Monday 31 May 2021

Replanting tulip bulbs

was on the agenda yesterday. Yes, I know that sounds strange to those of you who live in Upover and other parts where summer is on the horizon. 

In Downunder it will officially be the first day of winter tomorrow and it is distinctly chilly this morning. Yesterday was not too warm either but the sun came out and so I prowled out into the garden and put the bulbs carefully back into their pots.

Now I am not a gardener. I am not so much not a gardener that I would cover the ground with paving but I need a garden which is at least relatively easy to care for. I do not have the time that the Senior Cat had for gardening.  It was his garden, not mine. I still feel as if it is his. I don't grow vegetables any more but I am trying to keep his flowers going - and that means the tulips.

Middle Cat - much more of a gardener - reminded me of when I needed to put the bulbs in their bag in the 'fridge. She has not reminded me of when they needed to be taken out. About eight weeks ago she did say "the end of May". I doubt she has thought about it since. 

I dug the soil in the pots again. It is fresh soil that S... - who helps me do the heavy jobs in the garden - had put in. I investigated the bulbs. They should have been lifted earlier than they were so some of them may not be much good. Nevertheless I put them in and covered tham over carefully. In all this I was supervised by the visiting cat. Pluto likes to make himself at home in our garden. It is dog free. (He lives with three dogs and I think he grows tired of trying to control them.)

Perhaps we will have some more tulips. If they flower Middle Cat will photograph them for the Senior Cat. My BIL, who does such things for a hobby, will enlarge some of the photos so that the Senior Cat can have more "garden" in his room. (He has an indoor pot in there now - the only resident to have anything like that in their room.)

But all of this is really rather difficult. I still feel as if it is the Senior Cat's garden and I should not be playing in it. 

Sunday 30 May 2021

"Small is beautiful" but is

bigger sometimes better?

There is a small piece in this morning's paper about volunteering and the problem of getting volunteers. Why? 

Almost every volunteering position in this state requires people to get a "police check".  Sometimes it is necessary to get multiple police checks. Those checks also have to be paid for - usually by the volunteer.  

Now of course there are good reasons for those checks - especially where children are concerned or financial matters are being handled. It doesn't stop the wrong thing from happening but it does help.

But the reporting suggested that we have "24,000" incorporated organisations in this state - and a lot of those would be the sort of voluntary organisations which require a police check before people could volunteer with them. What is more those organisations would likely each require a different check or level of checking.

There are other places which require checking too. Our local library is not an incorporated body. I volunteer there in that I look after the knitting and crochet group which meets monthly. I also help other readers find material if the staff are busy. I have been known to sit and read picture books to small children and talk to groups of children about books and reading or help them with craft activities. I don't need a police check to do any of these things. I got one for my own safety but I didn't need it. The reason for all this is that I am doing it in a "public space".   

I do need one for my occasional volunteer work with another place - where I can be alone with someone who is often very vulnerable. I can be privy to the most personal and confidential information. I know I need to be protected as much as the individual I am trying to help needs to be protected.  My check was paid for by them. I would have paid for it myself but there was a small grant for them to cover me and several other people who work there. 

As I read the piece in this morning's paper though I wondered again at the need for multiple checks. Surely the answer has to be that you get one check for all organisations with which you volunteer. That check needs to cover a variety of areas, children, money, animals, driving record, the elderly etc. There is surely a way of saying "this person can work/has chosen to work in the following areas and has been cleared to do so"?

Am I just being cynical when I think that the fee which is charged each time you need a check is a nice little money earner?  

Saturday 29 May 2021

Computer problems

are causing this cat some headaches right now. I have spent my blogging time doing an extra back up instead.

The computer is old for a computer - about seventeen years old. It has done a lot of work. 

Currently I am on the lap top instead. I find that much harder to use and I also have to be away from the desk and all the useful things to use it. It won't connect to the printer either.

I need to call on the technician we know and just hope that he is still available. 

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 

Friday 28 May 2021

Vaccination and victimhood

will almost certainly come together at some point. Someone is bound to claim that not getting vaccinated now is because of their childhood upbringing. After all, you can blame anything on the way you were brought up can't you?

Prince Harry is blaming it all on the way he was brought up so why can't the rest of us? The kid down the street who was caught throwing rocks onto cars on the freeway can blame it all on the way he was brought up so why can't we? The girl in front of the magistrate for stealing the eye-liner blames it all on the boyfriends her mother brought home so why can't we?

I thought of all this when someone told me that her mother "didn't believe in getting us kids vaccinated"  so she wasn't going to bother either.  Her mother is a radical, angry woman - a trouble maker. She has been arrested a number of times and it is sheer good luck that she hasn't ended up in prison. Her daughter can barely read and write because she wasn't made to go to school as the law required. I was called in to help her fill out some forms.

So I told her how my mother didn't believe in getting us vaccinated either. I told her how my mother's religious beliefs influenced our childhood and how my siblings and I were eventually vaccinated and how we had made sure that the next generation were fully vaccinated at the right times and how they are making sure that their children are also vaccinated.

"You don't have to be like your mother," I told her. I don't usually say anything like that but she was making herself out to be a victim here and saying that her behaviour was the result of the way she had been mothered. (Her father is nowhere on the scene.) I pointed out that you don't have to pay to get children vaccinated against a wide variety of things in this country - and that there is a "no jab no play" policy in place. The two year old with the runny nose and the grizzling baby both need to be vaccinated before they can go to any sort of child care.

I brought up her local council website and showed her.  She sighed.

"I guess but it's such a waste of time," she told me, "I mean if Mum never did it."

"You have a lot more sense than your mother," I told her, "It's not your fault if your husband is off work.  The accident was not his fault. It was the fault of his mate not doing the right thing. His boss is holding his position for him. This is just to help you over for now. If you do the right thing your children and your grandchildren will be much better off.  Are you worried about it? Do you want someone to explain? Do you want someone to go with you?"

We sorted it out in the end. She has an actual appointment to talk to a nurse. Her husband came in as we were finishing things off. He is a decent young man and told me, "I'll still be off work so we can go together."

I hope they do go and that a nurse can convince her of the need to be vaccinated.  If the children are vaccinated she can get some help with her literacy at the local college and they can go to childcare there.  She doesn't need to be a victim of her parenting. 

Thursday 27 May 2021

Is football more important than health?

That is a serious question. I really would like to know the answer. 

Why? Because there seems to be a suggestion that people should be allowed to attend a football match in their thousands when there has been another Covid outbreak.This has been among a population which still has not been vaccinated in sufficient numbers to prevent a rapid spread of a highly contagious variant.

Oh they are telling people to isolate if they have attended certain venues in and around the city. They are "tracking" and "monitoring" and there are some timid pleas to "please get vaccinated". 

I wonder what would happen if those in charge of public health suddenly said, "There will be no more football matches at any level until 90% of the population is vaccinated."

Imagine the outcry. 

People here are much too complacent. They are too ready to listen to not just the anti-vaccination mob but to all the media stories about the side effects of the vaccines. They are being selfish and saying, "We'll wait and see if it is really necessary" or "I am waiting until the other vaccine is available."

