Wednesday 30 September 2020

There is a bird's nest

not far from our back door. It is well protected under the verandah. I knew it was there and I have deliberately avoided going anywhere near it. I most certainly have not "checked" it in anyway.

My caution may be paying off. Mother bird has been busy of late. She is tiny - and I mean tiny. She is a "brown thornbill". 

Now I admit I do not know a lot of birds. I had to look this one up. I thought at first that she had to be a baby herself because she is so small - about the size of one of the smallest cumquats on the nearby tree, or perhaps a medium sized strawberry.  

I know nothing more about her and I am determined to leave her alone. She is going to have a tough time bringing up any fledglings. It is an unlikely place for her to have built a nest but there was some old coconut matting on the Senior Cat's nearby garden shelf. She has "borrowed" that and he would be delighted to think she has used it. Next time we get him home I will make sure he sees the nest. Like me  he will leave it strictly alone.

S..., who comes in to help with the major gardening jobs I can't handle, did put the ladder up some distance away and look carefully. He couldn't see much but told me, "I think they are safe enough." Like us he knows they need to be left alone.

It has made me think again that there are times when people need to be left alone and simply allowed to get on with the job by themselves.

There are times when I appreciate,"Do you want some help?" but if I say "No, thankyou" I really do mean "No." It is sometimes easier to do something by myself, in my own way and in my own time. Someone thinking they are helping are actually hindering. I don't like saying no because it might put people off asking another time but... it's a difficult balancing act.

I wonder about nests though. They seem such flimsy things. Wouldn't that tiny bird like a proper house?


Tuesday 29 September 2020

Boarding school food

is mentioned in an article in today's paper. It is also mentioned quite frequently by Ms W.

The food provided at her school is actually very good and she would be one of the first to acknowledge it.  It is far superior to what I had at boarding school.

The girls at her school get cereal, toast and fruit for breakfast - or rather, they help themselves. There is an adult on duty of course or, as Ms W puts it, "someone around to see that we actually eat breakfast". They make their own toast.  They are also expected to clear their things away.

The boarders get a mid-morning snack too - often fresh muffins or scones or cake and milk or juice.

Lunch is also serve yourself. There is hot soup in winter, fresh rolls or wraps, cheese, eggs or meat and salad vegetables, more fruit if they want it.  Again there are adults around to ensure that the girls eat sensibly.

In the evenings there is a variety - vegetarian, ethnic, traditional. There is a second course too - with a choice. 

The week's menus are up for everyone to see. Some things are more popular than others of course. 

It is all so different from what I had - or even what I might have had.

At the school I attended the boarding house for the girls was half a mile away from the main school buildings - where the boys boarded. We had stale cereal for breakfast. Yes, it was stale. I read the "use-by dates" on the packets. I suppose they got it cheaply. It was edible but we never knew whether we were going to get cornflakes, rice bubbles, weet-bix or something else. Occasionally there were even "coco-pops" or "froot-loops". (The last of these were vile. I always handed my portion on to others.) 

The main meal was at lunch time and I never had it. Once I reached school I stayed there. I was given a "packed lunch". It was almost always stale white bread with a scraping of margarine and some baked beans in the middle. There was usually a piece of fruit but that was it. Walking to and from the school to the boarding house and back was simply too far for me to go at lunch time. This was the alternative. Why I was not permitted to do the logical thing and eat a hot meal with the boy boarders I have no idea. It didn't happen. I did not have a main meal at school the entire year I was there. There were no main meals served at weekends although there were things like baked beans on toast or boiled eggs or pasties - things which required almost no kitchen work. 

Most of the time the girls were hungry. Sometimes the day girls would bring packets of biscuits or sweets for the boarders but it was against the rules so they had to be careful.

I don't think the school saw anything wrong with this approach. In all likelihood they believed they were catering adequately for our needs. I survived because I would escape on Friday afternoons and go to my paternal grandparents for the weekend. 

By then my paternal grandmother was so physically frail that getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed was an effort. She would sit at the kitchen table and tell me what to do. I would cook a week's meals and leave them ready in their refrigerator or tiny freezer.  From Friday evening until Sunday evening I ate well because my grandmother saw to it. On the rare occasions I could not spend the weekend with them because of a school activity I was required to attend I did not eat well.

In a way the school did me a favour. It gave me the opportunity to learn to cook - and do a lot of other household tasks as well. (My grandfather still wore shirts with detachable collars and, even now, I could starch and shape one of those!) 

But Ms W also wanted to learn to cook "to look after my dad" and so I have taught her, the mother of her closest friend has also taught her and a neighbour has sometimes helped her too. She is a good and even adventurous cook. Most of the time she will stick to a recipe but sometimes she will substitute. Their freezer has neatly labelled meals for her father to use during the week "so he doesn't have an excuse not to eat properly".

Perhaps my boarding school did me a favour and, in turn, Ms W a favour as well. Mind you, it did not seem like that at the time.  

Monday 28 September 2020

Brontosaurus, stegosaurus or

something else? Of course I have heard of T-Rex and diplodocus and and triceratops.  I know they are all dinosaurs of one sort or another. I have vague ideas about how big some of them were and what they ate.

I also know of the existence of Downunder's very own "muttaburrasaurus" but it has to be said that I know less about dinosaurs than the two small boys across the street - and many other children.

We were discussing this in the library on Saturday afternoon. My generation cannot remember learning about dinosaurs at school. I am sure it is something I would remember but I am quite certain I never had as much as a single lesson about dinosaurs. I can remember "Nature Science" with the wilting and dead flowers and weeds, the snails and the ants and the worms and lessons about the weather. On the whole it bored me. I knew about snails. The Senior Cat removed them from the vegetable patch. I knew about ants. You stayed away from the big ants or they could give you a nasty bite. I knew about worms. The Senior Cat had shown me worms in the garden and explained how useful they were. As for wilting plants, you watered them.  I had grown my own wheat seeds on cotton wool long before I did it again in school. I had even grown my own flowers thank you very much.

But dinosaurs? I can't remember them. I might have been interested I suppose. It would have depended on how I had come across them and how much I was allowed to know. That was one of the problems with school. They stopped me from learning things. The teacher would often stop just when it was starting to get interesting. I was constantly being told not to ask any more questions. 

My teachers were often impatient with me. They didn't have time for questions. We would be on to the next bite of information or a complete change of subject.  If I asked the Senior Cat he would get another library book so I could find out for myself. All too often though the moment had passed. I was hurled into the next arithmetic problem or spelling list. And how many times did I ask for a word in my "daily sentence diary" and have the teacher sigh? I remember asking for "uninhabited" one day and being told to work it out for myself. I used two "t's" because that was how it sounded to me. Did I know what it meant? Yes, I did. I wanted "circular" ("use round") and "enormous" ("use very big") and many more. I would stamp my foot in frustration. It was the Senior Cat's father who showed me how to use a dictionary. Wheeeeeeeee!!!!!! I loved the dictionary. When the teacher wrote down my daily sentence I told her how to spell the words I wanted to use.

