Friday 30 June 2023

Frog cakes

imageare quite popular here. No, they are not made from frogs. 

I have no idea who thought of the idea but they are little cubes of plain cake topped with fondant. The cube is cut in half horizontally. There is a thin layer of apricot jam spread between the two halves. The cake and fondant is covered with green icing . The icing and the fondant are slit open at an angle with a bit of cream coloured icing inside for a "mouth" and then a couple of spots for eyes. 

That is the traditional "frog" cake from my childhood. You can now get chocolate and pink coloured "frogs" as well. These are not considered quite "right" but they are made. They are quite expensive to buy - understandably as they require construction in a way that other bakery items do not.  

I have not eaten one since childhood and can only remember doing that on very rare occasions. I am not sure I would enjoy one if I was given one to eat now. 

They were once unique to this state...along with "fritz" (a sort of processed sausage put in sandwiches) and "Fruchocs" (chocolate covered pieces of dried apricot - now expanded to include other fruits), and "Kitchener buns" (doughnut like balls slit open and filled with raspberry jam and cream). 

And now the business has been sold on to another business which plans to take the frog cakes to a national level. I am not sure this is going to work. These frogs were something that made us unique. It is something tourists discovered or came to find. Many of them may have been disappointed but their very rarity made them all the more precious. 

I know one child who refused to eat one "because it's a frog" (but then she refused to eat chocolate frogs too). I know an adult whose "guilty pleasure" is a one of these frogs at the end of each week. "It's better than beer." Yes, even I would prefer the frog cake.

They are an oddity we need to preserve, just for the fun of it. We need to preserve them along with the other little pleasures in life. Don't make them too common though - that would spoil them.  

Thursday 29 June 2023

Not permitted to vote?

I was interested to learn that some form of ID is apparently now required if you wish to vote in an election in England. There have also been some serious concerns expressed that this has prevented some people from exercising their right to vote. 

As I really don't know enough about what is happening there to express an opinion I will say no more. I can however say something about the situation in this country.

We do not currently need any form of ID to vote. If our name appears on the electoral roll (and we are required to register) then we must vote. Very few people are exempt from voting, mostly on religious grounds.

When we go to vote we are asked if we have voted in that election before, our names are manually crossed off the roll, and we are given the papers. We must "mark" the papers and put them in the relevant boxes.  

In reality there is nothing to stop people putting in blank ballot papers. There is no actual requirement to vote as such. Officials will however prevent you from taking the ballot papers you receive directly to the relevant boxes because of the requirement to "mark" them. I am well aware of someone I know who claims he always writes "none of the above" and then puts the papers in the boxes. It is almost certainly true. He "doesn't believe" in the voting process.

I have also met someone who was investigated because he was assumed to have voted more than once. When the rolls were checked it was discovered his name had been crossed off in multiple locations. Fortunately for him he had actually had a postal vote and was out of the country on the day of the election. Someone else was trying to make trouble for him. The authorities had a good idea of who it might have been but it was never proven. It did however mean that someone else managed to vote enough times to cancel out his own legitimate vote.

There was also an occasion when, following election day, we woke up to the news that a small group of troublemakers had apparently managed to vote more than hundred times. They must have spent some time planning and researching it because they apparently used the names of people not likely or not able to vote. If they were ever caught we did not hear about it.

Exactly how they did it is something I don't know but I do know it was possible because there is no requirement to present any form of ID when you tell the electoral staff who you are. All you need to do is state your name and address and that you have not already voted in that election. 

There are also many, many breaches of trust where people require assistance to fill out the ballot papers. It is an issue which I once researched and presented to a Senate Inquiry. They questioned me at length. Despite the findings and the acknowledgment there was an issue nothing has changed. It is probably considered "too hard" and "not likely to make a difference". I continue to disagree. 

It is a matter of "trust" I suppose and our Electoral Commission seems to be satisfied that it works, that very few people abuse that trust. It may well be true. I don't know. They may also suggest that the amount of fraud is so small it makes no difference to the outcome. I am less sure about that. Elections can be manipulated. Our "preferential" system is wide open to it. The major parties will tell you they don't participate in it but it happens, especially when people unthinkingly follow the "how to vote" (for me) card handed to them just a few metres from the entrance to the polling station.

I have said elsewhere in this blog - and on more than one occasion - I believe there is a right to vote. I also believe it is a responsibility. I do not however believe anyone should be compelled to vote or even to "attend the ballot box". I also strongly object to anyone stealing the vote of another. We have both compulsion and the strong possibility of theft, especially of the less able, in this country.

The vast majority of people do have a form of ID here. The question has to be whether we need to use it to prevent an abuse of trust.  

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Five minute friends?

 There is a short piece in the paper about "five minute friends" which perhaps more people should read. It might not be quite what they think. 

The writer is talking about the rising use of "self-service" and the lack of human interaction. It is something I too have been thinking about recently. 

That concussion from the bang on the head has led to me being at home for the past couple of weeks. I am under strict instructions not to pedal anywhere until the end of this week - and then only to take a short ride up and down the street or around the block. I am not talking to people the way I usually do - or not as many people. 

For me this means simple things like saying no more than "Morning!" to the person pedalling past me in the opposite direction and "How are you?" to an oxygen dependent man who can no longer walk to the end of the street but often sits watching for me. (I did ask his wife to tell him what had happened.) Talking on the phone is an effort for him and, really, we have nothing to say to each other apart from the greeting.  There are several elderly people who live alone and I had to let their neighbours know that I wouldn't be doing any of their usual errands. One neighbour told me, "He's missing you just saying hello." Yowl! I don't like that.

I have not been in and out of the library. Middle Cat has returned and picked up books for me but that is not the same as a quick chat and a question, "Have you read....?" or "What would you suggest for....?" from the staff. 

Our favourite supermarket has not yet gone self-service. Middle Cat and I think it is because so many older people shop there. They can get help. We can talk to the check out staff - indeed I know many of them by name. Thankfully the greengrocer we go to as a matter of choice has no plans for self-service and his staff know many of the customers by name. I have missed that interaction too.

Middle Cat can chat to anyone. There are times when I am reduced to prowling around as I wait for her but those interactions are often as important for them as they are for her. "How do you know her?" or "Where did you meet him?" I will ask and it will be "in a shop" or "at the bank" or "getting something for S....(her partner)" or some other location. 

I am not as able to do that but I will do it in a more limited way. I try to be meticulous about saying "thank you". I have yet to use self-serve in a supermarket - and don't believe "nobody is losing their jobs because we are putting them behind the scenes". 

All this is just the same as losing the interaction and the service of the railway staff I mentioned yesterday. People are losing jobs because of self-service. The world is not as friendly or safe when you are looking at a machine rather than a face. Taking that interaction away is not an improvement.

The only growth industry that might involve human interaction is likely to be the mental health services - or maybe we will be faced with machines that dispense mood pills?

Tuesday 27 June 2023

No staff at the railway station?

A very long time ago, when I was a mere kitten, going anywhere on the train was exciting.  

We would hold an adult's paw and go to the railway station. There, in a little "box" there would be someone, usually a man, selling tickets. Tickets would be bought with actual money. Change would be given. We would wait, usually in a "waiting room".

The train would come. The guard would look out. The "station master" would come out. Parcels might be exchanged. Greetings would be exchanged. Other things we didn't understand would happen but then the guard would blow a whistle and we would be off. At each stop along the line something similar would happen. The conductor would come and clip the tickets. The tickets were proper tickets too, pieces of cardboard. On a really good train day he might even show us how the "clipper" worked. 

Near us the train crossed a road without a level crossing. The guard would lean out of the train ringing a bell as the train went very slowly across the road. It then went down to "the terminus" where it turned around on a great circular platform ready to come back. Sometimes we were allowed to stay on all the way down and come back "just for fun". If I was travelling on my own, at around the age of six or seven I was always allowed to do this. I would then walk home alone, a distance of around two hundred metres.

Going to my grandparents alone was even more exciting. The guard would help me off at the right station on the way back and pass me over to the station master. When the "up" train had gone the station master would leave the ticket office and take me safely across the road and I would then go to my grandparents' house. 

