Friday 31 July 2020

Take this virus seriously!

Yes, I know other people are saying this too but I am going to say it again - and again.
Middle Cat managed to get the Senior Cat into the car yesterday - something of a physical feat. She brought him home for a day visit to see how he might cope. 
It was not a great success but it did make him acutely aware of how difficult it is going to be. He made his own decision to "stay a bit longer". He is fortunate he can. We still have forty-eight respite days available - after that there could be real problems but we can at least try and sort things out. 
He would rather be home. We would rather he was home. 
And one of the many reasons for wanting him to come home, apart from the simple fact it is where he should be, is the Covid19 virus. In fact if cases start to appear in nursing homes in this state Middle Cat and I will bring him home and cope somehow - although I have no idea how. We do not want him to die alone in an ICU isolation unit in hospital. Nobody who loves a family member could want that for them.
This is what makes me so angry when I hear of people breaking the rules, refusing to wear a mask  in the neighbouring state, going to work when they know they have or even might have the virus. It is what alarms me when the person ahead of me walks into the supermarket without using the hand sanitiser and wipes which have been made available. (I am still taking my own wipes in case the supermarket has run out. I use another in other areas of the shopping centre.)  
A real lock down might be rather like being under house arrest but there are very good reasons for it. It won't be easy but there are measures in place to help people financially.  
We are all so used to having the freedom to come and go as we please and when we want to that, for most people, the idea that we might never be able to do this again is frightening. It will happen that way if we don't do the right thing - and much worse could happen.
I've been told, "You're just being selfish. All you can think about is your father and you. You don't care if the rest of us are going mad with boredom when it is perfectly safe to go out."
I don't think I am being selfish. I am worried about the long term effect. This is going to impact the children and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren and more.
And much could be done to bring this virus under control if people would just take it seriously. Please take it seriously.

Thursday 30 July 2020

There was a death notice

in the paper yesterday - for the mother of my cousin's partner. Yes, she was "old" I suppose and it was "expected" because she was ill but what the notice didn't say was that only one of her children can attend her funeral. 
My cousin's partner lives in London. He can't come back at present. He would have been on the first available plane here had it been possible. His brother lives in America. He would also have been on the first available plane. It leaves their sister to be the physically present comfort for their father. That must be very hard indeed. 
I am very conscious that we could face a similar situation because I have a brother living in another state and a sister living in another. I have a nephew living in the worst hit state - and yes, we are very worried for his safety.
But we are all within almost the same time zone. For R... his mother's funeral is at a time which will be in the very early hours of the morning. For his brother it will be late at night. The service is being "streamed" for them but I can imagine R... sitting there in their tiny London flat hoping that, at very least, the connection does not fail for some reason and he can at least view the service. Even with my cousin T... sitting next to him he is going to have that truly dreadful moment of homesickness I experienced when my paternal grandmother died and I was in London and my mother informed me by letter - a letter which arrived after it was all over.
Communications are much better now of course. There was no internet when I first went to London. Computers were still huge and kept in dust free rooms managed by specialists. (Remember those endless sheets of paper that tumbled out?)
But is that any real comfort for people like R..., for all the people who have lost someone to the wretched virus when they have been much closer but agonisingly far away?
The Senior Cat is due home this morning. I do not know how long we will be able to have him here. Middle Cat talked to the doctor yesterday and we all know it is going to be difficult but we need to do it if we can. We need to do it not just for him but for my siblings who cannot be here.
And, in a way, we need to do it for R... too. If we can organise "parent-sitting" for the Senior Cat then Middle Cat and I will go to the funeral on Monday - for R.... so that he feels his partner's family is supporting him as best we can.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Clearing out a room

is rather like doing an archaeological "dig". At least this is the case when the room has been used as a "dumping" ground for the past twenty years.
We only have two bedrooms in this house. One is obviously for the Senior Cat and the other is mine. There are two other rooms which would have been bedrooms in the normal way but one was the Senior Cat's "study/office" and the other was "the sewing room" where my late mother did sew and the ironing has been done.
I do not sew. Not long after  her death we gave my mother's sewing machine and over locker to a professional dress maker. After that it became "dump it in the sewing room" for anything we thought we did not want to give away but did not know what to do with or where else to store. 
This was a mistake. We have kept things that nobody should keep - like bits of wrapping paper too small to be really useful. Old Christmas cards "because the address might be useful". Plastic bags and other shopping bags "because it might come in handy". Old clothes "that will do for cleaning rags". My increasing collection of knitting yarn which was "given to me by ..... so I really can't just get rid of it". Then there is the big bag of polystyrene balls and "yes I will use those when I get time and have to run that class". There are piles of papers - "I need to go through those when I get time" and more craft materials of which the Senior Cat has said, "Don't throw those out. They are useful for the kids." (He means the great-grand kittens and the four kittens across the road.)
And how does yarn get tangled when I put it away untangled and nobody has touched it since?
I have been at it for two days. I have not finished. I must finish today because we are going to need  to be able to put a bed in there so that other people can sleep overnight and help with the Senior Cat.
He is supposed to come home today or, at latest, tomorrow. The doctor phoned me yesterday and we discussed this. I know she is worried about him coming home. I am worried about him being here but she also agreed that he needs to be out of where he currently is. Middle Cat is working on options.  I will go on cleaning and hoping. 
I do wish we hadn't just "dumped" things - but it is a terrible temptation!

Tuesday 28 July 2020

If you want to protest

then there are ways to do it - and do it responsibly as well as effectively.
Yesterday the organisers of a Black Lives Matter protest march lost their appeal for the march to go ahead. They now plan to do it illegally. 
The reason they lost their appeal is of course the Covid-19 restrictions in that state. Planning to go ahead illegally is, to say the least, irresponsible. It will do their cause no good. It could even do harm. If one person attending the march has the virus then they are capable of affecting hundreds of others very rapidly. The situation could soon be out of control.  
I was discussing this with someone yesterday. He is a member of the judiciary. He was very concerned because his grandson wants to attend the march. We discussed this by comparing my attempts to see the Senior Cat without an "appointment".
    "That really was different Cat," he told me, "You had gone through the necessary steps, indeed already been signed in when they stopped you. You were abiding by the rules the government had laid down. If you had appeared in front of me I would have granted you permission because the restriction placed on you was unreasonable in the circumstances. This is different."
Yes, it is different. Those organising the protest are behaving in a manner which is contrary to the well being of others. It is garnering them media coverage but it is almost certainly not garnering them support in the wider community. If there is a spike in cases because of their actions then the consequences could be extremely serious. People are tired of the current restrictions. They long for the pandemic to simply "go away". It is having not just severe health costs but financial, social and emotional costs that will take generations from which to recover.  What is more these issues also affect the issues the BLM protestors are talking about. 
It is time to be reasonable about these things. Change does not come about through that sort of action. It doesn't come about through "tweets of support" or badges on clothing or any number of other popular but effortless ways of "protesting". Real change can come about with things like individually written letters and properly conducted research along with well developed proposals for the future. Getting real change is hard work, very hard work.  
I know because I have done it.  I know other people who have done it. We knew when we started that we probably would never be "thanked" -  to the contrary. Popularity and media attention is not the name of the game. It is not why you do such things.  
Sadly the organisers of this march see themselves as warriors and heroes. If they get punished in any way they will be made out to be martyrs of some sort. They are not. When something goes wrong they will harm the very cause they say they support.

