Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Royal Flying Doctor Service

 is now helping to vaccinate people in remote communities. It is the logical way to get this done. 

I know there are people who will say, "What do you need to be vaccinated for if you live hundreds of kilometres away from anyone else?" The answer to that of course is that these people do travel - and they often travel hundreds of kilometres.

The RFDS is an extraordinary organisation. It is a charity. It is not a government service. There is government which goes into it of course but it has to fund raise. It provides medical services to people in remote areas, really remote areas. 

People who have never lived in a remote area really have no idea what it is like in those places. I have only ever visited two "stations" and both of those are within a day's travel of small townships - places the size of a hamlet or tiny village in the UK.  There are no medical services in those places either. You would need to go even further to get to something like that. 

So, the medical service flies in. It is more than a medical service too. It is a vital part of the life of the people in remote areas. Most stations have a permanent landing strip and it is one of those things which will be well maintained. It will be well maintained because the lives of people in remote areas depend on it. We saw the landing strips at the stations we visited and the precautions taken to make sure that a plane could come in at any time. We heard how people will travel for hours for non-urgent medical appointments when the RFDS is making a routine rather than emergency landing.

The medical staff who visit those locations do some remarkable things too. They often take on far more responsibilities than medical people in urban areas. It is easier now perhaps when there are satellite connections and communications are easier but they still have to take on responsibilities that their city counterparts would not want to risk. 

Other people have to take on responsibilities too. People with limited medical knowledge and nothing more than a first aid certificate have had to do things which would terrify most of us - and they do it because there is nobody else available. If they don't do what is asked of them somebody might die.

When I was a mere kitten and we were living in a remote area we heard a true story of one of the local doctors operating on the side of a dirt road under the light of car headlights. The man he operated on was the man who told the story. 

Would that happen again? Perhaps. Anything can happen out there in a remote area. It isn't what people want to do. It is what they must sometimes do. 

And those remote areas have "indigenous" or "first nations" people who are often even more vulnerable because they don't mix as much and their lifestyle often means they have poor health. Their diet is often poor and diabetes, kidney disease and other issues are of major concern. If Covid19 reaches those areas there would be major issues. The authorities are doing all they can to prevent that. Preventing that means getting people vaccinated, something the RFDS can help to do. 

Someone grumbled yesterday about having to travel several kilometres to a vaccination centre and wait. I was happy to have to go to the same centre without the use of a car. It was all much easier than having to wait for the RFDS to fly in and then travel a hundred kilometres or more to get a potentially life saving jab.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Covid19 restrictions

have been increased again because the "Delta" variant has appeared. The health authorities are trying the best they can to prevent the spread of this "highly contagious" variant.  They don't make changes lightly but we are back to face masks and other restrictions - at least for a while. It is something we expected but there have been many who feel very upset by it.

I am not too bothered about the face masks except for the fact that the Senior Cat, like many other elderly people, relies partly on being able to unconsciously lip read what is being said to him. We were told today that we again have to wear a mask while visiting him. He is going to be even more frustrated than usual.

But that is a minor concern for us both. There still has not been any attempt by the government or the health personnel responsible to solve another problem. 

We are supposed to "sign in" everywhere using a mobile phone which has an "app" which will read a "QR" code. If we can't do that we are supposed to "manually sign in". If you don't and you get caught then there are hefty fines. It is all designed to make contact tracing quicker and easier and prevent the spread of the Covid19 virus.  As I have said elsewhere I don't have a problem with the need to contact trace if it is going to help stop the spread of the virus. I am only partially vaccinated and I don't have an appointment for the second jab until August. I don't want people spreading the virus.

I have tried to explain to more than one person that this signing in business is simply not possible for everyone. I had to explain yesterday when a staff member at a local shop objected to helping someone I know can neither read nor write. The "well they should be able to" answer was enough for me to report them to their supervisor. The complaint, and I put it as nicely as I could, was met with a sigh, "The staff really don't have time for that sort of thing. People like that should get someone else to do their shopping." No. They should not need to do that. We need a system which works for everyone. I have suggested something which would work but, so far, nobody has shown any interest in doing it.

I am also deeply concerned it might now spread to the remote "indigenous" communities. Once there the likely outcome does not bear thinking about. I don't want that to happen but there is a real possibility it could if we are not prepared to accept restrictions on the rest of the community. There are far too many people in those communities with other health problems because of a range of issues that nobody seems able to fix. 

I know what the Chief Medical Officer and her staff are trying to do. It's like trying to keep endless spot fires coming together and causing major damage. I don't envy them. They look exhausted. The UK and Europe know what it can be like when people live in such close proximity to each other. We don't have that here. What we have is a different sort of problem. People often need to travel long distances. They pass through all sorts of communities on the way, vulnerable communities. One infected person can spread the virus a long way.

Accept the restrictions. Wear a face mask. We might be lucky. It might be just for a short time  - if we all do the right thing.

Monday 28 June 2021

The Returned Books trolley

in the library is always of interest. 

I was reminded of it this morning when I saw a post on FB by someone saying that her two librarians seemed to have hidden her Returned Books Trolley. The coffee table was piled high with books instead. 

This house is much the same. There are piles of books in all sorts of places. At the moment there are two piles by the front door, another in front of one bookshelf, three piles in the Senior Cat's bedroom and a pile each side of my bed. 

All this is in addition to the double and triple stacked bookshelves. Sigh. Yes, I am slowly giving books away. It is difficult.

But at least one pile by the bed is made up of library books...and it is not quite as high as it once was. I didn't look at the Returned Books trolley last time I was in the library. I didn't borrow anything from the Returned Books trolley the time before that.

If I am honest the Returned Books trolley in the library fascinates me. I like to know what other people are reading. No, I do not stand there with my nose and whiskers twitching. I just look with interest. Ooh someone has borrowed that. I wonder what they thought of it? Someone has borrowed this and did not finish it because there is an uncut page here. Yes, I know that author and I didn't like the first one that much. Will I try this  one? Ah, a new author I have heard about. I want to look more closely at that one. And this one is a local author. It is self-published and I wish they had given it to someone to edit and proof read because the topic is an interesting one.

I know what is popular with other readers. Crime novels are top of the list in this district. Everyone seems to enjoy reading about murder and mayhem and the detection thereof. Then there are the novels of a more romantic nature. Set either of these genres in the past and they seem to be even more popular. Cookbooks seem popular - do people actually cook anything from them? Biographies and autobiographies and books about sport. Car maintenance manuals are not as popular now but the bike manuals still seem to be used. Craft books are more likely to be found on the Returned Books trolley than the shelves. The Returned Books trolley holds a treasure trove of potential reading.

While I am looking someone else comes to look as well. They do so almost furtively and then say to me very quietly, "Don't you love looking at what other people have been reading?"


Sunday 27 June 2021

Teaching children to knit

is not easy. I know that. I still try. Children want to learn.

Knitting is much more complicated than learning to "colour in between the lines" or "write words". Yes, those things require fine motor skills but they use one hand, not two. 

Knitting requires fine motor skills - and both hands.

A little girl arrived at our library knitting group yesterday. She looked anxiously but eagerly at those of us already there. The adult with her explained in heavily accented English that the little girl wanted to learn to knit. Then she added that there was another little girl coming too and that both of the girls wanted to learn to knit. The other little girl was bringing supplies. 

She appeared a short time later with the same anxious but eager look on her face. Her father smiled a little anxiously too. Could I?

G..., who shares most of the teaching in the group with me, was already helping someone put a fringe on a scarf and I knew she was going to be helping someone with some crochet skills. I took a deep breath and said, "Of course. That's what we are here for."

And it is. The last thing I wanted to do was say, "No. Go away. I want to get on with my own work."  I was suddenly assailed by memories of my own time learning to knit. 

Everyone I knew told me I would never learn to knit. My mother told me I was "too lazy", my father told me, "I think you need to try something a bit easier", my teacher told me, "you need to learn to write first" and other adults said other things. I knew girls my own age who were learning to knit. I admitted they had "nice writing" and that they drew pictures that actually looked like things they were meant to be. I saw people knitting - because people did knit in all sorts of places back then. I knew my maternal grandmother could knit because of the pink cardigan I loathed and detested but had to wear. I knew my paternal grandmother because of the blue gansey that I loved but was getting too small for me. I had watched her turn the heels of socks using what looked like an absolute forest of needles. 