Imagine doing that now? It wouldn't even be possible. The spur line to our home has long since gone. There are no guards on trains any more. The driver has to watch and wait. 

And there are no station masters at suburban stations. All those people who watched out for us, who sold tickets, who gave advice, who helped the elderly and the young and watched the predatory adults and the overactive teenagers have gone. There are no tickets. You have to swipe a card which you refill electronically. 

Oh yes, at weekends and (sometimes) late at night there are "security staff". They see the dozens of (mostly) boys get their bikes onto the train to go up into the hills in order to make the crazy, hair raising, dangerous pedal journey downhill. If there is a massive event on somewhere they might put more staff on to see that nothing untoward happens. 

That is all. Most of the time, outside "peak hours", the trains run at a loss. People don't use them. They are no longer considered "safe" by many people. It is considered "safer and easier" to use a car. 

I don't have a choice and I have had a love affair with trains since early childhood. It was with alarm that I read the once great United Kingdom rail service is also removing ticket offices across the country. This is not the answer. They should be staffing them. Passenger numbers will drop still further, just as they have here. You say, "It doesn't matter. I'll use the car." I say, "It does matter. Some of us cannot drive. We don't own cars. There are also people who should not be permitted to drive, who are no longer able to drive safely. Trains can carry our trikes, bikes, gophers, the prams and much more. They may not go everywhere a bus can go but they are still potentially far faster and far more efficient."

And I think of all those people who were employed to see us safely from one point to another. It just doesn't seem as exciting any more.  

Monday 26 June 2023

Missing out on university

is not necessarily the disaster or disgrace that some people apparently believe. Nor should it prevent people from succeeding or offering advice or information based on experience.

Let me provide a few examples to the person who suggested that another should not even comment because he wasn't a professional in the area. I am not going to suggest that untrained people should be giving medical advice or performing operations or that untrained people should be fully responsible for the design of aircraft, submarines or railway bridges. I am not going to suggest any other foolish options either.

But I once knew a man who left school at the age of twelve. He had no training at all in engineering but he designed and built a fruit picking machine. It worked. He ended up a multi-millionaire as a result of his design. With it he was a very pleasant person. He occasionally sat in our tutorial group waiting for his partner. Most of the time he would read a newspaper but, occasionally, our group tutor would cheekily ask him to comment. What he said was often something which would be not only highly relevant but thoughtful and even amusing. 

Another man I knew left school at the same age. He went to work on a farm and then went to war before returning to the farm. Much later, when his children had finished their formal education, he decided to try for his "matriculation" certificate. He came to the Senior Cat for advice and help and, while it took him several years, he did it. One of the subjects he studied was geography, another was history. 

In studying both these subjects he put some information together along with some personal observations on the land he had farmed for so long. He taught himself surveying techniques and went out to see if he could prove something that had puzzled him for some time. When he had done that he came to me and told me what he had found out. He had written a short piece about it. Did I think anyone would be interested, a newspaper perhaps? I suggested he first send it to someone at the university. In doing so I was not doubting what he had done. I was sure his research was meticulous and yes, it solved a mystery. His short piece, no more than three hundred words, appeared in a highly respected academic journal. 

Later still I told a woman who had only five years of schooling about these men. She had been interested in plants all her life and knew a great deal about them. Now she was telling me about something she had found she was sure had not been recognised before. She had done all the right things when discovering something new but wasn't sure whether she should say anything. Her children and I sent her off to the botany department at the university. They named the plant after her. 

No, they didn't go to university. Yes, they were self educated. They worked much harder than many people realised. I am proud to have known these people. Their failure to go to university didn't make them "stupid". Their work was just as "professional", perhaps more so, than some people who have been to university and take the careless view that they know more than they do. 

The person to whom this is directed, you know who you are, please take note and apologise to the friend you were so rude to yesterday. He fixed a problem and saved my friend thousands of dollars.


Sunday 25 June 2023

Rent increases of

$200 a week - when you were only paying $200 before that? That's double what you were paying? 

I find that extraordinary but, unfortunately, I can also believe it. Middle Cat and I were discussing rent increases recently. Middle Cat and her partner have a rental property. It was bought as Middle Cat's "superannuation". It is there to help provide them with a "reasonable" life style when my BIL retires. 

My BIL does the maintenance at the rental property. It helps to keep the place in good, indeed excellent, condition. It also means they can keep the rent lower than it would otherwise be. At the moment the place is not actually making any money. They are still paying off the mortgage by using the rent...and topping it up themselves. 

"Why don't you just increase the rent?" they have been asked. They have been asked this more than once. It is what other people seem to expect.

Middle Cat's response is, "Because we have good tenants who pay us promptly and take care of the place." Yes, they might get more if they demanded it or they might show the tenants the door and put in people who paid more and cared less. Bad tenants might cost them in unpaid rents and damage to property. 

Admittedly they are fortunate in that my BIL is very capable. He can assess what needs to be done if there is an issue. Recently the fence between the property and that of the neighbours needed replacing. The owner of that property lives in Queensland during the winter months. My BIL sent photographs of the damage and suggested what might be done. No, we don't need to put in an entirely new fence. We can do this and that and something else. I can get the materials for $.... if we take advantage of the "sale" price and the cost will be about half of what the quote your tenant got for us. 

It took my BIL a day to do it one weekend and another the following weekend. One of the tenants helped - because it meant the rent would not be increased.

I know not everyone could do this. For many people rent is about income. It is about money here and now and not in the future but it still says something to me. The tenant who helped with the repair is going to remember, "I helped out so my rent has not increased. That makes it a bit easier for me and the family. It was worth doing. We will go on taking care of the place."

Homelessness is on the rise in this city. It should not be but it is. I know the reasons for this are complex but some of it has to be due to greed. It has to be because some people are asking for more rent and increases in rent than is justified. 

The $200 a week increase was apparently for a very small one bedroom flat in the city with no laundry or "pantry" (kitchen) facilities. Yes, there are two very small rooms and a bathroom of sorts.  There is nothing else. Paying $400 a week for that is outrageous here - but people will be doing that. They may well be four or five students crammed in together, simply using it as a place to sleep and wash. They will eat elsewhere, study elsewhere and work in menial jobs to pay the inflated rent.

I am relieved that Middle Cat and her partner were prepared to get less to get more in the end.  At the same time I wonder what will happen if the government brings in proposed rent freezes or restrictions on how much rent can be increased. Will they find themselves punished for doing the right thing?

Saturday 24 June 2023

No, I don't "identify as a cat"

but I do have a bit of fun with cat like references here and elsewhere. I never identified as a cat in my kittenhood either. 

If there is a rise in children "identifying" as animals of one sort or another I am not too concerned. It is almost certainly nothing more than a "fashion" that will soon die out. If there are rare children who really go further than that then I hope they will be identified and given the help they need.

Two people I know mentioned yesterday that they pretended to be ponies when they were very young. Why not? They obviously enjoyed the experience. Middle Cat and the Black Cat did the same thing. Our mother, who did not have a great deal of patience for that sort of thing on a busy morning when all six members of the household had to get to school, would say of our porridge, "Well here are your oats. Hurry up and eat them." Mum did not try to stop the game. I think she knew it would only make them more determined to "be" ponies.

I cannot remember "being" anything else but I had an imaginary friend until around the age of four. His name was "Barry" and he was "naughty". He did all the things I would like to have done.  I would describe all this to anyone else within earshot. Where he came from I have no idea. Years later the Senior Cat and I were talking about this and he told me that they did not even know anyone called Barry.  

I know Barry really irritated my mother. She would tell me to stop talking to him and about him. She would tell me he was not real. It made no difference. I went on talking to him and about him. I am sure I was well aware he was not real. He was simply the child I wanted to be. He ran and jumped and climbed and did the most amazing acrobatics. "He can jump as high as the moon," I would tell people. 

And then I was also "the guard on the train". That was another thing that drove my mother to distraction. "For goodness' sake. You are not the guard! Now, get out of the way. I haven't got time for that." Sigh. I loved blowing the whistle. (My paternal grandfather had given me a whistle for that purpose.) I loved holding my hand up and stopping "trains" (people) and "doing the shunting". I went to all sorts of places, quite impossible places from where we lived. It didn't matter we were off to Scotland, to Africa to see the lions, to the moon for cheese, or simply to the shop or the beach.  I carried parcels on my train (my little red Cyclops tricycle) and spent hours pedalling around first the backyard and then up and down the street or to the actual railway station. 

