Saturday 31 December 2022

Reporting race as well as racism

is a topic fraught with danger. I should not even attempt to comment on it here but I will.

I am going to because the media appears to believe that there are some things which are essential to report in the stories they tell but others are not.

There was recently an horrific home invasion in another state. A woman was allegedly stabbed to death by young offenders living in a nearby group house. The mainstream media did not report the fact that the alleged offenders were out on bail at the time or that they come from a group which often claims to be the victims of "racism". It was left to social media to do this and, with it, came a lot of the sort of comments which stir up racist behaviour. 

A question for you, if the alleged offenders had gone to a "prestigious private school" do you think the media would have been silent on the issue? Would there have been "quotes" from the principal of the school? Would "neighbours" or "friends" have been interviewed? Of course they would. It would be too good a story to miss.  Does the media show a bias in such matters? Of course it does.

Yes, there are disproportionate number of people who identify as "aboriginal" in custody. I am sure there are still many people believe that all these are offenders who are instantly recognisable as just that. They believe they have dark skin, live in remote communities and lack both education and opportunities. The reality is different. It would be hard to recognise some of those who identify as aboriginal as being that. They are urban dwellers who have failed to complete their education, an education they have the same right to as anyone else. There are young people from the very same poor backgrounds who do complete school, who do go on to get further education and steady employment. We don't hear enough about them because the media does not consider them newsworthy. Their racial background would never be mentioned.

The media and others would also have us believe that far more aboriginals who are incarcerated are likely to die in custody than others who are incarcerated. The actual statistics say otherwise. The rate is almost identical to the rest of the prison population. 

Despite that we had a Royal Commission into aboriginal deaths in custody. Any time a death occurs much is made of it in the papers. There is talk of "racism" and how dreadful it is. Yes, let's get this right. People do die in custody. Nobody should die in custody through suicide or lack of medical care. That is absolutely wrong.  At the same time the death of someone while playing basketball in custody is not an issue of race but it is reported and made out to be one. People are in custody because they have broken the law but little is said about why they are there. Instead we are told they are there because they are "aboriginal" and that, somehow, this is the fault of the way they have been treated for so long. My friend M... would dare to differ. He knows they are a target but he also knows they make themselves a target. The Royal Commission focussed on the wrong things. It should have been focussing on school attendance and other like matters.

Yesterday there were media reports, including a video clip, of an angry young woman abusing the staff at a fast food outlet. She was eventually arrested but not before causing considerable trauma among the young staff. Although it is obvious from the video the fact that she is clearly not Anglo-Celtic is not even mentioned. That's fine with me - as long as the same is done every time there is any similar incident. Had she done a good deed then her heritage would almost certainly have been mentioned.

If the son or daughter of a prominent person breaks the law then you can be almost certain that it is going to be reported. Even the most minor of infractions is likely to be reported. "X.... was caught speeding, doing 41km an hour in a 35km hour zone". Yes, it happens. No, they should not have done it. In almost any other case there might be a fine and demerit points but simply being someone's child is enough to add a further punishment. Do they "get away with it" when others don't? No, the reality is that they are likely to be made an example of instead.

Some responsible reporting without any mention of race but also without any mention of where someone went to school or who their parents are might reduce the amount of "racist" comment in the community as a whole. It is the sort of gossip we could do without.

Friday 30 December 2022

Is "unequal treatment" in the past

a reason for preferential treatment now?

I am working on the proposed blog posts about the Voice Referendum. Please give me a bit of time. I want them to explain, not exhort.

Yesterday the former Premier of another state, Peter Gutwein, took issue with me on Twitter and tried to suggest that the reason a Voice was needed now was because, and I quote, "It's a statement of fact that they were denied equal treatment under our electoral laws until the 1980's...why? Answer that honestly and you'll confirm the need for the voice." 

Is this really true? The answer to that is both "yes" and "no". 

First of all we need to recognise that voting occurs in this country on three levels - at local level (councils or shires), at state level, and at federal level. We are one of the most over-governed countries in the world and could be rid of at least one level of government without any great harm occurring.  That also means that state governments had the capacity to make laws about the voting rights of aboriginals. 

In this state aboriginal men had the right to vote from the late 1800's. That extended to all women, including aboriginal women, in 1895. We were the first jurisdiction in the world to do this. It is something to be proud of perhaps. There were other arrangements in other states, some were notably slower than others. 

Then, in May 1962, the "Commonwealth Electoral Act 1962" gave all aboriginal and Torres Strait island people the right to vote. That was the purpose of that act. It gave equal voting rights to everyone in the country. 

So were people, as Peter Gutwein would have it, "denied equal treatment under our electoral laws"?  This is more difficult. What the 1962 Act did not do was make it compulsory for aboriginals to enrol to vote. If they did enrol then they were, like everyone else, required to attend the ballot box. Whether this was a denial of equal treatment is something I believe can, at very least, be debated. In part it will depend on whether you believe that people should be compelled to attend the ballot box. (I use that phrase advisedly as nobody can be compelled to mark the ballot paper in a way that causes it to be a valid vote.) 

It was the "Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Act 1983" which compelled aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people to enrol to vote and thus attend the ballot box. Until that point then their right to vote was absolute from 1962 onward but not compulsory until 1983. 

 Proponents of the "Voice" will use this as an argument to suggest that aboriginal people were denied a voice in the past and that they are somehow still denied a voice today. I wonder however how someone like Mr Gutwein would respond to the fact that my maternal great-grandfather arranged a mass enrolment of all adult aboriginal people on the mission station he was minister of in the very early 1900s? How would he respond to the fact that my paternal great-grandmother ensured that the local aboriginal population along the river were enrolled to vote and actually did vote?

I have no doubt that there were instances, far too many instances, of aboriginal people not voting out of ignorance or apathy but the idea that they were denied a vote or even an equal right to vote until the 1983 Act is surely debatable?

Thursday 29 December 2022

Emergency departments in hospitals

are not fun places to be. 

I had a number of trips to the emergency departments of both the major hospitals on this side of the city with the Senior Cat. On one occasion that also involved the ambulance we were in going at terrifying speeds down the wrong side of the road in peak hour traffic. Yes, it really was an emergency. The Senior Cat was seen almost immediately and whisked away from me for a look at his skull. (He had fallen backwards and had a 4cm crack in it.)

On that occasion, as on several others, I was there as the family member of someone who needed help. It gave me time to observe and I did because, on other occasions, I have been called in to help. On occasions it has been my job to "interpret" or, as I prefer to put it, "provide communication assistance".  I do this not for people who speak a second language (although some of them do know one) but for people who have difficulty speaking or may not be able to speak at all. It is my job to make sure they understand what the medical staff are asking and that the medical staff understand their responses. Communication in those circumstances is never fast. I have become adept at finding out what works best for the patient before the staff try again to communicate. I have become adept at rewording questions so the patient can understand and perhaps just answer "yes" or "no". No, I am not taking over. That is not my job. It is my job to make sure the medical staff can do their job. And yes, it is a responsibility - one I would rather not take on at any time.

I think all that makes me far more aware of what actually goes on in emergency departments. I have seen the staff coping with angry, abusive drunks, suicidal mental health patients, frightened and demanding relatives, all too quiet patients and much more. I have seen them when there is no room to move safely between patients, when someone collapses on the floor and much more. That they seem to cope with all this never ceases to amaze me.

But the staff in such places need support. In this state they are all too often not getting it when they could be getting it. There have been changes to the way we handle issues in society which makes their job that much harder.  When I was a mere kitten drug overdoses were rare. Yes, there were drugs around but they were not the problem they are now. Emergency departments were not seeing them every day as they are now. Alcohol was much less freely available and the emergency departments did not see as many cases of abusive public drunkenness. They were there of course but they were not as obvious. Mental health issues were handled in other settings and someone who presented to an emergency department threatening suicide or showing self-harm would have been removed almost immediately to a different location within the hospital. Now all these things get dealt with along with cardiac arrest, strokes, trauma and more. The work of an emergency department has expanded.