It was my paternal grandmother I went to and told I wanted to learn to knit. She looked at me and smiled and said, "Of course you can." I think she knew that I knew it was not going to be easy. 

It wasn't. It took me nearly two years to complete one short row of knitting without dropping a stitch or accidentally jerking the stitches off the needle. I learned what needed to be done long before that but it took me that long to learn enough hand control to actually do it. My grandmother, a woman with just three years of schooling, was that brilliant and patient teacher who would not give up because I was not going to give up either. We worked on it together. She patiently cast on over and over again. She talked about rabbits diving into burrows and coming out the other side and much more. 

Grandma told me there was no right or wrong way to learn to knit. I had to learn the best way for me to hold the needles and manipulate the yarn.  She was right when she showed me that I had better control when I held the needles closer to the points. She showed me how she held the yarn and what happened when she did not do that. 

"But it doesn't matter if you can't do that. You will find another way."

It was something I was absolutely determined to do. Why? I don't know. There was something telling me I needed to succeed at this magical skill. It was going to be part of me. I was going to do it. 

Grandma dried many tears. She picked up many stitches. She never gave up on me.  Eventually she gave me a small ball of blue wool. It was "blanket" wool - wool we would now call "chunky" I suppose. I knew what to do. I had to try and try and try again.

And I knew what to do with that blue wool. I cast on and I knitted. It took me a long time. The end result was far from perfect. I kept it all from her until I had finished. Then I handed it back to her with the words, "It's a pot holder for you." 

And my grandmother took it and backed it with my grandfather's old pajama shirt and she used it. I found a scorch mark in it years later where Grandpa had nearly set it alight taking the toasting fork out of the fire. When he showed me he told me, "Never thought you would manage that. We were so proud of you."

I squirmed at that praise. I could knit by then. Grandma was teaching me a lot more by then. I knew how to turn the heel of a sock!

And I thought of all that yesterday as I worked with two little girls. I told them it wasn't going to be easy but I also said, "I know you can do it." I tried to remember all that my grandmother had told me about there being no right or wrong way but your way, the way that gets the result you need. I told them about the rabbits and the youngest little girl giggled delightfully.

I listened to the adults who came with them talking in French. Neither of them can knit. They did not know all the English terms I was using. I told them that knitting language changes between North America and here. I told them about Youtube knitting videos in English and French. 

And I told them that knitting is really one of those universal languages. It is a language of love and caring and telling children they believe in them.

It has been forty-five years since my grandmother died - and I still miss her.  

Saturday 26 June 2021

Medical trials are part of the research

process which produce the drugs and the vaccines and the many other things which help us stay healthy or recover from illness. 

Okay, we know that don't we? Have we also thought about that research is done? 

Yes, I know about trials on other animals - and yes it worries me too. I am also thinking about trials on human beings.

When we were first told that the Astra-Zeneca vaccine was going to be available here and then we were told about the possibility of blood clots people began to get worried. The media made a lot of it too. They are still making a lot of it.

I have had my first A-Z shot and I am booked in for the second one in August. I plan to have it too. I plan to have it for more than one reason. The first is that I want to be as protected as possible against a virus that is potentially fatal, especially as I am in the older age bracket. The second is that I want to protect other people as well. Those are both good reasons to get vaccinated against all sorts of things. 

But there are two more reasons as well. The first is that medical science might learn something useful from me if something goes wrong. That might save the lives of other people. It seems to me that this is a pretty darn good reason to do the right thing. 

The second reason is that other people have risked their lives developing this vaccine. They allowed themselves to be injected and more. Yes, you can say, "Well they didn't have to do that" but is that really the case? Someone had to do it.

When I was first in London "bone marrow transplants" were only just being developed. I lived in a student hall of residence where there were student medical researchers working on the process. They needed a data base and I am happy to say that almost every student registered their interest and became involved in the process of providing samples for the researchers to use. All these years later there is still a lot of work to be done but without the initial work researchers would not be where they are now in the use of life saving transplants. 

Important? I think so. A much younger friend of mine who has multiple health problems has just signed up to be part of a research project. The researchers sought her out and asked if she would be interested. She has thought long and hard about the potential risks but has still decided to be involved because "they might learn something that helps someone else". 

We both know someone who is refusing to be vaccinated against Covid19. He is not an "anti-vaxxer" he simply told us, "I'm waiting until I know it is safe. I'll see what happens to other people."  It is possible that most of us might like to do that but then perhaps nobody would get vaccinated. 

I am simply going to hope that I don't react as I did first time round. I am going to thank the people who have risked their own lives so that I could protect myself and other people. Is that reasonable?

Friday 25 June 2021

Removing people from a disaster

zone is not a simple process.

I had an email this morning. It came from someone I know who regularly criticises the efforts of governments in this country and elsewhere. This person complains constantly about how the government here and governments elsewhere "don't care about refugees" and much more.

I have tried to explain to this person and to others that the things they think are simple are not simple. They can be very complex indeed. You cannot "simply send a plane in and get them" - the preferred solution of the person who is making such a fuss.

Yes, right now we do have a very big problem on our hands. This country is pulling out our support for the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban are going to take over again. They will go back to the appalling practices of the past. They will seek out anyone who worked with the foreign forces there and they will murder them. 

And yes, we owe those people who worked with our forces and our aid organisations a "duty of care". The government is well aware of that and there are people working over time to try and do something about it. 

But it is not a simple process of someone saying, "I worked with the foreign forces or a foreign aid organisation please give me a visa to come and live in your country."  There are issues of proof of identity and there are character checks to  be made - not just about the individual claiming to be endangered but their families.

Checks need to be made because the Taliban would be more than happy to send some of their own to cause similar mayhem here. They would be more than happy to send a few suicide bombers into our midst. It's the way they work. One member of a family might have been willing to work with the foreigners but that does not mean that other family members were willing. Others might feel quite differently and there is a need to be as certain as possible that they cannot do more harm. 

There are other issues of international law too. There is a need for paper work that most people have no idea about. It is why most people will do the very best they can to preserve their proof of identity and get it out of the country they are fleeing in any way they can. 

All this is why what the news media calls a "disaster" is what is more correctly called a "complex humanitarian emergency" or CHE. It is just that - complex, very complex indeed.  There are plenty of other CHEs at the present time and they have multiple causes, not only Covid19 but war and famine and more. Afghanistan is just one area with multiple problems.  There is no CHE which can be solved quickly or easily. We can't just spend a lot of money and send people in or get people out. There is  nothing simple about any of this.

Yes, we owe people in need of help a duty of care and - believe it or not - the present government is trying to do what it can.

The Taliban see nothing wrong with this. They believe they are doing what is right. 


Thursday 24 June 2021

Lego has gone green

apparently. There is a piece in this morning's paper saying that the company is using recycled plastic bottles to make those little building bricks. They claim that you can get ten little bricks out of a one litre PET bottle.

That's good news if it is true. Lego is pretty good.  You can do lots of things with it. It isn't cheap but it is pretty sturdy. It lasts. You can add to it. 

It has grown over the years. When I first knew about it the idea was pretty simple - just bright coloured bricks which could be put together in all sorts of ways. Add a little imagination though and it became much more than that.

Now it is much more sophisticated. My late friend E... was teaching in Papua-New Guinea for some years. She spent a considerable sum of money on "Lego Technic" sets for her physics students. Useful? Oh yes. Those sets were not toys. The students were really learning something from using them.

The Senior Cat has used them too. He made some conjuring apparatus for a professional magician using two of the technical sets. I know other people who have used it for serious purposes too - as well as watched children play with it.

I did not grow up with Lego. I grew up with a set of wooden building blocks that the Senior Cat made for me. My brother and sisters used the same set. When my nephew was born my brother took the set. When my nephew's children were born they used it. It is still in use.  My brother has remade the original box but the blocks are the same blocks we used. Visiting children still play with it.

