Thursday 30 November 2023

Welcome or acknowledgment to country?

It seems two of our local councils have finally bitten a bullet and removed the "acknowledgment" from their proceedings. This is not a "welcome". Let me explain.

There are two different things here. A "welcome to country" is something which was used  by some indigenous tribes to allow other tribes to enter or pass through the land they considered to be theirs. It has been taken over by our national airline and others in a cringe worthy was to welcome visitors. My friend M... believes this practice should be stopped. As an indigenous man he holds that it is an indigenous practice which cannot and should not be used by others as if it their own. If you want to say, "Welcome to Downunder. We hope you enjoy your time here" that would be just fine with him. He just doesn't want it turned into some sort of pseudo-cultural event. It is rather like taking a religious ceremony from one major religion and using it in another in his view.

And then there is the "acknowledgment". Some of us hear this multiple times a day in multiple places. It appears on official documents, on websites and other places. We "acknowledge" that the land we are on is the land which belongs to "X" tribe and "the elders past, present and emerging".  I have attended meetings, stayed in the room for another meeting with all but one of the same people and had the person leading the meeting repeat the words twice. It is said before other meetings I attend. It was even said at the start of a meeting in a group house for people with disabilities...because one of the carers has said it must be said.

Yes, it has reached a point where people are tired of hearing it. They have come to believe it means nothing, they are simply words which "must" be said. It is an embarrassment to be rushed through.  It has ceased to have any meaning, if it ever had any in some situations.

So two of our councils have abolished it. They will no longer say an acknowledgment at the beginning of council meetings. One council never began the practice but all others did. Our local council is not likely to abolish it any time soon. The present mayor would not allow that to happen.

But perhaps it should be abolished except for very special occasions. I can see it being relevant, appropriate and good manners in some situations. Indeed if I were to go to a meeting on the APY lands and a non-indigenous person was for some reason running it I would expect that person to acknowledge the fact we were meeting there. I do not expect to go to a meeting about rubbish collection and have an acknowledgment there. I do not expect to attend a meeting at a local school about an activity there and have an acknowledgment there.  

It seems many people agree with me. Waiting for someone to get back to me I read the comments following an on line article about one council's removal of the acknowledgment. In over one hundred responses there was just one strongly in support of retaining the words and three who thought "may be on special occasions". Perhaps those in support simply didn't read that article but the site is usually filled with a fair number of people on either side of issues. 

It seems people are tired of these things. We have done it too often. Had we kept it for rare and very special occasions it could have had real meaning. That makes me feel rather disappointed.  

Wednesday 29 November 2023

Is it because it is a Leap Year?

I don't know whether the upcoming Leap Year has caused problems with the calendar but an unexpected problem has arisen.

Our Knitting and Crochet group at the local library has contentedly met on the fourth Saturday of each month - apart from December - for many years. It is a time which has worked well. 

People come and go from the group. Some people come along and get some help they need and then don't come back. They often tell us things like, "I'd love to come all the time but..." and "I want to come more often but I have to take the kids to..." I know that Saturday afternoons are busy times for many people and for many reasons. The library staff know that too. 

There is also a small core of people who are regulars and a rather larger group who get there when they can, perhaps five or six times a year. They come because they know "it's the fourth Saturday" and they can be sure of finding the group there.

We don't pay to use the space. It is a community service provided by the local council. I am also aware that the group is much more than "just a knitting and crochet group". It is a social support network. We have had people who have come along for months while they sort themselves out. They tend to disappear after a while but it's fine if they no longer need the group. We have always tried to make sure people feel comfortable and welcome. Two of us also do a lot of teaching in the group - G....does most of the crochet and I do most of the knitting.We have done some group projects that have produced blankets for those in need and raised money by making Christmas tree ornaments for a Christmas Tree Festival. The regulars were there for me when things went horribly wrong at one point. We survived the Covid lockdown because we knew that we would be back on the fourth Saturdays supporting each other.

But perhaps not any more. The committee responsible for making sure the meeting rooms are available produced a flier and presented it to those of us present at the last meeting. "We had to change when you meet because otherwise there would be three groups meeting at the same time." There is no room for the group and the other groups all to meet at the same time. There are actually four meeting rooms and spaces inside the library itself but the committee seems to feel it isn't possible to accommodate a regular time. There are dates all over the place, some on the first Saturday, some on the second or the third and only three on the fourth.

Sadly I know this will mean the group will no longer work in the same way. It may not work at all. People won't look dates up. They will just know "there's a group which meets at "x" time in "y"place and I can go there to get some help." Even the regulars are going to forget that the dates are no longer regular and easy to remember. Some of them, like me, will have other commitments and not be able to get there. Those first Saturdays clash with other groups who cannot change to accommodate the new times proposed by the library.

I have put this in writing to the committee and expressed my concerns as nicely as possible but it may be too late. It may well mean the end of the group. I hope not but human psychology suggests otherwise.


Tuesday 28 November 2023

There has been a massive

thunderstorm this morning. It has been the sort of storm where the house shakes as the thunder rolls through and the lightning means you don't need to turn the light on...that is if you want to get out of bed that early.

I was woken by it. I curled up on my sleeping mat again and thought of how lucky I was. I was inside. I was dry and warm and as safe as it is possible to be in such circumstances. Yes, a bolt of lightning could come in through the window but it was very unlikely.

I then thought of all the people living in caravans, tents, under tarpaulins or without shelter at all. It always worries me. Yes, I know there are some people who are afraid of sleeping inside but they are so very few and far between and even they will seek shelter rather than face a thunderstorm. People want shelter, even other animals will seek it. It is there in the first part of Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" - along with air, water, food and sleep, clothes (for protection) and reproduction (for the survival of the species). 

We have about 400,000 more people in this country now than we did this time last year. Next year there will be at least another 315,000. We need to shelter all those people. They need to be provided with all the other things I have mentioned - and much more.  I sometimes wonder if the government has really thought about this. Do those responsible think just in numbers or do they think in practical terms as well? I doubt it.

There is a story this morning about how a "dangerous" detainee, one of those recently released from immigration detention under the High Court ruling, has gone off radar. He is refusing to wear an electronic monitoring device. I have little doubt that he has all the things he needs. Someone in his migrant community will be sheltering him. I wonder if he appreciates all he has. 

Yesterday I passed over a new t-shirt to someone who was making up a bag of clothing for another recent arrival. The recent arrival left with nothing but the clothes she was wearing. "What else does she need?" I added a bar of nice soap in a bag I had made and a pair of socks I had not worn. It wasn't much but it was what I could find in a hurry.  

I haven't met her yet but she sounds nice on the phone. The person I gave the items to phoned late yesterday afternoon and said, "M... wants to thank you. The t-shirt fits her nicely and now she can wash her other pair of socks." 

M....clearly knows the value of shelter more than most of us.


Monday 27 November 2023

Committing suicide

is often seen as the ultimate, selfish act. It is the people left behind who are not just grieving but who often feel immense guilt. There are all the "why didn't we know?" and "I wish.." and "I could have..." and much more.

Yesterday someone I had never seen before came walking very slowly along our street. She was walking a dog I didn't know either. Like most dogs it was sniffing and leaving marks. It looked at me and, as I usually do, I spoke to it. The dog, as they usually do, responded.

Then I looked at the woman. She was obviously distressed and, before I could stop myself,  I asked, "Are you okay?"

She shook her head, tried to stop the dog from jumping up to me and then sat down suddenly on our low front fence. Something made me sit down next to her and wait. If she wanted to talk I would listen. If she did not want to talk that was fine. I talked to the dog and let her compose herself.

"Sorry," she managed after a moment, "I'm just walking him because my son doesn't feel like leaving the house right now. I thought I'd come somewhere where nobody knows us."

I nodded. 

"I've always thought he was too hard on the children and now it has come back on him in the worst possible way."

I thought I could guess the rest but of course I couldn't ask. Then she asked, "Have you got children?"

"No - I was guardian for one."