What has not expanded, or not expanded sufficiently, is the capacity to cope with all this. The role of a doctor in emergency is an almost impossible one. They are expected to be - but cannot be - experts in everything. They often need to make rapid decisions. They need to make them knowing that this might not be the best thing for the patient but that it is the best they can do. It is an impossible situation.

So, the head of the emergency department at one major hospital has just resigned. She has given them six weeks notice. She has given the powers-that-be who deal with the financial side, who decide on the levels of staffing and equipment and much more, a blasting. It is not a rushed decision on her part. She has been there for the better part of a decade. She has seen all the politics and the politically correct nonsense that has made her role more and more difficult. It has simply become too much. We have lost a damn good, caring doctor. We will lose more too.

Of course I will go in if I am ever asked. I will do it because of the patient. I will also do it because they are doing an impossible job without the help they should be getting.

But - to the government who got in on making an issue out of "ramping" and has since done nothing about it making the problem even worse, I have no time for your criticism of those who work there.

Wednesday 28 December 2022

"Excuse me but it is summer here"

I want to tell them as they droop past me while taking their dogs on the obligatory "walk". The walk is not much more than a grumbling stroll around the block, done because they feel guilty about not doing something.

Yes, it was hot yesterday. The thermometer we keep on the wall at the back door said, "41.6C" at one point. Yes, it is sensible to stay indoors and do as little as possible in such temperatures. If you are lucky enough not to have to go to work then it is possible to avoid the worst times for going out even if you feel you must walk the dog.

But it seems that even a single day of such heat is now a "crisis" brought on by "climate change". We were "sweltering". There were other such words used too. I won't bother to repeat them. "Rough sleepers" were given "shelter" in the city bus station and more.

I actually loathe the heat. I would be happy to avoid summer altogether. It is beyond my understanding that my cousin chooses to spend summer here and then summer in London. London winters can be hard, perhaps particularly hard in a power and price upsurge. I admit I prefer spring and autumn temperatures. But heat? No.

At the same time one day of such heat is nothing to what we occasionally have - days of temperatures over 35'C, even over 40'C. Those are days and nights when it seems too hot to sleep and tempers grow short. One day of heat is not a week of such heat or even, on occasion, ten days or more. 

When we lived in a tiny rural community in the far west of the state we often had days at this temperature. There was no air conditioning. We could not even have a fan because that required power and the 32v supply had to be used for essentials. Fans were not essential. We did have a fridge. The ice compartment in that was tiny compared with what people have now. A drink of water meant crossing the school yard to the precious supply of rainwater in the big tank because the tap water was too brackish and too hot to put your hands under the water flowing from it. 

Yesterday was unpleasant and we will have more days like it over the next weeks of summer and even into autumn. I won't like it and neither will others but was yesterday really such a heat "crisis"? Was the temperature really all about "climate change"?  It was actually quite a normal day in a Downunder summer.  

Tuesday 27 December 2022

How not to get mugged or

"I'll send the boy to meet you" the mother told me.

There is an article in this morning's paper in which one of the more senior staff is reminiscing about his encounter with a gang in the Bronx in New York. He was lost and could easily have been mugged, perhaps even left for dead.  Yes, it is a dangerous area.

He got out by being honest with them. He was from a capital city in another country and he had been sent there to write a story. The gang told him it wasn't safe and  they escorted him out of the area.

Yes, he probably was lucky. There is no doubt they had also decided he did not have much to give them if they had decided to assault him. And yes, he was lucky he was not mugged.

It reminded me of an experience I had in London. London, like any major city, has some places which are less safe than others. There are similar places here. (We even have an area the police call "little Chicago".) 

I was doing research and one of the things I needed to do was interview a number of families. Late one Friday afternoon in winter found me at Brixton station. I was met by two "bovver" boys. They were dressed in style. They had safety pins piercing some very unlikely places. They looked rough and tough. I had to trust that their mother was right when she had told me, "They'll look after you."

We were stopped by two London bobbies on the way out of the station. I wondered if we were in for a confrontation at that point but they just greeted the boys and asked if I was all right in their company. Yes, I told them, these two were my escort. They told the boys to take care of their visitor and we went one way. They went the other.

I went in and out of Brixton for some months after that. The boys never met me again. They didn't need to. Word had got around. A couple of times they acknowledged me in the streets I used and I was always vaguely aware of others being aware of me, of watching out for me. Word had simply got around that I was not there to do any harm. 

It seems extraordinary but in a city the size of London I was probably as safe in that rough area as I was anywhere else. We talked about it later at the university. I had been offered a taxi fare to and from but I had chosen the Underground - largely out of an innocent belief that "it couldn't possibly be that bad". And, in a way, I was right. It wasn't. I was there for a legitimate purpose. While I was doing an interview I was not there to pry but to help. They were curious about me.  Going in a taxi would have set me apart from them. Using public transport is what they did.

I don't know how not to get mugged but I do know not pretending to be better than anyone else helps. 

Monday 26 December 2022

Did you really enjoy Christmas Day?

If you celebrated Christmas, did you really enjoy Christmas Day?

We are expecting a couple of very hot days - around the 40'C mark - so I was giving plants at the front of the house an extra drink very early this morning. As I did so one of the regular dog walkers went past and stopped to speak to me - or at least allow his dog to speak to me. His dog had a drink of water from the bird bath and sniffed around while his owner asked me how Christmas Day had been for us.

I knew what he meant. It was our first Christmas Day without the Senior Cat. Last year he didn't feel well enough to leave the residence to have Christmas lunch with him so we went to him. Even with Covid restrictions he would have been allowed to leave the residence for a few hours but he said "no" and told us to go off and enjoy ourselves. We tried to but it was not the same.

And this year? It was Middle Cat's turn to host the family - with some help in the cooking department from me. Middle Cat's partner picked me up mid-morning along with various food and the small presents we give one another.

"It won't be the same without Dad," he told me. He called the Senior Cat "Dad" even though he never called our mother "Mum". We headed off, unloaded the car with the things that had been kept cold in this fridge and went in to the kitchen. 

Middle Cat was there looking rather subdued. Brother Cat's family has come down with Covid so their household in another state was not even thinking about Christmas, just about getting through the day.  There would be other absences as well. One nephew was working. Another had not made the planned trip from interstate. Instead he and his partner were going through the complicated routine of entertaining his partner's elderly and disabled parents.

We set to work on the preparations that could not be done until the last minute, mostly salad making. There is no "turkey and all the trimmings" sort of meal here.  Nobody said much.

And then about midday the other members of the Greek clan started to arrive and one of them said, "The first Christmas without J... We'll miss him. He used to be such a good listener and a great story teller."

He so obviously meant it that I had to blink very hard. Then all the others began to join in, as others came they joined in the reminiscences. The "young ones", now in their twenties or early thirties all started saying "Remember when he told us about...." and "Remember when he showed you how to do that trick..." and much more.

Somehow the Senior Cat was there in among us saying, "Come on, enjoy yourselves."

And so I told the dog-walker what had happened. He bent down and gave his dog a fond scratch between the ears and said wistfully, "I'd like to be remembered that way."

So would I. 


Sunday 25 December 2022

Cathedral cat story 2022... Decani was cleaning his paw pads.

He thought they were pads, not "beans". He knew what a pad was. Brother James sometimes used one. He would write words on one. Decani often found those difficult to read because the writing looped around in an untidy sort of way. When he had been a very small kitten he had found out about those sort of pads. His pads felt a bit like that, smooth and firm with just a little bit of bounce. 