The Senior Cat made other sets too. When the older of the two boys next door was born our present to him was a set of blocks just like we had. During lock down last year he was, at the age of fourteen, using it to think about the design of something he wanted to make. He plans for any children he might have to play with it too.

The Senior Cat had more than one Meccano set as well. My brother played with that more than I did but we both played with it. We followed the diagrams and the instructions and constructed the cars and the windmills and the ships. 

Then we would go back to the wooden blocks. The blocks were smooth and solid, they could lie on their sides and stand on their ends. They could be stacked and knocked down and sent end to end around the house.

I like Lego in lots of ways. It has great play potential. If it is going green then that is even better.

But the wooden blocks could be anything we wanted them to be.

Wednesday 23 June 2021

The price of public transport

has risen again in the state's budget.

It always concerns me that governments don't seem to learn the obvious when it comes to things like this.  Public transport runs at a loss. It will almost certainly always run at a loss but we still need public transport. 

We need public transport because we need to move people. This is particularly so in this country and in this city. This country had a great deal of space when the first "white" settlers arrived. People spread themselves out. They eventually started to build homes on quarter acre blocks. People still want homes on quarter acre blocks so they move further and further away from where the original settlements were. Others are starting to realise it is not going to be possible to do this forever so they are knocking down older homes and putting two much smaller homes on the same blocks. They are clogging the streets with the cars they own but cannot fit onto their smaller parcels of land. All these people need transporting to other places for school, for work, for recreation, and for other purposes.

So why do we raise the cost of public transport - and even reduce the services at the same time? Why won't people use public transport? When I was a very young kitten I lived in a country community some distance from the city. It was not commuter country then and it still isn't commuter country - yet. There is every possibility it will one day be commuter country. 

What might stop it is the lack of a rail service. There was a rail service when I was a kitten. The local railway station was actually quite busy. It had a station master and other workers. There were railway cottages across from the house we lived in. The line went on further north too. People used the train to go to and from the city. Now families tend to own more than one car and they simply "hop in the car" and go to the city that way because "it's convenient". Yes of course they can go from one destination to another in the city that way. They don't need to walk or work out which bus or train to catch. It "saves time". 

These are the same people who worry about "climate change", "pollution", "the state of the roads", "the speed limits", "the price of petrol" and much more. And of course, right now, using public transport is genuinely something of concern because of the Covid19 pandemic. 

But when we grow into a new "normal" - as we will - there will still be people for whom the car is the preferred mode of transport. It's easy. There is no real effort involved. There  is a certain amount of maintenance involved. There is the irritation of having to book the car in for a service but, these days, many places provide transport while your vehicle is in for a service. As I understand it electric vehicles are going to require even less servicing.

So where does all this leave people who are too young, too old, too infirm, or too poor to drive a car? Are these people simply going to be left with less and less public transport at an ever increasing cost? 

I don't mind paying for public transport but I want it to be there. If other people are not using it then raising the cost for those who do is not the answer.  We need to find ways of ensuring those people who could use public transport do use it. 

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Children getting filthy dirty

is surely a good thing?

"Hello Cat! Look what we made!" 

I stopped to look and had a muddy mound covered with twigs and leaves explained to me.

"This is where they live and this is where they have to go to get to work and when they do it like that they don't have to go in their car and it is safer than going on the bus and...."

The explanation went on and on...and on. I asked questions. There were doubts, deep thinking and some shaking of heads. Two small boys were heavily involved in make believe. A bit further away the older sister of one was picking up the last of the autumn leaves. She was examining each one carefully, rejecting some but putting others to one side. She waved to me and then wandered over.

"It's pretty good isn't it?" she told me of her younger brother's efforts. Thankfully she didn't offer suggestions for improvement. She was also a good deal cleaner than her brother but there was a leaf stuck in her hair. I left it there.

All three of them were out in the front "garden". It is currently undergoing some actual maintenance. I know the parents of the first two are hoping to turn it into something other than an ancient patch of badly maintained lawn. Right now though it is a playground.

We had that sort of thing when I was small. I think most children did. It was expected we would play outside much of the time. Gardens were designed for that as much as anything else. I don't ever remember seeing a "low maintenance" or "water saving" or some other sort of designer garden among the people we knew. People had lawns and flowers - often roses - at the front and vegetables and fruit trees at the back along with an Hills Hoist clothes line for the washing.  We could tear up and down the driveway (Downunder homes having room for such things on their quarter-acre blocks) and play all sorts of imaginative games. 

And we got filthy dirty. Our clothes would be covered in dirt in summer, in mud in winter. What's more our clothes were not the "fling in the machine and no ironing required" type clothing of today.

The three children I was talking to are the exception rather than the rule around here - or two of them are. I am not sure what the mother of the other small would think when she saw him. I hope she thought he had spent a productive time using his imagination. Most mothers I know would not be happy about the thought of any muddy clothes apart from those which came from sports activities an adult has organised.

Something has gone wrong somewhere.  I really, really wanted to get off the trike seat and sit on the ground and get muddy and play the game of living on Mars. It would have been so much fun. 

Monday 21 June 2021

Eating fruit and vegetables

is important - of course it is important. 

Apparently my generation eats more of these things than the next generation. We also tend to be slightly more overweight and exercise less....but yes, we are older too.

I thought of this yesterday when a friend phoned to inquire about the Senior Cat.  We first met D... through the Senior Cat's brother and he has remained a friend. He phones about once a month and we exchange news. This time he told me he had lost weight - seven kilos. It has taken him around twelve months to do this...smaller portions and more exercise. He now weighs what his doctor suggested.

Unlike most people D... will almost certainly not put that weight on again. He was eating sensible food from the start, just too much of it. He had a hip replacement and gradually increased the distance he walks as part of his rehabilitation. 

We both know how difficult it is to do these things at any time but it is even more difficult when we both effectively live alone. I know I need to watch what I eat. I have lost weight since the Senior Cat moved into the residence. It has been relatively easy to do because his dietary needs were different from mine and I have been able to cut back on the things I know I don't need. 

I didn't try and just cut them out immediately. I ate less of them. Just recently I made a dessert - baked apples and custard - for the first time in months when a friend came for lunch. Both of us had small portions and enjoyed them but I would have been just as happy with a fresh apple.

I remember childhood desserts. All too often these had to be tinned fruit and custard made with powdered milk. This was not what my mother would have chosen but what was available. 

When we lived in a remote community we went about once a month to a larger "town" (a small village size in England) and there would be a limited range of fresh fruit available...apples, oranges, and bananas. My mother would buy these things and whatever vegetables were available. (The "general store" in our tiny place only sold potatoes and pumpkin and - occasionally - carrots.) 

While she was doing this we were sometimes allowed to sit on the ground outside and very slowly and carefully eat a single scoop of vanilla icecream. (It was scooped out of a large silver container and put into a pale "biscuit" cone.) If there were other frozen delights available we did not know about them but we loved those icecream cones.

And then, on the long journey "home" my mother would hand out one apple each. For us these were as good as any amount of sweets. We ate them as slowly as we had eaten the icecream. We would nibble around and around so that apple grew smaller and smaller. Only when there was nothing left but a few pips and the stalk did we sigh and stop. (We also tried, completely without success, to plant the pips.) 

The local women would sometimes make "toffee apples" for events like the schools' sports day held in another town or the annual show. The apples they used for this were never quite the same. Oh, we liked them - perhaps the more so because our mother didn't really approve of them.  No, a real apple was a treat back then. We were less keen on bananas because the skins were often almost black and the fruit inside tended to be soft and squishy. I am not that fond of bananas even now. 

We had to wait until Christmas for strawberries in "fruit salad" and a handful of fresh cherries. We would have had no idea what a mango or pawpaw was and "kiwi" fruit (Chinese gooseberries) were something I did not see until I went to London as a young adult. Despite all this we loved the limited range of fruit and vegetables available. 

Now you can get some of these things all year round. I don't buy them that way. I tend to buy only what is in season. It is not simply cheaper it tends to be much better.

