Sunday 31 May 2020

I teased a young policeman yesterday

and I am still here to tell you that. 
I saw the patrol car arrive in our local shopping centre as I was getting milk for the weekend. It was not hard to guess why they were there. There was no urgency about their visit at all. 
The two of them needed a quick break. I suspect such things are allowed under their work rules.
As I was leaving one of them, coming in the opposite direction and carrying a coffee cup, gave me a brief smile. I smiled back and asked, 
          "The essential caffeine fix?"
His smile turned to a grin and we both went on our way.
I pedalled home wondering if I could have done that everywhere in the world. The answer is "no" of course.
I usually do get an acknowledgment from the officers in the patrol car as they wait to pounce on people who do not obey the stop sign at the level crossing. It is a favourite place for them to sit in the mornings. 
When an elderly couple lived nearby their policeman son once pulled over in the patrol car and called out to me, "Hey Cat, have you seen Mum?"
There were a few startled looks around me that time. 
They have moved their radar gear out of the way so I can pedal through with a cheerful, "Look out, tricycle coming through" to their mates further down the road waiting for someone to break the speed limit. I have also been told, "No speeding now."
In London a friend was out late one night pushing the pram up and down trying to quieten a screaming teething son. A patrol car pulled up and, rightly, wanted to know what was going on. When the explanation was made they put the pram in the boot and took both father and baby in the car for "a bit of a ride". When the motion of the car had sent the child asleep they returned them to the hall of residence we were all living in.  The father, a US citizen, could not get over "city cops" doing that.
I doubt I would have been prepared to say anything like I said yesterday to a policeman in the US.  Most of them are probably nice people but they are different. I certainly would not say anything in jest to the police in many other places.
But yesterday it was good to know that the young policeman had still not had become so hardened by all the negative things they see and do that he could still enjoy a quick exchange with a stranger.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Twelve days a year

spent watching and worrying about football?
There was a piece in yesterday's paper - from one of the regular columnists - about  how the writer spent approximately that much time each year on football. It included not just going to watch a match or two or three but watching "the footy" on television and listening to it being talked about or reading about it. 
This was written by a man who would spend less time than some others pursuing the same activity. He did mention that, in the past, he had coached a junior team. 
The Senior Cat has a cousin who would be much the same. He was once one of the "selectors" for one of the A-league teams. For him the game is important. He teases the Senior Cat about the complete lack of interest in all things "sport" in this household.
But the writer of the article also mentioned that, because there has been no football, his family had discovered the pleasure of actually doing other things. They had been to a nearby national park where they had walked and ridden their bikes and observed the wildlife. They had played some board games together.
The wife of the Senior Cat's cousin mentioned something similar. They had done more as a family with no sport and not the same capacity to socialise outside the family.
     "I really don't want it to end," she told me. 
And I have heard other people say the same sort of thing. One woman told me,
     "It's been amazing. We have actually had some meals together for the first time in I don't know when."
Another woman told me, "I've finished all the sewing that was sitting there. It was lovely to rediscover the joy of actually making something."
A friend who knits sent me two "before" and "after" pictures of her depleted "stash". The child size garments for those in need are lovely. Made from wool they are destined for children in a refugee camp - and will get there because she knows someone involved in their distribution.
I have not done as much as these people. It might be because I still had work to do - although the nature of that work changed. In other ways life is not so very different because the Senior Cat still needs to be cared for, indeed cared for even more than before. I did finish a vest for my SIL for her birthday. R... "loves" it which is a relief. It is always a risk to make something without consulting the recipient. 
I have another one, of entirely a different type, almost done. There is not much to show for all this time in social isolation.
Maybe I just need to get back to work?

Friday 29 May 2020

Coffee with friends!

Did that really happen? Well yes and no  I suppose because it was also a meeting to do some work - and yes, we did work.
There are some things, particularly in craft related areas where it is just not possible to do everything by email and phone call. Those technological whiz kids might be able to do it by "Zoom" but some of us need to do it the simple, old fashioned, "Let's get together" way. It has not been possible until now.
Yesterday though three of us got together and did some work, a lot of work. We also had coffee. It was proper coffee in real cups in a real coffee place.
I am not fond of coffee. If they make it about a quarter of the usual strength then I can tolerate a cup of it for the sake of being social. If I had thought about it I might have asked for hot chocolate instead. It was that sort of weather.
When I made the arrangements one of the other attendees said, "Real people? Real coffee?" I could imagine her smiling. She gets out far more than I do and has undoubtedly missed such outings even more.
It all made me think about "working from home" and then the importance of "getting together". There are distinct advantages about working from home. I do not need to "dress for work". I do not need to waste time travelling to and from - and that saves money too. In my case I can care for the Senior Cat as well.  One disadvantage has been the "but  you don't really work do you?"
syndrome. I wonder whether that has changed at all now that more people have been working from home? 
But there are times when "getting together" does help. In this instance all three of us are I suppose "volunteers". We don't get paid to do what we do but we have also committed ourselves to doing something. This year has seen plans which were made interrupted by events outside our control. There is a need to keep a major state event going and keep people's interest in it. This is not about the way so many people think of the event as "good fun" but about the economic well being of the state and how the event contributes to that.
I came away from the meeting having committed to doing something.  I will work on it in the coming week and then put my ideas in front of the others.  Their ideas will come to me as well. We can fine tune and  then take the next steps.
We might do it over more coffee later but  that "coffee" yesterday has made us all feel recharged. We can get on with work now.

Thursday 28 May 2020

Get yourself vaccinated - against stupidity

There was the dreaded notice from the Blogger people yesterday... telling me that it will be compulsory to move to the new version soon. 
Growl. I like this one just the way it is. The "new" one is in no way an improvement. This version does just what it is intended to do. That is all that matters.
I could not even work out how to write a new post on the new version. (Thanks to D.... for emailing me and pointing out that there is no "new post" button as such but a plus sign at the bottom instead. Who on earth thought of that one?)
I thought the computer nerds were supposed to be brilliant, logical whiz kids. It seems not. I hope I don't lose all my blog posts. I do not have time to go back and read more than three thousand and decide which ones I would like to keep. I have not yet found out how to search for particular posts that others refer to from time to time.
All this was foolish and unnecessary and, so far, the comments I have seen would seem others tend to agree with me.
Is there a vaccination for stupidity?
Vaccination has been much on my mind recently. A friend of mine has submitted herself to be a guinea pig and I am concerned for her. She  has no family and said, "If it kills me then at least I am not leaving a family behind." It is brave of her.
As a kitten I almost did not get vaccinated and the same was true of my siblings. Mum, being a Christian Scientist, did not believe in such things. It was my godmother who helped the Senior Cat insist on it. It was my godmother who took us to be vaccinated. 
Mum never had things like a flu vaccination. She did not see herself as taking any sort of risk because, to her way of thinking,  illness simply did not exist. It was all an "error" in the mind. 
The Senior Cat and I have a flu vaccination as a matter of course. It would be irresponsible not to do so. One year we both had the strain of flu not covered by the vaccine and the Senior Cat was in hospital for five days. The doctor told me the vaccination saved the Senior Cat from being a great deal worse than he was. 
But the anti-vaccination crowd is out in force right now. They have been bombarding politicians with letters telling them that research into a vaccination against Covid19 should not even be going ahead. Some of them don't want anyone vaccinated against anything. Such stupidity frightens me. If there was a vaccination against stupidity they would not agree to having it.
In the meantime we have bored computer whiz kids changing things simply for the sake of changing them. Not so intelligent cats like me are trying to keep up and work out what to do next. I am trying not to be stupid - but it is getting increasingly difficult. 
Do you have a pill proven to work against stupidity? 

