Wednesday 31 March 2021

"Have you been hacked?"

I have just sent this message off to one of the sites offering Covid19 vaccinations. 

Why? Because I had a text message purporting to come from them this morning - but the phone number doesn't match up. 

Before I sent the message I checked the number on a "reverse" phone number site. (You type in the number and the name of a legitimate business or organisation should come up. It is worth being aware however that this does not always work.) Nothing came up. The number starts with the wrong digit for this state anyway.

All this is hard enough for those working to get us vaccinated anyway. I would not be wanting to work anywhere providing such a service right now. It may just be that they have an additional, as yet unregistered, phone number but there have been warnings about unscrupulous individuals harvesting data.

I wonder about such people. How do they plan to use the data they collect? I have no doubt there is more than one way they plan to use it - and each one would be designed to make them "rich". 

How do they sleep at night?   

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Ships' pilots are

surely skilled people? No, it isn't like driving one of those great big mining lorries. It is an entirely different activity. 

My family has been watching the unfolding situation in the Suez with perhaps a little more interest than many people. The Senior Cat grew up next to the sea. The "Outer Harbour" and the "Inner Port" were part of his everyday life. His father had his tailoring business in the same area. Much of his work was related to making naval uniforms. (He made military uniforms as well. His name appears frequently in the Visitors' Books at Government House because he made uniforms for the Governors in the days when they were military men.) 

As a child I spent five years living in the same area. We knew about boats. We knew the tugs by name and could recognise them from a distance. We knew the ketches, the trawlers and the yachts. A big treat of childhood was to simply go down to the docks and watch the biggest ships being unloaded or loaded.  

One of the best ever birthday presents I and my brother shared was a tour of one of the big ships - all the way from the engine rooms to the bridge. The Captain must have known our grandfather well because he showed us over and answered our many, many questions. 

He had also gone to the trouble of getting the maritime maps my great-grandfather had made. Great-Grandpa Donald had died many years before but his influence on the area lasted until computers took over. He was a self-taught marine cartographer and his work, according to those who knew, was "outstanding". He mapped the entire area and then went further afield so that shipping could get to the mines further north.   

Great-Grandpa Donald was also a ships' pilot. There were no accidents or disasters on his watch. He guided thousands of vessels into a port which was plagued by shifting sand bars and he did it in all sorts of weathers. By modern standards those vessels would be considered "small" now but they were the giants of their time. The other pilot of the day was reportedly almost as good as he was.

Many of the things they had to take into account must still be part of the job today. If they suddenly reappeared I wonder whether they could guide a vessel through the Suez without the computer aided information pilots now rely on. I suspect they could. 

Monday 29 March 2021

Someone has to pay for it

and I am wondering just who will pay for it.

One of the major political parties in Downunder wants to extend the paid parental leave  to six months. There are also demands for more money to be spent on child care and child care workers.

It all sounds perfectly reasonable. We need people to have babies. The population is growing older. There will be a need for people to care for older people...and so on.

But there must surely have to be limits to all of this. I also wonder how much parental leave disrupts workplaces.

My mother did not go back teaching full time until the Black Cat was three. At the time that happened we also moved back to the bush, to a remote community. There was a two teacher school there. My mother had the youngest children. The Senior Cat had the oldest children. The Black Cat was considered too young to sit in the classroom so she wandered in and out and played while Mum taught. It wasn't an ideal situation but the Education Department was very short of trained teachers and they asked her to return full time. Nobody gave any thought to providing any sort of child care for the Black Cat. 

I wonder what would happen now? 

Across the street from us the mother of T.... and H.... is a paediatrician. She took time off to have both her boys and did the minimum required hours and study to keep up her registration. She wasn't eligible for paid parental leave. On the other side HJ works in a hospital and she was eligible for paid parental leave. Further down the street another mother works for a tax firm. She was eligible for leave but had to make herself available to answer queries. Someone else was employed for a short time to take her place but obviously didn't know all the ropes. 

The system doesn't seem to work evenly. The system may never work evenly. How do you replace workers for short periods like this? The paediatrician couldn't simply take time off. She needs to keep up her registration. For her to do that someone else has to look after the children. The other hospital worker found she had to go back to "day courses" or be completely left behind. The mother who works for the tax firm told me "I might as well have stayed at work". 

There are obviously jobs from which it is easier to take leave than others. There are also jobs which are probably easier to fill than others - generally poorly paid and unskilled jobs. But how do you fill the roles of professional and semi-professional people or people in whom you have invested a lot of training?  Is it fair to say to someone else, "Yes, you can have this job for six months while X is on parental leave but you have to go when they come back"?  

Is it fair to say to an employer, "You must grant parental leave. You must keep the position for them. You must pay them." Is it going to prevent employers from employing people? Who is going to pay for all the expenses involved?

I have no answers to those questions but it also makes me wonder whether  we value parenthood enough as a career choice. Do we really value parenthood at any more than six months of paid leave?

Sunday 28 March 2021

"She got drunk so it is her fault

she got raped"  is becoming a more common statement - and, with that, come furious outcries from others that this is not true.

I am not going to get involved in that argument. The argument however does raise some other questions about the consumption of alcohol.

The "drinking age" when I was at teacher training college was twenty-one. Of course there was some underage drinking but there was no "bar" on any tertiary campus in the state. There would have been no point because a majority of the students would not have been able to legally buy alcohol. Now they can. What is more many students have more disposable income than before. Alcohol consumption is a major issue.

In  my second year at law school there were two incidents in one of the halls of residence. A very quiet first  year student who did not want to be involved in the "orientation" activities was held down by other students. Alcohol was forced down her throat and she ended up in hospital. I remember the "she asked for it" arguments. "She should just have had a drink" and "well what did she expect if she wouldn't join in?"  There was the boy who left four days later because they tried to do the same thing to him. He fought them off and was told to leave because of his "violent" behaviour. He nearly lost his place at  university and it was only because a staff member did believe his story that he found somewhere else to live.

In both cases the student who did not want to drink was the one who was held to be responsible.  Both students had problems for the rest of their time at university. They stayed but it took more strength of character than most people realised. 

We didn't have that problem. There were problems of course but there were no on campus problems like that. It makes me wonder whether we shouldn't be rid of bars on tertiary campuses and in other places. It makes me wonder whether we should also be rid of them in places like parliament. It makes me wonder whether there should be a "no alcohol" requirement for all drivers.

Alcohol does change the way people behave. Forcing it on other people or even encouraging them to "have another one" should surely be a criminal offence. People should be able to feel free to say "No" without fear of ridicule or censure or the thought that it might be "impolite". Those who do use it need to take responsibility for how much they imbibe as well.

While it might well be something to enjoy perhaps I am lucky I am allergic to alcohol?


Saturday 27 March 2021

Inheriting property

is possibly the  cause of more family arguments than anything other than the division of spoils in an acrimonious divorce. As a student I had more than one puzzling moment over this when I did the required subject in law school. Succession? Who gets what? Why? How?

Sometimes it seemed ridiculously unfair. I remember one case when the plaintiff got nothing just because he happened to be "outside the country" at the time. He was a permanent resident of the country but no, he was "outside" at the time of the death of the person whose property he might otherwise have inherited. 

It was that case I thought about when I read the report of the Chinese mother who is trying to get her son's estate. He was apparently born in China. He migrated here with his wife and two children. They became naturalised citizens of this country. They bought a house and he invested here and in China. His children go to school here.

He died without a will - died while on a business trip to China. The estate he left behind is now the subject of a legal battle. His mother is claiming that he never really intended to leave China permanently and that, under Chinese laws of succession, she should inherit his estate. Under our law it is his wife and children who would inherit. The court, it is said, now has to decide, whether our law or Chinese law should prevail. This is because of the claim that he always intended to return to China.

His mother has apparently already inherited quite a considerable amount. The question will therefore be one of intention. What is he likely to have intended? Did he really intend to remain here for the rest of his life or would he have eventually returned to China? Does the fact that he gave his mother some substantial gifts show that he intended to abide by the Chinese law of succession?  There are complex questions about jurisdiction and much more.

