Friday 30 September 2022

Videoing school bullying

and then posting it on social media now seems to be a "thing" among students in this state. I imagine it also goes on elsewhere but this vile practice has now made headlines here.

I know it can occur anywhere and among students from all backgrounds. That this is so does not make it right of course. It just makes it all the more disturbing.

Some people are inclined to wash their hands of it. They say things like, "Bullying has been going on forever." and "It happened when I was at school too but we didn't have mobile phones to film it." Tom Brown's schooldays were bad enough but now the victims can find their pain shown far beyond school - and nothing will be done about it.

The issue was raised with me some time ago. We were in the peaceful setting of a small, friendly knitting group when one of the group mentioned that a grandchild was being bullied at school. It is one of those issued on which everyone seems to have an opinion.

The Senior Cat was still with us and still living at home at the time and I suggested this woman might like to chat to him. As a former headmaster he had dealt with all sorts of behavioural issues. A time was organised and she came with her husband and the parents of the child. 

The conversation which ensued was an interesting one. The Senior Cat might have left the teaching service many years before but he had kept up his interest in what was going on there. He had been invited to "Older Persons Day" ( once known as "Grandparents' Day") every year by some child or another. He had gone back into schools to teach conjuring tricks and more.

There were things which he saw which concerned him. He did not expect schools to stand still. He knew they had changed and he felt that some changes were good. At the same he felt there were changes which should never have taken place. 

"How can you expect the students to respect you if you are standing there in raggy jeans and a t-shirt and look as if you haven't done your hair or shaved or...?"  he would ask. He didn't expect male teachers to wear a  collar and tie or a suit any more but he still thought that slacks and a properly pressed shirt were more appropriate - unless you happened to be a PE teacher. I agree. Respect yourself if you want others to respect you.

He also intensely disliked the increasing tendency for students to call teachers by their given names. "You need that small distance for disciplinary reasons." I agree with that too. When I was teaching in a special school I did allow one student to call me by my given name. The school kept students until they were twenty. M... was not in my class and should have been moved on two or three years before but nobody knew quite what to do with her. She was almost twenty when I knew he and only a few years younger.  One day she asked me what my "real" name was. I told her and then I said, "But not in front of the others. They are too young." I was not sure she would understand the difference but she did and stuck faithfully to calling me one thing or the other in the appropriate way. It was a risk but one I was willing to take. I was never likely to be in the position of having to discipline her - indeed nobody was. Disciplining an entire group of restless adolescents - some of whom do not want to be there at all - is a very different story.  They can use my family name thank you very much.

But those are just two things. Learning now takes place in entirely different ways. Students no longer sit in four straight rows facing the blackboard. That went out even before I left teacher training college. What we now demand of teachers and students has changed. 

Learning now takes place in different ways. Much of it is good but by no means all of it is. There are stresses on students and teachers that did not exist when I was at school or even when I was teaching. We were taught about caring for the world around us but we weren't taught about "climate change" and "global warming". We were taught about respecting each other but we were not taught about LGBTQI "rights" and "gender fluidity". Despite taunting each other there was no real animosity between us and the "Catholic kids". We might taunt each other when in school uniform. At weekends we played together. "Racism" was something we just didn't understand. You played with everyone. Those few children who didn't were ostracised by the rest of us.

Now I am wondering whether all those attempts at trying to make the world a "better place" through social engineering were right. Would we have the present problem - which does appear to be genuinely bigger than before - if we had respected ourselves as well as each other from the start? Maybe the latest bullying incidents would have been less severe if we  had done things differently.


Thursday 29 September 2022

There is a danger of a dam collapsing

in the hills behind me. We were told about this yesterday and the state's emergency service has been working to pump water from it in the hope of preventing this. If they don't succeed they say about forty homes could be flooded.

Yes, it is a serious situation. At the same time it is  a farm dam, the sort of dam which is scattered all over the hills. These dams are used to provide water for livestock and for fire fighting. Farmers build them in consultation with other people who matter. (There is not much point in having a dam which is inaccessible to the Country Fire Service.)

Yesterday I was left wondering just how much urban dwellers know about all of this.  The answer would seem to be very little. I overheard someone complaining that the farmer in question should have to pay for what the emergency services were doing. Why? 

Unless there is evidence of deliberate wrong doing on the part of the farmer there is no reason to believe s/he should be held responsible. Farmers are actually doing everyone else a service. They are using their land for the benefit of everyone around them. In a bushfire water from a dam can mean the difference between lives and properties being saved and some of the worst disasters imaginable. It is likely that, in this instance, the farmer has been out there all night - and that s/he will be there until the danger has passed.

When the Senior Cat's closest friend moved to a property in the hills his first project, even before the house was built, was to have a small dam placed on the twenty acre property.  It has been used twice in the forty or so years the property has been occupied and both times it has helped to save the house and the surrounding houses. The dam was designed by someone whose job it is to design such things. It has needed maintenance over the years but it is an important part of the landscape.

I looked at a photograph of the dam under threat at the moment. I don't know a lot about those things but there were no obvious signs of failure to maintain it.  Simply all that has happened is that we have had far more rainfall than usual and part of the retaining wall has shifted under the weight of it. If they have pumped through the night the danger will be far less. Even if the dam collapses now it is unlikely to lead to loss of life.

Imagine though the damage a massive dam collapsing could cause. I know someone whose job it is to work on repairing dams all over the world.  His job is one of the most stressful in the world. The damage a collapse could cause in some places is almost beyond comprehension. Millions upon millions of people could be in the path of such major structures.  Dams are major and very complex structures requiring expert engineering. They are not "nice little artificial lakes".

The dam in the hills behind me is "paddle pool" size compared with some of the biggest in the world. But paddle pools are also capable of drowning children and they need to be watched over. I don't doubt the farmer and the SES people are doing just that.


Wednesday 28 September 2022

ICAC anyone?

The proposed "Independent Commission Against Corruption" at national or federal level may now occur. It has been a long time coming.

I have no problems with having an ICAC as such. I do have some concerns about the apparently secretive nature of it. It seems there are plans to hold most hearings behind closed doors. Only those things deemed to be in the public interest will be pursued in an open court.

Now yes, this can be a very good thing. In the normal way this will sometimes protect people who give evidence about wrong doing. It can also protect people who are vulnerable for other reasons. There is sometimes information which needs to be withheld from the public for any number of reasons. 

The difficulty where corruption is concerned is that the information is going to leak out. Someone somewhere is going to say something. After that it is a game of "Chinese whispers" and false information will, at very least, spread rapidly through social media. There needs to be a mechanism to deal with that.

The other thing that concerns me is that the proposed legislation allows for "retrospective" prosecutions. I don't agree with that. If there is evidence of corruption in the past then it should be dealt with in accordance with the law at the time.  If the evidence was there at the time then it should have been dealt with then. It is not the role of an ICAC to be a kangaroo court or a lynch mob. 

There is a real danger that the proposed ICAC will however be just that. We have already heard those now in government saying that they plan to use an ICAC to pursue the previous government. At the same time the present government has prevented the prosecution - on separate charges - of a former Prime Minister and a current Minister. Unless they are prepared to go ahead with those charges then no ICAC should be retrospective.

An ICAC will be expensive, very expensive. Let's get it right.

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Converting to Judaism

is possible but it is not easy. It requires time and commitment and an appearance in front of what I believe is called a Bet Din - a Jewish court. 

I talked about this once with a Jewish friend. D... was telling me how one of his concerns was that eventually Judaism may even die out because of intermarriage with non-Jews. Yes, I suppose it is possible. I assume if your mother is not Jewish then you will need to go through the process of conversion even if your father takes you to the synagogue each week. Being Jewish requires a commitment.   

I mentioned this yesterday when the question of "who is indigenous" was raised. That is another question which needs to be answered. There is nothing "racist" about asking this question. It is simply a question which needs to be addressed.

Almost every government form in this country - and a great many other forms as well - ask a question like "aboriginal or Torres Strait islander" or "identify as aboriginal" or some other form of the question. It was a question which was never asked when I was a mere kitten, indeed I do not remember it being asked for most of my adult life. It seems to have somehow become important in the later years of the last century. Suddenly there are a great many more people who "identify as aboriginal". They claim to be "First Nation" people.