Recently I was the "traffic cop" for the children in the street. They were racing up and down on their bikes and scooters and I was watching for traffic so they could "go fast". It brought back all the joy of being the guard on the train. It was fun. They had fun. I know it won't be much longer before T..., the eldest, is too old for that sort of thing at the level of childish reality. He knows it too. We exchanged those sort of smiles but we were still enjoying ourselves. If any of them wanted to be ponies or cats or dogs or a dragon or anything else I would do my best to join in. We all know "it isn't really real" but we also know it is real at another level, that imagination matters. 

There is a fine line between imagination and madness but every child I know is aware of the difference and can switch between imagination and reality. It is some adults who fail to recognise the difference. 

Friday 23 June 2023

Trying to control Twitter

would be rather like trying to herd cats. It can't be done.

The "e-safety Commissioner" has apparently "warned" Twitter that it has to abide by the standards she sets or risk a $700,000 a day fine. Can it be done?

I don't believe people should be able to use a platform like Twitter to deliberately set out to harm others by the words they use. That is wrong. I know there are people who will do that. Those who do should be held to account. How do you stop them? Do you stop the behaviour by preventing everyone else from speaking out as well? Do you prevent just them from speaking out by removing them and not allowing them to say anything at all? Is there something else which can be done?

Obviously there are things that can be done and will be done. Twitter employs people to remove "tweets". Every other platform does the same. There are "moderators" everywhere you look.

The problem is that "moderators" are also human. They have opinions too. If they disagree then they can "guide" the discussion.  There is a Facebook page I am familiar with and I am aware it has several hundred "members". Almost nothing gets posted to it because the single "moderator" is so very strict about what can and cannot go on the page. I don't belong to the page but occasionally see it when a friend shows me. Her view is that the moderator has actually stifled discussion. It seems likely that this is true.

So I was concerned when I read what our Prime Minister has apparently asked the e-safety Commissioner to do and say. Yes, I am concerned that there is some less than healthy "debate" on Twitter. Much of it gets removed. I asked for something particularly vile to be removed and it was acknowledged and removed almost immediately.  There would be very, very few people who approved of what was there. Those who did would have belonged to that tiny tiny group reviled by the majority. 

So, yes we can all help to see that the particularly nasty material is removed...and we should.

What worries me at the moment however is that the e-safety Commissioner is apparently being asked to prevent debate about a serious issue taking place. The Prime Minister does not want it being debated. He has a lot riding on the final decision. A lot of other people have a huge emotional investment in the issue. To the Prime Minister and his supporters there is only one answer. They see no room for debate. They also see no room to provide answers to legitimate questions. Any comment in support of their position is fine. Any comment not in support of their position must be reviewed and, as far as possible, removed. This is occurring not just on Twitter but on all social media platforms and across all media as well. Just a few well known names have been permitted to speak out.

This is not democracy in action.  Twitter and like platforms do cause great problems. They do have great power. Trying to curb it by demanding the debate stops because the government of the day disagrees is the way totalitarian states function. It should not be done here.

The cats have well and truly scattered. 

Thursday 22 June 2023

The Voice to Parliament is already dividing us

and I suspect it will only get worse. (For those of you who do not live in Downunder this is the proposed "Voice to Parliament" being put forward by the current government. It will be in the form of a referendum by which the Constitution will be changed to provide a direct means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to influence all aspects of government.)

Middle Cat took me to the chemist yesterday and then on to the supermarket. In the chemist I saw someone I know very well. We have always been on opposite sides of the political fence I suppose - her views are widely considered to be extremely left wing.  She looked at me and, as she walked past, she muttered, "I didn't think you were a b.... f... racist."

Er....I hope I'm not - but I do have reservations, strong reservations about the Voice to Parliament. The reasons for my reservations are complex but one of the main reasons is this - I believe it is racist. No good can come of giving one group in the community immense power over another group because of "race". What is more the idea of "race" has not even been fully addressed. 

In the supermarket someone else, kindly passing over the milk I needed, sighed and said, "Had any further thoughts on this Voice thing Cat? M....and A.... (her children) are all for it but I think they need more information about how it might work."

Ah yes, "more information". I think we all need more information, more actual and accurate information. I doubt we are going to get it. If we did I suspect the result would be a resounding "No". At present the "Yes" campaign is carefully skirting all that. The national broadcaster's ten "facts" on their "Conversation" page avoided any discussion. It was solely aimed at encouraging people to vote "Yes".

Over and over again I wish the government had done what seems to me to be sensible. If they had split the question in two and asked if people wanted (a) to recognise there were inhabitants here before white settlement and (b) whether they approved of a Voice to Parliament then they would almost certainly have had a resounding "Yes" to (a). They might not have got (b) up but (a) would have been there.

Linda Burney is wrong when she says this is about "closing the gap". It will widen it. It is not about whether there is clean drinking water in remote communities. It is about power - power for a few. The idea that they will care about clean drinking water is nonsense. Clean drinking water could have been provided years ago. It has never been seen as a priority. If remote communities had said, "We want rainwater tanks" various governments would have provided them as they have provided so much else. 

Yes, I can actually say this about rainwater tanks. When we moved to one remote location there was a small rainwater tank attached to the larger of the two classrooms at the school. Everyone, and I mean everyone, treated that resource with respect. The Senior Cat went a step further. He contacted the Public Buildings Department and asked for a rain water tank to be attached to the newly built school house and another to the other classroom. That meant there was no need for us to drink the very brackish water from a source almost two hundred kilometres away.  We didn't need to disguise the taste with "cordial".  Oh yes, we had to wait for it to rain and fill the tanks but it did rain eventually as it would rain eventually in remote communities.  The issue is that people have to want to use rainwater and use it in preference to cordial and soft drinks.

Changing that is not going to be brought about by a Voice to Parliament. The ability to do that is already there.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Going to the bottom of the ocean

 is not something I have ever wanted to do. I have never been diving at all - unless you count falling into the water from the side of a swimming pool.  I also have no like of putting my face under water in any other way.

The idea of climbing into some sort of hollow metal object and deliberately going under water does not appeal in the least. I hate enclosed spaces. When Middle Cat parks the car in the underground car park at the shopping centre I grit my teeth and get out as fast as I can.  I know. It's ridiculous. 

I do know where the intense dislike comes from. It is the memory of being enclosed in a dark ambulance when I was two years of age - and being told I was "not allowed to cry". Not allowed to cry? I was two years of age. I didn't know what was happening to me! 

So, why would anyone choose to go into a "submarine"? I suppose they have a completely different sense of adventure, the sort that would send them into outer space as well. (The two experiences don't seem that different to me. I hate flying too. I have only ever done that out of necessity.)

There was no necessity involved in the latest "adventure" undertaken by those going off to "explore" the Titanic. Why they would have any desire to do such a ghoulish thing is beyond my comprehension. It is a site best left alone. I have never seen the film. I have no desire to see the film. I am all too conscious there are still people alive today who never met relatives who perished in the disaster. Many years ago I did briefly meet a man who was brought up by his grandparents because his parents were lost in that disaster. I often wonder what effect it must have had on him.

And much news time is being given to this. The search effort is immense. The money being spent is massive. At the same time yes we really do have people setting out in overcrowded, unsafe boats. There were apparently women and children locked in the hull of one recent vessel - "for safety"? Safety? How can being locked in the hull of any vessel be safe?

I loathe the people smuggling trade. I know so much more could be done to stop it. I also know that there is too much money to be made for it to be easily stopped. If the money spent on the Titan which has gone missing and the rescue effort now being made had been spent on helping refugees in their own countries we might be saving more lives than those of the five who have gone missing. 

Is it time to rethink such "adventures"? 

Tuesday 20 June 2023

CT scan anyone?

Another thing I have experienced post concussion is a CT scan of my head. (Yes, apparently I do still have a brain - although I wonder how well it is functioning right now.)

This occurred yesterday. I wasn't sure what to expect. I know something about MRIs - Middle Cat has had a few and the Senior Cat had a couple. The CT scan? 

