Monday 28 February 2022

Finland and Sweden are not

members of NATO. That may come as a surprise to many people - but take a look at a map and see where they lie in relation to Russia. Finland has a long border with Russia. Finland and Sweden are neighbours.  

Russia, especially under Putin, has been threatening both Finland and Sweden of "serious consequences" should they join NATO. This has been going on for years. Despite this the two countries align with NATO. Have Russia's threats been sufficient to stop them joining NATO?

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all belong to NATO too. There can be no doubt that this infuriates Putin. Ukraine joining NATO would be a step too far...Putin sees the Ukraine as being part of Russia. He sees other territories as being Russian too.  

So why did Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other formerly Communist countries want to join NATO? My reasoning is that they wanted to keep their independence. As members of NATO they can expect military support in the event of an attack. These countries don't have expansionist plans. They simply want to survive. The Ukraine doesn't want to expand either. It simply wants to retain its independence and get on with life. 

I suspect it is the same for most Russians. Watching protestors being led away it seems obvious that there is little appetite for war among ordinary Russians. For all those protesting there would be many more who don't want war but don't dare protest. 

I still dread the likely outcome. The very fact that the Ukrainians have fought far harder than Putin obviously believed they would means this will be much messier than people hoped for. 

Yesterday a local man said to me, "Putin is mad, bad and out of control". The problem is that he still seems to be in control. Nobody seems to be attempting to remove him. Prime Minister Mishustin has not been heard from in our local news. Previous Prime Minister Medvedev hasn't been heard from either - and he is the Deputy Chairman of their Security Council. (Putin is of course the Chairman.) If Putin continues as he is perhaps both men will soon be out of a job. 

It is Putin who needs to be out of a job...and isolated in a cell somewhere in Siberia perhaps?




Sunday 27 February 2022

"We don't know who to shoot"

were allegedly the words of a young Russian soldier.  I have not heard the alleged recording - and I don't speak Russian so I would have to rely on a translation. I am wary of translations, all translations. I am wary of them for good reasons. 

I see a lot of translations and the originals from which they purport to come. There is no such thing as an "exact" translation. Even between speakers of the same language there are differences. There are differences even between people who are in intimate relationships with each other, partners and children, parents and siblings. Our understanding of language is unique and intensely personal.

Is this one reason why the United Nations has failed? Is it because we don't understand one another even on the most basic level?

But, you want to tell me, the United Nations is still there. It is still doing things. 

Really? The United Nations is a shell. It barely exists. There is that huge building in New York and there are other buildings in other places. To many people it looks active and productive but it is what is going on - or should be going on - inside those places which matters. 

The "veto" power is being abused again and again.  Five countries have the power to veto resolutions - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Some view the veto power as the means of maintaining stability, others view it as the reason the United Nations so often fails to do what it set out to do.  Any resolution of the Security Council relating to a member with a veto power is almost certain to fail. Some will argue that countries like France and the United Kingdom should not have a veto power at all. They are, it is argued, not "super powers". The world has changed since the United Nations was formed.

I have had many dealings with various parts of the United Nations. I was involved in the International Year of Disabled People - a year which started with high hopes but has largely failed to achieve much in forty plus years. Right around the world people with disabilities still lack access to far too much. 

Despite that I spent years of my life advocating for what eventually became International Literacy Year. My family and friends thought I was insane. It would never take off. The "if people are illiterate they are easier to control" was trotted out over and over again. I was told there would be opposition within the United Nations - and there was - but it did happen. I can live with the fact that I will always be considered a dangerous fool by some for doing what I did. I still believe that a fool who can read is less dangerous than a fool who cannot read. The year did not achieve what it should have achieved - but that doesn't mean it achieved nothing. Still, there might have been other ways of achieving what was achieved.

It may have started with good intentions but, as an organisation, I feel the United Nations is ineffectual. It lacks any real power. It has failed, yet again, to stop a war. Some are still not prepared to accept the break up of the USSR - even though that is what so many people wanted and for which they actively campaigned. It hasn't stopped the growth of China or any of the border wars between so many countries.  Almost certainly it never will. 

I am reminded over and over again of one of the fragments that Dag Hammarskjold  left in "Markings" and I often wonder what he would make of the present state of affairs, "Only he deserves power who everyday justifies it."  If that is true then the United Nations no longer deserves any power at all. It has lost all authority.

Saturday 26 February 2022

What's the point of creating

anything if there is a war out there?

There is "knitting at the library" today. One of the regulars left me a message to say she didn't feel like coming. What, she wanted to know, was the point of trying to create anything if there is a war out there. This morning there was a similar tweet by a well known author - but her response was a great deal more positive.

When my mother was dying I did almost no knitting. It wasn't because I had stopped wanting to create anything. There were other reasons. Now our much loved Senior Cat is also slowly leaving us and Middle Cat and I are taking the responsibility for the extra care he needs. It takes time and energy. I don't resent this at all. Let's face it he has given us love and attention and support for our entire lives. Those words "unconditional love" really mean something. It leaves much less time and energy for creating anything...and there are other things I "should" be doing. 

But I have been thinking yet again about the need, the urge, the desire to create.  It's important. 

At the last state "Show" in 2020 a piece of weaving was presented for judging. I cannot remember which class it was entered into but it was one of the more "creative" classes - a "design your own" class. As I remember the piece it looked lively. It was mostly yellow and cream. The judges gave it a prize.

The Show opened and people came pouring through the Handicrafts Section. A group of people turned up from a residential home for the intellectually disabled. They very much liked seeing their pieces on display in the special section reserved for them but where was....? They couldn't find it. It was a huge disappointment. Then we realised that the piece was in the "open" section and what was more it had won a prize! The prize money barely covered the entry fee. We had no idea who had paid that - if indeed anyone had. The whole thing might have been an accident. 

The young artist in question looked bewildered but couldn't stop smiling. His friends were equally pleased for him. They gathered around him congratulating him, being pleased and excited for him. I told him "Well done" and offered him a high five. He met it awkwardly and smiled even more widely. It was one of those moments when I wanted to punch the air and shout, "Yes!" Later I was told that he had given the piece to someone special in his life. She has it hanging on the wall in her office - opposite her desk where she can see it whenever she looks up.

To me this is one of those things that creating something is about. It isn't  about winning a prize. Rather it is the recognition that you have created something worthwhile and others have acknowledged it. It is also about the ability to hand something you have created on to someone else. It is about the ability to tell someone you love them - and hold them when you are not there. 

Friday 25 February 2022

Chernobyl is thousands

of kilometres from where I live. Nuclear power plants have also changed dramatically since the disaster at the Chernobyl power plant. 

Neither of those things lessen the danger from Chernobyl. It is still a very, very unstable and dangerous place. 

The Ukraine has fifteen nuclear power plants. They provide the country with about half its energy needs. At least four of them are very old and due for decommissioning. More were or are being built.

I know very little about nuclear power plants but I have been led to believe that modern plants are much safer than the old Chernobyl style plants.  I also find it difficult to believe that even Putin would deliberately attack nuclear power plants with the aim of destroying them. The results would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions for Russia as well as the Ukraine and surrounding countries. There are other ways of cutting off the power supply.

Putin also has nuclear weapons and is threatening to use them. Will he? There are likely to be cyber attacks first - and they can be just as effective. They can also be effective on a global scale.

Putin has been preparing for all this for many months. In doing so he will ignore the wishes of his own people. They remain largely ill-informed anyway because state media is so tightly controlled.

I don't support the death penalty but I would like to see Putin captured and incarcerated in solitary confinement - perhaps on a very small and very remote island with no access to communications of any sort.