There is a problem with this - not least that there never was a "First Nation". The indigenous population of this country at "white settlement" was as diverse culturally and linguistically as anywhere in the world. They did not speak as one. They did not live peacefully among themselves. Had they done so it might have been much more difficult for others to settle here. 

And, like it or not, there has been a great deal of intermarriage between the "original inhabitants" and the "settlers". The heritage of many people who now "identify as aboriginal" is now so mixed that nobody notices their heritage as they pass on the street.  At the same time it is some of these people who are the most outspoken about the need for "reconciliation", "a treaty", "truth telling", "the Voice", the "stolen generation" and more. They make claims about the "disadvantage" they suffered in the past and the disadvantages they continue to suffer today.  They are demanding special privileges, extra financial assistance, the "preservation of language and culture" and much more. 

Disagree with any of this and you will be labelled "racist" - and I know I will be. Is that really the case though? Who and what are we really supporting here? 

Yesterday someone tried to say that all this was rather like trying to maintain Judaism. I can't see that. Identifying as Jewish is not the same as identifying as indigenous. There are strict rules governing the former even though there is also diversity. There is Hebrew, there is the Torah, there are rituals which are common even while there are differences between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews. There is much more which brings the Jewish community together. 

There are no such rules governing the latter. The common thread seems to be "disadvantage" and "righting the wrongs of the past". I am not sure it is quite the same but I am willing to be otherwise informed.

Monday 26 September 2022

Growing cannabis

legally across the nation is the Greens latest legislative proposal. It is claimed the Commonwealth can override the states on this matter. Even if they can though would it be a good thing?

The other claim made by the Greens is that 40% of the (presumably teen/adult) population have smoked it at some point and that it is policing the ban which does more harm. Apparently this is sufficient reason to legalise it.

A former neighbour has written two academic papers on driving under the influence of cannabis. I disagree with his findings, indeed there is a major flaw in his argument that the presence of cannabis is not an issue. I know many other people agree with him. Others agree with me. 

The dangers of tobacco consumption are well known. While it is still legal it is less acceptable than it used to be to smoke. Fortunately there are now places where it is illegal to smoke but we have a long way to go. Why should those of us who don't smoke (in my case have never even tried) be forced to inhale secondary smoke - something which is every bit as dangerous? I avoid locations where people are still allowed to smoke. I am not asking them to stop even while I believe they are foolish to continue smoking.

Cannabis is no better, indeed may be even worse. The long term effects of cannabis are not to be taken lightly. It can lead to similar physical problems and it can also lead to issues of mental health. That "high" doesn't last. I don't believe there is any such thing as "recreational" use.

I know cannabis was used around the universities I attended. In one case the chief suppliers of it were the police themselves. If you knew where to go on campus on a certain day between certain times it was easy to obtain.  I talked to a member of the police force about this. He didn't bother to deny it. He just shrugged and said, "At least we know who's using and where they are getting it from."

I wonder how many of those otherwise intelligent users now have issues. Do they still use it? 

Drug dealers also depend on illegality to make a profit. Making cannabis legal is not going to solve that issue. Withdrawing supply may well increase the use of other even more dangerous substances. 

All that said the benefits or otherwise of medicinal cannabis oil are still being explored. It would be perfectly possible to legislate for that purpose alone and perhaps we should.

Sunday 25 September 2022

"Show and tell" or "the morning talk"

at school used to fill me with dread. I simply loathed it.

I have no idea what my classmates thought of having to stand there in front of their peers and say something about an object they had brought along to school. I suspect the majority of them hated it as much as I did.

It was embarrassing and it was boring. My classmates would stand there on one leg and then the other. They would twist and turn and wriggle all over. Some of them would whisper and others would almost shout out of sheer nervousness. Even the most apparently confident would hesitate. "Um" and "Er" were the most commonly used sounds. Words failed some altogether. 

I remember one boy bringing in a toy steam engine and just standing there unable to speak. It was clearly well made but also home made. Finally the teacher asked him, "Who made it?" 

"My granddad." The two words were an effort.

"Did you help?"

He nodded. 

I remember holding my breath and willing the teacher not to ask him any more questions. Of course she did. He couldn't answer them. He just stood there for a moment longer and then, mute, rushed back to his seat. Perhaps oddly for a group of children we did not tease him. Instead, at "home time", he was there surrounded by his friends with his mother in the background explaining how it worked. 

I have no idea what sort of marks he finally achieved for his "show and tell" morning talk. I can guess and I can guess the sort of comments written on his report card. It is unlikely they were an accurate representation of his ability.

On my way home yesterday I stopped to speak to two young boys of my acquaintance. They showed me something their grandfather had just made with them - a steam engine. They told me how it worked.

I had never met their grandfather - or so I thought. He came out of the house as I was talking to the boys. He nodded to me and the older boy introduced me politely as "This is Cat and Cat this is our granddad." We talked briefly about the steam engine. It was a wonderful piece of very precise engineering. I said so and mentioned my maternal grandfather's work. Their grandfather nodded.

"I had a grandfather like that." He didn't say anything else but I suddenly knew here was the same man who had found it impossible to say anything in front of his classmates. 

I did not remind him of the incident. There would have been no kindness in doing that. I didn't even tell him I had been in the same classroom.  It may have caused him to remember. I did think of his daughter once saying, "Dad's a man of few words."

Perhaps he is but the steam engine said a lot.

Saturday 24 September 2022

The Greens are not tree-hugging

activists with a responsible agenda. They are radicals with an irresponsible agenda.

A friend of mine voted Greens in the last state and federal elections. I like this person but she is, to put it simply, naive about politics. To her the Greens are the "environmental" party. My friend believes she is passionate about the environment. Aside from the fact that both she and her husband each own a car - despite both being retired and having no children or grandchildren to care for - it might be said she does.

The two of them have solar panels on the roof, they have a water saving garden, they recycle, they buy their food as "close to home" as possible and so on. They really do believe they are doing the right things.

My friend also researches these things. She can afford to pay more for clothes which are, as she puts it, "responsibly and fairly manufactured". 

What she has not researched is the election manifesto of the Greens. She saw no need for that. For her it is the party which cares the most about the environment - and that is all she feels she wants or needs to know.

One of my roles in elections over quite a number of years now has been to assist people who need help with our voting process. Voting is said to be "compulsory" in this country. What that really means is that attendance at the ballot box and marking the ballot papers is compulsory. Nobody can actually force you to vote. But the right to a valid vote is something I consider to be of sufficient importance that I try to help people without influencing their actual vote. 

It is something which is incredibly difficult to do. It is also essential that I do this in as a completely fair and unbiased manner as possible. Most people can simply mark their own ballot papers with no help but those who need help also need to sure it is their choice going into the ballot box.  I have to be prepared for questions.

I take that so seriously that I have actually sat and read (and yawned over) the policies of each party and independent candidate. This is what has made me aware that the Greens are not the friendly tree-huggers they claim to be. The Greens  policies align more with old style Communism. Were they ever to win office and have to actually implement their policies they would fail. We would be a country even more divided than we are now.

One of the Greens senators "led" a "protest" in the capital city of a neighbouring state on the day we were acknowledging the death of the Queen. This Senator was so well informed that she was throwing "blood" over "the coat of arms of the oppressors" on "our land". The red paint was actually being thrown over the coat of arms outside the offices of the Portuguese consulate - a building which, under international law, belongs to another country and is recognised as such. Her actions were widely reported in the press as a valid protest. 

This helps nobody, least of all the people the Greens claim to be so concerned about - and it does not help the environment either. This is why our voting system needs to be reviewed and reformed. It is why we need to be better informed about the policies of all parties...and why I will continue to try and stay awake as I try to inform myself. 

Friday 23 September 2022

Is it racism...or something else?

An indigenous footballer - now retired - is in today's paper claiming that he was asked to leave a swimming pool. The reason? A white grandfather told a guard the footballer was making his young granddaughter "feel uncomfortable".