It took Decani a long time to do this every morning and then he sometimes had to repeat the process more than once during the day. Even before he had been given the very special position of Cathedral Library Cat his mother, Cadenza, and his father, Bach, had taught him about the importance of having clean paws. 

"All cats need to be careful about clean paws  but Cathedral cats need to be especially careful about clean paws," Cadenza had told him. When he was a kitten she had shown him how to clean his paws. He had grumbled at first but not for long. Clean paw pads felt so good. They might feel both firm and soft but they felt tough too. 

Clean claws were important too but, being the special library cat, meant that he was given some help with his. Brother James  the Cathedral Librarian, helped.  Once every week the two of them would sit together. Decani would hold out each paw in turn and Brother James would carefully rub each claw so that it was as smooth as the milk coloured cope the Bishop wore on special occasions. Decani knew the word "silk". It was a purring sort of word, soft and sensible. He liked it. His paws always felt especially good after that. He would thank Brother James by giving him an extra little head bunt.

One morning though Brother James was late. He must have been in very early because there was already a book on Decani's special desk.  That meant there was work to do. It was already open ready for him to start.

Decani jumped up and then stopped. His fur fizzed with fright. It was the worst possible thing! How had that happened?How had he not noticed! He was always so careful! He was so careful but now this had happened? How could he have done something like this without noticing? It wasn't possible! But there was no doubt at all. He made himself look again. He looked just quickly, ever so quickly. Was he wrong? No, there was the evidence. He had done something so terrible he could not believe it was real. How could he have done such a dreadful thing! He was always so careful!

Decani felt as if everything, absolutely everything, inside him was being stirred around like the Bishop's wife making something called cake with the noisy machine she called the "electric beater". This was much worse than hearing the noisy machine. His head didn't feel right. His whiskers hurt. It was hard to breathe. His fur felt wrong. He was shaking. It was so bad he could not even give a distressed purr. 

He dropped to the floor and sat there trying to think and trying not to think. How could he explain this? He couldn't. He would never be able to explain because he did not know how he had done it. It was not something he could tell Brother James. He understood Brother James but Brother James did not always understand him. They tried and Brother James was often good at thinking the right way but it was not quite the same. Decani thought that sort of thinking was called "guessing" but it sounded strange to him.  Brother James was going to be so angry, so upset. He was probably away seeing the Archdeacon and the Bishop right now! Decani felt worse than he had ever felt in all his young life. He was utterly miserable. He might even lose all his nine lives over this. He had let everyone down. Bach and Cadenza would be so disappointed in him. Cantori would never even look at him again. It was the worst moment of his life.

Could he just go away? He tried to think. Where could he go? He was a Cathedral Cat. He didn't know about the world. He had seen some of it when all the Cathedral Cats had gone to visit Mouse. Mouse lived Outside with the Organist.  It had been interesting but Decani knew he preferred living Inside. He knew the other Cathedral Cats. He knew all the humans. They gave him good things to eat. They bought those things with something called money which he was somehow given for the work he did in the Cathedral Library. 

He would not be able to feed himself. He knew some cats killed mice and ate them. It was the most horrible thing. He couldn't kill a Cathedral mouse! They were his friends. He couldn't kill a mouse and eat it even Outside. There would be no comfortable banana box with his special sleeping mat or, on the coldest nights, the bottom of the Bishop's bed.

Going away would not be right. He might get sent somewhere. He might not like it. It would be punishment. He deserved to be punished. He knew that. He was not feeling brave but he would have to be brave. Cats could be brave. Bach had told them about being brave, about always behaving like the special Cathedral cats that they were. It was not like being an ordinary cat.

All this seemed to take a very long time and a very short time to think about. Decani knew a little bit about time. He knew about the black sticks on something called "the clock". He knew when they walked around to special places things might happen. This morning Brother James was not there when the sticks were in the usual place to start work. Decani watched the sticks. They went very slowly. They also went much too quickly. When would be Brother James come back? He had to clean himself, clean himself all over. He had to clean every bit of himself from the very tip of his tail to the tips of his ears to the ends of his whiskers. His tongue grew tired but he kept working. He didn't really understand why it seemed so important but he thought it was. At last he was finished. He crouched there again shivering and shaking and still quite unable to purr at all.

Then, suddenly, Brother James was there. Decani sat there on the floor with his head down, his whiskers drooped. His ears felt uncomfortable because he was holding them in the wrong place. Everything inside him went faster and faster.

"Decani! What's the matter? Are you not well?" Brother James did not sound in the least bit angry. He just sounded worried, very worried. 

"I have something very special to show you this morning."

Decani felt himself being scooped up and examined.Brother James touched his nose, "No, that's a nice cold wet nose. And your paws all look fine to me.  Has someone with big feet trodden on you? You must have had a fright, a very big one." 

Brother James must have seen what he had done by now! Decani still shook all over he felt so frightened.

"Come on little one, what's the problem?" Brother James asked, "Here, let's see if this will help. Have a look at what I found last night. It is something very special indeed. It must have happened a very long time ago. It's a very, very old book. I don't think anyone has opened this page for hundreds of years. I wonder which Cathedral Cat did it? That cat must have had very big paws and he didn't clean his paws properly. You would never do anything like that."

Very cautiously Decani looked again. It was true. The paw marks were much too big to be his! He was only a little cat. Oh! He felt so much better. His inside slowed down and down and down. He snuggled in to Brother James Now he could purr again. And this time Brother James seemed to know what had upset his little friend.

"Oh Decani! Did it give you a fright? Did you think you had done it? Of course you didn't. You are much too careful for that. I chose you to help me because you are so careful."

Decani gave Brother James a paw pat.He rubbed against Brother James arm. He was so clean he did not leave a single hair on the Librarian's black shirt. It was time to start work.  


 In case you are wondering there really are paw prints on a page in the "Sermones Thesauri novi de tempore" (Strassburg 1497) held by the Metropolitan Seminary Library in Warsaw. Thank you to Martyna Osuch for alerting me to the fact. Here's the picture

 Sermones Thesauri novi de tempore. Strassburg, 1497. Metropolitan Seminary Library in Warsaw.


Saturday 24 December 2022

Father Christmas? Santa Claus?

The fat jolly man in red? Or perhaps a skinny one?

There have been suggestions here that we should no longer celebrate Christmas with an "obese, jolly Santa" but rather a skinny Santa.  Indeed there have even been suggestions that we do away with Santa Claus altogether.

I stopped believing in "Father Christmas" or "Santa" when I was three. That was the year I had one of those presents that last a lifetime in the memories of childhood. I wanted what I called a "train toy set". I was in love with trains. (I still like trains.) 

As young children do, I had informed my parents of my wishes. Did I want anything else? No, not really. I had also confided my hope in Grandpa, my paternal grandfather.  I had told him as we had waited for the train to take me and Grandma into the city. He was going to pick us up later in the day and I was pretending he was going to drive the train to do it.

So Grandpa knew I wanted a train set. My parents knew I wanted a train set. It is quite possible that everyone I knew also knew.

Some little time later there was another trip into the city. This time it was with Mum and "Nana" - her mother. Nana liked things like the Magic Cave which housed Santa Claus and the elves. She liked to get our photographs taken. "You can tell him what you want for Christmas and he might bring it if you are very good, "she told me. 

I don't think I said anything to Nana. I also know that I did not say a word to "Santa" apart from being polite. I didn't like him in the least but a stern warning from my mother not to upset her mother was enough to make me behave. I was quite determined however that I would not tell him anything. 

And on Christmas morning I was given the longed for train set, the little Hornby clockwork train set with the green engine and the rails which could be set up in two ways. I sat under the big dining room table at my paternal grandparents' home and I read the instructions to my father (thus proving to my family that I could actually read far more than just the few words they thought I could recognise). We set the rails up and Grandpa showed me how to wind the mechanism.We set the train running around the track. It stopped in the little place where I lived and we all got on and arrived in time for Christmas lunch. I played with it for a very long time - until my mother gave it away some years later.