I'm sorry but it is necessary and it is necessary now. The "other vaccine" is not available. This one works.

I felt very tired yesterday. I had a headache and my upper right paw hurt. These were mild side effects of the vaccine. I had been warned it might happen. I still managed to get on with the day.

Middle Cat told me, "If I die getting the vaccine then at least science might learn something from it and save other people." I know other people who have the same attitude.

I know one young man who will be vaccinated at a hospital. He will have someone sitting with him for some hours. They will be monitoring him closely. He has a compromised immune system and nobody is sure how he will react. It's a risk he wants to take. He is taking the same attitude as Middle Cat. His parents are supporting him. He could easily leave it  up to "everyone else" to get vaccinated and hope that he benefits from that. He's due there tomorrow - please keep him in your thoughts. 

And anyone else here in Downunder who is reading this who can go and get a jab now - please go and do it. It is the responsible thing to do. It also means you can eventually go to the footy with minimal risk of catching Covid19.

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Getting a Covid jab

yesterday was an interesting experience. 

I actually managed to get to the venue without getting wet. As it had been raining steadily for some time this was an achievement in itself.

I was booked in to have mine at the state's "showground". There is a very large building there and the state's health service has taken over most of it. Yes, it's a massive operation. 

You need an appointment - and you still need to queue. I prowled in cautiously and was met with someone wielding a clipboard, a form and a pen. Other people in the queue were holding more clipboards and happily filling in their forms as they stood in the queue. There was no chance of me doing that. I looked at the form. Oh, little squares to fill in with your Medicare number and not just once but many times over and tiny boxes to tick or cross...not a hope if they wanted it to be legible. Help!

I explained the problem and asked - nicely - for some help. The person I asked responded equally nicely and told me she would fill out the form for me. I passed over my Medicare card and we embarked on filling the form out. There were the usual things, name, address, age, contact details and more. 

Then there was the long list of questions. This was mostly to do with allergies and medical conditions. Mmm....interesting. There were some medical terms in there. The girl writing in the answers for me did not know what these terms meant. I explained. 

"Oh, I'm so glad you asked me to help because I wouldn't have known and if someone else asked I'd have to try and find out."

Someone should have explained these terms to her before she started working there. I only knew because I've seen a lot of medical forms in my life and had to look these things up for myself.

Then there was the inevitable wait before I was called to a booth. The booths are large enough to fit a stretcher in. They are taking no chances there. The nurse who introduced herself was also pleasant and friendly. We went through the form again and agreed that the non-medical staff need to have more explained to them.

"I'll talk to my supervisor about that. Thanks for alerting us."

She gave me the jab - all I felt was a quick prick. It was so brief it was almost not there. 

Then I prowled out to sit and wait for the regulation fifteen minutes. While I was sitting there the supervisor came over and spoke to me. She asked about my experience and what I had said to the nurse.

"You may be right," she told me, "But how did you know what it meant?" 

I explained about my job and that I have seen a great many medical terms as a result. I need to know what many of them mean if I am going to be "translate" them into symbols that people will not just understand but understand accurately. It doesn't mean I have any idea how to treat those conditions. I don't. I am not a doctor. 

And in the normal way I would have no more idea than the vast majority of people. It is the vast majority of people they are supposed to be communicating with in those circumstances. I hope they do something about it.  

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Endangered species

There is a list in this morning's paper of endangered species on Kangaroo Island. (If you don't know where Kangaroo Island it is the island at the bottom of the bit of Downunder which looks rather like Italy. ) It is a very long list for a small island. 

Some people might say it doesn't matter very much if we lose some of these things. Who cares about dunnarts? These tiny little animals which look a bit like a mouse with a sharp nose don't matter much do they - or do they? They are actually rather shy little creatures who do no harm. They help to keep the ground cover healthy. And what about those glossy black cockatoos? What good are they to anyone? They only help to balance the environment so that, like all other species, everyone survives.

There are eleven different varieties of bird on the list. There is also a type of potaroo, a glider, two different types of spider - all things which we cannot afford to lose. The all important Ligurian bees - which are helping to save the world's bee population - need a healthy environment in which to survive. The island cannot afford to lose all those species.  

When we lived there we took all the wildlife for granted. It was not a tourist destination then. We simply took off to Flinders Chase, told the warden who lived there that we had come in to camp for the weekend - and set up camp. We camped in an old canvas tent - and had curious kangaroos looking in at us in the mornings. 

The overwhelming memories for me are of the silence and the sense of isolation. I really did feel as if I had reached some sort of edge of the world. We went in and out of the Chase more than once but we rarely saw other people. We could go to the lighthouses and the keeper would be the only person we saw. We could go to the beaches and there might be someone else on the beach but it didn't surprise us if there was nobody else. Most of the island was a half wild place. 

Tourism has changed that and it has threatened some of the unique wildlife. The fires did even more damage. I remember those shy little dunnarts peering out and then backing away again so quickly. I remember the cockatoos high in the dead trees they like to use for their nests. I remember some of the other birds too. 

It's all worth saving.  

Monday 24 May 2021

Security for former Prime Ministers

is not a given in Downunder. There is a piece in this morning's paper by a retired journalist who still writes the occasional opinion column. He is commenting on the way one of our former Prime Ministers was waiting to get his luggage at the carousel. There was no security detail to be seen. 

Nor should there need to be. We live in a democracy. People get voted in and out. I have met more than one former Prime Minister - on both sides of politics - and I doubt they would have welcomed being given such "security". Others might have welcomed it, especially those with an inflated view of their importance. 

Several times in my life I have been in places where security has been tight, very tight. Perhaps those subjected to it all the time grow used to it but it was not very pleasant to know the apparently nondescript men around you were carrying guns they would not hesitate to use if necessary.  

There are also people I have met who have actively avoided such security measures. One of them was an elderly man who used to walk through the university grounds in Woburn Square in central London.  He would often pass me at about the same time every morning. I had no idea who he was but he always greeted me with a courteous, "Good morning". Occasionally we would exchange a remark about the weather.  

It was probably two years or longer before he stopped me one morning and asked if I had knitted what I was wearing. I was. He then asked if I could mend a cardigan his late wife had made. The cuff on one sleeve needed to be replaced. He had the necessary wool. I thought it was slightly odd that he should ask me but I did as he asked. He thanked me profusely. It was obvious the garment meant a lot to him.

Several days later I saw the then Director of the Institute of Education crossing the square. He stopped me and said he had been told about the incident. Apparently the gentleman in question was a High Court judge!

The gentleman and I simply went back to greeting one another and making the occasional remark about the weather. 


Sunday 23 May 2021

"All the fun of the fair..."

at least that is what the organisers are hoping for in September. 

We did not have the annual Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society Show last year. Covid19 put a stop to that as it had put a stop to so many other things. 