Now if this happened because of the colour of someone's skin that is totally, utterly and completely unacceptable. The question we need to ask however is whether it actually happened. If it did not happen then what was making a young girl feel uncomfortable?

Children are not nearly so racially conscious as the adults around them. I was never aware of any racial slurs among young children when I was teaching. Arguments were fought over toys and whose turn it was, not the colour of someone's skin. 

I did have a group of children come to me one play period because a man was looking over the school fence. Yes, his skin was suggestive of a mixed racial heritage. The complaint they made however was about something entirely different, something sexual in nature.  The head of that particular school was good. He had already been informed. He had immediately called the police. Fortunately a nearby patrol car was quickly on the scene and the man was removed. 

When I talked to my class before the afternoon started not one of them mentioned the colour of his skin. It was his behaviour that mattered.

I in no way wish to suggest that the indigenous footballer was doing anything wrong. The most likely possibility is that he was unintentionally invading the personal space of another person or that he spoke to them - perhaps in a way which seemed a little too friendly.  

Nevertheless the incident is viewed as a racial one, as yet another incident of "racial discrimination". I have no doubt the footballer genuinely believes it to be that. He has been conditioned and encouraged to believe it.

My friend M..., whose skin is the colour of good dark chocolate, is well aware of "racial discrimination". There have been instances in his life, of course there have. At the same time he says he has really suffered very few instances of discrimination. I think I know why. He is always well groomed and also immaculately dressed when out. He is a man who opens doors, gives up his seat on public transport, walks on the outside of the footpath and much more. It is quite natural. It is what his parents expected of him. It is what he expected of his own children and now his grandchildren.

Years ago M... applied for a promotion - and did not get it. He could have seen it as "racial discrimination" but I remember sitting in the kitchen of his mother's house when he was telling her about it. R...'s response to his disappointment was, "Maybe they just feel you don't have enough experience yet. Don't let it change your ambitions. Apply for the next one and the next one..."

Some time later the head of his unit called him in and told him there was another position coming up, "And we would like you to apply for it." He did and obtained the position which led him up the ladder to the very senior position he had when he retired. Would that have happened if he had made complaints about "racial discrimination" when he did not get the first position he applied for?

I do not want to suggest that racial issues are not an issue. They most certainly can be. I do wonder though whether they are sometimes seen as an issue when something else is actually the reason for an act of apparent discrimination. 

Thursday 22 September 2022

Milk jugs and tea cosies

and tea made as it should be.

A few days ago a friend gave me a milk jug. W... is one of those people for whom I automatically put the kettle on, take out the tea pot and her cup and saucer.  I have never known her to refuse a cup of tea.

We do all this quite casually. W...has even made her own pot of tea when my hands have been covered in flour or something else critical is going on. W... will get her own milk from the fridge too. We both use the containers the milk comes in.

W... is considerably older than I am - almost old enough to be my mother. I know she is "slowing down a bit". When she handed over the milk jug she informed me, "I'm finding it a bit hard to handle those two litre crystal jugs." She was jokingly referring to the plastic containers in which I get my milk. 

Yes, in future I will put milk into a small jug for her use. 

The whole episode took me back to "tea with Grandma" - my paternal grandmother. Grandma did not have milk in her tea. She drank it without milk or sugar. As kittens we were given "milk with a dash of tea" when we sat there with her to have "tea". The milk came straight from the bottle. Grandma did not fuss if it was just us. There were more important things to make another row of gingerbread boys. 

When there were visitors though it was a different story altogether. If the visitors were expected then Grandma would perhaps have made scones. There might be butter and cheese or jam and cream to go with the scones and cake. The big teapot would come out and the tea cosy shaped like an old English thatched cottage - Grandma's mother had made that years before we were even thought of. The "tea trolley" would be carefully covered in an embroidered cloth - cut work made by Grandma many years before. There were matching "afternoon tea" serviettes...the small sort of little use.

On the trolley would go "the tea set". The tea set was a wedding gift. Plates, cups, saucers, the cake plate, the sugar bowl, and the milk jug would all be laid out. Grandma would add milk to the jug at the right time and then cover it with a white crochet doily with glass beads around the edge. People would "have afternoon tea".

It was all very "proper" and, looking back, I am not sure my grandmother really enjoyed all the fuss required. She was more at home in the kitchen making sure that there was a good evening meal on the table. She didn't really care for "small talk" and "gossip" infuriated her even though she tried not to show it.

When they had gone the tea set would be carefully washed. I had to "do the washing up" in order to get one of my Brownie badges. Grandma taught me - with the tea set. I was terrified I was going to break something but Grandma insisted.

"You are not going to break anything. Even if you did it would not be the end of the world."

Somehow my clumsy paws did not break anything...and I managed to earn my Brownie badge.

I still have the tea set. It is possibly quite valuable. It is very fine bone china. Everything has been hand painted - pale blue and gold on off-white. Each piece is numbered. Grandma left it to me - not as the eldest child but as a reminder that "you can do things". 

My mother used it once or twice but the Senior Cat and I never entertained people to afternoon tea in that way. We only ever did it in a casual sort of way. Occasionally I would make scones and the milk would go into the other milk jug - the one that belonged to my maternal grandmother which has no particular value apart from being what it is. 

But I wonder sometimes about "proper afternoon tea" with a proper tea cosy and, above all, a milk jug covered in a white doily with glass beads. 

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Paying for child care

is a topic fraught with danger. I really should not even dip a toenail in the water of this topic...but I will.

There was a claim in today's paper that childcare costs "have risen by 41% in the past eight years". I am not sure what that statistic actually means but of course it is the sort of "statistic" the media likes.

I have long been concerned about the entire "child care" business. When I was born of course such an idea did not exist. Children were cared for mostly by their mothers, sometimes by their grandparents or other relative until they went to school. A few children would have been cared for by neighbours or people who were paid to do the job. At around age three, sometimes four, some went off to "kindergarten". This was paid for but it was a nominal sum and, at most two mornings or afternoons in a week. 

The rest of the time children were at home, out and about with their mothers, playing with the children next door or elsewhere. Children largely entertained themselves. There was no television and by no means everyone listened to "Listen with mother".

All that changed with the notion of "women's liberation" and the idea that women had the "right" to go back to work, to have a career, to have "their own lives" and much more. The problem with all that was "what do we do with the children?" People looked at the kibbutzes in Israel, the "nurseries" in the communist USSR and elsewhere. Suddenly it seemed like a good idea to pass the children over to someone else and be free to go back to work. There was also the belief that this would allow people to earn more and obtain all the "labour saving" devices they now needed. They could get a second car and send their children to sport, dance and music classes.

I also genuinely sympathise with women who feel they need to choose between a career and parenthood. Yes, it can be tough for men too - but the reality is that it is still mostly women who need to choose. 

But I am not sympathetic to the idea that the one answer to all this is to place children in "affordable" child care which is subsidised by the tax payer. Yes, of course children are our future. It is why school education is taxpayer funded. But do we really need a society where children are simply handed over to what is becoming a very "woke" system? How many children spend more of their waking time in "childcare" than they do under the care of their parents? Is the "I have to go back to work because we need the money" claim really that valid?

I remember someone telling me that she had taken her situation to a tax accountant. He had done the necessary work for her but then suggested she consult a financial advisor about the situation with her partner. It was not a popular suggestion but they were struggling financially and eventually agreed to go. The financial advisor went through everything with them. Later this woman told me, "I was speechless when he told me I was getting around eighty cents an hour. It just wasn't worth all the hassles. Now I just do enough hours to keep my registration up." Yes, she can do that and not everyone can but it took someone else to show her how little she was really earning.  

There is going to be an "inquiry" into the cost of childcare. I just hope it looks at the cost of going to work as well.  

Tuesday 20 September 2022

The coffin looked so small

when the camera looked down from high above.

Yes, I watched the funeral service for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last night. It wasn't something I intended to do but, at the last moment, it seemed right - right to be some microscopic part of history.

I watch very little television, almost none at all. I had forgotten how good camera work can convey so much sense of a place. And yes, there was a sense of place last night.