But I can remember Nana and Papa coming later that afternoon. "Oh, lucky girl. Is that what you asked Santa to bring you?"

"No, I told Grandpa."  And I knew quite definitely at that moment that Santa was just an idea. I hadn't told that person at the Magic Cave anything at all. He had no way of knowing. Grandpa knew.

Friday 23 December 2022

The "Gender Recognition Reform Bill"

that just passed the Scottish Parliament leaves me feeling bewildered, confused, worried, a little anxious...and much more. The whole "gender transition", "gender fluidity", "transitioning" debate does.

I know there are a lot of people out there who disagree with me but I still believe there are only two sexes - male and female (or female and male if you prefer).  As someone said, "Show me the third gamete". 

There may be a very few instances where there is some uncertainty but these are so far and few between that they are likely in medical journals of some sort. Most of us will never come across anything like that.

The rest of us were born either male or female at birth and all the sex change procedures available are not going to change that. People may look superficially like the other sex but they will not be the other sex. They may "identify" that way but they will not "be". 

I am tired to death of being told which "pronouns" I must use and of how I must "acknowledge the rights" of self-entitled people who believe they are somehow more important than the rest of us. Yes, that is the way they are behaving. They are demanding medical services to "change" when there are others with life threatening issues who cannot get help. They are demanding the right to enter spaces I would not have the right to enter. 

Those who voted for this legislation and all similar legislation elsewhere voted against safe spaces and safe places for women and children.  Do we want men who "identify" as women in shelters for victims of domestic violence? 

One of the things the Senior Cat did in his "retirement" was the minor maintenance work at the main women's shelter in this city. He would go in and change light bulbs, fix locks, mend furniture, build shelves and more. Back then the shelter was run largely by nuns with only a few lay people. The Senior Cat was the only male there on a regular basis. 

As he had known it would it took a little while for word to get around. Here was a male the women could trust. As they came and went his reputation was passed on to incomers. He had very little contact with the residents but after the first alarmed, "Sister .... there's a man in here!" there was never a problem. He was there to help when a man had broken a lock or tried to break a door down - as they often did as the location was no secret.  Unlike so many other men in their lives the  Senior Cat helped to make them feel secure. 

There may have been one or two other men in their lives about whom they felt the same but a man who had "transitioned" and wanted to "shelter" there? I think not. They would, rightly, have been upset to have someone like that on the premises. 

No doubt the women who are unfortunate enough to have to seek shelter there now feel the same way. It is not something we should ask of them. Nor should we require women's prisons to house men who have transitioned or identify as women. It is an explosive added to an already volatile situation. Women should also be able to use a public toilet without fear too. The sort of legislation just passed will allow predators to use those facilities - and yes, there will be some who "use" them as often as possible because it gives them a kick just to be there.

I think this is where the difference lies. If you want to say, "I identify more closely with the other sex" that is absolutely fine by me. I can and will respect you for saying that. I will go so far as to say it is your right to do that. In my view however it is not however your right to say, "I am not the sex I was born and I want you to treat me as "A" rather than "Z" or "Z" rather than "A". In short I don't believe you have the right to special privileges because of something you think rather than something you are. 

And yes, I know there are some of you who are going to disagree with me.   


Thursday 22 December 2022

Doctors' waiting rooms

are not usually quiet places. This is especially the case with the clinic we attend. There are too many doctors there for the waiting room to be anything but full most of the time. There is a television set perched high above the chairs with the sound turned down but not off. The phones ring, people are getting called in to see their doctor or the nurse or the podiatrist or the psychologist.

But yesterday I had a routine appointment for 8:40am. With the utmost faith in my GP's ability to be late I knew I would not see her until at least 9.00am - a prediction which ran true. 

And this was despite the fact that the waiting room was quiet. There was hardly anyone around.  There were the usual staff at the reception desk but there cannot have been too many doctors on duty because there were five people in a waiting room which normally sits about forty. There was mother with a young baby in a pram. There was an elderly man waiting to see the nurse. A girl in her late teens or early twenties was fidgeting nervously with her phone. An older woman was standing there looking up at the television screen. She shook her head at it as I came across the room to sit outside my GP's door.

"What absolute rubbish. I'd rather watch Play School - and you know what that's like these days," she told me.

I smiled behind my face mask. I don't usually talk to strangers in the waiting room - unless I am offering to give someone the chair I am sitting on or they obviously need help.

But this person started to talk...and talk. She reminded me of someone but I could not think of who it might be. 

"And you rode here?" she asked nodding at the compulsory helmet.

I nodded.

"What's it like in the traffic?"

I told her I ride a tricycle and I mostly use the footpaths.

"Got far to come?"

I named the suburb. There was silence for a moment and then she said delightedly,

"You were Mum's friend, P....!"

Yes, P...  I wrote about her on this blog back in October. Now I could see why this woman reminded me of someone and who that someone was. D.... is a much gentler version of her mother and we reminisced before our mutual GP called her in,

"She argued with Mum," D... said to C... as she stood up.

"No C... I said, her mother argued with me."

We all laughed. 

D... was out a few minutes later. It was just a quick request but I heard C... say, "Send Cat in on your way out will you?"

I went in. C... was sitting there shaking - with laughter,

"Oh Cat... I didn't realise. If she had ever mentioned the word tricycle I would have known. P... talked about you a lot."

"I hate to think about that," I told her with a definite feeling of alarm.

"Oh no, she loved your company.  You were "that girl on the bike who makes time for me and has the nerve to answer back". I think you should regard that as a compliment."

Perhaps it is. I passed C... the order of service for another funeral she had not been able to attend but in which she was mentioned. We talked briefly about P... and the other C... whose funeral it had been. I handed over a tiny Christmas present I had made for her. She checked my blood pressure - fine. She wrote out the prescription I needed and arranged for the blood test I knew I needed.

As I left we wished each other the usual seasonal greetings but then she added, "And Cat...please keep listening to them. It helps."

I hope it does. There are times when I want to get on with what I am doing but stopping to listen to an older person for a few minutes might make life easier for my GP too. Perhaps it might even help her from running so chronically late.

The waiting room was empty apart from one person waiting to see the nurse. I prowled off. Quiet waiting rooms are good but I am glad I met D....

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Who sent the macarons?

Please someone tell me! Who sent the macarons?

Middle Cat and I were out on Saturday afternoon - a trip to the hardware and garden centre. (We needed pots to into which we could put Christmas plants. )

I came home and there, sitting quietly on the blue plastic box at the front door, was a parcel labelled "fragile". It felt cold, as if it had been refrigerated. I looked thinking it was for one of the neighbours but there it was with my name on it. 

I opened it because I was not expecting a parcel from anyone. It was actually quite difficult to fight my way into it. They were obviously serious about "fragile".

And there, inside the bigger box, was a smaller box. Inside the smaller box there were twelve beautifully made macarons...and that was all. I like macarons, Middle Cat and her husband like them too. I was going to treat these with respect.

But, there is a problem. I have absolutely no idea who sent them. I asked Brother Cat, my three nephews and my cousin. They are all as bewildered as I am.  I have no idea who, outside the family, would send me such an expensive (because, believe me, they are expensive) present.  As a family we don't have that sort of money - and wouldn't spend it on something like that even if we did have it I suspect. Our tastes are much more frugal. The Senior Cat liked plain Lindt chocolate - in small quantities. My mother was even plainer - plain milk Cadbury was just fine with her.

I have sent a message to the people who make the macarons but there has been no response. In all likelihood they have no way of finding out either but I have tried.