Perhaps if I had been learning about dinosaurs I would have been told how to spell their names? Some of my adult friends don't know about the muttaburrasaurus. I can spell that. I just need to know more about them.


Sunday 27 September 2020

And so a Minister for Health

has resigned in the neighbouring state.

This is the Downunder state which has the really serious problem with Covid19. It is not the time for any Minister in the parliament to be resigning, let alone the one responsible for health.

I was sent some information yesterday. It came from a reputable source. I was asked to comment on how the sender might respond without breaching laws relating to other issues. 

What they had been asked to comment is at the heart of the Covid19 problem in their state. This is the issue of the use of private security to enforce hotel quarantine among returning travellers. It is the subject of an inquiry right now. The last of the "evidence" was presented on Friday. I don't envy the person writing the report because the collective amnesia among those who should know is extraordinary. 

One thing however is certain. The Minister for Health should not have resigned. It is not possible to see how she could have the sole responsibility for signing off on the contract that employed the security guards.

There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that spending $30m in circumstances like this is never made by just one person.  There are procedures which should always be followed. All state governments have preferred suppliers within their own states. Going outside the state requires the approval of more than one individual. With a contract worth $30m the Premier must have been involved.

I never understood why a private security firm was given the job. It should have been carried out by the police. If they did not have the personnel then defence personnel should have been given the necessary authority to do the task and been deployed to do it. It was never a job for a private security firm.

I made some inquiries about the firm involved though - and I had some interesting answers. This was, as I was beginning to suspect, about politics and not about people. The firm was not state based and it has a very poor financial track record. It also has other issues. The firm did not have the personnel to do the job. They had to hire people. Those people were not trained. The only "training" people received was a few hours of "cultural awareness" training - cultural awareness in no way related to those entering quarantine.

So people in quarantine were being overseen by others who had no training to do the job. Most of them would have had no idea how to do the job. They were not trained to keep their distance. They were not provided with full PPE. They did not have the necessary skills to handle situations. The work would, if properly carried out, been boring in the extreme.

Is it any wonder that these so-called security personnel slept on the job, played on their mobile phones, wandered off at times and - above all else - sometimes got too friendly? They got too close. It was only a matter of time before someone got Covid19, took it home and then out into the community.

The Minister for Health should have asked, "Are they trained to do the job?" Even if she had though it is likely that she would have been told that this was how those in quarantine were going to be policed. It is unlikely she could have changed the course of events. The politics of employing a firm which claims to be an "indigenous" one would have been seen as more important than any concerns she might have raised. She would have been accused of discrimination and racial bias. 

Instead almost 800 mostly older people have now lost their lives in a situation which could have been avoided. The mental health, physical and economic well being of the community was seen as less important than the politics of offering a contract to an "indigenous" firm.

The person who sent me the information is an indigenous person, a visibly indigenous person for whom I have the greatest respect. He is, rightly, concerned that this situation is not going to make it easier for indigenous people to obtain employment. It is going to make it more difficult, much more difficult. His anguish was clear.

 "What can we do Cat? I despair." 

I despair too. 


Saturday 26 September 2020

On "not getting involved"

or "are there times when I should interfere?"

Yesterday, as I was leaving the post office, someone approached me. He wanted to know about my trike. 

It is not unusual for people to want to know about my trike and I usually try to answer them politely.  I tell them where I got it and yes, it has three gears and two sets of brakes and no, it is not quite the same as riding a bicycle and it does not have a motor. 

I have allowed someone to take a photograph of part of it. (He showed me a photograph of his son, for whom he was building something similar.) Some time later I allowed his son to try out my trike. (With modifications he is now riding his own and gives me a wonderful enthusiastic grin of complete joy as he passes me.) 

I like being involved like that but yesterday was different. People here have been pretty good about the "social distance" thing. I was not expecting someone I did not know to not only invade my personal space but to put his arm around me and pat me on the back.

He came out of the doors as I was packing milk and baked beans into the basket and asked me about the trike. As he was standing about as close as he could get without actually touching me I took a step back. He took a step closer and asked another question. I answered rather shortly because he was making me feel uncomfortable. He was an older man. He was not clean. There was definitely something a little odd about him. 

He asked another question and I said, "Excuse me. I need to go."

He then blocked my path and continued by asking the question again. It was a very personal question and I had no intention of answering it. I told him this.

His reaction was to put his arm around me and pat me on the back.

At that point I raised my voice. I was feeling very, very uncomfortable by then. I shook him off and managed to undo the lock. He grabbed my arm as I put my hands on the handlebars and I shook that off too. At that point I shouted at him to leave me alone. In turn he started to get rather angry with me. What did I think I was doing? He was only trying to be friendly. 

I pulled away and pedalled off feeling decidedly shaken by the encounter.

Now I was probably never in any danger but he was behaving in a very, very unpleasant way. (It would be difficult to describe just how unpleasant and intrusive his manner was.) There were other people around. For once there was nobody I knew but there were other people, several of them men who were just standing in a group watching. 

And nobody said anything or offered to help. They were obviously "not going to get involved". I don't know whether the men in the group were all of the opinion that "she's a woman and can look after herself" or whether they had all helped a woman in the past and been abused by the woman for doing it. 

Whatever it was it disturbed me that in the middle of the day in a busy shopping centre someone can be in my position and not have anyone lift a finger or raise a voice to ask, "Do you want some help?"

That question alone would possibly have been enough to make the questioner who was making me feel so uncomfortable move on. It seems though that "not getting involved" is more important than "interfering".  

Friday 25 September 2020

"The origami book with the flapping bird

is about 'this' thick and it has a hard cover," the Senior Cat told me. Right I thought I can surely find that? 

He is getting ready to do some teaching. He has been working with the "Activities" person in the residence. They are plotting and planning - and she is listening to him. 

The Senior Cat has fiddled with origami for some years now. There were other reasons originally - mostly to do with some conjuring trick or other if I remember rightly...or was it to teach Ms W something about geometry? I can't remember.  Whatever, he still finds it a challenge. 

He has the "boxes" books with him but he wanted the book with the flapping bird in it. He doesn't expect the other residents to make flapping birds. "Some of them might make a box though. I'll need to work out a plan."  He wants the birds for another purpose. 

 I took some spare sheets of card to the Activities girl yesterday. There are about forty sheets altogether - all a lurid shade of pink. The colour did not bother her in the slightest. I also gave her the template I had found while clearing something out. It is for a Christmas angel - a simple one. I was told, "H... (who helps) and I will need to cut them out but we can definitely do things with that!" That was when she told me that she was learning things from the Senior Cat. 