Westminster Abbey is an extraordinary building at any time but even more so on an occasion like this one. One of my regrets is that I have never managed to go there when it has not been filled with tourists - even though I suppose I could have been classed as a tourist myself - or when a service has not been going on. I have wondered what it would be like to be in there when it was relatively quiet - with perhaps just a few people around or even alone. No, I don't do that sort of "tourist" experience well. 

But last night anyone watching could look down that long distance to the seemingly small coffin. We didn't see many of the attendees filing in, certainly almost no footage of the other heads of states. That was right. It was not their occasion. The focus, rightly, had to be on that small coffin draped in the Royal Standard with the Crown, the Orb and the Sceptre - and the flowers. There was no flashy florist's wreath - just flowers from the gardens the Queen loved.That felt right too. 

Yes, every detail had been planned in advance. Yes, it all seemed to be timed to within a second. Nothing was left to chance. 

And yet, it still seemed that for all the "state" of the occasion it was a relatively simple affair. There were no long rambling eulogies. The Archbishop's words were almost brief. The rest of the service was as inclusive as it could be - a real reflection of a woman who was as inclusive as it was possible to be in her position. 

Most of us never saw the Queen when she was not on public duty. I have a friend who has over the years spent more than one weekend with the Royal Family. My friend says very little about it, indeed most people would never know of the visits. All my friend has had to say is that the Queen someone who cared very much about the welfare of others, who took time for everyone - and that the Queen expected her family to behave in the same manner.

As I switched off the television set I thought again of the words of Dag Hammarskjold:

"Your position never gives you the right to command. It only imposes on you the duty of so living your life that others can received your orders without being humiliated."

Yes Ma-am, you knew that - and so many of us still have to learn it. 


Monday 19 September 2022

Misdiagnosing or over diagnosing ADHD

is apparently now a "thing". That "attention deficit hyperactivity disorder" is apparently something that now covers other issues like immaturity, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder and giftedness as well. 

I am wondering more and more about this. I am wondering if we need to start thinking in other ways about these "problems". 

"We have to get him to mature so he's ready to start school," someone told me recently.  Her child is a lovely little boy but he isn't happy in a crowded learning situation. Left alone he seems to like playing imaginative games and loves looking at books. "He's no trouble but...."  He certainly wasn't a problem when his mother left him with me for an hour or so yesterday. He just smiled at me and set to work playing with the things I had shown him.

Oh there really is a problem there - but I doubt it is the child. My repeated assurances that he is well within normal limits and quite possibly highly intelligent are no comfort to his parents. They have been told he is "not mature", that there is a problem and that it must be dealt with. 

When I was a mere kitten that same child would probably have been thought of as "quiet". It would only have been if he had not been able to cope with the work when he started school there might have been a problem. We expect something different from children now. They are expected to be articulate and to take on the problems of the world from a very early age.  

Of course severe autism is also a very, very serious problem. Severe autism can be very hard to handle. There are all sorts of behavioural and learning consequences. The constant vigilance can be exhausting and it affects everyone around the person too. 

This is why I intensely dislike the phrase "s/he's on the autism spectrum". It simply covers too wide a range of behaviour. Why should the naturally quiet, reflective child be considered "autistic"? Why should the very active, fidgety child also be considered "autistic"?  Autism surely has to be about a severe inability to relate to others. I don't see it as an appropriate label for a child who dislikes noise, crowds and a day in which they are constantly being required to do what "everyone else" around them is doing. When that child rebels in their own way is it just possible that the environment is not the right one for them? Why do we make the assumption that it is the individual who is the problem rather than the circumstances in which they find themselves? 

With all the talk about "individuality" it seems what we really want are little "almost-clones" . They need to fit neatly in and progress all at the same rate and in the same manner.

Yesterday as they were leaving the small boy pulled away from his mother and ran back to me and told me, "I like being here. You don't tell me what I have to do."

No, yesterday he could be himself - but the world doesn't work like that. 

Sunday 18 September 2022

There has been another death

of a teenager on the roads of this state. It is the tenth this year - ten too many.

This time it was a young woman but young men still outnumber young women. These are "P platers" as we call them. Young people who have moved from "Learner" status to "Probationary" status. 

This young woman should have been celebrating her 19th birthday yesterday. Instead, her family is mourning her death. Her car hit a tree. It was a "single vehicle incident". It is also a tragedy, a tragedy that should not have occurred.

Speed, especially in rural areas, is a major contributing factor to accidents.  Drivers on P plates are not supposed to have consumed any alcohol at all but it happens. There is a third factor which is almost never mentioned - suicide by driving at speed towards a large tree.

When we lived in on an island many people exceeded the speed limits. Young drivers often did. There were not nearly as many accidents as there might have been simply because there were not nearly so many cars.  The roads were also unsealed and the cars were not as powerful as they are now.  Alcohol was not as much of an issue as it is now. The age at which you could legally buy a drink was higher - twenty-one to now eighteen. As a means of suicide it was also perhaps a little more difficult - although by no means impossible.

There are people who are agitating for the age to obtain a licence to be lowered. There are others who want the period on a probationary licence to be extended. All sorts of arguments are extended though for young people to have their own transport. They "need it" in rural areas where there is no public transport. They "need it" if they have jobs or sports training or the public transport is inconvenient or even "non existent".

I still believe that sixteen is too young to embark on what is most definitely an adult activity. I do not believe that teaching a sixteen year old to drive is a responsible thing to do. The reality in fact is that there are far too many and much younger teenagers who believe they can drive. They have the over-confidence and lack of experience of youth. Speed gives them an adrenalin rush and they are encouraged by their peers to break any number of other laws at the same time. 

I would like to see the age for a learner licence to be raised to eighteen and the probationary period extended so it becomes five years. If there are speeding and alcohol breaches in that period then you start again. Tough? Yes - but so is losing a young person.

It is perhaps too simple to say, "We managed without all these cars." We did of course but people keep telling me, "It's different now. Young people need a car." Really? They need a life too. 


Saturday 17 September 2022

Guilty of treason?

If you are a member of parliament you take an oath. The oath varies slightly around Downunder but each version requires you to swear allegiance to the Crown and to the country.  You are not required to say, "I swear by Almighty God..." but you are expected to honour that oath. 

In our present Federal parliament at least one newly elected Senator tried not to swear an oath. There were several others who complained about having to perform what they see as an outdated act. At the same time another Senator protested at a "welcome to country" statement being performed inside parliament. 

Yesterday I not too seriously suggested that failing to abide by the oath that all members eventually took is a form of treason. My suggestion produced some interesting results....nobody disagreed.

Treason requires three things. The first is that a person has an "obligation of allegiance". That is something anyone who is the citizen of a country has by virtue of something like their birth, their citizenship papers, their passport, and their voting rights.

The second thing is the intent to do harm to the sovereignty within which you live. In this instance "sovereignty" does not mean that you are ruled by a monarch. It is simply the country to which you have an obligation of allegiance. 

The third thing is to "violate that obligation". That violation can take any number of forms. It doesn't necessarily mean illegally detaining the monarch or consorting with the enemy - the sort of things most people think of in relation to treason. It can mean deliberately refusing to abide by the oath you take on entering parliament and actively working against it. It can also mean something like an attempt to dismantle a democratically elected system of government - especially for your own benefit - if you have taken that oath.

That leaves some members of our Federal parliament in what is, at very least, a difficult position. Is it treason...or something close to it? It is possible. Should we be concerned? Definitely.  

Friday 16 September 2022

The name calling in parliament

and beyond is getting nasty. 

Downunder has a small and much too powerful political party which wields far too much influence. They call themselves "The Greens" but "watermelon" might be more accurate. 

The Greens rely on the belief of many people that they are the "friends of the environment" party. Too many people go no further than that. They never look at the policies of this party. They should.

I have looked at the manifesto of this party at each election since they came to prominence. I am increasingly concerned by their policies. It would be impossible for them to actually implement these if they were to win government. They rely heavily on "making the rich pay" in ways which would simply bring investment in the country to a halt. Not even "communist" countries like China succeeded in doing that. They demand "no coal, no gas" and "only renewables" but seem to travel happily by air to interstate and even international meetings - even when they could participate by video link. 

