Thursday 30 April 2020

Staying in touch with family and friends

is more important than ever right now. We all know that. I am wondering how many of us realise how  important?
The Senior Cat has told me, more than once, that the thing he misses right now is my friends coming in to talk to him. I think they may be his friends as well. 
Of course, at his age (97), many of his friends are no longer with us. Last year he made a new personal telephone book. The old one was a mess of crossings out, updates and the like. The cover was falling off. The pages were dog-eared. 
But doing the job was an emotional journey for him as well. He found that "so many people aren't here any more". We reminisced about people we both knew. He reminded me of things which had happened that had been important to him. We puzzled over a couple of names that had been added - "that was the man who came to...?" and "they were the couple who wanted me to fix their...?" 
The new personal phone book is a slimmed down thing. I found the address book I had when I first went to London  half a century ago. It was written into an old school memo book, the sort we used for "mental". It had once belonged to the Black Cat for just that purpose and I had, thriftily I suppose, pulled out the used pages and then used the rest of it. There were names there I barely recognised. I know people gave me their addresses before I left but even then I had no real idea of keeping in touch with them. They were on verge of getting married and having children. Even then I knew their lives and mine would diverge. The bonds had never been strong anyway. I have the second address book now. I can see it here on the shelf as I write this. It is a bit like the Senior Cat's personal telephone book. People have gone astray or missing altogether. It was first written in the pre-internet age. Email was something we knew nothing about. 
Email should make it easier to keep in touch - if you have email. I realise that some of my friends do not have email. Others do not always think to check theirs because it is not their normal mode of correspondence.
I know I should redo the address book - but I don't want to be reminded.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Home schooling is not the same

as being required to keep your child at home because schools are closed.
If you have not chosen to home school your child then there is no reason to feel anxious or guilty about your failings as a teacher. There is no need to worry about what your child is or is not doing. 
Schools in this state are open again. Medical advice is that children should be back at school - with extra attention to health and hygiene and certain other measures. 
The paediatrician across the road has sent her two boys back to school and to (part-time) day care. She will monitor them and the situation closely but she thinks they are better off there.
We have now had a run of five virus free days in this state. The problem is not over, not by a long way. It does mean though that school is considered "safe".
Still, they have said that parents need to make that choice. 
I went (with caution) to the supermarket yesterday - and did a much larger shop than usual before having it delivered. Ahead of me a woman was talking to the girl at the check out. They included me in the conversation when the girl at the check out said I had been a teacher. 
This woman has four teenage children, the eldest in the final year of school. They have all been home for some weeks. They are old enough to work independently and they have been.
    "All I need to do is discreetly check that they are not running into difficulties. I know they are doing the work," this woman told me.
She agreed she had been "incredibly fortunate" that her four teenagers are motivated enough to do what has been required of them. Indeed the oldest does not want to go back to school because he feels he is achieving a lot more from home.
Ms W feels the same way. She simply gets on with whatever she needs and wants to do. She likes the quiet of working at home alone  - and she can be trusted to do it. Not all students can. Many of them are much less interested and far less motivated. It does not make them poor students. Find something that captures their attention and they will listen and work on it. 
None of the teachers I know are expecting miracles of piles of neatly completed and (mostly) correct assignments. They are simply hoping for evidence of some work done and something more than hours spent playing computer games.
Parents should feel the same.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

What has China got to hide?

It is a question a lot of people are asking right now. Why doesn't China want an investigation into the origin of the Covid19 virus? The Ambassador here in Downunder has warned of "economic" consequences if we persist in supporting the push for an inquiry and for even seeking an answer.
I don't know the answer of course. If I did then there would be no need for an inquiry - but there is a need for an inquiry. There is a need for answers - so that, if possible, nothing like this happens again.
The economic impact of this pandemic is going to be felt for generations to come. It is going to change the way we live and interact with other people. 
Chinese officials claim that, even with their massive population, they are almost free of infections and that it is "business as usual" there. Even in the unlikely event this is true then they have to realise it is not the same for the rest of the world. 
In this state we have had no new infections reported for five days now but that does not mean we are out of danger. We aren't. We are actually at the worst possible time. People are likely to get careless. They are tired of the rules about social distancing. They want to get out and see their friends. They want life to go back to "normal", to be like it has always been.That is not going to happen. What is more we are going into winter and it is even more important to keep those social distancing measures in place. It is even more important to be vaccinated against the flu this year...and yes, I have been. The Senior Cat and Middle Cat have had their shots too. As far as possible we are staying at home, away from other people. It isn't nice but it can be done. The Senior Cat has talked to my godfather and other people on the phone. ("It isn't the same as seeing them but it is better than not even hearing from them.")
We can do all of that and much more but it does not let China off the hook. If they have nothing to hide then an inquiry will benefit them as much as it benefits the rest of the world. The idea that China can impose economic consequences in order to silence us - or any other country - is wrong. If there is wrong doing then people must be held to account. 

Monday 27 April 2020

Emergency Service workers

are to be respected and thanked right now. 
I had a brief interaction with a member of the police force last week. It isn't something I can write about here (and no, I hadn't done anything wrong). She was brisk, sensible and courteous. I would have wanted her on my side in her area of expertise - domestic violence.
On Saturday afternoon she was killed in a road traffic accident. 
I heard multiple emergency service vehicles leave the station situated on the busy road not too far from here. A fire truck and two ambulances left in quick succession. In the distance I could hear the police sirens too - as they were diverted to the scene.
It occurred at an intersection which has been the scene of far too many accidents. The roads going in both directions are both very busy. 
I very occasionally need to go that far and I do not like using that intersection at all. Even with the pedestrian lights, which I use, it is not a place where I feel safe. Not so long ago Middle Cat and I were out together and went through the intersection - after Middle Cat had given way to a speeding ambulance escorted by a police car. The car behind us was not impressed that Middle Cat had done the right thing and given way.  The male driver got some very dirty looks from people around him for his misuse of his horn. 
I thought of all this yesterday when I saw the news reported in the state newspaper. I thought of the emergency service workers who had to go and face the appalling scene - two people dead, two more injured, the debris strewn across the road that needed to be photographed, the cars that needed to be loaded and hauled away for examination, the need to divert traffic and all the hours there and still to come.  
All of that has had to go on while still caring for the rest of the community, while still trying to sort out all the extra issues relating to the need for people to "stay at home".   
I didn't know that police officer. I met her for nothing more than a few minutes.  She wasn't driving the car in which she died - her husband was. He's alive and having to live with what has happened. Nobody is saying he is at fault. It seems the other car - which because airborne on impact - must have been going at a great speed.Was the driver "just in a hurry to get somewhere"?
All I can say right now is that respect for the road rules and for the work of our emergency service workers would have prevented this. The state would not have lost someone who was, from all accounts, passionate about helping others.
I feel for those who depended on the work this woman did and her knowledge and experience. Domestic violence victims have lost a strong advocate. We are all the poorer for that.

