Monday 31 August 2020

So, the Prime Minister's popularity has dropped?

This is hardly surprising. You see the Prime Minister is to blame for the Covid19 virus and all the mistakes that have been made. It is not the fault of the virus or any official or any worker or any partying teen or anyone else. The Premier of the hardest hit state on the other hand is doing a brilliant job. He has done everything right.

Yes, I am being sarcastic of course. Over the past few weeks the media has been hard at it. At first the situation was too serious and there was too much else to report but then "stories" which seemed too good not to use started to surface. Questions over who allowed the passengers from the ill-fated "Ruby Princess" to disembark started to emerge.  Then more started to emerge about how people were being quarantined in hotels.

Sections of the media, well known for bias, started to get fired up. Here were issues that would allow them to get back to undermining the government. It didn't, and still doesn't, matter if the commentary was and is unjustified. The important thing is to "sell news" and "increase the ratings".

Now I happen to know that the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Aged Care - to name just a few - have been working for more than eighty hours a week. Even when he was "on holiday" the Prime Minister was working more than forty hours a week. They are exhausted and there is no end in sight. They are not being thanked or supported. They are simply trying to get on with the job.

    "They should have had a plan" and "They should have known what to do" and "They had the example of the rest of the world". We are being told all this. The reality of course is that no pandemic can be planned for and so little was known that they could not have known what to do. The rest of the world could not be used as an example of what to do.  We have done far better than most, not well enough perhaps but still far better than most. That said we are not China where the CCP could order people to stay indoors and even forcibly restrain some from leaving their homes.

The Opposition, sensing victory at the next election, is naturally going in as hard as it can.Of course mistakes have been made. Of course things, especially with the benefit of hindsight, could have been done differently. Every slip up is being blown out of all proportion. Not able to answer a question about statistics? You are incompetent. Not able to say who was in charge? You aren't running the department properly. Blame is being placed wrongly and unfairly on people who are not responsible for decision making. Others who have made poor decisions are being protected  in the interests of getting a change of government at the next election.

Yes, they are likely to succeed. It doesn't matter to these people if others lose their lives in this "game". This is "politics". It is brutal. 

I am reminded however of the story I was told by a now former Senator. She was a Minister at the time of the incident. Something needed to be done. She asked that it be done. It was not done. She sent an order that it be done. It was still not done. She had the head of the relevant government department in and asked why it had not been done. He said he had ordered it be done. This situation went on for some time. Eventually the person who should have overseen that this something should have been done was asked again why it had not been done,

    "It's not policy."

    "You were asked to do it. It is government policy."

    "It isn't departmental policy. It can't be done."

What was happening was that the person who should have been overseeing the implementation of the policy saw an opportunity to undermine the government. They were simply refusing to implement a policy, one on which the government had been elected. 

This story was later confirmed to me by one of the "public servants" involved. Like some sections of the media they were trying to ensure a change of government at the next election. They didn't even see this as undemocratic. 



Sunday 30 August 2020

Scammers never give up

even when you when tell them you know they are scammers.

The phone rang yesterday. It was about the time the Senior Cat's cousin calls me from the neighbouring state and I answered it. No, it was not M... (who is 96 and lives alone). No, the voice at the other end claimed he was from the National Broadband Network's "technical department". 

I said, "You're a scammer."  I hung up. A moment later the phone rang again. I thought it must be M.... this time. No. It was the same voice as before saying,

    "Madam I am not a scammer. Will you give me two minutes of your time."

There followed a little altercation between me and the scammer. I threatened to call the police - unfortunately not possible because such calls are generally rerouted through several countries and the  mildly accented voice could actually have come from anywhere. I told him not to call me again and hung up.

Then the phone rang again. It had to be M.... this time! No. It was the same voice. I asked to speak to his supervisor. I was told that was not possible so I said,

    "If I can't speak to your supervisor then you can't speak to me. You are a scammer. "

I hung up. The fourth phone call was M....  She was feeling a little anxious as she had lost control of her walker that afternoon and it had "run off down the path" leaving her clinging to the fence. We discussed the need to make the sure the brake was engaged before she let go to pull out a weed from a pot. We discussed the man from the "NBN technical department".  She had also had a call that day but hers was from Telstra's "technical department" about her computer. As she doesn't have a computer she let them carry on with their scamming for a moment and, when she felt they thought she had been hooked, told them she did not have one.

But I really am fed up with these calls. It was blissfully quiet during the worst of the pandemic situation in this state. The call centres were not operating. It meant that at least some of the scammers were not at work.

I won't say I will never get caught by a scammer. They are getting smarter and smarter but thankfully I was not caught out by that one.

What worries me is the people who are caught out by such thieves.

Saturday 29 August 2020

There was an electric wheelchair

being driven on the footpath ahead of me yesterday. It was going very slowly. This was definitely a good thing as it kept veering to the left. The chair and the driver would likely have ended in the gutter had it been going any faster. 

Someone was walking next to the wheelchair as well. She was staring in the window of a local charity shop. I suppose she saw my reflection in the window because she looked back and said,

    "There's someone behind you. You have to go to one side."

 She looked rather anxiously at me.

    "It's all right. I'll wait," I told her.

It did take a moment too. This was very obviously a "learner driver". When the wheelchair was safely to one side and had stopped I rode past and looked back at the driver, a young man. 

He grinned at me and said, "Thanks for waiting."

The woman with him was talking to someone from the charity shop so I had a short chat.

   "New?" I asked

   "Second day. It's the first time I've ever been out."

   "Driving yourself?"

He nodded. His pride in his achievement was obvious.

   "When I get the hang of it then I'll be able to go everywhere by myself."

We chatted for a moment longer and then I went on telling him,

    "Don't get caught for speeding."

His laughter followed me around the corner.

He won't be going "everywhere" of course because there are far too many places a wheelchair, especially an electric wheelchair, cannot go. It will undoubtedly be a while before those who help him are happy about his ability to go anywhere by himself too.

All this made no difference to him right then. It had, he told me, taken eleven years of what sounded like sheer and utter determination to get that far and he was obviously going to make the most of it. He's going a long way.


Friday 28 August 2020

Living on an island

may sound good. The idea of being surrounded by water, perhaps beautiful beaches or dramatic cliffs with wonderful bird life and very little traffic sounds good to some people. 

There are other people who think that something like this might be nice for a holiday too. Ms W and her father have done this. They booked  into a "beach shack" in a fairly remote location on the island to the south of us. They went with a pile of books, Ms W's art materials and her father's fishing line ("which he never puts any bait on so he can sit there and pretend and think or just sleep".) Ms W tells me it was one of the most relaxing holidays they had.

I can imagine it. I know the location. The central section of the jetty was blown up during the way for fear of a Japanese invasion. It was only years later that it was repaired but, apart from that, it is still very quiet.

The Senior Cat had responsibility for the then very big school in the middle of the island for four years in the mid-sixties. It was a very different place then. The middle of the island was made up of "soldier-settlement" farms. There were many problems associated with the men, and some women, who had returned from the war and who were sent farming. It was done with the best of intentions but isolating them on farms on an island was not conducive to good mental health.

I was reminded of all of this when I saw a small column in this morning's paper. The island is now almost entirely dependent on the tourist industry. Like all other sections of the tourist industry it has experienced a downturn. Where other parts of the state however are seen as more accessible the island is not. We used to talk about "the strip of water between us and the mainland". On a fine and calm day it can look lovely but the passage between the two is one known to sailors as one of the potentially roughest passages of water in the world. It can be impossible to cross in bad weather. It isolates people. There is an airport, much improved on the galvanised iron shed we knew.  Air transport has limits though, especially when the runway is short. Most goods and all vehicles go in by sea transport.

And therein lies the problem still. What makes the island a wonderful destination for that quiet holiday is also the thing that makes it so inaccessible for many. The island needs tourists to survive now. It especially needs them following the devastating fires last summer. The islanders don't want traffic jams in the main street of the main coastal settlement. They want a steady flow of tourists year round.

I wonder how they are going to survive. Ms W's father is suggesting they go back this summer. Ms W is keen. She may be in her teens now but she has no desire to spend the entire summer holiday "hanging out" with friends.  Unlike some she does not get "bored" when there is "nothing to do". She will find something to do. When I spoke to her yesterday she had plans for what she might do if they go.