So who has sent the macarons? I need to know. I need to be able to say "thank you" properly. It is most embarrassing.

If you are reading this please identify yourselves so I can give you a proper purr and paw pat!


Tuesday 20 December 2022

Aboriginal languages are not simple

but they are different.

One of the regular readers of this blog left me an email yesterday and asked what I know about them. The answer has to be "not a lot". 

I have only worked on one communication board in Pitjantjatjara, one of the languages spoken in this state. It is considered "vulnerable" even though it is taught at university level.  

Look at any list of aboriginal languages in Downunder and you will see words like not just "vulnerable" but "endangered", "severely endangerd" and "critically endangered".  You will also see "dormant", "moribund" and "extinct". 

Realistically most aboriginal languages will not survive. Even if massive amounts of money and time were spent on them they would not survive.  In order to survive as a living, every day language then that language has at very least to be (a) used every day, (b) be fit for purpose in the modern world and (c) able to be preserved in some permanent form.

Aboriginal languages were obviously used every day. They reflected the world in which they were used. Their vocabulary reflected the needs of that world. They had a rich vocabulary relating to the natural world and the relationship those using it had with that world. Those languages were used to communicate in the "here and now", the present. There were stories told to try and explain natural phenomena but the idea of "time" is not linear. It might be circular or not even exist beyond the immediate day. Ideas about counting differ too. There might be just two words to express numbers - a word for "one" and another for "more than one". This is not "primitive". It is simply that there was no need for anything more than that. In the modern world there is also a need for vocabulary that simply does not exist at all in a dying aboriginal language. Even apparently universal concepts like counting and colour, body parts and transport, cannot be expressed without importing words.

Written language was unknown. Without written language there is no means of preserving the past. Yes, you can pass stories down by word of mouth but they will change and evolve over the years and almost all of it will be lost. 

There are those who are now trying to "preserve" aboriginal languages, to teach children in remote communities "in their own language". It is understandable. Losing a language means losing a way of thinking, a way of relating to the world. We all lose when that happens.

But it will happen. It is unrealistic to believe that attempts to "save" some of these languages will work. All languages have to change and develop or die.

My ancestors spoke Gaelic. My paternal great-grandparents however were bilingual and, for their time, well educated. My grandfather knew no more than a few words of Gaelic. His children knew almost none. I have a few words. I live in a country where it is not spoken at all but I know it has a rich literary heritage and that some of that has been preserved in writing over hundreds of years. In Scotland there is some chance it will survive - and it should because we can learn much from it.

We could perhaps have done the same here if the languages had been there in any written form. They were not and the attempts to "save" them, while well meaning, have failed to take into account the need for a written form that has come from within rather than an attempt to externally impose it. 

But aboriginal languages were not "primitive". They were simply fit for purpose and they survived for thousands of years.

Monday 19 December 2022

The "Welcome to country"

ceremony has now been joined by a "farewell to country" for departing visitors and a "welcome to the world" for newborns as well as words of "acknowledgment".

All this is very new. It is not the thousands of years old tradition that people are often led to believe.  While there were ceremonies between tribes where visitors were acknowledged and welcomed they were not the sort of "welcome to country" ceremonies which are now part of so many events.

The first recorded "welcome to country" ceremony seems to have come about in 1973. It was held at the Aquarius Festival in Nimbin after an aboriginal activist challenged the organisers to recognise the local aboriginal people.  The initiative was a highly political one organised by the national student union and it received money from the federal government. 

Three years later two indigenous entertainers developed another ceremony in order to welcome a group of Maori entertainers. There was nothing "traditional" about this at all.. They were simply trying to make their Maori guests feel welcome and comfortable.

Now we have a situation where a "welcome to country" ceremony is held at most major events. It is often reported as being "traditional" and as having some sort of special or even sacred significance. What you want to believe about it all is up to you.

A "farewell to country" is now apparently also something we need to consider. One such ceremony is reported to have taken place at the passing out ceremony in a major army training centre. Why it took place I am not sure. I suspect it is more political than traditional. 

And the "welcome to the world" ceremony is apparently just a few years old. It dates back to just 2018 and it seems to occur in only rare instances. It is not traditional but yesterday I was vehemently told otherwise by someone who identifies as aboriginal.

When I attended R...'s funeral I was surrounded by people who were very definitely aboriginal. They did not hold any sort of traditional ceremony. It was a straightforward Christian service. The most "traditional" thing was a little spoken in the language used by some of those who had travelled from a very remote community to get there.  If a welcome to country was so traditional would not it have preceded the service? Surely it would have because it was being held on the land of a different tribal group and members of it were present. 

I think this is what bothers me more than anything. We are being told that we must allow these ceremonies and respect them  because they are traditional and they are of special significance to the original inhabitants. If that were really the case and if the people conducting them really are aboriginal then I am more than willing to respect their beliefs and traditions.  If on the other hand they are relatively modern inventions designed for purposes other than the stated ones then I feel uncomfortable. I know aboriginal people who also feel uncomfortable. The past may have a part in the future but modern politics should not be able to influence a past that may not even have existed.

Sunday 18 December 2022

"Who were the first people here?"

This came up as a question on my Twitter time line yesterday.  It referred to a question which has been asked more than once. Are aboriginals the original inhabitants of Downunder and should they be referred to as "First Nations" people?

The answer to the first question would seem to be "there is no definitive answer but more likely than not they are". Most scientists seem to agree they are the original inhabitants and came from what we would now call "Indonesia". There is also some agreement they may have come in several waves. 

Somewhere down the scientific track we may know more but this is the best answer we have to date. 

What about the Tasmanian aboriginals, you ask? Well, this may be one reason why there is still some debate. We need to accept and acknowledge there are no set answers, just that some things are more likely than others.

But do we call these people "First Nations"? No, we should not be. It is not appropriate. "First Nations" is a Canadian term and there the background is quite different. I know far less about it than I should but Canadians who do know have told me the two cannot be compared.

What we have in this country is something entirely different. When white settlers came here there were no "nations". Instead there were around two hundred and fifty to three hundred tribes. Within those were "clans", sometimes as many as seven or eight. There were around the same number of languages and around eight hundred or more dialects.

In other words there were many small groups. They were often unable to communicate easily - if at all - with other groups. Their beliefs and rituals varied widely. Tribal warfare was common, even within small areas.  Some "Mobs", as tribal groups are commonly referred to, still refuse to have anything to do with other Mobs. There is no common culture. 

We should not be talking about "preserving aboriginal culture and language" as if it is just one culture and one language. It is many cultures and many languages. At best only a part, often a small part, will be retained.

We are not "teaching the children in their native language" either. We are trying to teach them in a new language, a language heavily influenced by the ideas of the last century and this one. There were no words for "computer", for "car", for "plane" or "pizza". Even ideas about something apparently as simple as counting need to be introduced from outside. (Some indigenous languages only have words for the idea of "one" or "more than one".) The idea of a "rainbow serpent" does not appear in all tribal groups. Initiation rites vary widely.  The "dot paintings" are not "traditional" at all. They only came into being about fifty years ago - and were the result of the influence of a white art teacher. 

Yes of course we can talk about the "first people" who were here but we need to recognise that "people" is a plural. There were many of them and the differences between them are enormous.  Only when we begin to genuinely recognise that might we begin to make some progress. 

Saturday 17 December 2022

Yes, we have an energy crisis

and we have it right now. 

I am sorry if you think you are going to get through summer here in Downunder without the power failing at all. It will fail. 

When it does you are still going to be in a better position than people in the northern hemisphere. It is winter for them and there will be people who will die of cold. This will especially be the case in a country like Ukraine.  They really do have an energy crisis on their hands. 

In other parts of Europe the situation is also going to be serious. People will layer up as far as they can. They will try to use as little electricity and gas as possible but they are going to need some. Power is part of almost everything we do and depend on in the modern world. 