"It's just your head." 

Okay. Middle Cat took me of course. She has been marvellous about ferrying me around. I am under strict orders not to pedal anywhere. To be honest I don't, even a week later, feel too keen on the idea. The back of my head still hurts.

Our GP told Middle Cat, who had swapped appointments with me, that my blood tests had come back normal. (It's okay - we all know each other well enough that I would expect C... to tell Middle Cat to tell me. It helps to be reassured about such things.) The CT scan may well show something else however. I am telling myself that, if it is very serious, then C... will not wait until next Monday's appointment. I will be told today or tomorrow - when she gets the results.

There was no preparation for this. "It's just your head." Grrr....  It was done at the local hospital, the one once reserved for returned servicemen. It has the most peculiar lay spokes of a wheel. We got lost trying to find Radiology. Middle Cat actually had to call them - even though she had once worked at the hospital itself. This was understandable however as there are building works going on there and we had to pass through the building site itself. Another growl or two later we arrived in the right space - only two minutes late. It didn't matter anyway we had to wait - but not too long.

It was all a bit ordinary after that. "What happened?'s just your head. Lie on the bed. You can close your eyes if you like." 

I closed my eyes and folded my upper paws and listened to the noise - a bit like distant earth moving works - and then it stopped.

"Just wait a moment and let the technician see...okay."

That was it. I didn't even get a good look at the dome over my head. Perhaps it was just as well.

Middle Cat took me back to the car. I stared out the window and thought again how fortunate I am to live in a country where this sort of thing can happen - and happen quickly. 

I don't know what's wrong but, having ruled out one possibility, I am wondering about another. If I am right then it is something more complex but it can probably be fixed.  Be positive Cat!

The problem is that I am a very frustrated cat. I have so much I still want to do! 

Monday 19 June 2023

Animals in rental accommodation:

"yes" or "no"?

It seems the law is about to change to make it easier for tenants to have an animal in their rental accommodation. I know there will be some landlords who will not want this to happen, others will shrug and some will fight it.

We lived in rental properties all my childhood. The properties belonged, with one exception, to the "Public Buildings Department" and they were set aside for teachers in rural areas. This had to happen because no other rental accommodation was available. (In one posting most of the teachers on the Senior Cat's staff actually had to live in caravans because nothing else was available.) We grew up with cats and, on one occasion, a small dog Middle Cat picked up from somewhere. There was never any "no pets" rule. I doubt the PBD ever considered such a move. Living in the places we lived in was not easy. If animals made it easier then that was fine with them.

Middle Cat and her husband own rental property. It is held in lieu of "superannuation" for Middle Cat. They do not have an agent dealing with it and thus are able to keep an eye on the property on a regular basis. Middle Cat is an animal lover, an animal whisperer. Dogs talk to her. Even the most shy cat will go to her. If their tenants wanted a cat or a dog it would not be an issue. We both know the importance of animals to many people.

Many years ago my mother was responsible for a rental property. The tenant shyly approached her and asked for permission to keep a cat. This woman was quiet and seemed very hesitant about everything. In the block of units there were two other cats. My mother was happy to grant the tenant permission to keep a cat. It turned out to be a much better thing than anyone realised. Eventually my mother was no longer responsible for the property. The woman moved on as well. We met her some years later and she seemed, while still quiet, happier and more relaxed.

"You let me have my cat. It was company when I needed it most. I was so depressed at the time."

She didn't tell us what was wrong in her life then but she pulled out one of those small "brag" books and showed us her cat, older now but still a very handsome animal. That woman needed her cat. 

I have been in and out of many rental properties to visit other people. Only a few have had pets, usually a bird in a cage. I am never happy seeing birds in cages but I know they are company for some people. I have wondered why pets were not allowed in some places because the accommodation has not been that good. The facilities have sometimes been "basic" to say the least. The idea that a well cared for animal could do more harm in such places is rather odd. 

And how often is someone who needs rental accommodation in circumstances where they need an animal? It can mean the difference between mental stability and mental illness or at risk of harm or the security of protection. 

No, of course not everyone will want to rent accommodation to someone who has a pet. If they do though they may find a better tenant than they expect.  

Sunday 18 June 2023

We need to study the humanities

and the suggestion that "arts" degrees no longer need to be taught at university has stunned me.

We need English, not simply as a language by which we "communicate" but as literature which enriches our lives. We need to know histories, not simply so as not to repeat past mistakes, but to understand ourselves and our place in the world. We need other languages to discover other ways of seeing the world. We need much more than "science, mathematics and technology". 

I don't know who made the suggestion that arts no longer need to be taught at university. It was a "tweet" forwarded to me with the question, "What do you think?"

As someone who has tutored university students for almost forty years I would say the arts are absolutely essential. When the late Senior Cat did his Bachelor of Arts degree at university he was required to do ten units. He was required to do his three chosen strands (English, Latin and History - three units of each) and one science subject (Geology .) He chose Geology because a very close friend was studying Geology and could give him some help. He also found that studying History helped him understand the geology he had to learn. In return he helped his friend do his compulsory unit of history. 

They no longer need to do that. Science students do not need to do any arts subject at all. It shows. They have difficulty putting ideas on a page. I read their essays. I don't always understand the subject matter but I know when their ideas, if they have any, are all over the place. Even when they use a "spell-checker" there are spelling errors. My grammar is not perfect but I don't use "these two is" and like constructions. 

When I ask them which subjects they studied in their final two years of school more and more of them seem to be avoiding any arts related subject which involves actually writing anything.  There is plenty of "two unit maths, physics, chemistry and 'tech' studies" or similar combinations. They are subjects which will get them into the courses which are considered "desirable". 

I was talking to someone who still teaches part time in one of the medical schools recently. He sighed and said to me, "I wish they were made to do Latin the way we were. At least they might understand the English language that way."  It's been a long time since Latin was compulsory for medical students. 

My great-niece gained a place in a selective high school in another state. The school teaches French, Latin and Japanese. Great-niece had some Japanese lessons in junior school but the amount of actual language teaching was very small. We talked about this. We talked about French or Latin because there was not room for both. When I asked him Brother Cat was not sure which she had chosen to do "but at least she will be doing one". 

We are both acutely conscious of this because languages were not taught in the "area" schools we attended. There were no teachers available. We both know we missed out on an important part of education. Brother Cat has no second language skills at all. He went into the science side and never had a chance. I was fascinated by other languages from a very early age. I have never formally studied one but my "day job" involves multiple languages. If I had not managed to teach myself what I need to know I could not do it. That would mean other people could not do their jobs either. 

We need people to study the arts. We need it to foster imagination, critical thinking skills and the capacity to communicate with each other. Humanities are surely about humans?

Saturday 17 June 2023

The effects of mild concussion

are not to be laughed at. Your resident cat managed to faint last Monday. Fortunately I landed on the garden bed and not on the cement. I still managed to hit the back of my head rather hard. When I came to I found myself staring at the sky and thinking "that's a bit odd". Then I, carefully, sat up. Realising what had happened I tried the "paws to nose" test an decided it was probably safe to stand up. 

What has followed has been the concerned ministrations of two friends, Middle Cat and our GP.  Middle Cat swapped her appointment with our GP so that I could see her this week rather than next. C... (our GP) ordered blood tests (yesterday) and a CT scan (Monday) "to see if (I) still have a brain". I am trying to feel positive about all this - rather difficult given the other upheavals in life right now. 

Middle Cat has banned me from pedalling for a fortnight. I must confess that I don't feel much like doing any but that does not mean I like being so dependent on her.  We went to the supermarket after the blood tests yesterday and all I wanted to do was curl up on my sleeping mat afterwards. Mmmm....not me at all.

What I am acutely aware of however is how lucky I am. First, it could have been far worse. If I had hit the concrete I would have ended up in hospital with much more serious issues. Second, I have been given help. I had help when it happened because L...arrived just a short time later and phoned Middle Cat. This last week I actually managed to see our GP and the shortage of GPs means getting in to see anyone is not easy now. It also meant that our GP promptly arranged for several things to happen...and that I have another appointment to see her on Monday week. I have one of those "need" and not "want" appointments then. I am getting a CT scan far more quickly than we thought I could...perhaps someone has cancelled? I don't know.