Sunday 26 April 2020

Knitting, crochet and other

craft should be speeding ahead during this "stay at home" lark - but they aren't. Other things are getting in the way.
As someone who works from home anyway not a lot has changed. The balance of my work has changed. There are far fewer aid workers going out. (Those I work with are not likely to be going anywhere right now. The sort of help they give has, sadly, had to stop.) I am not doing much of what I normally do with them. 
Instead I have students needing help here. It worries me how many students lack confidence about working on their own. I really did think that, by the time they finished their secondary years, they were supposed to have the skills with which to do this but apparently not.
But yesterday was quiet. I took time out to look at the "mess" on the table in the dining area. It isn't really a mess but it has reached that stage where it looks like a mess. It has also reached that stage of "why did I start to do one like this?" The table is not the right height for what I am doing but there is nowhere else to do it so I can only work for short periods before the ache along my spine tells me, "Go and do something else you silly cat!" I then prowl off and leave it. 
What I am working on is rather like a jigsaw puzzle with flexible pieces. There are rules - of a sort.  And yes, I will get it done. 
I thought I might get more done during this time but, apart from the compulsory exercise session (twenty minutes of pedalling around the streets), I spent time pulling weeds from pots. 
The Senior Cat barely ventures out of doors now. It's an effort. He comes along our short passageway with one paw barely in front of the other. It's worries me even though I know he is ninety-seven. This time last year he would have been pulling the weeds out. Now I do it because I want him to have the pleasure of seeing the tulip bulbs flower. It is why I have sprinkled other flower seed among all this. Last night it rained properly for the first time in months and I have hopes something might happen.
The flower seed is a mixture called "Monet's Meadow". I doubt it will produce the magnificent mix that the picture promised but I hope it will produce just a few colourful flowers for the Senior Cat to enjoy. S.... is going to move the pots so the Senior Cat can see them from his bedroom window. 
Given the choice between "the mess" and giving the Senior Cat something nice to look at was no choice at all - the something nice to look at came first. There really might be something in this "feed thy soul" idea. 
And today I will do some more with "the mess". 

Saturday 25 April 2020

There were no Dawn Services

today, none for ANZAC day.
I put the torch-lantern we have in the window at dawn. I know the Senior Cat was awake because I could see the reflection of his "little light" in his bedroom window. Across the street I could see another "torch-candle" alight.
It was all so extraordinarily quiet.
One of the things I have noticed with this "stay at home" message is how quiet it has been. I was used to quiet as a child. I came from a household where the radio was never playing in the back ground. The Senior Cat turned it on for the news in the morning - and we kittens remained silent while he caught up with events. Then it was turned off again until my brother and I were permitted to listen to "the Argonauts" in the afternoon. Both of us were Argonauts. What would modern children make of a radio program based around Greek mythology designed to educate children? They simply would not listen to it but we had art, music, natural history and literature as well as an immense range of general knowledge fed to us that way.
But, when the Argonauts program ended, we turned the radio off and went to do other things. I grew up without knowing about rock 'n roll or "pop" or a great many other things. Some of it I know now through reading but the music means little to me. I like quiet. I often wonder about how some of those who served in war must have longed for, at very least, quiet moments.
And, this morning, quiet was important. It isn't silence - that's an absence of noise. Quiet is something different. It lets you think.

Friday 24 April 2020

Going back to school

is being debated by medical staff, teachers, parents and of course the pupils.
Ms W is supposed to be back at school on Monday. She is going but not everyone will. 
Class sizes in her school are small enough that "social distancing" can be handled relatively easily. The school has informed parents that they expect to see students there. Measures have been taken for checking on everyone and additional measures are in place to help the teachers. There will be no competitive sport for now and other measures have been taken to ensure everyone's safety. 
It all sounds very much like "commonsense" but I know a lot of work has gone into planning it. 
Perhaps it is the sort of thing that parents expect when paying fees to have their children educated.
Certainly it has been no holiday for the teachers. Ms W has been able to talk to all her teachers at set times. One of them told me that it has been "very hard work". She also informed that it has been an excellent way of finding out who can really work alone. It seems likely some of Ms W's peers are going to find themselves talked to about being more organised and disciplined.  Others have shown they can do what needs to be done with a minimum of supervision and a few, like Ms W, have simply gone ahead and done what needed to be done and even a bit more than that. 
Ms W has mixed feelings about returning to school. She misses her friends but she thinks, rightly, that she has achieved a great deal at home. She does not want to return to the boarding house - but only because she does not like her father being at home alone. He will not being going in to work. Will he feed himself properly?  The freezer is apparently now packed with "meals for one". All he has to do is heat them up.
But not everyone is happy about students going back to school. Ignoring the medical advice the teachers' union is saying that it isn't safe. Now I admit that "social distance" measures would be a real problem in school, especially given the way some classrooms are set up, but I can think of ways it could be done -and ways in which the adults can maintain "social distance" as well. 
Six weeks ago things were very different here. We were expecting thousands of cases in this state alone.  The "stay at home" strategy has seemed to work. We aren't over the danger period by any means but we do seem to have things at a manageable level - and it may stay like that if people are sensible and listen to advice. 
The teachers' union seems to think it knows more than the medical experts about this. I find that rather strange when they were so busy encouraging students to skip school and join in the protests of a certain young Swedish activist last year. Then they seemed all too happy to say that they were following the "settled science" with respect to another major issue.
The Leader of the Opposition was also saying that the situation must not be used to reopen debate about work practices and conditions - unless favourable to employees and unions of course. 
Perhaps though this is the very thing that does need to happen. We do need to challenge some of our thinking on what seems to be settled. We need to do it so we can make positive changes to the economy and the way we live. 
I know that people like certainty. It's hard to be flexible...but perhaps we will need to learn how to be just that.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Visiting the elderly

in aged care facilities  is one of those things I am not doing at present. I will also confess that it is not one of those things I enjoy. It is too much of a reminder that I too am getting "old" - at least in the physical sense. I hope I manage to retain the Senior Cat's sense of wonder about the world around me all my life too.
I do not like prowling in to see much older friends who are now bewildered, lost, lonely, missing their gardens, and generally missing the freedom to come and go as they would like. 
I think I have said elsewhere that about 70% of people in aged care do not get any visitors. This is why I go. I go to see not just the people I know but to say "hello", however briefly, to other people as well.  Some don't want to of course but others welcome a few minutes chat. 
Right now those in charge of such places have said "no visitors". I can understand the reasoning behind the edict but it also worries me. I know all too well that unless people get visitors some of them will be neglected. They won't be cared for at all.  They will be called "difficult" and, as far as possible, they will be ignored. 
It isn't that all the staff don't care about them because there are staff in such places who love their work and would like to spend more time with each resident. That this does not happen is due to staffing levels and the idea that such facilities are supposed to make a profit for the owners or, at very least, be cost effective. 
Good care will always cost more than that. 
So right now I worry about whether the people I know in such places are being adequately cared for or whether they need small pieces of shopping done, a pair of trousers dry-cleaned, another tube of hand cream,  or their favourite fishing magazine. Are they getting all the physical care they need? 
I know it isn't my job. All too often their children should be doing this but they are "busy" or they live elsewhere. There are other excuses too. The neighbours who said they would visit haven't been at all even though  the resident helped with baby sitting, mending the fence or collecting mail and watering the garden when they went on holiday.
"Social isolation" has made it even easier to ignore the elderly in nursing homes. As I am not a relative the staff aren't going to make any effort to bring someone to the window so we can talk. I just have to hope that my friends are being well cared for.
Perhaps they are because yesterday one of the senior staff in one home phoned me to say that someone of 101 had "passed peacefully in her sleep". 
    "I just thought you would like to know because you were the last visitor she had. She was holding the new lavender sachet you sent in for her." She loved lavender. For years she gave me lavender from her garden.  I was simply giving her what she had so often given me.
There won't be a funeral. She never married. She had no family left here. I just wish I had been able to see her once more. It is one of those things I hate about  this social isolation.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Making people pay for things