It is a case which could have serious consequences. The idea that the laws of succession in another country could be applied here, particularly the laws of a country like China - which has little regard for the actual rule of law, alarms me. Here the wife and children would normally inherit in a case of intestacy, particularly where the children are still minors. Most people would agree that this would be the right and proper state of affairs.

The Senior Cat has a will. I have a will. Brother Cat and Middle Cat have wills. The Black Cat has almost nothing to leave. I don't know if she has a will. I doubt it. If she was to win a major lottery I would suggest she make one - and distribute her estate according to her wishes. The rest of us know exactly what is in each other's will. It is so that there will be no arguments, no unpleasantness, when we die. 

People cannot be forced to make a will. Many people are superstitious about doing it. Some people think it doesn't matter because "X....will get it anyway". They are not always right about that. It always leaves the door open for trouble. 


Friday 26 March 2021

Booking for a Covid19 vaccination

jab seems to be impossible.

I spent more time on the phone yesterday. It was a waste of time. Not one of the local clinics is taking anyone outside their own practice. I can understand that in a way but they are actually supposed to be taking others in group 1B too. That is the way the system is supposed to work.

The clinic we attend is not on the list of clinics which vaccinate. This is despite the fact that a larger proportion than usual of the patients are in group 1A and 1B. They see a lot of elderly people and the people in the various "group" homes around the area. Our GP told Middle Cat that the conditions for being a vaccination centre were "too onerous" and they had decided against it. What????? 

I tried places further afield, places I could reach by trike and public transport. There was still no joy. 

This is becoming urgent. I need to have a vaccination so that, after a fortnight, I can also have a 'flu vaccination. I should have both before another event at the end of next month. Right now none of these things is likely to happen.

The Senior Cat has not  yet had his vaccination but we have been told that everyone in his residence will have theirs as soon as possible. They are all group 1A and this should have been done a week ago. While they have not had their jabs there are people I know, people with no underlying health conditions, who are getting their vaccinations. One couple casually informed me, "Oh, we just decided to do it before we go on holiday." They are going on a fishing trip to an area that has seen not a single case. They have had no contact with anyone remotely connected to anyone who has been anywhere near anyone who has had contact with anyone...well, you get the idea.

This is not the way the system is supposed to work. It is not the way the government expected it to work. It seems that some clinics are simply shrugging their collective shoulders and saying, "If you aren't our patients too bad. It doesn't matter if you are group 1A or 1B you can wait."

I know someone with diabetes. All her life she has, despite extreme care, had trouble controlling her blood-sugar levels. She lives alone. She has been isolated for far too long, only going out for absolute essential reasons. It has had an understandable impact on her mental health too. She is depressed. But, get the vaccination? No. Her GP isn't doing vaccinations and, despite numerous calls, she still can't get one. She was crying down the phone yesterday.  

I am trying to be responsible. I need to visit the Senior Cat and other elderly people - people who need a little help now and then. I am supposedly a priority for other reasons too. Middle Cat is on the verge of being in the highest priority group and has had the same sort of response. I know other people in a similar situation.

There is something wrong here. How much further afield do those who need it need to look?  

Thursday 25 March 2021

A dog used the pedestrian crossing

yesterday. I wish I had the capacity to take one of those fancy little animal videos on the phone. I can't even take a photograph. Nobody, apart from the other person waiting to cross the road, is going to believe this but....yesterday I really did see a dog use the pedestrian crossing.

He obviously knew precisely where he was going. He walked up to the pedestrian crossing, put a paw up and pushed the button to activate the pedestrian lights. Then he sat and waited. When the traffic had stopped he set out on a brisk trot across the road. He turned into the next side street and I lost sight of him. 

The other person and I just looked at one another. 

What has that dog really managed to learn? How often has he done it? Who does he belong to? Did they train him?

All sorts of questions went through my head as I pedalled on. Yet again it made me think that many animals are much smarter than we think they are. 

I know people think I am odd because I talk to the dogs tied up outside the supermarket. Some of the regular dogs know me. I know them better than I know their owners. Their owners are sometimes surprised when the dog they are walking obviously knows me.

"I talk to it outside the supermarket," I say. That still puzzles some owners. How does the dog know who I am?

I am not nearly as good at this as Middle Cat. Middle Cat might best be described as a dog whisperer. She can talk to almost any dog. I do avoid some. Nevertheless most dogs do respond to a friendly voice. I could just ignore them of course but it doesn't seem right.

Cats? Well some want to talk and others don't. I know the cats on my regular route. Most of them respond with an ear twitch. Occasionally they want a bit of a pat or a rub between the ears. It is more likely they will be sunning themselves on the top of a fence or a car. I'll get an apparently lazy whisker twitch of "Yes, we know you. Do not disturb."

I wonder what they would all have to say about the dog using the pedestrian crossing. Would they say, "Party trick!"?

Wednesday 24 March 2021

The Prime Minister is not responsible

for the behaviour of other people. Like a parent he can tell them off and he can punish them but it does not make him responsible for what they do.

The Prime Minister can't prevent outright stupidity either. He can remove people from their roles but holding him responsible for some of the alleged goings on is ridiculous. The media knows that but they are persisting anyway. It says more about the media than it does about the Prime Minister.

We are being told that the Prime Minister "lacks empathy", that he only said something after his wife told him to think about his own daughters, that he is a coward for not facing protestors and the media,  and that he said "too little, too late". Of course if he had said anything sooner, gone out to meet the protestors and sympathised with them then he would have been accused of being smarmy and insincere and a great many other things besides. He was (and still is) in a no win situation. A source  in the media told me yesterday, "We've got the bastard. There's no way he can win the next election now."

Is that what it is about? 

The past year has been horrendous for politicians on all sides. They have all needed to make decisions which have impacted people's lives. All too often our system of government has been misunderstood - or deliberately ignored. The Federal government has been particularly hard hit by people, often people who do know better, claiming that  they have not done this or that or something else. They have ignored the fact that there are differences between  what the federal and state governments can do. The federal authorities couldn't reopen internal borders or issue lock down orders. Yes perhaps they could bring "home" all those citizens wanting to re-enter the country but the cost would be enormous - because the planes would be flying out empty - and, once here, where would you house people in quarantine? It was up to the states to take people into quarantine - and we all know how well that worked. 

It isn't the Prime Minister's fault that a woman with a long history of mental illness made an accusation of the most serious sexual assault and then committed suicide before the allegation was made public. Nor is it his fault that we have a legal system in this country which requires that certain things be done and that they be done in a certain way. He was in another no-win situation here - and so is the man against whom the allegation was made. Is it also the Prime Minister's fault that someone chose to drink heavily and then found themselves in a situation which is now under yet another inquiry? What is alleged to have happened is wrong but how is the Prime Minister responsible? Is he supposed to patrol the corridors night and day?

Perhaps we do need more women in parliament. It would be good to think there was equal representation. Women do have different experiences to bring to the job. That alone though is not the answer. There needs to be an entire culture change. 

That culture change needs to start elsewhere. It starts at home - and it starts with respect for everyone.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Knitting for charity

is more organised than it used to be. There are two organisations here that I follow. One is actually called "Knit4Charities" and the other is AKWAK. Both groups have small armies of knitters who produce all sorts of items for use by others. The work they produce is often beautiful. The effort that goes in is all too often largely unappreciated but they continue to knit.

And then there are individual people who don't want to belong to a group or simply can't belong to a group of that nature. These include elderly people, both male as well as female, and some much younger people.

Yesterday I stopped at a "senior citizens' home" and picked up a small garment that was exquisitely well made. At the request of the woman who made it I left more yarn. Her husband was sitting in the sun knitting simple blanket squares that are put together for the nursing home in the same complex. He was an engineer in his working life and his squares are very square and very even. His wife's little garment was going to a young mother who has been through a very tough pregnancy - the last part of it in hospital. The baby arrived several days ago and, although very small, seems to be healthy.  I handed the item over to the new father with the words, "It can be washed in the machine."

And then I went on to the house of someone I know quite well. A.... is the mother of C....  a student who had major heart surgery at the end of last year. C... also has other medical issues and, for a time, it was "touch and go" as to whether he would even survive. His recovery is going to be a long, slow process. He is one of a group of younger knitters I started working with when they were still in the primary school. There are just four of them left out seven now and they have a very close friendship with each other.  They all knit for charity too. 