So why doesn't the next generation do the same? Why aren't they as interested in these things? I suspect it has something to do with the all too ready availability. It may also have something to do with the all too readily available alternatives - the packaged desserts and the many flavours of overly sweet icecream and yoghurt. There is also the "time" issue. If both parents are at work all day then dessert is not something which would be of high importance on the menu.

I feel really sorry for the youngest generation. They will never know the joy of slowly licking a cone of vanilla icecream and then nibbling an apple around and around and having it grow smaller and smaller.   


Sunday 20 June 2021

Phone time and teens

and games time and teens are back in the news.

Ms W wandered in yesterday morning and complained that her friends were "all playing on their phones".  This may not have been strictly correct but I still understood her frustration.

Ms W has a mobile phone. She keeps it in "Matron's Office" - the office of the woman in charge of the school boarding house. She uses it once a day to talk to her father or, if he is not going to be available, to me. That's it.

At weekends she brings it home, might make the occasional call to her "best friend" - and that has been the same girl right through school - or use it to tell her father she is ready to be picked up.  Apart from that she doesn't use it. 

I know that isn't usual among teens. Ms W is as capable as any other teen at sending a text message. She has taken over what used to be the email account she shared with her father when she was young but it rarely gets used. She isn't on any social media platform. 

"That stuff is boring. I'd rather do something," she has told us more than once.

We wonder if she is missing out on anything and what her friends really think of her attitude but she seems to be popular at school. She is at the top of her year, is doing an extra language, plays in school teams (because it is expected of her), plays chess and helps her friends. She also spends time in the school library each week, often reading to the youngest students or listening to them read aloud. At home she cooks, gardens, works on things like models and origami, and reads. If her father needs to go to an event of some sort she is often invited to go as well - because she can have what she calls a "sensible sort of conversation" with an adult. 

She is by no means perfect but she has tried not to be "one of those moody people because it is just me and my dad and I don't get to see him as much as I want". It's a great attitude for a young girl growing up without her mother. 

But I do wonder what she is missing out on by not using her phone and her internet access the way others do.  She is now trusted to use her internet access at home without supervision. She could spend hours there if she wanted to do it. What is much more likely is that she will look for specific information, use it in whatever way she needs to do it and then go and do something else. One of her teachers told me, "This is just not normal - but I wish it was." 

No, it isn't normal and I am concerned that she might feel lonely - as I think she might have felt yesterday. Even someone as self-contained as Ms W needs company sometimes. 


Saturday 19 June 2021

A visit to the doctor

was the major event yesterday.

Like most people I avoid going to the doctor if I possibly can.  As always our doctor was running late. It was early morning and she was already running twenty-five minutes late when I went in.

For some reason all this reminded me of visits by the school doctor when we were children. There was a school medical service when my siblings and I were at school. A doctor and nurse would come to the school and check every child. 

I suppose parents had the right to refuse but I don't know of any child who did not get inspected. We were required to undress down to our underclothes and then we would be weighed. Our eyesight and hearing were tested. We were required to open our mouths and a light would be shone down our throats as well as our teeth being inspected.  

I remember the cold sensation of the stethoscope on my chest and back as I was told to breathe in and out, in and out. We were asked to do various physical things such as stand on one leg. I failed that of course. I disliked the feel of the reflex hammer too - but mostly because I knew the doctor would try again because my reflex reactions were (and are) abnormal. 

I now wonder what my mother made of all this. As a teacher she had to support the visits of the school doctor. As a Christian Scientist it must have been an anathema to her.  If she had not been teaching I suspect she would have tried to prevent us from seeing the doctor at all.  

In my last year in the primary school I remember my father telling us the doctor would be coming. Forms were sent home to families and, some weeks later, the doctor and nurse arrived with the caravan they used. It was parked in the school play area. My father introduced the doctor and the nurse and then said,

"And now R.... and Cat it is your job to help the little ones." R... was perhaps less pleased than I was. She had at least four younger siblings at school with her. I only had three. Nevertheless we spent the afternoon and the next day making sure that the youngest students were undressed and dressed again. I remember some of them being very anxious. They had no idea what to expect. Almost all of them wanted to know if it was going to hurt. 

I know I kept telling them "no" and telling them it would "interesting". I know that the slow learning boy with muscular dystrophy who was still in the infants' class at the age of ten was so frightened he clung to me. Eventually I was allowed to sit there and cuddle him as the doctor checked him out as best could be done. 

I thought of all this and thought how nice it would be if, even as adults, we could have someone honestly reassure us that nothing was going to hurt and that it was simply going to be interesting. A hug from someone I knew and trusted? Mmm...maybe even that.  

Friday 18 June 2021

School uniforms

are in the news right now. There has been a suggestion that children should wear "sports gear" to school instead of the more traditional uniforms. The idea behind this is that they might be more active if they are wearing the "right sort of clothing". 

It's an interesting idea but I am not sure how accurate it is. One reason for this is that I am already aware that within the state school system the vast majority of children already seem to wear what would amount to something close to that. All the children in this street go to school dressed in this way. A..., the nine year old girl, wears a skirt by choice but she has sports shorts underneath. All the children wear trainers rather than what we thought of as  "school shoes". They all wear polo shirts in summer and skivvies (long sleeve polo neck shirts) in winter. They have sweatshirts. None of them has a school blazer.

I went through a variety of uniforms because I went to far too many schools. I am old enough that the old box pleat tunics were still common - you know the sort I mean I am sure. They were first seen around in about the 1920's I believe and they were still being worn in the 1960's here. I had a brown one first, then a grey one, then navy, maroon, grey and back to brown. I always had white shirts but the colour of the school tie changed. I had v-neck "jumpers" (sweaters to you North Americans) and a blazer. My hair ribbons for my plaits had to match. My raincoats were made from a sort of canvas material which had a rubberised lining. 

Almost every child wore these uniforms. They were expensive but they were passed down families and around other families. My first tunic was new but only because it was made from a length of material that my grandfather happened to have left on a bolt. It was not the "right" colour but uniform was not mandatory so it was considered this did not matter.

Why did most people dress their children this way if it was not mandatory? I suspect because it was simpler and, despite the initial expense, it was seen as cheaper. Most mothers would have been making the uniforms back then. They certainly would not have been commercially available.

Fee paying schools here tend to be much stricter about what students wear. Ms W's school has a very firm uniform policy. It's not cheap to buy new but even there the school's "uniform shop" sells items on. Ms W has had almost no new clothing for school because of this. It doesn't bother her. She is not averse to buying her other clothes in the local charity shop - but that is exceptional.

Are uniforms important? There are plenty of them to be found in the wider community - police, ambulance, some tradesmen and shop assistants, priests and more. We wouldn't feel the same respect for a judge dressed in a t-shirt and jeans either.

Does our dress affect the way we behave? That seems likely. We tend to be more careful when wearing "best" clothes. 

But will a change to a "sports gear" uniform mean children and teenagers are more active? I am less sure about that. 

What it might mean is that some things are even easier to care for than they are now. Perhaps we could teach children to do their own washing? 

Thursday 17 June 2021

The family from Biloela

is back in the news.

For those of you in other parts of the world I need to explain. This is a family of mother, father and two young girls. The mother and father arrived here illegally by boat. They arrived separately from one another, met and married. They have since had the two girls.

Government policy - supported by both major parties - is that illegal boat arrivals should not be allowed to stay. The thinking behind this is that it will be a major deterrence to people smugglers. That has proved to be correct. 

The family was living in the small outback town of Biloela - until immigration officials picked them up and placed them in immigration detention. This was done because the parents were found not to be refugees and they had overstayed the temporary visas granted to them. Since then there has been a lengthy court and community battle to allow them to stay.  

A great deal has been said in the news. The "allow them to stay" side has had most of the air time available simply because government officials and the courts cannot comment. Demonstrations in support of the family also make good news footage for a number of reasons.

A determination about the next level of appeal will be made very shortly. Pressure is growing to allow the family to stay. It all sounds very heart-wrenching as we are shown pictures of the youngest child, now four, in hospital with pneumonia and sepsis. 

But is there more to the story than two illegal migrants wanting to claim refugee status in order to stay? Almost certainly yes. 