"She died very suddenly - of natural causes."

The woman nodded and then said, "I am not sure that would be any easier for her parents."

I did not explain. It would not have been what she wanted to hear right then. There was more silence and then she said, "I just wish he had told him he was proud of him sometimes. He was a good boy, never any real trouble. He did the best he could at school but it was never good enough for his father. They'll get his exam results soon...oh God! It's so awful! It's such a bloody waste! Why couldn't they talk to each other!" 

The dog gave a little whine and put his paws up. She picked him up and he licked her face just once - as if he knew she needed comfort. 

I thought of the Police Commissioner's son and his parents. They are going through the sort of hell that no parent should go through but they know it was an accident. It wasn't the "ultimate selfish act".

The woman stood up again. She attempted to smile at me and said, "Thanks for listening." 

The dog was already straining at the leash, anxious to explore new territory. I watched them go. I am not sure I was even listening to her though. I was thinking about other people instead. We really are incredibly selfish human beings. The dog had more idea than I did.


Sunday 26 November 2023

Operation Flinders

has nothing to do with medical procedures (or the hospital in this state) and everything to do with helping young people between 13-17 become better and more confident people.

It is a relatively new "operation" I suppose. It was set up in 1991 by the late Pamela Murray-White. She was an army officer who eventually went back to teaching troubled teenagers and offering them experiences "in the bush" where they were challenged to develop a wide range of survival and social skills. Now it provides for groups of high school students and groups of troubled teens who do not know one another to go on eight day treks.

I do not know as much about it as I should but I do know something because a former neighbour was involved in actually taking these groups out. He was also a former army officer. He spent hours in conversation with the Senior Cat about what was going on and what they hoped to achieve. This was in the early years of the organisation. The program was still developing. They were adding ideas, taking things away, trying things out, raising issues - all the things you do when you are trying something new and are determined to make it work. Eventually the neighbour moved to another location and, while we did not lose interest in the program, we heard only what occasionally appeared in the news. 

I hope there will now be renewed interest in the program because the Police Commissioner and his wife have asked for donations to the program in memory of their son. The Commissioner is on the board of the organisation and Operation Flinders benefits from the support of the police force in general. 

I support the idea too. My nephews did not do the school program but their own school did, and still does, something similar. Both my nephews still mention it from time to time and the experience of needing and not just wanting to be responsible has had an impact on their adult lives. 

For trouble makers it can be the difference between a life of crime and something far more useful. I have met several young men who were somewhat reluctant participants, who went with a "yeah, if we have to..." attitude and came back with a "hey, it was so cool...I want to go do it again" attitude. I have yet to meet any of the girls but I suspect there might be similar changes.

It won't work for all teenagers and there are enormous risks and challenges in the program but it has many positive outcomes. It is unlikely that anyone reading this will want to donate anything to the program but if you would like to know more then please have a look at   <> . Perhaps we need more of this sort of thing.


Saturday 25 November 2023

"You should go on Mastermind"

someone said yesterday. He was talking to a friend who had just managed to answer a question about something some footballer had done. 

His wife and I looked at one another and she muttered, "The last thing I would want to do. He watches it every night and it drives me insane."

I could only sympathise. I do not watch Mastermind. I rarely watch anything but the first part of the international news service. Quiz programs are most definitely not something I would choose to watch. Mastermind may be a little better in that it does not have the commercial hype of some of the more glitzy shows but it irritates me. 

If I happen to turn on the television set a minute too soon and get the tail end of the general knowledge questions I grit my teeth. I may not know the answer to "who played X in Y television show" but I can name the capital of Taiwan. Therein lies the problem. I know almost nothing about television programs, "pop" music, bands, sport and any number of other things. I am much more likely (but by no means certainly) to provide an answer if someone asks me for something which is apparently of lesser importance. 

My maternal grandmother loved quiz shows. It was not that she could answer the questions necessarily. Her general knowledge was not that good. She was "not much of a reader" but she liked the way that the "hosts" asked the questions, encouraged the participants and more. I think she was more than a little in love with her "favourite" - a man called Bob Dyer on something called "Pick a box". We had to endure it if we happened to be there at the time the show was on. "It will be good for you. You might learn something."

My paternal grandmother might actually have been able to answer quite a few of the more general knowledge sort of questions but she did not have a television set. (It took them years to get one and then it was rarely turned on and only to the ABC - the Downunder equivalent of the BBC at the time.) Grandma knew all sorts things because she read a lot. She read to make up for her lack of schooling. Grandma didn't need quiz shows. 

The idea of going on national television and trying to answer questions about a "specialist" subject and general knowledge questions about football or soccer or the person who played such and such a character in such and such a series does not appeal to me in the slightest. I am no Mastermind at anything. I squirm at the very thought.  I have never been to a "pub quiz night" either but it seems to me that having a team of people answering questions would be preferable. (No, thank you but I do not want to do that either.) At very least someone else can decide who won the Brownlow medal and who was the person who scored the most runs in the latest cricket match.

I still think knowing the capital of Taiwan might be more useful. 


Friday 24 November 2023

How many times do you need to lose

your licence to drive before you go to prison? How much harm do you need to do?

There is a piece asking those questions in this morning's paper. It is a question I have asked myself and heard many other people ask. 

A licence to drive is a privilege. It is not a right. 

I have never had a licence to drive a car. I don't know how to drive a car. My only time behind the steering wheel was after I had passed the "learn to drive" test. It tested your knowledge of the road rules, not your physical capacity to drive. If it had tested that then I might still have passed the medical examination. It was not until I actually tried that I realised there was a problem and the doctor we had at the time said, "No, Cat - most definitely not." Even at sixteen I did not argue. We all knew cars can be lethal tools in the wrong hands. Even when people are doing all the right things accidents happen.

The learn to drive test most certainly did not and does not test your ability to behave in a responsible manner on the roads. It is why someone who had lost his licence eleven times and was driving anyway killed someone. He had never been sent to prison for any of his previous offences, always given the benefit of the doubt or another chance. "Taking away your licence" is considered to be punishment enough. The reality is that far too many people then risk driving without a licence. It ends up being no punishment at all. All it does is put other people at even greater risk.

It isn't only the number of deaths on the road but the injuries, sometimes permanent, caused and the cost of these. It is the cost to all of us in the taxes which pay for the people who have to deal with the aftermath of the inattention, the speed, the drug and drink driving and more.  

Yes, I am upset. I am upset that someone I know and like is still foolish enough to insist that his research shows that it is still safe to drive after smoking non-medicinal cannabis. The very fact you are even considering doing that and thus breaking the law shows you are not, at least in my view, fit to have a licence.

We need to make it much harder to get a licence and retain that licence. The penalties for driving without a licence need to be much harsher. I am sorry but I no longer care if you "can't get to work" because you have lost your licence. Catch the bus instead. 

Yesterday I came far too close to being killed. The pedestrian lights had been in my favour for long enough for me to be halfway across the road when that fool went straight through on a red light. Horns were blasted at him. His reaction was to blast his horn in return and then speed up. He was young. His "music" was blaring. The car was an "old bomb". 

Nobody got his number of course. Someone pulled over to make sure I and the person walking just behind me were "okay" - yes, just shaken. Thank you so much for asking. We both appreciated your concern.

There have been two more deaths on the road since the death of the Police Commissioner's son. Our road toll in this state is now heading towards being almost twice as high as it was last year. Last year was considered a "good" year but no year will be good until there is "O" there.


Thursday 23 November 2023

"Swap you?"

How many times have you said that, heard that or done that?

I phoned my jigsaw loving acquaintance yesterday because another jigsaw loving acquaintance had two jigsaw puzzles she thought J... might like. One is a duplicate she has been given but does not want to keep. The other is one she has done - twice. She does not want to do it again.  I have now arranged to pass them over to J... I also said to her, "L... wondered if you would be interested in swapping some so you both get something new to do?"

The answer was an enthusiastic "Yes, that's a great idea".  I will have to organise it as L... is housebound apart from rare visits to the doctor but it will be worth doing. They will both benefit from any exchange. 