It was for that reason I was getting together with A.... We checked and packed three boxes that will go to various places, according to what the items are and where they are needed. There were bright coloured "trauma teddies", toddler size cardigans and jumpers, socks, several scarves and mittens. In all those things are new skills these young people have managed to learn in the past year. 

They did not waste the Covid19 lock down although, given their range of serious medical conditions, it has lasted far longer for them and is going to require constant vigilance for a long time to come. They made use of it - and use of me. 

    "Don't you ever get tired of all their questions?" A.... asked me. She looks very tired. Worry over C.... has been so great recently.

I shook my head. I am not tired of working with those four young people. I don't mind collecting items from the very elderly and passing them on. These are people who are still thinking about others and trying to do something to help. They make me aware that I don't do nearly enough and that they do so much more. 

I stood in the doorway of C...'s bedroom. He is still largely confined to bed. He was knitting and listening to an "open learning" lecture of some sort. He paused both activities and asked, "Hi Cat, you okay?" 

That question tells me so much.


Monday 22 March 2021

Auslan is not English

and I was firmly reminded of the fact yesterday.

There was a quite vigorous knock on the door yesterday afternoon. When I went to see who it was I found someone I know only slightly. We see one another in the supermarket occasionally. He has asked me where he might be able to find something on several occasions. Most of the time though he simply smiles at me.

He asks me rather than someone else because he is profoundly deaf. Several years ago I intervened when he was having a problem trying to make a member of the staff understand what he wanted. He knew what the item did but he did not know what to ask for and I managed to understand and explain. 

It was all a bit tense at the time. He was a complete stranger then and I was not sure what sort of reaction I would get. He thought I might know a lot more sign language than I actually ever knew. But, we muddled through somehow and he hasn't forgotten.  I am his preferred point of contact in the supermarket. 

Outside the supermarket our conversations have been nothing more than the briefest of social chit-chat - in signs.

He can read and write a limited amount but he knows his English language skills are not good. His spelling appears to be guess work.

So yesterday he turned up at the door. I didn't even know he knew where I lived and he was obviously very hesitant. Did he want to come in? No. He had his two dogs with him. We could talk outside. He needed some help.

He handed me an  official piece of correspondence, a speeding fine. As I have only ever seen him on a bicycle I was surprised. He was equally surprised and upset and angry. He made me understand very quickly. He doesn't drive. He hasn't got a licence. He has another medical condition which prevents that.

For anyone else it would be a problem dealt with by conversations with others. He had no idea what to do. It was only when, after much slow and careful explanation on his part that I realised that this man lives alone. He has no family. He seems to have very few friends - and they are deaf too. He works in a factory of some sort I think. What that is like I have no idea. 

And yes, he needs help with this. Someone must have given his name and address rather than their own and claimed they did not have their licence with them at the time.   

It was trying to explain what needed to be done that was so difficult. I managed to do  it in the end - a combination of signs, finger spelling and writing things down. He sat outside with his dogs while I typed things up and printed things off. I signed one letter. I gave him the pen to sign his name one the other and both the envelopes to take to the police station. He signed his thanks and went off.

At about five in the afternoon I had a phone call from the police. The big station is a considerable distance away but he had been worried enough to ride there after he had left me. This was a "courtesy call" from them to let me know that the problem had been solved. 

"How did you talk to him?" I was asked.

"With extreme difficulty. I have forgotten almost all the little sign language I once knew."

Auslan is another language. I am never going to really learn it. It takes years of practice. I might have the honour of having my own name-sign among a small group but that is entirely different from being able to converse freely with them. Their English is far better than my signing will ever be. Yesterday made me feel guilty that I have not made the effort to keep the tiny amount I once knew up - so that I could help if necessary.

What I would like to do though is find the person who gave that false name and address and put them in the position of not being able to communicate.

Sunday 21 March 2021

"The phone wasn't working again"

my caller told me. 

She was not referring to my phone - or I would not have been getting the call - but the phone of a group. 

The Secretary is supposed to have the phone. It's a mobile of course. Last year they changed the number for some reason. I assume they also changed the provider - although that was not a reason to keep the same number.

But people trying to phone to apologise for not attending a meeting would not have been able to get through if the phone was "not working". Was it turned off? That's possible. I must admit that I would find it annoying to answer multiple calls from people who had forgotten to apologise until the last minute. Of course it is the Secretary's role to do this but attempting to get ready for a meeting and being interrupted like that would be difficult.

It has made me wonder whether there aren't other solutions to the problem. I have never used the group's phone in that way. When I could not attend a meeting I always asked someone else to put my apologies in for me. All they needed to do was add my name to the list of apologies when they were signing in. 

Perhaps I am odd in that way. I see no reason for offering an excuse for not attending - although people usually have been aware of what has prevented me from attending. Most people, including me, do offer a reason but it should not be a requirement if the presence of an individual is not vital.  

I have attended thousands of meetings in my working life. Many of them have been "virtual" meetings of course. We don't physically sit together. I am well aware that one person almost always attends in his nightwear.  Why not? It is close to midnight for him on most occasions. It is usually about five in the morning for me - a reasonable hour. For most people it is somewhere between seven and midnight. We keep meetings short. If we can't "be there" for some reason then we can leave an email for the group. 

The person who phoned me does not have access to a computer so email is not an option for her. It would be for some people who phone in their apologies. Surely it would be better to send a quick email?  

Saturday 20 March 2021

Another new sports stadium

is being planned on the riverside of our CBD. It isn't needed.

Even Middle Cat - the only member of the family to take an active interest in any sort of sport - told me yesterday, "We don't need that."

The estimated cost is $700m. I can think of better things to spend that $700m on when we have people without houses, the frail elderly in urgent need of accommodation and much more.

But I also came back to one of those projects I dream about. We could do it for a tenth of the cost of a sports stadium and the impact on community health and mental well being would be far greater. Yes, we need that arts and crafts hub even more than before. 

Many people discovered and re-discovered the the pleasure, the joy, the thrill and the satisfaction of making things in the past fifteen months. The Covid19 lock downs have had unexpected up sides as well as all the down sides. People have made things. They have learned new skills. 

I remember art and craft lessons at school. One of my earliest memories is of pressing my hand down on the stapler so that I could staple the cardboard "rabbit" ears to a strip of cardboard which fitted rather uncomfortably around my head. We coloured the ears in and stuck coloured egg shapes on the strip of cardboard.  By the time I was in my third year at school we were supposed to be able to handle a tapestry size sewing needle and cover a piece of hessian fabric with "running" and "cross" stitches.  I was hopeless of course but I was made to try.  I remember going into the school library - the one that nobody else seemed to use - and finding a book about embroidery. I wanted to know more. I was probably wondering if there was an easier way to do what seemed to me to be impossible. I doubt if that sort of book features in the local library now. There were projects in it. I remember looking at the apron, at the place mats, at the head scarf and wondering whether anyone had ever made them. There were no photographs of course. It would have been much too expensive at that time. 

I knew about sewing and knitting. Most children did. People did not go and simply buy clothes the way they do now. Clothes were not available in that way. If a mother could not sew then some other relative would have to help. I remember my mother who had a "Certificate III" in dressmaking helping other women draft patterns from the books by Enid Gilchrist. I remember standing in the shop  not far from where my paternal grandparents lived and waiting for my mother to decide whether to buy one fabric or another. We were never asked what we might like. It just happened. I do remember my paternal grandmother buying knitting wool in the same place and asking me, "Blue?" She knew it was my favourite colour.  

My grandfather was a tailor but he worked with wood too. He taught my brother to make his first rough wooden "boat". My brother recently made me a beautiful wooden box, a birthday gift that I treasure. The Senior Cat loved working with timber. He would still be doing it if there was any way of doing it. 

My mother sewed her own clothes almost all her life. She even made two ball gowns for the school balls that were common in rural communities. When knit fabrics became common she bought an over-locker and taught herself to sew t-shirts and night wear for the family. The money saved soon overcame the cost of the over-locker. I don't know that she enjoyed doing it that much. It was just something you did. She would look at garments in shops - while we would jig around impatiently - and then put them back. She was not impressed with cheap workmanship. We children were not impressed. All we wanted to do was go somewhere else.