And they keep on insisting that this country is a "racist" one. Any criticism of their indigenous or Muslim members of parliament is deemed "racist". They criticise but must not be criticised? Yes, it seems that way. The present government needs their support in order to pass legislation in the Senate. Their tone is therefore always conciliatory. It is leading to bitter exchanges, threats of "censure" and threats of complaints to the Human Rights Commission.

I am now deeply concerned about this. They are playing the "race" card for all it is worth. Their claims of "victim hood" are stirring up resentment and anger.  The leader of the Greens has used social media inappropriately more than once to make demands that others accept their woke claims about the environment, race, gender, and wealth distribution.This is the politics of division, not cohesion. 

I have no time for the other outspoken One Nation Senator who somehow keeps getting returned over and over again. She stirs up feelings that are best left to wilt and die. She would clash with the Greens senators in any event but perhaps there is something in all this. If you really do find our way of doing things so unacceptable then, if you migrated here as an adult, why did you come?

Thursday 15 September 2022

Fountain pens?

Fountain pens leak...yes, they do. I know. One of my school blazers had a stain in the pocket. The person who owned it before me had a fountain pen which leaked.

I need to explain here that our mother never bought us new blazers. We always had "hand me down" uniforms wherever possible because our mother knew we would likely not be at any school more than a few years.

She was right in that prediction of course. We kittens also watched other students line up on the first day of the new school year and knew we were not so very different from most other students. School uniform was expensive and most people made it last from one child to the next to the next...on and on.

At the end of each year we would be given a list of things that would be needed the following year that could not be bought from the school stationery cupboard. It never included a fountain pen. 

In primary school there were the even then old fashioned dip pens, the heavy china ink wells that fitted into the holes in the desks (with no allowance for left handed humans) and the ink made from ink powder and tap water. In the upper school some people did have fountain pens, a few had biros. Some people still used dip pens because, out in the bush, people did things like that. If you went into the bank there were the dip pens too. I never did see the bank manager use the red ink dip pen but I often wondered about it.

The Senior Cat had a fountain pen, as did his father. They were mostly used to write letters and sign documents. Apart from that they were pencil people. My paternal grandmother used a dip pen. She did very little writing. The shopping list was done in pencil. Her writing was schoolgirl neat. My maternal grandmother would write hers in a rough sort of shorthand - something she had been taught in school at the age of twelve and never fully lost. She also had a fountain pen. Her letters to our mother were written with that pen. 

I used pencil. I was actually not the only one to use pencil. Pencils were easy to use. They were only a problem at exam time. Exams were supposed to be written in ink. Somehow most people seemed to manage but there were many muttered curses. The whole "ink" business seemed messy to us. Middle Cat makes the most wonderful pen and ink drawings but she shies away from fountain pens. "They leak or run out at the wrong time."

So I can sympathise with the new King Charles. I really feel he was incredibly restrained when that fountain pen leaked.  He didn't use any unacceptable language. He didn't really lose his temper. He just expressed the frustration so many other people have felt from time to time. The person who has to get the ink stains out of the handkerchief on which he wiped his hands will probably mutter something much worse.


Wednesday 14 September 2022

The judge said

you need to do...this....or that...or something else.

Right around me yesterday there were people who had acted as "stewards" to the judges in the Handicrafts section of the Show. Every so often I would hear the words, "The judge said..."

I said the words myself, more than once. Unless people ask I don't say much but if there has been something specific then it can help and encourage people to enter something again.

 This year was no different.  There were people who wanted to know things. One woman asked why her rug was entered in the wrong class. When I explained she looked at me and then smiled and said, "Thanks. That makes sense." And off she went apparently quite happy that, although she had not won a prize, she would know what to do next time.

There was the obvious "newbie". I explained - not for the first time - about doing what we call "blocking your work". She was sufficiently interested to take out her phone and start searching. "This sort of thing?" she asked me and, when I agreed, she added,"Okay, I'll go and look."

"But I made it with a crochet hook!" someone else wailed. I had to explain that, just because she had used a crochet hook did not mean that the item she had made came under the definition of "crochet". I don't think she really believed me.

Inevitably there was the woman who enters multiple items each year and expects to get a first prize for each of them. Her work is good, very good  - but sometimes there are people whose work the judge considers to be even better.  I congratulated her as I handed her items over but I was met with stony silence. The young girl, not out of her teens, who did win a first in the same section actually looked at me in bewilderment and said, "I still don't believe this is father will be so pleased." It turned out that her mother had died some time ago. She had found all the yarn in her mother's stash, taught herself how to knit from internet videos and then made the item. As she rushed off to work saying "and my boss said to come and get it so I can show the others" I thought of how different the two attitudes were - and which one I preferred.

There was the woman who came in with her teenage son. They had both made "memory" boxes which we pass on to the Women's and Children's hospital. He won the first prize. She had won a commended. "I lost a child in 2015" she told me, "I was given one of these." I looked at the boy to congratulate him and he smiled and put his arm around his mother. There were no words necessary.

It is this sort of thing which makes all the hard work worthwhile. I hope I am still fit enough to help next year because encouraging other people to participate is good. Seeing what they have made, even if it has many faults, is encouraging. If people still want to create then I have some hopes for the future. 

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Permission to hug?

There was a piece in yesterday's paper which disturbed me. It is about a new piece of social training in preschools, kindergartens and early school. It is about teaching children to "ask babies their permission to hug them".

Yes of course it is a little bit more complex than that but it is one of those ideas that has a small grain of "good"  in it which is then turned into teaching children a range of behaviours currently deemed to be correct but which may not actually be what is for the best.

As a "grown up" I do not generally hug people I don't know or I know do not like to be hugged. I once hugged someone I didn't know at all. She was a complete stranger but the situation demanded it. She responded by clinging to me and weeping. I don't know how I knew but I knew I had done the right thing. Part of it surely had to be something I had been able to learn in kittenhood?

I loathed being hugged by my maternal grandparents. I loved being hugged by my paternal grandparents. I knew instinctively the difference between them and the reasons for the hugs I was given. My siblings were the same. "Boys don't hug" Brother Cat would tell our maternal grandparents when he would wrap his paternal grandmother with a hug.

I hugged someone I knew only by sight the day she burst into tears in the greengrocer and admitted her daughter had recently committed suicide. I see her occasionally and she has never forgotten it. Indeed she once introduced me as "Cat, was one of those people who was there when I needed it most."  She is intensely loyal to the greengrocer who moved everyone out of the way so I could hold her.

I hugged a friend who normally does not like being hugged when I went to the funeral of her partner. It was right on that occasion.

We have to teach children when hugging is appropriate but trying to tell them they need to ask permission of a baby is wrong. Ask permission of the parent? Yes. That way they will learn the proper boundaries and respect. 

Monday 12 September 2022

How to start a (royal) rumour

is perhaps to base it ever so slightly in fact.

Like everyone else I have heard and even seen any number of "facts" about the Royal family in the last few days. Most of them have come from the anti-monarchist crew. Some of them have come from reporters - who should know better - and some have come from people who simply don't think but repeat what they believe they have seen or heard.

So, what really happened? If we look at a couple of incidents it is interesting. There is for instance the GIF which was shown of the new King apparently demanding that an ink pot be moved out of his way. Someone created that for the purpose of suggesting HRH is a rude, impatient man who expects to be waited on. The reality? He simply shifted it himself and, in response to what was probably something like "Would you like me to move that sir?" he actually looks back, smiles and says "thank you". 

There's a clip where someone complains that Prince William does not open a car door for his partner but Prince Harry does. Again it is completely false to suggest that Prince William is not showing his wife the same courtesy. There is a security man there who does the job instead...who would always do it. If the Prince was being driven rather than doing the driving security would do it for the Prince as well. But it is convenient for an anti-monarchist to suggest that the Prince is not a civil man who cares for his partner.