This year we are planning for it again. Some of us have already put in rather a lot of work on it. The schedule for Handicrafts had to be revised. We had plans for last year but they are no longer appropriate. How did we include this year's International Year of Fruit and Vegetables as a feature? What else do we need to do to make people aware of the special project for bush fire victims and the environment in which they work? Are the people who were asked to do the judging last year available this year? (No, not if they were coming from overseas and we have to keep our fingers crossed if they are coming from interstate.) How much space are we going to have? Will entries be up or down?

The three day craft event at the showgrounds was an opportunity to advertise the Replanting Australia project but we need more publicity. I am still hoping that the state newspaper will run a feature on it. I'll be talking to someone next week about that.

Planning to open up an event which can attract between 50,000 and 80,000 people a day in more "normal" times is facing all sorts of issues. There will need to be limits on the number of people in some places - like the big pavilion in which the handicrafts are displayed. It can be done but it will need to be done carefully. There will need to be extra precautions with respect the fun fair rides - and how many of those will there be? Some people won't come.  Sadly they will have packed their things away for good in the past year. It has been a way of life for some families for generations - in the same way it is for generations of circus families. 

I know things change. I know things need to change if we are to adapt and survive but it is still sad to know that Covid19 has caused other "deaths" as well. Will children still be able to ride the horses on the "hurdy gurdy" or carousel? Will they still be able to ride the dodgem cars? Will that sticky overly sweet pink "fairy floss" still be available? 

I never wanted to go on the rides as a child. None of us were very keen, not even my youngest horse mad sister. I didn't much care for fairy floss either. The big treat for us was the honey flavoured ice cream - only available at  "the show". Now it is available in the supermarkets and it is no longer considered a rare treat. I haven't wandered around the show for years. I spend my time working in the Handicrafts section. I talk to people. I answer questions about the exhibits. I encourage people to "enter next year". 

It is still interesting and it is still a thrill to see children wander through Handicrafts. They can still puzzle over a piece of illusion knitting and find things like the tiny dragon or the pictures in the quilts and the cake decorated like the showground itself. Yes, things change - and then they don't change at all.


Saturday 22 May 2021

The power of the media

to destroy relationships and lives with so-called "human interest" stories has been highlighted yet again by the findings into the inquiry about the way the BBC and a certain "journalist" covered  an interview with Princess Diana.

It is an interview which should never have taken place. It is a program which should never have been aired. 

This is also true of a great many other "human interest" and "in the public interest" stories covered by the media. It should be of no interest to the rest of us how Melinda and Bill Gates part company or divide up their wealth. We have no right to know the details of other divorce proceedings. 

We most certainly have no right to know that some public figure's child has been caught speeding. A lot of people get caught speeding. It isn't of any "human interest" simply because someone is "X's" child.

People who have not had parents in public positions seem to find that difficult to understand. Those of us who have do understand. 

As kittens my siblings and I understood this all too well. We couldn't put a paw out of line without everyone in the district knowing we had done it. We were always under pressure to perform not just well but extremely well in school. We were expected to be role models for every other child in the district. Even when we came back to the city the pressure was there because the Senior Cat was so well known in education circles.

"Oh, you're the Senior Cat's daughter/son?" someone would say and things would change subtly. 

We had the added burden of being our paternal grandfather's children too.  He was so well known and so highly respected that it was expected his very upright Presbyterian behaviour and attitudes had somehow rubbed off onto us.

It still happens. Yesterday I saw someone just old enough to be my father. I have not seen this man for years. He recognised me rather me recognise him. He came up to me while I was waiting for a train. There was someone else with him and he introduced me as, "Cat is X's daughter and Y's granddaughter." 

Yes, I am but I am me too. I didn't say anything. It would have been impolite but I thought of that last night as I heard Prince William and Prince Harry saying how much that interview had hurt their mother, hurt them and the family. There was no "public interest" in what was done. It was done to deliberately damage not just one person but an entire family. 

I know there are many people who are opposed to the monarchy and they would see something like this as "justified" because of it. No, it isn't. Nothing justifies trying to deliberately destroy someone else or to cause harm. No "story" or "scoop" is justified if it is simply designed to cause hurt - and that one was. 

There is too much of that sort of thing. Real news is much harder to find. Reporting it in a balanced way is harder still. We might be much better off if people who want to be journalists recognised that.

Friday 21 May 2021

Paving roads

is a strange business. 

They are supposed to be paving our street at present. The new WITS responsible for this turned up yesterday morning. They had warned everyone two days previously that the street needed to be clear of cars. (There was the usual "please park in the next street" sort of warning in the letter boxes.)

Of course at least one person still expected to be able to get out of his driveway on the day. The workman driving the enormous lorry which would collect the old bitumen had to move a few metres down the street so this person could go to work. 

But then they started work digging up the old bitumen. I watched H... the youngest child from across the road, watching all this. There was a machine the size of a medium sized dinosaur. It had a long neck and the old bitumen was spouting out of its mouth into the enormous lorry. It went back and forth, back and forth. H... watched from a vantage point that was well and truly away from it all. He had a slight frown on his face. At one point he shook his head. Something had gone wrong. There were shouts. The machinery stopped. Blessed silence for a little while.

H... continued to watch for most of the morning. He didn't move far. The lorry left and another arrived. They filled that too. Something else was done. Much later in the afternoon a vehicle came down the street pouring new bitumen on one half of the street. H.... was back watching. He watched the man on the roller which smooths out the bitumen.

I am assuming, from the noises, that they are pouring bitumen on this side of the street today but this morning I heard a conversation between H... and the workmen.

"Have you done your inspection?"

"Yes. You can do the other side today."

"Right boss. Can you do your inspection this afternoon? We've got another job on tomorrow."

I didn't hear the answer but one of the workmen has just come in to get some drinking water from our big tank. He gave me a grin and said, 

    "Great little fella across the way. Would his mum or dad mind if we took him down the street this afternoon and showed him what we have done?"

My response was that they would be delighted for someone to show the budding engineer what had been done.

"There's only one problem," I told him, "He will want to ask a lot of questions."

There was a roar of laughter as the workman repeated this to his mates.  I think H.... might have a very interesting afternoon. 

Thursday 20 May 2021

They exhumed a body yesterday

and now they will try to discover who they buried.

It is one of those mysteries that has captured the collective imagination of the public over the years. Every so often the story has surfaced again. Someone has claimed that "it might be...." or "someone has come forward with new information..." or.... well, you know the sort of thing.

We have a number of mysteries here - probably far more than I am aware of - but some seem determined to stay that way. There were the three children who went down to the beach alone - in a time when children did such things. They never went home. Nobody knows what happened to them. They would be almost my age know - old enough to have grown up, been married, had careers, had children, become grandparents and much more. There were supposed "sightings" of them and clairvoyants and others have been called in. Their mother died never knowing what had happened to her children - but that caused the story to be raised in the media all over again. 

There were the two little girls who went off to public toilets at a football match and were never seen again. Their story surfaces now and again too. How could two girls disappear without a trace from a crowded football ground? One of them was old enough to know not to go with strangers. Did she go? Did she go willingly? Was it someone she knew? It is unlikely we will ever know.