they have been getting without paying for them is going to be easy?
I think not.
The Downunder government is going to demand that Google and Facebook pay for "content they use". Maybe they can but it is much more likely that we, the users, will end up paying. My own view is that, had mainstream journalists not been so arrogant, this might never have reached this state of affairs and now we will all be the poorer for it. (I know it is the opposition of the intention behind the move - but think about it, we wanted something for nothing.)
At the present time the government is also saying they won't bail out the Downunder operations of Virgin Airways. Given that the company has at least 81% foreign ownership that sounds like a good thing.  But, if the company survives, you can be sure it is the passengers who will end up paying to ensure that those who do own it can still line their pockets with cloth of gold. Why did we ever allow this sort of ownership to occur? Did we want something for nothing?
This morning there is a report in the paper of a businessman who has taken the state government to court over the removal of a small portion of railway line in the Barossa Valley - something which has put an end to any hope of reopening the rail network through the region. He has to pay for taking the government to court over the issue. They argued that a roundabout at a busy intersection was more important. I can only assume it was a cheaper short term option for them than putting in traffic lights. They have won a court case without paying for it - but at what final cost to the taxpayer?
For  years the union movement has argued that they need "better wages and conditions" - far beyond anything the first unionists were seeking. We have ended up paying for that too.
I don't know if we can recover or not. Yesterday, as I was passing, a former union representative was arguing with a former railway employee and his wife, with whom I trained as a teacher. The union representative was "really worried that everything we have fought for will be lost". The railway employee's wife looked at me in despair and then said to the union representative,
   "But we have to be able to pay for these things."
He just could not see this. "The government" must pay and continue to pay was his view. 
I am not sure where he thought the money was coming from. I am also uncertain who or what he thinks "the government" is. I thought it was us through our representatives. We have to pay for what we get. It doesn't come for nothing.
Yes, I am worried about how we will pay for the current heavy expenditure. I know why it is necessary. It is not the GFC all over again. We will pay for the demands on Google and Facebook and a lot of other things besides. If we want two major airlines then we will need to pay for those too.
It doesn't mean that we should meekly hand over billions of dollars to already wealthy people who have been lining their pockets with cloth of gold for years. They have to pay too.
When this present crisis is "over" in the sense that we can return to meeting family and friends and salvage whatever is left in the way of employment then we need to recognise we all have to pay for it. 
I don't think some wealthy business people or union representatives are going to like that.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

A delivery of flowers

occurred across the road yesterday.
It was an ominous but not unexpected sign that something had happened. Yes, it has.
I have just spoken to my neighbour, back from her early morning run. She came quietly across the road and asked how we were.
   "More to the point," I said, "How are you?"
   "Coping. Mum passed away on Sunday."
The news was no surprise. I am just thankful that S.... was able to go and see her mother in New Zealand. I wish she had been able to be there at the end, that she could be there now and give her grandparents the comfort they need on losing their daughter. They are almost the same age as the Senior Cat, an age where they should be able to depend on their children for the help they need. They should not be burying a child.
S... has had time - but not had time. She was expecting her mother's death and, as a doctor, knew it was inevitable.
    "It's still a shock," she told me.
Of course it is. 
I knew, from conversations with S....and her husband M...., that the end was near. I  have been making S... something, making something because flowers die too. I have made her a small shoulder shawl the colour of the common yellow daffodils. The ends need to be sewn in. I'll do that this morning and then leave it for her. 
It's the hug I can't give her right now. 

Monday 20 April 2020

If Malcolm Turnbull expects

a wave of sympathy following the publication of "A bigger picture" then he will have, once again, misread the public mood.
Politicians should not write books, particularly not write "tell all" books when they have been dumped. It makes them look bitter and revengeful. 
Turnbull is both those things. 
I will admit here that I have never liked Turnbull. Before he became Prime Minister I  heard stories about him. He was a leader of the "republic" push. Some of those in it thought he was there because he saw himself as one day being President. It did not make him popular.  I don't support the idea of Downunder being a "republic". We are already a completely independent country with our own head of state. Those who claim otherwise in order to try and gain support are simply being dishonest.  What they are really seeking is a change to the way we are governed - a change in a way they believe will (often financially) benefit them.
That was a start but I also have a nephew who, more than once, has personally witnessed Turnbull's behaviour in what I suppose would be described as public but social settings. My nephew was not impressed by drunken, abusive behaviour and disrespect towards women.  He was not impressed by the arrogance and boorish manner of the man.
Politicians on both sides of the fence - and those who sit on it - have told me Turnbull was not a leader and that he could not work with people.  He expected people to work for him.
Turnbull's predecessor was many things, some of which he was rightly criticised for, but he knew he was the leader of the team and that he needed the team and their cooperation if he was to do the job. When history reviews their respective contribution his will be the greater. (I know, not a popular viewpoint, but one which is shared by many who know about such things.)
Now Turnbull is complaining that copies of his book have been illegally distributed. It would seem they have been distributed to people who have a very direct interest in what he has had to say.
I disapprove strongly of breaches of copyright but, in this instance, I am not at all surprised there has been such a blatant breach of it.  Why? Perhaps because the purpose, perhaps the sole purpose, in writing the book was - as he sees it - revenge. In it Turnbull claims that the party he was supposed to once lead should have lost the election. He cannot accept that the present Prime Minister, who also has his faults, managed to turn what looked like certain defeat into a victory.
A real leader would have been glad of that. Turnbull is not a leader. He is a traitor. He would have been wiser not to have written the book at all.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Going back to school

or not going back to school?
The paediatrician across the road is sending her two children back to school and day care next week. Ms W is also going back to school. 
Risks? Yes, of course there are some but they are calculated risks.
The two little boys want to go back to school and day care.  They didn't spend any extra time at home. It has been the Easter break here. 
All their parents are hoping for is that it won't merely be a child minding service for essential workers. There should be no need for that. 
I know teachers are at risk. One of them told me that she is worried about going back to work but, "I won't be going into the staff room and I will be emphasising cleanliness even more than usual."
Ms W is, reluctantly, going back to school. Her reluctance has nothing to do with the virus. Her father is working almost entirely from home and she is not quite so concerned about him now. As she put it, "If I only have my Dad then I am allowed to be a bit worried."
Her reluctance has to do with the fact that she has actually achieved more, much more, at home than she usually does at school.  She has done all the school work required of her - and more besides. Their freezer is stacked with meals. ("If my Dad actually remembers to get one out and eat it.") The garden is almost winter ready. Ms W is, rightly, feeling rather pleased with herself. Her efforts put mine to shame.
It has been interesting to watch her from afar. We have talked - from the requisite distance. Her father told her to take some time off this week. I did the same. It hasn't stopped her gardening. She has been for exercise. She has done some paper craft ready to give her friends when she sees them and a copy of the fire and ambulance station for a child in her street. It's for his birthday because, at present, he wants to be a fireman when he grows up. He is a fairly careful sort of child so it will probably last some time but Ms W knows it won't last forever.
And she has not watched television apart from a documentary - which was "okay". The only real disaster has been that she has run out of library books and the idea of choosing them on line instead of browsing along the shelves made her uncharacteristically irritable. 
Does going back to school worry her?
   " A bit. We will all have to be extra careful I guess but I am bothered about whether our teachers might get sick."
Her reluctance has more to do with the fact that she feels she was achieving more at home. I pointed out that not everyone is as motivated to learn as she is. This is something she finds hard to understand.
   "But everyone should like learning things!"
I reminded her that not everyone does and that the good thing about going back to school will be seeing her friends again. In answer to that I got no more than, "I suppose so but it will be awfully boring if the others haven't finished everything we were supposed to do and we have to do it all over again."
Going back to school has all sorts of challenges.