There were also all sorts of rumours flying around about how Prince William delayed asking Prince Harry and his partner to join them when they did go to meet people. Then there has been all the "analysis" of where they stood in relation to one another and how far apart they stood and their gestures and much more. Really? It is nonsense. They behaved in relation to each other as the vast majority of people would behave in a similar situation.

There is nothing at all to be made of Prince Harry's partner not going to Balmoral. The reality is simple. It would not have been appropriate because the then Duchess of Cambridge was not going. Her first responsibility, and the one the Queen would have wanted her to deal with, was to the three children who were going to be upset. 

Trying to make something of nothing is what so many people will continue to do in the next few weeks. After all it is what makes so much "news". It really isn't news at all. It  simply makes some little people feel big - because it does so much harm. 

Sunday 11 September 2022

Packing light?

It is more than twenty years since I have needed to pack to spend a night away from this house. Yes, I know that's not good. I do need a holiday, a proper holiday. I need the sort of holiday where someone else does the cooking and the dishes. 

It won't be happening just yet either. I want it to happen. I have thought about it and wondered how I might be able to do it, where I might go if I can't go back to the United Kingdom. Really though if I have just one holiday left in my life I want to go back to the place which  was my second home and is one I still miss.

But packing to go? I thought of this as I looked at the cartoon by

Eleanor Tomlinson.

 Sweet sketch of the Queen and Paddington Bear goes viral and ... 

I thought then of Paddington arriving from "darkest Peru" with just that small suitcase. I thought of a former lecturer who arrived in this country with the clothes he was wearing and his Bible. I thought of my paternal great-grandmother who came with a small trunk - which held everything  to marry and set up house.

The Queen seemed to have a vast wardrobe and many places to live but in many ways Her Majesty also travelled light. Behind the scenes the Royal residences would surprise many people. They most definitely are not the luxurious places people imagine them to be. Yes, they might be nicer than many places but the furnishings are often old and comfortable. Nothing gets wasted. The apparently vast Royal wardrobe was much less than it appeared to be. Clothes were altered and hats were trimmed again - so cleverly most of us never noticed.  

My own wardrobe is not vast. There are clothes in it I have had for thirty or more years. I still use them. As a student in the UK I went to France and Italy one winter  with my clothes packed into a small airways bag. It wasn't the best but it was the best I could do if I was going to carry my own luggage - and I managed. I doubt I could do it now but when you are very young, very foolish, and very innocent you can manage such things. It also prevented me from buying foolish souvenirs. 

Now I need to start seriously "downsizing". My brother, sisters and I will need to decide "who has what" and what needs to be sold or given away. I need to part with books - and that will be hard  - and decide how much yarn I can use. I also need to decide what other craft materials I want to keep so small people will have something to do when they come to visit.  No, I won't simply give it all away.

It's about packing light though. There is a balance to be had somewhere. One airways bag is not enough but I should not need all the suitcases and trunks and hat boxes that people travelled with in the past.

Actually, I don't have a hat box at all.... 

Saturday 10 September 2022

A time to mourn and not a time

to make demands. Even if the demands were supported by a majority - and they are not according to the most recent polls - this was no time to make demands that "now" is the time for this country to "become a republic". 

There was a knock at the front door yesterday and then the Whirlwind's closest friend burst in flung herself on me and started to cry.  I had not seen her for quite a while. I knew she was struggling. Her mother told me that. She had even admitted it herself. 

That was a good thing. She has been staying close to home and not mixing too much at school. Her schoolwork has remained up to her usual standard but it has been a struggle for her. We all know she is missing her friend as much as we do, perhaps even more. It was a particularly close friendship, one of those which was likely to endure a lifetime. 

And yesterday was too much for her. There was an assembly at school and of course the girls were informed of the death of the Queen.  Some of the girls have parents who had met the Queen or other members of Her Majesty's family. A....'s parents are in that category and she has been brought up to honour and respect the monarchy.  When wretched social media began to filter through with some particularly vicious comments from people for whom I and many others have no respect there was apparently a good deal of concern at school. A...'s form teacher did her best to deflect all this and point out how inappropriate it was but A... was very upset.

"I feel so sorry for them. It's their mother and their granny and it is like those people don't even care!" she sobbed on my shoulder. It left me in tears too. "It doesn't matter who it is and even if they don't like them they should feel sorry for them because of that," she told me.

And that is greater wisdom and compassion than the likes of the leader of the so-called "Republican Movement" or the leader of "the Greens" or several politicians who are supposed to represent others have shown.  It is the way I admire A... for reacting. I also think it was a good thing. When she had calmed down somewhat we talked for a bit - the first real talk we have had in a long time. I suggested she phone her mother to say where she was because she was going to be a bit late getting home.

"It's me. I just had to talk to Cat but I'm okay now. I'll tell you when I get there."

I am thankful I was home. I might not have been. Those who used the moment to push their own agenda, often a bitter and grasping agenda that does not relate to reality,  could listen to A... and learn from her.  It reminded me yet again that there is hope for the upcoming generation - perhaps quite a lot of hope. 

Friday 9 September 2022

I never met Queen Elizabeth

but she was an influence on my life.

One of my early memories is of sitting on the Senior Cat's shoulders and waving a small flag. Then there was the big car and the person who waved to us.

"That's the Queen," the Senior Cat explained. I don't know how much of that I understood at the time. It was probably not a great deal.

But I went through school "saluting the flag and honouring the Queen" at assemblies on Fridays. As a Brownie and then as a Guide I made and renewed promises to do the same. 

They are the sort of promises that many have made...and broken. I have tried to keep those promises because my paternal grandfather did meet the Queen and he tried to make all of us understand that the role she played was not the glamorous one it appeared to be. He succeeded in that. Her job was possibly one of the most boring, tedious and yet responsible jobs ever created. All those speeches she had to make, all those she had to sit through, all the hands she had to shake and the polite meaningless conversation are not something I would ever want to do. I never envied her. 

I went on to meet first her husband. I met Prince Philip twice - both times it was never intended to happen. On both occasions I know I thought of the time they needed to spend apart because of their roles. Even marriage for the Queen was necessarily different. 

I met and got to know her daughter-in-law Diana before she married into the family. I often wonder what the Queen made of Diana. I suspect Diana was treated with kindness by a woman who was well aware of how difficult the role was that she was expected to play. 

Certainly the Queen Mother was there in the background ready to support them both. When I met her she was a delight. She was thoughtful enough to ask Diana to come to afternoon tea as well and now I can lay claim to having nursed a future King of England. He was a very young baby at the time. If by some extraordinary chance I ever meet him again will I dare to tell him about this? Probably not... and it is not likely to happen anyway.  

I say none of this out of any wish to boast, rather to say that these people are just that - people. They are doing a job. It is a job which many believe is unnecessary. It is a job ardent republicans would like to see thrown into the dust bin of history never to be recycled. At the same time others see the monarchy as having a role to play, the role of bringing a nation together. Governments can change, disintegrate, make poor decisions and more but a monarch in the background, especially one who is so highly respected, is a steadying influence.

It is said that a monarch has a right to be consulted, to advise and to warn. The Queen knew that. She informed herself and became, according to my late lecturer in Constitutional Law, an outstanding constitutional lawyer. The formal qualification may not have been there but she knew an enormous amount and used that knowledge. Her Privy Council listened to her. Prime Ministers came and went. Her loyalty to her country was absolute. It is said that her power lay in having no power at all.  It is a contradiction which seems to work.

My generation will miss the Queen whatever our views on monarchies.



Thursday 8 September 2022

So what exactly is "net zero"?

If I was depending on a politician for an answer it seems I would not get one. 

Apparently the question came up in the Senate yesterday. It was asked by a rabble rousing Senator for whom I had no time - until yesterday. That does not mean I like the Senator in question now. It still astounds me that people actually vote for her. Yesterday however she asked a Senator in the government ranks, a Senator who has been outspoken about "climate change" for years to explain "net zero". The Senator could not explain.

I am no climate scientist but I always thought the simplest explanation probably ran along the lines of something like, "What you put into the atmosphere you also take out of the atmosphere in some other environmentally friendly way".  No, it isn't a great explanation. Yes, it is a lot more complicated than that. At the same time though it is surely the sort of explanation that most people would understand?