And yes other people have gone missing. I knew the parents of a girl who went missing and was later found murdered. It was an appalling situation for her parents. They had done nothing wrong. The girl herself had done nothing wrong. The perpetrators of that unimaginable crime had forcibly taken the girl. It was "one of those things" - except that it never is. It should never happen. Her parents never recovered from the trauma. People talk about "closure" but there was never any real closure for them even after the perpetrators were caught.

And if you don't know what happened then it must be even worse. Who was that man on the beach? How did he die? Why didn't anyone report him missing at the time? Are there really people that nobody else misses, miss to such an extent that they don't make inquiries? 

Some people go missing deliberately of course. They don't want to be found. It is harder to do that than it would seem to be. There is an ever increasing need for us to be able to show "who" we are in order to access even basic services. 

The body they exhumed yesterday was buried before I was born. They are apparently hoping for a DNA match with someone who might be a descendant. It's a long shot but one someone is prepared to pay for because this sort of mystery is not the sort of mystery with which many people are prepared to live. 

If it was fiction we might be happy to read it. In real life it is something very different. 

Wednesday 19 May 2021

Funding cuts to libraries

are again under the spotlight. Our state government spends about $25m on libraries each year. 

That might sound like a lot until you realise that is about $1 for each resident. How on earth do our libraries function so well?

I have said elsewhere that our local library is excellent - and it is.  At the same time I know it would not function nearly as well without the volunteers who help to care for it. Yes, I am one of those volunteers. I look after the knitting and crochet group. I put books back in the right places on shelves. I help students with problems. I listen to some of the lonely people even when I am anxious to get away and get on with my day. If they are busy helping someone else the staff know they can ask something like, "Cat, can you show this person where to find....  and I'll be there in a moment to help if they need it." I don't mind in the least doing any of this. I am not exceptional. Other people do the same thing. It is what libraries are for.

What genuinely puzzles me is that all this is so obviously important and yet our government doesn't seem to recognise it. Librarians are not paid a great deal, nothing like the amount footballers are paid. At the same time they are doing something far more important than kicking a ball around a field. There is even the belief that they are so unimportant that untrained volunteers can do their job. 

Knowing where to find something in our library is not just about knowing something about the Dewey Decimal system or that fiction is arranged in alphabetical order. It is about knowing what they actually need to find. It is about knowing how much information the person needs, what they need it for and how they will use it. How well can someone read? How much reading are they prepared to do? Do they want an entire book on a subject or just a page? If they enjoyed that author will they perhaps like this one? There is so much to all of this. 

Despite all that is involved there is still that thought lurking in the minds of those who fund libraries that none of this is really important. There is that awful belief that "if you want to find out something you can look it up on line". No, you can't. Yesterday someone wanted to know how to name something in the Shetland dialect. They asked me to check what they had done. I looked it up on line on a popular site and then, to check, I went and looked in a Scots thesaurus I happen to have. The two things were quite different. I trust the thesaurus. It is printed by a reputable publisher. The site on the internet is run by well meaning amateurs. I told the person asking me what I had done and why. She has gone for the word in the thesaurus. "Lucky you had the book or I would have made an idiot of myself." 

It might be an extreme example. I don't think our state library system would have the necessary thesaurus but it does have a lot of other valuable and important information. At $1 a  head the government is getting a bargain. 

Tuesday 18 May 2021

Clothes in aged care

are a problem. They should not be a problem but they are.

We try to do the Senior Cat's laundry. There are very good reasons for this. 

The residence has an industrial style laundry. It is hard on clothes. Everything tends to get dumped in together. I am not sure how clean things really are. Buttons seems to come off at every wash.  S..., who is responsible for clothes, does her best but she is up against the rules and time and many other things.  

We knew it would be like this so Middle Cat and I made the decision that we - mostly me - would do the Senior Cat's washing ourselves. Still, things go missing.

He has some very good hand knitted socks. They fit him perfectly. My friend I.... made them for him. They keep disappearing. Yes, they are all labelled. We labelled everything. They still disappear. 

I know what happens. Things just get tossed into the big laundry baskets in the bathrooms. Unless the staff member concerned is alert to the fact that we do the Senior Cat's laundry his clothes seem to disappear. We have twice had to buy new singlets. Yesterday he was wearing a shirt belonging to someone else - despite the fact that he had at least three of his own hanging in his little wardrobe. I saw them there when I hung up another two - and two more pairs of clean trousers.

The Senior Cat doesn't care much about clothes and doesn't always recognise his own but I suspect at least some of the women do recognise their clothes.  They would still like to "look nice". 

I have seen this over and over again in other places as well. It reminds me of where I first started teaching. It was in an institution for profoundly intellectually disabled children. Most of them were wards of the state. Nobody seemed to care much about them. They lived on the premises. Their clothing was communal. When they were dressed the staff would just find something that "more or less" fitted. In summer all the girls wore the same shapeless green checked dresses with old fashioned linen buttons. The boys wore grey shorts and shirts.  In winter the staff added thicker cotton tops to these. The children were cold in winter, blue with cold. We teachers were not permitted to do anything about this. There was a sort of "they don't feel the cold" attitude that appalled me. 

The attitude in the residence is better than that but there is still a sort of hopelessness about it all. The Senior Cat can ask for his pullover or cardigan but there are people there who can't. One of the men was struggling to reach his cardigan yesterday. He could not have put it on. I stopped on my way to the Senior Cat and helped. He smiled and patted my hand - his way of saying "thank you". 

One of the staff told me, "We weren't going to bother this morning. They're all getting their first Covid jabs today."

Well I'm sorry if it inconveniences you but he was cold. His hands were far too cold, even in the air conditioning.

I am taking a clean pullover in for the Senior Cat this morning. I might just check on whether a couple of the others are wearing theirs too.  

Like everything else though it seems to me that this has to do with the amount the staff have to do - and how much they get paid to do it. 

Monday 17 May 2021

How do you get people to volunteer?

There is a piece in this morning's paper for "Volunteer Week". With it comes the concern that the number of volunteers is dropping even further than it was before the pandemic.

Now numbers were dropping for a number of reasons. More women are in the workforce and it was women who did things like staff the school canteens and run the Meals on Wheels kitchens.  They also did most of the visiting of the sick, the poor, and the elderly.  Those "traditional"  roles are no longer considered to be as appropriate.  Women who go to work do not have the same amount of time to volunteer.  Nor do they feel the need to get out and socialise with  others because they see people at work. Outside work they are too busy running their households. 

And grandparents have a different role too. They are now the ones - if they are not still at work - who are expected to be child minders. They do the school runs and the sports runs.

There can also be a financial cost involved in volunteering - such as using your own car - and the way people use their money is now rather different.   Not everyone can afford to volunteer in the way they would be asked to volunteer. 

People  are also more mobile. They move not just from one job to another but around the country as well. Volunteering may be a great way of meeting people but if you are only going to be there a couple of years then trying to volunteer can be difficult - unless you are a very outgoing sort of person.

And  volunteering on a regular basis every week is often more than people want or can commit to. 