Monday 27 July 2020

Reading the instructions

is not necessarily easy.
I fill out an awful lot of forms in my job - even now that I am trying to cut back on the amount of work I do. There have been times when I felt as if I did nothing else. 
Reading the instructions on forms is not a straightforward thing. I am not including here the forms which are not written in English. I do not expect those to be straightforward but that is because of my own linguistic skills - or lack thereof. 
No, I mean the English language forms I seem to need to tackle daily. Even the forms written in "Plain English", "Basic English" or "Simple English" are not as clear as they could be.
Due to the resignation of our local ward councillor we need to vote for a new one. Material has come out, along with the voting paper. I tried to make sense of these yesterday, the first chance I actually had to read it carefully. By the end of it I was confused. The candidate statements were all of the "how many words can I use to say nothing?" variety.  The instructions for how to mark the ballot paper and return it were equally confusing.
As a law student I had to study legislation - and how it is written.  I can remember being given an exercise which asked us to write a small part of a piece of legislation.  Legislation of course is there to tell us how the law is to be applied.
    "Try and cover all the possibilities," we were told. 
I worked with a fellow mature age student. We came up with six different ways of saying the same thing - enough for the exercise in question. Then we went a step further and pulled them apart as might be done by barristers in front of a judge. We passed our assignments in.  At the next lecture we  waited rather nervously for the results.
I was almost relieved when the lecturer said, "Well now Cat and Chris have done exactly what I hoped for. How long did it take you two to dream up those versions?" 
The other students had handed in just one idea each of course. In doing the assignment they had often written something they simply thought said the what was intended. Being older Chris and I could see what the lecturer wanted. He wanted us to understand how difficult it is to write something that cannot be torn down by a misplaced word or comma or phrase.  
I have been writing instructions for another project lately. It is the sort of writing I do not enjoy. This time I have someone else reading the instructions and following them. She has an analytical sort of mind and, had things been different after the war, she might have gone to university and done maths. She would have been very good at it. It really helps me.
I wish the people who had written the statements and the voting form had consulted her before sending that material out.

Sunday 26 July 2020

The lives of nuns

have changed dramatically since I was a mere kitten. It would have been unthinkable once for me to do what I did yesterday. 
Instead of going to see the Senior Cat I went to see two nuns. This was Middle Cat's suggestion.  
    "You said you wanted to catch up with P... and B... Why don't you go and do it this afternoon when you get the boxes. I have to take the puffer over." (She was referring to his asthma medication.) 
It was sunny. The convent is about twenty minutes away in pedalling time. Middle Cat would tell the Senior Cat what I was doing. He knows B... finds it as  difficult as he does to get out these days. 
I phoned P.... just as I would phone anyone else and said, "Are you in?  I need to get something from (the big place on the corner) and I could come on and see B...."
    "Lovely," P told me. 
So, I went. I dislike shopping even more at that venue but it was over quickly and I went on to the convent. 
It is a quiet place on Saturdays. During the week there is the noise from the school - although even that does not seem excessive. The most noise comes from the main road on which it is situated. Turning into the gravel driveway the high wall cuts out most of that noise too.
P... came out as I was parking the trike  under the back verandah.
    "Good to see you Cat. looking forward to it. She's in the kitchen. Go on in."
And there we sat in their tiny kitchen. P....made tea. Biscuits were produced. We talked of the events of the previous day but briefly. They agreed that we need to get the Senior Cat home as soon as possible. 
The nuns care for one another as long as possible. There were more in the house when we first got to know P... Now there are just the two of them rattling around in a big house. There are other residences on the property. Most of the nuns have their own small units now, quite unlike the cells of their past.
I have discussed this with P... and B... Their lives are so very different now. Both of them have embraced the changes although I have known one or two other nuns who have found it difficult. 
That is hardly surprising. B... went into the convent when I was a small kitten. Her life then was completely regimented. She wore a habit and a wimple. Now the closest she comes to that is a plain cream dress she wears to funerals. She owns nothing black now. She gave P.... a very pretty over shirt-blouse to celebrate P...'s diamond anniversary of entering the convent. That would once have been unthinkable. 
The two of them watch television and "indulge" in craft. They have travelled and, until recently, occasionally went to a film or concert. Their lives are not so very different from any of people their age. It is as it should be.
The difference is that, at least between P....and B... there is an air of quiet. They know each other well. They give each other space.
I try to do the same for the Senior Cat. P...and B... have taught me a lot over the years. 

Saturday 25 July 2020

I was assaulted yesterday

and I am still feeling very shaken. There was no "battery" involved - "battery" is actual physical touching - but the assault was real and very frightening.
Two days before we had been informed that they were "changing the visiting rules"  as to when and how we could visit the Senior Cat. Fair enough if that is necessary right now although a little strange when we were already complying with what we believed were all the necessary requirements. We took the number we were given to "make an appointment". 
At that point though another alarm bell began to ring because one staff member in the residence had told me, "He will never settle in if you keep visiting." Pointing out that he was there for just two weeks - and now he will be no longer whatever - made no difference. I was already concerned by that attitude.
As the Senior Cat is only booked in for two weeks though we decided to try and cooperate - just as we have tried to cooperate with all the requirements.
I continued to try and  cooperate. As it was my turn to go yesterday. I tried phoning the number the day before. It is a "1800-xxxxx" sort of number and then there are the "press one" and so on numbers for whatever it is you want. That alone is of some concern but again we accepted it. Throughout the day I kept trying the number. I could not get through to "book an appointment". After hours I tried again. Yes, answering machine this time. I left a message and said I would be there to see him sometime the next day, most likely in the afternoon. 
I was rung at 8am and told I could not go unless I gave them a specific time. That really rang alarm bells. I know that when something like this is said it is almost always because, knowing there will be a visitor, the resident will be "ready". In some cases there are issues with staff hovering and, in the worst, there can be chemical restraint so that the resident appears happy and compliant.
There was no reason at all to believe that the Senior Cat had been in anyway "difficult". He is probably one of the least, if not the least, difficult people they have ever come across. It is one of the things that makes people outside the family want to visit him.
The current government regulations, at both state and federal level, do not require "appointments" at all, least of all appointments at a very specific time.
The residence is a very small one. There are only thirty-eight beds in it. Some of them are dementia patients. Middle Cat and I have only seen two visitors in all that time - the man I mentioned  the other day and a woman who arrived yesterday.  The Senior Cat has probably had more visits in a week than some residents get in a year.
My work also makes it very difficult to say that I will be somewhere at a specific time. Yesterday I was waiting on a call from a surgeon and a medical engineer. It was going to be a three way conversation. I needed to be at the computer so I could see what they were talking about. No, I was not going to make a specific time because I could not.
I was told I could not visit.
In the meantime Middle Cat, who deals with the medical issues, was phoned and asked to get a prescription for him. She phoned me and said she would, all being well, pick me up. Mid-afternoon she did just that. We went to the residence. They said we could go no further than the front desk - this after we had filled out the daily form, signed the book and had our temperatures taken. 
If we went any further we were told they would call the police. A very tall male member of staff had appeared by then, one of the two people I would not trust at all. His clothing and personal hygiene leave a considerable amount to be desired.  Middle Cat, much braver than me, said,
    "Call the police then. You asked me to come in with his medication. I am going to see him."
She can move a great deal more quickly than I can of course and she stalked off. The male member of staff was clearly furious. He closed in on me to within no more than ten centimetres.
    "You are going out of here now!" 
He manouvered himself in such a way that I had no choice but to move. As I was less than a metre from the door he managed by simply moving in on me to get me out of the door. I waited outside for Middle Cat- by which time I was in tears. It takes a lot to make me cry but I was feeling frightened - not just for me but for the Senior Cat.
Middle Cat did not come back immediately. A member of staff came out to talk to me. She is young, pleasant and was obviously worried by what had happened. "Can you get him home soon?"
she asked me, "Being here isn't good for him. He's too nice for that."
Then Middle Cat appeared. One of the other staff was equally concerned. She said much the same thing. She is also nice, young and pregnant and "not coming back". 
    "Come on in Cat. They had no right to do that."
I went in but I didn't feel comfortable. I wondered where that male member of staff was and why they had made it so difficult.  The answer was soon obvious. The Senior Cat was sitting in his room - in semi-darkness. I listened to his speech. He seemed vague and uncertain, quite unlike his usual self. But he was alert enough to tell us,
    "They gave me something. They said it was for the bruise."
He does have a bruise on his hip from where he fell but we could not check for any more. It was more than a week ago he had the fall anyway and he had not had anything then.What is more bruises do not need medication that might make you vague or uncertain.
As soon as we can organise some extra help he will be coming home - where he belongs. We will cope somehow. I do not want to go in there again.