Later yesterday I had the chance to ask a few people how they would define it. Their definitions varied from something like mine to "I don't know but it's what we have to do." Perhaps a little more education is called for?

And then the first Senator asked the second Senator for an estimate of how much all this was going to cost. The answer was "poli-speak" at its very other words there was no answer at all. It was clear the Senator being asked has absolutely no idea what the cost will be. 

I doubt anyone else has any idea either. When I asked the same question of the people I asked for a definition the answers varied from "Millions" to "Billions" and to "Probably trillions but you can't even start to estimate something like that."

The little group went on to talk about "cutting emissions" and "electric vehicles" and "doing our bit" until it started to spit-spot with rain again. We broke up and they went in to their nice warm houses with electric lights blazing out, the television on, a computer running and meals cooking on gas or electricity. My neighbours are lovely people. They are genuinely concerned about the future of the planet for the sake of their children and their grandchildren. I am concerned for their children and grandchildren too, indeed concerned for all children everywhere.

But are we going to "reach targets" we don't even really understand at a price we have yet to be fully informed about? Surely the Senator should be able to provide some information in a form that people can understand?  Perhaps not.


Wednesday 7 September 2022

Greta Thunberg's emissions advice

would appear to be a catastrophe in the making - if it has not already happened.  "Everyone should get on to climate change issues and follow her advice," I was told  yesterday. It is one of the many interesting little snippets of conversation it is possible to have with complete strangers when "minding the shop" at the state's Show. 

I did some hours  there yesterday sitting at the information desk in the Handicrafts area. I answered queries about where to find things, why certain things had won prizes, why something had two blue ribbons, how long it might take to make "that quilt". I fielded complaints about the way things had been judged and more about the way things were displayed. At one point I talked to a woman of 96 who has been entering things in the Show for more years than I have been alive. (Her granddaughter might have brought her in a wheelchair but she was still planning her entries for next year.) 

Inevitably I spoke to a number of people I know or had known in the past. Someone introduced herself as a person who had been in the same primary school class as the Black Cat. Another as someone the Senior Cat had taught even more years before that. 

And there were some oddities. There was the man who had just retired and was teaching himself to quilt using only recycled items of clothing. "That's not the way it was done,"he told us of the art works on the walls. Yes, in a way, he was correct. There was the severely autistic boy for whom the sensory overload of the surroundings was getting too much. His carer was getting anxious and looked positively alarmed when I spoke quietly to him and got him to touch what I was working on. I gave him one of the tiny leaves I had just knitted. I need to knit many more and the soft texture was just what he needed. No, he didn't thank me or even look at me but he quietened down and they went on their way. 

And there was the inevitable "climate change" warrior. He wanted to tell me "all about Greta Thunberg and how amazing she is". He went on and on. He was not in the least interested in anything any of us might have to say. He was totally determined to deliver his lecture on the way "a sixteen year old has changed the world". He told us "what she has done is absolutely amazing. It helped to get the present government to take climate change seriously. They need to get her out here to address parliament and get all those deniers to listen."

He had plans of his own too - all taken from Greta Thunberg's activities. Like so many other zealots he had "ideas" that are completely impractical. 

Alarmingly there are people who are so convinced of the rightness of all this they are going to bring about power and water shortages if they are allowed to proceed. Thunberg was sixteen when she started her campaign. She is nineteen now. In three years she may have made some people more aware but she has not solved the world's climate change problems. It is likely she has added to other problems and that there will be other catastrophes as a result.

I was eventually saved from all this by one of the paid security staff coming up with a, "Excuse me but I need you to come and look at this."

I excused myself saying, "This building runs entirely on renewables and recyclables." (It does.) The security person led me off and pointed at something in one of the cabinets asking quietly, "You did need rescuing? He's been doing the same thing all over the place every day."

Yes, I did. I just wish someone would take him up to the roof of the building and show him. It's a very big building indeed and it was planned to be very energy efficient long before anyone had heard of Greta Thunberg.   

Tuesday 6 September 2022

There have been two murders

in this state in the last two days. 

Murder is relatively rare here and two in rapid succession have caused more concern than usual.

"Are we becoming more violent?" one of the dog walkers asked me as he passed this morning. 

I don't know what the statistics are but it is something I too have wondered. We seem to see and hear more about such things now. The nightly news seems to be full of that sort of thing. Last night's news from Canada was genuinely horrific. I was not watching it as such as I was, as almost always, doing something else. I couldn't shut out the horror of it though as I thought of all those directly impacted by the violent death of at least ten people. Yet again I wondered what causes people to do such things. 

One of the things the government in this country, a relatively new government, wants to do is have a referendum on "including an indigenous voice in parliament". The arguments for this are not convincing but, given the general lack of understanding of our Constitution and how the political process works,  it may succeed. What it is not going to do is change the levels of violence in many remote communities. 

Murder has occurred there. A much needed and well respected nurse was killed in one of those communities several years ago. There is nobody doing the job there now and there are still discussions about the need for there to be two people doing the job at all times. I can't see that happening. It is simply too expensive because too many of these communities have an unemployment rate so high it could scarcely go higher. Children attend school sporadically even when they are supposedly being taught "in their own language" and "about their own culture". I wonder if that is not actually contributing to the problems rather than solving them. How do children in those communities learn the fluent standard English and the skills which will help them get employment? 

I am told, by more than one source, that the "language" these children are taught in does not, shall we say, "cater for life in the twenty-first century". It is not the language of their ancestors. The communication needs of their ancestors were different. And the idea that they are being taught "about their own culture" is equally incorrect. They are learning something about it but only those parts which are open to public view. Much of it lies behind closed ceremony and is being rapidly lost. Yet others keep saying that all this must not be lost, that it must be "preserved".

I think "preservation" is part of the problem. If you want to live it then it also has to be free to change and develop. If we don't do that then we will have frustrated and angry people who will do harm to others. 

Monday 5 September 2022

We do have a space industry

of sorts. 

No, we are not sending astronauts up to that space station somewhere "up there" but we do help other countries to do that - and to keep those who make the journey safe.

My maternal uncle worked on the early space program in Downunder. Every so often he would be off for a few days to the mysterious "rocket launching site" in the north of this state.  What he did there was a mystery. It remains a mystery. He was not permitted to talk about it. We knew he was helping with the rocket launches but that was all. 

As he was, like his father, a "precision man" he was probably working on something that required the sort of measurements that are hard to comprehend  - the one thousandth of a millimetre type.  I doubt I would have understood a word even if he had told us anything. My brother would have been more interested -  but not so interested he wanted to go into that sort of work. I know one young man  who would be interested. He is studying "micro-engineering". His real interest is in medical applications but he would see connections.

Our present space industry is supposed to be one of those areas where the future lies but it is struggling for funds. There are people who simply think it is all a waste of money. They sit there each day and work via computer and forget that without the space industry we would not have the satellite connections that allow the internet to work. Knock out a satellite or two or three or more and the world would be a very different place. 

As a kitten in primary school I went on an excursion. The entire school, about fifty children altogether, went to the weather station on what is known as the "west coast" of this state. We saw all the equipment which was used and the meteorologist there answered all our questions. He also launched a black balloon which was used  to help with the forecasts.  I remember the awed silence as he explained all this. 

Now it all seems very primitive. Satellites are used for weather forecasting. They let scientists make observations about climate and natural disasters.  There are still all sorts of instruments here on the ground, some of which make those fascinating patterns, but  a lot of the work is now done using satellites and the instruments within them.

We need a space industry. I am not sure about "sending men to Mars" but help to read the weather is useful....and so is the internet.  

Sunday 4 September 2022

Is "parenthood" a career?

At the recent "Jobs and Skills  Summit" there was another demand for more women to return to the workforce. We are being told that there are all sorts of economic and other benefits to come if this happen. 

Women are told that it is their "right to go to work" and their "right to have a career" and that they will find their lives more "satisfying" if they have something "outside the home". I note the same things do not appear to be said about men. 

