Sunday 31 December 2023

Feeling lonely

sometimes is something we have all experienced but the rise in the number of people who say they "often" feel lonely is disturbing.

I am not sure how the "loneliness" research is conducted but I can well believe that there is a rise in "loneliness". The Covid lock downs showed us how vulnerable many people are.  The latest figures from something called "United Communities" suggest that around two-thirds of the population feels lonely often enough for it to be of concern.

Even people who appear to have family and friends can feel lonely. Middle Cat admitted to me recently that, without her two cats, she can feel lonely.  Middle Cat is married, has two children and a wide circle of friends and acquaintances - far more than I have - but she has been in and out of hospital recently. She is still in a lot of pain. Doing anything has been an effort. It all makes a difference to the amount of social contact she has. "It must be like this for many very old people," she said. 

I can only agree with her. Many of the loneliest people I know are elderly people in aged care. They are surrounded by other people but they are lonely. All the "activities" do not make up for a quiet one-on-one conversation with someone they know.

"Working from home" can cause similar issues. It is all very well to suggest people get more done but does the lack of social contact actually reduce their efficiency? I suspect it might in some cases. If people are not mixing at work then are they also less aware, less tolerant?

Not so long ago the dates for the local library knitting group were going to be changed from regular meeting times to irregular meeting times. The person who made the suggested change did it with the best of intentions I am sure but I had to say, "It won't work. People won't remember irregular dates and the group is too important for it to cease." I pointed out that what mattered was the social contact. There are people who come along just for that. G... and I might do some teaching. We will help people who come to get help and don't come back because other things get in the way. There are other people however who come on a regular basis. One woman came for a long time and admitted to me that the group saved her from suicide. She has since moved interstate to be closer to her only family. I wondered how she was coping but she contacted me with a Christmas note to say she had started a new group at her new local library. The library dates have been returned to their regular fourth Saturday of the month. 

I am someone who is fortunately able to entertain myself but company is nice to have occasionally. It was good to have G... visit for a few hours on Thursday. We had a sandwich together. She is a talented and able craft person and she brought some "show and tell", returned two books she had borrowed and borrowed two more. We talked about the library group and whether we might do another group Christmas tree in two years for the Christmas Tree Festival. It wasn't a matter of "going out" or "spending money". All we did was enjoy the company of each other...and it was a good excuse not to do some clearing out!'

I don't want a constant round of social activities. There are many times when I simply want to be able to get on with other things but I know I need to make the effort to make contact with other people. I need to make sure I give other people the gift of time and attention to them so that they feel as if they are worth something. I need to listen to them. Failure to do that is selfish and will do me no good at all.

If I have any sort of New Year's resolution it will be to try and do more to keep in touch with the people I know. Most of us do not make good hermits.




Saturday 30 December 2023

Autograph books

 are apparently still available. I looked on line. I did it out of curiosity because I came across the one I was given yesterday.

It was in a small box of things belonging to my mother. It was there with the one she had been given as well. 

Mine was given to me by my maternal grandparents as a birthday gift one year. I remember being rather puzzled by it. Why did you ask your family or your friends to write in a book like that? The idea that you might ask someone "important" to write in it alarmed me. I was never going to do that.

I looked through the book. I knew my family members of course but the other people? Yes, I knew who they were at the time - mostly my class mates (female only) and teachers from school. There is one from Alan Marshall but that is stuck in. He wrote the note on a piece of paper - without me asking him. (He slipped it into my pocket as he left the school.) I think my mother must have glued it in.

My maternal grandmother kept demanding to see the book. I was supposed to let her know who had been asked to write in it. She was "very disappointed"  I was not taking more interest in it. The problem was that I had no idea who to ask. The idea that I could actually ask other people to write in it made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I was old enough to know that I knew some "quite important" people, people like our local Member of Parliament. He would sometimes come and have a cup of tea with the Senior Cat. I didn't need him to write in the book. We knew one another. 

Looking back I realise I did not appreciate the intended function of the book but even knowing that would have made no difference. I would not have asked people to write in it.

My mother's autograph book was a little more interesting. There were names in there I recognised, her friends, my great-aunts and uncles. My maternal uncle is there with a rather naughty message. There are some names from the world of ballet. (My maternal grandparents had "connections" in that world.) Her book has more signatures than mine but it is still far from full. I suspect she was doing what was expected of her rather than what interested her.

I sat there considering all of this. It would have been possible for me to fill my book with some very famous names indeed. I could have made a nuisance of myself at Writers' Weeks and asked all manner of people. It never occurred to me - and if it had I would not have done it. 

Years later I threw out boxes and boxes of correspondence relating to International Literacy Year. There were some very famous names there as well. I remember a former Senator being absolutely appalled that I had not kept a handwritten letter from a Nobel laureate. I just shrugged. I saw no point in doing it. The job was done. I didn't think anyone else would be interested. It was really nothing to do with them.

I know it is possible that they would have been of great interest to someone, that I should perhaps have kept all the correspondence and passed it on to the national archives. Really though I don't think it matters that much. It wasn't why I did what I did and I don't want people writing about it later.  They are almost certain to have the wrong ideas about it all.  

Friday 29 December 2023

A shortage of "tradies"

is apparently causing problems in the building industry and other places. Really? I am surprised. (Sarcasm alert there.)

Apparently someone in the building industry has said that a generation of young people have been brainwashed into believing if they don't go to university they are failures. I would say it has been more than one generation. It has been at least two and even a third may have been infected by that nonsense. 

Most of my secondary education was undertaken in "area schools". They are what the name suggests, schools for an area. They are rural schools where students are brought in by bus, often from very long distances. The Senior Cat was the head of two such schools. Both provided a very basic two stream education. You did the "area school" or rural course or the "public examination" (PEB) course. There were no subject choices and the system greatly favoured boys and sciences over girls and any arts subjects.   

It was far from a satisfactory system. The teachers were all too often inexperienced. They would be sent to a rural school  as their first appointment. (The Education Department could send teachers anywhere in the state.) They would be expected to drive the buses as well as teach all day. The facilities and resources were, to put it politely, limited.