"He still loves teaching," I told her. 

"You have no idea how much it helps," she told me.

Oh yes I do know. It helps him too. He has a purpose again. I hope the two of them can keep working together.  

Thursday 24 September 2020

Advance Care Directives

are important documents and the issues in them should be given serious consideration.

For those of you in other parts of the world - an "Advance Care Directive" is a legal document giving someone the power to make decisions for you if, and only if, you cannot make those decisions yourself.

It is not a Power of Attorney. It does not give someone the right to make financial decisions on your behalf.  

It is giving someone else the right to make decisions about your future health care, your living arrangements and your personal care if you cannot do this yourself.

It does not allow someone else to interfere if you can make decisions for yourself. It does not allow them to make decisions which are not in your best interest. The person granted the power has to make the decisions s/he believes you would make.

My doctor nephew has been granted that authority by me. We talked about it. He knows what I want. I have to trust that, should the time come, he will do what he believes I would do. That's how this works. I am fortunate in that I have someone like him that I do trust and he is willing to take on that role. Hopefully he will never need to do anything but it is there if needed.

I can revoke it at any time. That is important too. If something happens to him and he cannot - or is no longer willing to - carry out that role then it is essential to be able to do that.

All this came up yesterday for two reasons. The first was a letter from our local MP.  She had organised a forum with a speaker for "seniors" to discuss  ACDs but the Covid19 restrictions had caused it to be postponed. It can now go ahead in a different venue with the restrictions in mind and she has reorganised it. 

This is the very sort of thing an MP should be doing. She mentioned it to me at another meeting where she had organised an excellent speaker to talk about Alzheimer's and related dementia issues. Did I think it was a good idea? My answer was an enthusiastic "yes!". We need more of that sort of thing/

Then, later in the day, I had an email from our friend P.... telling me that her sister had just had major bowel surgery. Her sister is 83 and has been far from well for some time. I am fond of her sister, as is the Senior Cat. All of us are hoping that M....'s health will now take a turn for the better. In the email P.... mentioned the need to have an ACD.

I have helped more than one older person fill out the form for the ACD. We have had serious, very serious, discussions about their wishes and to whom they want to grant the powers within the ACD. I had the authority for my late friend E....  We had a very long discussion about her wishes. In the end it was simple though, "Please Cat - no extraordinary measures. I am tired of so much pain." 

Middle Cat and I have the ACD for the Senior Cat. His wishes are also simple, "No extraordinary measures." I hope it is simple but I know it will also be difficult.

It would be even harder if we didn't know what he wanted. It's a good idea to let people know, essential in fact.


Wednesday 23 September 2020

Lost at sea

and the search vessels and air support are out trying to find you. People are risking their lives in the foul weather trying to find a "boatie" who sent a message saying his vessel was taking on water.

I don't know how many people are tied up in this exercise but it must be quite a number - and yes, they must do it. There is no choice in this matter. Those involved will go on doing it until the person is found or a body is recovered or the search is called off after a decision has been made that nothing more can be done.

The problem in this instance is that it is the second time within a few weeks that this particular "boatie" has called for help. His vessel is not seaworthy. 

Last time he was fined for various offences relating to the vessel and safety. It is unlikely that the vessel is seaworthy.  We talk about things being "ship-shape" and, from a photograph taken of him on board, it is clear that there is an extremely untidy mess on board. 

Part of my kittenhood was spent in an area close to the capital's port. It was where my father and my paternal grandfather grew up. We know something about boats, how they should be cared for and the way in which most people do care for their boats. 

The Senior Cat's brother was friendly with a man who was, to put it kindly, accident prone. He had a boat. My uncle's wife went out on it one day. They struck trouble in the gulf. As it was my uncle realised there was a problem when they were late returning and raised the alarm.  If it had not been for my aunt having a bright red beach towel with her they might have gone on drifting but a spotter plane saw the towel.

 My former boss in the Education Department built a boat. He spent many years building it. By the time he had finished it his wife refused to let him sail it. She was right. If he had bought something simpler and spent the time learning to sail it then he might have had the skills necessary. His wife knew he did not have those skills and was not going to learn them overnight.

Sailing is not like driving a car or riding a bike. There are many other things involved. The sea is dangerous. Few people realise how great a risk Jessica Watson was taking when she sailed around the world at just sixteen years of age - even though she had far more experience by then than my former boss or my uncle's accident prone friend. 

The man who has gone missing is not "a bit of a larrikin" but a fool. He should not have been at sea in rough weather in a boat which was not seaworthy. If he needed to move the boat then it should have been transported across dry land.

The last search cost taxpayers around $650,000 and this one is going to cost perhaps as much. It may also end in tragedy - and that is an even greater cost.

"Lost at sea" makes my stomach churn - and not from seasickness.


Tuesday 22 September 2020

Knitting beanies

should be a fairly mindless task unless the pattern within them is a complex one.

Could I make a mindless beanie? I have done of course. I have even been known to stand in an aisle of the supermarket and give someone else the time to write down the instructions as I dictated them. (Believe me, this is not nearly as clever as it sounds - not for that sort of beanie.)

But then there are other beanies that have patterns. The patterns can be simple or complex. Beanies are the ideal place to "try things out". I have explored the mysteries of charted Japanese patterns by making beanies. I have explored different Fair Isle colours by making beanies. I have also explored other textures and colours and stitches. 

I was asked to make a beanie recently and there was a specific request. Would I make one with dinosaurs on it? I thought about this for less than five seconds before saying "yes" because the person who asked me told me that it was for a young friend who is seriously ill.  He is now recovering from major brain surgery and he is going to need beanies for a long time to come. 

And so I am making the beanie, rather I am making two beanies. I am making one for him and, rather than waste all that design effort, I am making one for another young person I know who also happens to be very interested in dinosaurs. She knows far more about dinosaurs than I do. 

I looked for dinosaur patterns on various knitting sites. As always none of them seemed quite right to me. I am not into the business of knitting other people's patterns. It is simply too much bother to follow them exactly as they are written. But I found things I could use. I have put them together and charted the result.

I think it works but there is no rhythm to this sort of knitting. Each round requires concentration. I knit one round on one and then one round on the other. That way, while I don't have the pattern memorised, I have some awareness of what comes next on the second beanie.

The friend who asked me to make the beanie asked me what I was going to knit after I had finished them. I said, "Something simple" but I know it won't be. I don't want to do any more dinosaurs but I am thinking about something else. I might have to make another beanie to try the idea out. 


Monday 21 September 2020

One of the best "thank you" notes ever!




