests something planned and cared for while  "dump" suggest thrown somewhere - at least it does to me. I suspect it does to many others as well. That is why some people see it as so important to use the word "dump".
The depository though is intended for the storage of waste associated with nuclear medicine.
Now nuclear medicine is used to look at, diagnose and treat certain medical issues. It uses tiny amounts of radiation in the process. Yes, there is a (small) risk in that - but the benefits would seem to my non-medically trained self to far outweigh the risks.
And so we have nuclear medicine and we have nuclear waste from nuclear medicine. I know people who would not be alive today if it were not for nuclear medicine.
That nuclear waste has to be stored somewhere. We humans still haven't worked out how to make the waste entirely safe so it has to be stored somewhere considered "safe" - or as safe as possible. Yes? 
Apparently not - at least not if you are a Green. You will oppose it in parliament. You will stir up opposition in the community. You will tell children that there shouldn't be a "dump".
And you will make no attempt to explain the benefits of nuclear medicine and nuclear medical research. If you did that then the children you are so carefully indoctrinating might start to question you.
I read all this in an email from a mother of a twelve year old boy yesterday. The boy has apparently been arguing furiously with her over "the dump". She has tried to tell him what I have just said above. He isn't listening. She is wrong and he is right. His new teacher has told them "all about it".
   "Cat, do you think it is all right for me to talk to the headmaster about this? I do think the kids need to know but they need to know all sides, not just one side."
My response was "absolutely all right". I think it is like a lot of other contentious issues. If those issues are going to be discussed at all then they have to be discussed in a balanced way. If we don't do that then children aren't being taught to think for themselves. They aren't even being really taught to listen.

Sunday 2 February 2020

No driver's licence

does not bother me most of the time. There are however rare occasions on which I did have one. Yesterday was one of those times.
I had to go to a meeting yesterday afternoon. In the late morning someone called me to ask if I would put in an apology. She sounded close to tears.
   "What's happened J....?" I asked.
   "I was closing the kitchen window and I felt something go snap," she told me.
Oh. The last thing J.... needs is an injury to either arm because she uses a mobility aid to walk around. She lives alone too - apart from two cats. There is nobody there to help.
We continued the conversation and came to the conclusion that, despite the pain, she probably had not broken anything. But I still said, "You need to get someone to look at it. Can you get yourself there in a taxi?"
She decided she could but of course that was the point at which I wished I could say, "I'll get someone to call in on the Senior Cat and come and take you there."
I went off to the meeting a bit later - leaving the Senior Cat at the point where he was contemplating his afternoon snooze. It wasn't a particularly pleasant meeting. There was some trouble we could all have done without. Even without that I was concerned.
As soon as I was home I called. No reply. I assumed, rightly it turned out, that she was still at the hospital. Again I thought to myself, "If I had a car I could call the hospital and..."
J....phoned much later. She was home. They had actually wanted to keep her there but there was nobody there to care for the cats. So, heavily dosed with pain killers, she had gone home to care for them.  Again I wished I could drive. I could have gone to care for the cats but J.... lives quite a distance from here. It isn't close to a train line - something I would need to get there without a car.
And where was everyone else? That's the problem. There really isn't anyone apart from a relative by marriage. He is very good to her but he isn't well either. When J...'s husband was alive they had each other but now she is alone she is isolated unless she can drive. Even that is a problem because she has to get her mobility aid in and out of her vehicle and that is not easy.
J... is usually cheerful but yesterday she was close to tears. I couldn't be there for her in the way I wanted to be. It made me want that licence to drive. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could!

Saturday 1 February 2020

Birthday presents

are usually books in this household. It makes no difference that the Senior Cat will turn 97 on the 5th of February or that he already has an extensive library. He will get books given to him.
I bought him two. One is called, "Around the world in 80 trees". It is by Jonathon Drori. A friend of his recommended it. I think the Senior Cat will enjoy it in a "dipping in" sort of way. The other is Tom Holland's "Dominion" which he will read slowly but read from beginning to end.
I will need to read these too - so that the Senior Cat has someone to discuss the ideas with. I find myself doing this more and more now.
   "Do not," I tell him, "expect me to read books about conjuring. If you want to talk about those then find someone else."
I am still a much faster reader than the Senior Cat but I am not as fast as I used to be. There isn't quite the same need for speed as there was when I prowled off to law school.
The amount of reading we were given to do in law school far exceeded the amount I had to do in my other university courses.  It was no good just reading the "head notes" - those useful little notes at the top of a case that told you the main points. Some of the younger students tried to get away with that - and they did when the lecturer was not the sort to pounce and ask, "Now what did the judge actually say here..."  The more mature students knew that we really did need to read an know precisely what was said. "Keeping up with the reading" was something you did if you were sensible.
I complained to my first  year tutor that my reading speed had dropped dramatically.
   "And how fast are you reading Cat?" she asked.
I told her. She laughed and said, "That's about three or four times faster than most students - and we know you are taking it in. Many of them aren't yet and some of them never will be fast."
It was the language and the vocabulary of course.  There were members of staff who were not much faster than me and several of the other older students. There were also members of staff who read at three times the speed and managed to retain what they had read.
I mentioned this to the Senior Cat the other day. He was complaining that he had "slowed down". Yes, he has. I told him it didn't matter because he is still reading. He hasn't watched television for years now. I keep meaning to watch programs and so does he but somehow we never get around to it. There is always something we want to read and even need to read.
There is a nicely wrapped birthday parcel sitting next to the Senior Cat's favourite chair. It is from my cousin and his partner. I suspect his partner chose it because he shares the same love of books. It will have been chosen with care. I was quietly told it is another book I will need to read.
But what would a birthday be like without a book?