Somehow some of us managed to get an education and went on to become teachers, doctors, members of parliament, lawyers, bankers and the like. We also missed out on a lot of the distractions available to our fellow students in the city. Perhaps that meant we put more time into study - when our services were not required on the farm or helping out elsewhere.

But in the city there were "high schools" and "technical high schools". The latter were usually single sex because they provided facilities for woodwork and metalwork or cookery and dressmaking. Girls could leave ready to take up roles in offices and child care. Boys could leave and take up an apprenticeship in any number of industries.

Then came the idea that students who went to technical high schools were somehow being discriminated against, that it was unacceptable to suggest that less able students attended such schools. It was thought that this prevented them from possibly attending university. Yes, all students had the right to aim for university. We were told it was wrong to prevent anyone from achieving that goal. We are still being told that.

We are being told that even though a former governor of this state is a graduate of one of the technical high schools. He went on to be a very successful man indeed. I know another, one of the Senior Cat's cousins, who went on to be Apprentice of the Year and then on to be at the very top of the oil industry. (Not perhaps where you might want to be now but oil was acceptable at the time.) There are others who have gone on to own businesses and become multi-millionaires. Going to a "technical high school" did not prevent them from succeeding. It was almost certainly what allowed them to succeed. It gave them skills they could put to use. 

Of course doing away with technical high schools, especially when they were single sex, has also meant saving a great deal of money on facilities. There is no need to provide the woodwork and metalwork facilities and equipment. The cookery kitchens have gone and much more with them. We like to pretend that everyone is getting "an equal opportunity" to attend university while forgetting that dentists and doctors need buildings to work in and plumbing to wash their hands. We forget that the courts still need stenographers and security staff.  All of us need to eat and that means buying food grown by farmers and distributed by drivers. I could go on. Anyone able to read this will sometimes have thought of those things. 

Why then is it that the education system fails to recognise what seems to me to be obvious? Not everyone needs to go to university. Some people do not want to go. They find other ways of succeeding or are simply content to be the people they are.  

Thursday 28 December 2023

Shopping hours for the

supermarkets are being hotly discussed yet again. It seems to happen every time other shops are allowed to open but a supermarket of more than 400sqm has to stay closed.

Yes, I live in a place with some very strange rules about shop opening hours. 

The big shopping centres were open for the post Christmas sales on Boxing Day but the supermarkets were closed. There have been the usual complaints about "not being able to buy bread or milk or dog food".  The reality of course being that you could go off to a much smaller supermarket and buy these things. You could also buy them from a service station mini-supermarket....or you could simply be organised and plan ahead.

I did go to the post office yesterday but I did not go into the supermarket although it was open again after being closed on Boxing Day. I did not need to go. As I went past however I noted that it was no busier than usual. 

When I was a mere kitten shops were closed on Saturday afternoons and they most certainly were not open on Sundays. There were no "supermarkets". You went to the grocer, the greengrocer, the butcher and the baker. There was nothing like the variety there is now. I was an adult before I tasted an avocado and a mango and a kiwi fruit. Those things simply were not on the shelves of any shop I entered. There were very few "ready made" clothes. Footwear was bought from a "shoe shop". 

Trying to explain all this to young kittens today is difficult but it really is not that long ago. What is more we survived it. You ran out of milk on Sunday? Then you waited until the milkman delivered more on Monday morning. It came in glass bottles - and they could be recycled.  Your mother made biscuits, scones and cake as well as all the meals. Eating out was almost unheard of and the only "take away" was fish and chips wrapped in a layer of "butcher paper" and then yesterday's newspaper.

We managed somehow.  I suspect that most people have managed now. They would have much larger "fridges" in which to keep milk. There would be a spare loaf of bread in the freezer along with the ready made pizza, the frozen vegetables and the four pack of pies with the fancy ice cream for dessert. 

Supermarkets don't need to be open on Boxing Day. They don't need to be open for the long hours they are now open either. It just adds to the cost. We can still accommodate the people who work unusual hours. 

Perhaps it is time to rethink shopping hours altogether? 

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Boxing Day sales!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I did not dare leave home yesterday. There was chaos out there. The "sales" were on.

What sales? The Boxing Day sales. I suppose they appear in other parts of the world as well but they are definitely an institution here.

 My maternal grandmother would be off. She would be determined to find a "bargain". She would often come home with something she did not need but had bought because "it was a bargain". I remember a particular tablecloth. It was a nasty shade of pink but "it was such a bargain". Oh yes, she did use that but I don't think anyone else liked it. There were other things she did not use, often kitchen gadgets. There were clothes that had to be altered before they could be worn and then discarded because she found some fault with them.

I remember going with her just once. I hated every moment of it. The crowds were horrendous. I was jostled and knocked over more than once. It was my fault of course. It didn't matter that I was small and not exactly steady on my rear paws. At least my tears meant I was never asked on such a "treat" again.

Even my mother would read the advertisements in the paper in the days prior but at least she would say things like, "We really do need new sheets. Those might do. It might be worth the trip."

She would come home with the new sheets and nothing else. Shopping did not appeal to her the way it appealed to her mother.

Now it seems there are "sales" on all the time. There are 20% and 50% off "sales" here and there and everywhere. I discussed this with one of the women who works in a local clothing shop. She tells me that this is "normal" now. "And when there really is a reduction in price Cat I will let you know - if you need something." Thank you M... I appreciate that.  I know they can buy in clothes for $5 and sell them for $95...or more.  It is the rent, heating, lighting, cleaning, wages, insurance and more which sends the price sky high. 

Of course now one can also shop "on-line". This is all very well if you know exactly what you want, trust the site you are on and have enough money on the "credit" card you use solely for that purpose.

Yesterday though I avoided the "sales". I did not leave the house or garden. I had a lovely day doing some clearing out. I put the bins out and cooked a nice, light omelette after all the food of the day before.

I did not buy anything at "the sales". I do not have buyer's regret.  

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Singing on a bicycle

 or how to tell the world it is Christmas.

I had a small lesson in the importance of Christmas yesterday morning. It was one of those moments when a video camera would have been very useful.  

I was checking on the undercover plants before leaving for Christmas festivities elsewhere when there was the sound of singing. I looked up and, coming towards me, there was a four year old wobbling along on what was obviously a Christmas present - a bright pink bicycle. She was singing. Her father was following her ready to grab if she fell off. He gave me a smile but didn't say anything. We both knew that the singing was more important.