Thursday 24 February 2022

We are already paying the price of conflict

in Ukraine. The price of petrol (gas to those of you in the US) skyrocketed yesterday. 

Middle Cat was already paying at least $1.73 a litre and had, wisely, filled her vehicle just before it went up to $1.82. Now it looks like heading to over $2.00 a litre.

Why? Well Russia produces around 5% of the world's petroleum apparently.  I knew they produced some but I wasn't sure of how much. I had to look it up. My first reaction was "well 5% isn't that much" and my second reaction was "5% could have a real impact given the way these things are decided". The second reaction was the right reaction it would seem.

I don't understand how the "global oil market" or organisations like "OPEC" work. I just know that the supply is finite and that we use too much of it.

When I was a mere kitten I doubt I ever thought about such things. The Senior Cat would stop at the petrol station and someone would come and fill the tank for him. He would pay them and off we would go again. Now you have to fill the tank yourself and go and pay the cashier. And you pay more for all of this. 

Conflict always has an economic effect. Putin knows that. He also believes that we are the ones who are going to pay. It doesn't concern him if that gas pipeline doesn't get switched on -  yet. He knows it will be at some point in the future and he is almost certainly thinking he will be able to alter the contract so that the price is even higher. We should be concerned about this.

I may use "pedal power" for the most part but there was a carbon imprint involved in making my little vehicle. I also get taken to other places in other people's car. Middle Cat and I had to go somewhere yesterday. It was not accessible by public transport. We used her vehicle. The alternative would have been a taxi. When I buy something it has been delivered to the shop or the supermarket by another vehicle, often a heavy goods vehicle.  If it is manufactured then more fuel is involved and used by people who use fuel...and so it goes on.

I have this nightmare vision of Putin sitting at his desk doodling pictures of oil wells and gloating as he listens to his generals report on the action they have taken during the day. The sanctions are going to have to come much harder and much faster than they are right now. And that 5% needs to be included in the considerations.  

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Growing our city

is "essential" according to a report in yesterday's paper. There are calls for it to reach two million people by the end of the decade. 

Now two million people is, in world terms, not a lot. Our entire country has a population about the size of California. It is often said we need more people.

Or do we?  

The city I live in is built along the coastline and into the hills behind it. Most of the city runs north-south. It has stretched further and further in either direction.  Most housing is still built on individual blocks of land although "duplexes" have become more common in inner city areas as houses on old "quarter acre" blocks get knocked down. There are two sets of duplexes in this short street alone - and associated parking problems. Both families own two cars but the duplexes are built with only space to park one car. It's an increasing problem all over the inner city area. 

We need more housing and it will have to be a very different sort of housing from the sort we have now. This need is for the population we have now and the natural growth of it. Adding even more people to the mix is just going to exacerbate the present problems. 

Transport is an issue too. Downunderites are attached to their cars. There are some who use public transport to go to work but public transport is a messy business. For many years getting to many places has involved a trip to somewhere else first, often the city. The railway system runs in and out of the city, not across suburbs. The buses are much the same. Cross suburb services tend to be few and infrequent. There would need to be major changes if the city was going to grow - but the government has put money into building car friendly freeways instead.

And where do we employ these proposed new people? Manufacturing is not increasing and not likely to increase to the level where it will employ the proposed increased either directly or indirectly.

All this, and much more, is not the real problem however. The real problem will be water. We are going to need a lot more water than we have now. It isn't going to come from the river system that rises in the eastern states. They are going to need that water for themselves. As we do now we may keep a little of that but there won't be any more. 

Our reservoirs depend on rainfall we may not get, indeed are increasingly unlikely to get. They won't fill our needs even if they were filled to capacity each year.  

Desalination plants won't help either. There are environmental issues with those that have yet to be overcome. 

Someone has to come up with a way to provide all the water we are likely to need. They need to do it in an environmentally responsible way and do it at a reasonable cost. Until someone can do that we cannot "grow" our city even if we can overcome our other problems.

Tuesday 22 February 2022

So Putin has decided that the

Donetsk and Luhansk regions are independent and no longer form part of Ukraine? That's interesting. I wonder what made him decide that? He doesn't seem to have asked the residents of those regions or done any negotiating with Kyev.

And why does Putin never want Ukraine to be part of NATO or aligned with the rest of Europe?

I am sure the answer to that is much more complex than concerns about security concerns along the Russian border with Ukraine. Our news media is making it sound as if it is all fairly simple but really it isn't simple at all. Russia annexed Crimea for more than one reason. It would like to annexe other parts of Ukraine too - the entire country if it could. There are other pockets of land it would also like to lay claim to if it could but Ukraine is of particular importance. It is the buffer between Russia and "the West". Claiming Donetsk and Luhansk are "independent" suits him very nicely. 

It isn't likely that Russia has any fear of being overrun by any European country or even the EU itself. It is much more likely that the Kremlin is worried about internal dissent. By suggesting there are such serious external concerns they can keep their own citizens under control. It doesn't matter in the least that these external concerns are largely of their own making, indeed imagination in most instances. Putin has no interest in what the residents of Ukraine think. The "separatists" are Russians.

And there is also the very large issue of Ukraine's resources. Moscow would dearly love to be able to get their hands on some, if not all, of those. Ukraine has the largest recoverable reserves of uranium in Europe - a prize well worth having if you want to remain nuclear, go nuclear or support nuclear elsewhere. Ukraine also has titanium, manganese, iron ore, mercury and all that very useful shale gas.  If you are not even too concerned about climate change there are billions of tons of coal to be had. They have the fourth greatest amount of natural resources in the world. Russia wants these and it will go on claiming that Ukraine is really just part of Russia for this reason.

Ukraine also has a vast area of arable land - the largest in Europe. It exports more sunflower oil than any other country and a great deal of the world's barley. They also export rye, potatoes, corn, and wheat. Their farmers have become active in trying to save the world's bee population too. Recent figures suggest they could feed 600m people a year - indefinitely.

It is an industrialised country too - although much of it needs modernising. And yes, that natural gas pipeline is important to the rest of Europe.

Yes, Ukraine is a country worth trying to take over. If Russia cannot do it by unilateral decree or stealth or by making demands over spurious "security" concerns then taking it by force is certainly an option - for them.

You don't send 190,000 troops to the border for "manouvres". You don't remain in a neighbouring country when "joint exercises" are over. You are there because you want to tell everyone "We will take it by force if you don't give it to us." 

Russia should be concentrating on their 15m Covid cases - and the loss at least 340,000 people to the disease. That Putin somehow believes invading another non-aggressive country is more important than this frightens me.


Monday 21 February 2022

Too dependent on China?

I cannot answer that question with a simple "yes" or "no" even though I was asked to do just that a couple of  days ago. 

The question was asked by someone doing some political campaigning for a minor candidate in a shopping centre. I don't know what they were trying to do unless it was gain support for their far left policies - which would certainly be pro-Beijing.

Let it be said here that I am the proud godmother of a child of Chinese heritage. She is an adult now but I still sometimes feel overwhelmed by the honour which was bestowed on me when her parents asked me to do that. They are of course Christian rather than Communist and they do not live in China. Still, it is an honour when they had so many friends and even family who could have filled that role. 

And, like me, they have some doubts about the role China is now playing in the world. Like me there are things they believe have to change.

China currently owns around 3% of the land mass of this country. Individual Chinese own more. China also controls two major ports and has controlling interests in more through other companies. The Chinese also own some major energy producers and many other  smaller but still important enterprises. Understandably they want to get their hands on our telecommunication networks. Ownership of such things would mean they would be able to control us for what is really a small investment in global terms. 