But now the Senior Cat still folds origami paper. Brother Cat makes cupboards and furniture and toys. Middle Cat paints and draws. The Black Cat "fiddle" with paper and glue and other things. I knit and crochet. The other day I made some polymer clay buttons - the first lot. I might make some more. I've tried to restrict  such hobbies. There will be a space issue when I finally need to move. 

But I don't sew. I just admire those who can. 

Friday 19 March 2021

The activist group GetUp is

is denying that it did anything wrong when it targetted our local federal MP. 

It didn't? I beg to differ. Our MP is a woman. She is about to quit politics at the next election. She can no longer take the abuse which has been hurled at her. She has had enough of her office being targetted. She has had enough of the way in which most women are treated in parliament.

There is a television series, "No Place for a Woman", starring Penelope Keith in which she plays the role of a female member of parliament in the United Kingdom. I have only ever seen one episode of that series but I can well imagine that the material for it was plentiful. I don't know how it was dealt with after that first episode but I think I could have written a few episodes with which our local MP would agree.

Parliament is no place for a woman but it should be. It might be a much better place if there were more women in parliament. We need more women in parliament. We need a lot more women in parliament. 

At the same time we don't need some of the women who have entered politics. They are no better than some of them who behave in such abhorrent ways. 

I have known two female Senators well enough to call them friends. Friends in the sense that I have visited their homes, "had coffee" with them and been on social outings with them. I worked with both of them on projects, jointly and separately.

They also came from opposite sides of the political divide. Both of them were hard working, caring women who - outside the political chamber - were friendly with one another. They worked together on committees and their goals were very similar. They were Ministers and they had the respect of many. 

Yes, they were strong, determined and intelligent women but they were also organised and compassionate. It is those skills which are all too often lacking in male MPs. Like it or not women often need to be very well organised. They are often bringing up families as well as working. Success depends on setting priorities and getting things done. Unlike men they, even now, can't simply walk out the door in the morning. 

We all tend to forget that. While I am not in favour of infants being breast fed in the chambers of parliament I am aware that it there are things which make it more difficult for a woman to be an MP.  That being the case it should not be made even more difficult by activist groups like GetUp. 

GetUp claimed they had the right to target our MP because of her alleged views on certain topics. No, they didn't. They had the right to criticise her views, just as they had the right to criticise the views of any other candidate. That was not the problem. They went much further than that. They didn't just target her. They targetted her supporters too. 

I was stopped and abused in the street by a member of GetUp. I could not get past him. He threatened me and used the sort of language that no man should use. If I had been my MP and that sort of thing had been occurring on a daily basis then it would have been  very hard to take. I was shaken by it and all I had done was call out the GetUp's behaviour towards her. 

GetUp has attempted to justify all of this - to justify the unjustifiable. We are going to lose a woman who has, in many ways, been an excellent MP. At one stage she was touted as Minister material. I thought of the two Senators I have known. One is now deceased. The other, from  the opposite of the political divide - the side which the supposedly apolitical GetUp actually supports, made her views clear. That sort of behaviour  is unacceptable. It is why so few women are prepared to try and enter politics.

It isn't just the behaviour inside parliament which is causing the problems.  

Thursday 18 March 2021

The "chaotic" Covid19 vaccine

roll out began in this state yesterday.

Now even the Senior Cat, definitely in band 1A, has not had his jab yet. I am in band 1B so I was not expecting to get mine before him - or before a lot of other very vulnerable people.

I did think I might be able to make an appointment -  perhaps for some time in April? It turns out the medical clinic Middle Cat and I attend is not part of the scheme. We will need to go somewhere else. 

Middle Cat is also in band 1B because of her underlying health conditions. Both of us are conscious of the need to get vaccinated because it could become a requirement before visiting the Senior Cat. Neither of us want to be in the position of not being able to do that. By now it is not just a matter of visiting the Senior Cat (and doing his washing) but it is also a matter of "visiting" - no matter how briefly - some of the other residents. We might not do anything more than smile as we pass them, say " hello", exchange a few words. Is this important? Yes. One of the staff told me again yesterday that it is helping everyone if we do this.

So, we want to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated will also ease my concerns about doing a three day stint at a craft fair at the very end of April and beginning of May. I could wear a mask all the time but it would limit communication - and the purpose of being there is to communicate with people about a project. But I need to be vaccinated, at latest, in early April to have at least partial protection. I spent four hours on the phone, most of it "holding on" trying to find out how to get this done. I tried to work while I was waiting to speak to people. It was frustrating but I tried to stay polite and pleasant. The staff in those places were not having a good day.

I know there is a massive shortage of vaccine in this country. We are not considered to be very high priority. That may be right - at present. One of the problems though is that just to the north of us is a country which has had an explosion of cases. The resources to handle the cases in a country like Papua-New Guinea would have been very limited whatever was going on. The geography alone presents issues. There are also linguistic, education and communication issues.  I had a string of requests yesterday from aid workers I would not normally work with but who are trying to work out how best to communicate with remote groups. If Covid19 strikes those groups there will be many deaths. Vaccination there is urgent but people are also superstitious and there are all sorts of cultural barriers.

Our government is sending a million doses as a matter of extreme urgency. They are sending other PPE supplies and litres of sanitiser. It might help a bit. It is in our interests to at least try. There is a mere four kilometres of sea between the two countries. 

I have this to say to the health authorities in the EU who have ceased the roll out of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. If you don't want to use it then don't hold on to it. Pass it on. People in this region need it.   

Wednesday 17 March 2021

The WITS are back

this morning. They were supposed to begin last Thursday - at 7am. They arrived yesterday around 9am. The dangerous footpath along our street is, after many years of concern, about to be replaced - I hope.

WITS? Workmen In The Street. Yes, they are a funny lot. We have exchanged a few words. 

P....came in to help me with the floors yesterday. I thought they might say she was not part of "local traffic only" but she told them, "I am working here and they nodded her through. She parked in the driveway and left again a bit later with the same cheerful waves from them.

The man-with-the-van came to deliver something. The WITS were on their morning break. One of the WITS spent a couple of minutes chatting to him. They both laughed.

I hope it goes on like that. I've been told that the residents will be able to get in and out of their homes. I assume they mean by car and that this will mean  I can pedal in and out as well.

I was trying to work out  how old the old footpath must have been. It was only ever a rough attempt to provide something other than dirt on which to work. It undulated wildly. Tree roots broke up attempts to "repair" it with bitumen. In the end it was a crazy patchwork quilt top of many shades of grey with brown feather stitching. The locals knew where the cracks were and how to avoid tripping on the bumps.

Now I can hear parts of it being cracked wide open. The house is reverberating with the noise. Soon no doubt I will hear them dumping pieces of bitumen in the enormous vehicle parked there for that purpose.  It will take them days to do this. 

Last night, after the WITS had gone, someone walked slowly down the street with their dog. They both explored the work in their own ways. The human took out his phone and used the camera function. The dog sniffed and cocked a leg. I wonder what they made of it all, especially the dog. The new footpath will be quite different from the old one.  

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Respect or the fine art of

opening doors for other people.

Yesterday there were massive rallies demanding more respect be shown for women, saying "enough is enough", "no more rapes" and much more. 

And yes, I am in total agreement with these sentiments. If I had been a less nervous sort of cat I might even have been tempted to prowl along and join in. 

I didn't but it doesn't mean I don't support the right to be safe. Violence is never right. 

In this morning's paper there was a column by an older journalist. He has retired from writing his daily column and just writes an occasional one. I miss his work. He was the last journalist to be trained by my final English teacher at school. I suspect that she also taught her journalism students the value of respect for each other. He was writing about that. He was saying what I have heard said before.

It was the same thing which was said to us when I started at law school. One of the professors there told us that we were expected to abide by the same standards of behaviour as we would be expected to abide by in a court of law. I remember being told that men would open doors for women and that women would accept doors being opened for them. We were also told that women would open doors for men if they were going through doors with a load of  books. (We carried arm loads of law reports about at that time. Now it is all on-line instead.) I also remember that a small group of women objected to being told that. They didn't want men to behave like that. 