My mother never encouraged us to "swap" as children. I suspect the need to be certain that the transaction was approved by parents on both sides, of equal value and what both children really wanted was all a bit much to negotiate. It was also awkward in a small rural community where my teacher parents were considered to be those you went to consult rather than negotiate.

I have done very little swapping in adulthood too but I know other people who do it. They swap unwanted clothes and plants and other objects. It seems to be amicable enough. 

I came across a couple of people the other day who had swapped armchairs they had inherited. They apparently fit each other's houses perfectly. 

Swapping is not the same as "handing things down". There was plenty of that in my kittenhood. Almost all my clothes were "hand-me-downs". I might have been the oldest kitten but my mother knew plenty of mothers only too happy to pass on things which no longer fitted their offspring. They would even, especially in the case of a certain winter coat, be passed backwards and forwards. (That coat did service to five girls in two families. The Black Cat was the only one not to wear it.) 

Swapping can allow things to go on being used in much the same way as handing things down does though. Our local library runs a "Swap Night" each year for the local teenagers. They can come along and swap clothes with each other under parental approval. It is an initiative which has been welcomed by more than one family with a stretched budget. Perhaps there should be more swapping taking place? 

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Kitchen appliances you don't need?

I was, unusually for me, side-tracked by an article about kitchen appliances people don't need, do have and don't use. 

It went through a list of about twenty. I did  not go so far as to actually read the article. I merely scrolled through, curious to find out what people have invented and managed to get manufactured. I was also curious about what people buy and then almost certainly don't use. 

I had not even heard of some things which made the list - a "breakfast station" and a "tea kettle" being two of them. (The first apparently makes breakfast for you. The second steeps the tea and all you need to do is pour it out.) I was puzzled by the pizza machine. (All it does is cook pizza.) There were other single use "gadgets" that can be easily replaced by more everyday items - such as a sharp knife.

My maternal grandmother loved such things. She was forever buying them. I remember the knife she bought for the sole purpose of cutting grapefruit. It disappeared when my mother took over the kitchen along with three hand juicers and then the electric one, the special "grater" (which didn't work), the four different types of vegetable peeler, the odd shaped ice-block trays, a device for reaching into deep jars and much more. Nana would see these things advertised on a day time cookery show she liked to watch. The next thing she would do would take a trip into the city (where all such shops were back then) and buy the item in question. 

Most of the items were cheap and nasty. They did not work in the way the cookery show suggested. Perhaps the "experts" there were more skilled but you really don't need to peel vegetables in four different ways. I have one peeler. It is the old-fashioned type. Middle Cat (much more dextrous than me) usually uses a knife. We don't own things that will scrape the corn off a cob - a knife does that. We don't own an avocado masher - a fork will do that. We don't own a knife that will sing "happy birthday" as you cut the cake. (We don't bother with birthday cakes either.)

Recently I cleared out another drawer. It is slow progress but I am making progress in getting rid of some clutter. Yes, even my mother had clutter - but not nearly as much. I have clutter but I am determinedly getting rid of some.

There was just one thing on the list that I do have - a bread machine. The argument for it being an appliance you don't need is that it takes up space (true) and it is possible to knead by hand and put it in the ordinary oven. I sighed. My paws are not strong enough to knead by hand. The Senior Cat tried to do this for me before we got the first bread machine. Even he had a problem kneading well enough. I never seemed to get the loaf right.

Enter the bread machine. My good friend I... found one in a second hand shop. She bought it for us and I used it. Ah, we finally had bread, the sort of bread the Senior Cat called "real bread". I added all sorts of seeds and occasionally walnuts and fruit, to the basic mix. I made bread from other flours occasionally. There was only one real failure. Our bread machine was used.When it failed the Senior Cat insisted we buy another one. It has been used...and used again and again. 

Do I need it now? Probably not but it does make good bread and I can freeze half the loaf I make. Yes, it takes up some space but I have space because I don't have all those other things cluttering up the kitchen.  I think I am allowed one appliance I don't actually need.


Tuesday 21 November 2023


The CEO of Optus - the telco which had the major outage a little while back - has resigned. 

Everyone else seems to think this is a "good thing". Perhaps it is but I am wondering why we are holding her almost solely responsible for (a) the cyber attack last year and (b) the system crashing.

I doubt she was the person who wrote the programs which enabled the cyber attack to occur or the system to crash.  I doubt the people who actually wrote the programs could have foreseen just how these attacks and crashes would occur. They should have known they could occur - and they did - but nobody has yet managed to write something that others cannot hack into.

I was talking to a mother several days ago. She lives just around the corner from me. She has two boys. One of them graduated from university about two years ago. He now works in cyber security. It is probably an excellent choice for him. He broke into his primary school's computer system in the last years there "just to show them if I could do it how easy it would be for someone else to do it". He didn't do any damage. He didn't read anything he should not have read. He simply left a message telling the school secretary he had done it and that the system needed to be upgraded and secured. (They did it. He was hauled in and told "Don't do anything like that again - but thank you.")

I am quite sure O... could find his way around any number of systems and cause a great deal of harm if he was so minded. Thankfully he is a very thoughtful, caring and honest young man who would never do deliberate harm to anyone.  

But why should the CEO of an organisation be required to resign because of the failure of others to do their jobs, foresee what others might do or take responsibility for something that could not possibly have been prevented? Oh, she wasn't communicating with the public? Was she actually at work getting the necessary teams to get on with the job?

There was outrage when the previous Prime Minister was "on holiday" during some of the worst bushfires this country has ever known. "He should be home dealing with all this, showing some leadership!" It mattered not that he was not the person responsible for actually dealing with fighting the fires, that it was a state responsibility. It mattered not that the situation developed while he was on a well earned short break with his family - and that people in that position leave the country because that is how they are actually able to hand the position over to a caretaker for a short time. Even then they are always available.  They know they need to be. It is all too easy for the rest of us to criticise and then expect them to fall on their swords when things go wrong.

So the CEO of Optus has fallen on her sword. She has taken responsibility even though this very serious incident was not actually her fault. I suppose it is the price you pay for having the "top" job anywhere but I couldn't help hoping that she had someone there for her as well.   

Monday 20 November 2023

"Is the Prime Minister home?"

I can see people knocking on the door of "The Lodge" and asking that question - if they can get in the gate.

I have been to "The Lodge" or the Prime Minister's residence in our nation's capital. It was not a particularly impressive building but the Prime Minister of the day was there at the time. (I was there with rather a lot of other people, most of whom I did not know. The occasion was not exciting or even very interesting.)

I feel almost certain I could go there now and find the Prime Minister was not there. Our Prime Minister has been given the name "Airbus Albo" - "Airbus" because he always seems to be going somewhere else. 

All Prime Ministers travel of course but it does seem that ours does more travel than most. Apparently he has now made thirty trips since becoming PM and people are asking if they are really necessary. Of course he and his minders will tell us that they are. "It's what we do. We need to network. I need to meet these people. It's how we do business and develop relationships," the current PM will tell us.

No, it isn't. Of course there is a certain amount of networking and development but there is much more to it than that...and I doubt our current PM is doing it. He doesn't have the capacity. He simply is not being taken seriously abroad. The Chinese called him a "handsome boy" but they were not being complimentary. They were suggesting that he would do their bidding...and he has.  That is not the role of the PM.

Our previous PM was heavily criticised for questioning where the Covid19 disaster began.  The Chinese were quick to take umbrage at the mere suggestion that it might have been a leak from a laboratory in China. Their very reaction suggests that, while even they may not be certain, they are concerned they may have been responsible. It was also a good excuse for them to put the brakes on a relationship they were also beginning to feel they could not control. It is much easier to control the present government which leans left rather than right, that is more in tune with their values and thus easier to manipulate. 

Do we need to be concerned by all this? Almost certainly we should be concerned. It is particularly the case when the Chinese navy is responsible for an incident  which harmed divers from our navy inside the territorial zone of yet another country. That could have caused not just serious injury but deaths. 