As I pointed out recently the Premier of a neighbouring state had to be prevented from "borrowing" money from China for a major infrastructure project. It would effectively have handed control of that state to China if anything had gone wrong. You don't simply say to the Chinese, "No, we can't pay but the federal authorities will." 

The Chinese were recently permitted to buy a small island off the east coast of the country. It is supposedly a resort but it seems that we are not welcome there. This has raised some questions about the true purpose to which the island is being put. The rumours are no doubt being fuelled by the very recent  incident in which a Chinese warship aimed a powerful military grade laser at a plane belonging to our airforce. Yes, the ship was in international waters - but inside our economic zone.  It was an aggressive act. 

China appears to be trying to take over in ways which will allow them to exert sufficient control that we will do as they want. I don't think they are there yet - but they could be if we allow them to bully us. At present they are the bully in our part of the schoolyard of global trade. We need to make other friends. It's possible but it is going to be hard work. We could end up being much more dependent if we aren't careful. 

My answer for now has to be, "Yes, we are too dependent in many ways" and "No, we don't need to be - if we work at it."

Sunday 20 February 2022

The state election campaign

has now officially begun. The Premier has been to see the Governor and we now have until 19th March to make up our minds - unless we vote early or put in a postal vote.

What we now have to endure is a continuing election campaign which will become increasingly full of "promises which cannot be kept". Both major parties will promise extraordinary things in their attempt to form the next government. The independent candidates will make all sorts of bizarre commitments they cannot possibly hope to keep too.

I have already reached the point where I am simply throwing the election material from all parties into the bin. I am not even reading it. Instead I have gone to their websites. I have read their policies - some of which are very strange indeed - and I will now try to listen intelligently to their voices as they try and tell me this or that or something else. It will be hard because I am already more than irritated by their corflutes. They are littering the stobie poles which carry the lines which bring the electricity which allows them to pollute the airwaves with neatly avoided answers to questions. A photograph saying "vote (1) for me" does nothing to help me make up my mind.

I wonder what would happen if we ran elections rather differently? What if we told everyone who wanted to be a candidate they could no longer have corflutes? What if we also told them that they could put just one piece of election material in our letter boxes? What if we said they would have just one chance to publicly debate the issues? What if we banned all "how to vote" material at election booths? I would so love not to have to prowl past saying, "I know how I am going to vote thank you."

My guess is that we would be just as well informed. We might even be better informed. We might actually learn more from less material. It might be written more carefully, less sensationally. It might actually attempt to educate us about what the candidates and the parties really stand for. 

And we will have to do this all over again for a federal election a little later in the year.... 

Saturday 19 February 2022

"Some flowers - for you?"

The delivery man clearly did not speak English as a first language. I was not expecting flowers from anyone. We looked at the label. He pointed at me and I nodded. He left.

I stood there holding the box feeling puzzled. I am not the sort of person who gets flowers from other people when there is no apparent reason for it.

I took the box inside and finally worked out how to open it - undo the end and slide the flaps up. There was a card there. It was from my nephew's partner. They live in another state. He's over here right now but she had to stay there. She just wanted me to know that she was thinking of me right now because "it's a tough time". 

That reduced me to tears. The whole thing had been chosen with such care. The packaging is all made from recycled materials - which can be recycled again. The "vase" is a jam jar that can be reused. The flowers are not big and showy but small and designed to last for days.

I filled the jar with water as per the instructions. I put the flowers in. Then I just stood there and went on staring at the flowers for another minute or so. 

And then I thought, "I don't care if S.... is at work or not. She has to know right now how much I appreciate her love and support." I can leave a message on her mobile if nothing else.

I hoped her boss wouldn't mind. She speaks kindly of him. Even so a non-urgent family call in work time? No, I was going to do it.

I did do it. S.... answered the call. I managed to say "thank you" and tell her I couldn't wait to thank her. I apologised for calling her at work. I sniffled some more.

Then I heard her boss in the background, "Tell her it's perfectly all right. People should always feel free to say thank you." 

S... says he is a good boss. He thanks her frequently.

Friday 18 February 2022

The Chinese connection

does need to be acknowledged. 

I didn't ever believe I would find myself disagreeing with the boss of national security. He knows an awful lot more about national security than I do.

But, I have to disagree on the Chinese connection. Talking to so many Chinese students over the years I have become aware that there is far more to our relationship with China than anyone in government or the security services really wants to acknowledge.

It was Whitlam, our PM from 1972-4, who went off to China and told us we were going to do business with China. China was big. China was going to boom - and we could take advantage of that. Whitlam was naive in that he had no idea how powerful and industrialised China already was. He had no idea how business was done in Asia - although he clearly believed otherwise. We didn't have the resources we needed to concentrate so much of our efforts on business with China but Whitlam thought otherwise. It was to be part of the strategy to become "part of the Asian region". That focus has continued over the years but it is doomed to failure. We are not "part of the Asian region". We never will be. They may treat us as neighbours but we will never be "family" - even with all the Asian migrants we now have. Asia doesn't work that way.

I know people who have spent some years living in Japan but they have eventually returned "home" because, however much they have enjoyed living in Japan it will never be home. They cannot get permanent residency there. They can never become Japanese citizens. The Japanese are happy to do business with us but they don't want non-Japanese living there for more than a few years. The longest I know of is eleven years - and they were exceptional circumstances. The Japanese don't take in refugees. Even within Japan there are people who are considered to be less Japanese than others.

I know people who have developed businesses in China. All seems to go well, sometimes for some years. There always seems to reach a point where they fall foul of the Chinese authorities, bribes are not paid, an official feels insulted, another official is looking to impress someone above them and so on. One person I know spent years building up a business there. He did everything that was asked of him and put millions into the business. Four and a half years ago he was here when he received a phone call warning him not to return to China. Returning to China would mean prison, perhaps with years waiting for a "trial". He has done nothing wrong - unless failing to pay a bribe to someone he had never met is wrong. He simply failed to understand the way China works.

Other Asian countries have other problems. There coups, wars, corruption and much more. It may all seem perfectly normal to those who live there but it doesn't allow business to be done in the same way as business is done here - and even we have a level of corruption and bribery that needs to be constantly hauled in. 

But China is the big one. China wields a massive amount of economic power. We are a mere minnow in the scheme of things. Like it or not we have to do business their way - whatever our complaints to the World Trade Organisation might be. We underestimated China. We underestimated how powerful China is.

"If you want to do business with us you will..." China told us. They dictate the terms. It may not look like that on the surface but this is what happens. 

Whitlam was perhaps lazy as well as naive. He went for what seemed to be the "easy" option. He thought it would mean the whole Asian market would open up to us. It didn't of course. China controls that too - even though it may not appear that way.

The result has been that we have not developed other trade relations in the way we could have been. We don't really do much business with countries in Africa or South America or the Middle East - not nearly as much as we could. Our relationship with Europe leaves much to be desired. We are partly responsible for the UK leaving EU. If we had been more interested in the EU market we would have had been in a better position to speak out about Brexit.

We really do need to think hard and long about our relationship with China. It is going to be even harder to build and rebuild our trading relations with the rest of the world.  

ASIO may be correct when they say there is no direct attempt to place their preferred candidates on the ballot paper at the coming election. They don't need to do that because they can already influence the outcome. They have leased one of the most strategically important ports in the country - something which should never have been allowed. They almost managed to "loan" a substantial amount of money to a neighbouring state government for transport infrastructure. That is a deal which was knocked back by the federal authorities - and for good reasons - but it may come back in other ways if we vote in a change of government.

If the Chinese are offering us a "good deal" then yes we can be certain it will be good - for them. We need to work hard to work our way out of all this.