It puzzled me then and it puzzles me now. Opening doors and doing all the other little acts of courtesy is not "demeaning to women". It is, or should be, an act of respect. We demean ourselves if we don't accept such acts with courtesy.

Perhaps though this is part of the problem. Perhaps the most outspoken women, the women for whom rudeness towards others is an acceptable part of  their version of "equality", have caused some men to believe that good manners less than they once did. Those women may be a tiny minority but they have made a huge difference. I know two, perhaps three. There are other women I know who are very active in speaking up for equal rights but they don't feel a need to behave like that.  

Last week I had to catch the train. I had to put the tricycle on the train. It is something I am finding increasingly difficult to do. If I am lucky someone will help. I had help then. I thanked the person involved. When I reached my destination he got up from his seat and helped me off the train as well. I thanked him again.

On my way home there was a transit officer on the train. He had to put the ramp down for a man using a gopher. He came to my end of the carriage told me he would be putting the ramp down and offered to let me use it. He went as far as to wheel my tricycle down the aisle so I could use the ramp at that end of the carriage. I thanked him too and I let him do it although I can manage to get my tricycle off more easily than I can get  it on the train. He was showing me thoughtfulness and respect and I tried to show the same in return. He is much more likely to help someone else in the same position if I do that.

If we don't treat others with respect then how can we expect to be treated with respect?

Monday 15 March 2021

North Korea must be

an extraordinarily difficult place to live in. I don't know how any diplomats survive a posting there.

I have been pondering this since finally being able to watch Michael Palin's travel documentary to North Korea.  Yes, I know I am a few years out of date. He celebrated his 75th birthday there and he is, I think, almost 78. 

And yes, I know he set off on the adventure with a film crew for support. It was still rather brave of him to head off to the most isolated country in the world. 

While what he saw there and how he saw it was strictly controlled by the North Korean authorities he did manage to convey some sense of the strangeness of a country which is cut off from the rest of the world. Yes, there are some Chinese who go in and out. There has even been an attempt to encourage "international tourism" with a beach side resort complete with luxury hotels. 

I wonder what they are really like. My parents went to China about thirty-four years ago. They found it interesting but had no desire to return to the place. It was very regimented. They went with a couple who were very experienced travellers. I suspect that helped. They were only allowed to go on a group tour too. There was no independent travelling allowed. My brother went almost five years ago. He and his partner and another couple they know well travelled together on a trip organised by the wife of the other couple. She did a great deal of research before they went. They did travel independently - up to a point. 

Were they tempted to try and go north to North Korea rather than into Tibet? No, not at all. L... said it could not be done, not as semi-independent travellers. 

"No, we were under surveillance all the time we were in China. It was difficult enough to organise that."

I know other people who have lived and worked in China. I have known diplomats who have lived there. It wasn't easy. The language is a barrier - even if  you think you speak some Mandarin. There are taboo topics in China but there are even more in North Korea. People don't even speak about those subjects among themselves, especially to foreigners. Private transport is so rare that six lane highways are almost empty. Food is obviously scarce. People seemed friendly but there was a watchfulness about them - and a certain nervousness that they were doing as was expected of them. 

I don't think I want to go there. I have to confess that, despite my two Chinese godchildren, I have no real desire to go to China. Going to North Korea seems even less attractive. In any case my godchildren live in Singapore and they have no desire to live in China  either.

And yet, curiously, children in North Korea are being taught English. Perhaps there is some hope for the place.


Sunday 14 March 2021

Why would you want to shoot someone?

I wish someone could really explain to me the attraction of things like "gel blasters" and "paintball guns". I just don't understand the attraction of "shooting" anyone - even in "fun". It isn't in the least funny.

There was a change to the legislation in this state which caused these gel blasters to be labelled as imitation fire-arms. It meant people had to register to be able to legally use them. 

There was an outcry from the uses of these "recreational toys". To me there is nothing "recreational" about them and they are not "toys" either. They are weapons. They can potentially do a great deal of harm.

An owner of a business selling these weapons has taken the government to court to try and get the legislation overturned. He has been encouraging people not to register their "toys" and not to hand them in under the amnesty which ends in April. I might once have sympathised with him over losing his business but I most certainly don't over his actions. Yes, there are some changes afoot but I don't think he should be allowed to get away with encouraging people to break the law.

The issue was of sufficient concern for this morning's paper to run an extensive piece about the issue - starting on the front page. People might sympathise with the owners of these things. Turn over a few pages though and there is another story - a story about Martin Bryant. 

Most people outside this country have probably forgotten Martin Bryant - if they ever knew about him in the first place. Martin Bryant is the man responsible for the Port Arthur massacre twenty-five years ago. He killed thirty-five people that day and he injured many others. There are people who are scarred for life, indeed a country which was scarred for life. 

The Prime Minister of the day brought in gun laws that some have attempted to water down ever since. Why? Why would you want to support anything which makes that sort of act easier to carry out?

The Senior Cat is as close to "pacifist" as it is possible to get. He has always said he would hurt someone else only to protect his family. He brought us up to believe the same. My siblings have brought their children up to believe that and they are bring their own children up the same way. You do physical harm to another person only if they are a real and present danger to others around you who need to be protected. It's not perfect, nothing is. It would be better to be able to say that you never do harm but the reality of the world is different.

But gel blasters and paintball guns are the opposite of this. The idea that they are some sort of toy is wrong. The idea that they are harmless is wrong. They aren't. They are weapons. The so-called "games" which are played using these things can be vicious and harmful. They can hurt people - psychologically if not physically. 

Hand your "weapons" in and find something more positive to do?  

Saturday 13 March 2021

Driving without a licence

really does not seem to worry some people. This morning's headline news in the paper is that some thirty-nine thousand people have been caught driving without a licence in the last five years in this state - and that some of them have been caught more than once.

Now there are penalties for such things but it seems that they mean little. People continue to drive without a licence. They also drive unregistered and uninsured. They drink and drive. They use their mobile phones. They do other completely irresponsible things.

There was an accident on the main road near here a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately nobody was seriously hurt but an elderly woman was taken to hospital as a precaution after stumbling backwards. She was stumbling backwards to avoid a car that was turning on a red light when the pedestrian light was green. The driver was on his mobile phone. We saw all this. He sailed merrily on apparently unaware of the chaos he left behind him. I didn't get his number and I don't know whether anyone else did.  I hope they did. 

I didn't stop to help because there were several other people there, all more competent to offer assistance than me. I heard the ambulance arrive while I was in the library and was told later that she was "okay but very shaken up". I would be too. I hope she is "okay".

I have no idea what the answer is. There is far too much dependence on the "right" to drive. To my mind there is no such "right". It is a privilege that is all too often abused.

Next week I am going to spend an hour with the parents of a child. The child has been left seriously disabled by a driver who should not have been on the road at all. He was out on bail and he has just been caught again. 

I despair.  

Friday 12 March 2021

Optional preferential voting

looks likely to fail to pass in parliament.

Those of you who do not live here may not be aware of our iniquitous voting system. Despite claims to the contrary it is not democratic, far from it. It is still much better than the way elections are run in many other places but there is room for reform.

Let it first be said that I am strongly opposed to any system which requires compulsory attendance at the ballot box. I believe people should vote. It  is our duty to vote. People should be given encouragement to vote. Voting should be made as simple and easy a process as possible.

There is no actual requirement to vote here. You give your name and address, state that you have not voted in the election before, take the papers and enter a flimsy semi-enclosed space. There you can mark the ballot papers in any way you wish and then you put your papers in the boxes for the different houses. 

There is of course a great deal which can go wrong with this system. Nobody asks for ID and people can and do vote more than once, usually in someone else's name. (There are little oddities like the elderly person I know who has dementia. He had a postal vote which was duly completed and then, forgetting all about that, he went off to vote on the day.)

But the bigger problem still is the way we are required to vote if we want our vote to count. It is called "preferential voting". You have to mark every square next to every candidate's name with a number in the order in which you would like to see them elected.  You put a "1" next to the person you would most like to see elected, a "2" to the person you would like to see elected if your first choice does not get in and so on. It is a system which is wide open to all sorts of wheeling and dealing and other manipulations. It is quite simply wrong. 