The "relationship" is not equal. We are the "little kids" in the playground. Our PM is too busy showing off to notice what is going on and "making friends" with the "big kids" instead of helping us learn to look after ourselves.  No, he is not at home. He could hand out many of the roles to his Ministers but he is keeping all the fun to himself.   

Sunday 19 November 2023

The son of our Police Commissioner

was killed in a hit-run incident on Friday evening. The news was not public when I wrote my blog post yesterday but it has now become public information. This morning it is spread across four pages of our state newspaper.

This 18yr old was at the "schoolies" event on the south coast of our state when it happened.  There is no reason at all to believe he was doing anything wrong. The other 18yr old who was driving did do something wrong. He did more than one thing wrong, very wrong. He is alleged to have been driving dangerously and without due care. He did not stop at the scene. Police caught up with him a little later. No doubt they had some help in finding him. This is one of those times when I could almost wish I had no imagination rather then too much. 

Both these boys, "young men" if you wish, should have had their entire lives ahead of them. One will no longer be with us. The other will almost certainly go on to a custodial sentence and then have to live with the knowledge that his behaviour has led to the death of another person.

Being the son of the Police Commissioner would be very, very difficult. I know something about always being expected to behave absolutely perfectly because of the position my father held. It was not always easy but it would have been much easier than being "the cop's kid". 

He was, in my very brief contact with him, a "good kid", "a nice lad". Like a lot of the other students from his school he would occasionally appear in the local shopping centre. On the occasion of my brief contact I was having a minor problem with the trike. It was caused by someone else's carelessness. He stopped and dealt with the problem without any fuss at all, gave me a smile and rushed off to catch up with his mates. They gave him a hard time about a "new girlfriend". He took their teasing in his stride. Someone needed help and he gave it.  A couple of times after that we exchanged smiles as we passed. Nothing was said. It was just a polite acknowledgment on his part.

I didn't even know his name or who he was until I saw a name with his photo in the news yesterday. He was simply "that good kid who helped when I needed it". And so I am mourning the loss of "a good kid", "a mate when I needed a hand".  I sat here thinking about the Whirlwind and tried not to cry because she would not want me to cry but there are times when it hits me. It is going to be so much harder for the Police Commissioner and his wife and their family, especially now. They will get their son's examination results soon. They might even get his offer of a place at whatever course he had decided on. It will all be "what might have been". 

Hug your family. You just never know what might happen.  

Saturday 18 November 2023

Jigsaw puzzles are

curious things. 

There is usually a puzzle "on the go" in the local library.  It will be on the high table between the fiction and the non-fiction. People will walk past, stop, look - and then perhaps add something to the slowly growing picture. 

It always seems to be the border which is done first. The "straight edges" are apparently the easiest to do. I have never seen one of the "round" or "irregular" puzzles on the table. Apparently some of the more unusual puzzles are even more puzzling.

Most of the library puzzles are landscapes. The patches of sky or sea seem to take longer to do too. I observe all this as I pass. I have not yet stopped with the idea of attempting to contribute.

Recently the library has been filled with school students wanting a quiet place to study for their final exams. A jigsaw puzzle had been finished and no staff member had put out another one for people to work on. "The students might find it distracting," one of them told me.

"I think I'd put one out," I told her. She looked at me and was about to disagree when I said, "Let me tell you something. It wasn't a jigsaw puzzle but it was the same sort of thing."

And I explained to her how, when I was in law school, I knitted a very complex "aran" pullover. Every round (I was knitting it in the round of course) I did required concentration. I used the knitting to help me solve problems and to give my conscious mind a break from what I was working on. Sometimes I would be doing practice questions and I would think, "I don't know the answer to this!" At that point I would stop and think, "I must know the answer." I would knit a round and concentrate on an entirely different sort of language for a few minutes. Then I would go back to the problem. If I was still having trouble I would put it to one side and discuss it with my friend C.... over our lunchtime sandwich but that was rarely necessary.  It was a strategy which worked for me. My friend C... would do crossword puzzles. I know there were a number of other students who also "distracted" themselves in the same way.

It requires a certain amount of self-discipline. It has to be just one move of the chess game or one piece of the puzzle done. It is not the same as going for that essential physical exercise. This is a different exercise for the mind.

A puzzle box appeared on the table. It was left there unopened but inviting. I was back in the library a couple of days later and I saw a student push back the chair he was sitting on. He wandered over to the puzzle, stared at it for a few minutes. Then he reached out, put one piece in place and then another. He stared at it for a moment longer and then went back to where he was sitting and returned to his work. 

Disciplined distraction can be a very useful tool in the study box. 


Friday 17 November 2023

New housing developments

are supposedly springing up like toadstools in the hills behind me. 

I say "toadstools" rather than "mushrooms" because they are not where houses should be. Yes, they are probably "close enough" to get to work if you work in the CBD or the surrounding suburbs of the city but there are problems.

I live in a city which runs along the coast. It has been spreading north and south for years, long before I was born. Commuting tends to (a) take time and (b) involve a car. Public transport is not generally considered to be an option by many people. In the past few years some stations have been added to the rail link south and the one east was extended to the big hospital there. That is about as far as the one east will go. The one south could go much further. Some people believe it should but there is no desire by government to do anything about it. The absolutely ridiculous thing is that there was once a railway line there. It was removed, as was the one north, in order to accommodate cares. This state once ran on the car industry. The car industry has gone.

And in the hills behind me where the little toadstool houses are springing up there are inadequate roads which cannot handle the volume of traffic to which they are now being subjected. I would not want to try and negotiate the "freeway" at peak hours. I do not like the freeway at the best of times. It has a dangerous mix of heavy transport and cars. I am always amazed that there are not more accidents on it. Yes I know that those German autobahns allow even higher speeds but they are designed and built for it. This "freeway" was designed for the purpose of getting people into the hills behind me and then on to the highway leading east.  It was also designed to have roads leading from it into the settlements in the hills. Those settlements were not designed to have any form of heavy traffic through them. 

Brother Cat discovered this recently when he was attempting to locate the motel he and SIL were going to stay in. They coped of course but, as he put it, "A car towing a trailer is nothing compared with the monster which was behind us."

There are buses into the hills. They are not that frequent although some people do use them for commuting purposes. One of the problems is that they, like most transport, go into the CBD. You then need to change to something else to get to your destination. There is no stopping on the freeway to catch something going somewhere else. They might have done it with a train service but not with a bus.

Now the federal government is adding to the problems by withdrawing the promised funding for various links and bypasses. 
All that is going to add to the woes of commuters. If we had a serious fire up there the situation could be catastrophic.

I am wondering if we haven't outgrown our location. It no longer seems to fit. Like a teenager outgrowing clothing at a rapid pace we are outgrowing the transport system. The problem is that the government is withdrawing funding for the clothing. Does anyone see a problem here?


Thursday 16 November 2023

Renting somewhere to live

is getting almost impossible. It is also getting more difficult for those who are "fortunate" enough to own the properties people need to rent. 

I was talking to someone who owns a rental property yesterday or, as he puts it, the bank owns the property. He is responsible for it and the mortgage which goes with it. 

The property is for his "old age - for retirement". He is trying to do the right thing and not be a drain on the welfare system. It is becoming increasingly difficult to do that. 

He cannot increase the rent when he wants to increase it. The government has put a stop to such things. He knows it is a move designed to ensure that some people do not attempt to make life even more difficult for people who need to rent. It is also increasingly difficult to shift tenants who do the wrong thing or do not pay the rent.

All of these things concern him but what really had him riled was the story in the paper of the council which has told a woman "living in a caravan" on a private property that she can no longer live there. You can only occupy a caravan on a residential property for 30 days a year. In the middle of one of the most serious housing crises we have faced the council is insisting that this has to stop. That the caravan is only being used as a bedroom and all other activities take place in the adjacent house is apparently irrelevant.