Friday 24 July 2020

Is there a black panther roaming the streets

of the port district of the city in which I live?
The story came up again in this morning's paper. It is one of those curiosities the paper likes to raise once in a decade or so. I had heard it before. If the panther exists then it is very old indeed. 
How do I know this? I know because my paternal grandfather had his tailoring business in the street  in which people have claimed to see it. He knew about the story - from years before I was born.
Although they never owned one - or any other pet - my paternal grandparents were fond of animals in a no nonsense sort of way. 
They did not believe in "ghosts" or any other form of the supernatural. A great-aunt by marriage once produced some Tarot cards and my grandfather ordered her to take them out of the house. His strict Presbyterian upbringing found them highly offensive. 
But there was the story of the panther. He told it to me one evening when I was in my teens. There were just the two of us in the car. We were going home from the evening church service when he stopped at his place of business to pick up something. I was waiting in the car for him. A mostly black cat crossed the street ahead of the car.  I thought nothing of it.
My grandfather came returned put what he had collected carefully on the back seat. (It was probably a suit he had made.) As he started the car  I saw the cat again and said,
    "Watch out for the cat."
He looked and then grunted and said, "I hope you don't believe that nonsense."
    "What nonsense?"
    "What was the cat like?"
    "Well mostly black but with a white shirt front."
He nodded and told me that some people had claimed to see a black cat as large as a panther going along that particular street. It had supposedly "escaped from a circus".  The story had been going around as long as he could remember and he was by then a very old man. (He worked until he was 86.) 
The story is still there. It is a piece of "urban folklore" that may never die out. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Restricting visits to people

in residential care without good cause is not on.
We thought we were in a good place with respect to some respite for the Senior Cat. In many ways it has proved to be so but we came up against an unexpected problem yesterday. Visits are being restricted.
There is no good reason for this right now. We are more than happy to go through all the checks required for the Covid19 virus. If they want our 'flu vaccination certificates that's fine. The government requires them to keep a list of people going in and out - names, addresses and phone numbers.
We will even accept the "two visitors at any time" rule. No place wants a horde of people in there even with all the checks. We are less happy with the "only one visit" a day but again that is perhaps understandable.
What we do not like is having to phone a 1800 number the day before to say we are coming and when we are coming. The reason? They do not answer the 1800 number.
I thought this might be just a glitch in the system. Perhaps someone had too much to do or there was a fault in the line. No, there isn't. It just rings out. There is nobody there to answer the call.
I explained this yesterday. It was not the fault of the receptionist and I tried very hard not to vent my frustration on her. In the end she did let me in because I had clean clothes for the Senior Cat.
   "Your visits make him unsettled," said the one member of the staff with whom I do not feel comfortable.
   "He has always been a worrier and right now he needs to be reassured that we are all right," I told her.
   "It's not good for him. He will never settle in if you keep visiting like this."
Really? If we can find a way of getting him home - sadly unlikely but we are still trying - then we will. He can have as many visitors as he likes at home. J... can bring her dogs down for him. G... can "pop in" and discuss a woodwork problem. The two little boys across the road can come and tell him about school and show them what skills they have acquired in the past week. It is all essential for his mental health if not his physical well-being. 
I know visits have tightened up dramatically because of the virus but apparently this unit has always been rather like this. It is said that something like 70% of people in nursing homes never get visits. This sort of attitude however is not helping. What the woman meant by "settle in" is "be completely compliant". What she failed to recognise is that the Senior Cat is still intellectually alert and aware. He is not being difficult - far from  it - but he is aware and he needs the stimulation and emotional support from his friends as well as his family. 
Not many people of ninety-seven can claim the ongoing friendship of so many others but those who can have a right to continue it if at all possible.  That means the 1800 number must be answered and it must be done without questioning the right of residents to visitors.  

Wednesday 22 July 2020

"So you want a job...?"

I know the pandemic has left many people out of work, in less work, on zero hours, and looking for work.
Why then is it that some people who claim to be looking for work are doing things like.
   (1) not turning up for interviews or
   (2) turning up for interviews without paying attention to their clothing or
   (3) telling the interviewer that they can't do the required shifts because they are going out with their mates?
There is more than that of course.
I was talking to the owner of a local business recently. He needed someone. The position would be permanent after a satisfactory trial period. There is a possibility of promotion to more responsibilities. The pay is above the award wages because he's a good employer. Students I know who have worked for him say he is very flexible when it comes to making sure they are free to attend lectures and around exam time. The position is not suitable for them but it would surely suit other people.
   "I thought they would be queuing out the door - or that I would have a hundred or more applications."
I helped him write the advertisement. He wanted people to be sure that they knew what the job involved but we also made it sound positive and, I hope, interesting.
He had under twenty applications for the position. Most of those he had to dismiss immediately. He needed a fully qualified driver, preferably with a licence that would allow them to drive the biggest vehicle he uses for transporting goods. (He offered training for that if they did not have it.) Three of the applicants were on probationary licences, another was still a learner. Another had lost his licence "but getting it back in about eleven weeks". Others were not prepared to do the required early morning shifts. 
He was prepared to interview nine of them. Two did not turn up for the interview. Three had made no effort to  "at least look clean and tidy". Another told him he could not do the early shift "because I go out with my mates the night before and I need to sleep in".
He was left with three possible applicants. One did not have the essential English skills in a job which requires verbal interaction. 
    "I told him I could give him some casual work. He's coming in next week."
One had a work record that he felt was a bit "unusual" so the last candidate has been offered the position on probation. He sounds positive. His background is "rather different" but when I saw him yesterday he looked happy, very happy. The other staff have taken to him instantly. I hope it works out for all of them.
Where were all the other people who are currently unemployed? There must have been more of them able to do the job.

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Protesting is the new hobby

for some people - or so it would seem.
Middle Cat and I are taking it in turns to visit the Senior Cat while he is in respite. We know other people are also going. We have warned them that they need to be able to show their 'flu vaccination certificates. That's fine. Nobody we know would be foolish enough to argue with the need to keep vulnerable people as safe as possible. We got our forms yesterday...and found the clinic had actually verbally advised them of our status the day the Senior Cat arrived.
Yesterday it was my turn to go and see him. I arrived and a distinctly harassed staff member let me in.
    "Can you make this gentleman see sense?" she asked, "He hasn't got a vaccination certificate and he is refusing to sign the Covid form."
    "I don't have to sign any f.... form just to see...."
I looked at him. Belligerent....rude...arrogant... it all oozed from him.  He closed in on both of us again. Social distancing isn't his thing either it would seem.
But it was enough for me. I said, "In legal terms you are now assaulting both of us."
    "F....hell I am!"
    "I am sorry but you are. If you touch either of us that will be battery as well and I am sure C.... here won't hesitate to call the police if you do that."
    "F.... lawyer I suppose?"
    "I do happen to have a degree in law."
    "Then f.... tell her she can't make me sign any f.... forms."
    "No, she can't but if you don't sign them then she does have the legal right to prevent you going any further."
He glared at me and opened his mouth. I got in first.
     "If you have come to see one of the residents then I suggest that you don't have a very high regard for them if you can't do the right thing."
He crumpled at that.
     "It's me mate's dad...I sort of have some bad news for him. I don't want to do it."
I left handle the situation then. He was still upset but in a different sort of way.
As I left I saw him again. He was sitting in a room talking quietly to one of the residents. I suppose he had signed the Covid form and a statutory declaration about his 'flu  vaccination. He raised his hand to me in a sort of apologetic way and I managed a smile back.
I don't know what was wrong. I don't want to know. I did think that if he had explained the situation from the start then C.... would have found it much easier. 
I suppose he protested out of anxiety. Is that why some people go out and protest now? 