I have no idea who she is. I had never seen her before. Quite possibly they are only here for the Christmas period but she was one of the happiest children I have seen recently. Yes, some adult had taught her to sing the words but there was such joy in her face. 

And what was this delightful child singing? "Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to you."

As "carols" go I thought that was rather appropriate. I went off to share lunch with Middle Cat's "family" - the Greek-Cypriot family of her husband. Nobody drank too much, nobody argued and there was too much food but none of it was wasted as it was all shared out for today (and possibly tomorrow) as well.  Middle Cat, after two more nights in hospital last week, managed to make it there and was cossetted by everyone because we were simply glad she had made it.

Christmas, as those Cathedral cats like to remind me, was about a birthday...and family.



Monday 25 December 2023

Christmas was lost;

it just wasn't there. The Cathedral cats could not find it. They could not see it. They could not hear it. They could not smell it. They were feeling very upset, indeed downright miserable about it. How could there not be Christmas? There was Christmas every year!

Decani, who knew even more than the other cats about such things, had looked at the calendar on the wall of the cathedral library. Yes, there was the date in thick black lines. It said "25" and Christmas Day in three different sorts of writing so he knew that was right.  But Father Mark, who was the chief librarian, had already marked off some of the days of December and there was no sign of Christmas at all. You had to do all sorts of things to be ready for Christmas!

The Cathedral cats thought Christmas was one of the best times of the year. They all had to work hard of course. There was a lot of cleaning to be done. It was the sort of cleaning humans could not do. It was done with whiskers and paws and claws. There were difficult places that only the cats or the Cathedral mice could reach.

Decani had been given Christmas sort of work in the library but Father Mark had not said it was for Christmas. He had not said anything about Christmas. Decani wondered why was he doing the special Christmas sort of work if they were not going to have Christmas? It needed to be done of course but there were many other things that needed doing as well.

Bach had seen to it that the other cats had all done their usual Christmas tasks too. He knew what was expected of them and that they were still expected to do all the things they usually did at Christmastime. He had even sent Matins and Vespers to clear up every bit of dirt between the great stone blocks in the cloisters. That had been a cold miserable task but he had told them how pleased he was with them. The Cathedral and every place around it was as clean as they could possibly make it!

Were they not doing their jobs as well as they could? Was Christmas not coming because they had missed doing something? It was one of the things that worried Bach. The Cathedral cats took their work very seriously.

Decani thought he knew what had happened to Christmas but only because he had been listening to the Bishop talking to Father Mark. "Father Mark has not said anything to me," Decani miaoued seriously when asked. It was not a lie. Very often Father Mark would tell him all sorts of things but this time Father Mark had not said anything. The Bishop had not actually said there was not going to be Christmas. Decani wanted to believe there would be Christmas because he did not like the cats or the mice or the people to be disappointed.

But there was no Christmas tree...and no decorations for the new kittens to try and pull from the tree or anywhere else. That was unheard of and did not seem right in the least. The humans were not wrapping paper around the things they called "presents" so the kittens could not play with the paper or string or the strange sticky stuff which clung to their fur. (Cadenza was happy about that because they always came crying to her when a human pulled the sticky stuff from their fur.) 

The choir was not singing any of the usual Christmas music. Tom-the-organist was not even playing any Christmas music. Mouse, the organist's cat, had not been to visit. The cats had not been asked to practice their very own carol,  "Purring Carol".

The kitchens in the Cathedral Close had none of the interesting smells. The cats might not like the taste of Christmas pudding but they thought nobody had made puddings this year. There were nothing being mixed or stirred or stuffed. Nobody had thought about trifle either and there was always the chance of a lick of cream when trifle was being made.  

Somehow though those things did not seem important. All the cats just wanted Christmas to be there. Christmas was a comforting sort of idea. They thought it was about doing extra little things for each other and for the humans they looked after and who looked after them. It was supposed to be a happy time.

The really strange thing was that there was no little straw bed in the Cathedral. The cats looked for that. They looked for the special wooden box filled with straw and the people and animals which Decani said were "statues" and which did not move and did not talk.

"What will happen if the baby doesn't come?" the young cats asked Bach. 

 "Nothing will happen," he told them,  "There won't be Christmas."

"But we like Christmas!" the young cats complained. Matins and Vespers and Purrgolesi swished their tails. Cantori and Palestrina and Allegro swished their tails back. There might have been a bit of trouble but Bach growled and sent them off in opposite directions with more work to do. This was not doing anyone any good.

He went off to have a good miaou with Cadenza. Cadenza thought she knew what the problem was and told him, "Decani knows too. We had a good miaou together last night. He asked me if I thought he might be right."

"And what was he thinking?" Bach asked. He was beginning to think he knew the answer but he had not heard any of the conversations Decani had heard. 

"That it is important to work out the reason we have Christmas for yourself," Cadenza said as she stopped one of the newest kittens climbing out of their play pen box, "That's what the Bishop wants the humans to do. He isn't telling them they can't have Christmas. He is just telling them they need to really have Christmas. I heard him talking to the Dean."

Bach wondered if she was talking in what the humans called riddles but she looked very serious. Although he could have done without the fuss Bach knew the kittens liked it and he had to admit he was missing it too.

Cadenza refused to say any more. Bach knew it was no good asking her. He padded off and spent a long time sitting very still staring at the place where the box with the straw should have been. He thought he might know the answer. Then he went to find Decani. He knew he relied too heavily on Decani to know things but he asked Decani anyway.

"What do you think the Bishop is doing?"

Decani had been very carefully polishing a corner of a leather bound book of Christmas music. It had not been used this year but he thought they might still need it. He stopped work. He looked at Bach. Then he answered his father by asking a question.

"What is the purpose of Christmas?"

It was a very annoying sort of question. Bach thought Decani was just trying to be clever. He growled.

"It's a sort of big birthday party for someone who isn't here any more...and then he grows up and dies and we have Easter and he is alive again. We do the same thing every year. You know that. The humans usually make a huge fuss about it."