When I was a mere kitten many more women stayed at home and cared for the children. "Day care" and "preschool" were unknown and "kindergarten" was, if it was available, something you attended perhaps one or two mornings or afternoons a week. Now children as young as six months can be place in "long day care". The standard of care in such places varies enormously. Some of it can be very good but much of it is less than desirable when compared with good at-home care. 

Add to that the belief that both parents need to work in order to pay the bills. Yes, it might be true but it is less true than people want to accept. It costs a lot to have a child, even more than one child, in day care and preschool care. That has been recognised by "subsidies" provided not by the government but by other taxpayers.  Those subsidies, while often very generous, do not cover the whole cost. As children grow older there is "out of school hours" care, "holiday care" and much more.

Then there is expense of going to work (often a second car is involved), the appropriate clothing, the extra food expenses because "pre-prepared is faster", and all the other expenses associated with both parents going to work.  When available grandparents are also expected to help - expectations which come from government as well as parents. 

Having "more women in the workforce" is supposed to be "an economic game-changer". Perhaps it is. It has certainly allowed more people to work at childminding - minding the children of other people. 

My mother and other women of her generation who stayed at home and looked after their own children got something called "Child Endowment". It was a non-means tested,  universal allowance brought in by the Commonwealth government in 1941. small payment intended to be used for the expenses of caring for any children after the first under the age of sixteen. The first child was also included later. It was paid to mothers, not fathers at the rate of five shillings a week. 

I remember my mother going to the Post Office to collect the payment with a bank book. I also remember seeing many other women do the same thing. It is likely that the money represented the difference between eating and not eating. Of course there would have been men who demanded that the money was turned over to them and men who kept back that amount so they could use it for themselves but, for the vast majority, it was welcome extra which could be used on food and clothing for the children. It was certainly how my mother used it. "When the child endowment is paid we can...."

"Child support" payments now are much more generous but not everyone is eligible for them. It is one of those ways in which mothers are "encouraged to return to work".

But I do wonder about all this. I know mothers who did not want to go back to work. They would have welcomed a small payment to stay at home. The "economic benefit" of them being in the workforce was so low they were working for, at most, a few dollars an hour. There was all the stress of being a partner and a parent too. At the same time they felt compelled to return to work because that was what was and is expected of them. Sometimes they have to keep up professional registration and employers do not want part-time employees so they are working extended hours.

If we want both parents in the workforce surely we need to at least consider more part-time work and more job sharing? That of course will also involve ways of making that possible and cutting away a lot of the red tape involved in employing someone and the demands being made by the union movement. 

I am not holding my breath. 

Saturday 3 September 2022

The Show starts today!

One of my small neighbours has just reminded me of this...and then "that means one more sleep before we go!"

I assume that means his family is going to our state's "Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society" Show tomorrow. It has been three years since the  last one and he cannot really remember it apart from being permitted to pat one of the animals.

I was at the showground yesterday. It was a very busy place. As I had to both deliver and collect I was feeling a bit concerned. Normally I can pedal right in to the centre of the grounds. This is where the main office is situated. On most occasions there is simply a gate open at either end. People with cars can park in one of the car parks and access the office easily.

"It will be okay Cat," I was told, "Just tell them what you are doing."

So, I pedalled up to where I needed to go in and no, it was not "okay". 

"You can go and try the other one but they won't let you in either," the rather sour-faced security man told me.

Middle Cat and I had come across him before. He is one of those "difficult" people who likes applying rules he has made up for himself as well as those that actually apply. I didn't bother to argue with him but went off to the other gate. If they would not give me access then I'd call the Office and either get them to come to me or ask them to say I was to be given access.

But, no problem at all. "Of course, just go carefully."

And oh was I careful! There were not just people everywhere but vans and lorries and cars and electric carts, a tractor and then a very large and slow moving piece of equipment being put into place. I kept well to the side and watched backwards and forwards and sideways.

The Office was very busy too. Phones were ringing and people were moving things in and out. I was concerned that I should need to be there at all. They were all so busy but someone gave me a wave and said, "I'll tell her you are here."

I was out again in less than five minutes and making my way back out the gates. The two security men asked me, "All fixed?" I told them "Yes, thank you!" and they sent me on my way with another, "Be careful now!"

I left behind all the buzz of the set up, all the concern of getting things done on time. I will be in and out in the coming week and it will be interesting but it won't be quite the same as the buzz of the set up.  It is good when people work together like that. 

Friday 2 September 2022

The university debating society is dead

- or so it would seem. Also gone is something else but I will return to that in a moment.

There were reports yesterday of how one of our biggest and most prestigious universities in the country had to call in security and, for his own safety, escort a former Prime Minister off the premises. It looked a rather nasty situation.

The reason? The Student Union decided he, as a "Liberal", should not be permitted to speak at an event organised by law students. It was eventually held online. 

I do not particularly care for the former Prime Minister in question. There are in fact any number of things about him I do not like at all but he was invited to speak. It was an invitation that broke no laws and he should have been able to accept it without being in any way threatened. If the students wished to disagree with him then the place to do it was in the question and answer session which would undoubtedly have followed his talk. If other students did not want to participate then they should simply have stayed away - not prevented their fellow students from challenging him.

I went to a number of guest speaker talks at university. One was with a woman who later became a High Court judge. I did not agree with something she said and neither did a number of other people. We challenged her but we did so in a way that caused her to say to us afterwards that she had welcomed the "civilised" debate. Good. That's the way things should proceed.

Now there are demands that students follow the "politically correct" or "woke" lines about everything. The student union in this state has recently published something that can only be held to be anti-Semitic. It calls for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. The Jewish students at the university, who generally keep a low profile anyway, felt threatened by it. 

My own time at university, and I went to more than one and have taught at more than one, was not perfect. Nothing ever is but I really do not remember anything quite like the current attempts to stifle all debate. The staff might have had differing views from the students and even on occasion allowed those views to influence their marking but I cannot remember any violence or even threats of violence. The students made demands and things sometimes got heated, even very heated, but I cannot remember any occasion on which someone lawfully on the premises was removed by the police. 

Universities should be hotbeds of dissent but informed and civilised dissent. Only allowing one set of information to be broadcast and one way of expressing it is surely not the purpose of a university? Dissent and debate are essential to progress.

Thursday 1 September 2022

The "Jobs and Skills" summit

being held in the nation's capital today and tomorrow would appear to be nothing more than one of those glorious "feel good talk-fests". 

I have just read the agenda for the two days. It begins with "light breakfasts" for those who are apparently incapable of finding their own. For goodness' sake these are supposed to be high level union and business people and they can't get their own breakfast at their place of accommodation? Yes, some will of course but it would be interesting to know who puts their hand out for a "free" breakfast...and how much they consume at it. 

And then the agenda is filled with what might be termed "the usual topics".  Things like "equal pay" and "growth in productivity" and "wage growth" and "enterprise bargaining" all appear on day one - along with the inevitable "clean energy and tacking climate change" - forty-five minutes are being devoted to that but only thirty to current skill needs. There are a further forty-five minutes to discuss future skill needs on day two. Migration in relation to the labour market is also considered on day two. Changing attitudes, tackling discrimination, and "workforce participation" also appear on day two.

I am no expert but the emphasis seems wrong to me. If this "summit" is supposed to be about jobs and skills then it seems to me the concentration should be on current and likely future jobs and the skills which will be required to fill them. Many of the other issues, while important, are things that are ongoing. They will go on for years. There are no absolute or easy solutions to issues like "equal pay". It is one of those things which is fine in theory but is not always possible in practice. (And, it occurs to me, may be further confused in the current debate about gender.)

There are no easy answers to the skills which might be needed either. At least there though it is possible to suggest where the shortages will lie and question how the future workforce might be encouraged to take up those positions. To do that though surely the schools should also be involved? Of course there are already people working on these things but few of them were invited to attend.

So, what is the point of the "summit". It seems to me it is not a summit at all. A summit suggests something having been climbed. This is about most attendees remaining at sea level waiting for guides who won't arrive.

They can go home early on day two - the summit ends at 2:45pm.