"Oh, we had a complaint about it," was the response of the council. Really? I wonder who complained and why? No doubt it was some officious individual who is determined to make trouble.  

Living in a caravan is possible. There are many people who do it. I know a couple who spent eleven years living in a caravan while they built up their now thriving business. If they had tried to build a house in that time they would not have the business. It was not easy but they did it. 

There are places here which have on-site caravans in which people live. They are not nearly as common as they are in some parts of the world but they do exist and they have meant the difference between shelter or no shelter for some. Isn't this preferable to a tent?

There are yet other people who live in caravans by choice. They travel to a new site every so often and pick up seasonal work which might last more than thirty days. Do we stop that happening too? Of course we don't.

My parents began married life in what was really a galvanised iron shed. It was unlined and it had a dirt floor over which linoleum had been laid. There was no bathroom and no power until the Senior Cat helped the man who owned the shed put up a windmill to generate enough power to get lights at night - when the wind was blowing. (The shed was almost on top of a hill and the wind did blow a lot.) It was very substandard accommodation but this was after WWII and there was a housing crisis then too. The Senior Cat had been sent to teach in a small country town and there was no other accommodation available once he married. Prior to that he had shared a tiny "bedroom" with another teacher in a house in the little township. The bedroom was actually a back verandah - closed in with boards and hessian sacks. In the same house there were children they both taught.  A caravan might well have seemed like luxury.

I really don't understand the council's attitude in all this. If housing was plentiful and rental properties much easier (and thus cheaper) to find then it might make sense. Right now there is a unit for rent in the court across the way. The family living there have moved on. The landlord can now increase the rent - and has done so. I spoke to the land agent and the rent is going up. "He's being reasonable," she told me but we both know that it will likely be more than fifty percent of someone's income. That is not reasonable.

Living in a caravan should not be a permanent solution but it should be made possible right now. There might need to be some conditions attached such as proof they are saving for a deposit or actively seeking more permanent  accommodation but it surely can be done. It would be better than a tent hidden in the park.


Wednesday 15 November 2023

"You need a new SIM card"

the voice at the other end of the phone tells Middle Cat. 

"No, I don't," she tells the voice, "I have a new SIM card."

"No, you need to get another SIM card and then we can transfer the number."

Middle Cat explains again. The voice repeats the message. Middle Cat explains again from the very beginning.

That was yesterday morning. Yesterday afternoon Middle Cat went to the phone shop in the shopping centre to see if she could get some help there. 

"No, you don't need a new SIM card," the man who runs the shop and, presumably, knows about such things, "That's nonsense. They have to...." He explains. Middle Cat does understand that. It makes sense. 

She calls Telstra again from this house. We wait...they finally call back. We go through all the "verification" process again and then the new voice at the other end says, "You need a new SIM card." Middle Cat takes a deep breath, does not lose her temper, and explains again. It makes sense even to me but apparently not to the voice at the other end...or perhaps it does.

Telstra may not want to lose a customer but they have lost me. The man who runs the shop seems to have a lot of information at his fingertips. He found two Telstra "plans" cheaper than the plan we were told was "the only one available". He found many more plans not offered by Telstra which are far less. They provide an identical service to that offered by Telstra but they are half and, in one case, even a third of the price.

I also need a "new phone" because the old one will only work on the 3G network - which will shortly cease operation.  That one will be the newer version the Senior Cat was using in the nursing home but I am determined to keep the old number and go to a new provider. It can be done. Telstra may not like it but it can be done. 

I do not like mobile phones. I do not like being "always available". I know they are now considered to be an essential part of daily life for this reason but I do not like them. I like the whole "provider" and SIM card business even less.  Middle Cat is battling on. I had to teach her how to do some basic computing this morning. We are not technologically minded cats - and yet my job depends on computer access. 

Could someone please invent something simpler that allows long distance communication without a phone or SIM card?  

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Glitches in the final exam

for modern history were reported yesterday. Apparently the examiners thought it would be interesting and different to put a short video up for students to watch. Accessing the video was vital to answering an apparently compulsory question. Due to a glitch some students were not able to access the video. They also had problems with other questions. 

These are year 12 students. Their examination results will affect their chances of getting in to their preferred course at university. Their results may even affect what they are able to do for the rest of their lives, how much they will earn, their place in the world. We all know that. For all the examination board says they will not be disadvantaged they have been. The stress alone is a disadvantage. They will go into every other exam wondering if something else will happen.

I wonder what would happen to me now. In order to try and give me equality with other students  I was allowed to type my exams once I went to university. In my last year there someone stole my typewriter from the cupboard it was locked in at the law school. This happened  the night before my first exam that year. Now stealing a favourite pen would have been bad enough but I knew my typewriter and I knew it well. I was comfortable with my typewriter. I could peck the answers out without thinking about the act of typing. I could concentrate on the answers.

I didn't quite panic but I came close to it. This was law school. We could take "examination summaries" in with us. (Examination summaries are just that - a summary of what we had managed to learn during the year.) I never opened mine but I took a lot of deep breaths, told myself not to panic and said to myself. "I know the work. If I can't type fast enough on another typewriter I can do it by showing I know my examination summary backwards as well as forwards and that I can apply the principles I have been taught. I can do it. I have to do it. If I don't do it then I have wasted all the effort I put in from when I started.

Yes, I managed - I even managed to graduate with honours - but I was an older student. I had been through more exams than I care to think about. I was not a student in my teens sitting those very important school exams for the first time. 

I also had the support of all but one member of staff, a man who was disliked by other staff as well as the students. He ignored me. Other staff gave me smiles as I went into the building and one or two said things like, "Good luck." Even the notoriously difficult professor in one subject looked in as I was rolling the last sheet out of the typewriter and asked if I thought I had coped. He sounded genuinely concerned.

I thought of all this as I listened to one of the students who was affected by the glitch.

"It was bad Cat but it could have been much worse. Our teachers were there, not Mrs ....(who teaches the subject), but the others were there before we went in and Mrs... was there afterwards and told us not to worry, not to let it affect our other exams. The invigilators didn't panic. They handled it really well. I thought how it could have been last Thursday in some schools when teachers went out on strike and how that would have made it much worse. At least our teachers didn't do anything like that. I'm okay I think. I worked really hard at it. If I need an extra point then I can appeal."

I hope she doesn't need to go through the stress of an appeal. She should do really well. I have seen her work and it is good, very good. It should not have happened and I hope it doesn't upset the students too much. I hope they have managed to learn something positive through the experience. I also hope that the parents of the affected students gave their children a hug and said, "Well done." 

Monday 13 November 2023

A million dollars to protest?

The government in a neighbouring state is apparently calling on the government for assistance in covering the bill to police the "pro-Palestinian" protestors.

These people have been out and about on a regular basis. They are getting louder each time. They are also getting potentially more dangerous.

A colleague in that state phoned me yesterday. She is about to head out of the country for a week. She has a job to do while she is there. When the request for help first came up she was happy to go but now she is worried about her teenage son. He came home from one of these protests "on a high". He told her "it was fun".  

No, he didn't have permission to attend the protest march. His parents were deeply disturbed to discover he had gone. They thought he was doing a school project with a mate. 

They have tried to reason with him. They have talked about the background to the Hamas-Israeli conflict. He's not ready to listen - yet. 

"I'll be going of course. I can't let them down but I would be happier if I could help him see what this is really about. Any suggestions gratefully received. I mean that."

I can't interfere of course - or can I? It is one of those times when I am glad I don't have children. I have never met her son. She is simply a colleague, one I know very little about. I am quite sure she is going through what many parents are going through right now. They will be worrying about their children, young and older, going on "protest" marches for causes they do not really understand but believe are right.

And then, in this instance, I thought of something else. My colleague knows someone else we both know. She actually knows him far better than I do. He's a Muslim but his views on the conflict are very different from those of the protestors. He's an academic who has studied the area. 

I sent my colleague an email last night saying, "What about M....? Could he help?"

There was a response this morning, "Thanks. J... (her husband) is going to call him."