Monday 20 July 2020

"Talent shows" where the winners

are voted for by the public are not something I know much about but I was "amused" - or should it be "bemused" to find that the brother of a previous winner has just "won" just such a one here.
Now I have to confess that my two youngest nephews entered this same competition when they were in their late teens. They reached the finals. We genuinely thought they were in with a chance. 
Middle Cat knows people in the music industry. My late cousin C... had actually worked in it acting as an agent for some of the big names.
But no.... a then young man whom people thought was good but not particularly outstanding got voted for in unusually high numbers. Something was up according to those in the know.  Yes, he had the support of a fundamentalist church group with very large numbers of young people who were told to get out there and vote for him and get their family and friends to do the same. They did.
It may be that they genuinely believed he was the best candidate or it could be something else. I know nothing about his musical talent. Now his brother has just "won" the same event  - and the word is out on social media (i.e. trending on Twitter) that this was rigged too. 
It is hardly surprising -  his brother was apparently one of the judges and they used the same fundamentalist church group to bring in the votes as well. Even if the young man is genuinely talented he is also tainted by this.
As young kittens my siblings and I were never permitted to win any prizes at school. Our parents explained to us that we could not because of who our parents were. They could not be seen to be giving prizes to us, even if we were "the best" or "top". It didn't seem fair to us - even though we "sort of" understood. 
My brother eventually got a scholarship to university when he spent his final year at another school.  I got another scholarship as a post-graduate. We both won other prizes and I have been awarded other things but it was not like the thrill of getting a prize at school. It is different there. Anything since then, however hard I had to work for it, has been rather embarrassing.
I wonder how the winner of the current talent show feels? In his position I am not sure I would feel very comfortable - even if I was "the best".

Sunday 19 July 2020

Entertaining the elderly

is an issue. I know it is an issue. Aged care facilities do not want bored, restless residents wandering around causing trouble.
It is not easy to deal with this, especially when there is a lack of staff.
The Senior Cat is not given to grumbling but I know, even though he has not said a word, he is "counting the sleeps to going home". We will get him here if it is at all possible. 
He is being polite and agreeing to going to activities in which he has no interest. He has endured a "quiz" - one where he could answer every question apart from the sports questions. He takes no interest in sport.  Why is it that he was the only person in the room who knew who had written "Pride and Prejudice"? 
The "carpet bowls" were a disaster. The Senior Cat's eye-hand coordination has never been good. When he taught me in the primary school and there were handwriting lessons he would go and take my mother's class while she came and taught us...yes, he was that bad. 
He detests "community singing". The Senior Cat may not be particularly musical but even he cringes at this.
The Activities person is nice. She is trying. He is teaching her some craft activities that he has done with children. They both agreed that some of these would be good for people who have limited attention spans and abilities due to dementia. 
Yes, this is the problem. The Senior Cat is still intellectually alert and curious. He still wants to know things. The staff were surprised he could use an i-pad. It may be that he only searches for information on it and that email remains a mystery but he can do it. I suspect there may be other people in there who could do something similar if they were given the chance and someone was there to help.
I took some knitting with me yesterday. A woman with Alzheimer's who constantly shuffles around stopped to look. Because it didn't matter if she dropped it or pulled it off the needle or anything else I gave it to her for a moment. She looked at it as if completely puzzled and then with a smile to herself she  undid the three stitches I had done at the start of a row, turned it around and began to knit. She knits differently - "Continental" rather than "English" style - but somewhere in her memory the actions came back to her.  
One of the staff saw her and said to me,
    "I wish we had time to help her do that sort of thing."
Yes, she would need help. She couldn't cast on or count but if someone had time she could knit endless rows and make "squares" and someone could sew them together for her. 
I don't have the time to help her either. It is something we should have time to do.
I don't want to grow old like that.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Finding a phone number

used to be easy. You simply hauled out a book made of cheap newsprint and looked for the name you wanted.
This is no longer possible. There is still a book made of cheap newsprint but it is much smaller than it once was. It also has teeny, tiny print - so small that a magnifying glass is needed to see it.
That in itself is a problem. The bigger problem is that many phone numbers are no longer in it. 
People have mobile numbers instead.
We have kept our old "land line" number for the benefit of the Senior Cat. He knows how to use that phone. His mobile confuses him - even though it is intended for "seniors". I can understand this. He was born when very few people even had a phone. His father had one for business purposes. Making any other phone call was something you actually thought very carefully about. Was it necessary? Should you write a letter instead? 
Letters were delivered twice a day Monday to Friday back then - and once on Saturdays. Bills came through the post as did invitations, birthday cards, condolences and much more. 
There were "ordinary" letters too - the sort my grandparents and my mother wrote. My mother was an excellent writer in the physical sense. Her hand flowed easily across the paper. Each week she would write to all of us who were away from home - and to her mother. Less frequently she would write to other people but she still wrote more letters than any of us would contemplate writing now.
The Senior Cat has been in the habit of phoning the Black Cat once a week. They conversations are usually rather stilted. They do not have much to say to one another but provided she is there and sounding "okay" that is enough for him. On the other hand he has long conversations with Brother Cat - about woodwork, workshop plans, the Senior Cat's grandchildren and great-grandchildren. On occasions the wonders of technology allow my sister-in-law to join in as well.
And we have phone numbers for all these people.
Two days ago someone called us looking for a phone number. The woman who called us is an historian - a very good and thorough historian. She is updating the records for one of the oldest churches in the state and she needed some information. Someone we knew was someone who might be able to help. Did we have a phone number? 
I gave her the phone number that was in our old personal telephone book. It was not the right number. Later I thought of looking it up on line but there was nothing in the on line "residential white pages" that looked right. I tried the "reverse number" site - the one which is supposed to tell you who rents that number. The number came up as "previous" but is currently not in use.
I thought back. Yes, the last time S... was here he used a mobile phone. That's the likely problem. I will almost certainly see him on Monday so I will ask him to contact the historian then.
And I will ask him for his mobile number.
It made me realise that only one person apart from family has my mobile phone number.  I suppose this will have to change. It means making myself more available.
Life was simpler when a phone was just a real land line - and there was a phone book to match. 

Friday 17 July 2020

The television is always on

in the lounge room  of the residential care facility. It is tuned to a commercial television station.
It irritates the Senior Cat. He does not watch television. He never watched much and ceased to watch it altogether some years ago. The only program he was watching then ceased to be produced. It was one we both found interesting...short documentaries about people, places and culture around the world.  It was not on a commercial television channel. Even though it now shows some commercials they are not shown in the style which constantly interrupts the program. 
What was going on yesterday was different. The Senior Cat is attempting to stay on his rear paws, something which is increasingly difficult. He made it very slowly out to the lounge room and we sat down there with relief. 
Middle Cat and I looked at one another. Realistically I doubt he is coming home again. He has to be mobile to do that and he is now so frightened of falling again that he could not walk alone from his bedroom to the kitchen. I couldn't leave him. (Yes, I came home and had a good howl about that.) 
He won't want to sit in that lounge and watch television. It is not his idea of entertainment at all. 
I took some origami paper for him yesterday. He likes to fiddle. The girl who is the "activities" person came in just as we arrived. She  had gone to the trouble of printing off a small booklet of origami animal designs for him. We knew nothing about this but the Senior Cat was delighted. I suspect part of today will be devoted to "mountain" and "valley" folds and more.
He spent some time yesterday talking to two or three of the more intellectually alert men too. That's a good thing. He has only had me or Middle Cat to talk to most of the time even though our brother talks to him several times a week on the phone.
Perhaps it will all work and is for the best but it is a massive adjustment for everyone - even one for which we thought we were prepared.

