Monday 31 January 2022

There is a federal election coming up

and the media are already gleefully announcing that the Opposition is going to win. The Prime Minister is "unpopular" (although still two points ahead of the Leader of the Opposition) and there is talk in the media of a leadership spill.

Are we on the verge of doing what Britain once did? Churchill got Britain almost through the war - and then got voted out. The Prime Minister who followed him, Attlee, had the responsibility of trying to start to rebuild post-war Britain but Churchill was voted in again after six years of Labour government. Britain then had Conservative governments until 1964. 

We have been at war here - at war with a pandemic. While we all love to criticise the government the reality is that the government has actually done an outstandingly good job. The vast majority of us, over 90% are doubly vaccinated and a great many of us have had a booster shot as well. This has occurred despite the claims of the media and the Opposition that the government was not prepared, was tardy in acquiring the vaccine, and couldn't get them administered. Hospitals have been under pressure, even intense pressure, but we haven't had acres of temporary tent hospitals in car parks. Yes, we have had to wait hours for PCR tests - but how much of that has been due to healthy people queuing "just in case"? How much is the supposed "shortage" of Rapid Antigen Tests due to distribution to people who are demanding them but don't really need them? They may not see that as "hoarding" them but is there really a difference?

Yes, people have died - but that is the nature of a pandemic. People also die from influenza every year but this seems more dramatic. The media is making much of the numbers. At the same time they have been complaining, and encouraging others to complain, about the restrictions placed on us. 

And people are demanding "more assistance" all the time. It is coming from all sectors of the economy. Our Deputy Prime Minister is a "bit of a character" I suppose but his comments last night when asked about more assistance for small business were interesting. He simply pointed out that there has to be a limit to what you can put on the credit card. When people demand "government assistance" they tend to forget that somehow this has to be paid for - and that it is the taxpayers who end up paying for it. 

I suspect that this is what happened in Britain. People were, rightly, tired of the war and all the horrors that went with it. They wanted an end to rationing. They wanted life to go back to "normal" even if "normal" had changed forever. We want the same here. Many people see the Opposition as the party which is going to bring this about. It won't of course because we have a huge pandemic debt and if we want "normal" in the future we are going to have to work for it. It's a bit like having to do exercises after surgery. We won't feel like doing it. It is going to be extremely hard work.  

Right now it looks as if a majority of people are going to opt for the "less exercise" option and hope we can get away with it. The only problem with that is that it will take much longer and the result will never be as good. 

And no, I don't particularly like the present government - but the economic credentials of the other side worry me too.


Sunday 30 January 2022

And the vultures descend

as soon as money is involved.

There is a story in the paper this morning about a young priest getting a $2m inheritance from an elderly woman and the usual concerns about an "abuse trust" and more. It is always an issue, even when there is nothing amiss. I don't know what the situation is in the case being reported as I know no more than has been reported.

I have however come across more than one case of concern. In one instance the person who should have got the least was the one who got the most. The will was very carefully and professionally drawn up. The testator made it quite plain why that person was getting less than other members of the family. (She had already received more than other members of the family while the testator was living.) It should have been an end of the matter but that person fought and won and ended up with a larger share than anyone else through a series of legal quirks. Her only son now uses the money to indulge himself.

There was also someone the Senior Cat knew. He befriended an old woman and did a lot for her. She left him a substantial sum and her relatives, who never had any contact with her, fought that. They did not win but the sum he should have got was greatly eroded. He did put it to good use and ended up being very wealthy. On his death the money went to a number of good causes because he had no family.

The Senior Cat's cousin's will also caused problems. He was also a wealthy man. (He invented a process which is used in the aircraft industry and elsewhere.) He left nothing to his blood relatives and they have not fought it. But his "girlfriend", a woman who refused to marry him, is fighting his will. She didn't live with him but claims he considered her to be "family" and that he treated her and her children as "family". The matter is not yet concluded but the rest of us are hoping that the charities he named will still be the beneficiaries. 

And recently I came across a quiet young man who was stunned to inherit something from a man who appeared occasionally in the second hand business in which the young man works. 

"Cat, I didn't really know this guy. I mean we chatted a bit and I did find some stuff he was looking for but I didn't know him - not properly."

I know what he means. He feels uncomfortable. There are questions being raised about that will too. He doesn't want to fight it. His attitude was "they can have it if they want it". So I said to him, "If they weren't fighting about it would you feel differently? You can't say no to it - what are you going to do with it? I know what T... thought you might want to do."

He looked at me in absolute amazement. "Did he talk to you?" All I could do was say, "He mentioned it in passing. I'd put that paper work in if I were you. I'd tell the solicitor what you want to do with the money."

This young man has not been able to go to university. He has the qualifications but his family circumstances have conspired against it. He could go now. There is even a chance he could still get into the course he wants to do as a late applicant - because the university knows about his circumstances. I know the court is going to be sympathetic. 

The vultures might have descended. They might even be circling but they are not going to take everything they want.


Saturday 29 January 2022

Timber fascinates me

because it is such simple and yet such complex stuff. I know, that's a contradiction. I won't try and explain. I just like timber and things made from timber. It's natural. It feels different. Artificial substitutes will never ever be the same.

I suppose I know a little bit about it. The Senior Cat was a woodworker. Like everything else he set about doing he set about learning more than just the basics of the craft. He learned about timber. He has taught others about timber too - including yours truly. I won't say I know much but I do know a piece made of Huon Pine when I see it.  I know what a "dovetail" joint is - and why you no longer need to worry too much about making them. I know what a "biscuit" is instead - in relation to woodwork. 

But my knowledge of woodworking is really miniscule compared with the Senior Cat or a professional woodman such as H...  Both of them have helped me understand timber in a way that I appreciate. It was H... who told me about a television program he had been alerted to.

"You might find it interesting Cat... not really my sort of thing but I am told there are some characters in it."

Characters? I am not a watcher of television in the normal way. I do try to watch the early evening news service but I am usually doing something else at the same time.  Still, this was on immediately after that so I left the television set on.

The program is similar to that of many others. There are a group of people competing against each other and each week someone gets eliminated. Each week they have to make something they have designed and each week they also have to pass a skills challenge. There has been a fair mix of male and female contenders. One of the definite "characters" is someone who dresses as a female and is referred to as such but.... she is definitely fun and talented. Another is someone who "works instinctively" and obviously loves timber with a passion. There is a rather quiet girl who displays some unexpected skills - even when challenged by something she has never tried before. 

So far they have had to design and make a bed, a doll's house, a chair, and carve an animal. All those things present unique challenges.

Nobody in the group is a professional woodworker so this makes it all the more interesting. I know enough about the processes involved to be able to observe the person as well as the process. How do they approach something they have never tried before? They may not be confident but are they determined? Have they got the ability to "think outside the square" - something more than just imagination?

But the other interesting thing has been to watch them support as well as compete with each other. There are "support" people there but last night I observed one competitor helping another despite the time constraints on all of them. In most competitive settings that is unusual. They all seem genuinely disappointed for the person eliminated each week - even when their own relief at not being that person is obvious. 

 I may watch the rest of the series if I get a chance but even without that H... was right. There are characters there...which may just appear in something else. 

Friday 28 January 2022

Nuns and my (Presbyterian) grandfather

had a rather curious relationship. 

I pondered this yesterday on getting the news of the death of Sister Janet Mead, the nun who famously made the single hit record of "The Lord's Prayer".

Sister Janet was one of the four nuns who attended my grandfather's funeral in 1975.  Yes, you may ask, "What? Why on earth...?"

Grandpa's parents, my paternal great-grandparents, emigrated to this country in the late 1800's. Great-grandpa was a ship's pilot and marine cartographer so they naturally settled in the city's port area. Great-grandma was one of those women who was a natural and practical social worker. She saw it as her role to help where she could - and she expected her family to do the same. It didn't matter to my great grandmother where someone came from, what the colour of their skin was, or what religion they professed to believe in. Her children were expected to be as accepting. 