 This was written by a child in a refugee camp. She  is nine years old and does not speak because of physical and mental trauma. She is "unaccompanied" - meaning she has no family or friend to care for her. I have been working with one of the aid workers there to try and give her a means of communication so they can, if possible,find out just who she is. 

Last week she was given a thick woollen pullover knitted by someone who knits for AKWAK (Aussies Knitting for War Affected Kids).  This "thank you" note was the result. It is the first time she has tried to communicate anything without being directly asked.

She  is using Blissymbols and she still does not have very many of them so she has tried to combine the symbols she does have to say what she wants to say. (This is really excellent as it suggests she is actually highly intelligent.)  

The usual symbol for "home" is the outline of a building and a  heart. Some of the children refer to the tents or shelters in which they live as their "tent-homes".  She has combined tent and heart apparently to indicate the home of the animal which is a big jumper. It is likely that she has seen pictures of kangaroos and that someone  has told her that the pullover comes from the home of the kangaroo. 

We think that she is then trying to tell us that the pullover is hot now and will be warm in winter. (Like most of the children she refuses to take it off even in hot weather for fear of losing it.) 

And, she cried when she was given it because she was happy.

I have no idea who knitted the garment but to all AKWAK knitters - thank you. You have absolutely no idea how much it means to me to see her trying to communicate like this and for such a purpose.

Sunday 20 September 2020

GetUp has been rumbling again

- or at least someone in the local group wrote to the paper saying they were "robust" in their opinions.

I wrote another letter saying that, in their case, "robust" meant "rude" - and sometimes frightening. 

This was the group that trespassed on our property - and refused to leave when I told them to go. (They refused on the grounds that they were working on the election campaign and had the right to enter the property for that purpose. They had no such right, not even an implied right.) And there was the delightful member of the group who harassed me in the street. It is most unlikely that I will ever want anything to do with them again.

There are other ways of getting your opinion across. Some of us write letters. I probably write too many letters but I do write letters. What is more I give an address and I sign them with my name. It is what you should do if you are going to express an opinion.

There are other people who write newspaper columns, become politicians or media celebrities of another sort and people listen to them. Sometimes people should not listen to them or, if they do, they should roundly condemn their opinions. There was an opinion piece last week by someone making fun of someone who has just taken some "mental health" leave. It should not have been published but I suppose it would be too much to ask a radical left winger to refrain from having a dig at the stress a slightly right of centre MP was under.   

And there are other people who are in positions of great power who have opinions. We may not always agree with them but their opinions will be scrutinised down to the last comma, the last full stop. They include people like heads of government, the Dalai Lama, the Pope, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and High Court Judges.  

Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one such person. She will be missed. Unlike GetUp her opinions were considered and carefully constructed and, while firm, she was able to pronounce them without breaking laws or breaching the peace.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Studying science, technology

engineering and mathematics are seen as a priority. It is also easy to see why these things are important - important to all of us. 

The present government is trying to ensure that people do study these things. The previous government tried to do the same. Extra funds are being poured into trying to get improved results in maths and the sciences in schools. The idea is that, with better results, students will want to go on and study these things at university. It is said that they will be better prepared for the workforce and that there will be jobs available.

Students who want to study arts subjects and even languages are not so highly regarded. They are even told they are not doing the best they could do, that they are not "using their intellectual abilities".

Ms W is under pressure. Her form teacher spoke to me yesterday.

"Can't you make her see that she would be better off going into the science stream next year?"

"She isn't interested. She loves her languages."

"Well she can still do one but she has the capacity to do science and it seems such a waste not to use it."

I held my tongue. Ms W has discussed this with her father, with me, with her Italian teacher. (Italian is an extra subject done outside school.) She is, slowly, having thoughts about possible careers. None of those careers include science or maths. 

"We have to make up our minds pretty much by the start of next term," Ms W informed me as we headed off to buy a present for an elderly friend.

"Mrs....  thinks you should be doing maths and science," I told her.

"I don't want to. I know it's supposed to be important but, like you said, if you can't talk to people and think about things then you can't do anything."

I had not put it quite like that but Ms W went on before I could say anything.

"I like words. Words are important. I like knowing the words in other languages. I think differently then. When I am talking to (her Italian teacher) then it is quite different even from when I am doing French in school."

"Maths is a language," I told her.

"Mmm...sort of....maybe. I have to do one thing from maths or science. If I did maths I wouldn't have to go to the lab but I don't think it will fit in with the timetable."

I know that is most unlikely too. I have seen this year's timetable. I think Ms W.... will need to do biology. It is regarded as a "soft option" for the arts stream, a subject for the less able.

Ms W's father is aware of the problem. He did some science in school but, like her, his interests lay elsewhere. He knows the importance of maths and science and technology. 

"But if she isn't sufficiently interested in those things to want to spend the rest of  her life at them then I am not going to say she should," he once told me.

As she left me yesterday I said to Ms W, "You could suggest to your form teacher that you might want to do law. Languages could be very useful for that."

"I am saving that as a reserve argument," she told me. 

It is possible she might make an excellent international lawyer. 

Friday 18 September 2020

Postal deliveries

 are changing schedule. 

We finally received the dreaded notice in our letter box - the one informing us that our mail will now only be delivered on alternate days. We get rather a lot of mail, more than most people I suspect. This is partly because the Senior Cat flatly refuses to get and pay any bills on line and because he also expects other things to come on paper.

At 97 I have no intention of trying to change his way of thinking. Indeed I don't think he should have to change. He is of the generation where things were done on paper. 

The postal service however is not doing the right thing. It has not been doing the right thing for a long time. The excuse has been that fewer people write letters. That surely should have made it possible for them to deliver those letters that do get written on time? Apparently not.

When I was a kitten mail there were eleven mail deliveries a week. The postman came twice Monday to Friday and then once on Saturday. People got mail. If the postman put mail in your letter box then he blew his whistle to alert you.

When we came to the city to stay with our grandparents we would watch for the postman and take it in turns to get the letters from the box and give them to our grandparents. When we moved to the city for a few years it was my brother's job to empty our letter box and take anything in it to our mother. 

Any form of mail to me or one of my siblings was exciting. Our grandmother, on the other side of the city, could post a letter in the afternoon and we would get it the next day. That was the way birthday cards arrived. It must have been the way bills and notices arrived too. As kittens we took no notice of such things. I can remember books arriving for the Senior Cat. They were done up in brown paper and string. I can remember the thin blue "aerogrammes" from Scotland. They were mostly for my paternal grandfather. He corresponded regularly with cousins in Caithness. I can remember postcards from people on holiday in places that sounded so exciting. We kittens had never been outside the state!

Then mail deliveries got cut back to one delivery Monday to Friday. It was not just that though. The mail got a lot slower. It can now take a week or more for a letter to come from one side of the city to the other. Why? 

It can't be the volume of letter mail. The post office keeps telling us that this has declined. Parcel mail was handled separately. Even if it has increased it should not have affected letter mail.