I hope I am a thinking voter. I find out what the policies are, especially on the issues I am particularly interested in and I vote accordingly. I may not agree with everything the candidate I choose stands for. It is likely s/he will be the least objectionable to me. After that I am likely to struggle. I do not want to be responsible for voting in someone who holds views with which I strongly disagree. 

When asked about this I always give the example of the death penalty. If we were to try and reintroduce that abhorrent practice here I would be looking to see who did not support the reintroduction. Why should I then be compelled to continue voting down the line for candidates who would support such a policy? 

There are other people who feel the same way. The present state government has been making another attempt to do away with compulsory preferential voting at state level. It is almost certainly going to fail. It will fail because politicians, especially those from minor parties, believe compulsory preferential voting benefits them. This isn't about democracy. It isn't about giving people a voice. It is about allowing people we didn't vote for to speak for us.  

Thursday 11 March 2021

How (not) to protest

or why "super gluing" yourself to the road is one way of doing it.

There was apparently a "protest" in the city yesterday. The "Extinction Rebellion" rent-a-crowd was out and about trying to ram their "message" home.  A colleague was late to a meeting as a result of having to go the long way around them. 

Going "the long way around" would be an irritation for most people. It might make them a few minutes late. It made my colleague rather later than that because he has mobility issues. There was more than time involved for him. There was physical effort. He spent the rest of the day feeling physically exhausted. Thankfully one of his work mates got him to the train at the end of the day and his wife picks him up. He spoke to me from home - in bed before 8pm. 

I am sure this would not worry the protestors in the slightest. They would probably see it as a good thing. It would be couched in terms of "well it made him aware of the issue" and "this is the sort of thing everyone will have to put up with if they don't do as we want". These are the sort of protestors who don't think twice about taking up police time and resources. They don't think twice about clogging up the magistrates' courts to get a slap on the wrist. It is "all in a good cause".  Disrupting traffic, trespassing, endangering themselves and other people is all beside the point. They have a message to get across. 

But is it really getting the message across?  

We have a quite extraordinary right to be heard in this country. We can do it in any number of legal and effective ways. Contrary to the belief of many politicians do listen to what their electorates are telling them - if only to try and get themselves re-elected. People running successful businesses are the same. Protests like the one held yesterday don't impress them. Protests like that won't change their minds. Those sort of protests just cause the targets to be more determined, more annoyed and less likely to listen.

I have protested in my time. I have protested by writing letters. I know other people who have done the same thing. It might seem an odd way of going about it - but it works.  

Wednesday 10 March 2021

For Allison and Gene

 May be an image of mapNo photo description available.TThe embroiderer is Glenys Osborne of the Embroiderers' Guild of South Australia. She told me there were more than 300 cranes in the work - but she gave up counting. The pictures come from the guild's FB page and I asked permission to share them so you could see it. Hope you like it as much as I did., Cat

Public liability insurance

was under review yesterday. I need to get a $10m cover for the three days of an upcoming craft fair. 

The craft fair people have, rightly, insisted we need to be covered in case someone trips over the card table or a chair, pierces themselves on a knitting needle or strangles themselves on a length of  yarn. We have public liability insurance for this property - for twice the above amount. In the modern world where even a burglar can sue you this is essential. I hope I never need it. 

So yesterday I did some research on line. There was a huge variation in what various companies are charging. I stopped thinking about and went to visit the Senior Cat. I took him the amazing protea that our friend J... had brought over for him. He was, as always, fascinated by these plants. I found a container and water and a safe place to put it. We discussed the upcoming vaccinations for the residence and other matters of importance - such as my visit to the art exhibition. (And  yes, once I get permission, I have found a picture of part of the cranes to share.)

I intended to head for the bike shop yesterday. I need a new bicycle basket... I actually need a new bike. I will talk to them about flattening the bank account. The money  is there. I have been saving. 

The insurance was still in the background. I was about to go for the cheapest I could find - a three month cover although we only need a few  days - when an email came through. Don't do anything just yet Cat. We may be able to get you some cover.  A.... will let you know by the end of the week.

I will send in the other forms today and tell the organisers that the insurance issue is being investigated. It would be good if I don't need to pay for the insurance. I might hire a chair to sit on instead - and another for anyone brave enough to join me. 

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Art exhibitions are

not something I often get to see. One reason for this is that many of them are held in locations which are inaccessible unless you happen to own a car. I don't. I don't know people with cars who are likely to be going who might be prepared to take me either. I certainly don't get invited to "openings" - which is probably just as well. I don't like crowds.

But yesterday I went off to see what amounted to an art exhibition. I was invited to go to an exhibition of embroidery. Now no, please don't think of "duchess sets" - those trios of stamped linen with crinoline ladies and the like set out and ready to embroidery. What I went off to see was about as far removed from that as it is possible to get.

This was the "delayed from last year" annual exhibition of the local embroiderers' guild and there were some very fine examples of the art - yes it is an art - of embroidery in it. The guild has a place of its own - and they have space to display work in it. I have taught in the same display space. It's lovely. And the work was lovely too.

No, even if my clumsy paws allowed it, I wouldn't want to do most of it. There is no hanging space left in this house. There will be even less somewhere else so where would I put anything like that? I also like the things I make to be used but it doesn't stop me appreciating good needlework. 

There were things there which were done with a precision and skill which was breathtaking. Some things were traditional but others were more imaginative. I can appreciate both in different ways. There was Japanese style embroidery, Chinese style embroidery, embroidery on linen, on cotton, on wool, counted embroidery, cut work, black work, bead work and other "work" I was struggling to name. Much of it was framed and hung but there was a handbag and a book cover. A very young embroiderer had made a "dilly bag" which hung beneath a little fish made by another young embroiderer. There was a joint project made of fallen branches and leaves embroidered in many different styles of embroidery.

And there was one thing which almost took my breath away. It was a picture of nothing more than hundreds of tiny origami cranes flying across cream cloth which had been sparsely embroidered with the simplest of stitches. It really was a work of art. 

Monday 8 March 2021

My Fair Lady

is not the sort of musical most of the younger generations  has even heard of but the Senior Cat once knew it very well. He even participated in productions of it. 

It has to be said here that the Senior Cat is definitely not particularly musical. He cannot sing in tune and he has no sense of rhythm. Class music lessons under the Senior Cat were not fun. He tried but he still tells the story of how he could not dance a horn pipe of some sort and was thus left out of a class performance. (Nowadays he would have to be included and he says that would have been more embarrassing.)

But the Senior Cat likes the musicals of that era. He is a Gilbert and Sullivan fan too - and was once known for being one of those who could change the lyrics to include very up to date political witticisms. 

Yesterday he phoned me. When was I coming over again? He knew I would not be in yesterday. Tomorrow? Good. Would I please find the DVD of My Fair Lady and bring it over. Yes of course. I was surprised he did not have it there but it was in his little stack of DVDs. 

And what did he want it for - apart from to watch it yet again? I knew there had to be a reason.  

I could almost hear him purring. He's teaching English to two members of the staff. They are actually staying behind for twenty minutes after their shifts end. Twenty minutes is long enough for them and for him. He is going to play a short excerpt to illustrate a point he wants to make. Right. I don't know what they will make of it but he obviously hasn't lost his ability to prepare short lessons and teach them.

The staff there who don't speak English particularly well will stop me and ask me. They will stop Middle Cat too. Like the Senior Cat we "do English" (as one of the staff put it) naturally. I have to stop myself from correcting people publicly, judge whether they are someone who will appreciate being told quietly that "in English we  say....". I can sometimes say, "In Portuguese you say but in English we put it this way" or "In Indonesian you put the words that way around but in English we do it this way." And no, I do not speak these languages. I really know very little about them. There are just things I have managed to learn over many years. The Senior Cat works in other ways. His lessons tend to be rather more formal. He thinks about other things - like grammar and vocabulary. 

H..., who works there and does speak English as her first language, told me, "You have no idea how much it helps that your father is taking an interest in helping them with their English." 

Oh I know, I really do know. You have no idea how much it helps him. 


Sunday 7 March 2021

Giving away books

is NOT what I want to do. 