I don't know if it will help. Perhaps I shouldn't even have mentioned  it. It is none of my business. Not everyone will have someone they can call on to help.

The cost of "protesting" is far more than the million dollars which apparently it is costing the police when they are called out like this. It is costing everyone in the community.  Yes, we have a "right" to protest but there are also costs - some of them hidden.

Sunday 12 November 2023

There are poppies growing

in this garden. 

I flung a packet of old poppy seeds on to a garden bed some years ago and thought nothing more of it. I was simply clearing out a small box of old seeds at the request of the Senior Cat.

It was in late October of the same year he came in for lunch one day and said something like, "Did you plant some poppies near the lemon tree?"

After a bit we realised that some of the old poppy seeds I had thrown out had actually come up. We left them there and every year since there have been some poppies appear. They are of course the brilliant red poppies for remembrance. The year the Senior Cat had planted some they were in containers ready to pass on to a group that had asked for them. These were in the garden.

They are there with the cornflowers. I scattered the seeds for those at the same time. The Senior Cat was not a tidy sort of gardener. He refused to plant things in strict rows. It wasn't the way he saw nature. As a result we once had strawberry plants down the driveway at our previous house - and carrots under the hedge between us and the neighbour. 

The poppies were treated the same way. They have been one of those things which have "just happened" ever since. Is that true though? They are always there in the lead up to Remembrance Day. I know they reminded the Senior Cat of things he felt very strongly about. He never picked them. I have never picked them. We have always left them just as they are.  

They are always there to remind me of things I find painful but for which I am grateful. I am reminded of the people who have gone before me, of the people who gave up their lives so I could have mine. I am reminded even more strongly of my fiancé. He died not in a war but because of one. I sent his late mother a picture of the poppies that first year. They were there with the cornflowers, the lemon tree and the sweet peas starting to bloom. "I can almost smell them," she told me.

I am no gardener. I just try to keep the place "tidy" - but comfortable. The man who comes to help two hours once a fortnight wants to preserve the poppies as much as I do. He will "let nature do its thing" and perhaps there will be poppies again next year. 

When I leave this place, something I will eventually do, I may take some of the seeds with me and hope I can grow some more, grow them as a reminder of life.

Saturday 11 November 2023

"Two factor authentication" and

"passwords" and "keys" and "your date of birth" and "your address" and.... and so it goes on.

Just recently someone I know was out and about. He had left his mobile phone home. Help! No way to contact anyone. There wasn't a phone box in sight. He stopped me, made a quick call to his wife (who answered the phone only because my name comes up) and, long suffering woman she is, she got in her car and brought his phone to him.

Once of course there would have been no way of doing this at all. Other things simply would not have happened.

I remember my grandfather and the Senior Cat having to send their signatures (via the bank) interstate and overseas in order to be able to access money. Now you can access money via your phone. 

In order for this to be "secure" - or so they tell us - you now need to go through seemingly endless amounts of "verification".  We are told that this is necessary for our own safety. Perhaps it is.

But then other problems arise. Middle Cat tried to call for a taxi recently. It is not something she has ever needed to do since mobile phones came into being. In the end she simply gave up. She went back into the medical clinic and got them to call a taxi for the elderly woman who needed one.  They taxi company couldn't handle a request for a taxi to be sent to a big medical clinic on a major road into the city. They needed something which could be not only be "plugged into the GPS but also 'verified' as coming from..Middle Cat". 

This might help to prevent "prank" calls but it is also dangerous if there is an emergency. Someone else I know had occasion to call the emergency number recently. He had witnessed an elderly man fall off his mobility scooter and injure himself. The boy who had seen this did the right thing but, being and sounding young, the operator apparently gave him a hard time before sending an ambulance. The boy did the right thing. He told the operator, "If you don't believe me then call my mum." (As you don't need a licence for a mobility scooter the boy took the mobility scooter back to where the old man lives and even plugged it in to recharge. There are some really sensible teenagers in this world.) It worried his parents that a responsible teen who was handling a situation very sensibly was being questioned this way. 

I am not sure where all this is going but the boy in question later said to me, "We are going to end up where we have to have passwords to talk to everyone...and don't forget the two factor authentication."

It's a frightening thought.  

Friday 10 November 2023

"He doesn't talk. He's had a stroke"

the woman told me. 

I had stopped to speak to someone else I know as I passed the little "hole in the wall" coffee place next to the supermarket. Her mother has not been well and I wanted to inquire. J...had waved me over and then introduced me to two people who were sitting with her. 

The woman promptly rose and said she would just go into the supermarket as I was there to talk to J... I thought this was rather odd and then this woman said of the man sitting there, "Oh, I can go now. I didn't want to leave J... on her own." 

That sounded even odder to me. Her husband was sitting there. Then this woman went on to say, "Oh, he doesn't talk. He's had a stroke." 

I did not like that at all. It seemed completely insensitive to me. I could see J... did not like it either. She looked as uncomfortable as I felt as the other woman hurried off.  

My immediate reaction was to include him in the conversation. So I said to him, "J... and I have known one another a long time. I just wanted to know her mother is."

And then I asked him a question he could answer "Yes" or "No" to - a nod or shake of the head if necessary.  Had he known J... for long time? He smiled and said, "Since she was a baby."

His speech was a little slow, a little careful but quite clear. We went on talking. He was part of the conversation. They had been to one of those rare funerals which are genuinely happy occasions. I even teased him mildly about "something usually only men do" at one point (the wearing of ties at funerals)  and he laughed. 

We talked for perhaps six or seven minutes. He participated fully in the conversation. I then left both him and J... and thought that the comment of the woman (who was apparently his wife) was very odd indeed. He could talk. It was, apart from that slight hesitation - as if he needed to put the words together, perfectly understandable. 

J.... called me last night to tell me something else and I mentioned it and she said, "Oh, he mostly doesn't say anything. C....(his wife) does all the talking - for both of them. I've never heard him so chatty. He liked you because you talked to him."

I am not sure whether to feel frustrated or furious. There is almost nothing wrong with his ability to communicate that a little patience on the part of others won't fix.  I know I am perhaps much more acutely aware of communication issues. Almost my entire life I have been aware of such things but I also believe there are plenty of other people out there who are aware. All this pleasant man needed was someone with a very small amount of willingness to wait as he spoke. If his wife had said nothing at all I would have picked up a problem - but it wasn't the problem she told me it was. That upsets me.  How dare she tell me, in front of him, "He doesn't talk. He's had a stroke."

Thursday 9 November 2023

The telecommunications outage

which occurred yesterday should be a wake up call to all those who appear to be permanently attached to their phones - but it won't be. They will be back to old habits today.

My own mobile phone was quiet yesterday - at least I thought it was. I accidentally left it at home when I prowled off. For me the phone is there for emergencies and essential calls when I am out. 

I make very few non-essential calls anyway. Most of those are to check on people who might need help. Talking for long periods of time on the phone is not my preferred means of communicating with people here if I am likely to see them face-to-face. 

Someone queried that the other day. Why had I bothered to make the effort of pedalling off to see someone else? I could just as easily have spoken to her on the phone. No, I could not. It was important to make the effort to actually see this person. She lives alone now. I took some of the shortbread I had made. We had a mug of tea each and a chat. As I left she actually told me, "It was so nice of you to come round. It's so much nicer than just talking on the phone." 

Face-to-face is different.

Of course we use telecommunication networks for all sorts of other things as well. The outage had a massive flow on effect to businesses who need access to a network to even function. Some businesses had to cease trading. Some banks were not on line. The hospitals were struggling to function as they could not access all electronic records. 

There seems to have been a "well this is all the fault of the telco" and "they need to do better" attitude, especially from the government. It was said to show "how vulnerable" we are. The company is based in Singapore and that apparently means the government is in no way to blame. Really?

I suspect that what we really have is a system which is struggling to handle the demands made of it. We have a system where people have objected to those nasty phone towers being placed where they need to be placed. There are other parts of the system which have been built quickly and as cheaply as possible in order to try and cope with the demand. 