Having two children born here and claiming, for that reason alone, they should be permitted to stay is not sufficient. There are other children born here of temporary residents and they do not have the right to stay. Lawyers for the family are claiming special circumstances this time but will it work? I don't know. 

My own feeling is that the family is being used by others and so are some of their supporters. They are not being given good advice. They are being given advice which will keep the case alive as long as possible. The reasons given for this sound very worthy. We are being asked to "show support and compassion". Is that really what it is all about? 

A genuinely compassionate lawyer would have provided different advice based on what the father was originally told. He was told to go back to his home country and apply to migrate. It was an application which would almost certainly have been quickly dealt with. Approval would have been granted. He (and his family) had the support of a community in an area with very few migrants. He had employment there. There was also evidence that the family was integrating. By not going down this path things have become much more difficult. Millions of dollars have been wasted. 

The media is making it out that there is widespread and majority community support for the family to remain here. The reality is a little different. While support is considerable it is not majority support. When the facts are put in front of people there is considerably less support.

As someone who is all too well aware of the millions of people who would like to migrate here - especially from refugee camps - I am left feeling anxious about all this. What is happening is not really about this family and their rights at all. They are being used by people who have other agendas and that is very dangerous indeed.

Those who are going to suffer the most are two little girls who should be going out to play with their friends.


Wednesday 16 June 2021

Severe autism

with learning difficulties and being non-verbal with it must mean the world can be a terrifying place.

I really don't understand J....'s world. His parents don't understand it either. They have spent the last seventeen years trying to do that and failing. 

He is leaving school at the end of this year and his mother came in yesterday with yet more forms to fill out and the words, "I just need to talk to someone else. Can you do something and listen?"

I let her talk while I cleared away some things. I wanted to get on with something else but she was close to tears. After a few minutes I pretended I had done enough and sat down with her instead.

"How can we have him home with us? T...still has to work. It's not safe. J...threw a big one on Sunday and this is the result." 

She showed me the bruises from J...'s temper tantrums. He gets violent when he is angy and frustrated. Their house looks strange. All the cupboards and drawers are locked. There is nothing around that J... might be able to throw or injure himself on or with. All his clothes are without buttons or zips or strings. He is constantly making noises. If he doesn't like or want the food put in front of him he will throw it on the floor and tread in it. 

J...'s mother did not go back to work - because of J... She tried but there were the constant demands that he was removed from places because of his behaviour. No work place can deal with the sort of demands placed on parents of a child like J... "Please drop everything immediately and come and get J...". 

I got to know them years ago when they still thought that a simple communication board might work. We tried everything I could think of and that they thought might work. When he started school I worked with his teachers but nothing succeeded. He is one of the most profoundy disabled people I know.

Life with J... is a constant battle to be alert, to not trigger a tantrum. His parents are exhausted. They were offered weekend respite only to be told that others could not cope and would they please come and get J... 

We went through all the forms again. School ends for J... in December. At the moment there is nowhere for him to go. He won't understand why he is being so isolated. 

His parents are being isolated too.   

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Taking new born babies from their mothers

was once considered to be acceptable when the mother was unmarried or there was some other issue. Adoption was considered acceptable too. 

Now much more effort is made to keep mother and baby together. It sounds like a good thing doesn't it? This is probably why there is a piece in this morning's paper expressing alarm at the number of infants who are being taken from their mothers within the first month of their lives.

Last week I chatted briefly to the mother of the twin girls just down the street. The girls are still pre-school. Their mother looks exhausted. Her husband seems to work very long hours and they don't mix with the other families on the street. In fact I am not sure they mix much with anyone. The girls don't go to any sort of playgroup or other social activity. It has taken them more than twelve months to learn to even acknowledge me with a wary smile. They have never spoken to me. Their immediate neighbour says the same thing. All the other children in the street seem to be constantly full of things they must tell me. T... was positively jumping up and down with impatience yesterday as he waited to tell me something. The girls are nothing like that.

Yes I know being twins, especially identical twins, can be an issue. I thought of them when I read the article this morning. They are well cared for - but what if they were not?  Twins have even been separated in the past. What of other children?

There is an extraordinary woman in this city who has taken in many, many infants from birth. They are seriously at risk infants whose mothers might be drug addicts or alcoholics or at risk of domestic violence. Yes, the babies might have problems associated with these things too but this woman takes them in and works long, hard hours to do the best she can for them. But they leave her and go on to an uncertain future. 

Sometimes they are returned to their mothers. It is then that the cycle of "return to mother and then return into care" starts. We think about the mother but how much do we think about the child? We put it in terms of the child having the "right" to be brought up by their natural mother. Is that really the case or do they have a greater right, a right to be brought up in a stable, caring environment? Do children born with FAS (foetal alcohol syndrome) really need the added burden of being shunted in and out of state care just to satisfy society's belief it is their "right" to be parented by a mother who cared so little about them during pregnancy?   

Not for the first time I am left wondering whether what we now we say is in the best interests of the child is in nobody's interest at all - least of all the child. 

Monday 14 June 2021

The (alternative) Queen's Honours List

is about to be presented to you. It will be short but I hope it will be of some interest.

I decided it was necessary to acknowledge a number of people I know who have performed services to me and to others I know. It is unfortunate but these people are not likely to actually appear in the official lists at any time.

They come in a random order because they are all equally important in their way. 

(1) The current postal delivery worker for waving to let me know that she had important mail for me. (It saved me a trip to sign for it at the post office.)

(2) S.... who does the heavy gardening for this property. He will cheerfully do any other small task I ask of him as well.

(3) P... who does the same inside and keeps my untidiness under control.

(4) M... who has worked steadily and tirelessly for the sick and injured in the local community for the past 42 years.

(5) H... who visits the Senior Cat each week and keeps him up to date with news of friends. It helps the Senior Cat feel part of his community.

(6) L... my godfather who 'phones the Senior Cat at least once a week. If I could drive I would buy a car just so you could see each other.

(7) J... who phones me every couple of weeks "just to check". Those calls have been so important of late.

(8) I... for all the handknitted socks the Senior Cat wears with pride. Warm feet are a wonderful comfort.

(9) P... who holds down more than one role in the knitting group. You have collected and delivered to me on more than one occasion without complaint.

(10) A group award to the neighbours who watch out for me. I hope I never need to use one of you in an emergency but I know you will help.

(11) The library staff, especially for hunting down obscure books for me without complaint.

(12) Regular readers of my witterings here - especially for the occasional comments.

There are more. They may need to wait until the New Year's list but you know who you are.

Who would you honour in an alternative list?

Sunday 13 June 2021

Insurance against child abuse claims

and payouts is apparently getting harder and harder to get - to the point where it might be impossible. That news in this morning's paper, along with some comments about the likely impact on some organisations, should be ringing alarm bells. It is the impact on organisations which concerns me the most. 

Allegations of child abuse have gone through the roof. It seems that almost everyone has an abuse story. There are people who have been abused, seriously abused and they need help. They should not need to pay for that help. They need care and support and understanding.

But there are other people who are abusing the change in our knowledge and understanding of abuse. They are claiming abuse and getting "compensation" when what may or may not have happened to them is something quite different.

I knew a man some years ago. He moved from another state to stay with his brother and SIL. He had cancer and his life expectancy was limited. Unlike his brother he had never done much with his life. He had allegedly been abused by a priest when young. Eventually he quietly left the house in the early hours one morning and drove his old car at full speed into a giant gum.

Afterwards people said that it was the alleged abuse that caused him to commit suicide. I wondered about this. He was an artistic and sensitive man and any abuse would have had an immense impact on him. But, he also had cancer. The last time I spoke to him he had just been to the doctor and he was leaning on the car just after alighting from it. He was fighting for breath from the sheer exertion of doing so. I stopped to be sure he didn't need help. He had responded with a slight smile and the request  "just wait with me a moment". So I sat there on the tricycle seat in silence until he felt he could move slowly up the short driveway and into the house. I'm glad I did that for him but it made no difference in the end. He was gone a few says later. 

I don't think people wanted to admit the pain from the cancer was too great a burden. It was more acceptable to believe in the alleged abuse.