Thursday 17 February 2022

Sorting books

to part with is not my favourite occupation. I have never liked parting with books. 

The Senior Cat was the same. Last year though he gave me some instructions.  He was not going to use those books again. Other people might.

His "magic" books - the books about conjuring - were to be given to a good friend of his. P.... was a regular visitor to the residence before the Covid restrictions halted his visits. The Senior Cat knows P.... will go on using the books and appreciate them. P... is one of those rare people who makes his living from his art as a conjuror. Even now when he looks so much up on line he turns back again and again to books. I know the books are being used. 

The books about woodwork, toy making, paper architecture and more are also being passed. 

The Senior Cat also had quite a number of gardening books. They reflected his interest in "organic" gardening, composting, growing vegetables and the like. Middle Cat now has a few of those as she is the other serious gardener in the family. The rest have gone to an organisation to which he once belonged.

There are what I suppose might be described as the serious texts. These are in theology, psychology and philosophy. In all cases they are many and varied. 

"Did he actually read all this stuff?" someone asked me recently when I shifted a pile out of the way.

Yes, he did. For as long as I can remember he has been interested in what other people thought and believed and how they came to believe it.  There are very few books he did not actually finish reading. I am shortly going to pass those books on to an unlikely place, a women's theological study centre in a convent. I know they won't keep them all. The Senior Cat knows that too but he also knows that there will be things there that will be of interest to them... and perhaps they may find a use for even more. 

Some months ago the Senior Cat asked me to bring some of his "joke" books in to the residence. He has given them to the two women who run the "lifestyle" program. They are being well used. There is still at least a metre of such books. I will pass those over as well - but not just yet.

There are very few novels. This is not because he did not read novels. He did. He also tended to pass them on to other people when he had finished reading them. We also tended to share. 

The Senior Cat can no longer see well enough to read or indeed to do anything at all.  Yesterday he was lucid enough to ask me if I was dealing with the books as he had requested. I could tell him I was - but it is a bit like giving away a little part of  him each time I pass one on.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Ukrainian migrants here are worried

about the situation there - and rightly so.

I was talking to the son of one yesterday. His father died over ten years ago but his mother, V...., lives on my regular pedalling route. I know her quite well. Her son, a bachelor, has recently returned to the family home to care for her. 

"Mum's not sleeping well. She's worried about family back home. She wanders around the house and the garden just worrying. She talks to herself all the time. I don't know what she's saying because it's all in Ukrainian.You will watch out for her when I'm at work won't you?"

Of course. I know everyone in that street will watch out for her as well - even the new family who just moved in. It won't stop her worrying but it might help a little. If I see her I can at least stop for a moment so she can talk to me. It is one of those many situations which makes me wonder what it must really be like to migrate from one country to another, especially when the language is different.   

My earliest remembered contacts with migrants are of the Polish woman who lived "over the back fence" in the country town where I was born and the Irish woman who lived across the road in the same place. The Polish woman did not speak English but she was still able to give me first aid and a comforting hug when I fell over and took the skin off my knees - an almost daily occurrence. I remember the rough material of the coat the Irish woman always seemed to wear. They were too poor to have any form of heating in winter but it didn't stop her giving me more comforting hugs when all the other children ran off without me.  

And then there was the day that the new Dutch migrants were brought on a visit by my grandfather. They had been "sponsored" by the Presbyterian church and my grandfather saw them as his special responsibility. Even as a three year old I remember their English being strange but the wife, M...., played finger games with me.

The Senior Cat taught the Polish couple English at night. The Irish couple moved on in their desperate flight from the IRA - something we knew nothing about then. Even now the Senior Cat looks back and says how little he knew - and he knew a great deal more than anyone else in that small rural community. We maintained contact with the Dutch couple for the rest of their lives. They always spoke Dutch at home. They would talk to their children - and they would answer in English. I spent a weekend with them once and they spoke to me in Dutch too. They were not being rude. They simply expected I would understand from the context. 

I have given a lot of thought to all this over the years. I know that people tend to revert to the language of their childhood as they grow older. This is particularly the case if they are less well educated or have some form of memory loss. It is something I have no difficulty in understanding but I also know it can make difficulties. V...'s son does not understand Ukrainian at all. He did not learn the language as a child. We have agreed that their neighbours need to be alerted to the fact that V... will need to be encouraged to chat to them - in English. It is something I can alert people of the need for as I see them.

Worries shared may not be worries halved in this case but being able to articulate them in a way others understand may help - help everyone. 

Tuesday 15 February 2022

In no defence of Prime Ministers

- or at least some of them.

I have been having an interesting exchange with one of our local journalists. He says I "underestimate" the role required of a Prime Minister to "lead". 

Perhaps I do but I don't think it is very likely. I know what I am not underestimating and that is the power of the media to make a Prime Minister not of their choosing look foolish.

I have met a few Prime Ministers and former Prime Ministers in my time. There was the former Prime Minister whose wife introduced me to him with the words, "This is Cat - and be polite to her." Mrs PM "wore the pants" in many ways. I would never have voted for him but I might have considered voting for her. Nevertheless he got a pretty good run with the press.

There was the Prime Minister who literally pushed me out of the way as he went through the swing doors in the law school. He glared at me and made a sound that could only be interpreted as, "Get out of my way." He was the PM who later put a stop to my being appointed to a position because he was not "going to have some disabled bitch running the show". What a pity there was nobody from the press with a microphone around then! 

There was the Prime Minister who accidentally rang me one Sunday morning asking that the papers be saved for him. It was apparently his habit to pick up the Sunday papers from the local newsagent. When I told him my name and that he had the wrong number he apologised and reminded me that we had met, very briefly, at a reception in the nation's capital. He also congratulated me on "getting that year off the ground". I rather liked him for that although I by no means agreed with him on everything.

There was the Prime Minister it seemed so many people "loved to hate" but who might yet go down as one of the better Prime Ministers we have been unfortunate enough to have. He wasn't the Prime Minister when I met him, simply a minister. He listened and got the problem sorted and saved the country quite a lot of money. Later I had a very personal letter from him - not the sort written by one of his staff - with an even more personal note on the bottom. No, I didn't always agree with him either.

I have avoided all contact with several - thankfully. They are not nice people. My nephew was at a dinner of some sort in the nation's capital and told me of an incident he personally observed. It was later confirmed by someone who has never met my nephew. No, it didn't make the news headlines - but it should have. That PM was the darling of the news media.

And, so far, I have avoided all contact with the present PM but I don't think I am mistaken about his role, nor do I underestimate it. He is not popular with the press. Yes, he has made some mistakes but they have not been the hanging offences they have been made out to be. They are certainly nothing like the poor behaviour of some of his predecessors. While I suspect I might not like him much if I met him I doubt he would be deliberately rude or push me out of the way.

A lot of the criticism he has been subjected to is because those in positions to influence our vote have chosen not to support him. They have chosen to ignore what a PM can actually do and what s/he cannot do. They are ignoring constitutional restraints. If the PM ignored those restraints and did what is being said he should have done they would of course criticise him for "interfering".

It's a "no-win" situation for our Prime Ministers I suppose. I really cannot defend any of them - wherever they sit on the political line - but I do sometimes wish those that wish to influence our vote would be a little more honest about what they are doing.  

Monday 14 February 2022

A "right" to protest...

It is an interesting concept isn't it? We talk about it as if it is an absolute. If we don't like something then we can "protest" about it. We don't live in one of those "undemocratic" places where we might find ourselves flung in a cell and forgotten about or even shot because we disagree with something.