Do we really need all that instant availability? One of my neighbours was working from home yesterday. He was fortunate in that he could do this without the need to access that particular network. Last night he came over to ask me for a book I had promised to loan him. While we were talking he told me he had managed to achieve a lot. "It was so quiet Cat! I didn't get nearly so many calls." 

Perhaps we need to switch the phones off sometimes - or leave them behind.


Wednesday 8 November 2023

How much food does a horse eat?

I have no idea and suspect it varies as much among horses as it does among humans or cats or any other living thing.

There was "that horse race" yesterday. You know the one I mean - the one run on the first Tuesday in November. It is the one which (supposedly) "stops the nation". 

I was busy doing something else (work) and did not even think about it until I saw it mentioned on the news service in the evening. It is just as well I did not think about it. I think I would have been even more infuriated by the waste of money.

Just prior to the story about the race came the news that there had been yet another rate rise by our Reserve Bank. I had thought about that one. The rise was expected but it is something that is going to cause even more stress for people with a mortgage. There are other people it will also affect in negative ways.

And I thought of someone I know who told recently told me, "I can't get a mortgage loan from the bank because they say I couldn't afford to repay it but I am paying much more in rent than I would have to pay in order to pay off the loan."  There is something wrong with that. 

I looked at the "fashion parade" which is apparently as much part of the horse race as the races themselves and felt more than a little uncomfortable. Some of these people will have spent for more on their outfits for a day than others can spend on food for a family in months. The amount of money spent on that one day is probably more than I can comprehend. It is certainly more than I will ever own. The one big race alone apparently has a prize of $4m. Why? People drank champagne and more. They no doubt ate fancy little pieces of "finger food" and more. The cost was...let's just say far higher than I would contemplate spending to feed myself for much longer than a day.

And yes, there were people who gambled and won but many more who gambled and lost.

Afterwards there would have been a mess to clear up. There were the exhausted "catering staff" and the people who picked up the rubbish and took it off.  I wonder how many of them were paid so little they have a struggle to pay the rent and feed their families? How many of them gambled too? How much does a horse really eat? 

Tuesday 7 November 2023

So you (don't) want to be a teacher?

Yes, the teachers in this state are "going out on strike" on Thursday. Their highly (overpaid) union boss has decided that the "offer" on the table is not good enough.

The offer is already way above what the teachers I know were expecting. They are realistic enough to know the government cannot afford more. They do not even want to go out on strike. The year twelve teachers have apparently been told by the union "we will understand if you want to make yourselves available". Oh, how kind of them.

Teaching, done properly, is difficult. It is very difficult. It is far more than the time you appear in front of the class. Even when I was working in "special education" I was putting in hours of preparation at night. I was planning and making for nineteen profoundly physically and mentally disabled children. Thankfully I did not need to worry about any of the "politically correct" issues with which teachers in the mainstream classrooms now need to be concerned. I was more concerned with trying to get the children to recognise colours and the names of everyday items.

Now I wonder if I would be expected to add things like "gender diversity" to the mix.

I suspect we need to revisit the teaching profession and work out just what it is we really expect teachers to do. We surely need to be rid of the "politically correct" and "gender diversity" issues? Do we need to cease teaching the new bias in "cultural issues" and go back to basic skills? Isn't school there to teach us the skills we need to learn in order to educate ourselves?

Right up until he left us the Senior Cat was telling people "phonics does have a place in the teaching of reading" - and he knew a thing or two about the teaching of reading. We need to find time for children to read books for the sheer pleasure of reading - whether it be for entertainment or information.

I have been thinking about all this as the union boss is telling the teachers to withdraw their services for a day. He obviously believes that giving parents  a couple of days notice is sufficient. He also obviously believes they will support teachers in their bid. 

Teaching isn't a particularly well paid profession but it is much better than it once was. My parents were very poorly paid when they began teaching and teachers of my generation were not much better paid. There is still a perception that many teachers work just in school hours - and no doubt some do - but there are also many who work very long hours indeed. 

Should they go out on strike? I think it would be better if they could find other ways of protesting - perhaps by just refusing to fill out the new and apparently endless paper work? 

If the one family in this street who does not have someone they can call on then they will almost certainly call on me. I will fill in because I care about the children. I wonder if I can put in a demand for pay from the union? 

Monday 6 November 2023

Rapists and murderers have lost the right

 to be "afforded the courtesy of using their preferred pronouns" as has anyone else who commits any act of violence. 

Okay, you may not agree with me. You might agree with the Chief Justice in this state who has just sent out an edict that "it is important to recognise the correct pronunciation of names and use of the preferred gender pronouns is a matter of respect and is an important component of ensuring public confidence in the proper administration of justice". 

Someone apparently went from the Chief Justice to JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame and asked her what she thought of this. Most of us already know what she thinks. Why should perpetrators of such vile acts be the recipient of such courtesies? She repeated her belief that this is "state sanctioned abuse". 

I actually find it hard to believe that the Chief Justice, indeed the entire courts system, could be so brutally insensitive. I also find it hard to believe that anyone should believe that someone who has been found to commit such an act should be given the "respect" of their "preferred pronoun". They have lost all respect from me.

Many years ago now I was asked if I would act as "amicus curiae" for a man with "learning difficulties" who had been accused of very serious sexual misconduct. The legal firm in charge of his case wanted someone there to guide him through the court processes. I refused.  It was something which surprised the person asking me. I think she believed I would do anything to help someone with a communication disability. 

I refused because I actually knew the reputation of the man in question. He had been accused of committing such acts for some years prior to being charged. Until then he had always managed to avoid prosecution.  People had been sympathetic because "he likes to dress up in girl clothes" and "he just likes girls but they don't want anything to do with him".  He used to tell people he was "really a girl".

He was convicted but I wonder what would happen to him now. He was well aware he was committing criminal acts. Yes, he also needed help but he had not earned respect. I wonder if his victims would be required to address him as "she" now. Rowling is right. It would be an abuse of their right to be treated as genuine victims.

Sunday 5 November 2023

The 60's songs of your teenage years

are apparently the songs which stay with you. I know I wrote about this some months back when the matter was raised by one of the columnists in our state newspaper. I have yet to read the research - when I find it. I was reminded of it a couple of days ago when I was reading some comments by my friend H... around "Leaving on a jet plane" by Peter, Paul and Mary.

I also remember saying that I was not one of those teenagers who listened to the Beatles and their contemporaries. (Yes, I know that dates me!) Despite that I realise I can recognise some of the songs from the 60's and 70's. 

Perhaps that is hardly surprising. I did hear them of course, heard them in places outside my own home. I really cannot remember taking a great deal of notice apart from the few songs I managed to learn at Guide camps. (Most of our Guide camp songs were things like "The Quartermaster's Store - often with me making up new verses for everyone to sing.)

My friend O though is "very musical" - in other words she can do more than strum a guitar and sing in tune. She is the one person from that time I have remained in touch with over the years. We can go for months without seeing one another and then we simply pick up where we left off. It was her ability to sing, play and then teach the rest of us which gave me the little knowledge I have of the music of that era. I suppose it was her choice of songs that influenced me too. 

I looked at "protest songs of the 60's" in Google and found I did not remember too many of them "Give Peace a chance" and "Blowin' in the Wind" are still sung along with "The times they are a changing". The Seekers were at their height here in Downunder but a lot of their most popular songs were borrowed from the likes of Bob Dylan. I was reminded this morning of  Redgum (which my cousin managed) but they didn't start to make a real appearance until the mid 70's.  We had Jimmy Barnes and John Farnham - the former a boy from this state but I cannot remember them from that time. I know, weird. I was probably too busy listening to the "music of words".  

I have never been able to work with music in the background. I need silence. So did I really miss out on that much? I had a sudden thought though and I searched "folk songs of the 60's". That's where I found the sort of music I actually remember hearing. It is what O... played and taught us - along with all the traditional campfire songs. Perhaps I am not a complete dinosaur of a cat if I can remember "Puff the Magic Dragon". I can lie under the "Lemon Tree" and listen to the "Sound of Silence".