I hope they do. The island needs people like them to go and visit. 

Thursday 27 August 2020

I got a "telegram" this morning

 although it was actually an email from a friend telling me that she had succeeded in doing something. It was written as if it was actually a telegram and it made me wonder how widely telegrams are still used. Out of curiosity I did a little research and discovered that they are still quite widely used, especially in less developed countries.

I thought back to telegrams I could remember. My first memory of them is when I would have been about seven I suppose. My parents received one. It was delivered to the house by a boy on a bicycle. I remember my mother standing there and reading it as he waited to find out if there would be a reply. Did they really send young boys, because he certainly was not very old, out to deliver bad news as well as good? I suppose they must have.

I don't know what that telegram was about although it must have been important because they were expensive to send. If you wanted to send one you crafted it very carefully - to get the maximum meaning into the minimum number of words. And no, it was not like sending a text message now.

We moved "back to the bush" a couple of years later and there was the "party line" telephone, "long distance" phone calls (three minutes), and telegrams. As the headmaster the Senior Cat used all three. 

In the city I had been taught to make a phone call as well as answer the phone and take a message. My parents considered this to be a matter of safety.  In the city you dialled the number and it went to the place or person to whom you wanted to speak. In the remote rural area the Senior Cat had been sent to though it was quite different. All the phone calls had to go through the "Post Office" which was actually a counter at the local general store. There the "Postmaster" would use a switchboard to route the call. There were "party" lines, shared by a number of people. Phone calls tended not to be private. You never knew who might be listening in. The Postmaster himself would tell people things like, "Jack's not there right now. He's gone over to Bill's place" and "Marg's at the CWA meeting. I'll send Rob down and give her a message to call you." All this was seen as his role in the community.

It became a little more awkward when dealing with the affairs of the school, the bank, and the police station. People had to accept that, like the teachers, the bank manager and the lone policemen they had no right to know what was going on. It must have made life hard for the Postmaster. 

And he sent the telegrams of course. I can remember taking telegrams to him for the Senior Cat. I can also remember standing there while the Postmaster and more than one local farmer tried to work out what to say. On one memorable occasion they looked at me and asked me what I thought. I can remember putting it into fewer words and the Postmaster sending it off without further ado. It was just accepted that "the head's kid" would know about something like that. I must have been all of ten at the time. The elderly farmer was probably one of those who could barely read and write, who had probably left school when he was no more than nine or ten, if that. His children probably left school at the earliest possible moment. I don't even remember saying anything at home. It was "just a telegram". 

Yes, you can still send them here but they are not common. I think if I walked into the local Post Office and asked to send one there would be questions as to why I didn't phone or email or text. I doubt anyone on the staff there would be absolutely certain how to go about it. If old Mr E...., the Postmaster, was still alive he would sigh and look around for a piece of equipment they would not own and may not ever have seen.

But there, in the morning's email, was the telegram, "Success, stop." Nothing more needed to be said. 


Wednesday 26 August 2020

Visiting those in aged care

has been made more difficult by the Covid19 situation but even before that it seems it is a problem. 

Apparently the research shows that around seventy percent of people in aged care do not get visitors. Research also suggests that people who enter such places either have dementia in some degree or start to lose their intellectual abilities.

We are conscious of this. The Senior Cat is conscious of this. I went in to see him just as the residents had been put together for "newspaper reading". It is a once a week activity.

Now the Senior Cat is perfectly capable of reading the paper for himself. He will read the parts he wants to read. He reads the editorial and the Letters to the Editor. He ignores the sport. 

"They read the sport and ignore the letters," he told me. We agreed it was what we expected. 

The staff have compromised by letting him have the paper when they have finished with it. He is the only person able to read it for himself although one or two others will try.

When I went to see him I had printed off the National Church Life Survey results for the local parish. It is something that interests him greatly. He grew up going to church twice on Sundays. The Presbyterian Fellowship was his youth group, the "gang"(and the marriage bureau). Their activities were harmless. To entertain themselves they did things like folk dancing and put on Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Today's teens "dance" at night clubs and get entertained by other people. More than once the Senior Cat has wondered what they will do to entertain themselves as they get older. Will people visit them?

I wonder about the visiting too. I often envy those who attended the same school for long enough to make lasting friendships, especially in their teens.  It may not provide visitors if you end up in aged care but one of your friends may end up there with you. 

Middle Cat provided the Senior Cat with her mobile phone so that he could talk to one of his three surviving first cousins. 

    "They had a wow of a chat," she told me, "It was all "remember this...and remember that". I'll get him to call M... as well." (M... is another cousin.) 

We know we need to do it more often, that the Senior Cat needs to talk to other people too. He has had more visitors than anyone else but not everyone can visit. Even without the need for a 'flu vaccination certificate and the Covid19 restrictions it is difficult. People don't want to "make an appointment". When an older person is at home they can simply phone and ask if it is convenient to drop in - or even just drop in.  Middle Cat could call and say, "It's a nice day. I am going to take him out." Now that needs to be arranged in advance. 

This is a culture which needs to change. Looking after the physical needs of the elderly isn't enough. We need to look after their mental needs as well. 

The idea that I might end up in one of these places terrifies me.




Tuesday 25 August 2020

Murder is an incomprehensible act

and it must cause irreparable damage to not just the victims but to everyone else immediately involved.

There has been a double murder in this state. I don't know the victims, young students. For a moment I thought I did know the girl. I thought she was one of the students who had sought help with an essay last year. She isn't but, for that moment, I thought she was.

This morning the photograph has gone from the internet and there is a suppression order in place. It is a bit late for that. The news will be all over two universities. There will be students, friends of the two young victims and many more, who will have to try and come to terms with something that is incomprehensible.

I went to school with someone who was murdered. He was in a class some years below me. I knew his name and very little more about him. The murder was drug related and the murderer has never been caught. The young man was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was away on the other side of the world at the time. Apart from feeling intensely sad for his parents it didn't really touch me.

Later though I came to know a couple whose daughter was murdered. She was the very young victim in a particularly horrific series of murders - snatched on her way home from school. Her parents, now both deceased, were both lovely people. Despite the tragedy in their own lives they were both kind and caring. Their marriage had somehow survived  the trauma too. People used to say they were "over it" but of course they were not.  You don't recover from something like that although you may learn to somehow live with it. 

And now I wonder how those involved in this present tragedy will learn to live with it. There are apparently two very young witnesses to the act. They are going to need help and support for a very long time to come.

I am  sitting here feeling guilty at my relief that the victim was not the person I thought she was, that the victim was not someone I knew - however briefly. It should not make a difference but of course it does.  

Monday 24 August 2020

The patterns for the blanket squares

are almost finished. The squares are knitted. I have made twelve. I could do more. There is a list of ideas sitting on this desk but I think it is time to stop. 

Why? Part of this project is to encourage people to design their own squares. 

I know. It is an alarming idea, especially if you are a new knitter or you have never done anything other than follow a pattern. There are a lot of people like that. I can understand it. I would also be very happy to see them try - for their own satisfaction.

"But, I CAN'T Cat!!!!!" I can hear the wail now. It makes me want to flick my tail in annoyance and growl. It isn't their fault though. It is the way they were taught in school and then later on as well...with all the creativity and confidence rubbed out of them by people who insist that there is only one "right" way to do things.

My paternal grandmother taught me to knit. It was an incredible feat for both of  us. I still remember the exact shade of blue we used. I remember the needles  -  they were a dirty yellow colour. That garter stitch square took me forever to make. I couldn't hold the needles and manipulate the yarn. We tried all sorts of ways. I cried and I lost my temper - with myself. My grandmother patiently worked on ways for me to do it - all by myself. It took me more than twelve months to learn how to do that basic garter stitch square by myself. I persisted because my mother said I would "never" learn. Her mother said the same thing. My father's mother just went on quietly helping me and telling me, "You can do it."