But it isn't an absolute. Protesting comes with responsibilities as well as rights.  We can't break the laws of the land and then protest some more when we are punished for doing just that. Mind you at many a protest people are given a warning to cease breaking the law and "move on". There is a fine balance there.

There is also another sort of responsibility that many protestors seem to forget - and that is our responsibility towards other people. It is all too easy to forget that when we want to be heard, when we believe we are right. There is also a tendency to ignore inconvenient facts and not want to accept  that what we want to be the case may not actually be the case.

I have been thinking about this because of the "protests" which have been taking place recently. In one instance some of those who are not vaccinated are demanding the "right" to return to work. Some of these people are in our police force. They have the support of the anti-mandate crowd. They are saying "my body, my choice". 

I say "fine, if you don't want to be vaccinated then it is up to you but don't expect to come back to work".  Why? Because an occupation like that often brings you into contact with very vulnerable people who may not have been vaccinated. What is more they may not have been vaccinated through no choice of their own. At this point your responsibilities towards other people are greater than your individual rights. 

I know that won't be a popular viewpoint with some people but I am using my right to "protest" and state my view via this blog. In doing so I have to trust I have not harmed anyone. I certainly do not intend to do harm.

The wider "protest" movement has moved on from the state to the nation's capital. Here they are protesting in their thousands. They are getting a great deal of publicity...although not quite as much as their Canadian friends. It's all very well but there is an enormous flaw in what they are protesting about. They are blaming the federal government for the vaccination "mandates" and holding the Prime Minister responsible.  The problem with this is that it is an issue over which the Prime Minister has no control. Vaccination mandates are a state matter, decided for the state by the state. The Prime Minister can possibly tell a Premier that he doesn't like something but, if it is within the powers of the state's constitution and not overridden by the federal constitution, he can do nothing about it. 

The protestors of course do not want to listen to this. It would spoil their "fun". They are aiming on being as disruptive as possible. They want the maximum amount of coverage. With a federal election coming up it is convenient to blame the present government - just as it was convenient to blame the Prime Minister for being on holiday when fires broke out. It matters not at all that the vaccination mandates and the fire fighting problems are state issues and responsibilities.

Is it any wonder that my "tweet" suggesting that someone from the ANU Law School should be sent over to give the protestors a short lecture in Constitutional Law did not go down well?

Sunday 13 February 2022

The fire alarm went off yesterday

and I am very grateful that there was no fire.

The alarm went off in the Senior Cat's residence. I went in to see him yesterday and the alarm added a little interest to his day.  

Just as I was signing in one of the other residents came out to the reception area. He is known for being "difficult" and yesterday he was very agitated. He told C..., the lovely lass on reception, that he was going to "throw things, break things and get the hell out of here" and that he "hates this place" and much more. 

Yes, listening to him is disturbing but he rarely does anything. His room is almost bare so that he cannot harm himself but, short of illegally restraining him, there is not much that can be done. He knows what he is doing is wrong but does it anyway.

I prowled off to see the Senior Cat and could hear him still carrying on. A little later the fire alarm sounded. Like all fire alarms it has to be tested on a regular basis and I thought it might be that. When it continued but nobody raised any other sort of alarm I decided it had to be Difficult at work. It was.

One of the staff looked in to reassure the Senior Cat. The alarm went on...and on...and on. It can only be turned off by the Metropolitan Fire Service if it is activated for other than test reasons. Another staff member looked in to check the Senior Cat was not concerned. I had explained by then what I thought might have happened. 

The Senior Cat's response to the third staff member who stopped to reassure him was, "Send him to see me. I'll deal with it." It was said with a slight smile. 

I am still wondering what would have happened if someone had actually sent Difficult to see the Senior Cat. I suspect that, although he now has difficulty even speaking, the still very alert Senior Cat would have given Difficult a dressing down. Why? The third staff member remarked that the Senior Cat sounded "just like the headmaster" at his school. No, he hasn't lost that disciplinary ability.

But I also wonder how you handle people like Difficult. Calling out the MFS for a false alarm is a very expensive business. They had to send three appliances. They had to be ready to help evacuate thirty-eight residents and ensure any visitors and the staff were also out of the building. The Senior Cat is now "bed-ridden" and would need a lot of help. There are at least four other people I pass to go to his room who are in the same position. There would be more people in the other wing and many more who would need some help.

So how should we handle someone like Difficult? Who takes priority? I don't have to face those questions on a day-to-day basis but I do wonder about them.   

Saturday 12 February 2022

Deafness is isolating,

very, very isolating in some circumstances.

Last year a group I belong to had a stand at a craft fair. We were not selling anything. We were simply there to advertise an environmental fund raiser and ask people to knit squares for the blankets we will be raffling off in September this year.

One afternoon a couple stood a little distance back and looked at the display. They were using signs to communicate with each other. When the woman looked more in my direction I signed "hello" and gave her what I hoped was a friendly smile. She looked a bit hesitant but her partner came over and said, "We're from Canada. I'm hearing but M... isn't. She would like to know more about what you are doing."

I know some basic signs - for this country. M... uses Canadian Sign Language. CSL is very different from ASL. She also uses the one handed alphabet. I use the two handed alphabet. (These allow you to spell out words with your fingers.) 

I also know that lip reading is an extremely difficult thing to achieve. It is even harder when someone has an accent and the lighting is less than perfect.  I knew M.... would be really struggling even if I was careful to face her and choose my words equally carefully.

I also chose not to rely on her husband to interpret. He let the two of us attempt to communicate with each other. It was not easy but I managed to give her a little basic information about what we were doing. She took one of the information sheets we had printed out, smiled at me and they went off.

Her husband contacted me a couple of days later. He told me he would be working here for some time and he hoped M... would make some squares for us. M... is very, very lonely here. Even the deaf community uses a language which is essentially foreign to her. We have had all sorts of restrictions because of Covid. The requirement to wear masks in many settings makes it impossible for her to even contemplate many everyday activities.Knitting and crochet are activities she enjoys and her work is lovely. 

They have joined a small community church group. The people there have made them welcome. There is a monthly women's craft group where they make things for charity. The women there have endeavoured to include M... in that and it has been appreciated. It is not easy for them or for M...  She feels awkward. 

So another M...  and I discussed this. There is another group which might have been able peripherally include her. With some suggestions from me the other M... sent a message explaining the situation. M... would not be able to go to meetings because the communication barrier is too great. Her husband works at the time the meetings are held. I cannot go with her to help even in my very limited way. But we suggested that perhaps M... could still "join" the group, get the newsletters and be made aware of anything special which was going on. 

I won't explain here what the response was but it was very disappointing. I can only be grateful that we did not suggest it to M... before we made inquiries. 

M... uses sign and French. English is her third language. She has a degree in mathematics and teaches that subject to the deaf. She is an intelligent and able woman. We email each other now. It's a much easier way for her to communicate.

And M.... knitted all the squares for a blanket which has now been embroidered by my good friend S....  It will make a magnificent first prize in the raffle.  It is a much bigger contribution than that made by the entire group with which we thought she might be able to be peripherally associated. Here are the squares before S... sewed them together. (Embroidered by S....).No photo description available.

Friday 11 February 2022

It is beginning to get very nasty

in politics. Both major parties are attempting to find anything at all that they can use to accuse their opposition of sexual misbehaviour and more. 

It doesn't matter in the least whether it is true or not. There simply has to be a whiff of it and it is headline material - to be blown out of all proportion. The media is stirring it all, bringing it to the boil, allowing it to spill over, and leaving a trail of destruction for others to pick up.