Great-grandma was a Presbyterian, a go to twice each Sunday and keep the Sabbath  sort of Presbyterian. Unlike many of her generation however it did not stop her from having contact with the many Catholics in the area. She knew some of the nuns from the local convent, undoubtedly sent some of those in need of help in their direction. It was all very unusual in those days. Catholics and Protestants didn't mix. I doubt my great grandmother ever entered a Catholic church or that the nuns ever entered the Presbyterian kirk.  But it didn't seem to stop them helping each other out when necessary. 

My paternal grandfather went on to do the same. He was a church elder. He was on the committee of the Caledonian society. Both groups saw their role as more than that of church administration or social club. They were there as a social service too. And this was particularly so for my grandfather.  As a tailor by profession he often made uniforms for the governors of the state, for ship's captains and more - and he made suits and more for the clergy. This was long before these things became freely commercially available. Grandpa would occasionally see nuns, in habits and only ever in pairs, walking the streets of the port. He knew, from his mother, that they were often doing an essential social service. They ran the orphanage, fed the families when a father was sick or injured, cared for the elderly who had nobody else, and much more. It was a side of the nuns that most people, especially those who were not Catholic, never really knew about. As a small kitten the abundant myths about nuns always rather puzzled me. My grandfather seemed to have quite a high opinion of them.

He certainly didn't agree with "all that Latin clap-trap or Hail Mary stuff" but he didn't condemn them for it either. Instead my grandfather saw to it that the local Catholic youth were encouraged to join in the sailing and the fishing  and invited to the ceilidh's organised by the Caledonian society. Grandpa would play the fiddle at the latter - and his feet never touched the swords when he danced across them. (I wonder how the Senior Cat never inherited these skills?)

And over the years, somewhere along the line, he came into contact with Sister Janet more than once.  He used to shake his head over her. How could a woman with so much musical talent be a nun? "Just a piano teacher"? Rubbish! The woman could sing! She had a wonderful voice!

I suppose at some point this must have got back to Sister Janet because, along with three other nuns, she appeared at the back of the church on the day of my grandfather's funeral. In 1975 that was still a very rare and unusual thing in our part of the world, a great tribute to my grandfather. 

Her voice singing the great Presbyterian funeral hymns "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" and "Our God, our help in ages past, are still something I remember. It was a generous gift to us all - and she used it well.

RIP Sister Janet.  

Thursday 27 January 2022

A little bias in the news

occurred yesterday. It showed just how quickly something less than full possession of the facts can be turned into a media story.

It was our national holiday yesterday. It might have passed me by altogether. I didn't even manage to watch the usual news service last night but I did look at my Twitter feed. The words "Governor-General" were appearing frequently. I was being told he was "MIA". Really? I was also being told that the Prime Minister was usurping the role of the Governor-General in all sorts of ways. Really?

It sounded a bit odd to me because I could remember reading something....I prowled off to look. Was I right? Yes.

The Governor-General was, according to an article from a reputable source, diagnosed with Covid on 9 January - a little over two weeks ago. He's doing the right thing. He's isolating. He isn't "missing in action" at all. He's on sick leave.

That also means the Prime Minister was not usurping the role of the Governor-General at all. He was standing in for him, representing him, substituting, holding the fort... call it what you will. The PM was doing exactly what he is expected to do in those circumstances.

He was doing exactly what he is expected to do - and being criticised for it. Nobody mentioned the G-G was ill. If they had done that then there could be no criticism.

A little bias in the news, a little careful "ignorance" of the facts, can go a long way to getting across the message you want to get across. All too often accuracy is the first casualty of the news.

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Why do we give these people air time?

At around this time every year there is a vocal minority group which gets more air time than the majority view. "Research" is carefully done to support their point of view - and, believe me please, you can get whatever answer you want if you know a little about how "research" is done in the social sciences. Pick and choose your victims, carefully construct the questions and more if  you want to make sure you get the result you want.  (Have you ever wondered why most "political research" doesn't give you the opportunity to  say "none of the above" or does not give you a figure for "refused to answer"?)

Around now we get complaints about Downunder's national holiday being "invasion" day. We get demands for Downunder to "become a republic", to change the flag, to change the national anthem, to be rid of the states (or to break away from the rest of the country). We get demands to let everyone who wants to come here in or keep most people out. 

Many of these demands are made by people who actually know better - but it suits their political agenda. They are adept at getting publicity. Some of them are now so well known they simply have to make any utterance for the media to fall all over them and each other in an attempt to make as much of it as possible. A much more measured and careful response by someone who does not fit into the political agenda will be ignored.

I thought of all this yesterday when the young woman chosen to be last year's person of the year made it very plain she was not happy about having to appear with the present Prime Minister. She was actually praised by some in the media for her manner towards him.  Yes, they have an agenda. They want him to lose the upcoming election. He has been criticised unmercifully about all manner of things. Most of it is hearsay and there is precious little evidence for it - if any. I suspect much of it stems from the fact that he is open about his membership of a "charismatic" religious group - and that is seen as somehow "not on" by many people. It is also easy to ignore where responsibilities really lie if it suits a political agenda. Let's blame an unpopular Prime Minister for the failures of the states - just be careful not to let people know who has responsibility for what under the Constitution.

I have met and had dealings with more than one Downunder Prime Minister. One had to be told by his wife "and be polite to her" when I was introduced to him. Another pushed me out of the way and refused to have me employed because "I'm not having anyone with a disability in a position like that". Another ignored a serious situation that resulted in the death of someone I had been asked to help. (My nephew saw another Prime Minister drunk and breaking glasses at a private function with the previously mentioned one - but it was never reported even though a number of journalists were present.)

There have been two I can respect as much as I am ever likely to respect someone in that position. The first brought in measures which made everyone much safer. He was unfailingly polite and courteous in my dealings with him. The second listened to another serious problem, listened to the possible solution and then implemented it. Later still he wrote a letter in support of me, a letter not composed by one of his minions but with a personal account in it. He was unfailingly polite and courteous - despite a certain infamous (and carefully edited) speech by another Prime Minister.

I have had no direct dealings with the present Prime Minister. If I had to meet him I hope I would shake hands or bump elbows or something similar and that I would be polite. To do anything would be to betray the people on whose behalf I would be meeting him. 

Tuesday 25 January 2022

The playlist?

You want to know the playlist?

I have been asked to produce my 20th C playlist. J.... has asked me to do this and I am completely bewildered by the request. I know what he means but... I am not that sort of cat.

I prefer silence. If I am working I need silence. Music is a distraction. If I am thinking about something then music is a distraction. 

I grew up in a family where the radio was not on all day. At university I preferred to work in the library - because it was quiet there. Even now when I am in the house alone most of the time I don't have music in the background. 

"So, you don't like music?" I hear one or more of you asking this and I wonder how to answer you because I doubt you would understand. I don't want music as something there in the background.  For me, it's a very emotional thing. 

As a kitten I used to cry when my mother played a record. I would tell her, "It hurts me inside." She never understood that. I was told I was being "silly" and often sent off to my bedroom. I would sit there with my paws over my ears trying to shut the noise out.  It was not that I did not like it. It just overwhelmed me. Often it still does.

But J... has asked me for a sort of playlist from the 20thC. I suspect he is a little older than I am and I doubt my choices would be his choices. 

I have tried thinking back to things I knew in my teens - knew because I heard them played not in our house but in other places - Guide camps, church youth groups and the like. (Our pleasures back then were rather more simple and didn't involve vast sums of money - most of us had none.)

So you are - not in any particular order of preference.

Blowin' in the wind - probably sung in German because that is the way I first heard it

We shall overcome - still around. It evokes powerful and often painful memories for me.

Kumbaya - often our last choice around the campfire

Sounds of silence  - that's lasted - I heard the reworked "Trump" version last year

 Bridge over troubled water - troubled indeed


Little boxes

Turn, turn, turn

The last thing on my mind

Where have all the flowers gone.

I have tried not to include any of the traditional songs (like Scarborough Fair) which became popular back then - they, like "A whiter shade of pale" (which is actually stolen from Bach), belong to another era altogether. 

And then there are things like the Missa Luba - but I am not sure that's the sort of thing J.... meant.

Now dear reader - do you know these I need to say more than the title?


