Saturday 30 April 2022

Oh the joys of the election campaign

are many and varied.

There has been a report of a minority party candidate allegedly nominating for two different seats. Of course there might be two candidates  with the same name but different birthdays... might... 

And then there is the "independent" candidate in this electorate who might hold dual citizenship. Given the previous fuss about such candidates one would think the candidate might have made sure to have had this sorted out months ago. I wonder what her "friends" think of this.

There is the Premier of a neighbouring state in deep corruption waters. He may be able to wriggle out of it - as he has so often before - but if their corruption commission really is independent then he could be in trouble. That's a worry for the current Opposition - the mob who expect to be in power after the election.

And there are the Senior Cat's voting papers. They arrived yesterday. I had not taken him off the electoral roll. They were happy to accept my word for it that he was not competent to vote at the last election. They did not ask for medical evidence. Removing his name from the electoral roll however will require something more than my word - or it should. I will take along a certified copy of the death certificate and the voting papers when the pre-poll centre opens.

Concerned about this? I am. It would have been very easy for someone else to vote twice by claiming his vote. Our system is not nearly as secure or foolproof as people like to think.

I will be back in the same places as I was before. I will again be trying to explain to people that they must fill in all the boxes on the green ballot paper and how that white ballot paper works. Despite my best efforts there will people who will be disenfranchised because they simply do not understand how the system works. These same people will believe without question what they are being promised.

Yes, I am concerned. There are things I would like to see changed. I also consider myself fortunate that I can vote in an election without having to endure the extreme violence that occurs in so many parts of the world. That is a joy I hope to retain for the rest of my life. 

Friday 29 April 2022

The United Nations is not working

and whether it will survive the war in Ukraine is anyone's guess.

It may well still be there as an organisation but it is likely to end up being even less effective than it already is. We may not have had another "world war" in the military sense but there have been conflicts between nations and within nations. 

Any conflict should be of concern. While some of them may have been short lived skirmishes there are others which are still ongoing and there seems to be no end in sight to these.

The war in Ukraine is the most serious right now. It is serious because the effects of that war are being felt far beyond the borders of that country.  Many people are unaware of what the real consequences are. It is not simply one country which is being destroyed. What is being slowly destroyed is the global economy. 

Putin says he has nuclear weapons and that he will use them. Would he? Perhaps.  At present his military will do as he orders. The loss of life on not just the Ukrainian side but his own is something he apparently just accepts as "necessary". The idea that all this destruction might also cause a disruption to energy supplies in Europe is something he simply shrugs off. The idea that world food supplies might be disrupted is of no consequence. Putin believes he can keep his own country under control. He believes that when (not if) he wins the war then Russia will be bigger and stronger than before. He believes that former countries under Russian control will simply fall into line and rejoin the union. 

Of course the reality is different. Putin clearly believed he was going to simply move in and take over with minimal resistance. That has not happened. He blames some of his senior most military "advisers" for this. They are, at very least, under house arrest - for telling him what he wanted to hear. If they had not told him this they would have been under house arrest or worse. He is being supported by that tiny minority of very wealthy and very powerful group of "businessmen" who have so much to lose. 

None of that will be new to anyone following the news media. But there are things going on behind the news that most people will never know about. There are people working in extremely dangerous situations with minimal amounts of sleep. They are going deep into the battle zones to try and negotiate without knowing if they will be taken hostage or even killed. These are the negotiators we never hear about, that we will never even know about via the news media. It is part of their role to remain as anonymous as possible.

In the course of my work I have once in a while come across such people. They aren't always what they appear to be. They are not "spies" or "undercover agents". These people are simply there to do an extraordinarily difficult job. They are risking their lives to protect entire nations. I have enormous respect for them.

The United Nations has to change or die. It will die without these people and most of them do not even work for the United Nations - or even believe in it.


Thursday 28 April 2022

We had a gang related stabbing

in the CBD over the weekend.  Someone lost their life. Multiple people are now in custody. It was headline news.

Unlike some places gang related violence is very rare here. Yes, it happens but not on a daily or even weekly basis. There have been murders among rival bikie groups but most people here do not carry weapons. For many years our police force did not carry firearms. There was no need.

I detest the idea of fire arms being freely available to everyone. They should be restricted. Farmers may need them to put an injured animal down but most people do not. I do not see "shooting" as a sport. Duck hunting is something I find repulsive. There have to be other ways to control the environment.

It is more difficult to control the use of items such as knives. The Senior Cat used to carry a pocket knife around in his trouser pocket at home. I know. I accidentally washed it more than once. It was a genuine Swiss army knife. I doubt he used it for anything more than cutting binder twine in the garden. Brother Cat took it with him when he left. He packed it into a box of small things he was taking with him. It was well hidden from view. There was no reason for this other than safety. We are concerned about such things. Like our father my brother will only use it around the house. Yes, pocket knives can be useful.

The knife used in the stabbing will not have been a pocket knife. The boy - not yet legally and adult - who did the stabbing was not the only one to be carrying an illegal and offensive weapon.  He came from another state and he apparently flew in. He would not have been able to get something like that past the airport security in this country - and rightly so. While it might - just - still be possible for people to put together a 3D printed gun in the air it is very unlikely someone would get away with carrying a knife on board.

No, it would have been given to him here - with instructions as to who was to be attacked, and where and when. All that is unusual too.  We have not had much of that sort of violence here. There are instances of teenage gang violence of course there are but the actual bodily harm which occurs has often been at the lower end of the scale. The rare knock-out blows, the sort where someone is killed due to the injury which occurs when they fall and hit their head, lead to convictions of manslaughter rather than murder. There is rarely an intention to kill even if there is an intention to do violence. 

But we have brought a new problem into the country with new migrants from other places. The young in those groups have often lived violent lives in refugee camps. They have done violence there in order to survive. Their schooling has been limited and they have no desire to attend school now. They see themselves as too old, too smart, able to fend for themselves without the need to work. 

There are all sorts of programs set up for these teens. Most of them seem to have limited success. Well meaning people are trying to be kind, to "help" in ways which are simply not always appropriate. 

If you are born in another country and you commit serious crimes here you run the risk of being returned to the country of your birth.  It may be that we need to remind the young intent on violence of that because I don't see them surviving in those places. Other people have knives there too.   

Wednesday 27 April 2022

It is a gown and yes, a boy wore it

- more than one boy actually.

Someone I know posted a picture of a lovely, lacy christening or baptismal gown on her Facebook page yesterday. It was first worn by her grandmother in 1897 and they have apparently "all worn it since". 

It is a very pretty garment indeed and the sort of thing that is very definitely a family heirloom. I know. We have one too. It doesn't have the same sort of lovely lace...but then our family were staunch Presbyterians at the time.

A second cousin in another state currently has "our gown". Her grandchild was recently baptised in it. Yes, like the other family it we have had our money's worth out of it.

But we have had much more too. It was made by my great-great grandmother out of fine linen fabric and, as far as we know, it was first worn by one of my great-uncles at his baptism in 1883.  My great-uncle was the first of eleven children and the subsequent ten all wore it. Then it was used by the next generation. The Senior Cat's two older cousins were the first to use it, then he did. His brother and other cousins followed.  My generation came next. I wore it and my brother wore and one of my sisters wore it. My youngest sister did not wear it. Her baptism was delayed by some months and she was simply too big for it.