Decani sighed. He thought it was much more complicated than that but he did not know how to explain so he gave a small miaou and told Bach, "It is supposed to remind us about the birthday of a very special baby, the most special baby of all. The Bishop thinks humans forget that. They think it is a party for themselves and that lots of food and all the other things they do for Christmas Day is more important than the birthday part. The Bishop wants them to think about what Christmas is supposed to be about."

Decani knew he wasn't explaining it as well as he would like but there were a lot of things he did not understand. He thought he understood this much but explaining it was very hard. He had thought about it a lot and decided that the baby was the most important thing about Christmas and he was also quite certain that was what the Bishop wanted people to think.

Bach twitched his whiskers and flicked his ears back. Decani felt frustrated and impatient but he went back to polishing. 

"Maybe nobody will remember to have Christmas if the baby isn't there," Bach told him. 

"Yes, they will remember. But in here they might remember the right way.  I had a thought," Decani told him, "And I asked Monteverdi about it."

Monteverdi was the Chief Mouse and in charge of cleaning the inside of the organ pipes. Bach bristled a little at the idea of Decani talking to Monteverdi. He thought Decani should talk to him first but Decani said, "He was there and I didn't want you to think it was a silly idea."

Bach looked at him. Decani sometimes had strange ideas. Bach did not always understand them. 

"Tomorrow is Christmas Eve...the day before Christmas."

"So, it will be too late to do anything," Bach told him crossly.

"No, it won't. It is just the right time. We can get the little box - the one they call the manger  - tonight. Monteverdi knows how to open the cupboard door from inside. He can go in the hole at the back. We can get the manger out and put it where it always goes...but not the baby. It is important not to put the baby there. The baby has to be there on his birthday, not before. If we put the manger there then the Bishop will make sure the baby is there." Decani was absolutely certain of that.

Bach thought about this. Decani went on polishing.

"All right. We can try I suppose - but it will be hard work."  Bach padded off to find Monteverdi and discuss it.

And that night they did work hard. Monteverdi opened the cupboard door from inside. They pulled out the little manger. Bach was worried they might damage it but Monteverdi had solved that problem with a towel from the place where they made cups of tea. They rolled the manger on to the towel and then all of them pulled it by holding the towel in their mouths as if the manger was a kitten. It took quite a long time to do it because it was heavy and they had to keep stopping.

Bach thought some they were sure to have done some damage but Monteverdi was right. The moonlight showed no damage. Finally the manger was in the place where it was always put. There was no hay for the manger but Bach thought this was not a problem. The humans could find some. The cats had done all the other work.  All of them were feeling very tired by then and went off to sleep for the rest of the night.

In the morning they all went about their usual jobs and tried not to keep wondering what was going on. The Bishop was late into the Cathedral that morning. Father Anselm was already there and so was Father Mark and Tom-the-organist. Bach could see them looking at the box they called a manger. The other cats crept in behind the Bishop.

"How did that get there?" Father Anselm asked the Bishop, "Who unlocked the cupboard? I put the key in the safe. Is this a miracle or does someone have another key?"

 He was puzzled but he seemed to be very happy about something. Tom-the-organist just smiled and went off to play Christmas carols. Father Mark smiled went to find the paper hay that had come around a new library book. It would not be real hay but he thought it would do. Decani followed him ready to start work. He knew they would have Christmas now.

 The choristers came in to practice but rushed over to the manger when they heard the Christmas carols being played.

"It's all right! The manger is here!" the youngest one called out. He was just seven years old. "We can have Christmas!"

"Can we go and get the other things?" the youngest choristers asked the Bishop.

The Bishop looked at them all and said quietly, "Yes, you may. You can get the other things now - but not the baby just yet. The baby will be here tomorrow so make sure you do it very carefully won't you?"

Oh yes, they would do it very carefully indeed. It made them all feel happier than they had felt for days. They put everything out ready for the baby and went to sing their carols. The cats joined in by purring as they went about their usual work.

That night the Bishop came in with Father Mark and Father Anselm. They filled the manger with the paper hay and they put the baby Jesus in. Then they stood there looking. 

The Bishop was sure the baby Jesus smiled at him. He looked out into the Cathedral and saw all the cats sitting there watching. He had his suspicions because there was an extra-long, strong whisker in the manger. How they had done it was a mystery but he was sure they had something to do with it. It was not quite what he had planned but it didn't matter because people were talking about the real Christmas now.

And after the cheerful morning service with the cats purring the hymns along with the choir everyone went off to Christmas dinner. Somehow all the cooks had found all the things that made it feel even more like Christmas and that made everyone even happier. The cats settled down to small tins of salmon - one each...and a lick of cream from the trifle later in the day. They thought Christmas had been purrfect.


Sunday 24 December 2023

Christmas music?

There has been a complete absence of Christmas music this year. You know what I mean don't you?

I have not once heard Bing Crosby dreaming of his white Christmas or Santa's sleigh bells ringing or the little drummer boy banging away in the shops or the shopping centre. Nobody has sung Christmas carols in the shopping centre either. 

Admittedly they cancelled the out door carols because of the weather. It rained - rather a lot. 

There have been almost no decorations either. There are a couple of tacky Christmas trees in the shopping centre. At the library there were a very few "decorations" but they might have been for anything.  Some people have lights up or a festive wreath on the front door but they are in the minority. There are a few big red bows tied to trees (and even the occasional purple bow) but there are even less of those than before. 

What's going on? I asked someone I know. He usually puts up a few solar powered lights and his partner, who makes baskets and wreaths from garden materials, adds a home made wreath to the front door.  

He sighed and said, "We don't want to upset the neighbours. They didn't like us doing it last year. Apparently it is wrong to do it."

Wrong? I suspected as much. It seems we have reached the absolutely ridiculous point where Christmas celebrations have to be held indoors, alone, away from where others might be offended by the celebration of a Christian tradition. It is fine if you wish to celebrate Eid or Divali but please don't mention Hanukah or Christmas...unless of course it involves spending money on gifts people don't need or food for the day. 

How many of those people who are "offended" by Christmas decorations and carols will still get together with family or friends and exchange presents and eat too much food? Why aren't they just going to work in the normal way? Why don't they do what one of the nicest people I know does. K... is Hindu and works in the library. Recently she asked me what I was going to do on Christmas Day. I told her and asked if she was doing anything special over the holiday period. The library will be closed. She smiled and said, "Oh, we will celebrate Christmas as well. It is a special time for a special birthday isn't it? We can honour that too."