The move to alternate days is supposed to be temporary - until 30 June 2021. It is actually a breach of the Act which covers deliveries. The government agreed to allow it to happen but there are many who believe that this is not going to be temporary. It will almost certainly be permanent. If we have one delivery a week by the time I am 97 - if I should ever reach that age - I think it will be remarkable. 

The government will have its way. Life online is going to allow them to monitor us more closely.

Thursday 17 September 2020

The "citizenship test"

has some new questions.

For those of you who don't know the twenty question multiple choice test is something aspiring Downunderites need to pass before they are considered eligible to become citizens. You need to score 75% to pass. 

The old questions are more concerned with history and the form of government. They include one about ANZAC day and another about the Constitution. 

The new questions are supposed to be about "values" and "social cohesion".  Aspiring applicants "must affirm an updated values statement". 

The new questions include things such as why it is important to vote and whether people should make an effort to learn English. There are also questions about whether you can encourage violence if you have been insulted and whether you should tolerate those who disagree with you. The last example given by the article I have just read refers to whether you can choose a marriage partner.

It all sounds very reasonable - and it won't make any difference. It will be a simple matter to give the "right" answers without actually agreeing. People will continue to hold their own views. 

I know new citizens who will vote as they are told they "must" vote, who will go on believing they  have no choice. It is the way things were done "back home". 

We have a neighbour who has been here many years. She still speaks almost no English. I offered to help her but her husband refused. It allows him to maintain control over her. 

I know people who, while not encouraging violence, do not tolerate those who disagree with them. It is most unlikely they will ever do so. They believe they are right. If they could change the way we are governed they would do so, indeed they will work to do so because they believe it is the right thing to do.

And I know young people who will marry the partners chosen for them by their families. They may "know" the law does not condone this but they also know they do not have a choice if they want to remain within the family. 

I wonder just who dreams up things like the citizenship test and what they believe they are achieving by it? If we taught "citizenship" in schools as a separate subject there would be objections that it did not  fit in with "multi-culturalism". 

So, just what are we trying to do here? Isn't true citizenship worth something more than the "right" answers to fifteen out of twenty questions? 

Wednesday 16 September 2020

So a man dresses up as a woman

and sets out to kill people and this is part of a plot for a book and the book is then condemned...

Oh yes, I am sure dear reader you know the book I am talking about. The author has been widely condemned for other comments as well.

I will say nothing apart from the fact that I do not wish to read the book. It is not an argument in which I wish to get involved.

What it does however do is raise another question in my mind. My local federal MP was being stalked during the last election campaign. The "GetUp" organisation denied any responsibility for this but they should have been held accountable. Even if the stalker was not a member of their organisation he was a supporter of it. He knew full well what he was doing. He went far enough to be cautioned by the police but he was never taken to court. He has since died so perhaps no more should be said about his behaviour.

The whole thing was raised again with me  yesterday - because it was in the news. Apparently  the MP should "learn to live with it because it is part of public life" and "if you put yourself in that position then you have to put up with that sort of thing".

Really? I know that a local federal Senator on the other side of the political fence would be demanding a great deal more action if the same sort of thing had happened to her. She would have plenty of support too.

"CetUp" was very evident around here in the last election campaign. They called at the house and they stopped me more than once in the street. Their campaign amounted to harassment, especially when one of them positioned themselves in such a way that I was unable to ride on until he had finished haranguing me about a letter I had written to the state newspaper.

"You need to take responsibility for your actions," I was told at the time, "Do you know how much harm you are doing?"

I cannot even remember what the  letter was about now. Perhaps it was supportive of the candidate but it is more likely it was condemning the tactics of GetUp. 

That may be where the real problem lies. People get passionate about presumed attitudes and presumed slights and how much harm they do. They then do a great deal more harm by their own actions. It is not intentional.  They actually believe they are doing the right thing. The man from GetUP took the view that he was right and I was and am wrong. We couldn't discuss it. There was no room to negotiate and no attempt to understand the point of view of another person. 

We need to learn to listen - even if we continue to disagree.   

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Knitting for charity

is about more than garter stitch squares made by "little old ladies" and sewn together for "pet blankets".

There is an organisation across Downunder called "Knit4Charities" which provides thousands of items to charities every year. The items are given away to those in need. They range from those garter stitch squares to other blankets, beanies, mittens, gloves, garments, toys and more. Many of them are not simply "made" but extremely well made. The work of people like the former president of an organisation I belong to is of award winning standard. All sorts of scraps of yarn are put together by her and people like her to make warm garments for those in need.

There is also another group "AKWAK"called - "AussiesKnittingforWarAffectedKids" which provides garments and toys for children in refugee camps. Some of the same people belong to that group as well. Again they are knitting up yarn for children in need. It needs to be wool or almost all wool because there are open fires in camps. Acrylic is a fire hazard. It is not warm. Children need warm garments simply to survive. Giving them a woollen pullover large enough to last at least two years can mean the difference between life and death. Yes, children freeze to death in such places. 

An aid worker sent me a picture yesterday. I don't have permission to put it up here and I will respect their privacy anyway but try and imagine three children. They are about four, seven and ten or eleven. The eldest has a protective arm around the youngest and the middle child is leaning in on the older child.The  youngest is also clutching a small toy. The three of them are looking bewildered although there are hints of a smile on each of their faces. 

These three children are now "unaccompanied". They have no adult responsible for them. The oldest child has been trying to keep the others safe since their mother died three weeks ago. They had just been given warm woollen garments to help them through the coming winter. 

My role in all this has been to supply the older two with communication assistance. The oldest child barely speaks, the middle one refuses to speak at all. The youngest says a few words. I have been told that they will be sent to another country on the next available plane. Hopefully there will be someone there ready to take in three children who have nobody - unless they can trace some unknown relative.

They cried when they were given those warm garments. Even though it is currently the start of autumn they have insisted on wearing them. They won't take them off. 

If you can knit but don't know what to knit or who to knit for then please find your local AKWAK group. Ask them for the guidelines because there are many more children like this.

And for those of you who are already helping, thank you. On a purely selfish basis it makes my life easier. A warm child who thinks someone cares has more chance of survival - and becoming a good citizen somewhere..   

Monday 14 September 2020

Clearing bookshelves

is going to be a long, slow process.

There are a great many books in this house. Some people tell us there are far too many books  in this house. 

When that happens the Senior Cat and I look at each other. Each of us knows what the other is thinking. These people are not readers. They do not understand that books are friends and acquaintances. You do not discard them lightly.

I have occasionally bought  out of print books through an organisation called "Better World Books". They send out a confirmation message written as if it comes from the book itself. It is a bit of nonsense I suppose but the idea of a book being excited because it is going to be rehoused is something worth thinking about.