The present government of Downunder managed to win power, among other things, by claiming that they would reduce the cost of power. They claimed they were going to have green and clean energy, that we would reach our "emissions target" and much more.  Our particular system of voting (compulsory with compulsory preferences) allowed them to get in on 32% of the primary vote. Since then, with the help of "the Greens", they have claimed a mandate for a number of very disturbing changes. Some of them, such as greatly increased powers for the union movement, were to be expected. Power over power sources however is something the Greeens have demanded in return for their support. 

So we have a situation where a country which has an abundant supply of natural gas and indeed who exports a great deal of it is, according to Greens philosophy, going to have to stop using it altogether. They keep telling us we can rely on "renewables" like wind and solar. They want to close down the gas industry completely. In order to obtain their support for an "election promise" to "reduce power bills" the government has caved in. They have also put a "cap" on prices.

What will happen now? We have already been informed that, even with this measure, power prices are going to rise steeply. Inflation will rise with it. The standard of living is going to drop and it may drop dramatically within a few short years. The Greens say we will have an endless supply of renewable energy. The doomsayers are predicting an energy short fall of massive proportions. 

The government is blaming the war in Ukraine for the current high energy prices. I doubt that is the case. It is perhaps one contributing factor but it far from being the only problem. The problem is being compounded here by the failure to use the resources we have, to do the research, to build the power plants and much more. We have "green blinkers" on. People really do believe that "renewable" energy is the answer to everything right now. 

It isn't the answer to everything right now. We have a long way to go. I still believe there are answers out there but they might not be popular with those who have invested so much in "renewable" sources. Our "energy crisis" is as much about who will benefit financially as it is about what is best for the planet. It is also about the other sort of power and how much it can be used to control others. That worries me.


Friday 16 December 2022

Using the "off" button

is apparently very difficult. I do not find this to be so myself but I understand that it is a real problem for some people.

There are those who are apparently unable to perform the simple act of a single press with a single finger. There is nothing else wrong with these people. Most of them would appear to be younger, fitter and healthier than I am. They can still use multiple fingers to text messages to tell others to do something but they cannot perform the "single finger, single press" movement.

And there is a second group who are apparently unable to even find the button. They cannot even recognise it on the oblong object in their hands. They seem to be uncertain what the purpose of that object is and as for any button on it... Still they clutch the object as if they in some way believe it is a matter of life or death. Without it they feel lost.

And there is the third group, those who are unable to even find the oblong object or recognise it if it is found for them. They cannot recognise the button or use it. They look at it in complete bewilderment. What  is it? Who bought it? Why would you want something like that?

There has been a lot of this around lately. I have avoided all this. I have not been forced to watch hour upon hour of "soccer". As for Netflix...Netflix? It is a disease I wish to avoid at present, especially with all that ridiculous nonsense about the life and trials of....well you know what I am talking about I am sure.It's been hard to avoid even with the best of  efforts. 

I am not sure whether any of this has given me any more time. I am rapidly using up my small reserves of patience with some people too. Still, I have managed  to avoid the worst of it. I suppose that's something for which to be grateful...that and Lev Parikian's other "world cup" - the one of "random words". Will "discombobulate" make it...or "bollocks"...or something else?  Now that's worth staying takes just a moment and then my paw can push that button. I am free to go and do other things.

I am so glad I know about off buttons, that I can recognise them and use them.  

Thursday 15 December 2022

Adult, human, female?

As any regular reader of this blog or my other "social" social media posts will know I sometimes refer to my childhood as my "kittenhood". I will also refer to "prowling" and other cat-like things. All that is just a bit of fun. Nobody has ever complained about it.

But of course I am an adult in the eyes of the law. I am a human in the eyes of the law. I am also a female and I want to remain that way in the eyes of the law.

I believe there are just two sexes - male and female. I do not believe you can "transition" or "change sex".  I do not believe there is any form of medical treatment that can cause a male to become fully a female or a female to become fully a male. A female cannot have a penis. A male cannot have a baby.

Yes, you can make certain alterations using drugs and surgery but it will not make you anything other than the sex you were born. Every cell in your body will still be male or female.

Now that does not stop you "identifying" as a member of the opposite sex if that is what you wish to do.I have absolutely no problem at all with a male who wishes to dress as a female. Equally I have no problems at all with females who wish to dress as males. That is entirely up to them. If they feel more comfortable that way then I will support their choice.

What I cannot support is what I will call "intrusion" on the opposite sex, those times when those identifying with the opposite sex also demand to use their facilities. That's intruding on a space I should be able to feel comfortable in. It is intruding on a space I should feel safe in.  

I don't believe their rights are somehow greater than mine or those of around half of all humans because they have made a decision to identify differently to the majority. Their choices do not give them the right to deny others their legal rights.   

I know I am sticking my neck out here. There will probably be some furious comments - if not on the blog then elsewhere. Let me tell you now that my only first cousin is in a same sex relationship. He is married to the man. They have been together for thirty-eight years. I think his partner is a wonderful man and they are very happy together. They are very supportive of each other and of us - as we are of them. I know other people in same sex relationships and I have no problems with that. They are good friends and I know I can rely on them, as I hope they can on me.

I also know two people who quietly identify as "more the other way inclined" - their own words. They don't make a thing of it at all. They just get on with their lives. Neither of them dress differently. They have not been through any sort of medical treatment. They both have jobs which are more traditionally considered to be roles for the other sex. They have hobbies which are generally identified with the other sex too. I know other people who simply think they are "a bit different" and they are happy with that. We have talked about it on occasion. I know it is difficult for them at times but they don't expect special treatment. Neither of them would deny others the rights to see a film called "Adult human female" or expect to use a facility for the opposite sex.  That is not how they see "equality".

How you want to identify is up to you but it does not give you greater rights and, at times, it may not give you what you believe to be "equal rights". You already have those because you are "human".


Wednesday 14 December 2022

"An undiclosed amount in compensation"?

Apparently our Commonwealth government has agreed to an "undisclosed amount in compensation" to an alleged rape victim. 

I know many people will feel she should get this, perhaps even more. There has been an extraordinary degree of sympathy for her. There has been an assumption of her alleged assailant's guilt from the start. 

Even though she was drunk, delayed reporting it until after she was offered a substantial "book deal", wiped messages from her phone, and lied to police there has still been an outpouring of sympathy for her. Many people will now say,. "Good, at least she has got some financial compensation." 

Perhaps she deserves it. I don't know. I don't know whether she was raped or not. Nobody apart from her and the alleged rapist can ever know that.

But there are some curious things about this case. One is that, even before there was any decision by a jury, negotiations for compensation had begun. That seems a little odd to me. How could there be any compensation if the defendant was found "not guilty"? Given the delay in the jury room it is quite possible that might have been the outcome.

If there were negotiations for compensation then why was the trial allowed to proceed at all? Trials of this nature are incredibly expensive. A QC, now KC, can cost anything from $1000 an hour upwards - and that is just one expense.

It also seems a little odd to me that a juror went into the jury room with a research article (allegedly about lying in rape cases). Jurors cannot take papers apart from those they are provided with into the jury room and there are court staff to ensure that does not happen. Even if someone did manage to get anything in then was nobody else on the jury aware of it?  Why did it take one of the court staff to find it and report it? The idea that it was there, if not in full view, in a readily accessible position also seems a little odd. 

Of course we have not yet heard an end to all this. The defendant is also seeking compensation. We are told that he has been close to suicide as well.  He has lost his job, his reputation, any chance of anything other than the most menial of employment. There are other claims being made against him-  although it must be acknowledged that none of these have been proven and only surfaced after the trial was aborted.  Perhaps he is innocent. Perhaps he is guilty. I don't know.