One of our local charity shops (there are four within a fairly small radius) is a big concern. It is really a social welfare hub in lots of ways. The staff are getting alarmingly old  - some are in their nineties now and most are in their seventies and eighties. They get reluctant help from people who are supposedly doing "community service", from people who are supposedly looking for employment and need something on their employment history, and others who last just a few times before they decide it is not for them. 

I have never been able to volunteer there on a regular basis. I would probably be more of a liability than an asset in some ways but they know they can call on me for certain services - the sort which involve form filling for people who have "left their glasses home" or whose first language is not English. When that happens I know that there will be some sad story - and that, above all else, I need to keep my mouth shut. The Manager might know something but nobody else will.  It might be "useful" but I also know that doing that is not the same as being there all day Monday or Tuesday or whenever every week. That sort of regularity takes real commitment.

One of the problems with asking that sort of commitment is that people rarely get properly thanked. Volunteer Week is supposed to be about thanking volunteers but many will still not be thanked. Of course some people will say a casual "thanks" but others won't even do that. If people aren't thanked then they will cease to help. 


Sunday 16 May 2021

"Are you pregnant?"

is a question I have never asked. I don't think it would ever have occurred to me to ask something that personal. There are times when I have wondered that about someone or other that I have known but it is not something I can imagine asking.

There was a supposedly funny exchange on Twitter this morning about schoolchildren asking this question.  Yes, it was amusing in a way. Small children don't usually intend harm when they ask a question like that. With older children it may well be a very different story. With adults it is very definitely a different story.

I thought of this as I skimmed past the exchange. I thought of it because of something else that does worry me.

There are a number of "group houses" for people with physical, intellectual and psychiatric disabilities in our area. The people with physical and intellectual disabilities are largely ignored by other people. I know most of them through providing communication support from time to time. I don't know many of them that well but they know I am around, that I can be relied on to read something to them and see that a form is filled out correctly or that they phone the right person and talk to them. It's nothing much and I know there are other people who help in the same way.

But people ignore or actively avoid the people with psychiatric issues. Yes, some of them are distinctly strange. There is the man who spends his entire day walking around the district. He used to sit on a seat in the shopping centre and drink endless bottles of fizzy drink - large bottles. He was never a problem to anyone. He simply sat there. When there was a fire in that part of the shopping centre his seat (and we thought of it as "his") was gone. For a long time he disappeared. I never saw him. I often wondered what had happened to him. 

When I mentioned it to other people though they seemed relieved he was no longer around. He apparently embarrassed them. Now he wanders aimlessly all day long because his "home" sends him out in the morning and tells him to come back in time for the evening meal. There is a woman who is much the same. She doesn't wander like he does. She spends hours just sitting and staring into space. Her head does not turn left or right. She never utters a word. Even when she buys her daily carton of flavoured milk she doesn't speak. She stares straight ahead as she passes the money over and waits for the change. Years ago I tried saying "Hello" - nothing more. There was no response. I left it. If she ever met my gaze I would try to smile at her. I think it is unlikely.

I tell myself that "at least I make contact with the people who have physical and intellectual disabilities" but I know that is really not good enough. The people with psychiatric issues may not want to make contact. I can't force it on them. I really don't want anything to do with them. There are enough issues for me to be dealing with as it is - but I still feel guilty. I'd like them to know that I am there for them if they ever do need help. I'd do what I could. It might not be much but I'd try.

Asking these people the "are you OK" question though would be wrong. It would be far worse than the "are you pregnant" question. There are some things you simply don't ask some people.  

Saturday 15 May 2021

Funding for women's shelters

is not something for which anyone should have to plead. It is simply one of those absolutely essential services which should be funded, and funded adequately, without question.

I don't know who thought that cutting funds to the main women's shelter in the CBD was a good idea. I am not in the least bit interested if the funds were "diverted" somewhere else. That shelter is needed.

Originally the shelter was set up by the Catholic church. It was run by nuns. It was run by nuns up until about twenty-five years ago. What is more it was well run. Many of the women who sought refuge there were helped to find accommodation and employment. They were given legal assistance and much more.

When the Senior Cat "retired" he was asked to help with the maintenance work at this shelter. The man who had been volunteering could no longer do the job. Our friend P...., a nun, asked if the Senior Cat would do some repairs in his workshop. He was more than happy to help. What else needed to be done?

There was plenty of work. Locks needed to be changed on doors. Doors needed to be rehung. Cupboard doors needed repairing. Beds needed repairing. The number of drawers and chairs which needed to be pulled apart and re-glued seemed to grow. Washers on taps needed to be replaced and, once, an entire shower fitting had come away from a wall. 

Allowing a man, any man, into a women's shelter is always a difficult business but the Senior Cat went in and out for more than twenty years - until he gave up driving his car. Even after that he would repair things brought to him. The women would sometimes go to a nun in alarm, "There's a man in here!" They would be reassured and occasionally even speak to him. One or two would even help him with what he had been asked to do. 

The place was run on a bare minimum of money. It was all raised by  the Catholic church and donations. 

And then the government decided to take over. Instead of a nun on a minimum salary they appointed someone on a much bigger salary. Other salaried people came in as nuns slowly left. Our friend P... stopped working there at the age of 75. The Senior Cat grew too old to volunteer his help even at home. 

The place is different now. It may be better, the same, or worse. I don't know. What I do know is that it is absolutely essential. It does not even begin to cover the need there is. The past year and a bit has made it even more important. The "lock downs" and other restrictions have increased the level of domestic violence. More women have sought shelter than ever before. Why cut funding to it now, of all times?

I put it to someone who sits on one of the many committees responsible for such things, "Isn't it better to fund the shelter than keep one man in prison for murdering his partner?" 

In more ways than one the cost of funding the shelter surely has to be the better option. Why then was I greeted with a shrug of the shoulders and a sigh? 

Friday 14 May 2021

Why are we having the Olympics?

Anyone who knows me will know I am no sports tragic. I don't even "barrack" for a football team.  My only interest, a very slight interest, is in the game of cricket. That has more to do with the psychology of the game than the game itself. I couldn't umpire a game if I tried.

It is therefore possible that I should not be making any comment about whether the Olympics should be held. I know, people love their sport. They love to watch sport. Watching elite athletes do, to them, amazing things gives them a real buzz.  I am not interested. I don't even get a buzz seeing Downunder's athletes with their medals around their necks. 

But I am genuinely worried for them now. Why on earth are they insisting on having the Olympics this year? Let's just forget the greatest drug ridden cheat's show on earth. Don't put these people in the position where they are in yet more danger from Covid19. Don't put other people in danger when these "elite athletes" return to their home countries.

Being an elite athlete won't stop you from getting Covid19. It won't stop you from dying from it either. There have been deaths among very fit, healthy young people. Covid19 is no respecter of persons.  Then there are all the people who will travel with them as their support teams, all the people they will mix with as they compete - even if they don't socialise outside events. I just don't see all this as being in anyway "safe" whatever restrictions they might try and impose.

Japan's Prime Minister has been criticised for continuing to say that the Olympics will go ahead. That criticism is coming from his own country and that is significant. The Japanese don't do things that way. 