I look at the endless garter stitch squares now provided for blankets. Many of them are knitted by elderly people in nursing homes. They vary greatly in quality. There was an elderly woman who lived not far from here. She discovered the group which met in the local bookshop was making a blanket to raffle each year. No, she didn't want to join the group but she was happy to make squares. I gave her some spare yarn - and then more yarn and more yarn. Her squares were beautiful. They were absolutely square and incredibly evenly knitted despite her having advanced Parkinson's disease.  The group no longer meets because of Covid19 restrictions but we would all have missed her contributions. 

Had I asked her to design a square though she would have looked at me in dismay.  I can hear her now, "No dear, I can only knit garter stitch squares." It was all she felt she could do, all she really wanted to do. It was mindless knitting while she sat outside and watched the birds or, at night, watched television. She never read.

I have not designed koalas or kangaroos or kookaburras for the squares. I tried to think of things which were a little different - the last two represent the Indian-Pacific railway and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.  

If there really more requests I will try the other things. I will write the patterns. Someone else can knit them. I have a head full of other ideas I want to try. I am lucky. I have my paternal grandmother to thank for telling me "you can" and her son, the Senior Cat, for continuing to show me that creating things is so satisfying.  We all need to do more of that. 

Sunday 23 August 2020

Has Alexi Navalny been poisoned?

I will not try and answer that question. It is for people far more expert than me. 

I don't know if the Covid19 virus has come to us from bats, rats, or people either. 

There are a lot of other things I do not know either. If I did know some things I might be better off - or I might not be. I am a little tired of "conspiracy theories".  

A couple of days ago a friend sent me a picture. I don't know where the picture came from although I suspect it might be from

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charles Mackesy. I cannot access a copy right now to hunt for it. 

 Image may contain: text that says ""Which is more important," asked Big Panda, "the journey or the destination?" "The company." said Tiny Dragon."I think Tiny Dragon is right.

I'll leave it with you.

Saturday 22 August 2020

Politicians under pressure

and the media is making the most of it.  Yes, we expect that. We even revel in seeing the same politicians flounder and the media making fools of them. I know, it's a sort of game. It keeps telling us how badly we are being governed.

But I was brought up short yesterday because I hesitated over something I should have known well, indeed very well.  I had to look it up. I should not have needed to look it up.

My excuse? I was under intense pressure at the time. Unlike a politician I could apologise. I got an understanding nod and the meeting went on.  

Politicians are not allowed such lapses. They are expected to be on top of all the facts and figures all the time. If they make a mistake, the smallest mistake, they are "not up to the job". Has there ever been a politician who has not made a mistake? Has there ever been a politician who has known everything s/he needed to know - instantly and without recall to a piece of paper or a person? I doubt it. 

There are of course those politicians who are skilled at not answering questions - while appearing to answer them. There are journalists who let them get away with it, who are as happy to ignore a failure to answer as the politician is to get away with it. I think that bothers me even more.  

The plans by the ACCC to make a certain search engine pay for news content might sound reasonable, is reasonable - as long as the news content is actually fair and reasonable and does not display the bias of certain journalists of my acquaintance. Unfortunately it is likely to encourage just the opposite. 

Friday 21 August 2020

Football or fine art?

Well maybe not "fine art" but something you have made yourself?

There is yet another piece in this morning's paper suggesting that the government should put some money into holding the "grand final" of the football in this state. (It usually gets held in the neighbouring state which is currently in lock down because of the Covid19 virus. They even get a public holiday for it there.) Why?

Now yes, before you complain, I know people "love their footy". I know they have had to do without it most of the year.  I feel genuinely sorry for those of you who have had to miss out on all the excitement. (Mind you if you support one particular team perhaps it is just as well you haven't been able to watch them lose one match after another.) But I will say it again, "Football is no longer a sport. It is a multi-million dollar business with overpaid employees. If it cannot support itself then it needs to cut costs or go out of business." 

With all the other calls on tax revenue right now football matches do not need to be subsidised, should not be subsidised.  If money is to be spent on entertaining people then there are other and much more important things it should be spent on, especially now.

It seems likely that Covid19 is going to change the way we live. The mass gatherings we have taken for granted may still take place in the future but they will be taken with precautions. The numbers allowed to gather may be reduced to more manageable proportions. People may not be able to freely attend them. Perhaps it will be a matter of providing proof of vaccination or having your temperature taken or going on a particular day because your family name starts with J or Z or Q or E.  Any number of things might happen.

But we need to do something else as well. We need to encourage people to find other ways of entertaining themselves. Television, and then the internet, has allowed people to simply press a button on the remote control to be "entertained".  During various stages of "lockdown" some people found that was insufficient. They wanted more than that. Those of us who knit and crochet or embroider of do some other sort of handicraft suddenly found that other people were interested in our work. That was surely a good thing?

The priest from our local Anglican church turned up last Saturday - and disappeared into the Senior Cat's shed. It is something the Senior Cat and I are very, very pleased about. D.... is learning woodwork - a particularly suitable occupation for a priest perhaps? D.... is also going to the local "Men's Shed" - where men get together and do things like woodwork, a little metalwork and other such activities. All this is good, very good. People are learning to do things with their hands. 

The Senior Cat has always encouraged this. He encouraged it in every school he worked in and led. He taught numerous people outside school. He is still teaching people. (These days it is simple conjuring tricks, complex puzzles and origami but he is still teaching people to do them.) I believe it is one of the reasons he is still intellectually alert at 97. He "does things".

I read the regular blog of someone who is in her eighties. She knits and reads and is learning Italian. Recently she made some sourdough bread that looks far better than anything I have ever made. I said this to someone who looked at me and said, "Why would anyone bother to do all that when they are that old?" Why not? To me this person is not "old". Her mind is very active. She is still keen to try something new and different. Yes, she follows some sport - but it is not to the exclusion of other things. She "does things". I am sure she is the better for it.

I am trying to "do things" as well - read widely, write, knit, crochet and more. There is always another language I need to know something about too. The intellectual challenge is something I need and the physical challenge is there as well.  I get restive very quickly if I am sitting without doing something with my hands. I do not feel comfortable sitting doing nothing more than watching a screen. 

I have been told I "don't know how to relax" but I think I do. It is intensely satisfying to come to the end of the news service on television and know that I have achieved the goal I set myself in knitting as well. I do relax then. Later in the evening, after a few chapters of a book, I can curl up on my sleeping mat and sleep soundly while I do not need to worry about the safety of the Senior Cat. 

If we are going to spend money on getting people to relax then I suggest we spend it on giving them the skills they need in order to relax rather than supporting over paid footballers. Let's make football a game again. It might actually be more relaxing to watch it then too.


Thursday 20 August 2020

Knitted blanket squares

are almost done - if I do just twelve. I have finished knitting eleven. Ten of them, properly "blocked", have been passed on. The eleventh needs to be blocked. ("Blocking" is the knitter's equivalent of pressing seams as you sew I suppose. Those of you who don't know about it can look it up - if you really want to know.)

The twelfth planned square is the one I have been putting off doing. It  is in a technique I am not fond of - "intarsia". Intarsia allows you to knit pictures into your knitting in two or more colours. It is fiddly but it can have stunning results. 

This square won't be stunning. As intarsia goes it will not be too difficult I suppose because there will only be two colours involved. The picture will be a plane - to represent the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 

I really want to put that one in. It is a very important part of the life of the "Outback". The RFDS was the world's first "air ambulance". It was founded by John Flynn, a Presbyterian minister. Flynn also founded the "Australian Inland Mission".  My paternal grandparents knew him well. The Senior Cat grew up knowing him too. When we, like most children at the time, were taught about "Flynn of the Inland" at school the Senior Cat taught us from his own experience of the complex and sometimes difficult man. 

The RFDS is still a vital part of life in the  most remote areas of Downunder. It is a service which has saved thousands of lives. I want to acknowledge it.

Searching for a possible design I knew I had seen a plane somewhere and I found it again. It is in a book called "The tap dancing lizard" by Catherine Cartwright-Jones and Roy Jones. The book is full of charts, mostly intended for machine knitting. I have knitted two of the charts, an heraldic lion and a cat on a penny-farthing bicycle. They were both more complex than the plane. Both of them took a very long time. I did them in between other things simply because of the concentration they required. 

I sent Catherine a message and, explaining why, asked permission to use the plane chart for the square. The response was an enthusiastic "yes" and of course I will acknowledge her in the pattern for the square. Today I will need to copy the plane into the pattern for the square. The computer program will give me written instructions as well. I hope that might make it easier for people to knit. 