Monday 24 January 2022

Packed lunches

are not something I often need to do now. If I do need to be out and want to take my own then I can usually put something together very quickly. I prefer taking something with me to paying exorbitant prices for something like a sandwich.

I was discussing this with a neighbour yesterday. She was worrying over the upcoming need to provide packed lunches for her two boys. She talked about providing this and that and something else and then the need for a "treat" and wondered if they would eat the fruit she intended to put in. A sandwich? No...that wouldn't do at all. They won't eat sandwiches! She might just give in and let them buy their lunch most days.

I listened to all this and thought back. We don't have "school dinners" here. There are school canteens which provide items that the food police have approved or children take their own to school. When I was a mere kitten I took my lunch to school. When we lived in the city I was allowed to buy a pasty and a bun from the school canteen - once each term.  I suppose there were children who frequently bought their lunch but most of us brought ours. 

Our mothers made us sandwiches with white bread - that being all that was available most of the time.  We had "Vegemite", peanut paste (as we called it then) or perhaps a slice of processed cheese in it. Some children got jam or honey and banana - but that was generally frowned upon (thus making it all the more desirable). Very occasionally we might get some meat scraps - left over from the weekend roast.

With it we would get a biscuit or cake and a piece of fruit. We drank the almost undrinkable water from the taps by scooping it up with our hands as the tap ran. (The city's water supply was so bad that the ships would not take it on.) Some lucky children would bring cordial to school but there were not that many of them.

When we moved back to a remote area there was no canteen at all. The children brought thick sandwiches made from wallaby or kangaroo or mutton. Some of their mothers made the bread. If not it was very stale white bread by the end of each week and everyone looked forward to the weekly delivery from some 70 miles away. (It came packed into tea chests.) There were sometimes slabs of sultana cake if shearing was going on - because the shearers got that for "smoko" breaks. There were biscuits - often shop bought "Bush" biscuits - very large, squarish sort of plain biscuits. Fruit was rare unless there were fruit trees on a property. My siblings and I were stuck with Vegemite sandwiches but we saw more fruit than most children. 

And yes we ate those unattractive lunches without thinking too much about it. We were active. We were hungry. It was much the same for everyone. One piece of waxed paper around our sandwich had to last all week. We had to shake it free of crumbs and fold it. 

I told the neighbour about this. She nodded and said, "I bought my lunch most Fridays I suppose but never in between. I had sandwiches and biscuits and fruit. Mum might fling in some almonds or something like that as an occasional treat. My two don't know they are alive but I just can't be bothered arguing with them over what they want in their lunch boxes. At least now they are in high school they haven't got the teacher checking their lunch boxes."

I suppose that's something. I do wonder what teachers think of what goes into lunch boxes now. It does worry me that notes can be sent home when a child brings something "unsuitable" to school. (One of the children in this street had a piece of his own birthday cake confiscated the following day because it was not something in the school guidelines.)

And I wonder if the children I know would eat Vegemite sandwiches made with stale white bread?


Sunday 23 January 2022

My musical education is

sadly lacking I fear.

The Senior Cat wanted to know "who is this Meatloaf person and why doesn't he have a proper name?" It was a reasonable thing to want to know I suppose and at least it means the Senior Cat is still taking an interest in such things. 

But all I could tell him was that the man had been "some sort of popular singer from a while back". The Senior Cat was satisfied with the answer - but not impressed.

When I returned home from visiting him I did a little more research - simply because this man's death also made the news service. I had, vaguely, heard of him - and that was it. My research left me only a little better informed - perhaps  because I did not want to prowl into a web of modern music sites.

I don't know whether I am simply "not musical" or whether there is something else seriously wrong with me. What I do know is that I don't understand enough about it to actually like the sort of music which the likes of Meatloaf produced and some still produce. I looked at some videos to which I was directed by someone I know. They did nothing for me. I find them "messy". They lack clarity. There is too much going on in the background. There is more to it than that - but it's a start.

I grew up in a household where the radio was turned on for the news service and then, apart from "the Argnonauts" (the Children's Hour) - which was largely an educational program, we did not listen to the radio at all. If there was music in the house it was records - Mozart to Mahler with some Gilbert and Sullivan sort of music thrown in. Mum was considered to be the musical member of the family until we finally bought a piano and my siblings had piano lessons. I was allowed to learn a little musical theory. It taught me to read music - something that has been useful from time to time - and Sister S... at the convent also expanded my knowledge of church music. It was not something my parents particularly cared for. Mum always said Handel's Messiah had "a lot of dead wood" in it. I learned to keep my mouth shut about that.

At school I had three years of class music taught by a man who went on to work at one of the best known choir schools in England. J.... understood my frustration at not being able to play an instrument I think. He quietly gave me things to read and think about but it was not modern popular music. It was mostly songs, some of them serious and others fun or he would get me to listen to a piece of Bach or Vivaldi and tell me things like, "Listen to the way he builds it up and then...." I listened. 

I found out more about folk music at university. This was not just what is sometimes called "folk music" but also something about the many varieties of traditional music from around the world. I like some of it but not all of it - and that is as it should be. 

Music can transport me to strange places. The memories are not always comfortable. Perhaps if I had grown up with more music in the background I would feel differently. I might actually like all this popular music. As it is, if I have to like "popular" music, I prefer O'Carolan to Meatloaf... but they are centuries apart.  

Saturday 22 January 2022

32v power plants and no running water

and you wonder what on earth I am talking about?

There was a report in yesterday's media about a place we once lived in. The "golf course" there is apparently under water. I say "golf course" rather than golf course because I am sure it is more sand traps than nice, well kept grassy greens. It's in a very remote location - not the most remote perhaps but still very remote. It doesn't rain much there so it really was newsworthy for people to be kayaking on the golf course. I don't imagine it was very safe either - but people do tend to take risks in that part of the world, more risks than usual. 

We went to live there a very long time ago. My parents were appointed to the two teacher school there. My mother taught the first three years/ The Senior Cat taught everyone else. 

When we first went there the region had been in the grip of a five year drought - and it didn't break in the two years we were there. The house we moved into was "new" - that is, it had been built in the previous year but nobody had used it. It was built on land that had not been properly cleared so there were trees growing under the house. It was made of fibro-asbestos sheeting. It had been tacked together in the roughest possible way. The rooms were so small my parents spent the two years there sleeping head to toe - you couldn't put two beds side by side and getting a double bed in would have been  impossible. Middle Cat and I slept on the floor because you couldn't get beds in the other bedroom at all. Brother Cat slept in another room so small that his mattress was jammed against the Senior Cat's desk. 

There was no running water into the house when we arrived. The water came onto the property through an inch wide pipe which ran across the top of the ground. The source was a reservoir of salty (not sea) water over 300km away. In summer it was too hot to put your hands under the "cold" tap. Water into the house appeared about six weeks that our mother could run it into the copper to do the washing by hand. There was a fire under the copper and a wood burning stove in the kitchen. The Senior Cat had to chop the iron hard mallee roots to burn in that. All this had to be done even when the temperature was still well over 40'C late at night. 

There was no electricity for the first six months we were there. The Senior Cat then helped the man from the Electricity and Water Supply to put in an engine which powered a 32v plant. Wow! We actually had dim lights at night instead of candles and lamps. Of course the plant didn't always work and it would often fail altogether. (There was something wrong with it but the combined efforts of the E&WS man and the Senior Cat and a farmer or two never succeeded in discovering just what that was.)

The "general store" stocked basics - like potatoes and pumpkin. Bread came in once a week - or you made your own. I could go on but that much might give you a glimpse of what it was like.

Now someone remarked on Twitter yesterday she was tired of people saying to her, a mother of four who works at a university, that they "don't know how she does it". I know how she does it. She does it because she works hard but I think even she would agree that she has it easy compared with people like my parents and others like them. She has lights and power at the flick of a switch, a supermarket to shop in and much more.  Yes, she works hard but compared with people like my parents she is surely more comfortable?

When people say to me, "Don't you ever want to go back to the places you lived in?" I can only answer,"No. It wasn't good. It was hard. We children found it hard too. We were "the teachers' kids" and considered outsiders. Like the local children we missed out on a lot of experiences city and less remote children took for granted.  I don't want to see those places again even if they have a golf course now."