I have never had to write a communication board which uses the Japanese language. This is something I am heartily thankful for because the language is full of traps for those who have not grown up speaking it. I know a very little about it because I have taught Japanese students English. I once co-supervised a doctorate being written by a Japanese student. It taught me a lot and one of the things it taught me was a little about the Japanese way of doing things and saying things. If the Prime Minister is being openly criticised then people are concerned, very concerned.

I am sorry for the athletes who want their chance to win a medal but the health and safety issues should take priority.  Am I wrong to think this way?


Thursday 13 May 2021

Policing the use of the QR code

is apparently the latest list of things that are going to be added to those that our police are expected to do. 

The Chief Medical Officer has become concerned about the number of people not doing this and, with others, has decided that the police need to be out and about and checking on the use of the QR code. Apparently there will be "plain clothes" police as well as those in uniform doing just that.

Fine. Just make it possible. 

I went into the shopping centre yesterday.  I went to the chemist. There are QR codes to scan at the entrance. There is no means of signing in manually. You need to ask.

I went from there to the supermarket and bought some extra milk. Ah yes, a single QR code to scan. There is no means of signing in manually. You need to ask. The answer there is more likely to be a sigh and "Why are you bothering Cat?"

I went to the greengrocer. There was nothing to be seen at all - not even a QR code. 

I went to the library. There is a QR code at all the doors but no means of signing in manually. The library could however trace anyone who borrowed something relatively easily because it is all on computer. It is the people who do not borrow something they should be concerned about. 

All this use of a QR code is, as I have said elsewhere, dependent on having a phone that is capable of scanning the code. By no means everyone I know has one like that. The "app" itself may be "free" but using it requires more than that.

It seems to me that if the government wishes to be able to contact trace people rapidly then they have to make it easy for them to comply. The first concern should be to see that QR codes are readily available for everyone to see and that manual sign in sheets are also readily available without having to ask for them. Those manual sign in sheets are a worry anyway. They are far from secure with respect to data. 

Perhaps it is time for us all to have a little QR code reader placed under our skin?  

Wednesday 12 May 2021

An interruption to the water supply

apparently occurred overnight. The only reason I found out was because there was a note and a cardboard box of drinking water outside the front door. 

This happened once before. On that occasion there was a knock on the door at about seven in the evening. There was a man in the water company's uniform. He brought in a box of drinking water and told us the water "might be out for a while". 

I remember the Senior Cat and I looked at one another and then the Senior Cat said something like, "You just walked past our supply of drinking water."

Yes, we have a rainwater tank on the property. We actually have multiple rainwater tanks. It would be awkward to organise and mean using buckets but we would have enough water here to last for some little time.  While we use the water for a variety of purposes we probably don't use enough of it. My BIL, who is very capable, has always meant to plumb the biggest tank into the house. His own home has a very large tank and, for most of the year, they use what runs off the roof of the house and his shed.  If they didn't do that the water would simply run into the street. 

But the water company told us we had to have the box of water. It is apparently in the regulations. We left it there and my brother's wife used it when she was here some months later. She likes to make her coffee with filtered water and of course we didn't have any of that. When they left they took the rest in the car with them. 

But the idea of packing water into cardboard like that bothers me. Yes it is a good idea in a situation where the mains water has had to be halted for some reason. I know that. I just don't like the idea of "bottled" water if it is not necessary. Use tap water and boil it if necessary. Use tank water and boil it if necessary.  

Not that long ago one of our universities suggested that we should all be drinking more tank water - just as it is and without boiling it. There were cries of alarm at this. Think of what goes into it! Yes, they told us, that's the entire point. We are too clean now. We don't have the same immunity to disease because we are too focussed on cleanliness.

There might be something in this. As kittens we were often filthy dirty from playing outside. I don't remember clearly but I am sure there was less in the way of allergies and the like. The paediatrician across the way agrees with me on that one.

I might see if the WITS can use the water - but then again they seem to be quite happy with using the tank water I offered them. I may even miss them when they finally leave the street.  

Tuesday 11 May 2021

An "indigenous voice in parliament"

is back under discussion. 

There have been  opinion pieces in the press about this - and most of them seem to be in favour of the idea. There has also been some community discussion - and most people I have heard discussing it do not seem to be in favour.

And no, they are not being racist. Some of them are the very people this move is in some way supposed to acknowledge. Interestingly though they do not want that. They simply want to be part of the community in which they live. They do not want to be singled out as being in any way different.  

My good friend M..., a man who is obviously indigenous, does not support the idea. He sees it as a divisive move. Yes, he has done well in life. Not so long ago he retired from his position as a very senior youth worker.  He's busy now - doing much the same sort of thing he did before he retired. He's keeping boys out of trouble and out of harm's way as best he can. It's an uphill battle. 

M... believes that the families he has worked with need to make more effort to stay out of trouble. When he was growing up his parents made sure he attended school, that he did his homework, that he went to Sunday school and then church on Sundays. It was the same for his sister. They were expected to work and to achieve. His father was a station master, probably the only indigenous station master in the state at the time. It was a good job. There was a regular income coming in. M... and his sister went to school well dressed and clean. "I might not have come home clean but I certainly went looking clean. Mum made sure our shoes were polished and that we had a decent lunch," he once told a meeting I attended. 

And yes, he has faced racism. He has faced abuse with quiet dignity, the sort of quiet dignity his mother instilled in him. His attitude is "It's up to us to make the most of the opportunities available. Nobody needs to break the law. The cops are not going to arrest you for walking down the street. Some of them might stop you but if you are polite and tell them where you are going then they are simply going to let you get on your way."

In the district he lives in there are police from indigenous backgrounds. They are watching out for indigenous youth. Many of them actually want to help the many indigenous teens who end up in trouble. 

"There need to be bigger expectations of the mob Cat," M... told me yesterday. He had rung me about an issue with a boy who has learning issues but really does seem to be trying to stay at school. His mates however are teasing him about being there. To me these "mates" are not mates at all. They could do so much for themselves if they went to school and made the most of their opportunities. 

"We don't need more Cat. We need to use what we already have," M...said again.

An "indigenous voice in parliament" will be meaningless unless people make use of what they already have. If they did make use of it then the "voice" might not be necessary.  

But do the rest of us make use of what we already have? If not,  how can we expect the "indigenous voice in parliament" proposal to work? 

Monday 10 May 2021

Buying a newspaper

is something we have done for as long as I can remember. 

The Senior Cat has always read at least one paper. There were times in his life when he read more than one. (You can do this quite quickly if you ignore the sports sections - and he did.) 

More recently I have had to read things to him. The print has been too small for him to see. Using a magnifier for a newspaper is not easy. Newspapers are designed to be read down in narrow columns. They are designed to accommodate the way we use our eyes when we read.  We have continued to get a paper version for his sake.

Yesterday I cancelled the subscription. We will no longer get a paper version. We will in fact no longer get a paper. I will have to read it in the library.

I would have gone with a digital subscription and using the Senior Cat's precious i-pad to tell him what was going on in the world but there was a problem. There was no way to pay for this. 