It will be a challenge but nothing like the challenge the Reverend John Flynn faced in setting up the RFDS.  Years later we kittens were taken to visit Flynn's wife in a nursing home in Sydney. She told us, "Never give up on your dreams." I'll get that square done for both of them.  

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Chinese officialdom is clearly getting concerned

that the Downunder government is not listening to demands to drop demands for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid19 virus.

The Chinese recently slapped an 80% tariff on barley, a large proportion of which is shipped to China. It has been a huge blow to our grain farmers. Along with this have been all sorts of other trade issues. Goods seem to get out of China easily enough but getting them in is another story.  (I sent a small parcel to someone in Kunming. It took seven weeks and three days to arrive. It had been opened and one completely innocuous item had been removed.)

And now Chinese officialdom is accusing Downunder of "dumping" wine and the wine industry being of "subsidised" by the Downunder government. Chinese officials plan to hold an "inquiry". The likely outcome is causing consternation among those who export to China. 

China is a lovely market to have of course - and the Chinese are well aware of that. Downunder should never have allowed itself to become so dependent on it. 

The problems began back in the Whitlam era government. Whitlam went off to China and met people. Downunder started to do business there. It started to do business with very little idea of how business worked there then. Downunder has not much more idea of how business works there now. One thing however is crystal clear. You do business according to the rules laid down by China. These are non-negotiable. 

I know someone in the wool industry who set up a plant in China. It took years of negotiation, of work, of "paying" for certain services, of doing things the way the Chinese wanted. Three years ago he was warned not to return to China under any circumstances. He would be put in prison. He hasn't paid all the necessary bribes - which would just about bankrupt him there. What the Chinese have effectively done is use his expertise and the work he has done. Now that they feel they no longer need him they have simply taken over. 

Before you say, "That's hardly fair" let me point out that this is not at all unusual. Some Chinese do not hesitate to do it to their fellow countrymen. Doing the same to a foreigner is commonplace.  

But, somehow, Downunder has never managed to learn this lesson. People keep hoping it will be "different" for them.They do not want to acknowledge that China will always try to make contractual arrangements which give them complete control - not just between China and Downunder or any other country but between other countries as well. "If you want to do business with us and you also want to do business with X.... then you will do business with X... through us or do it our way."

And then we come to the proposed inquiry into the Covid19 issue. That we would even dare to question the origins of the problem let alone even hint that China might need to take some responsibility for it is of course completely unacceptable. If any responsibility needs to be taken then it is almost certain that some laboratory workers have already paid the highest possible price.  The Chinese see no need for an inquiry now. We should just get on doing business with them - on their terms. 

So far the Downunder government has not given in. Other governments are supporting the call. An inquiry is needed. This is a pandemic that has had an unbelievable impact of not just the world economy but on the way of life of everyone around the world. If China is in any way responsible or partly responsible then they should, like all other nations, be held to account - but I am not holding my breath over this.

Tuesday 18 August 2020

The cleaner comes this morning

and I will be very glad to see her. 

Middle Cat organised P... to help us when both the Senior Cat and I had the 'flu (the one strain not covered by the vaccine that year) and she has been coming ever since.  She comes for two hours once a fortnight and charges so little that I continue to feel guilty. I have offered more. She refuses to take it. She tells me she actually likes to come to us. Apparently we are "easy" to do. 

There is even less of her regular work - the floors and the bathroom sort of bits and the other hard to reach bits - than usual. Today she will help me tackle the two deep box-like cupboards behind the Senior Cat's bed. There was one for him and one for my mother when she was alive. I know the one behind his bed has some books in it but I have no idea what else is in it. The other could have anything in it at all. I suspect there are things that belonged to my mother. They have not been shifted in twenty years. If P... and I do it while the Senior Cat is not home it will not distress him. Otherwise it would need to wait until he is no longer with us. I don't think I could face moving out the belongings of both parents at the same time.

Of course we removed some of my mother's things. Her clothes went from their shared wardrobe space. To leave them there as a constant reminder of her presence would have been cruel. We left the top drawer - the drawer where she kept her very personal things - for far too long. The Senior Cat told us he could not face clearing that out. Middle Cat and I did it one day while he was out doing other things.

But it is only recently that I have tacked "the sewing room". It was the room where my mother did sew and where we did the ironing. It was also the repository for all sorts of other things. I don't sew and as long as I could reach the ironing board we didn't need the other space in that room. "Put it in the sewing room," became the cry for anything we didn't need at the time but "might be useful". I have given away all sorts of things. There is still a small chest of drawers there filled with sewing things - old scissors, elastic, buttons, cotton, needle cases and many other things. I doubt there is much use for a few inches or centimetres of bias binding or a scrap of interfacing too small to be of any use. I will get to it. It is one thing I could do if the Senior Cat was home. He has no emotional attachment to such things. He never saw them being used and he knows I don't sew. It isn't even something I need to ask P.... if she could help me tackle. No, we will do the boxes behind the bed today. 

There is one thing I am curious about. I am wondering whether, on the side which was my mother's, I will find her "journal" - those exercise books she wrote in - or did the Senior Cat throw them out as too personal for any of us to read? 

Monday 17 August 2020

A prescription from the doctor

should belong to me. I have always thought this was the case but apparently it is no longer the case. It belongs to the chemist - or so I have been told.

I went to fill a prescription last week. I had the prescription. It had already been filled once and there are five repeats. I passed the prescription over and was told the usual, "Ten to fifteen minutes". It is sometimes "Half an hour" or "Not until this afternoon" but the "ten to fifteen" is more normal. 

I went to the greengrocer. I came back. The prescription had been filled but I was told that the chemist would be keeping the prescription there. "It's what we do now. It's what we are doing for everyone." I pointed out that (a) it was not a new prescription and (b) I had already had it filled once.

"But it first came to us by fax," I was told. 

"Yes and it was filled then after which you gave it to me. It's my property."

"No, it is ours."

I had to leave it there but I cannot for the life of me see what difference it makes once the prescription has been filled on the first occasion. Keeping a fax copy on the first occasion makes sense. It has gone to the pharmacist and not to me. At that point it is their property even though my name appears on it. Once the prescription has been filled on one occasion and they have given it to me then the prescription also belongs to me - because it is part of that transaction. (Trust me, this is the case.)

It seems though that this is another sneaky little thing they are trying to change with "telehealth" or a "phone consultation". I should have had an actual consultation with the doctor for this but the clinic decided to do otherwise. I am fortunate that my doctor nephew could take my blood pressure - rather more thoroughly than the GP I usually see. Yes, under the Covid19 guidelines, the GP would have given me a prescription without even doing that. It alarms me.

There are "concerns" that people are not looking after their health because they do not wish to go and see a GP at the present time. I would have gone - taking all necessary precautions. 

I also like to have control over any medication I need to take. I object to having to return to the pharmacy and ask for my own property. Last year they tried to tell me they could, for a fee of course, put all the Senior Cat's prescriptions into a weekly pack. He was (and still is) perfectly able to take what he needs to take with no more than a "is there anything you need at the chemist" sort of question from me.  It irritates him that, in respite, he is the one telling them what he takes and when he takes it.

Of course there are people who cannot cope and others who would be only too happy to have the chemist lose their prescriptions (which they do) rather than lose their prescriptions themselves. I am not one of those individuals. Grrrrrr. 

Sunday 16 August 2020

The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show

for 2020 was cancelled - because of Covid19. 

I wrote about this elsewhere but it really hit home this morning. This is the week all of us who work there in the Handicrafts area would have been really busy. It would have been the week lined the trestle tables with paper, accepted the entries and put them out grouped by their classes. The judges would have come in and examined every entry - yes, everything gets looked at even if it is obvious from the start that it won't win a prize. Good judges - and we have some very good judges - will often write a few words on the entry card telling someone how to improve. It is all part of entering something.

When the judges had gone we would have been attaching the ribbons to the cards and putting things in the display cabinets. We would be wondering how to fit everything in so that everything can be seen to the best advantage. We would wonder how the "window dresser" who always does the "best in show" cabinet would manage to bring together the usual diverse range of entries.  There would be anxious counting and moments of panic when something seems to have gone missing. There would be that sigh of relief when things are found again. 