Wednesday 27 May 2020

Left wing or right wing

or something else?
There is a professor of politics in Downunder who has made more of a name for himself as a newspaper columnist, television presenter, and on social media than as an actual academic. His left wing friends see him as right of centre. His right wing friends seem him as left of centre. Perhaps he is middle of the road.
I have no problem with university staff having political views. They should have views, the views of intelligent voters on all sides. I have no problem with them being called on to explain or even comment on government decisions or opposition statements. They have a valuable role to play in helping to educate the wider public about what is going on.
I do have a problem when people like him wield so much influence their views are taught as being absolutely right with no room for argument. 
These people are members of the "I am right and you are wrong" sect.  It is a dangerous one. It does not allow for the views of others to be heard - even so that those views can be refuted.
What really alarms me is that this sect seems to have a grip in education in schools as well.  A parent showed me something her child was being taught yesterday. She was alarmed and so was her husband.
    "We tried to explain to S.... (their son) that there was another side to this. He insists we are wrong because the teacher is always right. He told us "it's what everyone thinks". We approached the teacher about it and she told us that this is what was being taught and she felt it was wrong to confuse him. She didn't actually say so but I could see she thought we were the stupid ones because we didn't believe what she was telling the students. S... says that if he doesn't say what she has told them in his assignment he will fail."
Yes, he probably will - no matter how carefully he puts it.  
This child was being taught about "gender fluidity". He was, rightly, confused and upset. He believes he is male, that his twin sisters are female. He also knows that the two men who live further down his street are a couple. His parents sometimes invite them down for coffee on a Sunday morning. They have been open about the relationship and S.... thought he understood this. Yesterday he was confused.
    "I can always be a boy can't I?" he asked.
That is not a question any child should ever have to ask. The very rare child who will later determine they feel the need to change gender  is not being helped by lessons about gender fluidity.  It is probably confusing them even more. It is also confusing and upsetting children like S.... 
Why not simply teach them that a small number of people feel differently -  if you must teach such things at all. Right now I would have thought that schools had more important things to teach.


Tuesday 26 May 2020

The generosity of others

never ceases to surprise me.
Yesterday I had an email from a yarn company. Attached to it were two gift vouchers to be used to buy yarn for a small group of young people who knit for others.
I do not, at their request, say much about these young people. All of them have serious health issues and disabilities. More than a decade ago they were taught to knit by a friend of mine who lived permanently in a hospital. She wanted to give them something to do while they too were in hospital. I became involved when she sought more yarn and more "things to read" from me for them. 
I met these then very young people. They were at the stage where they could knit very simple things and wanted to know what they could make for other people.
By then other knitters had heard of my friend. They sent her knitting magazines and yarn. She made all sorts of things but her socks were legendary and much sought after by surgeons who spend hours on their feet. 
The young knitters thought they could never aim that high - but they could improve. I began to help with their knitting and with helping them keep up with their schoolwork.
When my friend died they asked me to go on helping them. It has been an enormous pleasure to do that. These young people are all at university now, trying to pursue their dreams despite their difficulties.
They don't get out much so they knit. Occasionally they get together in the home of one family which has the space and the access for all of them together. Over the years they have managed to learn a great deal more. They are accomplished knitters now. They can follow patterns, alter patterns, and try new ideas and techniques with a great deal of enthusiasm.
But this year has been really hard. They lost one of their friends in circumstances I cannot talk about. They are missing him badly. Their  health issues mean they simply cannot risk going to classes even if the other students go back. They can do some course work but they can't do it all. It has all been devastating for them.
Enter a very, very good friend to all of us. M.... cannot afford to do this. I know she cannot afford to do this but there were the two vouchers.
I called the mother of one of them. She was as shocked as I was.  
Wisely spent there is potentially several months of knitting there for the four who are left - two boys, two girls. 
We had already discussed what they might make this year - make for others. That is what they have always wanted to do. They can't get out and volunteer the way some young people do. They can't play sport. None of them can drive so they are dependent on their parents. They have some friends but those friends all too often do what they cannot do - a Friday or Saturday night out takes planning for them and things are warming up just as they feel the need to go to bed. So, they have chosen another option - to create something for others. 
Their mothers have scoured the charity shops for yarn - as have I. Friends like M... and H.... have helped. Another friend, now sadly no longer with us, worked for a knitting magazine and she helped immensely. She was also the person who got me the job of reviewing books. There is a wonderful company in England and they, on learning that the then teens were knitting chemo caps, sent out a lot of left over bits and pieces they could not sell. The postage must have cost them quite a bit. Every scrap of yarn has been used.
And this time they will have wonderful new yarn that can be made up into warm garments for those in need.
It is a gift that will spread out beyond the giver and the immediate recipients to those in need - and those who need to be shown what can be done.
M.... I know you read this blog. Thank you. 

Monday 25 May 2020

The "$60bn blackhole" in the economy

does not actually exist. I am puzzled as to where this idea came from. Even for opposition politicians this seems rather extreme.
This  is  sixty billion dollars which does not need to be spent.
For those of you in Upover and elsewhere this was an estimate of the cost of an initiative the government has put together to try and kick start the post Covid19 economy. There were and are, as there often are, problems with the implementation of the plans and with the form filling and the details and more. 
I have some idea of how difficult it is to do these things. Ms W's father has been peripherally involved in all this as part of his own work. He has been working very long hours and tells me that his more directly involved colleagues are working the same sort of hours. 
Our Prime Minister has been on air saying that yes there was a mistake in the costings. He says it is money that does not need to be spent. Surely we should be pleased about that? 
Apparently not. "Spend it on something else then," the Leader of the Opposition is saying, "Spend it on the people who missed out the first time around."
There are several things wrong with this. While there are people who missed out some  have other income available to them and others are simply not eligible for any assistance under the law. There may be a few to whom financial assistance can be extended  but it won't be everyone - however nice that may be. Any such assistance also needs to have a time limit placed on it. Already there are calls from the Opposition and elsewhere to extend the increased income support well beyond what the government planned.  It is the sort of thing you can say when you are in Opposition or you do not need to be accountable for the way in which taxpayer money is being spent.
And then there is the other little problem, this money is being borrowed.  Governments cannot simply print money. They have to find it from somewhere. Sixty billion dollars does not simply appear in the Treasury coffers. It has to be borrowed - and paid back. A sum that size will be paid back by future generations, as will much other post bush fires and post Covid19 expenditure. 
If the government did do as being demanded then it would be accused of "fiscal irresponsibility". I think we have had enough of that. We have had the program where schools were provided with halls whether they needed them or not. We have had the "pink batts" (roof insulation) program and the "cash for clunkers" (old car buy back) program.
The state next door is planning on borrowing money from China to fund an infrastructure project. This is a very high risk strategy and a very foolish one but the present government believes it will keep them in power for years to come - simply because it will provide work and the economy will appear to be booming. At the present time most of the state's residents appear to be  unaware of the consequences of borrowing huge sums of money - or naively believe that is can be paid back fairly easily. It can't. 
Our federal government realises that money borrowed is money which has to be repaid - and repaid with interest. It is not my generation or the generation on either side of me which will pay for any borrowing. It is the generations below that.
Burdening them with unnecessary debt just so everyone can enjoy our past comfortable life style is selfish in the extreme. We all need to cut back and consider the future. There is no $60bn black hole  in the budget - but there might have been if we had needed to borrow that on top of what we will already need to borrow.