It was passed on to other members of the clan,back and forth. It is now looking a little worn but everyone who has used it has taken great care of it. I tried to work out how many of us have worn it in my generation but I can't. I know of only two who definitely have not but there may be others. And now, babies tend to be a little larger so not all of them in the next generation were able to wear it - or in the generation after that.

And yes, it is a "gown". There are photos of the boys in the clan wearing what most people would think of as a "lacy dress" because there are pin tucks down the front with lace on either side. There is a petticoat as well. The shawl has not survived but some years ago I made another one from the original pattern. It is a simple thing, intended to be used for years. That has been passed on too.

The gown is rather fragile now. I don't know how many times it will be worn but when I helped my cousin's wife pack it carefully I thought of my great-great grandmother making it to give to her daughter. Her daughter was going to the other side of the world and they would never see one another again. I doubt they were particularly sentimental people. There was no room for that in their crofting, seafaring, dominie and Presbyterian background. They would possibly find the reasons we treasure it rather foolish - but they would applaud the thriftiness.

It is a garment of which to be proud. 

Tuesday 26 April 2022

In order to maintain peace

prepare for war. I know that sounds like a contradiction but it is how it works.  Our Defence Minister was correct when he said this. He has been heavily criticised for saying it but it is still correct.

No,  I am not suggesting that we put all young people into some form of compulsory military service or that we teach secondary school students how to use a gun. Those things are not necessary.

Yes, we do need a well prepared and well equipped army, navy and air force. I don't like those things but they are necessary.

Those are some of the things we need for an actual war. But there are other ways in which we need to prepare. There are things like securing our food supply, our fuel supply, our supply of medicines and much more. We could be independent in these things but "trade" considerations have always been a priority. It doesn't mean isolating ourselves from the world but having a strategy so that if we need to be independent we can be independent. It might not be quite as comfortable as it is at present but it could be done. 

Currently we are living way beyond our means - and the demand for even greater and higher standards of living are only increasing. So, part of the strategy has to be prepare for a lower standard of living. It will still be very comfortable compared with that of much of the world.

We need good foreign relations but they need to be wide too, not just those with a narrow focus on a particular region. We need skilled career diplomats with an understanding of international law and trade relations, cultural difference and much more. They need to be fluent in more than the languages of one region. 

That our Defence Minister was criticised for saying we need to prepare for war in order to maintain peace was of course part of the political game being played at the moment. However, the fact that it was said at all is indicative of a narrow view of our place in the world. That needs to change.

The claim that we are some sort of special "multi-cultural" country that doesn't need to work at any of this because we already have what we need is wrong. We need to teach ourselves to listen to what is going on in the distance, not just close at hand.

Monday 25 April 2022

It is ANZAC Day and

this year and our Defence Minister is telling us to "prepare for war so as to keep the peace".  

"Be prepared?" I suppose so. 

It worries me. I suppose I am closer to such things than many people. Even though I have slowly, sometimes much too slowly, started to hand over the work I do to other people there are still moments things  hit harder than usual. 

It is not because I am feeling more fragile than usual it is because we should all care when a mother and her three month old child are killed in an act of senseless violence. That this should happen under the command of a calculating mad man intent on bringing another nation to its knees simply makes it even worse. 

Right now it seems that nothing can be done, that Putin will get away with his heinous behaviour because there is the threat of a wider war in the background, a war with the potential use of nuclear weapons. He would not hesitate. He won't stop where it is being suggested he will stop. He will want to go on.  He wants the "glorious USSR" back. It matters not to him that this is not what the people he is intent on conquering want. 

I thought of all this last night as I watched a segment on the news. One of the candidates for the upcoming election had to be interviewed from a secret location. She has had death threats. Her family has had threats. The police are involved. I can only assume she was in a "safe house" under armed guard. It means she cannot campaign.

Her sin? It was to say that transgender people should not compete against biological women in sport. It was to say that she believes certain procedures in children amount to genital mutilation and should not be allowed.  This is what we have come to. Last night she was choosing her words very carefully. It is something she should not have to do. 

Whether we agree with her or not is beside the point. She is not advocating we go out and kill one another. A minority, and they are a minority, should not be dictating in this way. The "politically correct" or "woke" brigade is being allowed to tell the rest of us how and what we should be thinking. They are (ab)using the law to try and prevent people from voicing their genuine concerns. Such actions may make "news" but it really is not news at all. It is no better than the words "special military operation". 

I know more than one person is going to say, "Don't be ridiculous. It isn't the same at all." Really? When did we start to believe that it is okay if someone needs police protection for saying something that does not condone violence? When did we start to believe that threatening violence if others don't agree with us is acceptable?

We all have some rights - but they also come with responsibilities.

Sunday 24 April 2022

The Prime Minister was criticised

yet again the other day for saying that he and his wife had been "blessed" with two healthy girls. He said this in response to the mother of a child with autism. The mother was questioning how the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was being handled, questioning it not in relation to her own son but in general. 

The PM made the "blessed" comment and went on to say that did not have first hand experience of the problems parents of children with disabilities face. He then added that he could "only try and understand (their) aspirations" for their children.

The comments caused outrage among the woke brigade, among many of the "advocates" for people with disabilities, and then in the wider community. They considered, still consider, the statement to be a hanging offence.

Why? I am a person with a disability. I have worked with the parents of many children with profound disabilities, both intellectual and physical and combined.  I don't know one parent who would not prefer their child was "normal" - in the range of abilities we consider normal. I most certainly don't know any parent who actually wanted a child with a disability. 

The Prime Minister was trying to express an obviously deeply felt personal belief that he and his wife are fortunate to have two healthy children who are able to learn. I am certain his remarks were intended to convey that feeling of guilt that so many people feel when they are so much better off than the person to whom they are talking. He was not boasting about how much better he was - just the opposite.

But this is an election campaign and, for the last three years, there has been a contingent in social media and mainstream media which has been determined to criticise the PM at every possible moment. Yes, there are others who have come under a constant barrage of critical remarks too but criticism of the PM has been extreme. Has it been warranted? 

That is surely the question we should be asking ourselves. Would anyone guilty of all the "mistakes" and negative comments made about him have survived an entire term in parliament? I know a number of people who have worked with him. They come directly from both sides of the political divide. Some of them are MPs or Senators, others are people who work with him and his close partners on an everyday basis. None of them has criticised him the way he is criticised in the media. No, their despair is more likely to be at how hard he actually works and how hard he expects them to work. 

"There's never any let up Cat. Once he's on to something he wants it done - and done yesterday if possible. He's very, very demanding."

At the same time when someone I know extremely suffered a personal tragedy he was on the phone first. Then he took the person in question off for a quiet lunch to see what help they might need with their work while they dealt with their personal problems. Twice in the past month, despite preparing and then starting the election campaign, he has gone out of his way to make sure this person is coping. He's not "smirking" as some of his detractors would have us believe. He apparently really does try to live by his Christian principles.