Saturday 18 April 2020

Domestic violence is on the

increase according to reports -  due to the "lock down", working from home, and the "social distance" restrictions. Two days ago it took a tragic turn here with a particularly violent death occurring. This morning there was a letter in the paper from the former DPP saying he could never understand why it is the victims of domestic violence who get punished. 
The victims are those who are supposed to leave the situation, find shelter somewhere else, watch out for themselves and much more.
When the Senior Cat retired from his work as a school principal he went on to do other things. Several years into retirement he started to do odd jobs for a women's shelter.  It was work he did until he could no longer physically do. He went there for over twenty years and he could never accept the need for such places. It angered him then, as it does now, that such places should be necessary. He also believes that it is the perpetrators of domestic violence who are the ones who should be punished, not the victims.
A short while ago - and I am doing this with the permission of those involved - a mother and son I knew had to move again. The husband and father had, by a very unfortunate quirk, found them although they had new identities and had been relocated. There were two other people who knew their story, myself and a priest. Their few friends here knew that the mother was fleeing from domestic violence but not the full story. A small group of young people, of whom I will be forever proud, provided friendship for her son. They were trusted with the information that he and his mother really were in serious danger. On occasions they did not do things or go to places because it was considered unsafe for him. Did they regret it? No. He was their friend, a member of their tight-knit little group. They would have done anything they could to protect him and his mother.
Now they don't know where he is. He and his mother have had to be moved to another safe location. I can say no more. 
It is an enormous emotional and physical upheaval for mother and son. They should not have to spend their lives looking over their shoulders, worrying about what might happen. The strain on them is obvious. They do not lead normal lives. The male perpetrator in this instance is a very powerful man and, so far, he has been untouchable.
This is one of the most extreme sorts of situation and one of the hardest. As victims  they are the ones being punished.
And it isn't just them. They have had to leave behind four other young people and their families, all of whom gave them the love and support they needed. The young people are, rightly, devastated and finding it hard to comprehend.
No such support came for the woman who died two days ago. Her death was apparently violent. People heard screams for help and did nothing. They were afraid of getting involved - and nobody called the police either. Now children, thankfully apparently not present, are without a mother.  
Right now we need to be even more aware, aware of what can go on behind closed doors. Aware that it is not the victims who should be held responsible but the perpetrators.

Friday 17 April 2020

Competitive sport seems to be

more important than the economy in the minds of some people. There appear to be demands that the football be allowed to go ahead whatever else might happen. It is apparently almost a national emergency...or is it?
Now yes of course I understand that football is a livelihood for some people. I understand that if matches are not played some people will lose their jobs. That doesn't make me happy, quite the opposite. 
It still doesn't mean that I think football is so important that it should be allowed to go ahead if it is not considered safe to do so.
At present we are doing well in this state. The danger from Covid19 is not over but we are doing well. I am still worried by the fact that my doctor nephew and his wife, a nurse, are on the front line. We won't see them for a very long time. Middle Cat and my BIL have not seen them for the same length of time.  It simply isn't safe. 
Until it is safe for them to see us then it is not safe to hold a football match...even without the spectators. Football is a "contact" sport. It is dangerous at the best of times. If you add the virus into the mix then you have something that is potentially very serious indeed. 
   "Oh but you could isolate the players from the rest of the community," someone told me yesterday. (We were talking at more than the requisite distance. ) He is fuming that a decision still has not been made to hold the matches. "Don't people realise how important this is?"
Important? I don't understand that. Yes, I know people "love their football" but isn't keeping people safe more important? We don't need people to risk their lives like that just so that couch potatoes can be entertained.  
I know that actual playing careers in football tend to be short-lived. Unless you are among the top few then you possibly don't earn a lot from it but it is a choice that people make. 
When I was a kitten I remember the cricketers had other careers as well. A lot of cricketers worked in banks. Back then it was the sort of job where the boss would see that you were available. It reflected well on them too. The cricketers didn't get paid nearly as much. I don't know what happened to the footballers. Was it the same? When did all this change?
When I think of all the things we actually need to get up and running again, things that are important to the future of the country, I wonder why the sports industry seems to believe it is some sort of special case. It isn't. 
We need to get out and exercise instead.

Thursday 16 April 2020

The annual flu vaccination

is more important than ever this year.
Middle Cat spent some time trying to work out how to get all three of us jabbed. Persuade our GP to give her the necessary and do it herself? Get her doctor son - my nephew - to do it?  Get her daughter-in-law, a nurse, to do it? No, they are now on the front-line and not coming anywhere near us.
Annoyingly we could not go to the chemist as the type we need isn't available there.
Realising there was a problem for more than one person the medical clinic decided to set up a station outside. People can drive up, stay in the car, wind down the windows and get jabbed. 
We arrived at the appointed time. Middle Cat was greeted with a cheerful smile and some banter - of course she knows the staff who were doing the job. They marked our names off, jabbed us and told us to wait ten minutes before letting Middle Cat drive off. The nurse was one of those who can actually give an injection without you feeling more than the slightest of pricks.
It was all very efficient.
So, why is my arm feeling so sore this morning? Grrrr.... 
Seriously though, we are very fortunate. I had an email from a friend in Zambia this morning. She is, rightly, concerned about the health of the children in her care. So far the virus has not reached them.  She is not hoarding cleaning supplies but she was letting me know that they have used the limited funds available for getting in some extra soap...more than they would usually have on hand. It will keep if it is not needed. Her only defence though will be even more attention to cleanliness.
I wish I could send her the almost 5000 rolls of toilet paper and 150 litres of hand sanitiser some fool thought he could stockpile and use to make a profit. He should be named, shamed and required to hand them over to charity.