Sunday 24 May 2020

The post office is not

doing the job it is supposed to be doing.
I ordered something from the UK in early March. The company in question dispatched it very promptly and let me know it was on the way. It didn't come...and it didn't come.
Once before a parcel from the same company was delivered to the wrong address and sent back with a "not wanted" on it. I spoke to the Post Office about that. They were full of apologies but said, "there is nothing we can do". 
Nothing they can do? I thought it was their job to deliver parcels to the correct address? (And yes, the address on the parcel was correct.) 
In between two books have gone missing. Nobody seems to have been able to track those down. The are not new books just copies of a long out of print gardening book the Senior Cat wants to give to other people.
A letter sent from a neighbouring state took seventeen days to get here. One posted from the other side of the city took eleven days.
A letter sent to the UK took almost three weeks to arrive and another sent over three weeks ago has not yet arrived. Why?
A very good friend in the US has sent some knitting literature for a group of young people with disabilities. We are both very fond of these young people. I have not told them anything is coming as they would be upset for her that the envelopes have not yet arrived. 
And this last parcel I was expecting did not arrive. I informed the company and we both gave it a little more time. They then offered to send it again - or get a refund.
Something made me say "get a refund". Things are too difficult right now and I had sourced a substitute elsewhere anyway. Then, this last week, the parcel arrived. It had taken eleven weeks and three days to get here. Why?
The company in question has already given me a refund. I have emailed them and informed them that the parcel has arrived and asked them to bill me again so I can pay them. It is annoying and time consuming for them and for me. I have also spent money on a substitute which is not quite as satisfactory.
I know there is apparently an increased volume of parcels in the post right now. I also know that extra precautions are being taken because of the Covid19 situation. The increased volume won't last but it does not account for something sent in early March - before all the additional security measures were put in place.
The volume of letters has apparently dropped so much that deliveries no longer take place every day. Why does it then take so long for a letter to get somewhere? Even allowing for all the measures being taken to ensure staff are safe (and so they should be) the snail like speed of mail is alarming. 
There are important letters not being delivered in a reasonable length of time. The Post Office is simply not recognising that not everyone has access to email and others do not have access while the library computer service is closed. 
I am annoyed about the parcel but I know there are much more urgent letters not being delivered in a reasonable length of time. The CEO of the Post Office is paid a massive amount - perhaps it is time to use some of that on extra postal workers?

Saturday 23 May 2020

Colour schemes for the bathroom

have definitely changed over the years.
Yesterday I had cause to go into the bathroom of one of the older residents of the district.
    "It's in the shaving cabinet Cat," he told me. I picked up the said item (and took it with me to try and get a replacement) and I said nothing about the orange and green colour scheme. How long ago did people decorate their bathrooms with colours like that?
Our bathrooms were always cream. It was the colour the Public Buildings Department had decided on. Indeed internally our house was almost always cream. You can tell departmental housing by the colours used. The colours are neutral I suppose.
The present bathroom is cream too, apart from the tiles on the floor. They are brown. My mother chose them for their non-slip quality. The tiles are small and hard to clean. Forty years on they make bigger  non-slip tiles.
Our house would never make it into something like "House and Garden" - except perhaps as an example of what not to do.
My paternal grandparents' bathroom was as old as the house. It had one of those old claw footed bath tubs. The only thing which had been added over the years was the shower over the bath tub. It was all neutral too. In summer my grandfather would often shower outside in cold water in an enclosure of hessian. He would empty a bucket of water over himself and then vigorously soap himself down before turning on what was was basically the garden hose.  The water would then run into the garden as well. Cold water did not seem to bother him. (He was also a year round almost daily swimmer until the last couple of years of his life.)
My maternal grandparents' bathroom however was a different story. I remember them "upgrading" it from a "lean to" at the back of the house. They did it at the same time as they "did" the extension for the kitchen. The old facilities were the same as those throughout the district at the time. Nobody thought of spending money on kitchens and bathrooms when the houses were first built - even in what was considered quite a "posh" area.
My maternal grandparents however upgraded - to pink. My maternal grandfather knew someone who had a new pink bath that could not be put in somewhere else because it has a tiny chip in it. My grandfather bought it at a greatly reduced price, repaired the chip so well it could not be seen, and had their bathroom upgraded. It was not just the bath which was pink but the shower cubicle and the wash basin and the tiles.
I do not like the colour pink and I liked it even less after that. My mother thought it was "too much pink". We later lived in the house. Nothing was done about the bathroom but I know my mother longed to do something about the pinkness of it all. Perhaps that is why we have that neutral cream now.
But the orange and green bathroom was something else. It is of course in keeping with the rest of the house. Orange must have been the colour the year it was built. The lounge room has brown carpet and deep orange upholstery. The curtains are brown and orange and cream. The wall paper is bamboo patterned. In the kitchen there is other wall paper - brown and orange and onion patterned. Nothing has changed and nothing will change because "that's the way my wife liked it". I didn't say anything of course but I suppose he guessed anyway because he smiled and said,
    "Didn't care for it myself."
I think I may stay with neutral throughout - and decorate with pictures and books.

Friday 22 May 2020

Altering clothes

is not something I do. I do not have a sewing machine. I cannot thread a needle without extreme difficulty - and many muttered curses.
I am also a very short cat. If I buy trousers of any sort they invariably need to be taken up unless they are of the "capri" variety - on me those look almost long length.
In general I do not like to have to bother about clothes. I have said elsewhere that I will buy things in the local charity shop if one of the staff there tells me, "Cat, we have something that might suit you if you still want... "
But sometimes even I will buy something new. The other day a catalogue arrived. I had bought the Senior Cat a woollen cardigan from this same company a couple of years back. They still send the catalogue.  There were jeans in the catalogue. They were exactly the same sort as those I am wearing. The current pairs are getting thin at the knees and generally looking in danger of having the sort of "air conditioning" that teenagers seem to think is desirable. I don't need holes and tears in mine. Mmm....I ordered two pairs. This means that I am covered for another couple of years. They arrived and of course they need to be taken up. I put a safety pin in the relevant place and I prowled off to the dry-cleaner.
There is a lovely lady in the dry-cleaner who does alterations and repairs. She took up the previous two pairs.
I did not even need to open my mouth and miaou piteously at her. She smiled and said, "For me? You want them taken up?"
I nodded, "Yes, please."
She took them and smiled even more when she saw I had put a pin in at the correct point on one leg.
     "Easy and two pairs the same makes it even easier." She quoted me a charge much less than I was expecting. I know what she charged someone else for a similar alteration. He's a grumpy "old" man at about the age of fifty. He complained to me about the cost.
I must have looked pleased as well as surprised because she said,
    "I can knock a bit off for two the same - and you always say thank you."
This woman sits all day in a cramped spot, hunched over a sewing machine. She has to repair clothes as well as alter them. It is not a pleasant job but she does it cheerfully and well.  I want to say thank you. I expect to say thank you. Apart from paying her it is the very least I can do. It doesn't cost anything to say thank you - and this time it turned out to be cheaper.