Thursday 16 July 2020

Respite for carers

is not something I expected to happen. 
The Senior Cat had a fall on Tuesday. By some miracle he did not break anything. This surprises me, really surprises me because it was a real fall rather than the more gentle "slides" of recent times. 
I heard the bang, bump, bump sound and went into the bedroom to find him sitting on the floor looking more surprised than anything else.
   "How did that happen?"
   "I don't know."
   "Have you hurt yourself?"
   "I don't think so."
That was something. My pulse rate went back a notch or two as I hope his did.
   "I can get up," he told me.
   "No you can't," I told him. I know he can't. He cannot get off the floor these days.
He thought about this for all of two seconds and said,
   "Can you ring G... then?" a friend who had only just taken a load of kindling home from here. He lives two minutes away by car. 
   "No G... can't lift you."
   "I don't want you calling the ambulance people."
   "I'll see if Middle Cat is home. If Y.... (my nephew) is there too they will come over."
They were home. They did come over. Y..., a doctor, asked all the right questions. They got the Senior Cat to his feet. He insisted he was fine but....oh, yowl, it hurt to walk. 
At 97 you do not take risks. Middle Cat called the ambulance service and, protesting, the Senior Cat was taken to the Emergency Department. This was after a wait of almost three hours and many apologies from the two ambulance officers who eventually arrived.
Middle Cat went with him this time.
    "Because you didn't get much sleep last night anyway."
No, I didn't. He had a very restless night.
They kept him in overnight - x-rays, scan etc. Middle Cat went home to sleep once they said he was staying in. I arrived at her place in time to hear the conversation with the ED doctor. Middle Cat told me he looked as if he should still be at school he was so young.  Middle Cat was giving him an anatomy lesson over the phone, telling him what to look for. Ah right, no nothing broken but some serious bruising, possible tear in a muscle....and so it went on. No, my sister (me) is the one who looks after him and if he needs help at night....more of that.
Middle Cat and I looked at one another.
    "I'll come over and sleep at your place," Middle Cat said, "That's if we can't get at least a week of respite."
As Middle Cat is a notoriously bad sleeper I didn't think that was going to work too well but it would be better than nothing. Respite? The Senior Cat is remarkably sensible and thoughtful about such things. He thought it would be a wonderful idea. 
   "It will give Cat a break," he said, "She needs it."
The hospital agreed. Where? Well, there were two possible places, one (and this is amazing) just around the corner from Middle Cat and within pedalling distance of me. The Senior Cat thought it was an excellent idea. A little holiday for both of us he said.
He went there late yesterday afternoon. He was very cheerful about it. The staff seem nice. The place does not smell the way most such places smell. It is only for a short while.  He doesn't seem to mind.
So why do I feel like such a b..... failure?   

Wednesday 15 July 2020

The "Palace Letters"

were made public yesterday.
For those of you in Upover and elsewhere these are the letters between Sir John Kerr, the Governor-General, and Buckingham Palace at the time of the Whitlam Government and the Dismissal of that same government in 1975. The Governor-General dismissed the Government, a matter of more than a little controversy. It was labelled a "constitutional crisis". There have been all sorts of conspiracy theories surrounding it. 
A history professor, Jenny Hocking, has been pushing for the release of the correspondence for many years. Now that it has been released she is still trying to suggest that the Queen was involved. It is clear she was not involved. Although there is a great deal of correspondence between Buckingham Palace, the Queen's Private Secretary and the Governor-General it has to be said that the Governor-General acted alone and in accordance with the Constitution.
At the time the Governor-General was also in discussion with the Chief Justice of the High Court - Sir Garfield Barwick. Barwick was offering advice with respect to constitutional matters. As many of those discussions were verbal there is no written record of them.
If you sit on the Labor side of the fence then the Dismissal should never have occurred. If you sit on the Coalition side of the fence then the Dismissal was probably the only course of action which was open when a government intended to do harm.
In order to understand what led up to it though one needs to be aware that the government of the day was spending far more than it should have been on things designed to keep them in office. I was working as a school librarian at the time - and looking after a group of special needs students as well. I remember wondering where the money for the millions being spent on school libraries was coming from. It was lovely to have but questions were being raised about the way Whitlam was spending money.
This sort of thing was going on all over the place. Whitlam's government was spending money it did not have. It then found it needed money to develop projects which would actually employ people. They decided they needed to borrow more money. 
Instead of going to the usual sources, the US, the UK or Europe the Whitlam government looked at borrowing money from the oil-rich Middle East where "petro-dollars" were looking for places to invest. Instead of using the government's own advisers about such things they employed a shady financial broker, one Tirath Khemlani. The reason for this was simple, the government would have been not merely advised but told not to borrow money through that source. Khemlani was supposed to broker a $4bn loan for them, a huge sum of money at the time. This was not something he could do or should have been allowed to try and do and the government was advised of this but persisted anyway.  The details of all this are complex and I won't pretend I understand them. I do understand that much and the constitutional reasons why it could not be done.
In short, the government had run out of money.
The Opposition had control of the Senate and, on advice from more than one quarter including the High Court, they informed the government they were blocking the supply bills. Governments cannot govern unless the supply bills are passed.
Kerr had seen all this coming. He had been in discussion with Barwick. He had been keeping the Queen's Private Secretary informed because Whitlam was aware that Kerr had questioned whether could dismiss him. Barwick had advised him that it was possible to do so if the Senate continued to block supply - because the government cannot govern without money, indeed it is illegal for them to do so. The Senate was saying they would block supply unless an election was called. Whitlam had also queried whether he could sack the Governor-General in order to prevent his own sacking.
Put simply what happened in the end was that the Governor-General dismissed the government of the day because it could no longer govern and it refused to call an election. Had it called an election then it would almost certainly still have lost it because of the government's dealings with Khemlani. It may be that they would not have lost quite so many seats but the population at large was worried by the idea that a government would even think of borrowing money from the Middle East. Later events showed it would have been very unwise to do so.
But the conspiracy theorists and the would be republicans have been trying to suggest for years that the Queen interfered in the internal affairs of the country. She did not. 
What the dismissal showed is what republicans do not wish to recognise - it shows that the country is completely independent, that the Queen cannot interfere, and that the Governor-General had the constitutional right to dismiss a government which was endeavouring to govern without supply but also refusing to call an election.
Hocking has probably not done the republican cause any favours although they are trying to suggest that the ability of the Governor-General to remove a democratically elected government was wrong. Even if it is democratically elected a government does not have the right to break the law of the land or do anything to deliberately harm it - even if  it claims to be elected to do just that.
Government is not above the law. 