Wednesday 15 April 2020

The Show must (not) go on

and there will be many disappointed people.
The Show I refer to of course is our state's annual Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show. It is the big one. It is the event of the year for farmers and rural people. Many of them depend on it in ways that city people know nothing about. It will be a huge financial loss to the RAHS and to many others.
It is not a decision which was taken lightly.
I heard about the decision just before it went public and I knew there would be people who would take the sensible view, that is that an event like this could not be held for many months yet. I also knew that there would be people who would claim it was ridiculous and of course the show could go on.
Let me put it this way, about 500,000 people usually attend the Show. There are between 50,000 and 80,000 people moving through the gates each day. The grounds are crowded. "Social distancing" isn't possible. It would have been highly irresponsible to say that the Show could go ahead.  
The RAHS looked into it thoroughly. They got advice - and they have acted on it.
Disappointed? Yes, of course. Some of us had actually already put a lot of work into the Show. I had been to meetings. I set up Replanting Australia and I spent hours and hours seeking support for that. I went to meetings. I have helped people with entries and much more. In the end none of that matters though. I would much rather people were safe and alive.
And all is not lost by any means. We are going to keep Replanting Australia alive because that can still be used. We still want people to knit and crochet squares they have designed themselves. Please look at the Facebook page by that name and join it. Make a square or two.  It is something anyone who can knit or crochet can do while life is so different.
If you were planning on entering items in the Show then this is your chance to do them. You have an extra twelve months now. We should have more entries than we can cope with next time because there will be a next time. If you have already finished something then put it to one side (in a place where you CAN find it) and move on to the next thing and the next.  Let's make the next time the best ever.
At some point later in the year when they say it is possible for small groups of people to get  together again then people can have "show and tell" about their items, they can get advice and help. Right now though people need support and one way of getting support is to do something for other people.  
So, please look at your stash and get started.

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Financial help for overseas students

affected by the Covid19 economic fall out has been ruled a "no go" area by the government. They have said they "need to draw the line somewhere". 
The idea of drawing the line is understandable but in this instance it seems to me it is not necessary. There might be a solution, particularly for those part way through their courses.
I will put it to you as a question, "What if we gave those students a loan, a loan paid for out of the foreign aid budget?" 
Instead of paying back the loan in monetary terms here the student would need to agree to volunteer in their own country. They would need to volunteer to the value of the loan and in an appropriate area.  
It seems to me that this way everyone benefits. The students stay here and finish their courses. The money they get is spent here on fees, accommodation, food and other services. That helps this economy. Their own home countries benefit with the services of well trained young people who will need experience before moving into fully paid employment. 
Yes, I can see there might be opportunities for exploitation. It would cost something to run such a scheme too but it could be done.
We tend to believe that students from other countries either have jobs waiting for them when they get home or that they will get jobs easily. That is not necessarily true.  I know - from experience - that qualifications which are highly regarded in one country can be completely ignored in another. If you are not studying in your home country you can also be missing out on vital "networks" which will help you obtain a position. 
Requiring authorities in other countries to take on people who have qualified here - even for just a couple of years - would give everyone a chance to find out how useful someone is.  It could give people valuable experience.
It's an idea. Is there a major flaw in this that I have not considered? 

Monday 13 April 2020

There is less traffic on the roads,

much less traffic on the roads.
Yesterday afternoon should have seen roads packed with people coming back from the "Easter long weekend away".  Most people were sensible and caring enough to stay home.
They still went out - out for a walk or a bicycle road.  I had more people I have never seen before give me a smile and a wave. It really is nice. I will be sorry when that part is over and people revert to using their cars again. 
The smiles and waves and occasional "hello" or something similar are like candles lighting the darkness of the present situation. Queen Elizabeth was so right to remind us of how the lighting of candles forms the part of so many faiths.
And yes, things will get better. I had a virtual hug from our friend P... yesterday. P... is a nun and, for her, Easter is the greatest event on the religious calendar. Not to be able to go to all the services associated with Easter would have been particularly difficult for her and B.... with whom she shares a house. I know arrangements would have been made for them by Father K....but it would still be difficult. 
I.... called me yesterday. It was lovely to hear from her and get virtual hugs for me and for the Senior Cat.  I called J... who lives not-quite-alone because she has two cats. We exchanged a virtual hug too.
This morning there was an email from my friend L... She is taking time out from social media right now but I wanted her to know I have been thinking of her. She sent hugs for me and for the Senior Cat and a virtual vase of flowers from her garden. It was wonderful to have a reminder that, while we are going into winter, it is spring in Upover and life will get better again.
I am not a "morning coffee" sort of cat but even I am looking forward to the time when I could do that if I wanted to do it.
And there are small-but-big things that really make me smile. As I prowled out  for exercise yesterday I saw Father A... He was standing in the garden of the rectory and looking up into a tree, the right sort of gum tree. He waved me in and pointed. There was a sleepy koala not too far up. We could both see the nick out of one ear telling us that it was the very young injured koala Father A... had provided water and leaves for several weeks ago.
    "I thought that little chap was gone for good but he turned up yesterday...probably because it is so much quieter at present."
That was like a virtual hug too.

Sunday 12 April 2020

"Zoom" technology is

being employed in many ways right now - but it is beyond the Senior Cat.
We investigated it yesterday. He wanted to know what it is because the local priest is employing to for Sunday Services right now. I wondered if we could set it up so that he could communicate with my brother - and even with the great-grand kittens. 
The Senior Cat knows about Skype - sort of - but it didn't really impress him. Would Zoom be any better? 
I tried to explain. Eventually we gave up. He says he has better things to do with his time than worry about new forms of technology.  I know that he would not be able to cope with a Sunday Service like that. He wouldn't be able to hear it and would be confused by what he was expected to do. It isn't a matter of vital importance to him anyway. Today is fine. At the time he would be in church he will, hopefully, be outside. 
He may look as if he is simply staring into space but I know that he will come in for his cup of tea or, later, for lunch and say,
    "I've been thinking...." or "You know that book I have been reading..." 
We will talk. Apart from  essentials we do not talk about gardening. He doesn't discuss conjuring with me. He talks to my brother about woodwork and the foundations for the rainwater tank. They discuss the education of the great-grand kittens and more. His conversations with Middle Cat tend to be about everyday things or how the human body works. He finds it hard to talk to the Black Cat so he simply asks her about what she has been doing.
But, I am here. I am available. He can ask me about something he has read in the paper. Before the Cardinal was released he asked me what could happen and afterwards he wanted to know why the decision had been made. He wants to know about statistics and why it is thought "social distancing" might work. When I finished knitting something recently he wanted to know how I had stiffened it - and  where I had found the information. 
The Senior Cat is full of questions. He wants to know things. At ninety-seven he is more inquisitive than some seven years old kittens I know. He has managed to learn to use an i-pad although his understanding of how to search for something is still heavily influenced by the filing methods of his youth. He does not believe things just because they are there on the internet.
But Zoom...? No. He will be fine as long as the phone is working and YouTube can show him the clip that will tell him  "how" or "why".

Saturday 11 April 2020

Creating things, making things

doing things is becoming more important right now.
Our neighbour across the way is out of self-isolation and sent me an email yesterday afternoon to say that she had left two home-made hot cross buns at the door for us. (We take social distancing very seriously as does she.)
"The boys helped - sort of," she told me in the note. I can imagine. They are too young to be patient about yeast cookery. It takes time for the dough to rise and they would want almost instant results. 
We had the buns as part of our evening meal - and they were very nice. 
But baking does not last. My waistline is suffering from a less than usual amount of exercise and the difficulty of getting the fresh fruit and vegetables we prefer. Our green grocer will deliver but with just two of us the cost rises...and rises again. 
Other things might happen. The Senior Cat has been filling cardboard pots with soil and compost...after I had moved it all into place so he could "play outside". The seeds are there waiting to go in and bide their time over winter. We might have the results in spring.
And I have found young Robbie in the files. He was sitting there grinning at me, "Got you! Now you are going to have to do some work with me." The temptation is to shut him back in the file - just to pay him back for grinning at me but... I might.
I am, very slowly, tidying up some crafty things. There are my plans for the state's annual Show sitting there. Will we have one? At present it seems very unlikely but could I do it all for next year? Will there be a Show next year? Will  I be here to participate?  What will have changed? 
Of course I think about those things but I am also trying to  think in a positive way and get things done.  There are friends trying to do the same. It isn't easy but it is good when one of them phones me and says, "I've had an idea....what do you think?"
I like ideas...even if I don't agree with them. Thinking is important. Thinking about ideas, positive and creative ideas, is even more important.