The woke brigade and many in the media may feel it is fun to hit someone who really has no way of answering back to such comments but is it right? Perhaps it is time to look at what the PM is really like - and what some of our other representatives are also really like. 

Saturday 23 April 2022

"Ecumenical" is a

curious word - the general definition of "representing a number of Christian churches" was not really appropriate yesterday because the gathering was much wider than that.

We said farewell to our beloved Senior Cat yesterday. We did it in a church but the people gathered there came from many places, many faiths, and no faiths. They were young and old. The youngest was five - and yes, he understood in his own way and wanted to be there. He just believes, "He's gone away but one day I might see him again when I am as old as he was." His parents hesitated but there is a small playground in the churchyard and he went off to play on the climbing frame after it was all over and he had hugged me yet again.

The oldest person there was my godfather. L... is 96 and he was determined to be there. We were going to make arrangements to pick him up and take him home again but his son A..., still a very busy lawyer, took the afternoon off to bring his father and be there for us.

There were other professional people in the congregation, there were retired people, one of his fellow magicians, his last magic student, staff from the nursing home, family, and friends. The church was full - not bad for an acknowledgment of ninety nine years of life.

My brother gave the main eulogy - mostly written by the two of us. My eldest nephew spoke on behalf of all the grandchildren. The head of the clan spoke on behalf of the clan. They all made people smile and even laugh. We had tartan ribbon instead of flowers because there were still flowers in the church. We had four different faiths involved and three different continents involved in the service.

Afterwards people mingled and drank cups of tea while nibbling on sandwiches and cake provided by the people of the church as a gift to us. A friend who had come to support me discovered one of her old teachers. Two more people realised they were distantly related to one another. Cousins greeted each other after the long Covid break.

I know all this happened. It was rather a blur. I said hello to a lot of people. I managed not to disgrace myself by howling my eyes out.

But we went out of the church to put the Senior Cat's ashes in the ground to music I will never feel quite the same about. It is not in the least bit religious but it was the contribution of the children from Pana Mtoto Mlangoni - a refuge in Africa. The words mean "There is a child at the door".  The song they chose is widely known in Africa - and perhaps in other places now. It is a complete nonsense song. It is loud and cheerful and the priest gave me a smile as the sound burst out. He had seen the startled faces of those gathered there.

And later several people said to me things like, "What a way to go. That was magnificent."

Yes, it is what he would have wanted...he loved nonsense and jokes and so much more. 

Friday 22 April 2022

Thursday 21 April 2022

Memorial services are

stressful things to organise if, like us, you have scattered family and many other issues to consider. 

We are having the memorial service for our beloved Senior Cat tomorrow. It has been delayed because of Easter and other matters.

This has been some years in the making. It is not because it is an elaborate affair, anything but that. 

Often when the Senior Cat came home from a funeral he had attended for a family member or friend he would comment on it. He would tell me, "I'd like something like that" or "Please don't do anything like that."

In the past twelve months we worked together on what he wanted. He did not want a funeral. "I don't want people sitting there staring at my coffin." He knew how hard it would be for us to do that.

So, tomorrow is a memorial service. His ashes will be buried in the grounds of the church he attended. His beliefs were radically different from most of those who attended it. The priest knows that. They often talked about such things and, as the priest recently said to me, "The last thing J... wants is a requiem mass."

No, we are going to farewell him with some things he liked. His favourite Psalm 121, a NT reading by P..., a Roman Catholic nun, African music chosen by children in a centre for unaccompanied minors in Africa. It is the grandchildren, the surrogate grandchildren and one of his youngest students who will put symbols of his life with his ashes. His ashes will be interred in the church yard, near the seat we donated after his wife, our mother, died. Later there will be a small plaque over whatever gets planted in that place.  There will be tartan ribbon and one of the great Scottish hymns with his instructions to "belt it out". (Being Downunderites it won't sound quite like it did at the service for Prince Philip but I think we can at least try.)  There are three short eulogies, one from each generation and different parts of the clan, emphasising different parts of his life.

There will be people missing. There always will be. My youngest nephew is stuck in another state. His partner was in tears last night when telling Middle Cat they had to isolate because one of her work colleagues had, knowing he was Covid positive, selfishly turned up to work saying it didn't matter. Friends have long planned trips. 

But modern technology mean they can join in from afar if they want to because, D... - the priest, and Brother Cat are on top of these things. 

If I believed such things I would want to think of the Senior Cat watching all this and saying, "Right, get on with it...and when it is all over could we have a cup of tea?"

And that is just what the women of the church are giving us as a final farewell to our beloved Senior Cat. Thank you. 


Wednesday 20 April 2022

"So I can't call my boys "boys"?"

I was not planning on saying any more on this topic but a doctor I know called me yesterday. When we had discussed the problem she wanted me to give her some help with I inquired after her family. (They've all had Covid so it was a reasonable question even in the middle of a working day.) They have apparently recovered.

R...went on to tell me how one of her colleagues asked her the same question. Her response was apparently something like, "The boys are back at school."

Her colleague then berated her for referring to her three boys as "the boys". They are in their teens now. This is the way she has referred to them for years. 

"But it seems this is no longer allowed," she told me. "I asked her, "So, I can't call my boys "boys"? And she told me that it is no longer acceptable. They can be "children" or "people" but I can no longer refer to them as boys."

"And your response?" I asked.

"I told her I was sure the boys would be interested to hear that."

I can imagine. R... has no time for such things. She is a brilliant doctor, much loved by her patients, but she would have no time for such "woke" behaviour. That does not mean she does not care or that she is not concerned about the issues surrounding gender and transitioning, mental health and more. She is concerned. She might have been known to growl, "Show me the third gamete" but she accepts there are a small number of people who do feel a very strong need to transition. She campaigned strongly for some same-sex rights because of the distress one of her patients went through when he was told he had no right to visit his dying partner. 

Her colleague apparently reported her to her boss. Her boss spoke to her. Thankfully they are on the same page with respect to this. He apparently got his own back by referring to his wife and daughters as "the girls" when talking about an event they were going to attend. 

I suspect there will be some tensions around this issue - until it is no longer fashionable.  Perhaps after that those people who do have genuine and distressing issues with sexuality will, if they wish, be able to keep such things private again.


Tuesday 19 April 2022

So the "anti-trans" candidate

 should be dis-endorsed? That she should be dis-endorsed for suggesting that those legally still children should not be encouraged or permitted to make life changing decisions? 

Surely whatever we believe or do not believe about transgender issues there is an issue of concern here?

We do not allow children to have a licence to drive. We do not allow them to fly jumbo jets, join the armed forces, vote, smoke, drink alcohol or any number of other things. There have long been calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility because, even while acknowledging children may know something is the wrong thing to do, their understanding of intent and consequences is not fully developed. Their parents make decisions about issues like infant vaccinations. Our society requires them to be "educated". 

We would not allow them to mutilate themselves by having an arm or a leg cut off because of body dysmporphia. It is illegal to tattoo a child.  Having sex with a child is, rightly, considered to be a truly appalling act. There are many other examples that could be brought.

Why then is it considered not just acceptable but legal to encourage a child to transition to the alternate sex? Why do we consider anyone who dares to speak out about these issues to be some sort of "anti-trans" low-life unfit to be a member of parliament? 