Tuesday 14 July 2020

"The Irish were slaves!"

was shouted at me in the library yesterday.
I actually had not said a word to this man. I was collecting an item I had on hold at the time.
Thankfully a male member of the library staff was just walking in from his lunch break. He saw what was happening and intervened. The shouting man was escorted from the library by another reader and the staff member. 
We could hear him still shouting outside. By then he was down in the creek which runs through the park next to the library. Someone had called the police and, by the time I left the library, they were there with the thankless task of trying to calm him down.
Yes, he was having an "episode" and will probably spend some time in secure accommodation again.
But he continues to tell me that the Irish were slaves. Back in the dim dark mists of the very early history of Ireland - prior to the 5thC - there were some slaves. Slavery was common in Europe at the time - although it was not recognised as such. People depended on it for their very survival. 
The modern day "slavery" myth and the claim that half a million Irish were killed by the British arose out of an article that was written by an unknown person and posted on the internet. This person called himself "John Martin" and he made some ridiculous claims, none of which were true. It was an act of extreme mischief making, designed to do harm. Like the "vaccines cause autism" nonsense it has been repeated over and over again by people who want to believe it. 
At teacher training I was taught the version of history that told me the English were entirely to blame for the problems facing the Irish. Nobody mentioned the words "potato famine", nobody said a word about the attempts to provide the starving Irish peasants with grain for bread when the potato crops failed. The English were not perfect and the lecturer made sure we knew it but slavery was never mentioned. Indentured workers were mentioned - and the role of the Irish upper classes in sending some of their tenants off to America as just such workers.
The man in the library is not normal. Those of us who know him know that. There are  however many "normal" people around who do believe the nonsense he was spouting. They believe it because they want to believe it, because it is convenient to believe it. 
I try to go hunting for actual facts when I come across something like this, especially when something niggles at me and suggests, "That might not be right."
It is like the photograph that appeared again and again on Twitter yesterday. It was either taken, enhanced or doctored in such a way as to make it seem that the Prime Minister was not adhering to the rules of "social distancing". I could not find another photograph but it still seemed unlikely that the Prime Minister would be blatantly ignoring something like this. Last night our international news service showed some footage of the same story. It was then clear that the Prime Minister had in fact been adhering to the rules. The photograph repeated so many times had in fact been designed to deceive.
I wonder how many other times this happens? How often are we taken in, especially when - like yesterday - a supposedly reputable news service and journalist does something designed to deceive us for political or personal gain?

Monday 13 July 2020

Going to "the footy"

is apparently not on - if you are the Prime Minister.
There was a rather extraordinary article in our national newspaper over the weekend. It criticised the Prime Minister for going to "the footy" when he was on leave.
According to the writer the Prime Minister should not have been on leave and, if he was on leave, he should have been home with his family  - because that is where he said he would be.  In the writer's book these were cardinal sins. Add in a trip to the football and you apparently have someone unfit to lead the nation.
Of course the Prime Minister is, like everyone else, entitled to some leave. It is not however the sort of leave many other people enjoy. He now takes a mobile phone with him wherever he goes, in fact he has two. One is for the usual purposes. The other is a phone dedicated to work. Before the advent of mobile phones the Prime Minister of the day was expected to be accessible by phone too - at all times. 
This is part of their job. It is something that other people often forget - or choose to forget when it is convenient to do so. The Leader of the Opposition is in the same position. There are people filling the roles of "Acting Prime Minister" and "Acting Leader of the Opposition" but, if needed, then the Prime Minister returns to work. 
If the phone had rung while our present Prime Minister was at the football match he would have left immediately. That's his job. 
But this was not good enough for a journalist who decided that the situation was too good a chance to criticise a man she clearly loathes.  No, he should not be on leave "during a pandemic" because the Premier of the state which has a major outbreak is not on leave.  She completely ignored a number of issues - such as state based responsibilities. She did not state what she thought the Prime Minister should actually be doing - apart from the vague "show leadership".  
And yes, she criticised him for not being home with his wife and daughters when he had said that was why he was taking leave. I can only presume she had spoken to the Prime Minister's wife and she had complained about this...or had she? It is much more likely that it was, "Do you want to go the football with me?" If his wife and girls had any sense they would have told him they had better things to do. His two daughters are probably tired of the disruption to their lives and the way things happen when they go out with a dad who just happens to be Prime Minister.
Oh, he didn't do the "social distance" thing either? I really can't comment on that. The photograph in the article made it look like that but I know it is easy to manipulate a photograph so I would like to know more before commenting on that.   
My reason for writing all of this? It isn't because I particularly like or dislike Downunder's current Prime Minister. He is better than some we have had, worse than others.  I would actually also say the same about the Leader of the Opposition if it applied to him. I am saying it because, much as we like to criticise  these people, they do have a job to do. Unwarranted and deliberately biased criticism of them doesn't simply harm them but all of us. 
If the current Prime Minister and his party lose the next election because of the way they have handled the economy and the security of the nation that is one thing. If they lose it because a journalist abuses her position and criticises someone for attending a football match that is another thing altogether. It is particularly so when the journalist in question knows that the Prime Minister of the day is always available. 

Sunday 12 July 2020

Paying politicians to attend

the "Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras" is not a good use of tax payer funds in my view.
Yes,  I know that some people will disagree with me but I am of the view that, fun though it may be, the event itself is not "necessary".  Before someone starts screaming I am homophobic let me point out that my very good friend R...agrees. one of the nicest men I know. He also happens to be married to J... another thoroughly nice man. They see no point in the event. My cousin T...., who just happens to be married to his male partner, agrees. Those two have no desire to attend such events. They would rather go to a concert or, because they genuinely do enjoy such things, an art gallery. All four of them see no point in flaunting their sexuality. I know other gay men who feel the same way.  
One of the politicians who attended the event is a lesbian. If she wanted to attend the event that's fine with me. It is her right to do so - as a private citizen. The taxpayer should not be paying for it. As for the politician who claimed for him and his wife to attend the same event "in solidarity", why? It is nice to know they support people with different sexual inclinations but do they need to attend such an event at taxpayer expense?
There are ongoing discussions in our local media at the moment about the away-from-home allowances of members of parliament. Our state is big. It covers a lot of territory. Politicians who represent rural communities do need to be compensated for the additional expenses of coming to the city to attend parliament. The same thing happens with our federal politicians.  It would be impossible for them to represent their electorates if they had to pay for all their own expenses of flights and accommodation and more.
But paying for attendance at an event that has nothing to do with representing their electorate or their state or the country as a whole is another issue. 
I know a number of former politicians. In retirement their use of taxpayer funded assistance has varied. One used it at every opportunity. She went here and there and elsewhere. She joined committees and working parties and admitted to me that what she liked about all this was the travel opportunities it gave her. Another was also called in to do similar things. She saw it as an opportunity to continue giving something to the community in her "retirement". It was only last year that she thought it was time to stop due to age - long past the time when most people retire. Throughout this she tried to keep her expenses to a minimum. She did not see her work as an excuse to travel. If  it was necessary and she could do a cheap day trip then why stay overnight?  
There was an "independent" politician in this state, now sadly deceased, who commuted by train. He travelled on the same line that I would use to get to the city. Parliament is next door to the main railway station there. Someone pointed me out to him one day (as the person who had written a letter to the editor of the state newspaper). He made his way down the carriage to me - just so he could ask me something. After that we would chat occasionally. He would chat to other people on the train too. 
    "I couldn't do this if I used a car," he once told me, "I learn such a lot this way." 
He never claimed his fares to parliament house - something he could have done. He was re-elected twice in a landslide but died before he finished his last term. It was a sad thing in more than one way because he was that rare thing, a good man who listened to others.
When the travel issue came up recently someone else said to me, "It's a pity they didn't take a leaf out of old B...'s book." 
Had he lived long enough he would not have bothered with any Mardi Gras events and he certainly would not have expected to be paid to attend one. 
Is it time to rethink what we pay politicians to actually do?


Saturday 11 July 2020

"Always take sides.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, not the tormented." Elie Wiesel.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Regular readers of this blog will know that I was recently (and very publicly) accused of being "racist". 
That came about because I supported a post on another platform which supported the police. Apparently doing that was "racist". I disagree. As I said elsewhere, and will say again, our police are not perfect. I actually dislike the way they are trained here. My limited interaction with the police force in the UK was much more relaxed - and it had nothing to do with my being a "tourist". I was a student there at the time and interacted with them over such things as a post office hold up and a traffic accident. I found them kind and courteous.
But it is more than that which is now worrying me. It is the tidal wave of words coming out which keeps telling me that I am not permitted to disagree with the people who disagree, that I must take one side and not the other.  To disagree with them however is not to take sides as such because, for them, there is no other side. They are right. I am wrong.  If I dare to disagree then I am a social pariah. 
Elie Wiesel was someone I contacted when I was trying to garner support for International Literacy Year.  I had a letter in response from someone I assume must have been his secretarial support. Would he write that letter to his UN Representative? Yes. I was told he understood the importance of having the ability to communicate. I am sure he did.
I think though we are losing sight of the importance of that yet again. This time it is not because people cannot read and write. More people can do that than ever before and reach an audience of millions as they do it. The internet and social media has made it possible.
The possible is now the problem. Too many people are now demanding that only their way of thinking be accepted - or am I just wrong?