Thursday 21 May 2020

The stress of loneliness

features in a piece in this morning's paper. The writer is saying that the stress from loneliness can be as damaging to health as smoking and obesity.
One of the Senior Cat's rare complaints recently has been that he misses people coming into the house - and thus having someone other than me with whom he can have a conversation. He has talked to several friends on the phone but it is "not the same thing". He is not getting out, not even outside some days. (I admit that I now hold my breath as he negotiates the back door despite the little ramp and the grab rail.) If it is fine enough and warm enough and he is out then I use his other walker as a tea trolley and take his morning or afternoon tea outside. That way he can at least watch the birds and, should the neighbourhood cat happen to call, they will have a conversation of sorts.
And, as the Senior Cat has said, he has me as some sort of company. Some people have none at all. I have been anxious about some of the older people I normally keep a watch on. They seem to have coped but they have needed reassurance that at least I have not forgotten them. One has a son living less than five minutes away in a car. He has not even spoken to her in over a month. She phoned him recently but his wife said he was "out". He has not bothered to return the call.  I have met him and he strikes me as simply not interested. If I asked him whether he loved his mother he would almost certainly say "yes". He just doesn't see communicating with her as important.
I was talking to someone else yesterday. She stopped me to say that they could not find the Power of Attorney for the man who recently had a stroke. I had to say, "There isn't one. I downloaded the form and did all the necessary preparations but C... never got around to signing it." I suspect he did not want to do it. He never saw himself as being in the position where someone else might have to manage his affairs. Now there will need to be a guardianship order instead. 
"And I know when he started to go downhill," I said, "It was when the dog died. He didn't have to get out and walk the dog."
She agreed. Getting out and walking the dog had brought this man into contact with other people. I first met him through the dog - the dog having escaped the back garden and having been firmly returned by me. Without his dog this man was not simply alone but lonely. 
He would not have recognised that. I am certain he saw himself as self-sufficient and not in need of the company of others. The woman who went in once a fortnight to clean for him stopped me one day and said she was worried about the way he just sat there and said so little. All I could do was talk to him when I saw him. He seemed to welcome that. He would go as far as to wave to me and stop me as I passed - but what is a few minutes of conversation in a lonely week? He was depressed. Depression is stressful, often incredibly stressful.
There are other lonely people around here. I know I can't care for all of them. I know some of them have family who could help - and all too often don't. There is someone I know who lives a short distance from me. She has three sons but sees very little of them. In more normal times she does get out a bit because she belongs to several groups. Right now that isn't happening. We might be able to go to the pub for a drink but we still can't go to a special interest gardening or craft group. I hope people like her will be able to go back to their groups - and that those groups will have survived. Until then - family matters.
My extended clan has been in touch with one another - "just checking". We won't see one another as we are scattered across the globe but, somehow, it seems important to keep a watchful eye on each other. The Senior Cat's equally elderly cousin will phone me tonight. I will inquire about her day - she will tell me what book she is reading and whether anyone has called in. It will give me news of a slightly younger cousin some thousands of kilometres away. I will tell her that a cousin in London called "just to check" and that a very distant cousin in Canada has sent an email. 
As a clan we are fortunate, very fortunate - but we have also worked at it. Such things do not come automatically.
It is easier than ever to make contact with others but "liking" a tweet or a post is not friendship. Friendship requires an effort - something we are not always prepared to make. Laziness is contributing to loneliness.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

They want to open the pubs

again. This is headline news in our paper this morning. Why? They claim that 20%  of our pubs could go to the wall unless they reopen now. While I am genuinely concerned about the people who would lose their jobs as a result my answer to that has to be "there are 20% too many pubs then". 
Some other businesses will go too - if they haven't already gone. They will usually be businesses which were struggling to survive anyway. Our local shopping centre is small. It had six clothing shops for women -  too many. There was also a shoe shop for women. One clothing shop has gone and the shoe shop has gone. Another clothing shop has not yet reopened - although there are signs that it might. One more is operating on reduced hours until June. The "nail parlour" and the "facial and eyebrow threading" place are still closed. The travel agent and the "flight centre" are still closed - nobody is going anywhere. The "gift" shop is open again - but it only employs one person.
Thankfully the bookshop has survived, indeed it has done well. People seem to be reading books and that is a good thing. Their problem is getting stock in. 
That pretty well covers the shops apart from those that sell food or alcohol or places like the chemist, optician and other "usual" services. It really isn't a big place. I suspect that something else someone has poured their money and soul into may well fold as well. 
A little further down the road though there is the "pub on the corner". They have their drive through sales and they have added to that with a takeaway menu. They are agitating to be open. They want people in there spending their money on alcohol and the poker machines.  But, how much money do people have for that sort of thing right now? There is always a problem with people spending more than they can afford on these things but if they reopen the pubs and people go back to old habits in there then more people outside pubs will lose their jobs - because right now even more people don't have that sort of disposable income. Spend it in the pub and we are going to have even more problems than before.
I do wonder whether politics will win over public health and people and I know I am not the only person to wonder about this.
If I cross the road I can get to our local library. It is open but under very strict guidelines. It is a very good library, one of the best in the state. There are four meeting rooms - none of which can be used right now. There is a very big area for the books and the computers and seats for people to read. Some people spend all day in there. Right now though they only allow ten people in there at a time - including the two staff on duty. You can stay for a maximum of ten minutes  - just time to return a book and find something else to read. They plan to reopen to full services slowly because the staff know how important the library is to the entire community. While a few users are impatient most have been more than willing to wait - because they don't want to risk having to close everything down again. 
I wish the pub going community would think the same way.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Closing residential institutions for people with disabilities

and providing them with housing "in the community" was supposed to provide them with dignity and companionship.  
It hasn't. 
Questions are now being asked about the death of the woman I mentioned a couple of days ago. It is being treated as a case of manslaughter at present.
One of the people involved in the investigation is a person who once told me, "If you can't communicate, you can't complain."  At the time he said he seemed happy with that state of affairs. It made people "easier to care for" according to him. I was furious then and I am furious now.
Having the ability to communicate, however limited, is a basic human right. 
I know people whose only means of communication is to look up and look down. They look up for "yes" and down for "no". Having any sort of conversation with them is difficult, very difficult. It requires a lot of time and work on the part of the other person. Time is one thing most carers don't have. Work is something all too many of them are not prepared to do.
Years ago I taught a child who would splutter and try to turn his head away from the "orange juice" each child was given at lunch time. The "orange juice" was artificial but held to be beneficial because it had a vitamin C component. The teacher aide whose job it was to feed him would get annoyed with him.
   "He's like that with the chicken on Fridays too," she told me not long after I arrived.
   "Perhaps he doesn't like it," I told her.
She looked at me as if I was completely stupid.
I asked the child concerned, "P, do you like that orange juice?" 
He looked down immediately.  
    "Right, I am not very good at this but if I get you some water will you drink it?"
He drank water without too many problems - even though we were both giggling at the way I managed to spill some of it.
    "And the chicken on Friday?"
No, he didn't like that either. After that he was just given vegetables on that day and we had no problems. He wasn't being fussy. In his own home Friday was a fish only day.
All it took was a couple of questions and people being aware of his preferences. The school was small enough that everyone could know about those things.
In the community care though is a different thing. The "carers" who come and go can be there for a day, a week, a month, a year. The time they are there though tends to be shorter rather than longer. Having talked to many of them I am aware that it is "just a job". It is not something most of them have chosen to do. The pay is lousy and the work, if they do it properly, is hard.
I have been in far too many "group houses" where there has been dirty washing lying around and the kitchen is a mess. The main source of entertainment has been a television set in the living area. It gets turned on in the morning and turned off at night. People who cannot care for themselves in anyway get dumped in front of it.
All this "care" is supposed to be externally monitored. It rarely is because there is nobody to do that either. Residents rarely dare to complain for fear of retribution.
Many residents are isolated from the community. They have little or no contact with family or friends. Their ability to communicate is often extremely limited. They don't know their rights - and their carers are not about to tell them.
All this was supposed to be "better" than institutional care. There were grandiose ideas that group housing would bring about more contact with the community. In too many instances it has brought about less. When people like me do try there are endless excuses about why we can't visit or, if we do, why things are in a mess.
   "At least we have each other," one resident told me once. I thought of that when I read about the woman whose death is  now being investigated. She had nobody else.