I know that, even by raising this issue, I will be accused by some of being "anti-trans". Nothing could be further from the truth but that will make no difference to some people. 

My own view is probably over-simplistic. I believe that transitioning to the alternate sex is a decision that only someone who has reached adulthood should be allowed to make. I also believe they should make that decision only after they have received extensive counselling about what is actually involved and how they might cope with the issues.

I believe those things because, perhaps wrongly, I believe there are extensive mental as well as physical issues which need to be addressed.  It is my belief that children do not have the life experience to understand the consequences of something so big.  

Why? Because just as we could not reattach a limb in the event of a child changing his or her mind we cannot change aspects of gender reassignment. If an adult makes a fully informed decision and then regrets it then they must live with the consequences. If a child makes that decision without the opportunity to discover more about themselves and life then is there just a possibility we are being irresponsible?

Or have I just committed a hanging offence? I hope not because I really do believe we need to think long and hard about what we are doing here.

Monday 18 April 2022

Of utes and stobie poles,

double cut rolls and other things....ah, yes!

I needed to do some explaining. Young J... turned up unexpectedly yesterday morning. He was apparently going to bring me an Easter egg "but I gave it to my girlfriend because I forgot to get her one". I smiled. Typical teenager. He is so much better than the sulky and often angry boy I knew this time last year that I am more than prepared to forgive him that. 

And he wanted to know about "slang" for an English essay. "Why is "ute" slang? We all use it." it slang or isn't it? We discussed that and I explained that most readers of this blog would have no idea what "ute" meant in our terms. Here we mean a "utility vehicle" - one designed for carrying small loads, often across rough ground. They are used mostly by farmers and tradespeople. In the UK they would be "pick up trucks" and in the USA simply "trucks" I believe. 

Here it is only larger vehicles which are called "trucks" and, sometimes, "lorries".  Yes, all very confusing.

But there are other words too. We have "stobie poles" - the poles which carry the power lines - and they are pretty well unique to the state I live in. They were designed over a century ago by a man called "Stobie" in order to overcome the white ant problem. They are made of steel and concrete. Some people claim they are the cause of any number of accidents - in reality the problem is that people sometimes drive into them. They no longer appear in some areas because the power lines have been put underground - which is where they belong. Stobie poles are also used as an art gallery of sorts - some artists being much better than others.

And then we have the "double cut roll" in this state. It is a large bread roll cut in such a way as to allow you have twice the amount of filling you would normally have. I have never mastered the art of cutting a roll in that way. Most people buy them at sandwich bars or "the deli". The latter is a shop - a type now fast disappearing - which sells things like sandwiches, pies/pasties etc, sweets, cold drinks, coffee and the like. Most of it is "take away" and it is favoured by tradespeople and the like. 

You might even be able to buy a "frog cake" or a "kitchener bun" there. Frog cakes are small square cakes usually with green icing and a slit in the top that is filled with ersatz cream and supposedly looking a bit like a frog. There are chocolate and pink versions too - but they are not considered to be the real thing. Kitchener buns are made from the same sort of dough as a doughnut but, unlike the "Berliner" in the eastern states it is slit open and has rather a lot of jam and cream stuffed into it. No, not in the least bit healthy - which probably explains why they sell so many. 

There is also the "donkey" way of getting a ride to the deli - riding two people on a bicycle designed for one. It is illegal but still done. To get there you might need to go through a "koala" crossing - a crossing outside a school which has flashing lights.

But the difference between "slang" and "local usage" is a little more complex. I explained this to J... He looked at me in disgust and said, "That just confuses me even more."

I know. It confuses me too. 

Sunday 17 April 2022

I am going to stick my head above the parapet

and say something that should not need to be said.

There have been some very nasty exchanges and comments about our Federal election campaign on Twitter recently. 

Our PM is again being hammered for not being there as a leader when there were fires, then the pandemic, and then floods. 

The Leader of the (present) Opposition is being hammered for not knowing some very basic statistics.

Other Members of Parliament and Senators and would be members and senators are being hammered for a range of other sins - real and imagined.

I know all this is part of the political game and, up to a point, we have to put up with it. What bothers me is the lack of informed comment about some of these things. e.g. the PM is not responsible for the fires, the pandemic, or the floods. "Lack of action" on climate change is not responsible either. The response to the fires, the pandemic, and the floods was the responsibility of the states. The PM could not intervene unless asked to do so. This is the way federation works under the Constitution. What is more when we did have a PM who went out there and actually held a hose during a fire (because he was and still is a volunteer in that service) he was heavily criticised for doing just that. He was criticised by the same people now criticising the current PM.

The Leader of the Opposition showed his incompetence when he was not able to state some basic figures. The Opposition probably should have been more prepared for that. There are "advisers" there who know he is not someone who does that sort of homework. All the same there are some who are suggesting it will work in his favour rather than against him.

And then there are all these real and imagined offences by those in both major parties. "He said this" and "she said that" and "X has now deleted" are becoming much too common.

Analyse the news cycle carefully. I know - it is difficult to do this when you naturally want to lean one way or another. That said it is possible. The media is not a straightforward well balanced entity - and neither are those who do the reporting free from bias.

What really concerns me however is the way in which tiny but very vocal groups are managing to get other opinions deleted. They are making not just demands but sometimes threats. They have decided what the "PC" view is and that is the only which they will permit to prevail. People are frightened of expressing anything to the contrary.

So, I will express a position to the contrary here. At the last census in 2016 a question was asked about gender. It was not asked at this census so we cannot compare the statistics and we do not know how the subsequent "debate" may have influenced matters. At the 2016 census approximately 0.0005% of the population indicated they were "transgender". That was around 1,300 people at the time. How accurate that figure might be is anyone's guess but even if it is actually twice or three times that this is still a very tiny proportion of the population. 

Despite this the "debate" about providing for this group has dominated the media for quite a while now. People have been threatened for expressing views seen as not supporting this. At least one author of my acquaintance had a contract to publish withdrawn because of the views she expressed - even when they were, if anything, supportive of transgender people. Simply suggesting that there might be more to the debate was enough to have her blacklisted. 

What I think or don't think about these issues is irrelevant here. There are two things which are relevant. The first is that there is an attempt to prevent all debate about a very serious and very complex issue. We are simply being asked to believe that there is a big problem here and that anyone who disagrees with certain views is wrong. The consequences of that could be far reaching, especially to the very real mental health needs of those involved. 

The other is that the demands of some others getting involved in the debate are taking vital support away from people who need things like medications to actually survive and services to live their lives with dignity. Other vital mental health issues are also being relegated to second place. Should we be allowed to address those issues or are transgender rights more important than this given there will always be less funding than we need?

I know two transgender people quite well. I regard them as friends. Both of them believe their sexual orientation is their private affair. They believe there is a need for greatly enhanced mental health services but they also both believe that those needing medication to survive should take priority over their own transitioning desires.

Is it time to allow debate?

Saturday 16 April 2022

"Are you allergic to anything?"

is a question which does need to be asked. I always ask it if I am inviting someone to share food with me - even just a biscuit at afternoon tea time.