And then I thought of all the "concussion" issues that have been in the news with people who play contact sports. It seems that there is finally an awareness that all those knocks humans take are not a good thing. I have always wondered about it. I have never been to a football/soccer/rugby match. The idea of watching people knocking into each other has never appealed to me. Now I think I would be even more concerned. Yes, they do injure themselves but concussion in sport isn't necessarily an injury that can be seen or recognised until it is too late. It won't stop people playing. There will always be the "it won't happen to me" element about it. 

Being forced to have some quiet time when I have things I want to do has made me think again about all this. Hopefully the blood tests and the CT scan won't show anything serious and I can go back to being a pedalling and busy cat... but I have promised to be sensible. I won't be playing "paw-ball".   

Friday 16 June 2023

Is it time to stop flying the flag?

Flags are curious things aren't they? One of my early memories is of sitting on my paternal grandfather's shoulders while he waited for one of the small fishing boats to come into dock. There was fish on the boat that we would have to eat that day.  I don't know how he knew that but, while we waited, he told me about the importance of the many flags flying around the docks. 

No, I don't remember everything he told me then. I was much too young for that. I must have been around about two years of age. It is quite possible I didn't understand much of what I was being told at all but I knew flags were important. They "told people things". 

Flags should still do that. Everyone has a flag of some sort, a national flag. Even "stateless" citizens will have a flag of sorts, the one they they would like to be living under. Flags are reminders of the past and often hope for the future. They can be protected by law or prevented by law. In some countries it is an offence to damage the national flag. In any country it will be offensive to some to damage the national flag. 

There has been legislation passed in this country to prevent the flying of the "Nazi" flag (and the display of any Nazi memorabilia). I hope it stops the use of such offensive and abhorrent material.

But why do we fly other flags that some find offensive or, at very least, inappropriate? Our local council would not dream of flying the Nazi flag but there is increasing use of two flags some people do find offensive. One is the "Aboriginal" flag. The other is the "Pride" flag. 

It may surprise some people to know that the "Aboriginal" flag, adopted in 1995, is not accepted by all aboriginal people. They find it offensive.  It's not "traditional". There were no flags before white settlement. It doesn't represent all aboriginal people by any means. Many aboriginal people would prefer it was not flown but it has been imposed on them by "activists" within their own community and by others who support them out of a desire to be seen as "not racist" and "politically correct".  Others say that, if it is to be flown at all, then it should be kept for special occasions.

Then there is the "Pride" flag. I was interested to see a report saying there are places in other parts of the world where it is no longer acceptable to fly it, if it ever was. What it represents goes against the beliefs of some religious groups. They find it as offensive as most people find the Nazi flag. Others simply don't feel comfortable with any overt displays of sexuality. Some find it simply ridiculous. Still others believe it is wrong that a very small group in the community has managed to garner so much attention. That an even smaller group in the community is using it to cause what is increasingly being seen as physical and mental harm makes flag flying even more offensive.

And these flags are not there to "unite" people. They are there to represent "difference". They divide. As a friend pointed out recently, "There is no flag for all disabled people." True, there is a recognised "access" sign which is sometimes shown as a flag but it is not a flag flown next to the state and national flags.

On occasions of celebration or mourning then perhaps we should be flying other flags. For the rest of the time should we revert to simply flying the state and national flags?

Thursday 15 June 2023

The abuse of parliamentary privilege

has to cease. 

I know that parliament is a place where "things get said" and tempers can rise. I know that it is a place where abuse is hurled in the chamber in the heat of "debate". 

I also know that the people doing that can sometimes go and have lunch together in quite an amicable fashion. (I have been present at such lunches.) 

But there is a limit and most politicians know that and accept it. They may not like those on the "opposite" of the house, particularly if their opponents are those in power. They may try to bring them down on the floor of the house. Out in the corridors they will generally be civil to one another.

I don't think that can be said of all of them however. Yesterday one of them over-stepped the mark. An accusation of sexual assault by one senator was made against another. It was made as an interjection and it clearly left the accused stunned. The accusation was later withdrawn but the problem is that the damage has been done. 

We have already had too much harm caused by accusations that should have been kept out of the public arena altogether. Now the accused person has had to release a statement through his solicitor, a statement he should never have had to release.  

Even more seriously by making an accusation and then withdrawing it the person making it has just made it harder for genuine victims of sexual assault.  Sexual assault is one of the most difficult things to prove. We all know that.  It takes courage, great courage, to admit you have been sexually assaulted but what often follows are accusations of lying and blame. We all know that too.

Making the sort of accusation that was made in parliament yesterday is not in any way, shape or form acceptable. Parliamentary privilege is not there to be abused in that way. It has to cease. It has to cease for the sake of all those women who have been too afraid to speak out and who will now feel even less able to do so. I feel for them. 

Wednesday 14 June 2023

Have those "department stores" disappeared?

I was wondering about this yesterday when someone, checking on me, mentioned she was about to go into the CBD to do some shopping. She has a wedding to attend and said, "I thought I better not wear what I wore to the previous wedding and four other weddings."

I wished her luck. We agreed it would not be easy. Like me she would prefer to spend money on books or, in her case, something for her garden. 

After she had gone, still not feeling a very energetic sort of cat, I went on sitting there and thought about the old fashioned sort of department store. I think it has probably gone now. 

It is a long time since I went into "the mall" - our main shopping area in the centre of the city. I never much cared for it but there are things I do miss about it. There were a number of "department stores" along what was once a road. They turned it into a pedestrian mall with the idea that more people would use it that way. Of course the planners forgot that most humans won't walk further than they have to when venturing out for things like clothes.

Those department stores were the sort of places where the basement might have anything at all but the ground level always seemed to be things like perfume, cosmetics, millinery and the like. I remember two of them here had quite good book departments - the sort that cater for last minute gifts rather than serious readers.

You would go to the upper floors - men's clothing, footwear, women's underwear and haberdashery, women's clothing. There was children's clothing and school uniforms and more. On the topmost floor of one store there was a sort of auditorium where displays were held. Another had a small fun-fair on the roof. 

My maternal grandmother had a "card" for one of the stores and faithfully shopped there. My paternal grandmother always paid cash but, such was the way of those places, they knew her. My paternal grandfather's  tailoring business meant he would talk to the staff about the latest trends in men's fashions and advise their buyers on things like the latest collars on men's shirts. My mother also had a "card" for the same store as her mother but almost never used it. I came across the card when I was clearing out her things and it looked new. 

Now women rarely wear the sort of hats which were sold in millinery. School uniforms are bought through schools or suppliers of such things. Haberdashery, knitting wool, dress fabric and the like have gone to big chains and one or two struggling suburban outlets. Several years ago dear Brother Cat, not knowing what book to give me, gave me a voucher for what he thought was an old style department store in the city. I eventually went off to spend it and discovered that it had all changed. It seemed to be a collection of tiny brand-name outlets instead. The book department was tucked away on the fourth floor and there was nothing there of any interest to me. They were selling cheap paperback series for children, the Harry Potter books, "popular" novels of the airport variety and coffee table books. I went and bought something I needed elsewhere. Then I went off to our local indie bookshop and bought a book there instead.  I have not been back to the shop since. I went into one other one which seemed to be much the same but did have a men's department. I bought trousers there for the Senior Cat. They graciously allowed me to return them when they turned out to be the wrong size but they had nobody who did anything as useful as shorten the leg length. I went around to see a friend for help with that. (Sadly, she has moved to another state now.)

It has all changed. I wouldn't know where to find the things I wanted now. I buy my underwear in a chain store which is not as good as Marks and Spencers once was and struggle to find rear paw coverings in a shoe shop instead of heading for the children's department and asking for another pair of Clark's Pathfinder boots please. I bought my bright yellow rain jacket (to be seen on the trike) on line.  There will be trouble if they stop selling my preferred style of jeans on line too. 

Do I miss the old department stores? I suppose I do. I could make a list and go into them about twice a year. I might not always have come out with everything I needed but it was over and done with before I could prowl off to the bookshops. Somehow they seem to have disappeared too - and I do miss them.