The Senior Cat no longer has a credit card. He doesn't need one. He rarely used it anyway. He has never paid interest on a credit card. If he couldn't pay for whatever he needed outright then he just didn't have it. The only thing he ever owed money on was the house. Yes of course he paid rent at times. He paid rent to the Education Department for many years but it was always paid on time because it was taken from his pay cheque. Anything else and he paid cash or wrote a cheque knowing precisely how much there was in his account to pay for something. 

I don't have a credit card either. I don't need one. Like the Senior Cat if I cannot pay for something then I don't get it. I don't own a car. I pay the bills which come in as they come in. I need to be very cautious about spending but, so far, I have been fortunate in being able to pay those bills and eat. Those are the things which matter. 

So, why no paper? It is because the company concerned will only take payment by credit card. They have no facilities to take payment by debit card. 

I find this extraordinary. They were so keen for us to continue the subscription that one of their representatives actually phoned me yesterday to discuss this. Yes, someone was working on this issue on a Sunday. But no the Senior Cat's debit card was unacceptable. My debit card was unacceptable. The post office debit card was unacceptable. 

I gave up. I suppose it wouldn't hurt me to have to pedal up the street each day and buy a paper but really that's not an environmentally responsible thing. It has worried me for some time that we have been getting it that way.  

Today I might see if the other useful paper will take a debit card for a digital subscription. It's a different company. It might.  

Sunday 9 May 2021

Keeping the borders closed

"indefinitely" seems to be the chief strategy of the federal government in the attempt to contain the Covid19 virus. 

Closing borders might sound like a good idea. Perhaps it is if it really does keep us "safe" but it also raises other questions - such as the "right to return".

But it also raised another thought in my mind. When I was a mere kitten Downunder was a very different country.  We were not the supposedly "rich multi-cultural" country we are now. There were migrants of course. This was post World War II and people were coming from Europe, particularly from the United Kingdom, Italy and Greece with some from places like the Netherlands and what was then called Yugoslavia. Asian migrants were almost unknown and the only migrants from Africa were white South Africans. 

I probably grew up knowing more of these people than most young ones did. My paternal grandfather was an elder of the Presbyterian church and his particular church sponsored quite a number of migrants as well as helping others to settle in. Many of them came from the Netherlands. In my primary school years my siblings and I would very occasionally spend the day with a Dutch speaking couple and their two children. This would happen if both my parents had to go to a day conference in the school holidays. (Teachers back then had to do all these things in the "holidays".) They would pay this couple to care for us for the day.

The days for us were interesting because A....and M... would speak in Dutch even to us. Their own children of course had grown up listening to it and we were simply expected to understand what was going on. Mostly we did from the context. We would, like their own children, answer mostly in English. Several years ago I met their son again. He told me he couldn't remember any Dutch. It has been years since he spoke it.  He has never been to the home country of his parents. He was considering a trip on retirement but the travel restrictions were imposed. We chatted briefly about the food his mother used to prepare. Again it was subtly different from the food my siblings and I were used to eating.  It seemed exotic to us but in reality it was very plain. There was very little money in that family.  The father, a carpenter, actually made the clogs they wore. When we were inside we went around in our socks. Their clogs were lined up by the door.  We knew to put our shoes next to these.

I wonder what children would make of all this now. It is unlikely that it would seem exotic or exciting or even interesting to them. It is much more likely that they would simply consider it rather odd that they were expected to remove their shoes. As for the food it is likely that children, now used to a much wider range of cuisine, would be in the least bit impressed in the way we were. 

I find all this rather sad. Some of the magic has gone out of the world for so many children.  


Saturday 8 May 2021

People should not be defined by their IQ

and it upsets me when they are.

There was a migrant to this country who set up a pie business. He died recently - after a failed lung transplant. His family believe he would still be alive if he had been able to get the transplant sooner. He was initially rejected on the grounds that  he had an "IQ" of 84 and was showing early signs of Alzheimer's.  (IQ - intelligence quotient - supposedly a measure of "smart" you are.)

Now this man was running a multi-million dollar business and had built it up from nothing. It would seem to me that the assessment of his ability was not terribly accurate.

IQ tests worry me. They have worried me for years. They may give an indication of the ability to learn but they are not an accurate indicator of someone's ability to succeed.

When my parents first moved into this street there was a family living two doors down from us. The father was definitely someone a teacher would say had learning problems. His ability to read and write was very limited. He relied on an elderly neighbour to read his mail because his wife could not read at all. When the elderly neighbour finally moved into aged care I took over the responsibility of helping this man with his mail. It was that way I found out he owned the house. He was not in debt to anyone. He paid his bills in full and on time. He had money in the bank for his retirement. He had worked all his life in the same job at a car manufacturing plant. It was not well paid but he had managed his money well. He told me that, apart from the house, he had never bought anything he could not pay for outright. Was he a success? I would say, "Yes!"

I have known other people like him. They have been slow to learn but they have persisted.

I know a highly intelligent man in his thirties. He didn't finish school and has never held down a job for more than a few weeks. He uses drugs and too much alcohol. His IQ is supposedly somewhere in the top 1% of the population but is he really intelligent? He queues for unemployment benefit and does the minimum amount of job-seeking required to keep getting it. He knows how to work the system and is an expert at getting what he wants from other people. Lazy? Yes. But I think it is something more than that. He lacks some sort of basic intelligence and the ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. 

And there is the cultural and linguistic issue. I once taught a child to read. He was supposedly profoundly intellectually retarded as well as severely physically disabled. Testing a child with a severe physical disability is a challenge. There are items on an IQ test - or were as it is a while since I have conducted one - that require physical manipulation. If you can't hold something and place it in a precise place then there is a problem. Children who are unable to move independently have a different way of seeing the world too. P... was tested by a psychologist before I ever met him and deemed to be "profoundly retarded". He wasn't. Quite apart from the fact that he was hearing Greek at home and English at school he couldn't hold anything. He could barely hold his head up when I first met him. It soon became obvious to me though that he was quite able to learn. He would laugh at little jokes. He was obviously listening intently to what was going on around him. I could ask him a yes/no question and he would look at the ceiling for "yes" and the floor for "no".  He had things he wanted to tell me.  These days he reads Greek as well as English and uses eye-coding to communicate an extensive vocabulary - but he failed that IQ test.

That's just three examples but please don't define people by how well or badly they do on an IQ test or by what someone tells you about their ability to learn. It's a lot more complicated than that.

Friday 7 May 2021

The latest "euthanasia" bill

has just passed the upper house of our state parliament. It will now go to the lower house for debate.  (If that sounds back to front it is because it is a bill which has been put forward by a member of the upper house and it will need to go back to the upper house again.)

I have mixed feelings about euthanasia. My mother would have chosen that option. The last few months of her life were not comfortable. She wanted to go when the cancer returned just a few weeks after major surgery to remove it. The doctor told her then it was terminal. 

My father has a "DNR" order - "do not resuscitate". He repeated this very forcefully recently. I think the staff member he said this to was quite shocked. But why? The Senior Cat is 98. He is mentally still very alert but he is physically frail. He gets tired very quickly. 