Is that so very wrong?  

Friday 21 January 2022

We are going to an election

in just eight weeks. It is a state election. We have a federal election coming up later in the year.

In both cases the government is expected to lose the election. In both cases the opposition is claiming they could have handled the Covid situation much better. That alone will probably be enough to get them over the line. That it isn't the reality is beside the point. They simply need to say it and people will believe it. There is no need for them to say how they would have handled it any more effectively - even with the benefit of hindsight. They simply need to convince people that they would have done better. 

It's nonsense of course. One of the things about an epidemic - it becomes a pandemic when it crosses to another continent - is that it is not possible to accurately predict what is going to happen. Why did some people die, others get critically ill and recover, even more get mildly ill and recover, and some not get the disease at all? Governments trying to plan for that sort of thing face an almost impossible task. 

Ours have actually done a pretty good job. I don't agree with everything they have done but it is a fine balancing act between getting most people to do the right thing and keeping everyone as safe as possible.  

There were many critical comments from the opposition about the "delay" in the vaccination program and suggestions that the federal government had not ordered enough doses of vaccine quickly enough or planned how to get them out into the community. Those comments were unjustified. Yes, there have been some hiccups but the reality is that those responsible have actually done an extraordinary job in getting this done. I am even getting a booster shot tomorrow. (I feel a little guilty about this knowing that there are so many people in other parts of the world who have not had any shots at all.)

I do wonder how much longer we will be required to check in with QR codes or manually and how much longer we will be required to wear a mask in most venues. I can only assume that this is what the Chief Medical Officer is saying is necessary. It would be good to have some idea of when she believes that can stop. If that stops then it is likely that it will be possible to visit more freely in aged care - and too many people are using the present situation as an excuse not to see people in aged care. 

But all those things are likely to have been much the same whichever party was in power. That is not what we should be looking at. We should be looking at the other policies and how much the present governments have managed to achieve. We also need to look at how many times the government of the day has not been able to implement a policy simply because the opposition has found a way to prevent it from happening.  

I thought of all this yesterday when a very senior figure in the state opposition gleefully informed me that they had managed to prevent some key policies going through. With minor changes they plan to push the same policies through themselves. It's a common tactic.

And so, in about nine weeks from now we will almost certainly have a new government. It isn't going to halt the virus. 

Thursday 20 January 2022

"May we see your driver's licence please?"

I had a very odd experience yesterday. 

Two policemen arrived at the front door - and scared the living daylights out of me. I immediately wondered about the safety and well being of family living interstate. 

No, they were not mentioned. Instead they asked to see my driver's licence. 

"I haven't got a licence," I told one of them as the other looked in the carport.

"Where's your car?" the one looking in the carport asked. The carport is currently filled with the avocado tree we had to take down.

"I don't have a car. I have never had a licence to drive one and I don't even know how to drive."

"But you are.... "

"No. Try the court across the road," I said recognising the name, "But I think she is still in hospital."

Without a word of apology the two unwanted visitors went across to the court. They were back a few minutes later and asked me, "Do you know what hospital she is in?" 

No, I don't. I know where she goes to see her pulmonary specialist but I wasn't going to say anything unless I had to. I doubt P... has been speeding. The opposite would be true. She is a menace on the road because she goes at snail's pace. I know her car isn't damaged in any way because I had to leave a packet she was expecting at her back door on Monday. I would have noticed damage to her almost new car. 

My unwanted visitors looked at each other and then back at me. I knew they wouldn't share information with me unless it suited their purposes. All the same word would get around that there had been police over there. There are some people living in the units there who have come from countries where relationships with the police tend not to be good. 

I said this and then I said, "I know you probably won't want to share information but can you tell me enough for me to reassure people over there."

Again they looked at one another and then said, "We had a report of a car with those number plates....and the person reporting it said they thought the car was at this address - or that one."

Right. Someone is either mistaken or decided to cause some problems for P... (who is not popular) or there is some other error.

Perhaps it is as well for P... she is still in hospital - but perhaps it might also be better if she had not bought a bright red car. I'll just tell her neighbours when they ask (which they will) that the police were concerned her car might have been damaged.  

And perhaps they could just have asked if I was P.... in the first place?

Wednesday 19 January 2022

In defence of politicians

and yes, I am aware of quite possibly losing most of my readers but it has to be said.

Over the course of my less than illustrious career I have had the (mis/good)fortune to work with hundreds of politicians. Sometimes  contact has been fleeting. It may have been nothing more than a letter setting out a problem or an issue which needed attention. Often that letter will have been written for someone else. They have signed it and sent it. When they have received a reply they have often called on me to help them take the required action. I have often gone with someone to meet their local member of parliament as they try to sort out a problem or helped them with further correspondence or, at the request of an individual, added my own letter. I have written letters for the illiterate, for people who cannot write in English although they can in their own language, for people who have severe communication issues, and much more. 

No, there isn't anything very remarkable about this. It has been part of my job to do just that. More than one MP's secretary has phoned me and asked if I can write a letter for someone. I have written letters for politicians to edit and send out for themselves. Politicians like paper correspondence. Their secretaries keep track of it for them. There isn't any doubt about what has been said. It can't be doctored the way emails can be doctored - and yes, emails do have strange things happen to them.

And through all this I have discovered that most politicians do actually work very hard. It isn't a 9-5 sort of job.  It's more a 6am-10pm sort of job - or even later - and all too often for seven days a week.  They live in fear of making mistakes, of having to fight the next election, of what will happen if they lose their seat, of not being able to meet the most urgent needs of their electorate and much more. 

And they get criticised - almost constantly. I have been guilty of doing that myself. I have complained about the way that things have been done or not done. There have been times when I have known that something could have been done but it has been stopped because someone else has demanded that things be done differently. 

All too often that someone else will be a person who has somehow managed to get their name out there in the news media. Their opinion will be sought - even over matters they know nothing about. Their words are used. People listen to these "free speech" speakers and believe they have some sort of inside information or that they are better informed. 

And yes, sometimes the politician is no better informed but they are expected to know, to have an opinion about everything. It's an impossible sort of job.

My previous local member was a man who made a decision which went completely against the democratic process. He claimed it was to "ensure stability" in government although it was really a matter of switching allegiance to the opposition and gaining a ministerial position for himself. It was wrong and when we saw each other in the street one day he asked, "You don't like me very much do you? Is that why you wouldn't help when J.... asked?" (J.... was his secretary at the time.)  My response was, "I don't like what you have done. The other matter had nothing to do with that." I explained why and I think he was surprised. He was still my local member and, as such, I had to work with him when I could. And yes, he worked hard enough although he was never going to be re-elected. 

But I have yet to meet a politician who belongs to the "Drinking and Partying" party.


Tuesday 18 January 2022

Thank you notes

are rare these days. If you get thanked it is more likely to be by phone or a message on social media. It may even be fair to say that being thanked is no longer seen as essential as it once was.

This morning though was different. The person who comes to help me with the heavy cleaning - i.e. the floors and the places I cannot reach - brought two thank you notes with her. They were from her grandchildren. 

I had made "activity bags" for them for Christmas. I did it because I wanted to thank P...  for her efforts during the year. Yes, I pay her something but, while it is what she asks, it is not a lot. I also genuinely appreciate the fact that she is willing to wash floors. The floors in this house don't get particularly dirty but I much prefer knowing that they are properly clean. So, I wanted to show my appreciation.

I also knew that she would be minding her grandchildren over the time she was away. I know, from conversation with her, that they like to make things. They are eight and six. 

I put together something very much like I would make for the youngest members of the clan and I passed it over to her just before Christmas.

This morning I saw her for the first time since then and the first thing she did was pass me two thank you notes. "They did those themselves. It was their idea too."

I can believe that. I have met them. They are nice children. Like any other children they need to be prompted to thank people at times but they often do it without being prompted. 

And so the six year old had folded a piece of paper and drawn me an aquarium with fish. The fish are being watched by a cat at the bottom and a bird at the top. There is a "thank you" at the top. He copied it after asking his grandmother to write it so he could do it. It is neat and detailed.