Yes, I know there is an election coming up. I know that this sort of thing always occurs around election time. It always has. It always will. That said there is no excuse for using a vulnerable young woman in order to further your own ambitions for power. 

No, this is not about the two young women who appeared at the National Press Club. They had plenty of support there and they have plenty of support in other places. That doesn't mean that what they allege to have happened to them - or has been proven to have happened - isn't serious. It is. It is very serious.  This is about a young woman who did not want her situation to be made public. Yes, she made a complaint and she expected that complaint would be kept confidential. There was every intention that it would be kept confidential but the opposition discovered it by very dubious means and they have used it.  Oh they "sympathise" with the complainant. Really? 

If they really sympathised with the complainant then they would have said nothing. What they are doing is putting her through a far worse experience.  This young woman did not want her intensely distressing experience to be made public. It took courage for her to make the complaint in the first place. Now she wishes she had said nothing.

This appalls me. In order to score a cheap political point the opposing side is deliberately going against the wishes of a traumatised young woman. They are not actually being caring and sympathetic at all. They are doing the exact opposite of that. What is more they are they are actually discouraging others not to make complaints when something unacceptable and even criminal happens.

It is already hard enough for people to come forwards with such complaints. It is hard for them to be heard and, if heard, to be taken seriously.  This sort of behaviour is absolutely unacceptable.


Thursday 10 February 2022

Postal voting for the upcoming

state election is a matter of real concern now.

The Senior Cat had a "postal vote" at the last election. This was granted to him because of the very real difficulties in getting him to a polling place, having him lineup, have his name marked off, collect the papers, and vote. I organised it for him with a certificate from our GP. As a result he will also have a postal vote at the election in March.

Now the Senior Cat is still intellectually alert. He is perfectly able to make his own decisions about who he will vote for. The problem for us is that he is now in a different electorate to the one he was last time. I will be in another electorate because the boundaries have changed.   

Recently, as required, I advised the Electoral Commission of the Senior Cat's change of residence. I have asked them to forward his ballot papers to me. I have the legal right to mark the ballot papers for the Senior provided that I do it according to his wishes. (He can no longer see well enough to do it himself.) It will be interesting to see whether the Electoral Commission does as asked. My guess is that, if the right to a postal vote is acknowledged, they will send it to his place of residence. If that happens he may or may not be allowed to vote according to his wishes. A member of staff may "help". If that happens I will make a formal complaint.

Why? Because the Senior Cat's voting intentions are his business. He will tell me what he wants. He doesn't even want Middle Cat to know. He would prefer I didn't know. I would prefer not to know. Over the years this has always been the case. My parents never discussed how they voted with us or with each other. I can guess how the Senior Cat votes but he still takes an interest in politics. It is always possible he might have a particular view about something which will influence his voting intentions. 

Postal votes are wide open to abuse though. It would be perfectly possible (but highly illegal) for me to "steal" the Senior Cat's vote. He won't be able to read the way I mark the ballot papers. 

And this is true of many other people I know. I have on occasion been with someone who needs help to mark the ballot papers. I have always been aware that I need to be scrupulously careful to do exactly as they ask.  It has also been important to me that I never make any comment about the way they vote. That's their business.

At this election the Electoral Commission doesn't want to send out staff to aged care residences. They are concerned about the spread of Covid. There is now real concern that this will disenfranchise people who were relying on being able to vote within the residence. By no means all of them will have a postal vote. They are supposed to be working on other ways of making certain people can vote. I have serious concerns about all of this. The election is in March. Any new arrangements should have been in place by the end of 2021. 

It will be interesting to see how many people are disenfranchised and how the Electoral Commission will handle the problem. If the vote in an electorate is very close (and it could be) will there be challenges?

Our entire electoral system needs a major overhaul. Will this be the trigger for it to happen?


Wednesday 9 February 2022

There was an "apology" in parliament

yesterday - federal parliament.  While it was widely reported as an apology it was actually a "joint Statement of Acknowledgment" and it recognised the "unacceptable history of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault in Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces".

It was the first of a series of recommendations which are the result of an inquiry which was brought about by the allegations made by a former staffer. She alleges she was raped in a ministerial office by another staffer.

Last night I was told by a neighbour, "Of course he's guilty. They wouldn't have had that parliamentary inquiry if he had been innocent."  For them that was an end of the matter. The alleged perpetrator has been found guilty by the media. What the court decides was irrelevant  as far as the neighbour is concerned. 

The same neighbour went on to find the Prime Minister as guilty as the perpetrator and the Leader of the Opposition, "in the very difficult position of having to support the statement". (There is no doubt about this neighbour's political leanings.)  

All this deeply concerns me. Please note the words "allegations" and "alleges". I in no way wish to suggest that these allegations are not serious. They are extremely serious and, if proven in court, then the perpetrator needs to feel the full force of the law. The problem however is that the alleged perpetrator may never be able to face a fair trial. There has been so much publicity surrounding the case, so much sympathy for the alleged victim, an inquiry and now an apology in parliament (where the alleged victim is actually named) that one could be forgiven for believing that the trial is over and the alleged perpetrator has been found guilty. 

It has gone even further than that. The alleged victim and another young woman who was last year's "Person of the Year" are due to speak at the National Press Club today. There will be another huge round of sympathetic publicity surrounding them - even before the case against the alleged perpetrator is heard in court.

So far he has said very little. All he has done is deny any wrong doing. I imagine that this is what he has been advised to do. Whether he is guilty or innocent he must be a very worried man by now because the media has found him guilty. Whatever the final outcome he is going to be "the man who..." for the rest of his life. 

 I would much prefer it if the matter had been left up to the court to decide before any publicity or any apologies. Why? Because I believe that doing it this way has the potential to actually do serious harm to victims.  Imagine what will happen if the alleged perpetrator is found not guilty or  the alleged victim is found to be partly responsible for what is alleged to have happened. The "blame game" which then ensues could make it so much harder for others who don't have the power to speak out in the same way.  

The media isn't helping here. 

Tuesday 8 February 2022

BLOCKED! I must have done

something right in order to get "blocked" by one of Downunder's "journalists". 

He was appearing regularly in my timeline - retweeted by other people. He also has a blog in which he tells us that he is investigating "corruption" among politicians, the legal profession, people of influence etc. His activities have led to charges of contempt of court and time in prison.  Some of you will know who I am talking about.

I have little sympathy for him. He is a trouble maker. And I probably should have known better than to try and point out that he was wrong. The story sounded great. A politician had said she was under pressure not to do something - and that the pressure was coming from her own party. Now yes, up to a point the story was true - up to a point. What our "journalist" was not saying was why she was under pressure. It had nothing to do with what the politician wanted to do - and everything to do with a parliamentary practice known as "pairing". 

"Pairing" is an informal arrangement that exists by convention. It occurs when one MP needs or wants to be absent and the opposition agrees to have one of their side stand aside for a vote. This might occur if someone is ill or is otherwise unavoidably absent. It is a process which is open to abuse in many ways. The person who has agreed to "pair" is under no obligation to do so.

What was happening yesterday was that the politician in question was under pressure because she would not have been granted a pair or, if granted a pair, she could not be sure that her opposite number would honour the arrangement. She was not, as the story tried to suggest, under pressure because the government did not want her to attend the event in question. And of course if the media had acknowledged this then there would either have been no story or it would have harmed the present opposition - who are almost certainly going to win the upcoming election. It's a fine example of how the media manipulates the facts in order to tell a story.

Interestingly the news program running the story on Twitter did not include it in their main news bulletin. I imagine by then they had been ordered to withdraw it because it not the full story and it gave a false impression.

I am sorry the "journalist" in question "blocked" me. I don't like his work but knowing about it does allow people to try and point out when he is abusing his position. 