I thanked her. There was a generosity there which is lacking among so many people around me. 

I have some hope for the future though. As I was pedalling off a teenage boy pedalled past me. He was singing an excerpt from the Messiah. Perhaps he is in a choir which sings actual Christmas carols.


Saturday 23 December 2023

I sought help from an elf yesterday

and he did an excellent job.

I had consulted his mother earlier in the day. When was the best time for the activity packs to be delivered? Now? Later?

They are not Christmas presents as such but holiday presents. They are intended to keep small hands busy while other things are being done. 

"This afternoon. It will keep them all out of mischief while other things get done. They will use them. T... can put his elf hat on and deliver."

That made it much easier for me. I pedalled off to deliver tiny Christmas gifts to others knowing that the deed would be done. When I came back T... was riding his scooter up and down the footpath. He gave me a wave and a thumbs up. A little later he appeared at the door wearing his elf hat and a grin. His mother was behind him with a tiny present for me - something the two boys had helped make in the kitchen.

"I don't need supervising Mum!"

No, he doesn't. He is absolutely capable of delivering activity packs to two other houses and then taking home the two for his brother and himself. Our street is very short and he knows everyone in it. He's a lovely, responsible child. He is the sort of child teachers choose to take on leadership roles.

But two of the other children were outside as well and the next minute they were at the front door too. "Thank you!" (Mr 7yrs old) and "Thank you. I am going to make presents right now!"  (and Miss Just turned 5yrs old). They had done this of their own volition and that was good. "It's all right Cat. I watched them cross the road," T's brother H... told me. He's all of eight himself!

The other two children were not home but the packs were safely at their front door. I know I will hear from them later today. 

The late afternoon was very quiet. As I was doing some watering in the early evening there was a tired voice behind me from another mother, "Thank you so much Cat. I managed to get a lot done while they were occupied. It is going to keep them occupied for hours yet."

I hope so. There are another five weeks of summer holidays to go. 

Friday 22 December 2023

There has been a random stabbing death

in this state. It is a genuinely appalling incident which could have been avoided if people had listened to the perpetrator.

If the news reports are correct the man who stabbed a stranger to death and injured another had been released under the Mental Health Act and told to go about his daily life. Several times he presented to the major hospital in the city - only to be returned to the street. 

He kept telling them he felt he was going to harm someone. Eventually he took himself to the police. They did the only thing they could do. They took him to the Mental Health Unit run by the same major hospital in the city and he was kept there overnight. In the morning they released him. They had nowhere else to send him and the facility is only there for overnight stays.

Now, too late, there are questions being asked about all this. This man is being held in custody under the Mental Health Act. He will be held under that act for many years to come. 

My doctor nephew has spent time working in that emergency unit. He also worked in another mental health facility. It has since closed. He was one of the "whistle blowers" that closed the facility and he worries at the way in which nothing has replaced it. Something is needed. 

Not all mental health patients can be treated in the community. Too many people assume that it is a simple matter of people "taking their medication" and "having a positive attitude". Many people don't take their medication - particularly if the medication is making them feel "okay" or "fine" or "not quite right". Depression is about something far more serious and complex than "not having the right attitude". It is all very, very complex.

When I did my teacher training I did a placement in Ward K at the local residential mental health unit. The residents there were people with a history of violence. Another girl and I were supposed to provide "art therapy". I doubt we provided any sort of therapy at all but we were new faces in a life that must have been monotonous in the extreme. The residents were medicated to extreme levels but not for their own sake. It was to keep those working with them safe. Two young female teacher trainees should not even have been placed there without close professional supervision - and we had none at all. Nothing has improved over the years, if anything it is worse.

If this is how we treat our mental health patients then more of them will do harm to others. They will, like the man who has just killed an innocent woman, not be able to help themselves. We need to help them instead. 

Thursday 21 December 2023

Allowing e-scooters on footpaths

is apparently being considered by the state-government. Why? These things can go up to 25km an hour - or so I am told. Yes, they might put a speed limit of 10km an hour on them but there will always be riders ready to break the speed limit.

When I returned to this state it was not legal for anyone over the age of twelve to ride a bicycle on the footpath. The only wheeled form of transport anyone over twelve could use was a wheelchair.  

I had come from the wildly civilised (at least in that sense) environment of our nation's capital where it was legal to ride on footpaths - but not within ten metres of an open shop. Going back on the roads was not something I enjoyed but I did it until the day I was stopped by a couple of the local members of the police force. I had been pedalling as close to the curb and as fast as I could down one of the major roads because I had no choice.

I was not close enough or fast enough for the police. "Get on the footpath,"they told me.

"But I'd be breaking the law."

"We would rather you broke the law," they told me. They agreed I had been doing what I was supposed to be doing but they also thought it was not safe for me. I was only too happy to have them put me safely on the footpath. I was given a reference number and told to quote it if I was stopped again and told to get off the footpath. I pedalled happily. After that I even had police lift me and my tricycle over a major obstacle one day. They once moved their mobile radar gear (before it got very high tech) and sent a message to the other end, "Look out, tricycle coming through." 

And they changed the law. I like to think it was because I wrote a letter or two about the need to do it.

But there are certain rules I made for myself before the law changed - and which I have kept to this day. The first is that, if I am on the footpath, I go now faster than what would be a brisk walking speed for other people. The second is that I do not ring my bell and expect people to move over. I wait for them to become aware of me and only pass them when it is safe to do so. The third is that I give away to pedestrians first. There are occasions when they will stop and stand back and wave me through but it is first and foremost a footpath for pedestrians. They have right of way.

More than once people have said, "You should have rung your bell" or "You could have zipped past me" or something similar. No. I have missed trains because I refuse to do that. I do not want to be responsible for someone else getting injured. I am always conscious it could happen but if I am doing the right thing then it is much less likely.

I do not know that a person riding an e-scooter at even 10kmh will be able to be as careful as that. It is faster than a brisk walking speed. There will be accidents. People will get hurt.

And there is always the question...why are people in such a hurry all the time? 

Wednesday 20 December 2023

I was given a cat yesterday

and it will require a lot of care.