Friday 10 April 2020

Keeping in touch with other people

is becoming increasingly important. Social distancing cannot be allowed to become social isolation which in turn can lead to mental ill-health.
I feel so strongly about the importance of this for some people that I recently wrote a note to my local federal Member of Parliament. 
Now let it be said here that I do not do such things lightly. I like to sort things out for myself if I can because I also know that far too many people think, "That's something my MP can do. MPs don't do anything." 
On this occasion though I knew it was a nationwide issue. I sent an email even though I know it is better to send an MP an old fashioned snail mail letter. (Yes, really!) I was taking advantage of the fact that I knew an email from me was likely to be read and responded to in a reasonable space of time. 
It was. I had a return email yesterday. Action has been taken at her level. What will happen higher up is now in the hands of other people.
What I did was point out that many people on limited incomes cannot afford the more expensive mobile phone plans that allow them to make as many calls as they would like to make at this present time. They have the simplest and cheapest possible emergency plan. It is not intended for anything more than being able to contact someone they know in an emergency. Some people on such plans are people with limited intellectual abilities. They usually rely on community activities  to socialise. Others are people with other disabilities who are unable to work. Their day-care activities have ceased. Far too many of them who were employed, even just for a few hours a week, no longer have jobs. Money is always tight in these circumstances. Unlimited access to even just conversation on a phone is a luxury. Right now many of those people are almost completely isolated. 
I know of two quite large groups who are housed in the community. They live "independently" in that they have tiny units - which amount to not much more than a bathroom and a living space with a "kitchen" at one end and a television at the other. In between there is a table so small that two people cannot eat comfortably together. There is a bedroom which is barely big enough for the bed and the "built-in" wardrobe. 
At the best of times these are perhaps "adequate" living spaces. Right now when people are not supposed to go out and socialise and even close family are not supposed to visit they are prison like.
I know of nobody in one of these who reads for pleasure, indeed many of them cannot read well enough to manage their own paper work and that is why I know them. They do not own computers  or know how  to  use them. Several of the women can  do simple craft work but,  in more normal times, they would ask me or someone else to help with instructions or to fix a mistake.  
Isolating people in this group however is essential. Many of them have underlying health conditions. If they become ill through the virus they are not likely to survive.  If they do it will be at an immense and possibly permanent cost to themselves and to the community due to increased medical needs. 
And they have the right to the same capacity to "socially distant" contact family and friends as anyone else. 
I've raised the issue. My federal MP agrees with me. I hope the Minister responsible can do something about it. 

Thursday 9 April 2020

Toilet paper is the new

white gold currency. 
I had to go to the chemist for the Senior Cat yesterday. (No, I did not growl at him when he told me he needed more eye-drops even though I had asked him three days previously if he had enough to last until Easter.) So, instead of waiting until today to get the milk for the long Easter weekend, I went to the supermarket as well. 
It isn't something I ever really enjoy and it is worse than usual right now...except that something happened. 
I have to pass the supermarket to get to the chemist but I went and dropped the prescription in. A "twenty minute wait" I was told. I made the most of it. I checked the post office box for the elderly man who cannot get out right now and then I went into the supermarket.
One of the students who works there part time was stacking the shelves with packs of toilet rolls. They were huge packs - about forty rolls in each pack. Even if I could justify buying that much I could not carry it. People were taking it off the shelf as fast as he was putting it on there. Do they really need that much?
He gave me a smile though and, from under the trolley he was taking the paper from he took a pack of twelve rolls.
    "I put it aside for you Cat. I thought you might need it. If you don't then you can share it out."
He had seen me going past the supermarket as he wheeled the trolley in, guessed I would be back and kept it in case I wanted it.
We actually have sufficient at present but I knew two families with children who were genuinely worried about their supply. I bought it. I broke the pack in halves and passed the rolls on. 
    "I would have kept it," a neighbour told me when he saw me doing it. No, I didn't need it. There will be more. I happen to know he is hoarding one of those forty something roll packs - and he lives alone. 
And no, I am not being "good" or "thoughtful" I am merely trying to be sensible. I know other people who would do the same thing simply because it is the common-sense thing to do.
But I have to confess I had a hard time not having a little sniffle at the thoughtfulness of the student shelf-stacker. All I have ever done for him is read an essay.
It would be nice if one good thing to come out of all this social distancing is some togetherness in other ways.

Wednesday 8 April 2020

The acquittal of Cardinal Pell

will be the subject of great scrutiny by generations of law students to come.
"Criminal Law" and "Evidence" were the two subjects I enjoyed least in Law School. I passed both subjects of course. They were compulsory. I would not have been granted my degree without passing them but that does not mean I liked them. I often felt there was nothing "fair" or "just" about the way decisions were made. 
It did not stop me taking an interest in yesterday's decision however because it was unusual. Many other people I know asked what I thought might happen prior to the decision being made. I knew what the legal profession, in an overall way, was thinking.
So, what happened?
I won't try and explain the ins and the outs of it because the law is complex and I can't pretend I fully understand it. I don't.
Several things could have happened.
The High Court could simply have refused to allow the appeal. That means that Pell would have remained in prison and he would have been convicted of the offences he was charged with.
The Court could have allowed the appeal but ruled that Pell should still have been convicted of the offences. He would have remained in prison.
The Court could have allowed the appeal but sent the case back to the state's courts to be tried again. That was always unlikely, particularly because the first trial had ended with the jury being unable to come to a verdict. By the time the second trial was over there was so much said in the media that getting a fair trial was even more unlikely. (It was never very likely in the first place as Pell had already been tried and found wanting by people who made no secret that they believed he was guilty.   The damage had been done by the ABC's Louise Milligan and others.)
Or the Court could find in favour of the applicant, i.e. Pell. The last was  the one the legal profession appeared to believe the most likely.  I was told, "It will probably be a majority decision Cat - possibly as high as five-two but more likely four-three." 
It was a unanimous decision of all seven judges. That in itself is extraordinary. Despite their very careful wording it suggests that all seven judges were concerned by the conduct of the case as well as the outcome. They suggested there was "a very real possibility" that an innocent man had been found guilty.
Others disagree. Pell was an unpopular figure, even within the church. He was (and is) very conservative. He is opposed to issues like "same sex marriage" and the ordination of women. There are people I have met who feel he should be left in prison simply because he opposes these things.
However if the police and the DPP had felt there was any chance at all they would have prosecuted Pell on other matters. They knew their case in the issue which they did try to prosecute was very weak. By now it is also recognised that the police went "trawling" (trying to find incidents that they could use) but the "evidence" provided was not going to be sufficient for the standard of proof required, i.e. "beyond reasonable doubt". It failed on this occasion too - but not before a man's reputation and career were in ruins.  
This is not enough for some however. There are now strenuous efforts being made to pursue matters through the civil courts where the standard of proof is much lower being only "on the balance of probabilities".  One member of the legal profession, obviously touting for business, said he believed the decision would "encourage" others to come forward.
The only person who truly knows what he has done is Pell himself.
There is no doubt he is a human being. He has made mistakes. We all do. Despite the efforts of some to claim he is still guilty he is, in the eyes of the law, an innocent man.
 If there is evidence of a crime being committed then it has to go through the proper processes. Those who want to pursue him on such serious matters should do so in the proper way, not simply out of vindictiveness.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Self isolation is over