Yesterday a friend came and took more of my books so they could be used by other people. Giving them up was hard. I hadn't used them as such but I had read them and I had actually worked hard for some of them. (They were review copies.)

No, I was not happy about giving them away. I would much rather my shelves remained double and even triple stacked. Realistically though I know that it time to part with at least some of those books. I don't know what will happen to them. I am just hoping that most of them will go to good homes where they will be read and perhaps even used. 

These were knitting books. I have collected rather a lot over the years. Most of them were filled with patterns I will never use. I don't use other people's patterns. (I have said elsewhere I am too lazy to do this and it is, up to a point, true.) At least one of them was concerned with something we knitters call "hand painted" yarn and socks. Yes, I knit socks but I wouldn't waste that sort of yarn on something that people don't really see. I put in another book about socks to wear with clogs. Those patterns have fancy designs on the back of the heels. They would be completely impractical with any other sort of footwear. I would never knit a pair. I don't wear clogs and I only know one person now who does wear them on a regular basis. There was the book about "toe  up" socks too. No, I don't knit socks in that direction. I don't like the way you knit the heels.  So they went. 

I gave away books filled with complex patterns which depend on being able to buy substitute yarn because the Rowan company has long since given up providing over one hundred shades of good quality "4ply" yarn. That saddens me. I used a lot of it once. I knitted more sleeveless pullovers and waistcoats in that yarn than I care to think about. My great nieces are still wearing what I made for their mother at the same age.  It was that sort of yarn and the patterns I made up were designed to last.

I gave away books filled with patterns by individual designers. Yes, some of those were review copies and I knew they would date. They varied in quality, even within the books. There were other books of designs "from around the world". I know two of those books never made it into the magazine I was reviewing them for because they had too many errors in them. At the time I thought of all the work which had gone into them and how much of it had been wasted.

There were some "technical" books - the sort intended for people who want to know "a bit" or "not too much" but still feel they need to consult from time to time.  I suppose I have long since moved on from there. It would have been selfish to keep them.

There are still books on the shelves. I know more of them should go. It probably is selfish to keep them too. 

It is just that giving away books is like deserting friends.    

Saturday 6 March 2021

Loneliness can kill

according to an article I have just read. It was in the paper this morning - one of those "pop psychology" pieces that journalists like to produce from time to time.

Behind it though there is some serious research about the physical effects of loneliness - and also about the increasing amount of loneliness. Loneliness you ask? Yes, loneliness. In a world where it is seemingly ever increasingly easy to "connect" people are becoming more and more lonely.

Some time ago I was talking to the grown son of neighbours. He was reminiscing how he and his friends organised their social activities when he was at high school. It mostly happened at school. Plans were made. You met your friends at a certain place and at a certain time. If someone didn't turn up then that was it. One of the group might make a quick phone call later to check but you went off on your planned activity as a group. 

I remember my siblings doing similar things from an even earlier time. I didn't because I was not as mobile as they were but I was aware of it. They swung on to push bikes, buses, trains and the tram without really thinking about it. In summer they headed for the beach or a hike in the hills behind us. They played cricket and softball, tennis and volleyball. My brother was involved in musicals. Middle Cat painted sets for the same sort of thing. Occasionally they went to a film or, even more rarely, a concert. There were no "clubs". The drinking age was twenty-one, not eighteen as it is now. Of course there was underage drinking but not to the extent there is now. Most of them had almost no money. Very few of them had cars. 

All that has changed. A night out now will often mean going to a "nightclub" of some sort. There will be "live music"  perhaps - and alcohol. There will be drugs - many more than the marijuana that was not so readily available when I was in my teens. More teens have their own cars. They can vote now at eighteen.

Watching them, talking to them I wonder whether they are really in a good place. Many of them seem isolated, even when they are in the middle of a crowd. Those who play sport well enough to be in teams seem to be in a slightly better place - but only just. Friendships might last at least as long as you are a valued member of the team, seen as someone to contribute to "wins" rather than "losses".  A few friendships will last beyond that. 

My younger neighbours tell me that their "friends" tend to be the parents of the children their own children are friendly with at school. There isn't "time" for anything else. Perhaps that is part of the problem. 

Workplaces are not venues for real friendship, nor should they be. It used to be church on Sundays, Sunday school, the youth group, men's fellowship, women's church guilds and more. That ceased when other Sunday activities - many requiring far less effort - became available. 

Friendship has to be worked at. It doesn't "just happen". Perhaps it is time we started to re-evaluate what friendship is and how it can begin, grow and be maintained. It might not solve loneliness but I suspect it might help reduce it. 

Friday 5 March 2021

Getting involved in politics

is not what our local council was elected to do. Local councils in this part of Downunder are responsible for things like rates, roads, rubbish, libraries, the community bus service, local history, the cemetery and so on. Yes, they hold "citizenship" ceremonies - a duty delegated to them by government but they were not elected to comment, as a council, on  political issues. They were most certainly not elected to comment on sensitive political issues such as the date of our national holiday.

The 26th January 1949 is the day that the government chose to enact the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948. The date was chosen because it was the date already being used (celebrated if you like) as the national holiday.  (The Act was subsequently amended a number of times before being replaced by the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.)

That does not seem to have stopped the Council voting to demand a change and telling the ratepayers, none of whom were even aware that it was part of the council's agenda, that the day would no longer be acknowledged by the Council. No, for the Council, it has become a political issue. It is "Invasion" day. 

The fact that Captain Cook did not "invade" the country in 1788 is apparently irrelevant. If he were to return now and be told of these claims I think he would be - shall we say "bemused".  "Invasion" suggests armies and a much more complete and immediate takeover. What happened more than two hundred and thirty years ago may not have been "right" but it is part of what made the country what it is. 

Many of those who object to what happened are actually descendants of those who were directly involved in the act of "invasion". They have mixed, sometimes in shameful ways, with those already resident.  Their "indigenous" heritage is often so limited it is difficult for others to acknowledge and accept it. As someone said to me recently, "How indigenous do you have to be to be indigenous?"  

We need to think about these things. We need to address those issues. We also need to address the issue of why some people feel the need to protest about it? In doing that we also need to address the issue of what the real agenda is. Is it really about the stated issue or is it about other issues?

I suspect the issues are much more complex than the protests about an "invasion". It isn't for our local council to get involved in these issues. It is not what they were elected to do or what their role is. They can, if they wish, go to the next election with a statement about these things and ask for the support of voters. It is however very unlikely they will get support. Less than 20% of those who can vote in council elections support their moves. If they take it much further then it is likely they will lose their seats.

That might be a good thing. They can get back to fixing footpaths.

Thursday 4 March 2021

Is it too easy to make accusations?

This is a serious question because reputations can be shattered by an accusation.

For those of you who live in Elsewhere I need to explain. Everyone who lives in Downunder will know the story now. The Federal Attorney-General has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in an incident which allegedly took place thirty-three years ago. The woman in question took her own life last year. He denies it and the "evidence" is scant. I say "evidence" in inverted commas because it is not something which would be admissible in a court of law. It all hinges around an informal complaint made to police and then not followed through or followed up. 

There could be any number of reasons for this. It would not simply be because the complainant decided not to take the matter any further.

Going to the police with allegations of sexual assault should be taken very,  very seriously. Once a matter has been reported then it should not be up to the person making the allegation whether the matter goes any further. They should not simply be able to retract their story or fail to cooperate any further. There needs to be, at minimum, contact with the person being accused and they need to be given an opportunity to tell their side of the story. If further action is to be taken after that then it should be a matter of whether the evidence is there to make a case. 

If media reports are to be believed then the alleged perpetrator in this case was not contacted by police. Apparently the first he knew about the accusations were those made by the media. It is even said the media made no attempt to contact him before running the story. 

If those things are true then questions need to be asked. If true then it is in no way "responsible journalism". 

I called in to deliver two books to someone yesterday afternoon. While I was there her daughter phoned. She was gloating over what she felt sure would be the demise of the Attorney-General. Of course he was guilty! She doesn't like him or that side of politics! It was the best thing which could happen to him! Her mother was to be sure to listen to the press conference.