Monday 18 May 2020

Mobile phones are killers

and I am not talking about mysterious radiation from phone towers or anything like that. 
I am talking about phones which apparently must be  answered or  used while driving a car, riding a bike and walking along the street.
It is there in this morning's paper - along with the news that, despite the lock down, our road toll is now the same as it was this time last year. 
What in the heck is going on? Why is it so important to talk to people right at that moment?
Several weeks ago I saw a near tragedy. A man pressing those little buttons on his phone walked out into the road without looking. A car swerved to avoid him and bumped into another. Fortunately the damage to the two cars was very slight.Nobody was hurt. The user of the mobile phone was not in the least bit concerned. He just shouted at the driver to "be more careful" and went on his way - still pressing buttons. He left both drivers undoubtedly shaken and those around him shaken too.
It was totally irresponsible behaviour. I wish the police had been around to stop him in his tracks and fine him. 
I have seen bike riders with a phone clamped to an ear while swerving around pedestrians. And how many more pedestrians am I going to have to pedal slowly behind because they are strolling along in the middle of the footpath while sending or reading a text message? Of course if I try to pass someone actually having a conversation then I am in even greater trouble.
I have seen dogs walking along and using more intelligence than some humans.
Yes, I know I have said it elsewhere but what is so important about that phone call?  Is it really a life or death emergency? Is it beyond  the ability of the technical genii who make these things to produce one which automatically shuts down when you enter that metal container on wheels or sit on the seat of anything else with wheels and start to move?
I went out for a little exercise yesterday. I needed to deliver something. There is a roundabout on the route. There was a man of about thirty on one of those electric skateboards - talking on his phone. The roundabout is one of those "black spots". There has been many an accident there. The rider of the skateboard seemed unconcerned at the sight of the bus bearing down on him. I would have waited well back on the footpath. He came far too close to the bus for my liking - and for the liking of the bus driver. The bus driver tooted him but the rider went on apparently blissfully unaware. I was waiting on the footpath and the driver shook his head as he went past me. It is the sort of behaviour that makes that job a nightmare. No wonder stress related illness is so high in that job.
All these phone calls are so urgent though. The  humans who make them must be really important people. 
The only people who have ever rung me are my immediate family. That has almost never happened. Other people call me on the house phone. I am obviously not in the least bit important.
And I still have to learn how to send a text message.

Sunday 17 May 2020

Visiting the elderly

has been off the agenda for weeks now. 
I have no elderly relatives in nursing homes. In our family, even extended family, they tend to stay at home unless it is absolutely impossible for them to do otherwise.  The Senior Cat had a cousin who had lost a leg due to severe diabetes. It eventually became impossible for his wife to care for him at home even with outside help.  He lived the remaining months of his life in a nursing home and, while they were kind enough,  his treatment there made us all the more determined to keep the elderly in our clan at home if we can. Nursing homes simply do not have the staff they need.
I had a call from one  yesterday.
   "Cat, I am sorry to bother you but E... needs some shopping done. She says you did it once before and..."
I hate clothes shopping. I put it off as long as possible. Middle Cat claims it looks like that. A good many of my clothes have, over the years, been bought in the local charity shop. You can find perfectly good things there - some of them new.
Part of the problem of course is that I don't go to work. I work from home. I don't need to dress up. Once in a very long while I might need to go to a meeting or appear in court or something like that. I have suitable clothes for such occasions but I do not have many of them.
Now I had already been clothes shopping for the elderly on one occasion this last week. I had bought the Senior Cat two new flannelette shirts. It took me about five minutes to do that and I was out of the shop again.
This was a little more difficult. E... likes to look "nice" - and so she should. I was aware when I saw her just prior to the lock down that she would probably need a couple of things for winter. They need to be washable too. 
I remembered the shop I had last visited for her. It only sells that brand. I could not remember the size. I asked the nursing assistant who had phoned me to check because E...'s eyesight is not good enough to see the labels. I talked to E.... on the phone too and said I would see what I could do in the afternoon as I wanted to go to the "untidy shop".  Ah, if I was going there could I get her some more wool? She is knitting blanket squares. I told her I had a bag of yarn I had been given that she could use. Oh yes, that would be a good thing.  
When I had finished talking to her I started to revise my plans for the afternoon. It was then I had a thought. I sat down at the computer again and looked up the relevant brand on line. I could search by size. I took down some style numbers and the likely colours.  I phoned the shop. I explained the situation. Did they have? I waited while the very helpful woman at the other end had a look. They had one thing but not the other - and she had something else that was similar and might do. She would put them to one side.
I pedalled down to the untidy shop and bought what I needed. I added a couple of balls of yarn for E... that were "on special" and I went to the other shop.  There was nobody else in there. It had been very quiet. The assistant seemed pleased to have anyone at all come in. She showed me what she had put to one side. Yes, that was the right one and that should also do nicely. "And if they don't fit for some reason you can bring them back. Just keep the docket."
Even in the Age of Covid19 this was possible? 
How had I known what to ask for? She laughed when I told her I had looked it up online. 
I took E...'s shopping in on my way home.
    "Go down and see her. She's in the sun room. Just keep your distance."
I took the things in. E... was dozing. She looks much older. So did the other two residents. It has only been weeks.  I wonder how much use she will get out of what I bought for her. Does it matter?
    "Absolutely perfect. I'll look like the Queen," she told me.
Perhaps that is all that matters.

Saturday 16 May 2020

Abusing the vulnerable

is apparently seen as the price we need to pay in order to have some people living in their own homes or "in the community". 
It is now policy to keep the elderly in their own homes if at all possible. It is certainly where we want to keep the Senior Cat if at all possible even though it is becoming increasingly more demanding. 
The Senior Cat is intellectually alert. He can still make a phone call. He has an "alert" button.  I try not to leave the house for too long these days. If I do need to be out for any length of time I let Middle Cat know and she will check on him. If she is not available then I will tell neighbours that I will be away for several hours and one of them will usually "wander  in" to check.
I went and bought two new flannelette shirts for  him yesterday - because he needs them. (He said he didn't but he has no idea about clothes.) We want him to be as warm as possible in winter.
This morning I know what will happen. He will read a story in the paper and say how "lucky" he is.
It is the story of a severely disabled woman who died in horrific circumstances. She was supposed to be living in her own home in the community. According to the article she was confined to one chair in the living room. She ate there. She slept there. It was also a commode. She died with bed sores and multiple other problems.
At the same time she was supposed to be receiving six hours of care a day from people coming in to the house.
The case is now being "investigated".  One person is likely to be prosecuted. Perhaps someone else will also be prosecuted as a result. More likely it will be put down to a "failure of the system" and people will be reprimanded. There will be "changes" put in place. They may work in the favour of those being cared for - at least for a short while. What is more likely is that there will be more paper work in an attempt to cover up the shortcomings of a system which simply does not work.
You cannot really care for people cheaply. I know what the likely situation was with that woman. Someone would have been supposed to come in and get her out of bed in the morning. They would have been responsible for bathing her, dressing her and giving her breakfast.  Then they would leave her -  probably with the television set on. At lunchtime  the same person or someone else would have been expected  to return and  help her toilet and have something to eat before disappearing  again until the late afternoon.  They would then have been supposed to help her  toilet again, provide her with more to eat, change her  into her night wear and put her to bed. She would remain there, almost certainly alone, until someone came in next morning.  That is the reality of "care in the community". 
Several years back a friend phoned me and asked, "Cat,  can I come and see you? I need to talk to you about a problem. I can meet you in the shopping centre for a coffee."
P.... uses a wheelchair so I asked if his wife was bringing him.
No. R... was doing something for someone else. He'd get an access cab. 
I suggested it might be easier for me to come to him but he told me he had it "sorted" and he and R... both thought I needed to know something. Whatever it was he was anxious about it. I was not worried about his relationship with R...  It is strong and stable and they do a lot to help others. I knew it would not be a general issue. He would talk to me on the phone about anything like that.
We met and he told me that M...., a mutual friend, was being abused by his carers. I was shocked, certain he had to be wrong but he had the evidence. 
M..., who is now deceased, was a very intelligent and articulate man. He was one of those people I believed could take care of himself. He lived alone "in the community" with the help of his "carers".  He was not being physically abused but, unable to get to the bank alone and before the advent of internet banking, he had to rely on carers to do it. They were stealing from him. It would have been all too easy to do, especially with the way the system worked. M... was suspicious but it was not until R... saw one of his carers doing the shopping that she became aware of what was going on. The carer in question was being very clever indeed and buying what M... wanted or needed. Then there would be a second visit and another docket for "just a couple of things". It worked well until R... caught the carer buying something M... could not have used.
P... asked me how they could deal with the situation. 
It was not a simple matter of going to the police. M.... would still need physical help. 
The situation was sorted out in the end but M...'s confidence and trust in others he had thought were caring was shattered. He phoned me.
    "Cat, how could they? What did I ever do to them?"
They did it simply because they could. He did not need to "do" anything. It was simply enough for him to be himself - a very vulnerable person. "Living in the community" makes such abuse all too easy.
People said he was "unlucky" but that is not the case. He was abused because it was all too easy to abuse him. It is still happening. It will go on happening because people like M... are merely being "cared for", not "cared about".  
Middle Cat and I will tell the Senior Cat he is not "lucky". He is simply "loved".  