Years ago, in another country, a friend of mine came in one Saturday morning and asked for help. Three of us piled into his car. He had borrowed a heavy duty trailer from another friend and the four of us went and rescued thousands of books. They had belonged to an elderly man. He was a solitary man, a very solitary man. He had no family and, as far as they could tell, no friends apart from his books. The people responsible for clearing the house had simply been going to throw the books out onto the local rubbish tip. 

Fortunately someone alerted my friend and gave him until Monday morning to clear the house of the books. We packed more books than I care to think about that weekend. More than one trailer load ended up at some borrowed space in a warehouse. 

My job that weekend was to rapidly assess each book. First editions signed by the author, first editions, books likely to fetch more than a few pence, ex-library copies and so on. I would look, make a decision and pass them on to be packed.  My friend, who knew something about books was doing much the same thing. He would sometimes bring a few to me for consideration. The other two simply packed and carted them in boxes out to the trailer. Twice they went to get more boxes.  There were hundreds of boxes stacked in the warehouse by the time we were finished. It would take months more sorting before the job was done but we were reasonably satisfied we had put the most valuable books aside.

Those books eventually raised a very large sum of money for charity but they might simply have been thrown out. I remember looking at one book. A copy of that same book was recently advertised at well over a thousand dollars. There were more like that.

All of those books could have gone on a rubbish tip and simply been set alight. I don't want that to happen to these books. The Senior Cat  has already passed some on. He wants more to go to people he knows will actually use them. I know I will eventually have to move somewhere smaller. It means some of my books will need to go too. I don't want them to end up on a rubbish tip either. 

I am tempted to write a note to be put inside each book, a sort of Paddington Bear note which says, "Please look after me" because giving them away is like giving away friends and acquaintances.


Sunday 13 September 2020

John Fahey, former Premier of the state

my brother lives in, Finance Minister in Federal Parliament, and the leader who managed to snag the Sydney Olympics has died at 75.

It seems he is being remembered for the last thing rather than anything else. Oh, there has been some coverage of the fact that he flung himself in front of Prince Charles when someone was firing at gun. The gun was firing blanks but Fahey did not know that at the time. Snagging the Olympics seems relatively minor compared with behaving  in a way that could have cost him his life. (And no, it does not matter whose life it was - it just happened to be Prince Charles.)

But of course it is the fact that he managed to snag the Olympics for which he is being remembered. Downunder is a sports mad country. It is something which would matter to many people.

As someone who has no interest in sport apart from a passing interest in the psychology behind cricket - I mean what other game involves standing around waiting for someone to hit a ball with a bit of wood? - I do not see gaining the Olympics as anything of importance. I would cheerfully say goodbye to the Olympics. The endless ridiculous attempts to shave another one hundreth of a second off a "world record" while on performance enhancing drugs does not interest me in the least.  But, other people think that is important.

Fahey did other things too - like bring in the disability discrimination legislation in his state. He also has remarkably good relations with "the other side" of politics. He seemed to be a generally cheerful individual as well.

He has not been seen much for some years due to ill health. Major surgery for lung cancer would have sapped his strength however much he might have wanted to go on. 

I don't know whether he was a smoker or not but he would certainly have spent years in meetings where other people smoked. I have never even tried to smoke a cigarette but I spent years in meetings where other people smoked. The amount of secondhand smoke I have been forced to ingest has not done my health any good. I was considered "unsociable" in the schools I worked in because I had to avoid the staff rooms where people smoked heavily. I could do that but many people had no choice. 

None of my close friends smoke. We have other things to do with  our hands. I wonder whether Fahey smoked or fiddled with his fountain pen? It doesn't matter. What does matter is that disability discrimination legislation. It has saved lives too. 

Saturday 12 September 2020

Creating and revising with a computer

is not the same as creating and revising without one.

Someone was asking me recently about how I had set about creating and writing the patterns for the blanket squares now on the RAHS Show website. B... has also just sent me a photograph of the way in which Shetland knitters still sometimes record their Fair Isle patterns - on paper. 

Now I have done both those things. I still do both those things, especially if I have the time. They require different ways of thinking and working. 

If I am working on paper then my work will be full of crossing out, rubbing out, scribbling over and more. I will discard a piece of paper and start again. 

It is something I now use almost only for knitting or, less often, another craft. I do not usually write on paper. I  have done very little of that since I obtained my first typewriter. That was long ago - in the days of "white out" and "correction tape". There was a limit to the amount of editing you could do without having to retype the entire page. 

I can remember when "word processors" became the thing. J...  in the Research Unit came back from the workshop excited at being able to do what we now call "cut and paste".   At that time I typed my first doctoral thesis on a "golf-ball" typewriter. I had to keep changing the ball to use the mathematical symbols for the statistics.  I typed my second doctoral thesis on this computer. It is still limping along after years of hard labour. Every so often "update" appears and things happen I know nothing about.

But there is something else to all this of which we are scarcely aware. We are losing sight of the drafts. We don't keep all those pieces of paper which tell us how our ideas developed. On the computer they get written over.  When we hit "save" we actually lose something. It might be something we do not want to keep but it is also information lost. 

Those studying and researching writing and designing in the computer age do not have the same resources. Often all they are going to see is the end result. At best they might see the final draft before it goes to editing. That will not provide nearly as much information as discarded pages and crossings out. We will not have the thought processes or the alternatives that might have gone into creating something.

Some people will say this does not matter, that the end result is all that matters.   I find it hard to agree with that. 

Friday 11 September 2020

My godchildren are of Chinese heritage

and their mother is one of my closest friends. We have been through a lot together. 

They do not live in China, indeed they have never been there. It is unlikely they will ever go. Their parents are most unlikely to return there unless the present form of government is overthrown and something much more open and democratic takes its place.

There are still difficulties for my friend and her husband. They are sometimes viewed with suspicion, even by those who know that they left for their own safety. The children have both been bullied and teased at school for being "spies". Teachers have questioned why they cannot speak Chinese. 

I am acutely aware of this and other issues. I have also taught extra English to many students of Chinese origin. One of them was so determined not to return to China she rode her bicycle just over eight kilometres each morning to reach me at seven o'clock for an English lesson before she went to the laboratory. When we first started she knew almost nothing. Two years later she made a short presentation in English at a science conference. At the time her research visa was extended she managed to get her husband and two girls out on a "visitor's visa". They applied for asylum and it was granted. All four of them have worked very, very hard but  it  has also been difficult for them. Some people still view them with suspicion.

All these people have stayed well away from any sort of politics. They have seen it as the wisest thing to do.

But there are several politicians in this country who also have Chinese heritage. It is more difficult to see them as fully independent of any pressure from China. At least two of them have had dealings with organisations that have close connections with the Chinese Communist Party. 