Monday 7 February 2022

Burn out is not permitted if

you are the Queen.

One of the interesting things about Covid has been that I have finally managed to genuinely cut back on the amount of work I was doing. I won't say it has been a good thing. It meant independent aid workers were not able to go abroad as they had before. People were not getting the help they needed. In a way though it has been a good thing because I have managed to train other people to take over from me. That was always a worry. Now there are people who will be able to do what I was doing. Between us we have strengthened the network and that is good.

I am still doing some work but now I have time to be with the Senior Cat and I am getting a little writing time, a little craft time. There were a few years there when I was doing almost none of that. But.... I feel almost guilty about all this. It doesn't seem right.

It really didn't seem right last night when I looked at HM The Queen and realised that she has been working for almost as long as I have been alive.  How in the heck has she done it? 

There she was smiling and cutting a cake - and even managing to look as if she was actually enjoying doing it. Perhaps she was? 

It made me think of all those people who complain of "burn out". Now I don't doubt for a minute that they do have something to complain about. I know people who are simply exhausted facing up to patients all day as members of the medical profession. I know teachers who are equally exhausted trying to teach. Some have simply left it all behind and found something else to do.

That has never been an option for the Queen. You can't just "retire". Even if she abdicated there would be "things to do". I know many people think she has an easy life. "All she has to do is smile and shake hands" someone once told me. They forget the boring speeches, the equally boring people, the nervous people, the lunches, the state dinners, the self-important politicians, the "boxes" (of parliamentary and other papers), and working with difficult people. 

I remember my Constitutional Law lecturer - a man who was not a monarchist by any means - telling us that the Queen was one of the best Constitutional lawyers he knew of. The Queen has had to learn a great deal over the years...and yes, she can both "advise" and "warn". It would be a foolish Prime Minister who did not listen.

My earliest memory of her is of sitting on the Senior Cat's shoulders and waving a small flag as she went by in a car. The Queen was wearing a yellow dress. It is a good memory. HM has been a good example. It makes me realise how lucky I am not to be able to stop working altogether.

Sunday 6 February 2022

Birthday parties

are not lavish affairs in this family. We didn't fuss too much about the Senior Cat's 99th yesterday. 

He didn't want a fuss at all. Middle Cat insisted we did "something".

As a result he now has two very large "9" shaped helium balloons in his room. He had cards from a number of friends - which I read to him. I made him a card of various events that occurred in the year he was born. (One of those was the start of building the Sydney Harbour Bridge.)

Middle Cat got a cake - which the Senior Cat did not want to eat. He has never been fond of cake. In order not to disappoint her he managed two small mouthfuls. 

My nephew here managed to do wondrous things with technology and brought up all the interstate family on a television screen so they could help "sing" Happy Birthday - close your ears. Well at least they all sounded much more in tune telling the Senior Cat how good it was to see him. 

And we managed to sneak in two non-family members - who were triple vaccinated with clear PCR tests. One of them is a former student of the Senior Cat who had been waiting for months to see him. 

The Senior Cat smiled and said all the right things. But he was absolutely and completely exhausted at the end of it all. I am going to prowl in later this morning and check on him...and read the cards to him again. I'll give the chocolate he was given by friends to the staff because he won't eat it. He whispered to me that this should happen. 

There won't be any more birthdays but I think/hope he really did enjoy it.


Saturday 5 February 2022

My father turns 99 today

- and yes, that is my adored "Senior Cat". He told me himself that he is "the Senior Cat". We are a cat loving family.

Just before Christmas though the Senior Cat had a mild "stroke". He recovered reasonably well from it but Middle Cat and I have noticed the difference since. Indeed before Christmas we thought he might not make it to Christmas. He now has pneumonia and it is only because he was already on antibiotics for another issue that it has not been far worse. Two weeks ago I didn't think he would make it to today. Somehow he has. 

Yesterday I went in to see him. Today Middle Cat is going to try and get him outside for an hour - under the guise of "palliative" care. He  is adamant he doesn't want a fuss for his birthday but this will be a way of allowing him to see more than one of us. We are all triple jabbed and our RATs keep coming back negative. Being in the fresh air and sunshine may be good for him.

When I went in yesterday I tried to get him to "reminisce" in a good way. When the Senior Cat was born most people did not have a phone or a car. Outside the city many people did not have electricity. There was no television. My paternal grandfather was a tailor. He employed a great many people because you couldn't walk into a shop and buy a suit. My grandmother made most of the other clothes they wore. They had an "ice chest" rather than a refrigerator. 

My grandmother would not have known what "pizza" was. Cheese was something you bought in the grocery. It was cut from a great wheel with a cheese wire and then wrapped in paper. Plastic was unknown. Milk was delivered to the door and so was bread. Meat came from a butcher because supermarkets were unknown.

But there were other things that my grandparents did know, things that many people were not really aware of. The Senior Cat grew up meeting,  if only briefly, people from all over the world. His parents welcomed homesick young sailors into their home on quite a regular basis. My grandmother followed her mother-in-law's example and saw to it that those in need had an extra basket of food or that something else was done to help. She knew about some customs and was accepting of the many different ways of doing things.

At the end of his life the Senior Cat is now being cared for by people who come from Asia and Africa as well as elsewhere. Someone working there said to me recently,"Your father is so polite to everyone. We have people here who refuse to let people like ...... and ..... help them."

When I look back on that I think I am fortunate. My siblings are fortunate too. We have grown up with a parent who has seen immense changes in his life - and not simply accepted them but embraced them.

Friday 4 February 2022

An "aged care crisis" or

 something even worse?

It was Middle Cat's "turn" to see the Senior Cat yesterday. Right, first that needs to be explained.  Middle Cat and I "sort of" take it in turns to visit him. There are several reasons for this but we are also flexible. If one of us cannot go for some reason then the other will go. If the local priest wants to sneak in then we stay away. (No, there is nothing religious about the visits of the latter. They mostly talk about woodwork - the Senior Cat is still encouraging D... to do this. He told D... that he (D) needed a hobby and carpentry was a good choice for a priest.)

Of course for months now the other people who would visit the Senior Cat have not been permitted to do so - all because of Covid19. We were told we would not be allowed to visit either. Middle Cat refused to accept that. Unless the residence was in "lock down" then visitors must be allowed. That might sound selfish but Middle Cat was arguing not just for us but for the elderly woman who visits her husband everyday - and has lunch with him. She was arguing for the woman whose very young husband is there post stroke. That woman has returned to work full time to support her children and still rushes in to see her husband when she gets the chance...the children have not seen their father for months.

Most of the residents don't get visitors at all so our visits perform another function. We have been doing no more than say "hello" as we pass people and occasionally exchanging a few words - but that is enough. 

Why? Because one of the older staff, a woman who is there because the work is an active career choice for her, told us, "It's good to have you in and out like this. It keeps us on our toes."

But things still happen. Middle Cat went in yesterday around lunch time. She found someone "helping" the Senior Cat eat lunch. The Senior Cat was lying down and the light was not on. (His room is rather dark.)

Now sitting the Senior Cat up is a matter of pushing a button - nothing more. Turning a light on is a matter of flicking a switch. The young staff member had done neither. The Senior Cat eats almost nothing anyway and this is not encouraging him to eat enough to keep him comfortable.

Middle Cat put in a complaint...and I think she was right to do just that. This sort of thing is what happens when the people employed to do the work are not interested in it. We all know there is a problem with getting staff. People simply are not paid enough. They are not well trained.