Middle Cat, Brother Cat and I all have DNR orders too. What they mean or should mean is that no extraordinary measures will be taken to keep us alive and in a vegetative state. For us it is seen as the responsible course of action.

I know other people feel differently. Yesterday I was talking to the partner of the Senior Cat's closest friend of  many years. K.... is now in a dementia unit. Sometimes he knows his wife and sometimes he doesn't. He doesn't know his children. He doesn't know his friends. B... told me if she mentions the Senior Cat's name he will sometimes appears to recognise it.  He doesn't have a DNR order and his wife would almost certainly fight to keep him alive. His children feel differently.  

Why? It is perhaps partly a generational issue. They have grown up in a world where these things are discussed and debated in parliament. Holland's laws have not shocked them the way they have shocked many older people in other countries. It isn't that life is any less precious to them. I refuse to believe that. It is perhaps that they are not the church going generation for whom the sanctity of life and the certainty of an after-life are as sure. 

The woman whose funeral I went to on Monday wanted to live as long as possible. She went through the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy at 90 in an effort to remain here. It wasn't because she was afraid of dying but, as she once told me herself, "I have so much I still want to do".   

But do we give people a choice? Middle Cat and I knew what our mother wanted. She had been absolutely certain about an after-life. She wanted to die. There was no "quality of life". When the doctor asked the question, "Shall we up the...." and named a drug designed to give pain relief but given in a sufficiently high dose would likely hasten the process we said "yes" because it was what she wanted. Did we do the right thing? It is a question we will never have an absolute answer to but we were doing as she asked.  

Thursday 6 May 2021

Do we have a "right" to "come home"

or is it just a little more complicated than that?

There is currently a row going on here because the Downunder government decided to temporarily ban people from returning here from India. Please note the word "temporarily". 

There is some question as to whether that was on medical advice, out of an abundance of caution, or for some other reason. 

People are now jumping up and down and screaming "racist" and many other things. This is despite the fact that there are still many thousands of Downunderites in other places who are not able to return to the country of which they are citizens.

I think I have said elsewhere my only first cousin lives in London. He lives with his partner in a tiny flat in central London. They had planned to come out here late last year and would have spent the English winter - our summer - here. Covid19 put a stop to that. Rather than try to get on flights and flee to relative safety they are being ultra-cautious there. It's the sensible approach even though it is not the one they would prefer. Yes, my cousin has a job there and they have somewhere to live. 

I know it is not the same for many other people. They have lost their jobs in the pandemic. Some of them are probably couch-surfing. The government has been bringing people home but they have been doing it slowly, too slowly for many people. 

There are people who actually went off to India in the midst of this pandemic. They were advised against going. The government gave some of them permission on compassionate grounds. Yes, I can understand that. People do want to go to the funerals of parents, to support their surviving parent and much more. 

But do they have the absolute right to be on the next plane "home"? Do they have that right when they were told there could be a problem but took the risk anyway? Do they have the right to go to the head of the queue - past those people who have been stranded for months through no fault of their own?

"The government should have built dedicated quarantine facilities," we are being told. It is as if such facilities could be built overnight in a suitable location with quick access to medical facilities. 

We are also being told that people should go into quarantine on Christmas Island - despite the fact that it would be a logistical nightmare to even try and organise. It would also be downright dangerous. You need quick access to high level health care - and that is not available there. 

The "ban" on "returning home" is temporary. There will be any number of good reasons for it, including how many people the government can place in quarantine. The cost of all this is enormous and rarely mentioned. It is irresponsible for the Leader of the Opposition to simply suggest that the empty seats on planes from India be filled with people who want to come home. He knows full well that it isn't that simple.

Yes, there are constitutional issues involved in what we can call the "right of return" but they have to be balanced against other issues - and the safety of everyone concerned.


Wednesday 5 May 2021

Funeral music

is often just plain awful. If it is a religious service people choose dreary hymns. If it is not a religious service then I have heard everything from the most sentimental twaddle to "top forty hits" played far too loud to hear - and I know I shouldn't criticise the choices other people make. They would almost certainly be as critical of my choices.

Yesterday though was genuinely different. I went to the funeral of an elderly friend. She was 91 and not at all in good health. We should not mourn her passing but we will miss her. 

Her funeral reflected her deep love of and for music. It is something she has passed on to her children and her grandchildren. Oh yes she could listen and sing along to all sorts of nonsense with her children and grandchildren but she also taught them to love some of the most magnificent music there is - Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Handel, Telemann, Sibelius, almost all forms of church music and much, much more. 

I opened the order of service and knew we were there for not just a funeral service but a concert of uplifting music. The name of the organist alone told me that. I could hear him playing as I entered the church. I looked across to where he was seated at the organ and thought, "Yes, I know your name."

He is an old friend of my friend. He is still lecturing at the university. He was not playing the quiet, solemn music one usually hears at a church based funeral service. No my friend would not have wanted that. He was playing short, lively little pieces. I recognized them. Yes,  they were what Y.... would have wanted. 

We were told to sing the two hymns loudly, joyfully. Downunderites are not good at community singing. Good organ playing helps but it can't do everything.  Still, those present tried to do as they were asked. They were helped by one or two really good voices. Oh how much difference that can make to a group.

But there was other music - and it was that which really had an impact. The organist is an old man but he is still a skilled musician. He went slowly from the organ to the piano helped by one of Y...'s granddaughters. Then, with no fuss, she opened the black folder she was carrying. He played a few introductory notes and then C.... sang. She sang Bach's "Bist Du Bei Mir". It is one of those truly magnificent pieces of music that, well done, leaves you both emotionally drained and also emotionally uplifted - and yes, it was well done. There was that tiny moment of absolute silence as she finished - and then a spontaneous round of applause. No, not the usual thing at a funeral - but perhaps we should have more of that sort of thing. 

And the service ended with another of her grandchildren playing the violin. That child is in Germany right now. She couldn't be there for the funeral of her beloved adopted grandmother but she  prerecorded her contribution - the Meditation from Massenet's Thais. (Find them on You Tube. Both pieces of music are things that you will know you have heard before.) 

They are pieces of music I have always found emotionally difficult to listen to - and it will be harder still now, at least for a while. They made me feel so close and yet so far from Y.... Choosing the right music is not easy. Thank you Y... I know you asked your children for those things in your gentle loving way. 

Tuesday 4 May 2021

The Replanting Australia Project

 still needs a lot more squares. 

If you can knit or crochet - or even both - or you know people who can then please think about making a square and donating it. The best squares will be put together as blankets to be raffled off for the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park's work in helping to rejuvenate the island's vegetation. That will help to save the Ligurian bees - and the bees are an absolutely vital part of saving the world. They are every bit as important as all the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.  

All the information you need is on the RA&HS  Handicrafts Competition page of the Show website <> or the Replanting Australia group on Facebook. (The Facebook page is a public one.) There are knitting patterns for squares in both places. I am not skilled enough to write crochet patterns for publication but there are plenty of patterns around. The knitting patterns are all designed to represent things typical of this country.