Friday 10 July 2020

"Icecream is bad for you"

I met a tired, harassed grandfather in the chemist queue yesterday. His wife was home with the three grandchildren. It is school holidays and they have had them "all week" instead of "just  before and after school". 
     "We've had enough. I thought I'd give R... a break and bring them up here for an ice cream." his wife and does a lot of the caring because he volunteers as a driver for Meals on Wheels - something that needs to continue. 
     "What happened?" I asked thinking that most children would jump at the chance of an ice cream and that they must have been playing up.
     "The eldest told us she didn't want an ice cream because ice cream is bad for you. It is apparently what she is now being taught at school."
He went on to tell me that she has, at the tender age of seven, started to dictate what the family can and cannot eat. It all comes from her teacher and a "healthy food" program at school.   
    "She won't eat this and that and the other thing. We had a set to at breakfast on Monday because she won't eat toast and Vegemite any more."
    "What did she eat?" I asked wondering if this was more the beginning of a serious illness.
Porridge is fine, very good in fact. Toast and Vegemite (the Downunder equivalent of Marmite to you Upoverites) however is the other breakfast staple. 
    "And what is wrong with toast and Vegemite?"
    "It was the wrong brand of bread and Vegemite is too salty."
    "But surely your daughter doesn't allow her to get away with this?"
    "She is trying not to but you know time and the running battle every morning. R.... says send her to school without breakfast and a note saying she refused to eat it."
That probably won't help a lot.
    "And lunch boxes are checked I suppose?"
    "How did you guess? At that age - well a bit older - I would go to school with four rounds of white bread slathered in butter. One would be left over meat from the Sunday roast or peanut paste or Vegemite and the other would be jam. Mum would throw in a piece of fruit if we happened to have any. All of that apart from the fruit would be frowned on now. "
I remember those sandwiches. White bread was almost the only sort available. There was something called "brown" but it had very little colour. In our family it was almost always Vegemite - Vegemite was cheap. A jar went a long way. Occasionally we would get cheese or tomato. We never had jam sandwiches but that didn't stop use from swapping Vegemite for ersatz raspberry occasionally.  We did get a piece of fruit because we had fruit trees. Our mother would cut it into pieces and wrap it firmly in waxed paper.
It never occurred to us to question what we were given to eat. We didn't like everything. What child does? We still ate it because there really was nothing else in our house. 
Ice cream was a huge treat. It was almost always our paternal grandfather who bought it as a "once in the school holidays" treat. We were "little angels" when we knew that was likely coming up.
I thought of all this and I thought of this seven year old who is being taught about "healthy food" at school. Did we learn about healthy food too? I remember lessons about food groups and the things that we should try to eat and those that were good for us. I know we were taught  about too many sweets "rotting your teeth" but we were never told we should not eat those things. We were I suppose taught about "moderation".
Before we moved out to rural parts again our family lived next door to a Serbian family. This was highly unusual when I was a child. I remember Mrs S... making what we thought of as strange things to eat. She would sometimes give my mother a tray of something or other. It would be in return for the English lessons my parents were giving her family. We children were happy to devour whatever came our  way - and often hugged her for it. I know some of it was very sweet. I don't know how "good" it was for us but we were a healthy and active lot. We survived very nicely on all that "unhealthy" food. Part of it was probably to do with being so active.
But the three grandchildren missed out on ice cream because the seven year old refused point blank to go with her grandfather to get what should have been a treat. There is something very wrong about that. 

Thursday 9 July 2020

Closing state borders

is not something done lightly.  Efforts to keep the  Covid19 virus contained have necessitated that.
The disruption to the lives of so many people will have an enormous social and economic impact - and not just on those living in the region "locked down". People cross state borders every day. Some live in one state and work in another. They go shopping for essential items across the border and much more. Understandably there have been many questions and, from some, complaints.
There was also an entirely unwarranted criticism from a columnist about some remarks which were made. The columnist in question would be aware of sec.92 of Downunder's constitution. It reads:

  On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free. But notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, goods imported before the imposition of uniform duties of customs into any State, or into any Colony which, whilst the goods remain therein, becomes a State, shall, on thence passing into another State within two years after the imposition of such duties, be liable to any duty chargeable on the importation of such goods into the Commonwealth, less any duty paid in respect of the goods on their importation.

It is the word "intercourse" which is causing the difficulties here
"intercourse" is the ability "to pass to and fro among the States without burden, hindrance or restriction". (Cole v Whitfield)

Despite the wording in the Constitution however decisions of the High Court have allowed some restrictions to occur. 
Whether state Premiers have the power to close state borders and under what circumstances is something sec, 92 does not state.  If the current closure of state borders is challenged in the courts then it is highly likely that the High Court will take the "individual rights" approach - and say that the closure was a "permissible burden or reasonable regulation". 
What powers state Premiers have within their own states to order a lock down will vary with the different state constitutions. If they are questioned then the courts are going to have to find a way through to the greatest public good. 
I don't envy them. 
Criticising the present Prime Minister for acknowledging the constitutional issues involved is hardly helpful. 

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Who pays for the police?

Is this something which should always be taxpayer funded or are there times when groups should pay?
It's a question which was raised in our state newspaper yesterday and one which I have since given some more thought to as it is of importance to me.
I volunteer as a steward at our state's annual "Show".I have written about that event before. It's a big one  - not going ahead this year because of Covid19 issues.  
Many people in this state would be surprised to learn that "the Show" is not a government run event. It is run by a not for profit organisation with charitable status. It is expected to pay for itself. It does own a large area of land near the CBD - something developers would no doubt love to get their hands on. Over the years buildings have gone up and come down. School and university exams have been  held there for thousands upon thousands of students. It has hosted thousands of events apart from the Show - everything from equestrian events to rock concerts. I have worked at craft fairs held there - and of course at the Show itself.
The Show however is very different from most events held there. It is intended to be a showcase for the entire state. The rural community depend on it to display, buy, sell, educate and more. The tourist industry uses it to do much the same. It provides companies with the opportunity to inform customers about new products as well as old products. Hundreds of thousands of people can go through the gates over the ten days in which the Show is held. Entry prices are still very reasonable when you consider you are getting an entire day's worth of entertainment - well into the night in fact as you can stay until 10pm. 
In a big crowd like that you need a police presence. As volunteers we see them walking around in pairs - and we can listen to the police band provide some entertainment too.  There is usually very little trouble at the event because people are there to enjoy themselves. Any big crowd will have petty theft issues and there have been accidents  - for which there are also ambulance officers on site. Occasionally other issues arise but the police attending the event normally enjoy their shift on duty there. It's a chance for the public to see them in a way they don't often see them.
We already pay for this through our taxes... or I thought we did. Now the state's police force want to charge organisers for attending the Show. 
To me this is not like charging for a police presence at a football match where there is a need for crowd control and a risk of hooliganism or a fight breaking out when emotions run high. At a rock concert where illegal drugs are likely to be sold and crowd control is also essential then a police presence is also vital. Such events are not, even if they bring money in, for the benefit of the entire state. The Show is for everyone. It benefits everyone in the state - even those who do not attend. The government is a big beneficiary. 
It is one of those times when our taxes should be used to benefit everyone.