   "Look at this!" and "How did they do that?" and "That must have taken months to make," would be heard over and over again.

I would not have needed to be anxious about the Senior Cat because someone else would be watching out for him. He would have been more than happy for me to miss a couple of days visiting. He loves the Show. Most people find it fascinating.

Tomorrow they will launch the virtual Show portal. It won't be the same. I'll miss the smell of baled hay and the noise of the forklifts as they set up the adjacent garden displays and, on the other side, the commercial vendors putting their stands together.

But in this morning's paper there was a spread about the other people the failure to have a Show affects - the farmers and graziers for whom it is a showcase of their work. This is where some serious buying and selling occurs. It is where the Country Women's Association shows people it is about much more than making scones and the Red Cross can explain the importance of donating blood and the St John Ambulance Service can talk to people about equipment that saves lives.  It is where people can see cows being milked and touch raw fleece and eat fairy floss while riding on a fairground ride.

I'll miss all this. The people I work with there will miss it too. Thousands of other people will miss coming along to see all our hard work. 

I wonder whether the Covid19 virus will be under sufficient control for a Show to go ahead in 2021. I hope so. We need such things. 

Saturday 15 August 2020

The exam results fiasco

in another place is likely to be repeated here. 

I was given this dire news by a senior teacher at MsW's school yesterday. She is concerned about just how the work of her students will be judged in relation to other students.

"We tell them that exam results are not the most important things in life but in reality they do matter," she told me with a sigh.

I thought about this as I pedalled home. I never liked exams, not even the "tests" in primary school. We had weekly "Friday tests" then. You would be tested on what you had managed to learn in the previous four days. There would be "mental", "arithmetic", "spelling", "reading comprehension" and "composition" every week. Sometimes there would be "social studies" or "nature studies". With every one of those things came "writing" and "neatness".  I consistently failed "writing" and "neatness". I would get full marks for everything else - and then the teacher would take off marks. It never seemed fair to me. I am never sure why I went on trying to do my best. Why didn't I just give up?

Then, in high school, we had "proper" exams. These happened at the end of every term. They were school baseduntil we reached the "Intermediate certificate". At the end of that year, the equivalent of the year before the old "O" level examinations in Upover, we sat the PEB exams (Public Examination Board). Naturally I did not do well because I was expected to handwrite them.

I don't know what I expected or why I hoped it would be any different but it was devastating to have worked hard and almost fail. It is this that makes me concerned for the students who have been so drastically downgraded. If they are capable and able students and they have worked hard then downgrading them for reasons unrelated to their ability is wrong. 

I am aware of the arguments that there is a need for a greater diversity of students in universities. That's fine - as long as those students are actually capable of doing the work and meeting the required standards. It is not good if students are being accepted simply because they come from a particular grouping and then need to be nurtured and "passed" throughout their course. 

Is it really right to allow a student to spend twelve years obtaining a degree? This is perhaps the worst example I know but I know others who have spent six, seven and eight years being "full time" students while doing a degree that should have taken no more than four years. Their academic records show multiple "fails" and no more than "passes". Even at the end of their courses they needed to be coached through writing an essay or doing another assignment. All of them come "diverse" backgrounds. Nobody has dared to tell them, "Perhaps university is not for you." At least one of them knew that and wept in front of me more than once while we were trying to sort out the muddled writing in an essay. 

It is not kind to these students. One of them finally gained a degree but couldn't get a job. He went off to do an apprenticeship in a practical trade. He has been employed throughout the pandemic and, when I saw him recently, he told me, "I wasted six years of my life at university. I should have gone to do this from the start."

I know not everyone would agree. There are people who would say that his university experience was not "wasted" but he would not agree. 

We need to think about why people are going to university. What is the purpose of a university degree? There are strong suggestions here that university is supposed to train people to be "job ready in areas society needs". I disagree. It should be a place of exploration - for the most able.


Friday 14 August 2020

I was reminded of Rosemary Sutcliff

yesterday - in a comment on this blog. The comment brought back a powerful reminder of reading "The Shield Ring". It was a book included in a parcel from the Children's Country Lending Service.  I remember reading it sitting on the branch in the big gum tree which was near what was grandly called the "lunch shed" in the school yard. The branch was only a few feet from the ground and there was room for me and my brother. When everyone else was gone it was our safe place for reading. The school lunch shed was not safe. We found a deadly snake in there one day. The Senior Cat had to kill it.

But Rosemary Sutcliff's books were another world entirely. I was suddenly caught up in Roman Britain. It was a revelation. My carefully written note to the librarians in the city asked if there were any more like that - and there were. They also sent some of Geoffrey Trease's novels and then Cynthia Harnett's "The Woolpack". Oh! 

I fell in love with historical novels. They seemed a safe place to me. Those things couldn't possibly happen now. They seemed so exotic and so uncomfortable at times. I remember the frustration of not being able to discuss them with anyone. My brother, two years younger, was reading his way through Biggles and Ivan Southall's "Simon Black" books. I swapped them with the son of the local manager of the small bank branch but, while he read and enjoyed them, he wasn't interested in talking about them. 

I remember the Senior Cat trying to read a chapter of the Woolpack to everyone in school one Friday afternoon. The others were restive. They might come from farms with sheep but they could not relate to Nicholas. History, however hard the Senior Cat tried, did not appeal to those down to earth but rather slow children who mostly came from intermarried families.

We went to visit "our librarians" at the Country Lending Service when we next went back to the city. I enthused again about the books they had sent. Yes, there were more. Yes, they would let me read them. They would find me others too. While our parents were dealing with whatever adults needed to deal with in the city my brother and I spent all the time we could in the children's area. 

Looking back I realise my parents used it as a child minding service. I don't remember other children being there as long as we were. Some children came and went. We stayed all morning or all afternoon. We read. We never thought of putting a foot out of line. It was probably no hardship to the librarians. We didn't want to leave!

Years later I wrote to Rosemary Sutcliff. I am hoping that, in the big clean out, I might find the letter she sent me in return. My letter to her was one of many I sent asking people to contact their UN representatives in support of the idea of what became International Literacy Year. I didn't expect answers. I said that in my letters. Some people did respond. Rosemary Sutcliff did respond. What is more the letter was handwritten by her and it must have taken a great effort because she had such severe arthritis she could barely hold a pen. That letter confirmed what I think I had always known. The librarian who chose that book for me to read gave me something very special indeed.

Thursday 13 August 2020

Apparently it was Enid Blyton's birthday

yesterday...or it would have been if she was still alive.

It was quite by chance I also took some time out to finish something I could do while watching a screen. I borrowed the Senior Cat's DVD player and watched the film "Enid" with Helena Bonham-Carter in the title role. 

I had not seen it before and a friend gave it to me saying, "You should catch up on it because you are interested in children's books".  Yes, I suppose it is something I might have looked at before now. 

I had actually read Barbara Stoney's biography of Enid Blyton. I had also read "A childhood at Green Hedges" by Blyton's daughter, Imogen Smallwood.  

Somehow it was Smallwood's book that came as no surprise. I read Blyton as a child. I had a Noddy book. It was given to me  by my maternal grandparents one birthday. I did not rate it along with books like Marjorie Flack's "The story about Ping" but I do remember it. I still have Ping  but the Noddy book has long gone in one of the many moves we made. I suspect it was simply given to someone else - long before the accusations of homosexuality and political correctness caused it to be banned.

I went on to read the Adventure series,  the Famous Five series, the Secret Seven series and more. I borrowed these books from various sources. My parents never actually told me that Enid Blyton was "bad" but, looking back, I realise they simply didn't encourage me or my siblings to read her books. 

I had so much other reading matter available to me that I wasn't actually too concerned about whether I read the Blyton books or not. My brother was much the same. By the time Middle Cat came along there were plenty of other books available as well. She read some Blyton but probably not as much as my brother and I did. The Black Cat read more of them because she had a friend who owned what seemed like  hundreds of them. (It was probably no more than fifty or sixty but it seemed like many more.)