The eight year old had done a "proper card". There is a message inside which her grandmother tells me she wrote without any help. It is several well constructed sentences long. There are no spelling errors. The picture of a cat is exquisitely well done, full of character. 

It must have taken both children quite some time to do these things. Their grandmother showed me photographs she has taken of the other things they have done and made with what I provided. They have apparently been busily occupied for hours. 

The photographs would have been enough but the cards have given me a much needed boost right now.  They might seem like a little thing but I appreciate them. I appreciate the card sent to me from a friend in the UK saying how much she has appreciated our contact this past year and a note from another, an email from another inquiring after the Senior Cat. I know too many adults who don't bother to acknowledge what is given to them. It would be good to reinstate the idea of thanking each other. I will try to remember it - and yes, I really do thank you all.  

Monday 17 January 2022

The decision in the Djokovic case

was unexpected by many of my acquaintances in the legal profession. There was a considerable belief that the Federal court might take the opportunity to reduce the decision making power of the Minister. In doing so they would have brought about a seismic shift in the way things are done here. The matter would certainly have gone to the High Court and could have dragged on for months, if not years. It would almost certainly have meant that Djokovic would have been granted permission to play tennis here.

Instead there was a unanimous decision that the Minister had not overstepped the mark and Djokovic lost. He was also ordered to pay the costs incurred by not only his own side but the government side. That is going to be a very hefty bill.

Yesterday I was asked by someone, "Can't Djokovic appeal? That way he could stay and still play and then..."  It's a reasonable question I suppose.

The answer though is "no". First of all it was a unanimous decision - which means all the judges agreed and, more importantly, they may well have sufficiently agreed, to write a joint judgment. We will find out whether that was the case when the reasoning is made available. If there had been a dissenting judgment the reasons would have been known so that Djokovic's legal team could see it immediately and decide whether to pursue the matter. 

Second, special leave to appeal would have to be granted. There is no automatic right of appeal to the High Court. There have to be grounds for granting special leave to appeal. Even if there had been a dissenting judgment that might not have been enough.  It would have to be a legal issue, not an evidentiary issue.

Third, costs have been awarded against Djokovic. In other words he has to pay not only his own legal bills but the legal bills of the government. Those costs will already run into many thousands of dollars. If the case had gone to the High Court and Djokovic lost again the legal bill would be even higher. Even someone as wealthy as Djokovic is reputed to be might be unwilling to risk the sums of money which would likely be involved.

Fourth, Djokovic has probably been warned, "Don't take it any further. This has already damaged your reputation."  This will matter to him because he gets income from sources where his reputation is what matters.  More than one sportsperson has lost "sponsorship" for saying something out of turn or behaving in a way which is considered unbecoming. Keep winning, behave yourself, say the right things and sponsorship money continues to flow.  

I am relieved by the court's decision in this case. If the government had lost then there was the potential for serious consequences with respect to border control, immigration, visas and more. That could have had consequences far beyond are borders and in other legal jurisdictions. While refugee advocates are bewailing what they see as a lost opportunity it is just possible that the court has done them a favour. It will depend on the reasoning in the judgment. 

Sunday 16 January 2022

What is Ms Roberts-Giuffre really

on about? You know who I mean I am sure - the woman alleging she was sexually assaulted three times by a certain member of the Firm.

I have no idea whether she is telling the truth or not but there are some things which seem a little unusual. 

If the evidence is there then why isn't this matter being pursued in a criminal court?  The matter could be pursued in more than one jurisdiction but no charges have been laid by the police. This is despite the fact that charges have been laid against other people. 

In a criminal court of course the level of proof has to be "beyond all reasonable doubt". In a civil court the level of proof is much lower being "on the balance of probabilities". Law enforcement agencies clearly do not believe they would have a case. And no, it would not matter who was involved, if it was serious enough they would pursue it.  The only person above the law is the Queen  because ultimately she is the law - for which reason she would never knowingly break the law.  

Then there is the question of what this is all costing. Who is paying for it? It is a very expensive business to bring this sort of case before the courts. I doubt that the law firm involved with Ms Giuffre is doing it pro-bono. They would already have demanded some payment. Is Ms Giuffre paying for this herself? Is her husband paying for it? She says it is not about money and she doesn't want to accept a "settlement" so what does she want? Is she really prepared to pay out millions of dollars in order to pursue a civil case she could lose - or is someone else financing this? If someone else is financing it then why are they doing it? 

I was prompted to write this because it came up in discussion in a (Zoom) meeting about another situation. I am involved because I am providing communication support for the victim. Yes I can say victim this time because the physical evidence is there and the perpetrator has admitted the act. Everyone in the meeting agreed that most people they have known in similar situations would not want to publicise what had happened to them. They would be more than happy to accept reasonable financial compensation. Imprisonment? Yes, if it could be done. They don't want their names and exploits displayed around the world. And yes, the Prince is an idiot to have  been involved with Epstein and his security detail not to have done more to prevent it.

And then someone else asked, "But what was a girl of the age she was then doing in that situation in the first place? How did she get there? What were her parents doing?"

For once this was not about "victim blaming" but rather a genuine query.  Everyone at the meeting is all too well aware that the victim is often the one who is held responsible in the court of public opinion. "If she is going to dress that way...." and "If she behaves like that...." and, "Well if she is stupid enough...." or  "Walking around like that on her own after dark...."  That sort of thing is so offensive I cannot begin to describe how I feel and I know others feel the same way. 

But what was allegedly going on here is not quite the same. How does a young girl get involved in something like this? It isn't like a group of teens doing something while high on drugs or alcohol and then getting pressured by their peers or emotions running high between a young couple who think they are "in love".  It isn't like the vile opportunistic act on a random young stranger. This is alleged to have occurred three times and in three different locations. 

I think the questions about motivation, payment, and parental responsibility are all reasonable in this instance.  


Saturday 15 January 2022

Why the Djokovic case matters

I know there are varying views on whether Djokovic should be permitted to remain here and play tennis. The "blame game" has started and people, some of whom should know better, are using it to play political games. That is not helpful.

Djokovic should be treated like any other person attempting to enter the country - but he isn't.  It would seem that tennis and a tennis tournament are so important that demands are being made that the rules are at least bent - if not actually broken - just for one man. That man may well be able to hit a ball over a net more accurately than almost anyone else but it doesn't make him eligible for considerations that would not be given to other people.

But that is precisely what is happening. He challenged his detention - in front of a judge who made some extraordinary comments - and seemed to win. Having now read the entire transcript of the interview between Djokovic and the immigration official who was charged with allowing or not allowing him into the country I believe there is a great deal more Djokovic could have done. I also believe there are things that both the tennis authorities and the Victorian government should have done.  

Djokovic is an internationally known tennis player and he is also something of a hero in his home country. He is revered as a "sportsperson". Unlike Oscar Pistorius he hasn't killed anyone - yet. Some sportspeople get obscene amounts of money simply for things like advertising a certain brand of shoe or clothing. They get invited to do things - and may or may not charge for it. This is true of Djokovic. He is a very wealthy man. His country has given him what they claim is a "diplomatic" passport because they hold his tennis playing ability in such high esteem.  

But Djokovic is not actually a diplomat. His "diplomatic" passport, even if it was an actual diplomatic one, does not mean that he can ignore the rules of the country he wants to enter. He is claiming that he does not need to be vaccinated even though the rules state he needs to have at least two doses of a recognised vaccine before he enters the country or a medical exemption. He argues that he has had Covid and is therefore immune and doesn't need to be vaccinated. He has claimed this gives him a medical exemption. His anti-vaccination stance is well known. It was known before he arrived.

What should have happened is that he was told that there would be no exemptions, that having Covid (if he has had it) was not sufficient to grant him exemption from vaccination and that unless he did get vaccinated he was not welcome. That should have been it - full stop.

What seems to have happened is that the tennis authorities and the state government were so determined to have him play they have tried to bypass the rules.   Yes, he is apparently a very big draw card - but there would be severe limits on the number of spectators anyway.  Rather than take any responsibility for the mess they have created they are saying that "immigration is a federal responsibility" - and yes, it is. 