    "People should not be so suspicious," another friend told me. I said this to the mother of my godchildren. She thought about it for a moment and then said,

    "People  should be very suspicious. We need to be constantly vigilant." 

Her view is that the CCP is so powerful it can coerce and control almost anyone. Both she and her husband are concerned about a local politician who has had close contact with organisations which are suspected to be ultimately controlled by the CCP. That same politician was due to be voted into a position of considerable power in the state parliament. Someone else stepped in to prevent it and is now facing expulsion from the party. 

   "It would be better for them to investigate the claims about those contacts," I was told.

That came from someone with a much more direct understanding of what can happen. I think we should be listening before the dragon breathes more fire. 

Thursday 10 September 2020

"He has been charged with aggravated sexual assault"

the voice at the other end of the phone told me. She was extremely upset.

Her neighbour, a man I know, is a good man. He is the sort of person who puts  his neighbour's bins out when they cannot do it themselves. He waters their gardens when they are on holiday and walks the dog for them when illness or injury prevents them doing it themselves. He goes to church on Sunday and helps with feeding the homeless during the week.

It is his son who has been charged. His son is a grown man. Contact between them has been limited, especially since early this year. He is usually the one who initiates contact.

I cannot begin to imagine what he is going through now. The very idea of sexual assault would be foreign to him. He is of the "old school", the sort of man who still opens doors, rises when a woman enters the room and does not sit until she does, who walks on the outside of the footpath and more. His late wife used to say how lucky she was, that he was the best of partners. He was devastated when she died. 

Yes, their son has caused trouble in the past. They supported him even while trying to get him to change. 

   "I don't know where we went wrong," he once told me when their son had to appear in the Magistrate's Court on a relatively minor charge. At that time he was almost sick with worry.

His son has been on a good behaviour bond - twice. He has had to do community service (and his father made sure he did do it). He has also had to pay fines and more. There has been nothing as serious as this though. This time it will not be the Magistrate's Court - and he is looking at prison time if he is found guilty.

And yes, I do wonder how a man brought up in the way I know he was brought up, whose three siblings are all hard working and decent citizens, could be like this. They all went to the same schools and had the same opportunities. Neighbours say he was treated no differently. I have had brief contact with two of his siblings over the years. They were friendly, pleasant people. He was polite enough but, as the neighbour who called me said, "You always felt he wasn't really interested  in anyone but himself."

If he is found guilty and serves a term then it will impact his entire family. I was relieved to hear my neighbour say of his father,

    "I wanted you to know because J..... is going to need our support."

Yes, he will. He has done a lot for other people. It is their turn to do something for him.  I suggested trying to treat him as normally as possible, to still invite him in to sit on the front verandah for "a cuppa" when they see him, still offer him excess from their gardens and so on. 

And, if and when he wants to talk, to keep quiet and listen. 


Wednesday 9 September 2020

Perhaps we need aged care "brokers" -

that is people who can handle the maze you need to travel through in order to get any sort of aged care. 

We are fortunate that Middle Cat knows people,  useful people. This is due to her own experience as a physiotherapist. Middle Cat is also a rather assertive sort of person. She has no hesitation in using her contacts either. 

I am a much more cautious sort of cat. 

Yesterday the receptionist in the residence tried to tell me that the Senior Cat's "respite" time was up. "It will cost you a thousand dollars a day from now on."

I knew that was not right. It has another week to run and Middle Cat had already begun the process of extending it for another three weeks. The Senior Cat is now saying that "perhaps I should stay here". He can if he so wishes - and it will not cost a thousand dollars a day. That is hospital sort of rates and might be demanded from someone staying for a week or so post operation before going home. It would also be covered by their private health fund.

But no, the receptionist insisted that this was what it was going to cost. I don't know what she expected me to do. Was I supposed to go and pack the Senior Cat's clothes, books and DVDs, the pack of cards and the other magic tricks? Was I supposed to go and call for an Access Cab? 

I looked at the receptionist and said, "I am absolutely certain that is not right."

She then said that perhaps it "could be arranged to extend..." and that we would have to meet the Finance Officer who only works on Thursdays, "and you will still have to pay the higher rate until she sorts it out". 

I let her think she had won and went off to deliver the Senior Cat's laundry. He was reading a book and was full of questions about how vaccines are developed. I told him a friend of ours was coming in the afternoon and he could ask P... all those questions. (P...'s doctorate is in a related area and he probably told the Senior Cat more than he wanted to know.) 

I then prowled off to see Middle Cat. I have left most of this up to her because she has met the manager of the facility, someone who has worked with her son. I knew they had talked. Middle Cat growled and muttered things about, "Nonsense!" I said I would leave it with her.  She rang late in the afternoon to let me know that I was correct and that an additional three weeks of respite had been granted by the relevant government authority. It gives us time to get things sorted out...thanks to Middle Cat having that contact with the manager.

On my way home though I stopped because there was a bright orange flag hanging from a letter box. It is a sign to me that the person living there needs some shopping done or some other help. I had been expecting to see this one so I went in. I went around to the back of the house and called out and heard an answering call before letting myself in.

This is someone living alone who should no longer be living alone. M... knows this. She is diabetic and losing her eyesight as a result. She has other mobility and health issues too. As she is not yet 80 she has not been considered in need of "high" care yet. But she has, sensibly, realised that she does need to move now - while she still has sufficient sight to do it. Her son, stranded overseas, agrees. We have been in frequent touch over this. We have joint power of attorney but there are things I will not do - such as put the house up for sale. 

I will however fill out forms and I sat there with  her at the computer she can no longer see to use and filled out more forms. I found documents for her. We added up figures. I made a phone call to the bank and then handed the phone to her so they could get her permission to talk to me. I did the same thing with the insurance people and I talked to the receptionist at another facility. Fortunately that is someone I know and like and she passed me on to their Finance Officer - someone else who knows me. 

Eventually, having done what we could both do, I left her. As I was going "Meals on Wheels" was just arriving and a neighbour checks in the evening. M... the Meals on Wheels lady, and I agreed. It would be good if they actually employed people to do what I had done that morning. No, I am not unusual. I know other people who have done the same thing for neighbours and friends. It is much more common than other people realise. 

It is time to realise that it is a job for professional people though, people who really know their way around the system. It is not a job for people like me and Middle Cat who have to bumble their way around.  

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Not going to school is proving

a problem  in more ways than one. 

I know most parents here breathed a sigh of relief when our short lock down was over and their children returned to school. I also know parents in other states whose children have had almost the entire school year at home. They are struggling, really struggling. 

It is said that young students are "falling behind". There are issues around their mental health and lack of physical activity as well. I know it is not nearly as much of a worry as it is in other places but it is still of concern.