The "abuse-excuse" is very common now. It gets used over and over again. People use it to explain poor achieving, criminal behaviour, mental illness, and the failure to get what they "deserve". I have no doubt at all that abuse does have an impact on our lives. It had an impact on me.  When I look at how it happened I can see how the abuse my mother experienced was something she in turn took out on me. It wasn't a "simple" thing at all because, despite the abuse, my mother did achieve something. She ended her career as a school principal. Her marriage lasted - for almost sixty years. My mother didn't run wild, use drugs, have multiple partners and children out of wedlock. I know young mothers who do those things who have not experienced anything like the level of abuse my mother experienced but they cause social workers endless problems.

So is financial compensation really the answer when an abuse claim comes in front of the courts? Money might be nice but does it make any real difference? Should we be looking at other ways of helping people - ways in which they can contribute to their own well-being? 

If we did that would there be more money for services to prevent yet another generation growing up "abused"?


Saturday 12 June 2021

Hobbies for the elderly

has been something of a concern to me of late. 

I have been going in and out of the residence in which the Senior Cat now lives and my concern is increasing.  I try to visit the Senior Cat at least three times a week, sometimes more often. 

In that time I have come to know something about the other residents and what they spend their days doing. Too many of them are doing nothing. Oh yes they might be staring at a television screen but they are not actually doing anything. 

Now of course some of these people have dementia, perhaps most of them have some form of memory impairment. It might be impossible for them to initiate activities on their own. 

There is a new "lifestyle" or "actitivities" officer, Y.... She is a very nice person and I get on well with her. Yes, I have talked to her more than once. I am aware that she has a very difficult job. We have actually discussed activities that might work more than once. (She knows that the Senior Cat is not in the least bit interested in "footy tipping" or any form of sport. She is also aware that he detests bingo and "indoor bowls". ) 

When I went in yesterday Y... was talking to the Senior Cat.  She was working out what they might do in the next origami class. The origami sessions were the Senior Cat's idea. He's no expert but Y... is. Her paper cranes are models of how it should be done. The Senior Cat's fingers are no longer as nimble as they once were and his eyesight is fading but he can still help Y... plan the steps for the class. As a former teacher he can tell her that some of the steps she was planning will be too big and much more.

After they had finished chatting we discussed quiz questions. The Senior Cat is rather bored by the quiz sessions. He feels he should keep quiet. He is the oldest resident there but, apart from the sport, he can usually answer the questions.  He has told Y... the questions are too simple and I would agree. Even people with a degree of memory loss can often remember things they knew in the past.  I promised to go through the bookshelves here in search of books which might help with questions. 

These things are all very well perhaps. They are cheap to run and that helps too. But there are still far too many empty hours in the day. Too many residents have no resources to fall back on. One woman plays some sort of card game on her mobile phone most of the day. She was "never much of a reader" she told me. At the same time she told me, "There's nothing to do in here."

There is no library there and the mobile library service does not visit there. It is unlikely there would be many people use it. There are no board games or jigsaw puzzles. "Messy" crafts are not encouraged. They were worried about the Senior Cat using some very harmless glue. He is concerned about one of the residents with dementia getting hold of the scissors. 

I thought about all of this too, about the way in which people are not reading, knitting, crocheting, whittling, modelling and more. Yes, part of it has to do with the effort involved in doing those things. More of it however has to do with the lack of stimulation in the surroundings. Often the residents will ask me "What day is it?" Their life has no structure any more.

My late friend N... fought against going into a residence. Like the Senior Cat she was alert and able into her nineties. In her late eighties she had found and written up a new plant she had discovered in a remote part of the state. She corresponded with people around the world.  Eventually she agreed to go but only after she was provided with a high speed internet connection so she could continue doing what she had been doing at home. I would go in to see her and she always had plenty to talk about.  The residence she moved into was not impressed by this. They thought she should be playing bingo and bowls.  

Bingo and bowls might be fun for some people but it seems to me we should be encouraging everyone to develop more hobbies they can continue to do even when they become old and frail... and we need to encourage people to do more reading now so that they have more to think about then. 

Friday 11 June 2021

Dressing up to go out

is surely a thing of the past? 

I remember my maternal grandmother putting on a hat, a coat and gloves to walk across the railway line not far from the house my grandparents lived in. She would do this even on a very hot day.  She would dress up like this in order to do the ordinary everyday shopping. She always wore stockings, the heavy 60denier type. Nana, as we called her, boasted that she had never worn trousers and that she was always "properly dressed". That she was not always as clean as she could have been was beside the point. She was, as she saw it, correctly attired.

My paternal grandmother never wore trousers either. My paternal grandfather disapproved of them - but then he was a very upright man of mid-Victorian Presbyterian mindset. "Grandma", as we called our paternal grandmother, however was not as formal.  She would take her shopping trolley and, without hat or gloves, she would go to do the household shopping just around the corner in Jetty Road. Yes, if she went into the city she would add the hat and the gloves to a suit made by her husband. (Grandpa was a tailor.) If the weather demanded it she would wear the tweed coat Grandpa had made for her. She didn't fuss.

My mother wore a hat to church but she had long ago dispensed with the gloves and she wore tights not stockings. If she went shopping yes, she changed her clothes. She might wear slacks around the house but she never wore them out.

I was thinking of all this yesterday because someone mentioned that they had "dressed up" to go out. They commented on how strange it felt. I looked around our local shopping centre yesterday. I visited the chemist. All the staff were wearing trousers. I went  into the supermarket, the greengrocer, the Post Office and the bakery. I saw just one person wearing a skirt - a skirt which almost reached her ankles. Nobody was wearing a dress.  

Most people I saw looked neat and clean and comfortable. It's that sort of middle-class district I suppose.

I thought about weddings and funerals and nights out. At such times I have seen people in jeans and the most casual clothing. 

I have worked from home for many years. I mostly wear jeans and t-shirts.  I don't actually own a dress.  I don't "dress up" to go shopping. I don't know anyone who does.

Perhaps that is why so many of us were smiling at the two small children dancing along yesterday. The little boy was dressed with what seemed to be a "Superman" cape and the little girl was wearing a pink tutu - over the top of her jeans.  

Thursday 10 June 2021

Law enforcement agencies are still

gloating over the success of their big "sting" , how many criminals they have caught, and how much wrongdoing they have prevented. Our state newspaper has a full page picture of one local man. Other places no doubt have similar pictures.

No doubt there are other papers with similar pictures. Oh yes, it is news. It is the sort of news the media loves. No doubt someone will turn it into a fine film one day.

And I thought about the family members, especially the young children who have no idea what a parent has allegedly been doing. Were they frightened by the loud knocks on the door - and the shouting? I wonder what it has done to parent-child relationships?

There have been other things in the news recently. There was the young mother whose premature baby was born in while she was in quarantine due to Covid19 regulations. The baby was in neonatal critical care. Was the mother allowed to see her baby? No. Even though she had twice tested negative and plans were in place to ensure the safety of all she was not even allowed to see her baby. I wonder what that has done for the parent-child relationship too. There are already bonding concerns being raised about babies who have been isolated from their mothers and the way the need to wear masks may be impacting on facial recognition and language development.

A family lost an eight year child in the most tragic of cicrumstances - he drowned while on a school camp. The shattered family was told only ten people could be present at the funeral even though the closest known Covid case was half way across the state. Even after the funeral company suggested holding the funeral outside with everyone wearing masks and people being appropriately "socially distanced" the health authorities refused to budge. I wonder what that has done to the family, especially the siblings? And these are the same health authorities who allow people to attend a football match and condone football teams travelling interstate.

A child had to be medically evacuated out of detention on one of the more remote islands. Her mother is with her. Her father remains in detention with her sister. There are demands for them all to be reunited. Those demands are understandable but the intransigence of the parents has caused the separation. I wonder if they have really thought about the harm being done to their children? 

I am wondering if people are really thinking about children in all of this? Are they thinking about children who have no power to make decisions?


Wednesday 9 June 2021

Our national newspaper

had an editorial yesterday which questioned the standard of journalism at our national broadcaster. 