There is a piece in this morning's paper about just this. One of the city's better known chefs, a man who has appeared in a television series, is talking about people who go to a restaurant to eat and say they are "allergic" to this or that or something else.

Genuine allergies can be life threatening. My niece-in-law carries an Epipen. She has a life threatening allergy to all nuts - except peanuts. Yes, it is the reverse to most "nut allergies". 

If she went to the restaurant the chef works at and told the staff this - and perhaps even produced the Epipen - I have no doubt at all the staff would do their best to accommodate her needs. That's absolutely the right thing to do.

What the chef was complaining about is people who say they are "allergic" to something but in reality they simply don't like  something.  They want the menu changed for them. They want things to be "gluten free" because they have decided to "go gluten free" rather than for some good medical reason. They don't like garlic so they ask for the dish to be cooked without garlic when garlic is an integral part of it.

I am allergic to vinegar, alcohol and some sulphites. Those things won't kill me if I accidentally ingest them but they will make me very uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that I won't enjoy a meal at all. It is also likely that, with some sulphites, I will have difficulty actually swallowing. That's serious enough for me to let people know. It's a nuisance but it is not like the reaction of my niece-in-law.

There are other reasons to ask for special consideration at a restaurant.  Years ago I went out with a group of profoundly physically disabled young people. One of them was able to eat only things like mashed potato. We called ahead and explained the situation. I will never forget listening to the response. It went something like, "Hang on. I'll get the chef. He's just come in."

The chef came on the line. The situation was explained and the response was, "Just potato? I could do that but... I could add mashed pumpkin and - if I sieve everything?"

On the evening in question the young man who needed the mashed potato had a plate with potato, pumpkin, egg custard and some sort of puree on it. His face was a picture. He couldn't speak but his grin was thanks enough.  That sort of consideration is worth more than a more "normal" person will ever realise. It was service above and beyond what we expected and a very special occasion they all remembered.

So, I am with the chef on this. If we are heading out to a restaurant we need to choose from the menu, and choose accordingly. The chef is there to feed us. It is his or her job. It is what they are trained to do. If we really need some special consideration then it is fine to ask and it is likely it will be accommodated because no restaurant wants an emergency to occur.

But if there are broad beans (fava beans) on the plate then I will eat them - even though I do not care for the texture of them and would never cook them for myself.


Friday 15 April 2022

"But nuclear power produces more CO2

into the environment too!" I was told yesterday.

Really? I thought that, once built, a nuclear power plant would produce no discernible levels of CO2 at all. I could be wrong I suppose but then a lot of scientists must be wrong too - and they know much more about this than I do.

What the comment told me though was that there is a lot of false information swirling around about things like nuclear power, CO2 emissions and environmental issues in general. If anyone in the older age group doubts this look back twenty or so years. There you can see we are supposed to be in a period of prolonged drought. At the same time the sea levels are also supposed to have risen to a point where the coastline of Downunder has been eroded to a point where the map has changed. 

Mmm...false information. 

False information really swirls around in major tornado like amounts around any election time. Some of it doesn't matter too much perhaps because voters don't really believe the promises being made or that all the promises made at the previous election would actually happen. 

But there is a difference between false information - such as the idea that nuclear power produces "more CO2" - and information put out there which is deliberately intended to mislead. There has been plenty of that in the letterbox in recent days - and there will be more.

I know someone who has been directly involved with the idea of Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption - or ICAC.  What he had to tell me about the government's apparent failure to take action on this issue has left me with the feeling, "I should have expected that." 

Put simply the government did attempt to take action on the issue. They did invite comments from many people, people not just on "their side" of politics. There was work on legislation. It would have passed the House of Representatives on numbers. It would not have passed the Senate. It would not have passed the Senate even if amendments were made that the Opposition said it wanted. It would not have passed because the Opposition did not want it to pass. They simply did not want the government of the day to be the government which brought it in. Although claiming otherwise they wanted amendments which would have protected their own from any investigations. Had the government of the day agreed to the amendments any ICAC would have been unworkable - and again up for criticism for other reasons.  Now the likely incoming government can get their own legislation through - and it will be something of far less value. Both sides know all this.

It is all part of the very complicated process of passing controversial legislation. It is the same sort of thing which prevents nuclear power being taken as a serious issue and which prevents serious action being taken on climate issues. Being in power is more important than actually doing something about serious issues. If we did take serious action on these things then the government of the day would be quickly removed. People would not want to live with the consequences.

Am I just being too cynical?  

Thursday 14 April 2022

We need to think nuclear

- nuclear power that is.

It has a bad name. The recent problems in Chernobyl have only added to that. 

President Trump was wrong, very wrong, about many things but he did say he thought Germany's dependence on Russian power supplies would cause problems in the event of conflict. He was right. Germany is one of those countries indirectly supplying the money which supports the Russian offensive in Ukraine. 

And of course we now know that there were Russian soldiers on the site of the disaster that was the Chernobyl reactor. I doubt Putin is at all concerned about the level of radiation the workers there are now facing as they try to repair the damage done. He will have no concern about the soldiers he sent in who are reported to have been affected by these levels. 

Yes, Chernobyl is still a disaster. It should not have been. 

But Chernobyl was poorly maintained. More money should have been spent securing it. It was a very old style reactor that had the potential to cause massive damage - and it did.

Modern nuclear reactors are very, very different. They are much safer. The level of waste they produce is minimal. The means of storing it has vastly improved. They are in fact a green option, a means of drastically reducing the harm to the environment. The fuel used can even be recycled and used again so that the amount of waste is even smaller than it is in the first round of use.

It seems though we are still opposed to going nuclear. It is a political issue rather than an environmental one. We really need an honest debate about the potential dangers posed by nuclear v the dangers from coal, gas, and oil. We need a debate about the energy and materials used to build solar panels and wind turbines - and how long these things last - and compare these with nuclear power.

I don't know the answers but I do believe it is a debate worth having.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Most people don't have basements

in Downunder. We don't need them. 

We once lived in a house with a "cellar".  The house had been built not long after the colony became a state. No doubt those building it thought they needed the cellar in the way they might have needed one wherever they had migrated from. They didn't need it.

We didn't need it either. It flooded - frequently. There were rats in the cellar too. They came from a nearby field in which the bakery horses were kept. We were not the only family with the rat problem. 

The house is still there. It is in a poor state of repair now and will probably be demolished at some point. There is enough land there to build more than one dwelling. The cellar will be filled in - and quite possibly cause problems for the people who live in the new housing.

But I have been thinking about basements and cellars and other underground places. I try not to do this because I do not like such places. I never have. I think it is probably because of the house with the cellar. My mother shut me in there more than once... in the dark. I would sit - crying - on the steps leading upstairs and wait to be allowed out. It was no good banging on the door. Mum would let me or my brother out when she was good and ready. I suppose it would now be seen as "child abuse" but people just seemed to accept such things back then.

The experience however makes me even more concerned for those in the cities, towns and villages of Ukraine. Yes, some of them do have basements in which to hide.  Some of them can head for basements in other places. They can go into the underground railway stations if they happen to live close by. 