No, it is not a "real" cat but a "thank you Cat" sort of cat. It may have taken an entire year to "get it right" but a ten year old needs "to practice and work out how to do it". 

I am not sure how many cats were made before this one was finally achieved but her grandmother told me "rather a lot". I am going to keep the cat nestled in the little box on the cotton wool sleeping mat it arrived on. It is fragile.

As more regular readers of my witterings may remember I try to provide "activity packs" for certain children of my acquaintance. These are designed to provide a few hours of peace for harassed parents and grandparents over the long summer holiday from school. Last year I added some polymer clay to the packs for one family and the cat I now own is the result of some of that clay.

The cat is about seven centimetres high. He is pale grey with pink ears and a black "moustache" for whiskers. His nose is a tiny pink triangle. Around his neck is a pale yellow collar. The collar has a bell - more pink. He also has a tail, a rather fragile tail. I will need to be very careful of him, especially the tail.  

If I can persuade Middle Cat to take a photograph when she is feeling more like usual self then I will try and put one up here.

Yes, it took nearly twelve months for the cat to reach me. Messages kept coming that the recipient of the pack was making me something "to say thank you". I had no great expectations but I am delighted.

Unlike us it seems the modern child is not expected to sit down and write "thank you" notes to everyone who gives them something. I am much more likely to get a message from a parent or grandparent. If I see the child they might be prompted to say "Thank you" by an adult. Of course there are children who say such things unprompted. They do get better at it as they get older. They come to realise that such things are simply regarded as good manners - and that the gesture might be repeated if they remember to say the two "magic words".

It doesn't take much to say the words but the "thank you" I was given yesterday was much more than that.


Tuesday 19 December 2023

Exam results are out

and I had a phone call almost as soon as the results went on line yesterday morning.

"Cat! I did it! I did it!" the voice at the other end told me. There were tears too. Then his mother came on line and told me, "Yes, he's done it and, after everything, we are so proud of him."

And they should be. This boy hasn't managed any "merits" or "perfect scores". He won't be heading off to Government House to get anything from the Governor. He just worked hard, harder than most, and he has his Year 12 Certificate despite extended stays in hospital and much more. 

I took over from where the Senior Cat left off and gave him some help with his study skills and his research project. I don't feel as if I did a lot because he was highly motivated to succeed. He wanted to feel he could succeed at something. His ATAR score will get him into the course of his choice. If he can complete that then he can get the sort of job where he can work from home in a role that is suited to his severe physical limitations but still provide him with an intellectual challenge.

From now on he will get some mentoring from other students I know. He probably won't need me again. He's focussed and looking to the future.

I wondered how the others I know had scored and there were a couple of emails, a quick whisper in the supermarket where one of them is working until Christmas. There are two more emails this morning. 

These were motivated students, sufficiently motivated to seek help. They have all done well enough to get into at least one course of their choosing, if not their first choice. All of them faced problems of one sort or another, one the loss of a parent, another their parents separating far from amicably, illness, the loss of their beloved dog, a serious injury at football. They all just needed a "bit extra". 

I came across one of them putting books away in the library. It has been her volunteer job for several years now. She wants to be a librarian. We chatted quietly for a moment and she told me, "It's going to be weird not coming in here with the others. The library staff have been great. They sort of kept us going with smiles and asking how things were and making sure there were places for us to work."

No, they didn't get the "brilliant" results splashed all over the paper this morning but they did get outstanding results in their own way. Their families are proud of them - and they should be proud of themselves. 

Monday 18 December 2023

Why have we got a High Commissioner

in London? It seems we no longer need one there. 

Well of course we do but the present High Commissioner seems to think that his role is political rather than diplomatic. He tried to cancel any celebration of Downunder's national day because of "sensitivities" of a miniscule portion of the population. He isn't really using the posh residence, just ten minutes walk from Kensington Palace and the Albert Hall. I presume he takes a brisk walk to the office in Downunder House instead.

I know something about the diplomatic service. One of the late Senior Cat's cousins wrote what became the "bible" for diplomats. It is still used to provide guidelines about what is expected, how to behave, what to do...and all the other protocols involved in representing your country abroad. Yes, you are representing your country abroad. You are not representing the government of the day but your country. It is hard work...or it should be.

The cousin who wrote the guidelines, now also deceased, went on working long after he had officially retired. He did what was expected of him. His wife did too - wife, not partner back then. They knew it was a role which involved both of them. She  was as much the hostess as he was the host at all the events they had to plan and manage. I know I was a useful "lone" female at times but B... and P... also knew that I could be relied on to turn up looking neat and tidy and that I would not get drunk or say anything controversial. I could, they hoped, be relied on to listen to boring people and look as if I was enjoying it. I did meet some interesting people, very interesting people in the process but there were also some we could all have done without. 

B...explained all this before the first occasion they invited me. It was all part of the job they went on doing even after official "retirement".  It is one of those roles you can never quite relinquish however hard you try...if you are doing the job properly.

I suspect our present High Commissioner in London does not understand this, or does not want to understand this. He is not there to be the Prime Minister's man in London. He is there to be Downunder's man in London. 

I have never met the present High Commissioner. I am never likely to meet him and I have no wish to do so. He simply does not have that diplomatic aura about him. There was a previous High Commissioner I did meet one night at an event to which I had been invited. He asked me how I came to be there in the sort of "I need to ask this question" sort of way but when I told him he called his partner over and told her, "This is Cat and she is..." Much later they invited me to an event they were having - so I could meet someone else. It's all about the networking of course. I was not important in myself. I was potentially useful.

The present High Commissioner apparently does not understand this. He has held a mere thirty events over the course of the year. The previous High Commissioner held one hundred and fifty. He saw to it that people mixed and met one another. Yes, it costs money to do that but it can also bring money in. It builds relationships. If things go wrong then there might be someone with whom direct contact can be made. 

We all know this...except it seems the present High Commissioner. 

Sunday 17 December 2023

Christmas has disappeared

and I cannot find it!

There are all sorts of "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" and more around but the word Christmas is nowhere to be seen. It seems that Christmas has gone out of Christmas altogether.