Friday 15 May 2020

"What is 'normal' going to be like?"

someone queried  yesterday. For this man it was no idle question. He has had surgery for a brain tumour and the cancer has spread to other places. At  present he is still up and about. He goes out. (I saw him in the shopping centre.) He takes sensible precautions. His doctors have told him, "It could be six days, six weeks, six months or six years." He is aiming on six years. There are things he wants to do.
I thought of all this when I chatted briefly to him yesterday. It made me wonder what "normal" will be like. Things are not "normal" right now - whatever that word might mean.
I know some people think that, in a few months, people will be back at work and it "will all be over". The  forecast economic downturn will not have happened. People will be able to meet for coffee and go to the footy.
The footy is apparently so important that the two teams which play in the national competition are to move interstate for a while. The chief health officer here advised the government not to let these precious darlings play on a "FIFO"  (fly-in, fly-out) basis. No, they would have to self-quarantine like the rest of us if they wanted to travel across the border.  There are complaints of course. I agree with the good doctor. We are, at present, having a quiet period with no new cases being reported. That is not to say there are none. There will be some in winter -but perhaps we can contain the problem to a less stressful level.
I have done less than I hoped I would. Self-isolation, lock-down, quarantine - whatever you want to call it - has been as busy as
usual. I have  not cleared out the room I planned to clear out and another room is just as badly in need of it. There are still far too many weeds in the garden. I have not finished the book I was writing. I thought those things might happen when I could not take responsibility for the other activities I am involved in.
There are other things I am concerned about. I  phoned a friend yesterday  - just to check. She needs support. I hope other people are doing the same.  When we can have visitors again I will invite her over for a cuppa and she can look at what I have been slowly making. 
I don't know what "normal" will look like but I hope it might include seeing friends... some of them in far away places.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Climbing trees

is something all able children should be able to do - at least once in their lifetime.
Someone left a comment for me yesterday. In it she said one of the reasons she did not want to grow up was so that she could go on climbing trees.
I thought about this. Adults don't climb trees do they? At least, they don't climb trees for the sheer pleasure and challenge of doing so. They don't jump in puddles or avoid the cracks in the footpath either. If they see adults on the play equipment in the playground they think "how immature" and "they shouldn't be doing that". 
There are a lot of things you are not supposed to do simply because you are now a "grown up".
I often wonder whether the verger who performed the cartwheels down the main aisle of Westminster Abbey after the wedding of Prince William and Catherine was disciplined. I hope not. I think God would have thoroughly approved the verger's joy of the occasion and the successful conclusion of the ceremony.
I remember once reading a short piece by a man who went out into the night because he wanted to swing on the big swing in the park.  From his account he enjoyed doing it - but he felt he could not do it in the daylight because of what others might think.
As a kitten even I climbed trees. I never went too far up - my brother went higher than I did although never too high. As a four year old Middle Cat  once climbed up the back trellis and on to the roof of the house. Our Serbian neighbour at the time was hysterical.  Our mother simply stood there and told Middle Cat to get down "immediately". She came down - and was given the hairbrush treatment. (It didn't stop her climbing the trees at the far end of the garden.)
There was the boy at camp one summer who was born without arms -  they were simply short stumps. He climbed one of the trees on the campsite - having prudently arranged for his friends to "catch"  him if he fell. None of them could have caught  him as they were all more disabled than he was. He managed to get on to a branch and sat there grinning at me.
     "Well done," I told him, "It's lunch time."
He got himself down hanging like a monkey on one leg. 
I told Ivan Southall that story when he was talking to me about the book he wanted to write, "Let the Balloon Go". He asked a great many questions at that time and, apart from "Josh", it was the book he found the most difficult to write. Put simply it is a book about a boy climbing a tree and growing up and breaking away in the process. We agreed that there is something very important about climbing trees. Even "normal" people need to climb trees sometimes.
I wonder if,  in the current state of affairs, any adults have rediscovered the joy of climbing trees? Have they allowed their children to climb trees? 
We need trees to climb - and we need to plant them so we can climb.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Making bread

is an art and a science I suppose.
It is under discussion on two blogs written by knitters right now. Both of them mention "sourdough" and,  once again, I am contemplating whether I should try it again.  
I did try it once. The result was edible but not a great success.
The Senior Cat would like some "real sourdough". He has never forgotten the breakfast he had in California one morning.
I don't know where my parents were staying exactly but breakfast was not included. They went searching for breakfast and, being obviously "lost" tourists, someone asked them if they needed some help. The Senior Cat asked if their inquirer could point them in  the direction of breakfast which was not "that" fast food chain.
Their inquirer did better than that. He took them to a small cafe nearby, introduced them to the owner and also introduced them to the sourdough bread for which the cafe was well known. Then, in the way of such things, this man disappeared from their lives again. The Senior Cat has always wanted to repay the kindness but has tried to pay it forward instead.
But, sourdough? You need a good starter for sourdough. It does not work with dried yeast. A company here tried that. I tried the yeast and it was hopeless. The local company which claims to make sourdough bread has not got it right either. The taste is barely there - and the bread is far too expensive for more than a once in a very long while treat. 
I make other bread of course. As there are just two of us we don't eat a lot of bread and that is one problem with the idea of sourdough. How often would I use the "mother plant"?  Reading the other blogs though I am tempted to try again.
There is something about home baked bread though. You know what you have put into it and you can add things to the recipe. When Middle Cat and I went to the warehouse I bought pepitas and sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. There was rye flour, oat flour and barley flour too - to be mixed with strong wheat flour. 
Bread is not "boring" it is fascinating. I like to observe it change from a sticky mess to something smooth as it gets kneaded. I like to watch it rise. I like to add ingredients to make a different flavour and texture. 
And, best of all, is the wonderful aroma that fills the house as it is baking.
I wonder how all those people who bought bread flour and bread mix at the beginning of the lockdown are getting on? Have they discovered the real pleasure of making bread for themselves?

Tuesday 12 May 2020

I know some people enjoy their alcohol

but I am growing thoroughly alarmed at how it seems to be a central concern for so many.
There are suggestions in this morning's paper that some organisations will not survive without alcohol. I  find that extraordinary. Apparently buying a pie and a pint at the footy match is almost mandatory. It is how the club survives - or so they would have us believe.
Now it may be true. I have never been to a football match. I never want to go to one. It is of no interest to me whatsoever. I am not interested in sports at all - beyond a very mild interest in the psychological machinations behind the game of cricket. It would be good to think that clubs were not dependent on alcohol and poker machines. Perhaps if football was treated as a game rather than a business where the players command such high salaries it would be different?
Restaurants here have also been told that, subject to certain rules of "social distancing" they can reopen for no more than ten people - and no alcohol can be served. Apparently that is not good enough. You are not there to enjoy the food. It is the alcohol that matters. 
I see this right around me. I hear it right around me.
It is the word "alcohol" which seems to be so important. There are thousands of people whose very jobs depend on the consumption of alcohol. It worries me that there seems to be no alternative employment available for many of them.
Yes, I can see some of you jumping up and down and waiting to get your word in. Before you do let me say I do understand that some of you enjoy having a drink. For you, it's a pleasure. You don't overdo it. It's a way of relaxing at the end of the day - and also with family and friends.  If that is the way you feel then that's up to you. I might have joined you if alcohol didn't make me feel as if I was itching all over - a bit like being stung with nettles.
That is not what bothers me. It's the idea that you can't have a good time without alcohol and that alcohol is somehow essential to the survival of so much. I am all too aware of the way alcohol leads to many social, health and other problems.
It says something about our culture and the society in which we live - and I am not sure I like it.