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Random acts of kindness

and stories about them appear on social media from time to time. Some of the stories do the rounds. They get changed slightly so as to appear "new". Some of them have happened. Others have never happened but have been imagined or pulled together from multiple incidents. 

And there are real random acts of kindness. I fainted yesterday. Don't ask me why. I don't know. 

I was putting something in the rubbish bin prior to putting it out into the street for collection. I suddenly felt very dizzy. The next moment I found myself lying on the ground staring at the sky. I had, by some remarkable piece of good fortune landed on the dirt, not on the concrete of the driveway. I sat up. 

I was sitting there when two men in a car came out of the "court" opposite, slowed and called out, "Are you all right?" 

I told them I was because I knew that I could get other help at that point. I had even been alert enough to try the "finger to nose" test - and passed with both paws.

I went slowly inside and, as I had known she would be, a friend arrived a few minutes later. I told her what had happened, said I thought I was going to be all right. After asking if she should phone Middle Cat, L.... made the tea we planned to have. I sat there. Then I started to feel a bit odd again...oops, blood pressure almost certainly up again. L...called Middle Cat. 

A little later Middle Cat arrived took my BP - yes, elevated. Not dangerously so but enough to concern both of them and me. I was starting to feel a bit better though. L...drank her mug of tea, took what I had given her off and said, "I'll check on you tomorrow."

Middle Cat stayed. Nephew-cat, the doctor one, was not answering his phone. Middle Cat called another GP she knows well enough to call a friend as well. She told her what had happened and how I was feeling. B..., whom I have met, hauled up my records from the clinic. They discussed the situation with me. I was starting to feel more normal and we agreed that the hospital emergency department was not necessary. I would just go over to Middle Cat's place for a while.

I crawled into her car and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting quietly talking to her male cat. He didn't appear particularly concerned. Why wasn't I playing games with him?

Middle Cat wondered if I should stay the night but I said no. I would put the phone by the bed and call her or an ambulance if I thought I was feeling in need of either. I would be sensible.

I went to bed with one low dose of valium provided by Middle Cat. Despite waking twice in the night I feel okay again but I am also feeling grateful - to the two men who queried if I was okay, to L... who handled the whole thing with the degree of calm and common sense which makes her such a good friend, to Middle Cat  and B... who was at home and not on duty but cheerfully assessed the situation anyway.  None of them had to do that.    

Monday 12 June 2023

Culling the cattle

won't save the planet. "Going green" won't be achieved by culling the cattle or sheep either. If we all went vegan we wouldn't save the planet. 

The Irish government apparently wants to cull the cows so they can "meet the emissions target". I found out about this a short while ago. It was entwined with a story about how the Downunder government wants to do the same thing. It also mentions how one of the government ministers has heavily invested in a scheme to do this.

Somewhere, back in the mists of screen time, I saw a short documentary. It was made in a way which stated just facts and left you to make up your own mind. I wish I could find it again because it showed how cows were actually a benefit to the environment in which they lived. They actually increased the productivity of the land, raised the quality of the air we breathe and provided food as well. All of this was being measured by agricultural scientists as part of a serious, long term study.

Now of course it could all be wrong. It could all be a hoax...but I do not believe it was. Why? Because the land shown in the documentary really did seem to be improving. I take it that going from dull brown to green (the latter on a permanent basis) is an improvement? The immediate surrounding area was cooler in summer too.

So why do we want to cull cattle, especially cows and sheep and goats? They all provide benefits.

Human animals seem to believe they can do all this "climate change" work themselves by culling and going artificially green. I don't think they can. I think we need to work with other animals, allow them to get on with their work too. 

We once lived in a dairying district. Prior to that we had spent two years living on the edge of a desert. The contrast between the two areas could not have been greater.  Mum fought a constant battle with the red dust from the desert. The Senior Cat's white shirts (worn to school in those days) never looked as clean as Mum wanted there. A week in the new district and we could see a difference. Everything seemed so green. They were actually pumping water out of the fields into channels and sending it further on. It rained. It rained a lot.

Several years ago we went through the same area. My brother was driving. He slowed the car. 

"Let's just have a look," he said and turned the car on to a road we had known well. 

There were more houses there. We had expected that. There was also much less green. The fields seemed dry. There was no evidence of water being pumped out. It had not been a drought year. My brother stopped the car and we got out to have a look. A local car went past, slowed and came back. They were checking to see we were not in trouble. Then recognition came to Brother Cat. It was an old school mate. We chatted for a bit and asked about the change. 

He shook his head. "We had to change the way we do things. It's this climate change business. We get told what to do now. The boffins reckon they have it right but I reckon they should be listening to the cows."

I reckon he might be right.

Sunday 11 June 2023

Cancelling an event

should never be done lightly...but we did so yesterday. 

Non-knitters will probably not be familiar with KIP day - Knit-in-Public day. It is an international event, held on the second Saturday in June. 

Here in Downunder it is a rather awkward date because it coincides with the public holiday weekend known as the (now) King's Birthday. Many knitters who might join in are doing other things. It is that sort of weekend.

We had not done anything for the past three years because of Covid. There were some enthusiastic responses to the idea that we should so two of us from two different groups went ahead and arranged to meet at a venue which provides for all financial circumstances, was indoors but not likely to be crowded (because we still wanted to consider Covid issues for some), was in a location which could be reached by bus, train or car and so on. 

I told the knitting group which meets at the library and emailed all those who were not there but occasionally turn up. The other person runs a church craft group and also decided to send out invitations to a guild group. "They might be interested in coming along and seeing if they can snag some new members," she told me.

That was fine by me. The whole purpose of the day is to encourage people to knit or crochet.

The likely venue got back to me. They were happy for us to meet there. Saturday afternoons were not very busy but they stay open because they are also open in the evening.

And then there were several people who let me know they couldn't come after all. One was a bit anxious about knitting in a cafe like venue. Another simply sent a hasty message she could not make it. Two were feeling "under the weather" and were hoping their joint appearance at an earlier event was not the cause.  Another person had a family member ill and had gone to help with the children. Two people "might" come. In the end I could only be certain of myself and two others. 

I emailed the other person who was helping to organise the event. She proposed cancelling it. One of  the purposes of trying to get it together was to try and help our friend M.... M... is profoundly deaf. She is here from Canada and really struggling with loneliness right now. Only the thought she and her husband C... will be going back to Canada in early December is keeping her here. Yes, she has ways of communicating with family and friends back there, family and friends who use sign language and French but they are not here. 

I do my best. The few signs I know are in AUSLAN. My first language is English. I never learned French. All I know I have taught myself. It isn't enough to make communication with M... easy. She can communicate in Canadian sign language, French and English. It makes me feel small. But communication still isn't easy for her. Her written English, unless C... helps, sounds childish.  

The four of us who could go are people M... already knows and I am really the only one who can communicate without writing things down. For once C...'s work did not require him to be there on a Saturday and he was more than willing to come along and help. I called C... and told him what had happened. He told M... and also put a message up on a group I do not belong to. 

We needed to put that message up because the other person organising the afternoon had sent written invitations to people to come along - and not received a single response.  Were they planning on attending? Almost certainly not but it was still very rude.

C... called me back to tell me the message was up and asked if he could come and get some timber from the shed.

"Bring M... and have afternoon tea here?" I asked. 

"Good idea. She is very disappointed. It might help."

They arrived. M... tried not to look disappointed but I knew she was. She hugged me. She had her knitting. You can't sign and knit as well of course but that didn't matter. C... went off to the shed. I signed questions about tea and cake and what she was making - more finger puppets for the school in Canada.  We were laughing when C... came back in. 

We had afternoon tea and more laughter. M... went off smiling as I signed , "See you soon".  I hope I do too. They are off to Western Australia again tomorrow. There is someone there M... knows who can communicate far more easily than I can. I hope that person can find people willing to meet her because it is good to be with her. 

Saturday 10 June 2023

"A barista earns more?"

Apparently it no longer "pays" to go to university and get a bachelor's degree. You can earn more being a barista.

I am not sure what it is about coffee. I will drink it but it has to be quite weak and it needs milk (but no sugar please!) I do not understand these people who "need" their coffee, who go and buy it each morning. It puzzles me that people "need" it so much they feel they cannot fully function without it.