There are Santa Clauses and "elves on shelves" and much talk about presents and food and how much it is all costing. I am being told not to spend too much and not to eat too much and to buy this and not buy that. Ooh and don't get scammed Cat! (I will do my best on the last one. I also had a "discussion" with Amazon this morning about their persistent insistence that I need to enter some "Prime" program - I don't need to do that.)

I have done very little about Christmas this year. This is not because I am a scrooge. I have no children for whom to decorate the house. I sent very few cards and they may not even reach the recipients because someone else ended up posting them for me and didn't put the extra postage on. (If you are reading this and they ask you for the extra postage some time in the coming week please don't pay it. I will email you the clan missive instead.)

No. All this has more to do with the fact that Middle Cat is only just home from an extended stay in hospital. Two elderly friends are still in hospital. One has no family and the other has family currently on the other side of the world. I have my paws crossed the airlines don't let them down and they do get here for Christmas Day. There are also elderly friends who need visiting with the Christmas baking - to be done today if nothing else gets in the way. 

It is just that none of this feels in the least like Christmas. One house in the street does have a wreath up - but they have gone off on holiday and have someone else looking after their dog. No, we don't even the usual decorations. Today perhaps? I also need to do something about little gifts for the people who have helped me. I did buy those earlier but they need to be wrapped and I have no wrapping paper. Sigh...I may resort to tissue paper and "curly" ribbon.

So it is with relief that I can look at the "activity packs" all lined up on the sofa. I need to put names on but they are there. Perhaps I have managed to do something but somehow.... Why can't we have Merry Christmas?


Saturday 16 December 2023

What if you went missing for five years?

There has been a widely reported story about a young boy who was taken to Spain on holiday...and then disappeared. Apparently the police believed he was alive, knew his mother and grandfather had taken him although they were not his legal guardians, and they could do almost nothing about it. They couldn't find him. 

This boy has apparently spent the last five or six years living in a "commune". Now he has walked out. He was picked up trying to walk back to England.

If the story is true I wonder how he will get on. Leaving a "religious commune" or a "cult" is not easy. I know someone who left a very strict group, a group which calls itself "Christian" but is unrecognisable as such. 

J.... was over here briefly. He came to pick up something I had saved for him from years back. We just had not coincided in all that time. When I first knew him he was in his last year at high school. In that year, the toughest year of all for most students, things were even harder for him. His father had made the decision J... would leave school part way through the year. J... would not do his final exams. He would not be permitted to go to university. He would be apprenticed to one of the "brethren". The expectation was that he would work for this man and, if the work was there, one day own his own business. He would marry the girl the church elders chose and lead the sort of narrow life to which the church members adhere.

J... wanted more than that, much more. I met him because he was struggling with English. He needed English. Creative writing of any sort was letting him down. He had not been permitted to read novels of any sort and the idea of actually writing something alarmed him. One of his fellow students introduced me and we worked on it until the day his father told him he was leaving school. 

I remember meeting him in the library that day. He was distraught. All the work he had put in looked as if it was for nothing. 

"I want to leave but if I leave I have to leave Mum and my sisters. They want to get out as well but there is no way of doing it!" he told me. I had no idea what to suggest. All the usual "Sometime in the future" remarks were not going to help. I knew exactly what he meant. If he left that would be it. He could have no contact with his family. He would be "shunned". They would not even recognise him if they passed him in the street. It would be a huge step to take. What is more he had no way of supporting himself in order to finish school, let alone go to university.

In the end things did work out. The boy who had introduced him was only here for his final year at school. He was farm boy and he was planning on going back on the farm but intelligent enough to know he would need to do some further study. His family stepped in and took J.... on as well. J...could live with them in return for some help over the busy summer period. Was he interested? 

I talked to his school. The head and I talked to the university J... wanted to enter. It was in another state. We explained the situation, mentioned the disruption might mean his results were not quite good enough. No, go ahead. Tell him to keep working, to do the best he can and we will take it into consideration. 

He did it. He came within a mark of the cut off point, a very high cut off point. They accepted him. It wasn't easy. It took him five years to do a double degree but he did well. All that time he wrote to his mother by sending the letters to the next door neighbour. He would include a self-addressed envelope with a stamp for his mother to reply. 

"But I felt as if I had gone missing for five years" he told me when he was talking about it, "It was the hardest thing of all. I wanted Mum and the girls to be safe. Every time I wrote I worried Mum would get caught with my letters. She had to burn them before Dad got home."

He eventually did get his mother and sisters out of the group. Both his sisters are nurses and his mother works in community aged care. It has worked, despite all the reasons it might not have worked but it has not been easy.  I can still hear J... saying he felt as if he had gone missing for five years.  

Most of us will never know what it is like to leave a group like that. I hope the boy in the story is given the support he needs. He is going to need it.  

Friday 15 December 2023

Those NAPLAN results

being reported in this morning's paper are just slightly ridiculous. For the uninitiated abroad these are the national assessment of school students in area like reading, writing and numeracy skills. Schools get "assessed" too - in that what their students achieve gets ranked as well. 

I looked at the list. At the junior level eight of the twenty schools are fee paying. Several of the state schools are those which have the reputation of being "the school you send your kids to if you want superior facilities but don't want to pay fees". They are schools where parents expect discipline to be good and teachers to provide a very high standard of both teaching and other services. There are a few smaller country schools and the remaining city schools tend to be smaller. The dual language school (French/English) does not make the list but many of their students don't do the assessment. It is still a school with a very long waiting list.

At the senior level seventeen of the twenty schools were fee paying schools. One of the three state schools is an "international" high school with strict requirements, another is a "music" school. Both are in very affluent areas where parents tend to be professionals. The third has many affluent parents too and a great many students from backgrounds where there is a cultural tradition of education being something that is considered very, very important.

The three closest "primary" (junior) schools do not appear on the list. It does not surprise me. They are simply good schools doing the best they can. One of them has what might be called "streamed" maths at the upper level. The best students are being given additional work to challenge them. All the schools have good facilities and hard working staff.

There will be complaints that these schools are not "up to standard" but is that really the case? Are the rankings really all there is to school?

Schools are about to embark on their long summer break. One of the teachers I know is already preparing for next year. No doubt others are as well. They will go on doing their best with a wide mix of students. They have said goodbye to this year's year six students. Those students will go on to high school - both state and private. Some of them will go to university. Others will go into trades or other areas. The vast majority of them will be a "success" in their own way. 