Monday 11 May 2020

Films I have not seen

was a topic I had to think about yesterday. Okay it was a Twitter post by someone I know that brought the thought on.
I am not someone who goes to see films very often. The last film I saw was "The King's Speech" - yes, rather a long time ago. There have been films since then that I have considered "might be interesting" but I have simply not managed to get around to seeing them. They are the sort of film I think  I might find on a DVD one day and watch - when I have time. 
It took me years to see a film my brother enthused about at the time of its release. By the time I saw it "2001 - A space odyssey" seemed old and dull. The special effects were no longer special.
Yesterday I started to make a list of film series I had not seen.  
There are the Star Wars films. I have never seen any. I have only a vague idea of what they are about.  Science fiction really isn't of any great interest to me. I don't read it either. The closest I have come to that is Edmund Cooper's "The Overman Culture" and Madeleine L'Engle's "A wrinkle in time" series.
The Lord of the Rings series is something I have not watched either.  (I have not seen "The Hobbit" either.) I have read the books and I am well aware that the scenery and so on  is supposed to be magnificent. Perhaps I will go to New Zealand one day and see the scenery for myself? It seems unlikely right now.
I haven't seen the Hunger Games films although I read the first book. I did not like the book.
Oh yes, those Twilight films...I couldn't even get past the first few pages of the first book. What other people see in the books is beyond me  - but tastes differ.
Batman and Mad Max are more film series I have not seen and do not want to see. 
"So, what have you seen?" someone asked me via Twitter.
I have seen three James Bond movies. It was rather a long time ago now and I thought they were slightly ridiculous but, at the same time, good escapism.  
And I saw the first Harry Potter movie.  I saw that in a theatre packed to the hilt with children. The Senior Cat came too. It was good fun. It was made even better fun because the children were absolutely enthralled by it. I  haven't seen the other films in the series. 
Perhaps I will one day see more James Bond or Harry Potter ...if I ever reach ancient cat-hood and can no longer do anything other than lie there with my knitting between my paws. 
I really do not want to see any of the others.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Mother's Day will be

different this year.
My mother died in 2000 and we have never had to go through the embarrassment of again being asked, "What did you give your mother?"  or "What did you do on Mother's Day?" 
It was an embarrassment simply because we were not permitted to  give Mum anything or do anything for her.  I remember our one attempt to do something. We four children put our pocket money together and bought our mother a book we knew she wanted to read. (The book was Lillian Beckwith's, "The sea for breakfast".) We gave it to her on the morning of Mother's Day. 
It was passed back to us with the words, "You know we don't celebrate Mother's Day. Every day should be a mother's day. Return it to the shop."
We took it back, still in the wrapping the shop had provided. Instead of admitting what she had said we lied and said she had been given two copies so that we did get our pocket money back. 
I have never been able to read the book.
Mum would have seen herself as having done absolutely the right thing. She would have  believed she was teaching us a lesson about the commercialism which surrounds Mother's Day. It was a bit like that with Christmas and Easter too.  We were given useful presents at Christmas - things we would have needed anyway but a bit more interesting than new school shoes.  Mum did not give us Easter eggs either - although she sometimes remembered to dye our boiled eggs with cochineal.  
Mum did not even want cards we had made. She most certainly did not want her breakfast brought to her in bed or a meal made for her or to be taken out for a meal. 
It is just the way Mum was. I don't think she had any idea how hurt we felt.
Middle Cat's eldest is off duty today. He and his wife have invited her and my BIL for lunch - social distancing measures allowing this when certain precautions are taken. Middle Cat told Nephew's partner that, "Mother's Day isn't something we fuss about but not having to cook lunch will be lovely." 
And no, it isn't something they fuss over but Youngest Nephew will have a long chat with her from interstate as well. They often do but this  one will also be an acknowledge of her role as mother.
Brother Cat's partner is not the mother of his children. Their mother is no longer alive. R.... has taken her place as far as she can. For them she is "mother" even though they do not call her "mum". Actual visits are not permitted in their state but there will be plenty of chat and flowers or a plant for her garden. They want to acknowledge her importance in their lives - and they do it at other times as well. 
Mother's Day is too much a commercial event but, had church services been permitted here, there would almost certainly have been a focus on two things. One would of course been the role of mothers in our lives. The other would have been the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. 
When we put those two things together the role of mothers becomes very powerful indeed. The poem is sentimental mid-Victorian but yes, mothers are to be celebrated.

    The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
    Is The Hand That Rules The World

    Blessings on the hand of women!
    Angels guard its strength and grace,
    In the palace, cottage, hovel,
    Oh, no matter where the place;
    Would that never storms assailed it,
    Rainbows ever gently curled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.
    Infancy's the tender fountain,
    Power may with beauty flow,
    Mother's first to guide the streamlets,
    From them souls unresting grow--
    Grow on for the good or evil,
    Sunshine streamed or evil hurled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.
    Woman, how divine your mission
    Here upon our natal sod!
    Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
    Always to the breath of God!
    All true trophies of the ages
    Are from mother-love impearled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.
    Blessings on the hand of women!
    Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
    And the sacred song is mingled
    With the worship in the sky--
    Mingles where no tempest darkens,
    Rainbows evermore are hurled;
    For the hand that rocks the cradle
    Is the hand that rules the world.
    William Ross Wallace


Saturday 9 May 2020

Coming out of lock down

or "self-isolation" is now under discussion here. There are cautious moves afoot to relax some restrictions.
 I am worried about this. There will be far too many people who think, "Things are back to normal. We don't need to worry."
Now is precisely when we should start to worry even more. We are heading into winter here in the Antipodes. It is the season of the common cold and strains of influenza. 
We might only have two active cases known to the medical profession but there will be people in the community who could unknowingly infect others. (The last active case has been an older man who had almost completed a period of quarantine. Five people around him are now isolated too.)
But some things might be moving towards a more "normal" state of affairs. Weddings can have a few more guests. Funerals may be attended by more people. There might be more al fresco dining - although who will be able to afford meals out when the unemployment rate has almost doubled. Not all the fifty-five thousand people in this state who lost their jobs will be going back to work.
I had to go to the library yesterday. It has been closed of course but we have been able to borrow books on a "click and collect" basis - go on loan and make the request using your library card. You then go to the library and wait outside while a staff member collects the book and processes the loan.  It has been a privilege to be able to do this. I have tried to use it very sparingly because I know the staff were in danger of being overwhelmed at times. They have also used the time wisely and achieved other things as well.
But, I needed a book so I put in the request knowing it was on the shelves. Things have quietened down considerably and by lunchtime there was a message to say I could pick the book up. I pedalled off after lunch. There was nobody monitoring the outside table but one of the staff gave me a wave. 
I waited. They would need my library card - or so I thought. No. Two minutes later B.... arrived with two books. One of them was a new knitting book. He didn't need my library card. He just did a reverse of my name.
   "We thought  you might like to look at this too - ready for when the knitting group can start again."
This is the thoughtful, "we know what you are likely to be interested in" sort of action that makes going to our local library such a pleasure. The library staff know that I look carefully at each new knitting and crochet book they acquire. I don't use the books myself but I can tell members of the group what is there and whether they might find it useful  
And in this case they know that I'll put the book in the return chute before they library opens again. Another reader can borrow it as soon as the doors open. Our Prime Minister thinks libraries are important. They have been included in phase one of the long, slow road back to something we might consider "normal".
Now what it will take is for people to be careful and sensible and not break the rules or try to bend the guidelines. The library, the central social hub or the community, can start breathing again. 
If we are careful other things might come back to life too.