I have long been questioning the standard of journalism in Downunder. We do have some very good journalists who produce some very good work. We also have some very lazy journalists who produce some very poor work. We also have a few journalists who have axes to grind and who are out to make a name for themselves at whatever the cost to other people.

People right around the world are aware of the case of a certain Cardinal. Whatever you might believe about that case the reality has to be that there were no dissenting judgments when the case went before the highest court in the land. The Cardinal was released from prison - only to face a barrage of criticisim from journalists and others. They clearly believed they knew better than some of the best legal minds in the country. Perhaps they do or perhaps they don't but the way they went about the issue was lazy.

Not so long ago a journalist I know contacted me. He was looking to find someone who might actually know about a particular issue. Did I know anyone who might be able to help? Sadly, I could not help. This man was doing some research before he wrote something. He's a hard working and very thorough man. There is a lot of very tedious work in being a journalist. He accepts that and gets on with it. More than once he has expressed his frustration at what can happen to a story.

Getting the news out is all important now. You have to keep your ratings and your advertising revenue. Stories can actually be less important than these things. Accuracy goes out the window, off air, into the ether. There are issues which are untouchable and issues where only one side of the story is actually acceptable. There are issues which must not be debated.

I am a very naughty cat. I sometimes write letters to the editor. They almost always get published. Occasionally though I have had someone call me and say, "Good letter Cat but we aren't allowed to publish it." I know why. It will often raise a question we are not supposed to ask about a sacred issue. 

I have told people I don't always agree with myself in the letters I write. That is not the point of writing them. I write them to try and make the people who do read the letters page think. Is that so very wrong? If I, a mere reader and occasional letter writer, want to try that then why don't journalists want to do the same?


Tuesday 8 June 2021

Catching the bad boys

is a feature in this morning's paper. There isn't just a single article but multiple articles spread over several pages. 

The law enforcement agencies are gloating over the number of arrests they have been able to make in a "sting" operation involving an "app" and other law enforcement agencies. It all sounds good to hear that more than two hundred people have been arrested and more than three thousand kilos of drugs have been prevented from reaching the streets. People's lives have been saved, executions have been prevented. 

I hope it works. It's a risky business. Getting information that way is fraught with evidential difficulties. It may well stop bad things from happening but how many criminals will end up doing prison time? It may not be as many as the law enforcement people hope for.

And I wondered about something else. What sort of lives do these people really live? Do the criminals get up in the morning thinking about their illegal activities? I suspect it is more likely they get up thinking about getting their children to school. Many of them are probably quite ordinary sort of people in every other way. For them criminal activities are quite possibly simply a job like any other job.

I find that odd. We don't write about people that way in novels. The reason of course is that they would not be particularly interesting characters if we did.  


Monday 7 June 2021

Kicking a football

is not easy. By this I mean I do not mean a soccer ball but the other more elliptically shaped ball beloved of the peculiarly Downunder game of "footy" or "f'ball" or "footer". 

To the best of my knowledge this game is played on a wide scale in only two states. The rest of the country is apparently more inclined to rugby or soccer...although sports mad Downunderites play those things here as well.

But, I digress. Going about other things yesterday I was occasionally young M... who lives diagonally opposite. He was in the front garden of his home kicking a football. He is five, going on six. He is not a big child for his age but it was a full sized football. (There are smaller versions for small humans.) He was out there for well over an hour bounce, kick, fetch the ball and do it again. 

T... and H... who live opposite are also active boys but not in this way. Their parents come from New Zealand so rugby rules in that house. They are also involved in child size marathons and the like - which they seem to enjoy. This might be because their parents do similar things. But, I have never seem them do what M... was doing with such concentration or persistence.

I spoke to M..'s mother about this. When he was at the early walking stage he actually seemed more than usually uncoordinated. That was when they started the ball skills. Something must have clicked because he was riding a bike without trainer wheels by the time he was three. These days he "jumps curbs" and does other heart stopping things.

How did it happen? Perhaps he has some innate ability but yes his parents and grandparents have spent hours with him on these skills and on cricket skills.

What does he presently want to be when he grows up? A footballer of course.

"I hope he will do something else as well," his mother told me with a sigh. 

Sunday 6 June 2021

Defending myself

is not something I am very good at. I am a cowardly sort of cat. I avoid confrontations. On the whole I am much better at defending other people than myself.

Someone I "know" in the sense that we communicate on the internet (and yes, we would have "coffee" together if she wasn't on the other side of the world) has said I come over as being"assertive" to her. I found that interesting because people who know me here would say I am not in the least bit assertive.

I dislike being the centre of attention. It was yet another reason to avoid things like graduation ceremonies. (There were others too - I'd had enough of lectures in the end and have avoided most such things ever since.) I avoid celebrating my birthday and having my photo taken. I don't like getting up and speaking in meetings or delivering lectures but I will do those things when necessary.

There are people who say that teachers also need to be actors because you are "performing" in front of your students. Perhaps you are and perhaps that is why I always feel anxious about doing any teaching. That may be a good thing because it makes me prepare what I need to teach. 

I am happier working one-to-one with people. In a way that is more demanding but, contradictorily, I also find that less stressful. S... will be here shortly to get some more help. I wasn't intending to see this young teen again but he contacted me yesterday and actually asked if I could help with something I know is worrying him at school. That's a huge turn around from his behaviour even three months ago and I am not going to knock him back.

This morning however I will need to spend the rest of my blogging time starting work on starting to write something to defend myself.

Wish me luck please. I may need it.


Saturday 5 June 2021

Four plastic boxes

suddenly appeared outside our front door yesterday. They were not there when I left. They were there when I arrived home. I was not expecting anything.

These days I am also cautious. It does not do to put your paws into unknown places. I put the gardening gloves on and pulled one of the boxes open. 

Ah, of course! There was yarn in the box. There was yarn in the other three boxes too of course. Someone - I had no idea who - had left yarn with me. On the top of the last box - which of course was underneath all the others - I found a note which said "Handknitters - for charity knits". 

Right. Thank you for lettting me know but who are you? I had not been approached by anyone asking if they could leave anything. 

It is not the first time yarn has been left with me for the same purpose. Over the years a number of elderly people I know have cleared out cupboards and even entire rooms. They have given me yarn to pass on - or even to keep for myself. Most of them, even those who knit themselves, have no idea how long it would take me to get through the quantities I have been given. I keep passing it on. Yes, the Handknitters' will take it. It is likely that they will pass most of it on to an excellent organisation called "Knit4Charities" and it will be used to make useful garments and more for people in need. 

Gradually though I think the magical cupboards which stored such stash are becoming a thing of the past. The generation below that one, my generation, has knitters of course but there are not so many of them. We work differently too. We need to because the wonderful local wool shops have gone out of business. The internet killed them off - often by suffocating them slowly and painfully. They have gone the same way as so many bookshops.

All I have done is to peep into each box - to do no more than reassure myself that they all contain yarn of some sort. It's not mine.

And, next to the boxes, there was a sturdy bag. In it there was some rather special sock wool. It was labelled "for the Mob". Four young people I know are going to be delighted. Their sock knitting skills are now good enough to allow them to knit for others. There will be some warm feet among children in a local hospital before long.

Last night the person who delivered it all phoned me. She apologised for not leaving a message. I assured her it would go where it was intended to go. Her aunt is moving house and other people will benefit because of it.

Friday 4 June 2021

Children being indoctrinated

about anything makes me feel uncomfortable. Yesterday I felt very uncomfortable as I listened to a group of five and six year being indoctrinated about "racism" and "loving our country".

Now please don't do what the adults were doing and just say, "But this is what children need to know about. We need to tell them that racism is wrong and that they need to love their country."

No, we don't need to "tell" them anything of the sort. We need to make them understand by example that "racism" is wrong and that "racism" occurs on all sides - not on just one. We need to make them understand that, if they do this, they can be proud of the place they live in.

I was watching the expressions on the faces of these children. Some of them were clearly confused, others were knowing, a few were serious - as if the point of the activity might be getting through. It was a group of mixed nationalities - "white" European, Mediterranean, Asian and Indian parentage was obvious. All of the could have been born here.

Nobody had raised their hand when asked if they were "indigenous". I doubt they would know what the word meant. I am also not sure that any of would really understand even if someone tried to explain. 