Several years ago I was child minding one night for neighbours and one of the things I needed to do was "read the next chapter" of "The Magic Faraway Tree". After the light was out and young M.... had settled down to sleep I looked at the book again. I would almost certainly have devoured it as a child. As an adult I found it lacking. The language was simplistic. The characters and the plot lacked depth. It was like cheap ice-cream. 

Somehow I was not really surprised by that. At the same time I could see why it would appeal to a child of M....'s age - six. 

As a school librarian I was questioned about Enid Blyton. It was around the time there was an attempt to ban Enid Blyton from all libraries here. I told parents that there was nothing wrong with Enid Blyton's books in themselves but to read only those would be rather like a constant diet of nothing but ice-cream. I offered alternatives.

I would do the same again. There are now Blyton books in the library. They are still popular but there are many other alternatives now. Some of them are similar to Blyton's books but there are many others which are more satisfying. 

I have tried  not to be influenced by what I know about Enid Blyton. She was not a nice person. I don't think she actually liked children. She liked their adulation and reacted positively to it but that is something different. What was, perhaps still is, a positive about her is that many children who read her have gone on to read many other things. That can only be good.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Mental Health? There is something

 very,  very wrong with our health system.

One of my nephews is a doctor. Like a lot of young doctors these days he is on contract and most of his work is in the area of public mental health. It is always  very hard work, but it has been especially hard of late.  He has been putting in extra hours. He comes home physically as well as mentally exhausted. It is the same for all the people with whom he works. 

This week he arrived at work, actually started work - and then he was called into his supervisor's office and told there was no available shift for him. Apparently there is "no money for mental health".

This is in the middle of one of the biggest mental health crises we have had. More people than ever are out of work. They have been isolated. They cannot pay bills. They are more than a little anxious about their families and their friends and the world in general. People who have never felt more than occasional mild anxiety are now so anxious they are finding it hard to make decisions. They need help.

And now they are telling the doctors and other staff who handle these very, very serious situations that there is no work for them? They are saying that mental health is of so little importance that it is not being funded?

Employing one person to help more than one in the mental health area is far cheaper than the fall out from one suicide, even one attempted suicide. It is cheaper than dealing with one dysfunctional family where there are issues with domestic violence and sexual abuse. It is cheaper than dealing with all the social dislocation that can result from mental ill health.

There has been plenty of talk about the importance of mental health recently. The Covid19 virus has seen an apparent rise in the awareness of the need for good mental health. It is as important as good hygiene if we are to get through this pandemic. The various state governments claim to be aware of all this. The federal government has acknowledged it too. But, there is "no money"?

Just what is going on here?

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Replying to emails

 is part of my work. I wish it was part of other people's work as well. I spent part of yesterday trying to get responses from people who should have answered me before now.

One of the problems with people "working from home" is that other people are not around to nudge them and ask, "Have you replied to that email yet?" or "What are you doing about the email we both got from...?" and more.

I sent reminder notices to a number of people. All these things were work related. I reminded them that I was not getting paid to do this and that those going into the danger zones were not getting paid either. They are there as volunteers. The reminder notices went to people who are being paid and who are expected to do certain things as part of their work.

I also have better things to do with my time than chase up people who have undertaken to do something and then do not - simply because they think "it really isn't that important".  I told them all I was going to see the Senior Cat and that I would be back in two hours. I told them I expected answers.

I went to see the Senior Cat. We looked at his mail. I undertook to do certain things. They were the first things I did on returning home. Then I investigated the incoming email. Three apologetic notes with the necessary information, another with no apology and silence from yet another. 

There was still silence from a personal email as well. I had sent a reminder about that one four days previously. Best to ignore that? I left it but sent the same person some information that needs to be shared to a group. Perhaps that would jolt them into replying?

It is when this sort of thing happens that I can understand the Senior Cat's preference for simply phoning someone. I would do this more often if I could. It is rather difficult however when people need to see things rather than simply listen. It is difficult when there is more than one person involved and they are in more than one country. When not everyone speaks English as a first language there are other problems too.

There was still no answer from the last person this morning. I know he is around and available. His partner sent me a message about something else. She is very annoyed with him right now,

"And I know he has not got back to you either Cat. He's working as usual so there is no excuse."

Half an hour later there was the information I needed. It had taken him less than five minutes to find and send it to me.

"Sorry Cat."

A little later there was a message from his partner, "I hid ALL the coffee. :)"

Perhaps that is what it takes - at least for a coffee addict.

Monday 10 August 2020

Merging universities

is under discussion again. I will need to explain.

There are three universities in this state. One is the third oldest in the country.  Another was founded in 1966 and the third is an amalgamation of various institutions such as my old teacher training college.  

The first has always been highly regarded. It was where the Senior Cat did his degree - part time and after WWII. I have done some teaching there. My nephews studied there. The older of the two nephews here went on to do Medicine at the one founded in 1966. Middle Cat studied there too - as a mature age student.

The third university however is not what I would consider to be a university at all. It is scattered across the city - part of it here, part of it there and more parts in more places than I care to think about. It must be difficult. My teacher training college was in three places and that was bad enough. This must be even more difficult.

Not all things are taught at all universities of course. Some of the degree courses available at the newest university are things which are probably more suited to what is known as TAFE here -  "technical and further education".  

I was discussing this with one of the staff yesterday. She told me,

"It was all cobbled together in haste. I still have far too many students who cannot reach the standard I and many of my colleagues think should be reached for a degree but they still get them anyway."

Even the first university has this problem. There are too many students there who are struggling. Once they would  have  been happy with a diploma or a certificate from somewhere. Those things would have helped them get a good job somewhere. Most of the students I went to college with went out teaching after just two years of training. I was one of the very few who stayed a third year and obtained what was then a well regarded "Diploma of Teaching". Even those who left after two years were getting good jobs - jobs for life. Now almost all new teachers are on "contract" work with no chance of a permanent position.

I would like to see that third university split between the other two universities and the TAFE colleges. I don't want to see it simply amalgamate with one of them or even just split between the two. It would be really good if people regarded those courses which have very large practical components as TAFE material  - and for TAFE to be regarded not as "lesser" but as a real "alternative" to university. We need people with those practical skills. The rest of us won't survive without plumbers, electricians, builders and more.   

Sunday 9 August 2020

A real second chance in life

is something that is rarely granted to "young criminals". Even  if they get such a chance it doesn't always work. 

Sometimes it does work...and the results can be extraordinary. 

    "You won't remember me," I was told  yesterday, "But you were the person who gave me those laminated pages before M.... and I went to Africa."

Actually I did remember - although I am sure I would not recognise this man if I saw him in the street. I only saw him once. On that occasion he was a very scruffy, frightened and angry young man. His friend M... was no better. They were on the verge of being career criminals. They had juvenile convictions for shoplifting and breaking and entering. Their families were "problem" families - well known to the social welfare services. 

They were the sort of boys I wanted nothing to do with but a magistrate thought otherwise. They were appearing in the magistrate's court on what would be their first adult charge. If convicted they were likely to end up in and out of prison for the rest of their lives. 

The magistrate knew that. He had asked me to come in earlier and said, "There is something about these me a fool if you will but I think there really is something about them. I would like to try and do something for them - get them right away from here."

I quietly thought he was a fool but, if he wanted to try, I would help. He outlined what he wanted. The two young men would need communication boards in Amharic and English. Amharic? He wanted them to help some Ethiopians? He wanted them to go to Ethiopia? I thought it was an insane idea.

"Trust me," he said, "I think we can do it." He named a judge who was also interested in the idea.

I didn't know a word of Amharic. About the only thing I knew was that the alphabet was not the same. I had no idea where to find help. In pre-internet days this was much less easy than it would be now. I said I would do my best and went off to send urgent faxes to people who might know. Could it be done? The fax traffic increased over the next few weeks. I kept wondering if it was all a waste of time and effort but, at the request of the magistrate, I went into the court building almost a month later and met the two "boys".

And they were "boys" in a way. They were not quite the street-wise criminals I had expected. There was "something" about them. We talked. Yes, they had been offered an opportunity to go to Ethiopia - although they didn't even know where it was or anything about it "except that it's in Africa and anywhere has to be f..... better than here". We pointed out that it might be very dangerous and that they were going to have to work very, very hard for the next year. They shrugged and muttered and shifted in their seats and said they would try.