Her mother had all this on speaker-phone so I could hear every word. It alarmed me. How many other people reacted the same way - before the "perpetrator" had said a word in his defence?  I have never met the man. I am unlikely to ever meet him. I cannot judge him.

Years ago now I met a man who was falsely accused of a very serious and violent crime. He was found guilty and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He spent more than a year in prison before a young policeman, close to death, admitted that the whole thing had been fabricated to save his corrupt superior officer. The evidence was there for all of this. The  young policeman had written it all out, signed his statement in front of a justice of the peace and others. He made another statement before his death. He named names and gave details that only he could have known. The man who went to prison had simply been an innocent bystander who went to help.

In that case the evidence was so strong the imprisoned man was released within seventy-two hours. At the university he recounted the story quietly to some of us one day. He did so because there were still rumours about his "guilt". It was something he had to live with for the rest of his life. I remember my friend C.... asking, "But why didn't you do more to defend yourself?" The answer shocked me then and still shocks me now, "Because I wasn't given the opportunity. The press had already decided I was guilty. I will always remain guilty in the eyes of some because of that."

Is it time we started to think about how easy it is to make accusations?  

Wednesday 3 March 2021

The hothouse which is Parliament

is currently under closer scrutiny than usual.

I had an English friend, now sadly deceased, who migrated here and used to say that listening to the parliamentary broadcasts was "marvellous theatre".  She loved it, especially when her "team" was in power.

I don't feel the same way. I often cringe at the way they treat one another. It isn't getting the job done. At times all the not-so-honourable members seem to be interested is undermining their opposition. They either want to stay in power or get into power.

We are losing our federal MP. She's had enough. The GetUp group went too far and the Opposition has encouraged them in their efforts. I have to admit to bias here. I have no time for GetUp. Members of it have harassed me for daring to question their tactics - thereby proving my point.

I am actually not a particularly political sort of cat. I would never join a political party. I have voted for more than one party's policies. Perhaps that is problem. I vote according to policy rather than party. 

But politics has been particularly toxic lately. A Minister will apparently be making an announcement today - to the effect that he was the one under investigation in a rape allegation. He has now apparently employed a defamation lawyer.  There have been demands for days that he "out" himself - and do it before the legal process had run its course. There are claims he should do it because a Shadow Minister "outed" himself when similar claims were made.

I am worried about all this. The alleged victim took her own life last year. She can't bring charges and she can't defend herself. Her family did not want charges laid but a journalist thought she knew better and started pushing others into agitating for an inquiry. It has gone from an informal complaint by a woman with a mental illness to a political disaster for both sides. The Minister in question has not had an opportunity to defend himself until today. He had to let the police inquiries run their course in two states and at federal level. Yes, he could have "outed" himself earlier but that would have interfered with the ongoing investigation. Journalists and others, seeking a story which would bring about his downfall, would not let go of the story. 

It has always been couched in terms of concern for the alleged victim but were they really that concerned? The victim has never been named  - rightly so. Members of her family still have to go through this emotional trauma as well as the trauma of the suicide of someone they undoubtedly loved.

If the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator can be shown not to have both been present at the event where the alleged act took place then what? Will the media apologise, cease - and move on to something else? They will continue to milk the story as long as they can. They will still demand the resignation of the Minister. It will be seen as part of "politics today". 

It should not be like that. The story will continue to hurt the family involved. It will do harm to many. It may be the very reason other victims won't even report such matters.

Tuesday 2 March 2021

The Aged Care Royal Commission

findings have just been released. None of those findings surprise me in the slightest. 

I have been in and out of almost all the aged care residences within pedalling distance. I  have been in and out of many similar places intended for people with disabilities. All of them could have been better, in most cases much better.

The real problem is that to run these places well you would need money. Money is not available. Governments do not see these places as anything other than a drain on the public purse. Private operators want a profit.

It is not possible to profit from such places and run them well. Nothing is going to change that.

The Senior Cat's residence is small compared with many. There are just 38 beds. That is both a good thing and a bad thing. Some of the staff have been there ever since the Senior Cat moved in last August but I can count them on one hand. Everyone else is "casual". They come and go. The Senior Cat finds he likes someone and they can do their job well - only to find they go again. He still has the intellectual capacity to tell them how to do something - such as take the foot plates off the wheelchair so that he can transfer to the bed - but many other residents don't. It adds to the time and frustration of all concerned if the staff are not trained to do these things. Oh yes, they supposedly have "certificates" in aged care from our "further education" facilities. In reality though the content of those certificates gives them no idea how to handle the day-to-day realities. The Black Cat did a similar course in another state. I saw the content and it would have done very little to prepare students for work.

With just 38 beds though people do tend to know one another. They know me. They know Middle Cat. There is one man there, still relatively young, who has a severe communication impairment. He cannot speak. He finds it difficult to process what is said to him but, curiously perhaps, he can still read. I typed a note for him to read the other day. There was a book here I thought he might like to read. Would he like to have it? His smile said everything. I handed it to him a couple of days ago. With some difficulty he gave me a "thumbs up". Nobody on the staff understands something like that. How could they? It isn't just a matter of time. It's a matter of knowledge. I had to work it out for myself - from past experience of dealing with children with similar problems. 

There is another residence not far from the Senior Cat's residence. It is much larger and much of it is still very new. There are a hundred beds there. Further up the road there is another residence with 134 beds. The costs associated with the first one are far beyond anything we could afford even if we children contributed everything we had. The other bigger residence is cheaper but the facilities are no better and it is even more institution like. The Senior Cat is, as such places go, probably in a "good" place but it could still be much better. We know it won't be like "home" but why do the frail elderly not get the best of care? 

I went to see J.... yesterday. She is in another residence about ten minutes ride from here. She has no family here and I am the only visitor she gets apart from a former neighbour. Covid19 visiting restrictions have not helped. People who once visited have simply stopped seeing not just J.... but any number of other people. It's been the excuse they needed to stop. They no longer need to face the reality of getting old.

We need to start talking about old age.  

Monday 1 March 2021

A phone call at 2:20AM

- not to me but to Middle Cat. The residence was letting her know that the Senior Cat was complaining of chest pains and they were sending him to hospital as a precaution.

From long experience Middle Cat knew what the most likely problem was. The Senior Cat was not having a heart attack. It was not angina either. It was a problem the Senior Cat has experienced many times before - heartburn or, for the more medically minded among you, reflux oesophagitis.    He thought the same thing - even in his somewhat confused and sleepy state. He told the staff what he needed was to sit up with an extra pillow.  The night staff were not so confident and, rightly, sent him off.  He apparently went telling them NOT to tell us. Of course they did.

Middle Cat phoned me.

"I'll phone you when they let me know he is back," she told me. I  hung up feeling concerned but not anxious. Middle Cat phoned again just before noon. He was back and had gone to sleep. They would let her know when he was awake so we could prowl over and talk to him.

Middle Cat phoned in the late afternoon. Yes, she was coming to pick me up but he had just fallen out of the wheelchair trying to reach something. No, he had not hurt himself. "I am at screaming pitch," she told me, "Why won't he ask for help?"

I can understand her and I can understand him. He has been the one to help from the time he was old enough to help. He has always been fiercely independent - and then wonders why I get into strife for trying to be the same! It is also why we did not immediately rush for car keys or call a taxi to get us there to be with him. He would not have wanted us there in the middle of the night even though we knew what was going on. The hospital would have rung one of us - probably me this time - to let us know we needed to be there.

We prowled in. Middle Cat growled kindly at him. I stood there and purred crossly and, I hope, lovingly. He knows. He "won't do it again" - but we know he will. What else could we do? He looked old this afternoon. He is old. Ninety-eight years is a very long time.  

But one of the neighbours was appalled that we did not go rushing in to the hospital. "He could have died. You would not have been there!" I understand that. I wanted to be there but we have to trust that the hospital would call us in if they thought it was necessary. We know, perhaps better than many people, what emergency departments can be like. My doctor nephew did a long stint in one during his training. I've been in and out of them with family and friends. Non-hospital people can get in the way.  We can think we are doing the right thing but, if it  is not a life threatening emergency where comfort of a familiar face is a help, cui bono?

The Senior Cat's first words were, "I'm so glad you two didn't go rushing in there."