This is a catastrophe not a crisis. We are not caring for the generation which made our generation and those which follow it possible. The young staff member will likely be told, "Don't do that again" but it will be no more than a mild reprimand. The residence manager won't want to risk losing a staff member. They are short-staffed at the best of times. 

And there is something else. They get away with this sort of thing because the residents are largely powerless to complain about it. They are dependent. They are also of the generation which now sees themselves as a "burden". Many of them, including the Senior Cat, hate to have to ask for help - to "bother" people. The way in which they are treated also encourages them not to ask for help.

We shouldn't see the oldest among us any sort of burden at all.  We should see them as a gift.

Thursday 3 February 2022

A supposedly "secret plan"

to cut the number of doctors, nurses, beds and some other services in our local health network was gleefully "revealed" by the news media yesterday.

Yes, there was a report which offered the plan as a way to reduce the high over-expenditure in the network. The report itself was not a "secret". Anyone could have accessed it under our "Freedom of Information" laws. It was not published for the simple reason that the government never had any intention of acting on the "recommendations" in it. The so called recommendations are not really even that. They were just put forward as one way things could be done.

No government was ever going to implement them. It would be electoral suicide.

So, why have they suddenly been given so much publicity? The answer to that is simple. There is an election coming up. The media does not like the present government. There are people working in the media who are strong supporters of the present opposition. They are using this, and other stories, in the sure and certain hope of influencing the undecided voters in the electorate.

The almost new "world class" hospital in the CBD is more like a luxury hotel. It is incredibly expensive to run. 

Why? There are no wards. Every patient has a private room with an ensuite. Yes, I know it sounds lovely. I am well aware that the last thing most people want in hospital is to be surrounded by other sick people, people they don't even know. The problem is that this takes even more staff than before. A friend recently had eleven nights there. For the first week she was too ill to get out of bed alone. She couldn't get to the ensuite, let alone use it. On the third or fourth day she had to wait more than two hours before anyone even looked in after she had rung for help. As she would be one of the least demanding of patients this really does say something about the way things are done there.

There is no kitchen in the hospital. Meals are brought in from outside. I have seen those meals. If I was a patient there I would hope Middle Cat was feeling well enough to bring me meals from home. There is no choice. You get what is delivered to you. People who cannot reach it on their overways or manage to undo the packaging just go hungry - and thirsty.

There are no facilities for the staff, not even lockers. They have to keep their personal belongings in the unit where they are working. 

There are other issues too, far too many to enumerate here. I don't know whether they have been raised as running costs. 

It was the present Opposition which built (at an enormous cost blow out) the present facilities - and signed off on them. It is the current government which has had to deal with the many issues. Naturally it is the current government which is also being blamed for the problems. This is the way politics works.

The problem with airing the report which suggested that one means of saving money would be to cut staff is that it was never going to happen. It isn't government policy. It is simply stirring and scare-mongering.

But we have an election coming up so apparently it is "fair and balanced" reporting.  

Wednesday 2 February 2022

So what is the cost of milk and bread?

Our Prime Minister was criticised yesterday for not knowing the cost of milk and bread. Apparently he should have known because it relates to the "cost of living".

Yes, it does relate to the cost of living. Yes, it is important. But how many people actually know the answer to the question?

Some of us will but plenty of others will have no idea. How many know the price of a litre of petrol or a dozen eggs?

Of course the price of milk and bread also varies greatly. It used to be that you bought "milk" but now you can buy "low fat milk" and "organic" milk and milk with extra this or that or something else and milk from a variety of companies. You can buy UHT milk and "milk" made from soya beans or oats or rice or something else. Monday I could have bought two litres of low-fat supermarket brand milk for $2.60 or two litres of labelled milk $4.30. (I bought neither.)

But yes, I suppose the PM should know the price of a litre of ordinary everyday milk.  No, wait a moment. Where does he live? The price of milk can vary according to your location and even where you shop within that location.

And the price of bread you ask? That is even more complicated. When I was a very small kitten we lived in a very small country town. It was large enough that it did have a bakery. The baker provided "sandwich" and "high top" loaves - white only. He also produced "currant buns" - yeast buns with currants in them. I doubt he made any profit out of the latter because we children used to line up on the days he made them knowing that he would have produced  a lot of small ones specifically to give to us. But the bread was ordinary bread. I have no idea how much it cost of course. At age three and four you don't think much about such things, if at all. 

When we returned to the city you could still get "sandwich" and "high top" and, on special occasions, "cob". You could also get "wholemeal" but it was a poor relation to the wholemeal of today. There were the same sort of currant buns too. Hot Cross buns appeared at Easter. That was about it. 

Now of course, in the city, we can buy white, wholemeal, whole grain, multigrain, oat, seed, French, Greek, and more - much more. An "everyday" sandwich loaf can vary significantly in price. On Monday I could have bought a "yesterday's" loaf for "$3" or a "bakery" loaf for "$6.80". (I bought neither.) 

When I was a kitten I doubt men knew the price of milk and bread as often as the women did. They probably thought of those things as "expensive" because they were mostly the wage earners and had to hand over the money to buy food. Even now I doubt they always know because, like it or not, it is still women who do most of the food shopping - and even they won't necessarily know. They are much more likely to know the price of a litre of petrol or the variation in prices of car tyres. This is not "sexist" as such. It is the way labour and responsibilities tend to get divided. The lines are often blurred.

So is there really something so terribly wrong about the PM not knowing the cost of a litre of milk or a loaf of bread? I think I could stand in the shopping centre this morning with a clip board in my hand and ask people to tell me those things - and most of them would fail.  

Tuesday 1 February 2022

What a waste of Rapid Antigen Tests

when someone is forced to have two in one day!

We are short of RATs - or so those who love to hate the government would have us believe. If we are actually short of them then I think I know why. The use of them is being abused.

Yesterday morning first thing I had to take some things to an elderly woman in an aged care residence. When I arrived the staff were trying to get someone else on the same wing to take a RAT. There was a good reason for this. The person in question was feeling unwell. She did not want to take the test. If it was positive she would be isolated. If it was negative she could at least sit in the garden outside her room for a bit.

Now I know her. I don't know her well but in going to see the other woman I have chatted to her on occasion. One of the staff, no doubt desperate by then, asked if she trusted me. Yes, apparently she does - although goodness' knows why. So, if Cat had a test, would she have one? We finally got her to agree. I had the test. It was negative - as I had known it would be. We had let her observe the process. We showed her the results. She gave in and had the test. Thankfully it was negative - but they will observe her closely.

Later in the morning Middle Cat picked me up and took me over to see the Senior Cat. I was greeted with a table outside and the news that "everyone has to have a RAT". I explained I had just had one - and that I was happy to have them talk to the person who had administered it. No, not good enough. I had to have one there and then.

Now, that in itself is silly is it not? What was even sillier was that I was told, "You can do it yourself or we can do it."

I looked at the very young girl who didn't even know how to do it properly - although she must surely have been instructed? I made the decision that she needed to know how to do it and do it properly. I told her, "No, you have to learn how to do it because there will be people coming in who have no idea how to do it and you are, at very least, going to have to help."

She agreed that this was probably the case. I talked her through it. All I can say of all this is that the second test on this occasion was not perhaps completely wasted because at least there was some teaching/learning involved.

Test over I still had to go through the further rigmarole of filling out the electronic form with my details, the details of the person I was visiting, answering the questions about vaccinations, where I had been in the past week and much more. I still had to take my temperature and nod at the QR code too.

As I prowled off to see the Senior Cat though I heard one of the delivery men saying, "But I just had a test at the other place."

I know this is all designed to try and keep people safe but surely they can work something out so that people don't need to have multiple tests in one day!