What they can't do is go from those places in daylight. There was a small video clip on the news of a child riding a bike slowly and carefully through the ruined streets of Bucha. The bike was not being ridden with the more usual gay abandon of childhood.  There were no other children around.

I wonder what this child will remember if s/he survives.


Tuesday 12 April 2022

The murder of the politician

Sir David Amess was in the news again this morning. There was also footage of his murderer admitting it was done for "terror". It was frightening to hear him.

I thought of two things in particular, the first was how hard this must be for his family, friends, constituents and colleagues. It must in fact be extraordinarily difficult for them. He struck me as one of those basically decent people who go into politics because they do want to help others.

It was the same with the equally violent murder of Jo Cox. She was another MP in the UK who should still be there doing her job, caring about other people. Her family, friends, constituents and colleagues should still be able to rely on her presence.  

Yes, there are a few such people around. They work hard, far harder than most people will ever realise. They also know that they will never have the satisfaction of solving all the problems brought to them.  

And then I thought of our election campaigns here. The federal election campaign has just kicked off. The leaders of both parties are out and about campaigning. Yes they have some security personnel there but they are still moving among people who have not been subjected to strip searches. People are free to address them, ask questions, abuse them, and much more. We have yet to have snipers along the routes they travel. It may happen one day but it has not happened yet.

We do have some political violence in this country. People protest. People get angry. There have been some disruptions to parliament. Since Federation there have been five political figures murdered - four of them almost a century ago. 

The other was in 1986. The media has portrayed this as the first actual political murder in the history of  the nation - and it stunned the nation as well. It was not how almost everyone in the country saw politics and the way we treat our politicians. 

Right now politicians from all parties are under intense scrutiny for their day to day behaviour. Everything they do and say is being analysed. There are, sometimes rightly, claims of media bias. Claims and counter claims are being made. A lot of it is nasty. I don't care for it at all.

But at the same time it is actually happening. Almost all adult citizens can vote - even many of those incarcerated. Raise just a small amount of money and the necessary number of people to nominate you and you can put your hand up to enter the political race. While the laws of libel and slander are supposed to apply you can even get away with saying some very nasty things about other candidates. That is seen as part of politics.

We need to keep it that way if people are going to be involved. Even more importantly we need to try and improve on what we now have.


Monday 11 April 2022

So the French presidential election

will now be a run off between the incumbent Macron and the far right candidate Le Pen. As I understand French elections this was what people expected. There were some other candidates but they have now been eliminated.

"There you are Cat," someone has just told me, "It works just the way our preferential voting system works."

No, it doesn't. For a start there is no compulsory attendance at the ballot box in France. Individuals decide whether they are going to vote...and that is the way it should be in a democracy.If you are foolish enough not to vote then you cannot complain about the outcome of the election. Fair enough?

But the system requires someone gets more than fifty percent of the vote. It could happen in the first round. If it doesn't then there is a second this case on the 24th of April. 

Nobody is forced to vote in the second round. If your preferred candidate did not get in you can vote for him or her again if they are in the second round. If they are not in the second round and you want to choose between the two candidates in that round you can. You can also change your mind if you voted for one of the candidates in the second round and think you would now prefer the other.

And you can do all of this because that is what you want to do. Nobody is forcing you to do anything. You are just being foolish if you don't seize the opportunity to vote.

Our system is different. We only get one chance to vote. Yes, it is cheaper that way - much cheaper.  If we want to make our first choice count then we have to mark every square on the ballot paper in order of preference. We have to do that even if we are strongly opposed to all but our chosen candidate. This is wrong.

Why? I have used the example before but I will use it again. Imagine that there are four candidates on the ballot paper. One of them, your preferred choice, is opposed to the death penalty.  The other three candidates support the death penalty in varying degrees. Yes, you can choose the candidate whose views are the least extreme in this respect and mark them as your second choice and then put in your third and fourth choices. But why should you be required to make a choice at all? At very least such a choice should be optional. 

This is where my dog-walking acquaintance is mistaken in his belief that our electoral system and the French electoral system are the same. 

Of course we do not vote for our Governor-General at all - the government of the day chooses him or her in consultation with the Opposition. We do not vote for our Prime Minister either. The Prime Minister is, rightly, chosen by the party which forms government. They are the people who need to choose the person who will represent them while they represent us. 

As I said yesterday, our system has flaws - many flaws. At the same time we are not a one party state - and that is something for which to be thankful.

Sunday 10 April 2022

An election will be called

as I write this. 

It is likely to be one of the most vicious campaigns I have been through. Every poll indicates that the current Opposition will win the election. The concern will be whether they win by a small margin or a landslide and how the balance of power shifts in the Senate.

A few short weeks ago the Senior Cat was still able to take an interest in such things. He was asking me questions about the policies of the main parties. He was also expressing concern about the future direction of this country. I don't know which way he would have voted but I can guess.

Like me he was deeply concerned about the role the "independents" will play in this election, particularly the one in this electorate. 

Note I put quotation marks around "independent". The candidate who claims to be be an independent in this electorate  is nothing of the sort. She is being supported by a group which has strong links to Extinction Rebellion and Get Up. It is extremely unlikely they genuinely expect her to win, rather that her preferences will flow to the ALP or what is generally known as "Labor".

But, stranger things have happened. Her campaign is heavily funded. There have been multiple drops in the letter box. There is a campaign office on the main road not far from here. The A-frame with her picture on it has been there for some weeks now. 

She gave me the brush off the other day. Someone I know tried to introduce me but the moment she heard my name her demeanour changed. Apparently she is aware that I am no fan of people who try to convince people they are "independent" when they are not.

We have more candidates of course. My present leaning is towards a highly intelligent, well educated candidate with work experience in the environmental sector and an understanding of other issues I consider important.

There are arguments suggesting that "first past the post elections" are "undemocratic" but the reality is that "preferential voting" is also undemocratic for other reasons. "Compulsory preferential voting" which is what we have is even more undemocratic. Many people do not understand the concept. When they do they are frustrated that they are required to preference people they would not consider at all. That making those choices can lead to people they do not want to represent them winning a seat is surely wrong? At very least preferential voting needs to be a matter of individual choice.

The ALP or "Labor" is of course run by the union movement - and union membership is now at around 14% of the workforce. Candidates are union people. The current leader of the Opposition, likely our next PM, has never worked outside the union movement or politics. We should be concerned by his lack of diverse experience.

 Our electoral system needs to change.



Saturday 9 April 2022

I found a painting recently.

It is a watercolour, somewhat faded now, done by the Senior Cat's brother.

It hung in the sitting room of my paternal grandparents' home. G... was still young when he painted this simple picture of rowing boats pulled up on the sand.  The picture is quiet, restful. G...was a skilled artist.

We need to get the painting framed again so at the moment it is sitting on a chair in the sitting room of this house. I pass it several times a day.

 It is a reminder, a good reminder, of the stories we heard from the Senior Cat. He spent many hours on the beach with his brother. Other children did the same thing. It was a time when even eight and nine year old children wandered the streets alone and where the old men who fished from the jetty would keep watch when they entered the water.

"Oh, I think we could all swim fairly well," the Senior Cat once told me, "It is something we learned from a very early age. By the time we were old enough to go to the beach by ourselves most of us were like small fish."