Perhaps though this "need" is so great they are prepared to pay for others to prepare it for them. All they then need to do it is drink it.  

Is all this why we are apparently prepared to pay the people who prepare it more than others to do other jobs, often very responsible jobs?  Is coffee really that important?

According to an article I have just read a barista in this city can earn as much as a vet. Now a vet has been to university for some years. They have worked hard to get the degree. Unless the bank of "Mum and Dad" paid for it upfront they have a student loan to pay back - a loan which is linked to inflation. The vet has the responsibility for the health and welfare of living things who can feel pain, who are often important and much loved members of a family. We tend to view a visit to the vet as expensive, in the same way as we view a visit to the doctor as expensive. 

Perhaps it is expensive but isn't the coffee, coffee we could make for ourselves, also expensive? 

There were other jobs mentioned in the article and nothing was said about the low incomes of general practitioners in the medical profession or the low incomes of teachers working sixty or more hours a week. Surely these things are needed just as much as coffee.

I know a recently retired bricklayer who was earning twice what his doctor was earning. Yes, it was hard physical labour but he went home at night without forms to fill in and professional qualifications to maintain. He can retire very comfortably at the age of sixty-three and, hopefully, enjoy a long retirement. His doctor will probably go on working into her seventies.

Yes, part of the problem is that we have too many people going to university. If the essays I see are any example, then standards are lower. A "bachelor's degree" does not mean what it once meant. Does it also mean that some likely areas of employment are less well regarded than that of someone who pours liquid into a cup or glass and passes it over the counter?    

Friday 9 June 2023

There was a helicopter overhead

at around 2am. 

It came over so low that I woke. My first thought was "air ambulance" as the flight path they take is usually directly over the house. I will never complain about them. They might well be saving the life of a critically ill person.

But no, this time it had to be the police service chopper because it went around and around and around. It was circling for over an hour. I am not interested in who was being chased or hunted down or what they had done but I would like the opportunity to give them a piece of my mind. I have not had enough sleep.

I don't find it easy to go back to sleep after being disturbed like that. In part this is because I am normally an "early to bed, early to rise" sort of cat. I need to be. I still work with different time zones on occasion. It is not nearly as bad as it used to be but I can still need to do it.

I turned over and curled up again and lay there thinking about other helicopter stories I have been told, about people I have worked with who risk their lives going in and out of some extraordinarily dangerous situations.

Z..., a long time friend and colleague, is an engineer. His special area of interest is dams. He has been all over the world advising on the building of dams, the maintenance of dams and the repair of dams. In the course of this work he has been in some extraordinarily dangerous situations. The latest disaster in Ukraine is the sort of situation with which he is all too familiar.  He lives in Belgium and his wife sent me an email saying how concerned she is that he might be called to go there. He is almost eighty now but his knowledge and skills are so extensive that he still gets called on.

"At least he can't do the flying," M.... told me.

I don't think many people stop to think the footage we saw on the news last night would have been taken by people risking their lives. Helicopters are particularly vulnerable to enemy fire. I suppose their ability to manouvre outweighs the danger but it doesn't take much to cause a disaster. 

Z... will go if he is asked to go. He is a Quaker. He sees it as his role to help those saving lives. He sees it as his role to do what he can to help build, maintain and restore structures which save the environment and assists the lives of those who rely on it.

I'll think of these things whenever I hear a helicopter circling overhead - but it doesn't make for much sleep.  

Thursday 8 June 2023

A severe thunderstorm warning

was not forecast for the early hours of yesterday morning but I was woken at just before 3am by the sound of thunder in the distance. The next I knew the entire sky was lit up by flashes of lightning. 

Eventually we had more than 65,000 lightning strikes and 26mm of rain in just over an hour. Dramatic? Yes. Dangerous? Yes.

We are on the same section of the grid as a local hospital so I knew that, if there was a power outage, it could be serious and the emergency crews could be out there in that weather - risking their lives. Fortunately, we did not lose power. 

But there was something else that concerned me and that was the "rough sleepers". I know there are homeless people who are actually afraid to sleep in any sort of building but this does not mean they should be out in the complete open in that sort of weather. There I was safely in bed and I thought of two rough sleepers I know who frequent this area. I know where they sometimes illegally sleep. They know me. One of them never speaks at all but, on a good day, he will raise a hand in a sort of greeting and I am always careful to respond. The other one will sign "Hi Cat." He isn't deaf but I think his friend might be.

My friend W... was coming to lunch so I did not have a lot of time to go looking for them but I needed to pick up a book from the library as well so I decided to do a check of the most obvious places on the way. They would probably have been made to move on from the local railway station but I did a quick tour of both the up and down platforms and then the adjacent garden - and there they were. They were sitting on a damp log with takeaway coffee in their hands. Their belongings were in their neat daytime rolls. The rolls might be filthy dirty but they do roll them so neatly.

"You guys okay after last night?" I asked. They nodded. I didn't ask them where they had been. I would not have got an answer. I don't know who bought them the coffee, possibly one of the people who tends the little memorial garden. They were unlikely to have bought it for themselves.

And, before anyone asks, these two are not "alcoholics". They have never been seen with alcohol. The local hotels do not know them and the local "beer, wine, spirits" outlet has never come across them. They are possibly former soldiers who simply cannot cope with life. I don't feel at all threatened by them. Sometimes they ride the trains and, if I am there too, they always help me get the tricycle on and off.  They will move on again soon and I might not see them again for months - or they may never come back. We smile at one another and I say "thank you" - and I am grateful for the help.

"Okay - take care. There's more weather coming up." I told them. They nodded again and actually smiled. They had been out all night in the most atrocious weather and they could still smile. I pedalled off feeling guilty because I have so much and, like most people, I grumble and complain at times. 

Wednesday 7 June 2023

Reserve Bank Governor

Philip Lowe is probably the most hated man in the country right now. The RBA raised interest rates again yesterday.

Mr Lowe explained why this had to be done. Inflation is still not down to where the RBA Board believes it should be. It was not helped by the increase in wages recently granted by the Fair Work Commission.

All this worries me for many reasons but I also believe Mr Lowe and the Board had no choice. We Downunderites are living beyond are means. We have done so for far too long.

Before the rate hike yesterday I was doing my quick daily check of the (not) available real estate on this side of the city. As I scrolled down the page my eye was caught by a house I know. It is the house on the corner of our street, the one in the opposite direction from which I usually travel. Even the neighbours had not mentioned it was for sale but there it was with an "open" yesterday morning.

I did not bother to go and look of course. I don't want a house. I most definitely don't want a house with a swimming pool. It would also be so far out of my price range it would be ridiculous to believe I could even buy it for half of what is being asked.

Later still in the day I asked someone who knows the people currently living in it what was going on. I had my suspicions - and I was right. They cannot keep up the mortgage repayments. The house has had some lovely "renovations". The pool was put in. They put in an outdoor entertaining area and more. On top of that there are three cars, "his", "hers" and "his toy" - a massively expensive sports car. Yes, both of them go to work in high paid jobs but the person I was speaking to told me, "They can't afford the mortgage repayments. If they hadn't done so much to the place they might have got by."

I wonder how much they will lose - because they will lose unless they are very fortunate. I doubt, and my informant doubts, they will get what they are asking. Rates are likely to go up again and again. I wonder who will be able to afford to borrow at the same levels as people have in recent years. 

P...., who comes and washes the floors for me, and I looked down the street. She moved into their new home about eighteen months ago. They are slowly doing the things that need to be done and she said, "They want too much. We have what we need and we will get the extras later."

I could only agree. Is some bookshelf space a necessity or an extra? I need to think about that.  

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Guilty or innocent?

Apparently there is "enough doubt" to release a woman from prison after twenty years. She was there for the alleged murder of her four young children.

Her former husband thinks she is guilty. Her friends don't. The court isn't sure. I don't know enough to have an opinion but I do know it is a mess.

It also made me wonder yet again how many people have been charged with and convicted of "murder" when a baby has died of natural causes.  The idea frightens me.

There is a section in our state show which says, "Handicrafts for others". There are just two classes in that section. One is for toys made for the purpose of giving them to our women's and children's hospital. They are then given to children as "comfort toys".  Some of the things which have been made and donated are really beautiful. A lot of love and care and attention has gone into them. The "winning" items do get awarded a ribbon but winners have often said that making it and knowing it is going to give some comfort to a child is the real reward. I am sure it is.