Judge Kelly, who made the initial decision that Djokovic should be permitted to stay,  asked what more Djokovic could have done. He presumably had read the transcript and he must have been aware of Djokovic's anti-vaccination stance. His decision seems to have been made under the same belief that "having had Covid means you don't need to be vaccinated". While there are statements about Djokovic having had Covid has there been a blood test which  shows this? Is such a thing possible? Is this sufficient to protect everyone else? How do we know that?

Minister Hawke has made a second decision to revoke Djokovic's visa. As a result Djokovic is again getting preferential treatment. There will be a special court hearing this morning. No other ordinary citizen would be granted such a thing unless perhaps someone was arguing that their life was in danger and there were grounds for this. 

The legal ramifications of all this are beginning to alarm me. Dangerous precedents are being set. Sportspeople are not above the law but this whole business seems to be about doing just that.


Friday 14 January 2022

Closing schools

in an attempt to keep the b...... virus from raging through the entire system is rather like just partially shutting the stable door and hoping the horse doesn't realise it. Opening up schools to some classes rather than others is no better.

My little friend who starts school this year is going to get his wish to actually start school on what should be the first day of term for everyone. His "big brother" will not be going to school for at least another two weeks after that. Students starting secondary school and in the final year of secondary school will also be expected to attend school. Everyone else will be learning "online" again. 

The decision has been described as "the best we can do" in a situation where the numbers continue to grow. And yes, quite possibly it is because by no means all children have yet had even one shot, let alone a second or a booster. 

My little friend's mother is a paediatrician and she will be seeing many children for vaccinations in the coming weeks. There have been angry complaints to her about the process and how it has been handled. Her response has been, and continues to be, "in a pandemic we don't always know what is going to happen next. If we did know it would not be a pandemic."

To me her response seems to be a perfectly reasonable response. This virus keeps changing shape and darting in unexpected directions. The school situation will just add to the stress many families are already feeling. 

I also doubt how logical it is because students who do go to school and come down with the virus are likely to spread it at home. Is it just going to slow the inevitable spread - and keep us all in misery a bit longer?


Thursday 13 January 2022

Conspiracy theories intrigue me

but I still find it impossible to believe that President Kennedy and Elvis Presley are cryogenically frozen and laid next to one another in some sort of bunker in the Nevada desert or that Princess Diana was murdered.

Yes, there was some sort of conspiracy surrounding the 9/11 attacks - but that was between bin Laden and those who perpetrated the attacks. It had nothing to do with the CIA, the Pentagon or any other US government agency.  The sort of conspiring which took place was directly related to what actually took place and can be shown to have happened. There was no deep dark secret involved, especially not one trying to bring down a government.

When sensitive material is "leaked" there is almost always an explanation. Someone was careless, someone was angry, someone wants to do harm. There are often occasions when the person leaking the material will claim that it was "in the public interest".... think Julian Assange. There is rarely a "conspiracy" issue involved. 

I am not suggesting conspiracies should be dismissed out of hand. I know all too well that rumours can be begun with the intention of doing harm. It is all too easy for someone to deliberately say something knowing it is not true but that it will be repeated and then repeated again and again. All too soon it becomes a "fact". It is even harder to squash something if there is an element of truth in it. 

It was with that in mind that I decided to actually read something which was sent to me yesterday...the entire transcript of the original interview between a Border Force (immigration) official and a certain tennis player.  I was asked for my opinion. The person who asked me simply wanted to know if I thought the tennis player was telling the truth during the interview.

I didn't have the benefit of seeing the demeanor of the questioner or the questioned. That can tell most people a great deal. I am also aware that the tennis player was at a disadvantage in that the interview was being conducted in his second language. (He did decline the need for any assistance with English.) 

Taking that into account I was left with the impression that either he was very confused or he is lying or the people he holds responsible are incompetent. There may be elements of all these involved. Is that grounds for some sort of conspiracy?

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Nine out of (every) ten

dentists recommend....

You know how it goes don't you? We are being told something. It's a "statistic" so it "must be true".

I was trying to explain something to someone yesterday. She is convinced that there are more people in hospital who have been vaccinated than who have not been vaccinated. Vaccination therefore "does not work". My attempts to explain that this is not the case did not work - even with nice little diagrams.

I even tried going back to a billboard advertisement I remembered from kittenhood. It said something along the lines of, I think, "eight out of ten dentists recommend..." From memory this was a certain brand of toothpaste - no longer available. Those eight dentists may no longer be with us to recommend it.  

And that of course is the point. There were only eight dentists recommending it in the advertisement.  Did eighty percent of dentists recommend the toothpaste? Of course they didn't. It was simply an advertising trick designed to get people to buy that brand of toothpaste. 

The Senior Cat explained all this to me when I around five or six years of age. It was a lesson in reading comprehension that I have never forgotten. I doubt I am completely immune to advertising but I think I did learn something very useful that day. I do try to "read" advertising and other "news" sources with at least some thought to what might really being said.  I may not always succeed but I try.

I thought of all this yesterday when I was trying to explain what we are actually being told with respect to the Covid numbers. The anti-vaccination person who had rung me just didn't want to know. The set of numbers handed out by the news media suited her far better than the more accurate picture given by the actual mathematics. 

I am not particularly mathematically literate. If I had not been required to do statistics at university then I would almost certainly have forgotten all but the most basic mathematical processes. I would remember those because knitters, particularly knitters who design things, use them all the time.  A couple of months ago I also used a simple statistical test - because I wanted to find out whether the figures given in something were actually out of the ordinary. Apart from that it has been some years since I used any serious statistics for the social sciences.  I am wary of them. I know they can be abused as much as they can be used. 

That is all the more reason why I think we need to do more to help people become mathematically literate. We all need to know the difference between a number and a percentage. Our mental health might well depend on it.

Tuesday 11 January 2022

The decision in the Djokovic case

should be ringing alarm bells. 

It is sending the wrong signal on so many fronts. 

First of all, it is our responsibility to know the law. We don't know the law in fine detail of course but we are presumed to do so. Our legal system could not function in any other way. This applies to everyone, even visitors.

If someone is applying for a visa to enter the country then it is also up to them to provide all the relevant information and do so in a way which can be verified. It is also the responsibility of the visitor to apply for the correct visa. 

You must also comply with all the conditions of getting the visa and keeping it.  

Djokovic is apparently known to be "anti-vaccination" and that alone should have been a warning signal. He also says he has had Covid,  is therefore "immune", and is not required to be vaccinated. As yet he has not answered the questions surrounding the allegations that he was seen, apparently fit and healthy and without a mask, at a public event on the day after he supposedly knew he had Covid. All that has happened is that some "medical experts" have informed the relevant authority that this is the case. Yes, we have to accept that they are telling the truth but when elite sport is involved then questions might well be raised.

And then there are the curious demands Djokovic made. He has his own personal chef? He is "vegetarian" and then (or so we are told) he is "vegan"?  If people wish to be vegetarian or vegan or anything else then it is up to them but does an elite sportsperson really rely on only plant-based sources of protein? What sort of money is someone getting in order to be able to afford their own chef - along with the rest of his "team"? Is being able to hit a ball over a net really worthy of being so highly paid? Does the law really need to consider someone like this a special case - so special that the court timetable had to be cleared in order to hear it immediately?

There are other people in detention in this country and elsewhere. Some of them have been in detention for years. There are people who have left voluntarily because their visas have run out of time or were not correct. There are other people who have been deported.  Similar situations exist in many other countries. 

Just a short while ago I was included in an email from a doctor who has spent some years living and working in another country. He went there on the right visa. The visa was renewed more than once so that he could go on working there. He has seen a medical centre built. He has trained staff to run it. Along the way he has performed many life saving operations.  He has done a great deal of good and this has been acknowledged by many people, some of them very senior people indeed. This time though, when he applied for another visa extension, it was not granted. He is leaving the country he loves and feels more at home in than anywhere else. Those responsible for the granting of such visas have made a decision that he has to accept, that the people around him have to accept. 

I would rather see the doctor than the tennis player win. It seems to me the doctor has much more to offer. There has also been far more attention given to Djokovic than someone like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. That all seems wrong to me.