I can imagine that. My brother and I didn't have quite that amount of freedom but we were taught to stay afloat in the water from the time we could crawl. One of my early memories is of the Senior Cat holding me by the cross straps of my red woollen bathing suit and getting me to "dog paddle". We did it in the "river" near our home at the time. Not much later than that I remember my grandfather doing the same thing.

When we moved to the city we lived close to my paternal grandparents. Grandpa would come each morning over the late  spring, summer and early autumn months and take us with him for "an early morning swim". He taught us to swim. I am not a good or strong swimmer but I believe I could still keep my head above water for some time. 

We were never allowed to complain that it was "too cold". Grandpa swam all year round. He had done that from childhood. The Senior Cat swam when he had time and in every school he taught in he encouraged all children to learn...not an easy task when they were sometimes a long way from the sea and swimming pools were rare.

Swimming was one of the things the Senior Cat missed as we moved around. We all did. We would have loved a posting close to the sea with a beach we could swim from. It never happened.

The Senior Cat got his exercise in the garden and, for many years, by riding his bike - often riding it to school. But the love of the sea was always there. 

And the painting reminds me of that. It is a good thing to look at right now - a reminder of a childhood he said was "good, very good".  

Friday 8 April 2022

"Remember the people whom you come from"

 is a Gaelic proverb. It was written into the family Bible, possibly by my great-great-great grandfather.  We will never know that for certain, can only guess at it. 

Did he write it there to be a reminder or a command or a prayer or something else? We will never know. 

It is a proverb which will resonate with many people in Downunder. Yes, there were and still are indigenous people who know their ancestry goes back many generations in this country. There are many more whose ancestry goes back only a short way to the arrival of the First Fleet.

And there are families like my own whose ancestors go back only a few generations. It was my great-grandparents who came here from Scotland. Rightly or wrongly we still feel closely "attached" to our Scottish roots and the culture arising from it.

Quite some time ago now we had a large clan reunion. It brought together many members of the clan. Others who could not be with us participated in more distant ways. It could not have been held at a better time because almost all the grandchildren of the first arrivals were able to be there...and it was and still is a very large family. 

The generations which spread out from there have become much more aware. Indigenous people talk about an attachment to country, of being custodians of the land around them. They also see it as a responsibility to care for it and for their culture.

I believe those of us whose ancestors came from other places have a responsibility to remember too - remember where our ancestors came from.  We have two Gaelic words on our father's funeral notice "fois dhut" - "rest in peace".  It is to acknowledge his ancestry - of which he was very proud. I know there are people who will find this strange. They will tell me Scots Gaelic is a dying language. It isn't. It may be very slow but it is growing again and we now recognise that losing any language means losing an entire culture and way of thinking.  That may well keep Gaelic alive and growing. I hope so, just as I hope for the truly indigenous languages of this country.

 Cuimhnichibh air na daoine bho'n d'thainig sibh - remember the people whom you come from. 


Thursday 7 April 2022

There were carrots under the hedge

and strawberries down the driveway.

Yesterday I wandered aimlessly around our garden for a bit. I needed a break from making endless phone calls - and answering them.

The Senior Cat was a gardener. As a kitten I remember being upset because, still learning to steer my little tricycle, I accidentally ran over a  plant in the vegetable patch. The Senior Cat did not get cross with me. He managed to rescue the plant and hug my tears away. 

When we moved to the city for a few years he grew more vegetables. My mother grew flowers in the front garden. We ate the vegetables and the money my mother got from selling the flowers to the local florist helped to buy the other things we ate. Teachers did not get paid a lot and the Senior Cat was paying to do his arts degree.

We moved to yet another place. The Senior Cat tried to garden there but eventually gave up. The water supply was simply too salt, the ground too hard. He kept the weeds down and that was about it - apart from dreaming about the garden he would have when we moved on. 

We did move on. He gardened much more than his predecessor but not as much as he wanted to do. We moved again. Ah! The school sheep produced some useful stuff for gardens. We had vegetables again even though he had to garden in between running a very big and very complex school with many problems.

Eventually the Senior Cat was posted back to the city. He knew there would be no more country service. He had done more than his fair share by then. Gardening could now commence in earnest.

My maternal grandmother had died not long before and my parents moved into the house. It was convenient to do this although not the choice they would necessarily have made. The garden had been neglected for years. Neither of my maternal grandparents had been interested.

The Senior Cat set about learning more. He joined an organic gardening group - and eventually became the President of it. He dug and he used the piles of manure that had accumulated from the hens our grandmother had kept. He pruned old trees and removed a dead one (later turned into other things in the workshop). 

He needed more and more space as he planted beans, peas, lettuce, tomatoes,rhubarb, sweetcorn, celery (not too successful), cabbage and more. Where was he going to put the all important potatoes? Ah, that space at the back that was still empty. It was a bit too near the track leading to the railway line to have anything too attractive. 

And then there were the carrots. They could go into that space along the hedge between us and the neighbours. The carrots would surely get enough sun there. And the strawberries? Well you don't waste all that potential gardening space down the driveway at the side of the house do you?

Eventually they moved here. The Senior Cat brought all sorts of gardening items with him. We kittens moved away. The Senior Cat did not need as many vegetables for the family. He grew them for other people - and a huge patch of spinach for the local vet to feed the native animals which could not be returned to the wild.

He was still gardening in pots on trestle tables when he moved to the last residence. Until the last few months of his life he helped to develop the barren garden space there into a garden. He taught the staff and some of the more able residents how to garden in a way that can be managed there.

It was a life growing green things - and people. I am no gardener but I have the bulbs hibernating in their bags in their space in the fridge and I will plant them - for him.

Tuesday 5 April 2022

It is with immense sadness

I have to tell you that our greatly loved father, (aka known as the Senior Cat) left us at around 6:15 this morning. He was not comfortable so we are trying to be grateful that he is no longer in pain.

I am also very grateful I was able to spend about an hour with him yesterday. 

Ninety-nine years is a very long time to be here and we are very fortunate to have had him for so long.


Monday 4 April 2022

Raising taxes

is something you do after the election. You don't tell anyone that you are actually going to do it. They already know that. What they are hoping for is one of those miracles which mean "someone else" or "other people" are those who will actually pay the extra.

The federal election has not yet been called but we are in election mode already. The last day an election can be held is May 21st. That's too close for comfort. 

The campaign is already getting very nasty. The Prime Minister has now been accused of using the "race card" to beat his opponent - back in 2009. It makes a great story. The Opposition is rubbing its hands in glee. The media is shouting it from the roof tops. A journalist I normally respect and like is responsible for helping to break the news. 

I have some problems with the story though. It is a "he said - he said - she said" sort of story from people who may or may not take the business of making a "statutory declaration" very seriously. After all, who is going to be able to prove something was or was not said to them back in 2009? There has also been more than one election since then. That the issue is being raised again now - when it was virtually dismissed back then - suggests that there is something else at work here. The man making the claim was, briefly, a member of the party now expected to win the election. He is reportedly still bitter about not being selected. Enough said?