What I do know is that awarding compensation in these circumstances is, to say the very least, unusual. Perhaps the alleged victim deserves it. I don't know. What I do know is that it sets  a poor precedent and it would have been wiser to have the matter settled in a court of law rather than by interference and public opinion.


Tuesday 13 December 2022

Cancelling out the past

is now happening at the highest levels.

The High Commission in London has apparently removed all the portraits of the High Commissioners from the walls. They say it is to "digitise" them - and then put them into storage. The pictures of these people will apparently then apparently be available "on line".

What absolute and utter woke garbage!  Let's be honest about this. They are being removed because they are all of "privileged white males", the men who have been our High Commissioners, the men who have represented Downunder as a nation in London. This has allegedly been privately admitted by sources who work there.

This really is getting ridiculous. Yes, perhaps it is wrong that we have not yet had an indigenous High Commissioner or a female High Commissioner or perhaps even an indigenous female High Commissioner. Maybe we should have had someone who does not identify with either sex. That should not stop us acknowledging those who have held the position in the past.

Personally I don't care who represents us as long as they can do the job. I know one former High Commissioner. I don't know him well but I know him well enough to feel comfortable in his presence. He's a good man. For all people might think it is not a constant but enjoyable round of receptions, dinners and parties. You have to listen to all those speeches. There are endless meetings, endless negotiations and much more to endure. You need contacts and a willingness to make contacts - with everyone. It is not an easy job. Some have done a better job than others but none of them has been a disgrace. They have earned their place in history. 

What is more we deserve to know that they have their place on the walls, that they are acknowledged. Removing them and, for all the so-called "digitisation", ignoring them is not helping anyone - least of all us.

We can't cancel history. We shouldn't even try to cancel history.  I don't want "indigenous" art work on the walls instead. It isn't appropriate. It is not as "traditional" as many people believe however beautiful and skilled it might be. What is more there are some very skilled indigenous artists who do not want their work displayed that way. It is not the purpose of their work.  It is as insulting to them as it to the High Commissioners they have replaced. 

Is this an attempt to cut all ties with the country which brought this country into being?

Monday 12 December 2022

Passing music from one generation to the next

apparently does not work very well if going from child to parent.

There is a piece of research mentioned in yesterday's paper which I found rather interesting. I have yet to lay my paws on the actual paper but the article makes an interesting claim. You may like the music of your own generation but that does not mean you will like the music of the generation after you. It also seems that you may like music which was written before you were born.

The research looked at a 1000 people and asked them to rate 30 second snippets of "Top 10" songs from over seven decades. When they collated the results the researchers found that the music you were listening to between the ages of seventeen and twenty was the music which remained with you the most.  After you reach around age thirty-five you will like the new material less and less. Curiously the same apparently does not hold true for music written before you were born.

I suspect a lot more research needs to be done before there is any understanding of what is going on here. The results would not apply to my family. Let me explain. My mother and the Senior Cat did not care for the music they would have heard when they were between seventeen and twenty. 

My mother was considered to be the "musical" parent. She never had piano lessons. Her parents could not afford such things. She could however read music, sing in tune and play a descant recorder. Her musical taste ran to hymns and choral music - although she complained there was a lot of "dead wood" in Handel's Messiah. She taught her classes the traditional school songs and some German folk songs given to her by Germans she knew. She also taught the Downunder Christmas carols. Occasionally a popular song would appear at her school and she would perhaps recognise something sung by Nana Mouskouri.

The Senior Cat had wider interests - Bach, Beethoven, Gilbert and Sullivan, some music hall songs of the previous century and WWI. He could read the treble line and did his best to teach us in school but could not sing in tune even though he produced more than one G&S opera. He knew things like My Fair Lady very well indeed.

Neither of them cared for grand opera. The radio was only turned on for the Senior Cat to listen to the news or for us children to listen to the Argonauts. (The Argonauts was an excellent program. My brother and I contributed to it frequently and had the thrill of hearing our contributions read on air.)

It meant we children did not hear the music of our generation in the way other children did. We did not grow up listening to the Supremes, the Everly Brothers, the Dave Clark Five, the Beach Boys or Herman's Hermits. I had not even heard of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones until I was half way through high school. (We lived in a dairy farming area and cows prefer the music of the Baroque era. No, I am not trying to be funny. The farmers played this to the cows in the milking sheds.)

We went to music lessons. I know a little musical theory thanks to the nun who taught my siblings to play the piano. Brother Cat has learned to like some jazz. He can play several instruments moderately well - well enough to join others in casual sessions and for them all to enjoy it. 

Middle Cat can play the flute as well as piano but is seriously out of practice as her cats complain if she tries. She saw to it that her two boys were taught and they did very well, almost winning a major national competition. They produced some songs and managed to earn a bit of money along the way but had other more stable interests. Their music is definitely of their generation but a good many older people seem to like it.

The Black Cat, probably the most musical of us all, gave it up her piano playing completely. She now claims not to be able to "even read music".

I am nuch more likely to recognise composers like Beethoven, Bach, Telemann, Mozart or Vivaldi. At university the music students would sometimes ask me if I could guess who the composer of a "classical" piece was likely to be.

Eventually I caught up with some of the more "folk" oriented music of groups like Peter, Paul and Mary and the Seekers. I found that easier to understand. Perhaps it was that which sent me to other folk music, music from Africa and South America as well as Europe.

Interestingly the Whirlwind did not care for contemporary music either. Her father is more a 50's and 60's man - the generation before him. She liked the Beatles and would laugh at me when I said it was "too messy" for me.

 But I prefer to work in silence. Music is a distraction and often emotionally stressful for me. I don't care at all for the  very modern "music". To me it is just a noise. I was amused to learn my great-nephew was voted in as captain of his primary school after turning his speech into a "rap" performance but I don't find it "music" to my ears.

I would really like to know more about the generational gap in music. Did people feel that way about Mozart?

Saturday 10 December 2022

The importance of colour

in our lives has been under discussion in a blog post by a knitwear designer, Kate Davies. 

Here's the link if you want to read that post <>

It was  an interesting read for me because colour is seen differently where I live. I also had to live differently with colour during my kittenhood. 

Colour here can be harsh. This is not true of the entire continent but it is true of where I have lived and where I live now. Even in the suburbs of the state's capital colour can be hard and unforgiving. That may not seem quite right to many people because the jacaranda trees are flowering. They do have a wonderful "purpleness"and "blueness"about them for a short while but look at the dusty grey-brown of their trunks and branches, look at the dull green.

The memorial park in which the library is located has a wonderful "silky oak" tree but the browns are the dusty browns and the greens are on the green-yellow side. They are not the soft warm browns or the lively greens of the English landscape. A clear sky on a hot summer day is what I think of as a "hot" blue. There are people who love it, others who find it strangely lacking in something. 

And if I look out at the hills a little distance away the colours in the landscape are warm browns, warm greens, the yellows, the oranges and creams from the old stone quarry. I have tried to find blues there but they do not really exist among the hundreds of "warm" colours.

The colours around us affect the way we dress too. There are times when the chosen fashion colour for the year will jar in this landscape or. alternatively, work here and jar somewhere else. I remember my mother having a soft mid rose-pink skirt. She took it with her to Europe one summer because it was easy to care for - and barely wore it because, she told me, "I felt like a peacock. It was too bright there."

As a kitten my maternal grandmother insisted, "Little girls where pink." As a result I do not have a single pink thing in my wardrobe. It is not a colour I feel comfortable in. Part of that is because of my relationship with her - not a happy one - but part of it is because it is a colour which simply does not suit me. My mother made all of us a succession of bright red pullovers "because it is easier to find you that way". We wore them exploring the bush around our various homes and on the beach.  We still associate red with the garments she made and I knitted more red garments for my niece and nephews for the same reason. Thankfully none of them seemed to mind. Indeed those who have children asked for the same to be made for their children.