Friday 8 May 2020

Football is a game

that has somehow been turned into a multi-million dollar industry. The players are bought and sold as if they are slaves  in a Roman market place. Perhaps they are slaves of a sort  but they also get paid obscene amounts of money. 
They also get cared for in ways that most people can only dream of. Today's front page is screaming because some of these pampered children have allegedly broken the rules about training in isolation  - while being accommodated at a rather smart hotel in a  tourist area some distance and to the north of the city. Poor little darlings.
No, I have no sympathy at all.
I am much more concerned by the lack of financial and other support for others we actually need. I am concerned for the research workers in the laboratories, the staff in hospitals, the teachers dealing with the children of these workers and more.
Yesterday I had a call from one of the local schools. I am the person of last resort for the child in question. His father was in the laboratory and his mother was in an operating theatre. Neither could be disturbed. His grandparents are living on the family farm at present. I was the closest. No, he wasn't hurt but he had, very unusually for him, had a "complete melt down". They couldn't work out what was wrong or even what had happened. He wouldn't tell them. Would I please come and see if I could do anything?
I didn't think it was likely but I went be greeted by the sight of one small boy curled up in a tight ball with his hands over his ears. The adults disappeared and left me to it. 
I had really thought I was going to get absolutely nowhere but, as soon as everyone else had gone he unwound himself and rushed over to me.
    "Cat, my daddy isn't killing people!"
    "Of course not! Whatever gave you that idea? Do you want a cuddle while you tell me about it?" The last question was superfluous as he had already pushed me into a chair and was climbing on to me - forget "social distancing" right then. He needed a hug.
It all came tumbling out in a confused sort of way but I finally sorted it out.  One of the older children, knowing what this child's father is really doing, had started to tease him that his father was killing people in the laboratory -  in order to use them for experimental purposes. He thought it was funny and that the more distressed the child became the funnier it was, especially when some of his friends joined in. It left the younger boy so distressed he couldn't cope with the situation.
   "What's more important," we asked the children, "Being able to kick a football or saving someone's life?"
I left them discussing this with their teachers. It would be so good if saving lives really was the priority.


Thursday 7 May 2020

The survival of some small clubs

and associations,  guilds or groups must now be under question. When we moved into this house our neighbours behind us belonged to what could only be called a fairly specialised gardening club. It concentrated on just one type of flower - not roses but gladioli.  Our neighbours, being very elderly at the time, are long since deceased. The club would still seem to exist  but I wonder  how many members it has. My guess would be that it is very small now. It was not large back then.
I had a look for other "clubs" too. Membership numbers are not given so I can only guess at their likely size. One way of guessing is whether they have a real presence on the internet  - rather than simply a telephone listing. 
Where there is simply a telephone listing it suggests that members are older and less used to using the internet. They may not have an email address and the idea of a Facebook page may not even occur to them.
At present such groups cannot meet. I wonder if they are going to survive a lengthy shut down? 
I belong to a reasonable size group. There are about seventy members and around forty of those usually attend at any one time. There are some younger members but the office holders tend to be older people, presumably those with more time. They have tried to keep things going this month with an extra newsletter. It is a commendable thing to try. I have no doubt other groups are doing similar things.  
But I still wonder whether it will be enough to keep some small groups going. Will they be like the small cult like "church" to which my mother once belonged? When I was a child this "church" had a congregation of several hundred people in two different locations in the city. It had a building on prime real estate which must have been worth a great deal - and they owned it freehold. Now there are a handful of adherents left - elderly people who meet in private homes. They will soon be gone altogether. 
Some of these other groups may well go the same way. How many young people are interested in bonsai, succulents, gladioli or geraniums? Of course some of them are interested in gardening in a general way but their lifestyles have changed. Belonging to anything other than their beloved footy club is not something for which they can find time.
Service clubs like Lions and Rotary are struggling too. Sometimes there is a family tradition of belonging to such things but, more often than not, people say they have "no time". It is easier to give money than time. 
The group I belong to  should serve two functions. It should provide for the craft involved but it should also be a social support  network for  people in need of like minded company. That can't happen right now. People may look elsewhere. Older members may decide the effort of returning is just too great. Can it survive? I don't know. There are ideas which could be tried but they require an effort  and not everyone can handle such ideas.
People won't be meeting in bigger groups yet.  It may be months before that happens and even then it may need to be done differently. 
But human beings generally need the company and  support of other human beings. We need to find ways of  helping that to  happen. Humans are not natural hermits. 

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Shopping in warehouses is

not like shopping in the supermarket.
Middle Cat and I went to a warehouse yesterday. It is a place her late Greek-Cypriot MIL introduced her to when Middle Cat first married my BIL.  It is of course run by Greek-Cypriots.
It is an industrial size shed in the industrial area of the city. The people who work in it are Greek-Cypriot migrants, their children and grandchildren. Middle Cat knows most of them of course. As a physiotherapist she has treated some of them. Surprisingly her husband is not related to any of them - although some of his cousins undoubtedly are related by marriage.
And, not surprisingly, it caters for the Greek-Cypriot residents of the city. There are shelves stacked high with olives in tins and jars. There is olive oil in small cans and large cans. There are crates of tomato puree and tins of tomato paste. There are dried beans and peas in kilo packets.  There are spices in half kilo packets stacked next to dried figs, Turkish dried apricots and apple rings. Along one row there are industrial size tins of fruit and ten kilo packs of flour. At one end there is kitchen equipment. Even there the items tend to be large - intended for large families and entertaining all the extended family. It is all a reminder that things are done a little differently among them.
English is spoken there - but you are more likely to hear Greek - the Cypriot version. Middle Cat speaks a little. We are greeted with words like "Kalimera" (Good day)  "Ti Kaneis?"  (How are you?") and "Yasou" ("your health"). Even I can respond "Poli kala" ("very nice" - in other words "I'm okay").
But it really is a different place and it is inhabited largely by the old and the employees - who are packing orders for supermarkets. The younger generations shop in the supermarkets. The women go to work. The art of the market type warehouse shop is lost on them. They don't have time to stop and gossip like their parents and grandparents did - even while currently abiding by social distancing restrictions.
I think they may have lost something there.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Little street libraries

have appeared in several different locations near us.
I noticed the first one about three weeks ago. It was simply a very large plastic box full of books on top of a fence. There was a label which said,
     "Please borrow."
As I pedalled past a  young man arrived and put two books into the box and then started browsing through the rest. I hope he found something to read.
On further travels I found one outside a church. That was a specially built little hut. The notice there suggested borrowing an donating. It was looking well used. I hope that whoever was responsible for it picked up the bag of books someone had left there - before it rained.
Out of curiosity I checked the two tiny shelves at the "hole-in-the-wall" type coffee shop opposite the supermarket. They are still open for take-away coffee. Were there books on the shelves? Yes, a few - although not as many as usual.
I have since seen another row of books along a fence. No doubt they were taken in at night. There were two people - apart - browsing those.
And yesterday I found another one. This one was a very serious one indeed. It was on a corner,  in the wall of a building which had once been one of those old fashioned corner shops. Someone has put proper shelves in and it is about the size of a small bookcase. There is a note there about please not putting books on the ground or the seat.
Yes, there is a seat there too. It's a quiet area - at least at the moment. People could sit there and read for a while.
The books in all these are paperbacks of varying degrees of shabbiness. Most of them are what might be called "popular light literature" I suppose - but so what? It might be the very thing we need right now. People are reading and sharing. The library may not be open so they have found a way around it for those out on a walk with the dog. 
This morning I am going to pedal out and put a few on the shelves of the corner shop library. That way someone else can "escape" for a few hours - without going too far at all.