for our neighbour across the road. 
I haven't spoken to her yet but she arrived home at around lunch time yesterday. I think her partner must have broken the world record for getting out the door to greet her. (I could see this from our front window and hastily turned my back on what was probably a very intimate moment.)
I think I have explained before that S... is a paediatrician. She naturally takes issues like self-isolation very seriously. 
I also know that we will not see my nephew or his partner, a doctor and a nurse, for months. They are not - yet - on the front line as they have other roles to play but they also take the isolation measures extremely seriously. I suspect, although I have not heard from them, that they are also doing more than usual so that others can be on the front line.
And I do know people on the front line. Some of them are friends, others are people I have worked with and more.
It totally, absolutely and utterly infuriates me that anyone in the medical profession is being abused right now. Yes, I can understand the anger and the frustration and the despair and the grief of being told to isolate when someone you love is critically ill. Of course you want to be there. Right then it seems like the most important thing in the world and the worst possible idea. I have far too much imagination when it comes to such things and my despair if I was in that position with the Senior Cat is something I am trying desperately hard not to contemplate.  
What I cannot understand is the currently healthy members of the public abusing (and even spitting on) members of the medical profession. I cannot understand them saying that members of the medical profession are "spreading the virus". It is much more likely that these currently healthy people who are ignoring rules about "social distancing" and "hygiene" and "hand washing" and "stay at home" are doing that themselves. 
I had to go out yesterday. I had no choice. Middle Cat had to go with me. We observed the rules. We saw other people failing to observe the rules.
Perhaps that is why we were greeted with a glare by a "meet and greet" person. No, she did not want to let us into the bank. We should be able to do that transaction on line. She was as abusive as  it was possible to be without actually shouting at  us. Middle Cat, who is much better than I am at handling this sort of thing, stood her ground and we were permitted to speak to a teller. The issue took some sorting out - and the teller agreed it could not have been done on line or over the phone. 
It did not help that the "meet and greet" person was Chinese in appearance.  Middle Cat and I tried to be charitable. The girl was probably getting abused by other people. 
All this really isn't helping anyone. That word "thank you" is even more important right now.

Monday 6 April 2020

There were only two recorded cases

of Covid19 reported in this state  yesterday....
Let's hold it right there. It does NOT mean that I am going to loiter in the aisles of the local supermarket, visit friends or do any of the other things which involve contact with other humans.
Middle Cat came over last night. She is family but she took precautions, big precautions. Yes, that is how serious it is. She helped the Senior Cat have a shower but she was gloved and masked.  
Middle Cat and I have agreed to take helping him  in turns because Middle Cat needs to check the state of Senior Cat's feet. He has serious problems with those - related to being extremely "flat footed" and his poor circulation. (The latter is age and mobility related.) If there are other medical issues Middle Cat can also assess the advisability of getting additional medical help. 
We are fortunate in all that but it doesn't mean we are taking risks.
The "just two cases" does not mean life is getting back to normal. If we get to the point where there are no new cases for two months I might cautiously venture into a place like the library (where I can keep a "social distance" from other people) if the library is open again. I still won't be loitering in crowded places. 
This is the problem with the way the media is reporting all this. It is actually damned irresponsible. They should be screaming. "The problem is not solved yet. Stay home. Stay away from other people."
Social media is proving useful right now. I can check on quite a few friends that way. The telephone is useful for some others (mostly elderly) ...and I have even written a few old fashioned letters. 
Will people go on communicating like this? Sadly, I doubt it. I doubt that I will see parents out walking the children as well as the dog or that the parents and children will pass me as they ride their bicycles up the hill. (I am slow pedalling sort of cat.)
I note that the latest organisation to put their hands up for a bail out is the rugby association - an organisation which has been paying their administrators as well as their players obscene amounts. While I would be concerned about people losing their jobs I still don't believe that governments should be giving organisations like that any money, especially right now. Put the money into saving lives and educating people about the need for long term and permanent changes to the way we live.
The waters around Venice look remarkably clean. It's time to keep them (and many other places) that way.

Sunday 5 April 2020

Keeping children occupied

seems to be something of an issue right now. There are screams from a little further down our street  - at the house occupied by twin girls  of around three years of age.
I have spoken to them and their mother but cannot claim to know them the way I know the other neighbours with other kittens. I know the names of these other kittens. They had books bestowed on them by us when they were born - the obligatory AA Milne. I know they get read to at night. (This has happened even while M... is coping with T... and H... on his own. S... is out of self-isolation tomorrow and we are all looking forward to that!) 
I also know that all the kittens on the other side of the road - there are six of them altogether - have what I consider to be toys which have plenty of "play value". These are the sort of toys which require the kittens to use their imagination and develop a range of other skills. I have added to these over the past few years with their Christmas activity packs - intended to help keep them occupied over the summer holidays when it is too hot to be out of doors. The Senior Cat and I get some of this back from time to time in the form of "letters" and "cards" and "pictures". 
I am less sure about the twin girls. According to their immediate neighbour they never go to the library and they don't go to any sort of day care or nursery school. Perhaps it is little wonder if they are now both screaming again. 
Yes, the others can have temper tantrums but not quite in the same way. And yes, I know twins can set each other off.
But the Senior Cat and I were just discussing it. He said, "Imagine being stuck inside all day with two like that."
No, please! I would have to work rapidly to find all possible things for them to do...but would they know how to do things? As kittens my brother and I were expected to entertain ourselves a lot of the time. Our mother was not given to "playing" with us. She might have been a teacher - and a teacher of infants at that - but she took the view that we should learn to entertain ourselves. We were sent outside to play at every opportunity. It had to be raining steadily before we were allowed to remain in. Cold out there? Put another layer on and be active. Of course we were lucky. We lived in a small rural community at the time. Everyone knew everyone and all kittens played outside unless it was raining. (We didn't have snow.)
It would be interesting to know if children are playing outside more at the moment - or are they simply getting more screen time? I hope they are out.
And as I was talking to the Senior Cat I remembered an occasion on which my brother and I had built an entire village with our blocks and my train set and other things. It went across the entire floor of our room. We thought it was wonderful. We were having a great adventure with it. Our mother thought otherwise. It wasn't raining.
    "Outside now and do something!"
My brother looked up at her - and he can't have been more than three - and said, "But I am doing something!" 
And we were because learning is child's play.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Keeping in touch