And is this decision actually saying to the federal government, "No, you don't have the right to decide who comes into the country?" The judge is reported to have said, "What more could this man have done?" Was he suggesting that the airport staff responsible for border security should allow everyone in regardless - simply because they have done all they could do? 

There are all sorts of other questions which could be asked but perhaps the one we really need to ask is this, "Is the ability to hit a ball over a net really that important?"


Monday 10 January 2022

Watering the garden

is essential in this climate. The forecast temperature today is for 35'C. Ugh! The plants need water.

Until now the garden has not been my responsibility. It was the Senior Cat's hobby. He grew all sorts of things. He experimented. He put up poles and trellises. He researched organic gardening methods. He went to talks and was even the president of something called "The Soil Association" for a while.  

And yes, the soil in this garden is of far better quality than the soil of most gardens around us. It has been nourished with compost and mulched on a regular basis. 

All this took hours of the Senior Cat's time. It is time I don't have. I know very little about gardening. I am a "well I will put it in the ground and water it and if it grows good" sort of gardener. I can tie a tomato plant to a stake to keep it from the ground and that is about it. All this does not mean that I can ignore the garden. 

We have a patch of lawn in the front garden. It is not very big. Once a fortnight S.... appears and mows it for me. He has been doing this for many years. I can remember his first child being born - and she is now over thirty.  I know S... so well now that I simply put the cordial, the jug and the glass on the table and he helps himself when he has time to stop for a drink. I try to make sure he does stop because his partner, A...., warned me about his tendency not to - and that once led to a kidney stone. S...had also done little things like change a light bulb for me. I don't think we pay him enough but he just smiles and says that the cordial makes up for it. I certainly think I owe him for his close inspection of the lawn and telling me, "Time to start giving it a bit more water Cat."

No, we aren't "wasting water on a lawn". Our entire area is built on highly reactive clay soil. It shrinks in dry weather and expands in wet weather. This means that houses are prone to cracking and shifting on their foundations. Our house was built on deeper than usual footings to try and overcome the problem. The house just "rests" on the foundations. 

This does not entirely solve the problem though. The soil around it still needs moisture. I need to keep the lawn alive...and so I water. S...has told me where to find some local housing where there are cracks in the walls - because the lawns and gardens were allowed to die off. People do it in the mistaken belief that they are "saving water". 

The Senior Cat's first addition to our house was a rain water tank and then another and another. He then added one to his workshed and one to the gardening shed. We use that water for many things. It takes time but I have been happy to do it. In this climate it makes sense to use some of the water that would otherwise enter gutters and be lost.   Of course all this has to be balanced out but it does make sense and it is why houses must now have some rainwater storage. 

But for the last week or so I have had to use mains water. It is much quicker to do the essential watering that way and that is all for which I have had time. This week will be no better.

But I am going to find time right now to remind the post-person that there is water available for him/her at this property. I will refill the bird bath too - because all the animals use that. Watering the garden is about more than watering plants. 

Sunday 9 January 2022

"Lilies of the field" is one

of the few films I saw when I was growing up. We lived too far away from the closest picture theatre to think about going on a regular basis. It was also too expensive to take us very often. Add to that the fact that people could smoke in the theatre kept us children well and truly away from films most of the time. 

I can remember seeing "Snow White" and hating it. I was bewildered by the first Beatles film (the only one I have seen) and I have explained about that elsewhere. There are a few other films I can remember but I don't have the vast knowledge of so many of my generation.

But I do remember "Lilies of the field" better than most. Unusually I went to see it with a church youth group. I suppose it was considered suitably "religious" by the youth group leaders.  I don't really remember too much about what the others in the group thought of the film.  Now teens would probably consider it to be very tame and rather dull but I think it was the first film I saw where I was actually conscious of outstandingly good acting. 

 It was not what Poitier was actually saying that had such an impact on me as the way he sometimes actually said no words at all and still said so much.  Between them he and Lilia Skala (who acts the Mother Superior) "say"  far more than the script asks of them. I am not much interested in "the Oscars" but if they are to be given for outstanding acting then there is acting worthy of more than one in that film. 

I wonder what a group of teens would make of the film now. 

Saturday 8 January 2022

"They should be free"

and "we need assistance" and "we can't keep going unless..."

One of the latest demands here has been for free "rapid antigen tests". The argument has been that they are free in other places so they should be free here. Perhaps they should be, perhaps they should not be. This has been added to demands for financial assistance for small businesses struggling in the pandemic and that certain venues be allowed to reopen without restrictions because, without this, they won't be able to keep going.

I don't envy those trying to balance all this out. I am sorry for people who have been heavily financially impacted by the pandemic, genuinely sorry. It must be devastating to see something you have worked so hard to achieve disintegrate because of something totally outside your control. I know people who are now unemployed because the pandemic has meant their workplaces have "let them go".  There has been some  financial assistance but they are struggling, really struggling. 

And all the time there are demands for more financial assistance. There are complaints that not enough help is being given. I often agree it would be good if people could be given more help. We should be able to ensure that people have the necessities of life - food and housing in particular. 

But the pub industry is complaining about "reduced numbers" in their "gaming areas" even when those numbers are higher per square metre than those allowed in a night club. They complained when they were told that their patrons had to be seated. They were among the loudest voices demanding that "the state be opened up" and now they are making the loudest complaints about the effect that opening up has had on their businesses - and demanding compensation.

I have no doubt that there are researchers working on papers about the financial impacts of the pandemic. There is surely plenty to be said. I suspect there have been businesses which were on the brink of failure which did not survive long and others which, without the pandemic, might have lasted but would not have thrived. They might even have failed at some time in the future. The pandemic may just have brought forward the inevitable. Certainly businesses have come and gone in our local shopping centre.

But nobody wants to think that way. And there is something we all tend to forget as we put our paws out for whatever becomes available and is touted as being "free". All this "free" help actually has to be paid for by someone  - and that someone is eventually us through the tax we pay and the higher prices we will endure. 

Friday 7 January 2022

Visits to residential care facilities

have always been problematic I suppose but trying to work through the current maze of rules and regulations has left me confused.

 I don't like being confused. I don't like being confused about something which should be simple. 

A lot of the confusion is caused by the fact that each state has different rules. Even within that state there can be different rules.  There are also national organisations which try to impose their own national rules and they can contradict both state and local rules.

Middle Cat, who is much more assertive than I am, has been battling with the system. She is up against an inexperienced residence manager who is frightened of doing the wrong thing and who will, I suspect, always be one to follow what she sees as being the rules. The previous manager, sadly just temporary, was much more flexible. He would have handled the situation very differently.

The Senior Cat's residence is currently considered to be in a "green zone" - that is, there is Covid in the community but none in the residence. With all the sensible precautions residents should be able to have visitors as usual. The precautions include things like mandatory vaccinations, face masks and so on. There should be no time limit on visits.

But the national office of the organisation issued a "one nominated visitor" requirement and a time limit. This is intended for areas with high Covid numbers. And it is so much easier to apply this across the whole organisation. It seriously violates the industry code and I suspect that the residence managers were advised that this is what is to happen only if there is a serious outbreak and "green"goes to"orange" or "act with caution". Only "red" should put a stop to all visits...and we have not reached that point. 

And the ridiculous thing with all of this is that I am mixing with very few people indeed...and always at a distance. It is the people who work in the residence, often young people and people with young families, who are much more likely to contract Covid and pass it on. We need more leadership on this issue - from the health "experts" who are supposed to be advising the politicians.  

Thursday 6 January 2022

No-vax Djokovic

seems to have made the headlines in a big way. 

I am hoping he will just be put on the first available plane and sent home after getting a hefty fine.

Why? Because if he can be vaccinated and is simply choosing not to do so for whatever reason then he is subject to the same rules as everyone else. He is also setting a very bad example to others. In his position he should be setting a good example. 

I am not talking here about whether people should get vaccinated - that's a different issue altogether. The issue here is that this is a person with a very high public profile. He needs to obey the rules. That means either getting the jabs if there is no medical reason not to get them or just quietly withdrawing and saying, "I am not able to participate." That should be an end to the matter. 