Tuesday 7 July 2020

One of our most outspoken Senators

has apparently been kicked off one of those television news-chat shows for comments she has made about the residents of some tower blocks.
The tower blocks in question are under a total lock down because there has been a cluster of the Covid19 virus in them. These tower blocks are "social welfare" housing. 
I lived for a year in the city in question. The university I was doing research at has one campus not too far from the tower blocks in question. The tower blocks were newer then but they were still a problem area. Many of the people in them were single parents. Almost all of them were unemployed. Drugs were a problem - although not in the way they are now. Mental health issues were common. Domestic violence was a very serious issue. The police presence there was almost constant. 
At one time I interviewed some of the mothers about the way their children played. Many of the older children played out in the street - unsupervised. 
That was a long time ago now. The population in the tower blocks has changed to include people from a much wider range of ethnic backgrounds. Some of them are refugees, others  hold temporary working visas.  International students who can find nowhere else are crowded into illegal sublets. 
The cultural lifestyle of many people in the tower blocks is often very different from that of people who live in single housing units out in suburbia. "Social distancing" is impossible if you live in a flat with seven children under the age of ten. It is impossible if you have to share the corridors, staircases and laundries with hundreds of other people.  
The tower blocks were known as a problem area before they were placed into "total lock down". People in them might say they know about the "social distancing" requirements. Knowing and being able to adhere to them are two different things. 
Refusing to acknowledge that is another sort of problem altogether. I do not like the Senator in question. Her way of saying something about the problem was offensive and less than helpful. There are issues which need to be addressed.  
A health official likened the tower blocks to "vertical cruise ships". All I can say is I feel intensely concerned for those who live in them.

Monday 6 July 2020

Who else is going to "run for President"?

I should not comment on the politics of another country. (We have enough problems here in Downunder.) I will however say I was rather bemused to see that yet another individual has put his hand up to have a shot at winning the Presidency of the United States.
Who would actually want the job?
I would not want to be Prime Minister of this one - although the job might be a little easier.
I once came dangerously close to being a member of the state parliament. Even now I breathe a huge sigh of relief that things turned out differently.
I attended a meeting at the request of one of the organisers. It was one of those, 
     "Cat, can you please come along? We have the official registration and X.... is going to stand as the candidate. You know more about how these things work than the rest of us so can you help us get through the hoops?"
Against my better judgment I went. Let it be said that I sympathised with the general aim of the party - an increased awareness of the rights and needs of people with disabilities.  
There were far more people at the meeting than anyone expected - about twice the number.  That didn't altogether surprise me either. I knew that some people had been working hard behind the scenes to get people there.
As they came up I answered questions as best I could. Then someone said,
    "We can afford to put a second candidate up and we should. It will show people we are serious."
    "We should."
    "Yes, good idea. We should have someone in reserve."
People looked at the candidate who would be number one on the ticket. Would he agree? 
Yes, he thought it was a good idea too.
Then the pressure was on me. It was on me because "you know a lot" and "if they see your name there then lots of people know you and they might vote for Number One."
I refused...and refused. Eventually I said, 
    "Why don't you call for nominations for a second candidate and see who is willing?"
They chose another candidate.
Number One died suddenly and completely unexpectedly before election day. The issue got considerable publicity. The party got what had to be a "sympathy" vote from voters and the young girl who had believed there was no chance was catapulted into parliament.  It was something  nobody expected.
She had a strong team and generally good advice behind her so her one term in parliament was, as such things go, a success. I knew it was very unlikely that she would get a second term. She did not. The party is no longer a political party although it is an advocacy group.
I discussed this with someone who raised the issue of a certain "rapper" wanting to be President of the United States.
    "You should have done it Cat. You would have won a second term easily. "
I doubt it. 
I would have hated the job. There were things the party wanted that I could not in all conscience support. I would have been trying to get action on issues I know will never be acted on in the ways party members wanted.  Some things are simply impractical. The money will never be there for others. I could not have delivered.
Outside parliament I can still do more than I ever could have done inside.  

Sunday 5 July 2020

Two dogs came to visit yesterday

and their human too of course.
J... is a friend of ours. She has always taken on a dog that needs to be "rescued" for one reason or another. Eight years ago she took on my uncle's completely undisciplined dog. My uncle had to go into a nursing home and of course the dog could not go with him. We did not know J.... at the time. How she trained that affectionate but idiotic animal is beyond me. It was an adult dog by then. From all accounts she did a good job and even occasionally travelled a long distance for my uncle to see the dog again. 
She rescued another dog in between that one and the current two. It was very elderly and spent the last years of its life in a comfortable home with slow walks to the end of the street "and sometimes around the corner".  J.... knows how to care for dogs.
These two have come from an elderly couple who could no longer care for two such lively dogs - lively even at the ages of eight and seven. She is still training them into her way of doing things. 
Would the Senior Cat like a visit from two dogs? Of course! He would love to have a dog but it would be completely impractical if not also downright dangerous. 
As I opened the front door they both bounded in without hesitation. So different from humans! 
The quieter of the two spent some time sitting on the Senior Cat but they both had to explore the parts of the house I had not shut off. I had been warned to do this!
There was dog related conversation of course. J... does not believe these two are particularly intelligent but they were definitely alert. They saw our visiting cat outside and barked. (The visiting cat is very intelligent. It simply looked at them and strolled on. No doubt he will tell me later just what he thinks of visiting dogs.) 
After they had gone though I thought that, pleasant though it was, I am glad we do not have a dog. Dogs are work, a lot of work. They are like small children in that they need to be registered, fed, bathed, trained and walked. There are also visits to the vet.
Cats are much more independent. 
No, I don't want another cat either - much as I am very fond of them. It is all too much work if you care for them as they should be cared for. 
I care about them too much for that. 

Saturday 4 July 2020

The importance of creating things

has been occupying me of late.
One of the Senior Cat's friends rang a couple of days ago. She was wondering if it was possible to get a piece of timber from him. Her daughter wants a shelf. She thinks her son-in-law can cope with making this.
The timber is not a problem. The Senior Cat still has a timber stash like the yarn stash of many knitters of my acquaintance and the fabric stash of many quilters of my acquaintance. 
He even has a few church pews left. They were given to him when the church on the main road merged with the church up the hill. They are made from a species of oak specific to Downunder.
The rest of those pews were turned into toys and other items for two church fetes and a local women's shelter.
I answered the phone and told the Senior Cat what the call was about. He sighed.
    "Plenty there. They can help themselves. There are still a couple of the longer pews there. They might be ideal. If he isn't much of a woodworker I can tell him what to do."
The son-in-law may appear some time today to investigate.
We also have two visitors coming early this afternoon. One of them is a spinner, knitter and crocheter. Her work is beautiful. It is not simply well done but also imaginative. She likes to try things out, to experiment. 
The friend she is coming with likes mosaic work. To me this is incredibly fiddly and hard on the hands but the potential textures and colours and lines still fascinate me. I don't think she has had much time of late but I am sure she will also have something to show me.
The Senior Cat is looking forward to all this because, although he no longer prowls out to his beloved shed he is still wants to make things. The floor around his desk and office chair was a mess of paper again yesterday. He is trying something new in origami and the related arts. I have not inquired too closely. He doesn't like to be bothered until he has worked things out. I know he will talk to the mosaics person while the yarn person and I look at dyes and plies and more.
The Senior Cat often talks to other people about the importance of creating things. He has done it all his life. He encouraged us to do it and the students he had in schools to do it. The most content people I know are those who create something. It doesn't matter what it is - a meal, a garden, garments, objects, poems, books, sculptures. They aren't always happy because we all have down times but even when they are unhappy there is something lurking there that gives them hope for the future. 
There is timber here the Senior Cat will never use now. Brother Cat will take some of it with him. We will eventually find a home for the rest. I have more yarn than I can use too - much of it given to me. I will find a home for that too one day.
But I intend to use as much of it as possible - because we need to create things.