with family and friends was never more important right now.
An elderly friend of mine, E....,had heart surgery yesterday - a valve replacement. These days it is a much simpler piece of surgery than it once was but it is still surgery and it still, like any surgery, carries with it risks.  
At the present time only cardiac, cancer  and emergency surgery are being done. Her surgery was considered absolutely essential. And yes, a lot of people would like her around for at least a few more years. She is smart, funny and full of commonsense.
I was thinking of her on and off during the day. In the late afternoon I had a call from another friend J.
    "I told L....(E..'s daughter) I would let you know. E... is out of recovery and back in the ward. All being well she can go and stay with L... tomorrow."
I didn't realise until then that I had actually been anxious. I let out a sigh of relief. We chatted for a bit. L... is a nurse and can make sure her mother is well cared for. Hospital is no place to be at any time but even more so now.
Another friend had phoned at lunch time. She was just checking to see we were managing and whether we needed anything. 
In the very late afternoon another friend phoned to check on the Senior Cat. She had seen me pedalling out but wanted to know about him.
And the husband of another friend left some biscuits his wife had made as a "thank you" to the Senior Cat. No, he didn't come in. We kept our distance which seemed odd as he would normally sit and have a cup of tea with the Senior Cat. He probably should not have done that but we could hardly say no. 
I have phoned people. I sent my godfather a proper letter as he finds it hard to hear on the phone. When he is feeling up to it I know he will contact us. 
As long as the phone system keeps working and the internet does not fail we don't need to lose touch with people. I am reminding myself that keeping in touch is even more important now. Please nudge me on that one if I forget.

Friday 3 April 2020

Apparently going to the gun shop

is as essential as going to church in the United least according to their President.
I think there is a gun shop somewhere here in the city. I am honestly not sure about that. Thankfully we don't have the sort of gun culture here. It is illegal to carry guns here the way they do there. You can't carry them on public transport at all. If you must move them from one place to another in a car then they have to be locked into a box. You certainly can't walk around with a concealed weapon.
I am of course talking about private ownership. Our police now carry guns. They didn't when I was a mere kitten. I was thirteen before I saw a policeman with a gun. That was in another state and we children were shocked to think that it was considered necessary. I still don't think it should be necessary but the world is a very different place.
But thankfully most of the citizens of this state do not own guns and would have no idea how to fire one. I have never even held a real one. We didn't play with the toy sort in any serious way either. Our parents did not encourage it. I don't think we ever "shot people dead". 
A great many shops here have closed for the moment - and some may never reopen. Nobody here would consider a gun shop to be essential.
Churches, temples, mosques and synagogues have also had to close here. For many people this makes no apparent difference. They don't attend those places on a regular basis. Such people are what the Senior Cat calls "the hatched, matched and dispatched congregation".  Interestingly though the priests, pastors, ministers, monks, imams, rabbis and the like are regarded as "essential". They are of the tiny group exempt from some, but not all, of the rules surrounding the rest of us right now. 
I know a number of the local priests and the like - mostly the Church of England and Roman Catholic crew who would meet on a fairly regular basis for coffee in a nearby shopping centre.  They are endeavouring to minister to their flocks, mostly from a distance. There has been "church by Zoom" for some too. 
And yesterday I saw one of them walking  up the hill...with a dog. I know he doesn't own a dog. I know the dog in question.
He gave me a smile and told me he had added occasional dog walking to his duties.
A little bit of practical Christianity. The owner happens to be a devout atheist.

Thursday 2 April 2020

Going shopping is fraught with danger

right now. 
I had to go yesterday. We needed milk and fresh fruit and vegetables. I could have had the greengrocer deliver but the supermarket will not deliver just milk. Who can blame them? 
So, I ventured out cautiously. 
The shopping centre was almost deserted. The last time I was in there - six days ago - it was quiet but shops were still open. 
On that occasion Middle Cat told me,
    "I think you had better spend that birthday voucher you have been saving."
    "I was thinking of saving it for winter," I said. This is because the voucher was for the local "sensible" clothing shop. I am not into the business of shopping for clothes if I can avoid it. I was the opinion I didn't need anything - and I don't  - but she thought otherwise.
    "I have a feeling the shop will be closed on Saturday - for quite a while."
I sighed and prowled in to the shop. I know the assistant. In the past I have stood in the doorway while she rushed off to the women's room. (They are not supposed to close their shops in the normal way.)
She waved me over to some of the sorts of things I "might" wear. I found a top. I bought it.
It is just as well I bought it. Yesterday the shop was closed "until further notice". The same was true of the shop next to it. The "hole in the wall" type coffee shop was shut. Further down there was another shop on my right closed and, on my left, two more. Around the corner the shoe shop and the nail place was closed. The optician was doing reduced business. The "deli" was open but you could not enter the shop. You had to stand behind the line and ask for what you wanted. 
The bookshop was open - with restrictions - but they may not be able to remain open much longer. They are supplied by an outlet which relies on Gardners in the UK and, unless the law changes, they will not be able to get anything but locally printed books.
I know "books" might seem like discretionary items but the library is also closed right now. People need things to read. They need things to read more than ever but they may not have the money to buy books.
I came home to an email from a friend in the US telling me, "Cat, the Internet Archive has set up a national emergency library. Anyone can access it. Perhaps you could let people know."
So, if you don't have a kindle or access to other books, the Internet Archive has books. It's legitimate. The books on it are either copyright free or there with the permission of the author. Searching it can be a bit awkward if you aren't sure what you want to read but read books you can - on a screen. 
It's not like having the book in your hand but there is food for the mind and soul there. 
More importantly though, I hope that Gardners will be back in business soon and that people will have jobs so that they can buy books.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Secondhand bookshops

are dangerous places and I should not be allowed anywhere near one.
Now please don't misunderstand me. I love new books. I spend far too much money on new books. I like to think authors are getting at least a few cents or pence from me. Middle Cat says I would rather spend money on books than anything else. This is probably true - although I do sometimes buy yarn so that I can knit while I read...well, sort of.
But you never know what you might find in a secondhand book shop. There are books I would like to read which are long out of print and not to be found in libraries. I  have a mental list of authors in my head. I search for those on the shelves.
Our local charity shop, sadly closed for the moment, has an excellent secondhand book section. It is well organised - fiction in alphabetical order, non-fiction in subject categories. It is tidy. You can find things. I sometimes get books in there for the Senior Cat. Once in a while I will find something I have been searching for in there as well.
There are other secondhand book shops that are like that too. The books, mostly fairly modern paper backs, will be arranged in a similar way.  Yes, I can enjoy prowling the shelves. There you can find the latest "best seller" by an award winning author - obviously unread - or a political "autobiography" I happen to know was not written by the politician in question. There is "literary" fiction there - bought by people who think they "should" read something. It is obvious they have never got past the first few pages. You can find slim volumes of poetry - some good but most not - and self-published books on topics such as the sex life of one legged birds. All of them obviously read by very few, if any.
But it is the other sort of second hand book shop I really love - where the books are piled high, stacked at all sorts of angles into the shelves or on the floor and on the stools and chairs. The books will be old. The books will be out of print. They will have come from homes where they were loved. Their spines will be creased. You can find the occasional pressed flower. There will be the newspaper cutting announcing a birth or, more likely, a death. There will be the letter or the recipe slipped between the pages of the most unlikely book. 
Such places are blessedly silent.
And the owner will look at you when you prowl in. They will give you a knowing nod and return to the book in their hands and leave you to go hunting alone. You understand each other perfectly. This isn't a "Can I help you?" sort of place. It is simply a place where readers, real readers, understand one another.