Nobody in Djokovic's position should get special treatment. The example it sets is appalling. 

Nor can he hide behind "medical privacy" when the media is braying for medical details in another high profile case of a different nature. No, I'm sorry but there is no difference between the two.

Recently I helped an elderly woman do the necessary work so she could move into a nursing home. It was not a particularly onerous task because her financial affairs are being meticulously cared for by her son. He and I had some quite lengthy conversations about what needed to be done and how to do it. I have joint Power of Attorney with her son. We can act "jointly and severally" apart from the house - that is his responsibility alone. Fortunately it has all worked out well, partly because the woman in question had herself made the decision that she wanted to move and asked me to be involved.

But the reason all my involvement was necessary is because her son is currently stuck in another country. He can't get permission to return. He also needs to be able to go back because that is where his work is - and will be. What would have been ideal would have been for him to be able to take some of the extensive leave owing to him and come to do it for his mother. It is what he wanted to do. It is certainly what I would have preferred because it is a responsibility I do worry about. In a position like that I need to be so very, very careful to account for every action I take. Yes, we have worked well together and without argument but it is stressful.

This is a responsible, professional medically aware man who  is vaccinated and would have been willing to isolate at his own expense. To me the fact that he could not enter the country but a "sports" person can says to me that we have our priorities wrong yet again.


Wednesday 5 January 2022

Express post or

just a quick blog post? 

I am here. My brother, his partner are here. My niece and nephew from a neighbouring state flew in yesterday morning and left again at a very early hour this morning. In between they spent a precious hour with the Senior Cat. My brother and his partner are going today. The Black Cat will get her turn as well. I am holding back and letting them spend the hour with him. Middle Cat has organised all this.

The new organisation which has recently taken over the management of the entire group has just called me and asked if we needed any more help. It took a week for them to get to it but the woman at the other end was kind and agreed that Middle Cat had been right to insist. 

I suppose a week in the current circumstances is not as bad as it seems because there must be other people in the same position. It at least seems to be faster than the "Express Post" of our postal service. I have just received a parcel that was posted from the UK at the beginning of October. My great-grandmother sailed to Downunder in less time than that back in the 19thC. The cousin who sent it from London arrived before the parcel.  I suppose it gives some people a job. 

The good news in all this is that the Senior Cat is alert and almost lost for words at the sheer pleasure of having family with him. It means so much to him. I just wish everyone else in the residence could experience the same thing.

Tuesday 4 January 2022

"And I'm going to really learn to read,"

H... told me this yesterday.

My young friend is due to start school at the end of the month. I hope he can go. 

His mother has explained to him that the "bad Covid germs" might stop him going. He might have to do "school at home" like his siblings did. He is worried about this.

"But I need to go to school," he told her when I was listening to the conversation.

And he does need to go to school. So many other children need to go to school as well. 

We managed to keep schools open in this state. It wasn't easy but we did it. Case numbers were low then. Now they are in their thousands and may still be like that at the end of the month. The authorities are waiting to see what happens.

H... can already read a great many things. His parents have encouraged that with all three children. There are bed time stories too. Even his nine year old sister will help him "sound out" words. He wants to read "everything". 

I worry about H... and children like him. His parents worry too. He is an highly intelligent child. His sister and brother are also highly intelligent. They haven't found school easy. It is not because they cannot do the work but because they can - and they need more. They get some of it at home but, unlike so many other children,  their lives are not filled with endless out of school activities taught by adults. They all go to swimming lessons but their parents see that as an essential part of learning to be safe in the water.  They are learning to play the piano. Their grandmother is teaching them but it is being done in a slow casual sort of way that I suspect means they spend more time at the piano rather than less.

But now H... is counting the days before he can start school. He is going to be devastated if he has to wait.  How many other children are there in the same position? How is it that some adults are still refusing to get vaccinated in order to protect children - and let them go to school?

Monday 3 January 2022

The importance of creating things

is not to be underestimated right now.

Yes, I am still here this morning. It's just after eight and I have a list of things that need to be done - but that's fine. 

The most important of those things will be to visit the Senior Cat this morning. I will go slightly later than usual and make sure he has some help to eat lunch - if he wants some. I am also taking him the first tomato - a tiny cherry tomato about the size of a grape. 

But I am also taking some yarn for one of the residents who has discovered she can still knit. "I am just doing squares" she told me. Now I know about squares. I see many squares made by people in residential care. A lot of them are not square at all of course. There are wobbly edges and dropped stitches and other glitches. To me that does not matter. These not-square squares can still be put together one way or another. They then get used as comfort blankets and lap rugs. That's important. 

This resident can still knit a square which is a square. Her knitting is beautiful, some of the best I have ever seen. I don't mind parting with some of my own stash in order to encourage her. She is much happier when she is "doing something useful" - her words.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. Until he could no longer physically manage it the Senior Cat spent time in his garden and his shed. He made things. Almost everything he made was made for other people. My mother made things for other people. Brother Cat makes things for other people. Middle Cat draws the most intricate pictures in which you need to hunt for all sorts of things - a bit like Johanna Basford's colouring books but rather wilder. The Black Cat makes things too - often quirky things from scraps. I make things too - I write books and I design and knit and crochet things. 

The Senior Cat's brother was an artist. He also made the bird bath in the garden, the one I fill each morning so that all the local wildlife can get a drink.  I know other people who knit and crochet and sew and woodwork, build models and do all sorts of other things. I think they are the most content people. They may not appear to be the happiest but there is something there in their lives that seems to make it easier for them to cope with things like the current pandemic.  

When my parents first moved here there was an elderly couple living next door. Well into their 80's they migrated north for at least four months each winter.  They took a slow journey north towing their ancient caravan. I can remember asking C... what he and his wife V... did in the evenings. He smiled and showed me two boxes. Hers contained fine wool and needles. His contained a complex model. 

"I like to make things," C... told me, "I like to know I can still do something. There's a place up there which will take this and give it to someone to look at when I finish it - and then I can start another one."  

They also played board games and cards. Neither was a "reader" but they found real pleasure in creating things.

I know some people feel no need to do such things but I know I get on best with people who create things. We need more of that in our lives. 

Sunday 2 January 2022

The coming week is going to be difficult

and I may not always get to a blog  post. 

Middle Cat, who knows far more about medical matters than I do, has made the decision to call on the remaining family to come and visit the Senior Cat for what will almost certainly be the last time. We were hoping this might be for a birthday celebration in February, albeit a subdued one, but she has judged that may not happen. So, our brother is coming from another state with his partner and two adult children. Our other sister is coming from yet another state.

There are currently restrictions on visits to residences such as the Senior Cat's residence. Middle Cat, who is much more assertive than I am, has simply informed the residence manager that our brother will be here. I don't think she has yet mentioned that the rest of the family is coming. They are all vaccinated and they will follow all the required measures - even putting on full PPE if necessary - but they will see him. The Senior Cat knows they are coming. Middle Cat informed him yesterday. 

I had a conversation with the priest at the church the Senior Cat attended until he could no longer get there. I think D.... understands that the Senior Cat's beliefs are not quite the same. "I'll go in and see him after morning service. They can't deny him spiritual care." That care may end up being D... telling the Senior Cat about the plywood he has taken from the shed to make drawers for something at the church. But, to me, that is spiritual care of a sort. The Senior Cat loved being in the shed making things for other people. He has had many a "woodwork" conversation with D... in recent months. He has delighted in the fact that D... is taking up a hobby that seems so fitting for a priest. That has meant as much to the Senior Cat as any sort of "religious" discussion.

And D... will, in a sense, take in all the visitors the Senior Cat has not been able to have because of the newly increased Covid restrictions. I thought of all this yesterday when Middle Cat and I were discussing arrangements. We are both very conscious of the fact that there are people in the residence who have had no visitors the entire time the Senior Cat has been there. They had no visitors even on Christmas Day. We tried to at least say "hello" to some of them but we knew it was not the same as having their own family there. The Senior Cat has had Middle Cat or me there almost every day and other visitors several times a week. 

If that is what they want then I wish it could be that way for all older people.