We went through a series of school uniforms, green, maroon, grey, navy, brown. Naturally none of them had the depth of fashion colours. 

And, one year, our mother was excited when the man from the Public Buildings Department told her the school house kitchen was due to be repainted. She could choose the colour. Choose? Yes, between "government green" or "government grey". Those of you who did head over to read Kate's blog will know exactly what I mean. We were moving on so our mother phoned the next family moving in and asked the woman what she would like. They both agreed they were tired of the green and went with the grey. The cupboards would be the usual cream. In an act of defiance the incoming head of the school painted the door knobs red. Later he told the Senior Cat that nobody had said anything. No, why should they? We need colour in our lives.

I love colour. I love putting it together. I love playing with it and seeing how it changes when put against another one or more colours. I am often frustrated at the limited range of colours available. I often wonder who does the colour work at the major Downunder yarn supplier. I'd love to get my paws on their work and do something about it. 

And the other day S... invited me around to her home along with some of her other friends and we all dyed skeins of yarn. I was going to do blue and then changed and did a purple. The skein has, as I hoped, come out purple and white. I know it will be just perfect for my friend I...  Like me she loves colour.  

He was never charged with a crime

but there seem to be a lot of people who believe that Prince Andrew is guilty of one of the most heinous of crimes.

Let it be said here that I do not think I would like Prince Andrew if I met him. He doesn't appeal to me at all. I most definitely do not like his choice of friends - if Epstein was ever really anyone's friend. I don't like the look of the company the Prince was keeping - and yes, that apparently included at least one former President of the United States and some other rather powerful people.

But was he actually guilty of the crime of sleeping with an under 18yr old? Is that photograph of him with his arm around her waist real or doctored? 

We may never know for certain but, in all fairness, I have to point out that the allegations are very unlikely. We are talking about a Prince of the Firm, a Prince of the Royal Family. Most people are unaware of the fact that he would have had a security detail with him at all times. They would have been present at those "parties". The Prince would have been under observation at all times. That he could somehow slip away and sleep with an underage girl is, perhaps, remotely possible but it is highly improbable.

What is more it did not become a matter of public interest for some years. If wrongdoing had occurred it would have been leaked to the press at the time. It was much too juicy a story for them to sit on it. Yes, it might have been hedged around with "X was allegedly seen..." but they would have taken legal advice and published something. Instead it came up after Epstein was arrested and questions were raised about "compensation".

We can ask too what was a "child" of that age doing at a "party" like that without her parents? Why was she there? Don't tell me her parents did not know where she was. They did and they apparently had no concerns about it. Would this girl really have kept the information to herself for some years? Again, it is so unlikely that questions need to be asked. 

 There is also something else which needs to be considered. Who else was sued but not charged with any offence? To the best of my knowledge there is nobody else. There were very wealthy people at those parties, household names. Were they all completely innocent of any wrong doing? Did they lack all knowledge of what was going on around them? Why haven't they been called to account? We can be certain any large payments from them could not be hidden. Someone, somewhere would have said something.

Perhaps we could ask whether action was taken at a time when those involved believed it was most likely to succeed. Was it taken in the belief that the Prince would simply hand over the sum demanded in order not to detract from the celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations? We will likely never know.

What we do know is that the Prince handed over a great deal of money. It was likely done not because of any sexual misconduct with an underage person but because he made some serious errors of misjudgment and refused to listen to the advice he was undoubtedly given.

We now have the first born child of the late Queen as King. We might laugh at him "talking to plants" and for his other quirks but he is very committed to some causes we should all care about, most notably the environment. His sister, Princess Anne,  is a very hard working person who, like her mother, has used her position for the benefit of others wherever possible.  Prince Edward is perhaps quieter but he and his partner have been steady and hardworking too. Their work with young people does not receive the attention it likely deserves. They all endure criticism and ridicule. Yes, the monarchy is perhaps an anachronism but it does serve a purpose as well.

I suspect Prince Andrew is the least intelligent of the Queen's children and the one who is least suited to royal life. He undoubtedly needs more to do but it won't be in public life. Perhaps he could take over an island somewhere and farm sheep?


Friday 9 December 2022

Learning to swim

was a rite of passage in my kittenhood. 

My earliest memory of "swimming" is of being carried into the water at the beach near my paternal grandparents home. It was just a few minutes walk away and we spent a lot of time on the beach in the summer. A lot of that time was spent in the water.  The adults in our lives knew the importance of water safety and education.

Grandpa swam all year round at the time. He "exercised" by going for an early morning swim, summer and winter, rain or shine. It could be blowing a gale or frosty but Grandpa went into the water. He walked there and back from his home before breakfast - and was still at work in his tailoring business by eight in the morning. He went on doing it for as long as he could, finally "retiring" at the age of eighty-six. Only failing eyesight caused him to stop. 

In the last two years of his life he lived in a hospital which had a few beds for very elderly people. It was on the sea front. He still went swimming from late spring to early autumn. His eyesight was failing to the point where he could not see the traffic to cross the road so one of the staff would see him across the road.  There was always someone local to see him across the road when he had been in the water. And yes, he still swam strongly. Nobody was concerned he would not make it out of the water safely.

When I was very young Grandpa wore a black wool bathing suit with a white webbing belt. It was old-fashioned even then. Grandma had darned it in places. I can remember the feel of it against my cheek as he carried me. My own bathing suit was of red wool at the time. I can remember it felt scratchy and heavy when it was wet. Later I had a cotton one with a great deal of shirring elastic in it to hold it up. I have seen all of them, on different occasions, in our Maritime Museum. Am I really such an old cat now?

Grandpa taught me to "dog paddle" first - by the simple expedient of holding me in the water by the straps of my bathing suit and telling me what to do. It is what all children were first taught to do.

My next memory, which must have been at the end of the same summer was of being "dunked" by the Senior Cat. This time it was in the swimming holes left at the end of summer in the "river" not far from our home in a small country community. It was the beginning of term picnic for the school staff. Like his father the Senior Cat was determined that I would be as safe as I could be in the water. They went on to do the same thing for my brother.

When we returned to the city and lived a very short distance from our paternal grandparents Grandpa would arrive each morning over the summer holidays and take me and my brother down to the water. The swimming lessons were continued.  Grandpa was not a natural teacher like Grandma was but he showed us by example and taught us to respect the sea. He had grown up by it and had rowed boats, sailed them and more from a very young age. His father, a ship's pilot and maritime cartographer, made sure all his eleven children could swim almost as soon as they could walk. There is no room for complacency when you live so close to a busy port one side and sandy beaches on the other.

We kittens all went on to the summer swimming school lessons run by the Education Department. We achieved our "Beginner" certificate almost immediately. All it required was the ability to float and then "swim" twenty-yards through the water. Aware that this would not do much for our water safety Grandpa and the Senior Cat kept teaching and encouraging us. Even I, the clumsiest kitten of them all went on to my Intermediate and then Senior Certificate. I could float, I could do a clumsy "overarm" and "sidestroke" and I could "duck dive".  I doubt I could have saved myself but, more importantly, I knew my limitations and the dangers of risk taking in the water. I knew to avoid the undertow and to stay between the flags. My brother and I spent hours in the water.

It has been a while since I went into the water at the beach. We just haven't done that sort of thing for a while. I think I could still swim at least 100m. It might not be far enough but it might keep me afloat until help came. It is rather like riding a bicycle, a skill that is difficult to unlearn.  

I thought of all this as I listened to a news item saying that so many new arrivals in this country cannot swim. As most Downunderites live around the coast it is an important skill to have if they want to go anywhere near water. A day at the beach can all too easily turn into tragedy.