That this sort of news is taking precedence over the tax issues which have been raised should be causing alarm. There is no way the present opposition can hope to cover the cost of even just some of the promises they are making without raising taxes. They argue "we will get it from the multi-nationals". If they succeed we will still end up paying but indirectly - and the amount they get still won't cover the cost of what is being promised.

The present government is probably no better in the sense that they are making promises which are unlikely to be kept. They have failed to keep some and prevented from keeping others - often by "independents" in the Senate. We might have had a national "Independent Commission Against Corruption" if the independents had allowed the government of the day to get on with the job they were elected to do. We might have had the national referendum on indigenous representation too. Time ran out because there were "debates" about other issues - debates designed to waste time and prevent legislation people voted for from passing.

I think I have had about enough of  all this time wasting, this nastiness, this bitterness. If I was about thirty years younger (old enough to have had some experience of life back then but not too old) then I would put my paw up. I would do it as an "independent" yes but, if elected, then I would respect the wishes of the people who voted for me. I would go back to them again and again and ask, "What do you want me to say. I will listen and act according to what the majority of you tell me you want." 

Could it be done? It could. It is an enormous amount of work but there are a few examples. Perhaps the media could remind us of those people of the past. They held the hoses as we say here.


Sunday 3 April 2022

Ice cream anyone?

I quite like ice cream. I still miss a certain ice cream shop  in London. (Londoners will know which one I mean but naming it would be advertising and I am not sure I can do that.)

In the hall of residence I lived in there were a small gang of us who would occasionally head off late on a Saturday afternoon to "the ice cream place" and buy that delicious,  creamy, sweet, cold  treat. It was good stuff, better than anything I'd tasted here in Downunder - apart from one brand.

We have our own brand in this state. It is actually made in this state. It is good ice cream, very good ice cream. It has won awards for its excellence. I have known this ice cream since kittenhood.

In kittenhood this ice cream was a very rare treat, a once a year treat. It was only available in one place unless you lived where it was actually made.  Given the choice between "fairy floss", a toffee apple or the ice cream we always chose the ice cream. It was special, very special.  They actually sold it in two flavours, vanilla and honey. It was the honey flavour which was so special.  It was sold at the state's annual agricultural show. Even our mother and the Senior Cat would indulge. 

We would sit on the grassy area near where it was sold and lick our single scoop cones around and around. This had to be done carefully so as not to waste a single drip. It was gone all too soon of course but we knew that, all being well, there was "next year".

They still make that ice cream. They still make it in the same place. Now they make more of it and it is available in supermarkets across the state. It is free of palm oil and other nasty things. It is very popular.

So why did the state's zoo decide it would no longer stock it? They have tried twice before to do this and each time there has been outrage. This time they have attempted to do it more quietly. Of course they have been found out. Claims that another company, a multi-national company, could provide ice cream more competitively have not been well received. One of the "things" about going to the zoo is apparently to have ice cream - and people want the local product. It is part of going to the zoo.

I don't like zoos. I didn't like them as a child. I won't mind if I never set foot in another zoo. But if we are going to have zoos then surely they should be places which support companies that support efforts to save endangered environments. Palm oil free ice cream might not seem much to some people but it was an environmentally responsible move by the ice cream company. It is one which many, perhaps most, people who visit the zoo would have been happy to support. 

The zoo has lost a "golden" opportunity. If you know your ice cream here in Downunder you will know which company I mean.  

Saturday 2 April 2022

"She's inside - playing the piano"

were the words that greeted me as I arrived at the church yesterday.

Yes, she was. There on the screen was a video recording of the friend we had come to farewell. She was playing a duet - a loud, cheerful duet. She was laughing, full of life. It was the way she would want to be remembered.  

Going to anything like that is difficult at the best of times. Right now it is even more difficult than usual but I wanted to be there. It was a memorial service rather than a funeral. It was right for her. It is what the Senior Cat has asked us to do for him.

As we went in to the church we had been asked to take one of the many scarves or shawls she had owned. I had made more than one shawl for her. Someone ahead of me was wearing one of them. It was a strange sensation to see her wearing it. One of her grandsons had tied a scarf  pirate style around his head. Somehow it looked right even though he was wearing a suit. I don't usually dress specifically for a funeral or a memorial service but this time I put on a blue jacket that L... had told me more than once that she liked. If it had been a size larger she might have "borrowed" it from me.

Unlike the funeral I recently attended in the same church this was not a requiem mass. Instead this was a reflection of an artistic, musical life. L... trained as a nurse. She worked under Vivian Bullwinkel - the only nurse to survive the massacre on Bangka Island in 1942 - and always said the experience taught her so much. L... was compassionate, empathetic - and chronically late for everything except work.

She was a wife, a mother, a friend, a concerned neighbour and much more. She was an artist. Some of her art work was on display for people to see. 

And she was a us all a concert even when she was no longer physically among us. 


Friday 1 April 2022

We would be fools indeed

to believe the promises being made by the present Opposition leader. 

He has already promised "cheaper childcare". Now he is promising some remarkable standards  for aged care. He  is telling us that residents in aged care will get 215 minutes a day for help with such basics as showering, dressing and eating. He is telling us that there will always be a registered nurse on duty. He is claiming that there will be mandatory standards for "tasty and nutritious" meals to be served to residents. What is  more he is claiming that there will be strict requirements requiring those who administer these places to show how each cent is spent.

On top of all this there is a promise to increase the pay of those who work in aged care. This is what will happen "when we are elected". (Notice "when", not "if". They believe the election is in the bag - all the opinion polls seem to point that way.)

Bollocks! The Senior Cat is classed as "palliative care" and the present standard of care comes nowhere near that for him or for anyone else. His residence is smaller than most. We know the staff. They know us. One of us goes in each day. We have helped with his care. We have had to help with his care because they don't have the staff. Many of the younger staff have no idea what to do or how to do it. They often see their employment there as merely temporary while they are looking for something "better".

The reality is that not many people actually want to work in aged care. It's understandable. It isn't just the poor pay. It is the dirty work and the emotional stress. It is dealing with difficult relatives and the many demands. It is knowing that people are not going to "get better". They are going to die. 

Those who build aged care businesses are not there because they want to care for the elderly. They are there to make a profit.

The Senior Cat's residence is fortunate in that there is a kitchen on site. The food, which I have seen often, is perhaps better than most. It is better than the food which was served in more than one hall of residence in which I lived. There is a choice - the residents are asked  to nominate their choice on the previous day.  Certainly there is no evidence of residents being served "two party pies" as their main meal on a Saturday or Sunday.

But there are other problems. The Senior Cat would not get anything close to 215 minutes of care a day - and he needs more help now than any other resident.  It is never likely to happen to any other resident in the future either. 

The cost of actually providing the level of care being promised is something that simply cannot be done. There would have to be a massive increase in taxes to do this and also to provide for the promises being made with respect to childcare. This would need to happen even if all aged care facilities and all childcare facilities were run on a "not-for-profit" basis. As they are run on a for profit basis it is even less likely.

I have no idea what the answer is - at least no idea what palatable, reasonable answers might be. What I do know is that today is April Fool's Day - and we would be fools to believe what the Opposition  Leader is promising.