I heard nothing more for about eighteen months. Then I got a grimy postcard from them, "Staying bit longer." I queried the magistrate's office. They were fine. They had built what they were supposed to build and had started something else. Language was still "a bit of an issue". I made some inquiries and sent them some more complex communication boards. I didn't hear a word.

They stayed there. The one who contacted me yesterday wanted some help for someone at the hospital they first built. We emailed backwards and forwards and sorted it out. I asked if they were in touch with the magistrate. I was told he was no longer alive. They had not been in touch for some years.

"Sorry he doesn't know how well you have done," I wrote.

"The grand old bugger knows. He's still watching us up there somewhere," was the response.

Perhaps he is. 

Saturday 8 August 2020

I found my sari

in a drawer yesterday. It was where it should have been but I had almost forgotten it.

I have only worn it once. I am never likely to wear one again. I no longer have the blouse/choli that I wore with it or the petticoat. I doubt I would fit into either.  

It was given to me as a gift. An Indian friend was getting married. She had invited me and another university friend to the wedding. Her parents asked us each to wear a sari and her father gave them to us as a gift.  

I remember him as a delightful man, both kind and courteous. Even more than his wife he was anxious to do the right thing - and for us to do the right thing as well.

To say that I was nervous about it would have been an understatement. I had absolutely no idea how to put one on and I was quite sure the whole thing would fall to pieces. I would be left standing there in a petticoat embarrassing not just myself but everyone else. The bride's mother, a professional woman herself, just laughed in a very kind sort of way and said, "Of course it won't Cat! I will dress you myself."

In the end however it was the bride's grandmother who helped both of us to dress. She was a tiny woman, no taller than I am, but she had been wearing a sari all her adult life. Short? Yes - but incredibly elegantly groomed. The pleats on her sari were perfect. Everything fell into place with each movement she made. For her it was even more important that we should wear what she considered to be the appropriate clothing.

I felt like a small child as she dressed me and added a tiny amount of makeup - something I never wear if I can avoid it. When she had finished she smiled, touched me lightly on the cheek and told me, "There - you are beautiful. All will be well."

And it was. I managed not to disgrace myself or embarrass anyone.  I never looked at myself in a mirror. I have no photographs of the day - the one I had was lost in transit back here. It would have been good to still have it, to be able to show Ms W what I looked like. She was at a friend's house recently and saw the amount of work that goes into preparing a sari in order to dress.

    "All those pleats and things! It takes ages. I can just pull my things on."

Yes, it is work - but the end result is surely one of the most elegant garments?

Friday 7 August 2020

A manslaughter charge

has just been laid against the carer of a severely disabled woman who died of neglect. The case is one which has shocked all right minded people in this state.
It has also left those of us who know even more about the situation wondering, "Who next? What next? When will those in authority realise that people who have severe communication impairments are the most vulnerable members of the community? When will they also realise that even some of those who do not have communication impairments are prevented from communicating because of the circumstances in which they find themselves?"
There have been some more Covid19 cases here, enough for the government to suggest that they might place residences for the aged into lock down again. Middle Cat and I are monitoring the situation closely.  We still want the Senior Cat at home if possible. If there is "lock down and no visitors" policy brought in then we will have to work out a way of getting him home even if we have to use our own savings to pay for extra help. To leave him potentially without the capacity to contact family would be dangerous and, given his capacity for worrying, psychological torture. We can't do that.
Yes, we know about mobile phones. They are not the answer in this situation. I have lost count of the number of times that mobile phones have been "lost" or are "missing" or "the battery is flat" or "the bill wasn't paid" or "it got dropped" of the phone "needs to be fixed". Far too many excuses are made so that the resident in a community facility does not have the opportunity to make that all important independent phone call. 
I have been to residences where I have been refused entrance - by the carers, not the person I have gone to visit. On one occasion I was sufficiently concerned to resort to actually calling the police. The carers had been sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and looking at their phones. The residents were still in bed. The young man I had gone to see had been denied the use of his phone because he had "complained".  The carers in question were simply moved on.
So, right now we are closely monitoring the situation. The staff may find that strange. They may think we do not trust them but experience tells me it is right to watch what is happening.

Thursday 6 August 2020

The Beirut blast

brought a slew of work yesterday.
Those of you who know me well know I am trying to "retire". I have managed to cut back on the amount of work I do. I am managing to pass more work on to other people. It still isn't enough to call me "retired". I may never reach that point but I hope the future workload will be more manageable.
Sometimes though a situation is so dire that people get together and work on it.  This is what happened yesterday.
I was alerted to the "situation" in Beirut almost as soon as it had happened. Someone who would be on the front line asked about the work we had done for earthquakes. There would be similar needs here. I promised to make contact with the two people who had helped then. One of them was already looking out the necessary information. The other told me he would get his partner to do it "as soon as she has the kids at school". He was going into his office to see if he could sort things out and drive to a place just outside Beirut. He has family there and will stay with them while he helps to restore an essential service.
Then he asked, "Do you suppose Y.... and I.... would be free for a few days? I can probably get permission for them to travel."
I reminded him that they are Israelis. Their language abilities are minimal - but they are experts in that particular field.
We worked on it. Emails went backwards and forwards. Permission to travel was granted. They were on their way within hours. I updated their communication tools so that they had access to English, French and Lebanese-Arabic all in one place. (This is not as fancy or  difficult as  it sounds. It was a matter of combining things which already existed.)
Other work came in, mostly requests for things other people and I have worked on over the years. They might need a bit of "tweaking" for the present situation. We had to add some Covid-19 material in an attempt to keep people safe but we got through the day.
Middle Cat and I had a meeting with a financial advisor in the early afternoon. After it was over I went back to work. Middle Cat went off to see the Senior Cat and tell him I was working. It was very late last night before I felt I could go to bed and, as always, I didn't sleep well. It isn't the sort of thing where you can "just switch off".
What we all managed to do together must have been okay because there was very little in the in-box this morning, just over thirty messages.
But I thought of needing to add the Covid19 material and the enormous risks that aid workers take at all times. I thought of Y... and I... going in to help knowing that some people will be hostile to their presence even though they need the help being freely given. I thought of R... leaving his wife and children and risking his life among the rubble. I thought of much more...
I have an easy role compared with all of them. I've never met any of them and am never likely to meet them. I just know them through computer messages and I just hope they come out safely.

Wednesday 5 August 2020

Changing Blogger

Dear Blogger
Why did you have to change the way you look? There was absolutely no need to do this. You worked very well as you were. I could find my way around you. Other people could find their way around you.
Until this morning I had high hopes that you might have been content to stay as you were.  Sigh... I have wasted time this morning trying to find out where things are. Grrrrrowl.
It reminds me of the changes to that other major site I need to use know that knitting one that needs to remain nameless as I have politely requested a very minor change there - one which could make a major difference to many people. So far they have not responded.
And then there is the issue of unanswered personal emails. I owe two. I will deal with those shortly. Other people owe me many more. Are "changes" preventing this too?
I offered to do something more than a week ago - to make up for the lack of celebration cake. I have not even had an answer. Perhaps the email did not reach them because you are too busy tweaking things behind the scenes.
I am a cross cat, a very cross cat. There will be a proper blog post tomorrow I hope - if I can find my way into this part again.