The other class is labelled "memory boxes". These are small boxes given to a mother who has lost a child, usually at birth. There are never very many of these. I would like to think they are very rarely needed but I know they need more than they get. We sometimes meet the people who have made them, often people who have lost a child themselves. 

Last year a woman came in with her son to pick up the ribbons they had won. Both of them had made almost identical boxes. The judges had found it difficult to choose between the two. Everyone in Handicrafts thought they had both been made by the same person. No, mother and son. There was something about her that told us she had lost a child. Her son, a boy of about twelve or thirteen, was very protective of her. He had a sort of maturity rarely found in a boy of that age. I felt for him as well when he told me quietly, "Mum is frightened of losing me too. I am going to make more boxes with her because it helps."

I hope it does help her. I have no idea how many years had passed but I doubt anyone "gets over it" as is all too often demanded. Now I often wish I had known so much more for my paternal grandmother's sake. She lost seven children to miscarriages. As children we didn't understand that. Our mother, with her Christian Science beliefs, would have held all that to be an "illusion of mortal mind". Her own mother only had two pregnancies and, having brought the necessary son into the world, refused to have anything more to do with the business.  It must have been so hard for my paternal grandmother to see all that. I wish I could hug her now, hug her again and again.

And the woman who has just been released after twenty years? She needs to be hugged because, whatever the story behind it all, she has lost four children too. 

Monday 5 June 2023

Is it really a picture book?

I have to start by confessing something. I love reading picture books - the sort meant for "little kids". The Senior Cat loved them too. 

The Senior Cat would prowl around the picture book shelves in our local indie bookshop and choose presents for the very young children of his acquaintance. (He would give the older children book vouchers because he believed they should learn to choose their own books.) He would read picture books to the very young - if he wasn't making up stories for them. 

I do the same. Middle Cat remarked only yesterday that I happen to have two copies of Jen Campbell's "Franklin's Flying Bookshop" on hand. Yes. I want to make sure that a very young one of my acquaintance can have a copy when he is old enough to appreciate the story. I have several other "second copies" of books on hand for children I know. I am observing them now and I will know when they are ready for some things and not others, whether their developing personalities will need one book rather than another. It's important to give children the right book.

Let me repeat that. It's important to give children the right book. I try to give children books that I believe they will enjoy, that they will want to keep, that will last. 

I do not want to give children "books about...." because some issue or other happens to be in the news. I don't want didactic books. I don't want books with "overtones". Books given as gifts by me should be given so as to be enjoyed.

All this has come up because someone sent me a "tweet" and asked if I thought a book was suitable for children. It is a book by Harry Woodgate. Apparently there was a previous book by the same author. I missed that one. When I asked about it at our local library one of the staff looked at me and then said, "Ask ..... about that." 

I asked and she told me, "We had to put it in eventually but I don't like it. We have the second one coming too and that is much worse in my view. Little kids don't need to know about that sort of thing and it is going to upset a lot of parents. I'll be talking to parents about it in Storytime - just to warn them."

The two books in question, "Grandpa's Camper" and "Grandpa's Pride" both feature men in gay relationships. I don't have a problem with that as such. It's a fact of life and many children will be aware of couples in same sex relationships. The difference here though appears to be that the books are designed to overtly teach children about gay relationships, about "Pride" relationships, about "transgender" issues. The second book includes a picture which actually says, "Trans children are wonderful".  There are other pictures I would also question. I would question the entire story in fact. I also doubt that it will capture the imagination. It just doesn't feel right to me.

I can imagine a child's picture book where same sex couples are there in a much more indirect way. A book where they are shown through the pictures rather than words and where the relationship is not made an issue of at all might have a great deal to commend it.

But, I don't feel comfortable about the Woodgate books. They have been published by the well respected "Andersen Press". I suspect they have been published under duress or because one person on the staff has issues with the themes involved.  Is that the best reason to do it? 

I left the library feeling disturbed. I had to pass the shelf where the older child, a girl, had once looked up at me and said the words which are seared into my memory, "I'm sick of AIDS and death and divorce. I just want a good adventure story." That was a long time ago now and it seems things haven't changed. Perhaps it is time to insist on some "good adventure stories"? 

Sunday 4 June 2023

No, you can't have fun in the workplace

because work places are for "work". They are for treating everyone equally and with respect. They are there to get the job done and not to have fun. 

Ooooh, I could go on. I go in and out of workplaces occasionally and they have changed. I would once have prowled in with reasonable confidence that I would be greeted with a pleasant smile and a "Can I help you?"  

Now I am likely to be greeted, if I am greeted at all, with someone walking past and glaring at me. Yes, truly.  They don't want strangers in the workplace any more. They aren't sure how these oddities might upset the delicate balance of the office. Will they do the right thing and ask, "Are they in?" or will they ask, "Is she in?" 

And how does the stranger get addressed and referred to? All of this is just the start of the problems that now need to be addressed.  

If you doubt me then let me tell you that I went to a small meeting yesterday. There are usually just five people. We know one another well. We meet a few times a year to sort out a couple of ongoing issues. We never start with any sort of formalities. One person keeps the record. We go away knowing what we need to do, if anything. It has been like this for a long time now. Things get done and, even if I say it myself, done efficiently.

Yesterday was different. There was a new person present. "They" want to take over from someone who needs to leave. Oh, it was suddenly all so different. "They" wanted to start the meeting formally with an "acknowledgment of country". We were informed about "their" preferred pronouns. Everything we discussed was questioned. Ways of doing things, ways where people have been trusted to do the right thing or simply do as asked, were criticised. We were told these things were no longer possible. "It isn't the way things are done now."

"They" finally left. The rest of us looked at one another. I have spent years working with the group but I was feeling it was time someone else was found. I could see at least two more people felt the same way.  

"This isn't going to work. I think it is time we disbanded. They will find other ways of working," the person who has generally taken the lead said.  

They will have to find other ways of working. I came home and sent a carefully worded email and said I felt I could no longer work in a "modern" environment. It's a relief. I didn't really have the time to give. "They" can find like minded people and change the world... but I don't think it will be quite as helpful or well run and we won't laugh over the teapot any more.  

Saturday 3 June 2023

Ben Roberts-Smith has been

found guilty in the court of public opinion and in a civil court - not in a criminal court. He has yet to be found guilty of the offences the civil court found were not defamatory.

There is a vast difference here between the claims made and someone actually being guilty of the offence or offences claimed. Yes, people appeared in court and made claims but those claims were not proven to the standard required.

I know this is going to confuse a lot of people. My own memories of "criminal law" - a subject I did not enjoy - are not as good as they should be. I do remember something very clearly. The standard of proof for conviction in a civil court is "on the balance of probabilities" and the standard of conviction in a criminal court is "beyond reasonable doubt".  

There is a vast difference between those two standards. That is as it should be. At one time a conviction for murder could result in the death penalty. The standard needed to be "beyond reasonable doubt" and, as we all know, the courts do not always get it right. 

Even the standard applied in the civil court - where, in this case, accusations have been made - can fail. "On the balance of probabilities" depends in the Roberts-Smith case on recollections in the theatre of war and on personal relationships, indeed animosities. 

The judge in this case could only go on the "evidence" presented to him. He has to presume those giving evidence are telling the truth. He has to apply the law to the information before him. 

Defamation proceedings are always difficult. They almost always arise out of a desire to see someone fall from grace. In this case there was also a desire by the media to sell a story which would get senior "investigative" journalists awards and bring in a great deal of advertising revenue. 

Journalists are not actually interested in the truth or otherwise of a story. They are interested in how to tell a story so that it sells. In my line of work I see this over and over again. I get one story from aid workers in the middle of it all - and they can also vary greatly - and see another on a television news service. The news service is there to tell a story. The aid workers are telling me about what is actually happening. Believe me please; they are two different things.

I don't know Roberts-Smith. I am never likely to even meet him but until he has been tried and convicted in a criminal court I am not prepared to say, "He appears to be guilty of the offences charged." He isn't. Senior journalists of long standing know this too. Their reputations have also been damaged.