Ms W is no exception in all this. On Sunday evening she informed her father that she wished she did not have to go back to school. Now she says this on a regular basis but this time there was something to it. He asked her "why?"

It seems that the other girls (it is a single sex school) are still "catching up". Some of them are still doing work they should have completed months ago. Ms W announced she was "bored". Her father suggested asking for some more work. Apparently she had already done that. He, being in the middle of something extremely complex, appealed to me. 

I went into the school yesterday and her form teacher greeted me with, "I know why you are here. I have been meaning to ring you or her father. She needs more to do."

We agreed. Ms W watched us anxiously from afar - at the same time as she was lining up the most junior of the juniors and making sure they washed their hands "properly". Despite having no siblings she is good at this sort of thing.

I talked not just to her form teacher but the head of the Middle School, the Maths teacher and the French teacher. Her form teacher takes her for English. Project? 

Ms W is good at Maths but she is not fond of it. Something there? Science? No.  She prefers English and languages. Anything extra should be work but also enjoyable.

As she is already the youngest in her class by almost twelve months and still far more interested in books than boys she is something of a problem. Her father's job means that she has sometimes met people who appear frequently on the news or in the press. She is happy to talk to them and has frequently been acknowledged for being able to do so "sensibly". It isn't something she talks about, especially at school.

We asked her for ideas. Now she is already learning, Latin, French and - an extra outside school - Italian. 

    "I want to learn Spanish too. Lots of countries use Spanish, not just Spain. It might be useful."

Of course the school does not teach Spanish. It does teach Japanese but she is adamant she does not want to learn Japanese. Her father does not want her to do it either. He thinks it is badly taught in schools - and I have to agree. 

And what else might she want to do? 

    "Well when Dad and I did our ride yesterday we saw you up at the creek but you were too far away to say hello. We were looking at things up there. I might start to do a project about that. If I start now then it will be spring and that is the sort of the start of things. I could go all through spring and go on doing bits over into next year. I think I could photograph it and then draw it and write about it. It would mean finding out what sort of things grow up there and perhaps talking to some of the people who live there and why they do. I could turn it into something to make everyone else aware of what  really happens  up there."

She has obviously thought about this. It is the sort of thing she would be good at too. She would need to organise it herself. 

I think she has found her own project. Her form teacher has told her to "write a proposal" and it will get discussed. It means she will be getting a head start on something they all need to do next year and in a more detailed long term way. It won't do her any harm. 

But I thought of the other students, those still "catching up" and I am concerned for them. Is "catching up" really that important? What do we mean by it? Of course they need to learn because learning is their form of work but isn't their mental health as important as their classroom learning? So many of them are very unsettled right now. I am glad I am not teaching them.

Monday 7 September 2020

National parks and reserves are to be

treasured and cared for as well as preserved for future generations.

I remember a bill board I saw quite often as a young kitten. It advertised something  which puzzled me at the time. If I asked my parents about it then  it obviously meant nothing to them either because I would have remembered the answer  - and perhaps have forgotten the billboard altogether.

The billboard advertised a "cherry blossom festival" in Japan. This was  to my mind something quite extraordinary, indeed it was extraordinary. First of all it was advertising Japan which was a very exotic, rare and unlikely destination at the time. Nobody we knew had ever been to Japan. It was unlikely that anybody we knew would ever go.  Indeed it was at least another twenty years before I met anyone from Downunder who had been to Japan or was going to Japan. Then a friend's daughter went. She was actually learning Japanese and she eventually spent some years living there.  

It was at that time I began  to understand the significance of the cherry blossom festival. M....  wrote and told me about the festival. She had been told by people she met there about the festival. When  it occurred she was bewildered and disappointed. People were making a fuss about "a few trees and a tiny bit of blossom". It took her some time to realise that, living in a major Japanese city, this really was something that the local people did get excited about. They really appreciated and cherished those few trees in a way that only the locals could do it.  Those trees were rare because trees were rare. Blossom was rarer still. People went simply to look at it. 

I understand a little more, although not enough, of Japanese culture now and I can appreciate a little of what those Japanese were seeing and feeling. It still puzzled me that the billboard had that impact on me and that I should remember it in that way but I am glad  it has.

Yesterday, being Father's Day, Middle Cat went and "sprang" the Senior Cat from the residence and we all went off to a local arboretum and then on to a local reserve. There is a narrow winding road in to the reserve. At the beginning of it there is a small caravan park. At the end of it there are a few houses. Middle Cat knows someone who lives in the last house at the end of the road. For that reason she can go past the point where cars are supposed to stop and turn back. Instead she took us right to the end where it was quiet. 

I would not want to live there in summer. It  is a fire disaster waiting to happen. Yesterday though it was lovely. It was green. Middle Cat  stopped the car for a bit. We watched two boys of about ten or eleven building something on the far bank of the creek. They were so intent on what they were doing I doubt they were aware of us. They were doing the sort of thing we did at that age - something that almost no child who lives in such close proximity to the city can now do. We watched the birds and observed the blossom which is coming out on those trees which flower, particularly the wattle.

As Middle Cat started the car again I heard the Senior Cat give a contented sigh. It was a "cherry blossom" moment I suppose. 

Sunday 6 September 2020

It is "Father's Day" here - and I suppose elsewhere

although I have no idea about that.

It isn't something this family fusses about. Like "Mother's Day" we see it as an excuse by others to tell us how we should buy an expensive present for our father. 

The Senior Cat would be appalled and embarrassed if we did that. He knows we love him and that we will always do whatever we can for   him. 

If he phoned me right now and said, "Get me out of here" I would get help and go and get him. I would do it at any time of the day or night and I would miss an event I had been looking forward to in order to do it. I have no idea how we would cope but he wouldn't do it unless he felt there was no other option. We all know that. He is not unreasonable.

Our mother was the same about "Mother's Day" - in fact rather worse. We were not allowed to do anything to celebrate that. It sometimes led to us being embarrassed in other ways. We became experts in fielding questions (and even on occasion lying) about what we had done for her on Mother's Day.

Today though Middle Cat is planning on "springing" the Senior Cat for the day. It is forecast to be a lovely day - sunny and warm without being too hot. So far no plans have been made. It is up to him. If he simply wants to sit and chat to his SIL as he works in the shed that's fine. If we take a picnic somewhere that's good too. What he does is up to him. It isn't because it is Father's Day. It is because it happens to be a Sunday and good weather.  We last did something similar about ten days ago. All things being equal we might well do something like that again in the future.

And this is how it should be - for us. I know other people will see it differently. They will do things differently but this is right for us. I know that such occasions are going to become more rare and that they will one day stop altogether. I dread that moment and I know it could happen at any time. It is why it is important to make the most of times together now.

It is also why those protesting about doing things like wearing a mask and using hand sanitiser infuriate me.