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Tightening the restrictions

because of the Covid19 virus is something none of us wanted but they have just happened. What is more there will be further restrictions if people do not do the right thing.
We are still allowing travellers "stranded" overseas to return. "Essential" travellers are still allowed to go backwards and forwards. I have issues with both these things. I also have issues with the young woman, supposedly a "mature age" student, who went to college knowing she had the virus but thinking she was "not contagious" because she was only showing mild symptoms. 
Let me start with the "stranded" travellers. There are some who would not have been able to return quickly. They were contracted to do important work and some were in the middle of major projects.  I know people in that position. The only two who had families with them sent their families home immediately they realised there might be a problem. That was as Wuhan started to shut down right at the beginning. 
Yes, I suppose their work made them more aware of these things but their families went home. It was the responsible thing to do. All the other non-essential aid workers I know have now gone home. They have been there some time. The projects they were working on are on hold for now. They will go back later if they can.
But other people "finished their holiday" and then found themselves stuck. Still others were "not ready" to leave or "thought it was a fuss about nothing" and more. Allowing them to return now may be what is needed but they should be paying for their flights and quarantine in hotels and not arguing about it. What is more isolation has to mean isolation - and I doubt a fortnight is long enough.
Then we come to the "essential" travellers. Most of these are transport workers moving goods around the country. One of them has been the cause of a new outbreak in another state. They are a group who are not only vulnerable but also a group who, apart from front line personnel, are most likely to pass the virus on if they get it. Their lifestyle makes that inevitable.
In this state however it would be possible to bring in most goods by most two or three people instead of a hundred or more on the roads. Right now the "double handling" argument so loved by the transport industry in their efforts to preserve jobs at such an immense cost needs to be stopped. 
I can imagine the reaction. I am worried about the economic situation but we are talking about the lives of everyone, not just a few people.
And yes, I would "throw the book" at the rule breakers, those who refuse to do the right thing, and those who try to bend the rules to suit themselves.
Before someone comments that "you don't know what it is like" let me point out that I know people who have not been able to be there for a dying parent, people who have not been able to fly in for the funeral of a parent, people who want to visit family before it is "too late". I know other people who had family occasions planned or cannot visit a child in hospital or who have missed other major or significant occasions. All of them have done the right thing. 
In some cases this would not have been necessary if those who did the wrong thing had done the right thing. 

Monday 3 August 2020

Knitting a blanket

involves "work", a lot of "work".
I also happen to be designing the wretched thing, square by square. That is more "work".  It is "work" because there are other things I would rather be doing with my limited knitting time.
All this started because of - will you believe this? - the Covid19 virus.  The virus has meant we won't be having the state's annual Show this year. By now we should have had the Steward's meeting we have before the Show. A fortnight today we should be starting the week long set up in the Handicrafts area. Judging would have been done by the end of the third week in August. There would have been the last minute panic moments, the adjustments, the questions and more.
This  year there is none of that and we have no idea whether next year will be possible. The Showgrounds is owned by a non-profit charity which has a twenty million dollar shortfall to make up somehow. They are still looking for ways to keep the public engaged and interested.
This is where I came in. I came in with one idea - partly borrowed from a Canadian judge who was there last year.  As is the way with such things the idea got bigger...and, "Of course Cat can do that."
I should have said, "No." 
Admittedly, although the Senior Cat was causing some concern back then, the present problems did not exist. I agreed to design a blanket, a Downunder themed blanket, as a "knit-along". For those of you who do not know about such things a "knit-along" or "KAL" is a pattern or project where the parts of clues are given out at regular intervals and people work on them as they become available. 
Writing any pattern is a lot of work. I have said elsewhere I do not like this sort of technical writing. This one is proving particularly difficult. I have to write it in a way that will allow both "confident" and "less-confident" knitters to do it if they so wish.  I also have to design it in such a way as to challenge people to "do their own thing" with respect to colour. I have had to offer alternatives to the way in which the squares are actually knitted. 
We had already asked for people to knit squares - and to design their own if they could. The squares will be joined together for blankets for a bushfire affected region's wild life park. We asked for 30cm squares - larger than the usual 20-25cm squares. It  gives people some "design space" - and should save some sewing together.
I have had a few squares given to me. They are nicely knitted but very plain. I am hoping for more, a lot more.
And I wonder whether, when we start putting the squares up on the website, if anyone will actually knit one or two or more? Will all the work I have gone to simply go to waste? I have no way of knowing. 
Knitting a blanket is a lot of work - but designing and writing the pattern is even more work. 
If you can knit.... please!

Sunday 2 August 2020

Taking up trouser hems

is not something I do. 
I bought the Senior Cat two new pairs of "winter" pyjamas and of course the hems on the trousers needed to be taken up. Middle Cat said, "I'll do that. I have to do S...'s new trousers."
Fine. I cut the ends of the legs to the right point. Middle Cat did one pair. She gave me a pair. I did not look.  I should have looked. The Senior Cat wore them and they appeared in his washing. (We do his washing. The thought of labelling everything and still have it go missing is more than I can handle.) 
I put his washing in the machine. I still did not look at the ends of the legs. Why would I? I should have looked.
Out came the washing ready to dry. Oh. Frayed ends! Wail! Middle Cat had given me the wrong pair, the pair she had not sewn up. There were little bits everywhere. 
I took a deep breath. I thought. I waited until they were dry. Then I went to visit a friend in the next street. She was a professional dressmaker. 
I explained the problem. She laughed. 
    "Of course I can do it Cat. I'll run the overlocker around the ends and then just make a tiny hem. It won't take more than a few minutes...and no, you most definitely cannot pay me for doing it." They are done...beautifully. I took them up to the Senior Cat yesterday. 
And I was able to pay her for doing it in a different way. During the archaeological dig - or room clearing - I came across a printed piece of tapestry. It was new. My mother must have bought it at a church fete although I wonder at that because she had never done one. Even I, who has never done a piece of tapestry in her life, recognised that it was one of the very good prints. It is hand done and absolutely square on the cloth. The design is one which I knew would really appeal to D.... who does do such things. Her needlework skills are outstanding.  When she returned the trousers yesterday morning I asked her if she could use it?  
Oh, yes. That would be lovely. Good. We both have something out of this exchange.

Saturday 1 August 2020

"Can my father make me marry someone?"

 I don't know if I will ever forget being asked this question. The memory certainly came back again this morning when there was a piece about "forced marriages" in the paper.
I was  in our local library one day when a girl I did not know at all approached me and asked softly and nervously, "Are you S...'s friend?"
I knew who she meant by S... because of the way she was dressed. Her family were members of the same cult-like church where women cover their heads and are strongly discouraged from interacting with people outside their church. 
My response to this girl was, "Yes, I know S.... " I would not have called him a friend. He was a boy of about twelve at the time. He had begun to display the same arrogance common among the men in the cult. I didn't particularly like him but he and his sisters seemed to like to talk to me - probably because, while not expressly forbidden, it was not encouraged. Their mother had spoken to me as well - because there were problems at school. The children were not permitted to have any form of fiction to read. They never saw television or heard radio. Any form of imaginative thinking was so strongly discouraged at home they had difficulty doing many things at school.
I wondered if this girl was facing a similar problem. She looked down to the other end of the library where her mother was helping her siblings choose non-fiction books and then said urgently, "I need to talk to you."
We went into the book stacks - where she was supposed to be finding a sewing book - and she asked me the question about marriage. I listened. I am still glad I listened.
Her father had arranged for her, aged almost sixteen, to marry a man from another state. He was also a member of the cult. He was a young widower with three small children. This girl had never met him. He was coming in a few weeks time. The plan was that she would be married on her birthday. 
That she was terrified by this was obvious. Even as she spoke to me she was close to tears. 
In the end all I could do was advise her, "No, he can't. You need to get help."
She left home with the help of a woman who lived at the end of her own street.  It was all extremely traumatic for her, eventually involving the police and the social services. I often wondered how she managed. All I knew was that she went to live in a large country town and went back to finish her schooling - with the help of the woman at the end of the street.
Several days ago I saw that woman who is considerably older now. She came up to me as I was waiting to cross at the lights and spoke to me. I asked how the girl was getting on. She smiled and said,
    "Oh she's like another daughter, a much younger one. We couldn't have managed without her. It took a long time and there are still things she needs to know from time to time. But she was the one who saw us through the early stages of the pandemic."
Yes, the isolation of her childhood might have helped. She is the accounts officer in a business in the town and is now engaged to be married to a boy who, on hearing she had left the cult, also left. The woman I was speaking to was very positive about it. It has taken both of them a while to get that far but she thinks they will "do very well" together. They know where each other has come from - and they have made their own decisions.
I went to school with girls who married not long after leaving school. The marriages were "arranged", some of the girls knew who they would be marrying before they left school. I wonder how those marriages went. Perhaps they worked. Perhaps they didn't.
Forced marriages still occur here, sometimes with girls as young as seven. They can have no idea of what is happening to them. Their families see nothing wrong with it, indeed the reverse is often true. Our so called "multi-cultural" policies make it harder to stamp that sort of behaviour out. That frightens me. 
I am glad I told that girl that her father could not force her to marry.