Do they have songs like that now? I haven't heard any.  


Saturday 4 November 2023

"I am scared I have cancer"

a friend told me. She sounded frightened which is not in the least surprising. I would be too.

She had, at my request, rung to tell me the results of the test she had taken two days ago. The test results were "inconclusive" and she needs to have more.

I had asked her to call me because I knew she would need to talk to someone.  I am trying to be a good friend to this person but it is often difficult. 

She is an "isolate". Both her parents were only children and she was an only child. Her husband died some years ago now. It was his second marriage. Her step-daughter wants nothing to do with her even though the relationship started long after his divorce. There is just one other member of his family who has taken any interest in her. 

I doesn't help that she has a disability and multiple medical issues. So, I try to be there for her and tell her to do things like call me with results so she feels she has someone who is listening.

It makes me realise how incredibly fortunate I am. If there was something seriously wrong with me Middle Cat or Brother Cat would do all they could to help. I would do the same for them. I would even do it for the Black Cat although it is unlikely she would do the same for any of us. 

From things that my friend has said from time to time I suspect the marriage of her parents was one of "have to" rather than "want to". That she proved to be disabled appears, not unusually, to have been a further cause of tension. As Catholics they could not countenance divorce or even separation.

Now I wonder what will happen to this person if she does have cancer. There are things she must do anyway. It is getting to the point where she cannot live alone. Someone else already helps her do the shopping and the cleaning but it is the person the aged care provider she is registered with sends. It may be one person she knows one day and a complete stranger the next. The people she sees are not friends and the quality of the care they provide varies wildly. I am absolutely certain she could not cope with cancer treatment and go on living alone. It just could not happen. I suspect the problem is a different one but it is still going to need treatment. 

She does not live close enough for me to help in any practical way. I cannot get to her place by using the train and my tricycle. All I can do is listen - and that may not be enough - but I might just put the jigsaw puzzle I have for her in the post now.

Friday 3 November 2023

Teachers going out on strike

in the middle of the year twelve examination period seems unbelievable - and irresponsible. The union in this state is very different from the one which was in place when I left the teaching profession.  

When I was growing up and in my first couple of years as a teacher there was the "teachers' institute". It was not actually a union at all. It was run largely by the heads of schools and teachers with more senior positions. It ran training sessions in things like the "new maths" and conferences about educational issues. It was considered to "useful" rather than "political".

I suppose it started to change around the time the Senior Cat was given the task of running a very big international conference. There were speakers from all over the country and from overseas. Some of those speakers saw education as a political issue. I remember the Senior Cat being concerned about what some of them were saying. He could see where it was going but also knew it was going to happen anyway. He saw his role as damage limitation and he had plenty of backers even among the rank and file of the profession. Teachers, like nurses and firefighters, did not go out on strike.

They do now. There was a one day strike earlier this year. The kittens in this street thought they were getting a day off. They didn't. Some of their teachers broke ranks. 

I hope enough teachers will break ranks this time to ensure that the students doing exams will have someone there. It's too late to be learning anything more perhaps but just have your teacher there can be comforting...or just someone you know who has listened to your worries about exams.

Our local library staff are doing their usual outstanding job of looking after all the high school students who come in for a quiet place to work. I took in more chocolate frogs yesterday and one of the staff quietly took them around. One or two of the students I know guessed where they had come and gave me grins and thumbs up as I passed. There was no need to say anything. If they need to talk about a point in their upcoming psychology exams they will contact their teacher now. It's not my role to see them through the exam with anything more than chocolate and sympathy. It will be up to their teachers to listen to last minute cries for help and, just as importantly, to be there when they have finished those anxious hours of answering questions. 

There really are roles in which it is unacceptable to strike at certain times. Just as a surgeon would not go out on strike part way through an operation teachers should not go out on strike part way through that final push to the best pass possible. Those sort of politics have no place in education.


Thursday 2 November 2023

Changing phone service providers

should be a simple matter, shouldn't it?

I am still using the Senior Cat's old mobile phone. It works on something called the 3G network. That network is going to be put to sleep very soon. I have been told I need to "upgrade". 

The problems we have had trying to do this appear to be endless. I did manage to switch the account from his name to mine last year - after providing a death certificate for him and one hundred points of "ID" for me. Even then Telstra was not too happy with the idea. I had to make more than one visit to one of their "outlets" in order to get this done.  I can get a passport for the same number of ID points!

The plan, still under contract then, was the cheapest available from Telstra but the price suddenly went from a very reasonable one to much more. It was not competitive.

I loathe mobile phones. I loathe the need to carry one now. I dislike being "available" at all times rather than when I am home but I recognise there is a need to have one now. If for no other reason it is essential in an emergency. Phone boxes on streets are a thing of the past. People will not even allow even elderly cats like myself to prowl in off the street to seek help.

Middle Cat and Nephew Cat understand my feelings about all this. "There is another phone here you can have and we will transfer you over to a cheaper plan."

The "new-to-me" phone is on an upgraded network. Middle Cat set to work and ordered a new SIM card from the company she is with and that arrived without any trouble. Trying to transfer over has been another issue. She has spent hours trying to do this. I have needed to be there to give "permission" for her to talk to Telstra. This is of course quite ridiculous because I could be anybody at all giving their "permission". There are no "secret passwords" involved in this process. 

"You need to do this," they tell us. Then they tell us, "You need to do that" and "No, you can't transfer the number unless...". 

We were also told, "You can't do that. There's a contract in place."

We explain there is no longer a contract. I now pay by the month. No, there is a contract. We can't let you transfer the number and we can't release you from the contract...and on it goes.

Yesterday Middle Cat thought she was finally getting somewhere. Now I do not have a phone service at all. Telstra has managed to stop the number. We have to go and see them today - with one hundred points of ID for me - just to get the service reinstated so it can be transferred to the new provider.

Of course Telstra does not want to lose customers but this is not the way to keep them either!


Wednesday 1 November 2023

If you are going to volunteer

in an organisation do you also have a right to criticise?

Apparently our volunteer firefighters have been hit with a "gag" order. They are not being permitted to speak up or speak out about the problems within the organisation.

We need volunteer firefighters in this country. Wildfires or, as we call them, bushfires are a major issue of concern. As I write this there are people in other states risking their lives fighting these fires. There has already been a need to call in firefighters from other states and our Kiwi neighbours.

Brother Cat is a volunteer in his local unit. He is not particularly fit or physically able but the firefighting service will take anyone who can hold a hose. They must or fires won't get fought and people will lose everything.

I have friends in the hills behind me. They have plans in place. They know exactly what to put in the car and where they will go. Their bags are actually packed. Their papers are all in one place ready to pick up and walk out of the house. Even all that preparation may not save them without the efforts of the firefighters.

They also need other volunteers, people from the State Emergency Service in particular. There are also many other services which rely on volunteers in an emergency even in this country.

Preventing people from raising issues which concern them is just foolish. Many years ago there was a fire near a school the Senior Cat was in charge of and he was responsible for opening up the school to all the facilities it could provide. Nobody negotiated that, nobody said it could or could not be done.  I certainly would not have been standing in the school's home economics kitchen at three in the morning making sandwiches. We did it and the little township we lived in was, apart from some minor damage, saved. Now it would be impossible to do all that because of the "safety" rules and regulations which have been put in place.

Later there was a review of what had gone on. There was no doubt criticism as well as praise but I remember the Senior Cat coming home from the meeting and saying one of the volunteers had come up with a very good idea. This man had solved a problem of his own initiative and put it in place. Those at the top had not taken him to task for doing something differently. They had listened. 

We need to listen to volunteers and remember to thank them, really thank them. Most volunteers I know don't want money spent on parties or fancy dinners but they do like a genuine "thank you" and a helping hand when they need it. Don't stop them from speaking up but do say, "I thank you."