Generally speaking these children cannot read yet. The child I was watching in particular can read. He has been reading to himself for over a year. His mother taught him at the same time as she was working with his older brother while she was home-schooling during last year's lock down. He was bored and wriggling. He was told to sit still. His expression was mutinous.

At the end of the session the children were given "active" tasks designed to consolidate the ideas they had been given in the previous fifteen or so minutes. I watched them working at these. Several of them, obviously looking for approval from the teachers involved, were doing as they were asked and doing it carefully. They might have taken something positive from the lesson. Almost everyone else was doing as they were asked but they were talking to each other - and not, as far as I could hear, about the subject matter of the lesson. One child scribbled in some brown lines to colour the skin of the "indigenous" person and then started to draw something else altogether.  

In a sense there was nothing "wrong" with the lesson but it did not capture the attention of the children. I doubt it is going to do anything to prevent "racist" attitudes or encourage pride in their home country. 

The wriggling young reader was finally released from the classroom. I went with him and his mother so I could pick up the books she had promised to someone else. On the way he talked non-stop about other things that had happened during the day, including the way in which one of his friends had pushed someone else over in the school yard and made them cry. His mother queried this some more. The school would probably see this as a "racist" incident but it was much more about whose turn it was to do something. 

It left me wondering whether the emphasis on teaching children about racism isn't contributing to the problem and perhaps we should first be teaching them about taking turns, sharing and thought for everyone else.

Thursday 3 June 2021

Visiting in aged care

is rather more important than people realise.

Even before the Senior Cat moved in to his present place of abode I was in and out of several of the local facilities. Honesty compels me to admit that I do not like doing this but, if I am equally honest, I feel I must do it.

The first person I visited on any regular basis was the Senior Cat's aunt. I did this because I was the one who could "nip in" during the day. The Senior Cat would go at weekends but visiting hours simply did not permit him to visit her during his working week. I could go in my lunch hour. We did it because she was family and, as such, mattered to us. I also liked her. She was in her nineties but still very alert, read the paper and liked to read "a good murder" mystery. Another of the Senior Cat's cousins dealt with her affairs so all I had to do was check on her a couple of times a week.

Then our elderly neighbours moved in to a place not far from Middle Cat's home. They had family who should have been looking after them and they did actually call in to see them every two or three weeks. I somehow found myself calling in at least once a week to check they had what they needed. It would only be for a short while but it often resulted in a little shopping to do or some correspondence to deal with because V... was "off with the fairies" as her husband C...would tell me - and his eyesight was at the point where reading anything was difficult.

I went on from there to other neighbours and elderly people who lived on my regular pedalling route. There are still others on the route who now need someone to watch out for them. I have been asked to act as Power of Attorney three times. It is a responsibility I hate simply because it is a huge responsibility. It is no use the person telling me, "Don't worry about the receipts Cat. I trust you." At probate I have to be able to account for every cent I have spent on their behalf. I have had to make big financial decisions for them - and hope that I have done it in a way that will be to their maximum benefit. It is perhaps even harder to do this when the person you are doing it for is not related to you in any way. 

And I have visited them. I have bought clothes for them. I have gone with them on medical appointments (in taxis) and to other appointments. I have had to explain that they cannot pay me to do all this, that they cannot give me money or leave me money in their wills. (With respect to the latter I say this because I am all too aware of what can happen when their own children see something like that has been done.)

So why do I do it? The son of someone I knew asked me that yesterday.  He could not get here to see his mother. He was on the other side of the world and travel restrictions prevented it. There was nobody else here because his children are also in other places. It was either the facility do everything here with the difficulties of getting instructions from him or someone like me helping out. 

No, it wasn't that onerous in the end. But, why did I do it? It was because when I prowled in to her room her face would light up. 

"Oh dear, it is so nice to see you. Have you got time for a chat?" 

I'll miss M... asking me that - even though I barely knew her.



Wednesday 2 June 2021

Football is unbelievable

and I really cannot believe it is so important.

There is a serious Covid19 outbreak in the neighbouring state. It is highly likely we have some undetected cases here. Despite that the powers that be are allowing footballers to come and play a match here.

Please! Football is supposed to be a game! It isn't worth risking the lives of other people for this.

There has been some heavy criticism of the Federal government over the way the vaccination and quarantine arrangements have been made. A lot of this has been quite unfair and shows an alarming lack of understanding of the way in which government works in this country. 

It is not as simple as saying something like "quarantine is a federal responsibility". Yes, it is - but health is a state responsibility. Federal and state governments need to work together on this issue.  When state and federal governments are on the opposite sides of the political fence then things don't always happen the way they should. In this state almost everyone in aged care who wanted to be vaccinated has been given their first jab. Some have had their second. Every effort is being made to reach people in remote communities. The Royal Flying Doctor Service is being used where necessary. 

It is not a simple matter of simply lining people up and walking along and jabbing each arm. Precautions have to be taken. Records have to be kept. People need to be able to get to a vaccination site. Even the RFDS can only get so far. If you live on the island we once lived on you might have to travel quite a long distance and do it at a time when the vaccination facility is available. And yes, you do need to be vaccinated if you want the tourists, on whom your economic surival depends, to come back. 

Why then would you risk everything for a football match which does not matter in the least? Why are people criticising governments for not doing enough when they are behaving in ways that are making serious difficulties for governments to handle the situation?

We all want life to get back to "normal" or, as Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa famously put it, "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change."

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Zoom meetings

are really not for the faint hearted. 

I have been trying to avoid them but I had three yesterday. The first was with a surgeon and the two teams with whom he will be working.

I am never too sure about surgeons. They can get very impatient with people like me, people who do not have the same in-depth knowledge of the arcane processes involved or the same appreciation of their skills. This was someone I had not worked with before and that did not help. I was not even in the happy position of knowing anyone on either team. 

They all checked in so that I could see these people in a faraway place and we went through the entire communication board I had written for them. I sat here not quite chewing my paws to the bone but worried as each new symbol came up that the surgeon, who seemed impatient, would lose his temper. There is always the worry that I am going to be accused of doing the wrong thing in a way that could kill someone. (No, it has not happened but the potential is there.) 

Everyone seemed tense until the end of the meeting and then the surgeon smiled as the camera switched to him again and he said,

"That's great! Fantastic effort everyone! Cat and R.... thank you for your help. We're ready to go tomorrow."

I could almost see the wave of relaxation go through the pictures on the screen.

I am now sitting here wondering how they are getting on. R..., who helped me write the board, emailed a short while ago to say that he was sitting in the observation area waiting to move in if there were any problems at the crucial point.  I won't hear any more though. I never do. I often wonder. 

The second meeting was much more mundane. I made a report. I answered some questions. It is not my role to suggest things to this group so I left them to it and just listened. Conversation does not flow in a virtual meeting like this. Strong personalities tend to take over even more in these settings.  I even wondered if I could sneak my knitting in - after all they couldn't see much more than the top of my head. 

And later in the day an email came through reminding me that an AGM was due a bit later. I had it in the diary but thought it was today for some reason or other. No, it was due in about an hour. I left the laptop on and did some other things and then checked in. 

It was late in the day and I nearly didn't bother. Like most people I do not like AGM's with their reports and their financial reports and their unfinished business from last year - or even years before. This time people were late too. It is something I am well used to by now because I work across massively different time zones. This time we were only meeting across the country but someone had to finish work at one side when others would likely have eaten their evening meal. 

In the end there were just enough for a quorum and I stayed on line to keep it that way. I didn't contribute much. I think I said "Great idea" at one point and "Yes" at another and that was about it. Instead I listened to people who use AAC (augmentative and alternative communication devices - in this case artificial speech) have their say instead. It was good to be able to sit there and know that they are more than capable of expressing themselves. 

Yes, I was "there" in the virtual sense and the meeting could go ahead but I thought of all the people I know who still cannot express their thoughts in any way. I am seeing K.... today. She is non-speaking but she has a wicked sense of humour. At the moment I have to rely just on her eye movements for her to tell me what she is thinking. I am hoping that one day we can chat via Zoom too.