I think that is what really matters. If they read more books on the way then I think we are doing well.  

Thursday 14 December 2023

People are stealing food

because they cannot afford to buy it. This is according to a senior police officer. 

I wonder about this. Yes, I know there are many people who are struggling to pay their mortgage and other bills right now. I know there are people who have had illness in the family and desperately need some extra money. There are people who don't want to go to the Food Bank or seek any other form of charity too. 

Some of them have taken on more debt than they can service and they need advice and help. Many of them are sensible enough to seek that advice and help. 

I was told about a mother who was caught stealing cheap bread from her local supermarket. Her children were hungry. She had no money. The person who dealt with the situation is someone I know well. She is also a single (widowed) mother on a limited income. Unlike the other woman she is coping well. It is hard work but she knows how to handle the situation.

The woman I know had contacted me because she wanted to get in touch with someone else we both know. This next person has been trying to run cookery classes for people who are struggling to feed their families. 

I say "trying" because, try as she might, she is running into problems. Too many people are apparently finding the idea of cooking too complicated. Even when there are no more than three or four ingredients and minimal steps they are finding it too complicated. It is faster and easier to put Vegemite or jam on a piece of bread. Even boiling an egg seems to be a problem for some. The "don't have time" and it is "too expensive" to do anything else. It is easier to try and get away with stealing cheap bread from the supermarket.

Trying to teach children about food and nutrition in school and then having them go home to bread and jam is not going to work well. I had no answers to the problems being raised. I am just incredibly fortunate that my mother knew how to feed four children, her partner and herself on a very small income. I am even more fortunate that my paternal grandmother taught me how to cook. Yes, it takes a little time but I can eat well on my limited budget. I feel sorry for the woman who felt she was reduced to stealing cheap bread. She could have so much more in her life if she had been taught the basics of cookery by someone who loved her.


Wednesday 13 December 2023

A doctor has been murdered

in a home invasion in this state. The paediatric community in particular is stunned that someone whose job was to save lives has lost his life in this way.

I did not know this man but I know others who did know him and they told me more than once of how compassionate he was. He was always professional but he was also compassionate. That takes some doing. 

From all accounts he was an outstanding doctor.

And he was one of the people who gave a late friend of mine a role which made her feel wanted and useful. He was one of those who made the decision that M... should not be sent to a nursing home to live with elderly people. No, she was still young enough to need more stimulation than she would ever get there. She could be useful.

M...had many medical issues. She needed full time nursing care but she could be settled into her electric wheelchair each day and then, despite her limited education, she could "zip around" the hospital. She delivered documents from one place to another. She held the hands of young patients who had nobody else there. She listened to parents who were too exhausted to pace the floor as they waited for news. She knitted seemingly endless pairs of socks for the surgeons who liked to wear them in theatre. They were not just any socks either. They had trains running around the tops - and sports cars and  dinosaurs. M... taught some of the long term patients to knit and I have had lasting contact with them. 

When M...finally left us the doctor was one of those who took time off to come to her funeral. He could not stay long but he slipped in quietly. I remember seeing him there but I did not know who he was. We had asked people to take their shoes off and, if they had a pair of her socks, to wear them. He did just that for a young woman he must barely have known. He took time out of one of his incredibly busy days to acknowledge her life. It was the sort of man he obviously was - caring and compassionate.

The police have hopes of quick arrests. Perhaps the community will feel safer but will we feel any better? People will live on through his donated organs but we, as a community, have still lost someone who contributed so much. I never met him but he touched my life too. He gave M... a purpose and, through her, I met some wonderful young people who are contributing so much. They knew this doctor, owe their lives to him and, unlike the perpetrators of this appalling act, they care - can care because of him. I don't think we ever know how far our actions can reach.   

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Crocodile tears and myths

or how to halt a gas pipeline was brought to my attention yesterday.

I was waiting for a Zoom meeting to start and someone else asked if I knew anything about the attempt to stop a pipeline being laid between Darwin and a site 140km away from the Tiwi Islands. I knew nothing but I thought what I was being told was so unlikely I looked it up. 

Yes, a resident of the Tiwi Islands is attempting to halt the project because, he claims, it will upset Wiyapurali, the Crocodile Man, and Mother Ampitji, a Tiwi version of the Rainbow Serpent. Wiyapurali is apparently a man who turned into a crocodile because he was greedy. He refused to share his food with others.

I didn't know the story at all. It seems that very few people know the story. It also seems that the version given to the court by the person who was demanding the pipeline not be laid is not the same as the version other Tiwi Islanders tell. All this however makes no difference. The court has halted the work on the pipeline. It is costing the company millions of dollars. It is putting at risk billions of dollars in development and employment.

I know there are people who will say, "Oh good! This is another environmentally unacceptable project about to go under. We don't want gas being extracted when we are trying to bring global warming under control."

The project however has already been through the environmental mill - more than once. It was given the go ahead after consultation with all sorts of groups and agencies. It is only now that one man is claiming it will upset Crocodile Man. 

This is all rather like another major development 375km off the west coast  being halted because an indigenous clan claims it was not properly consulted.

I have mixed feelings about both projects but it is clear what is happening here. Environmental groups are using indigenous people to halt the development of projects they do not want to go ahead. It is all too easy to alter stories, especially stories which rely on oral traditions. They will happily dismiss the religious texts of major religions as "fantasy" and "fairy tales" but a man who becomes a crocodile is apparently acceptable if it prevents a project they object to going ahead.

Is this really helping the Tiwi Islanders, the vast majority of whom now claim to be Christian, have their stories accepted and retained?

My paternal grandfather told me stories about "selkies". His grandfather told them to him. It did not prevent his descendants from drilling for oil in the North Sea. If anyone had tried to prevent it on those grounds they would have been laughed out of court. 

Monday 11 December 2023

Cooking up "net zero"

or "what will happen when the power fails?"

We had a power failure this morning. Fortunately it was only out for a couple of hours. There is definitely something to be said for being on the same section of the grid as a hospital. They tend to get to it quickly. 

Still, I had three text messages on the mobile telling me that the power was out (as if I did not know) and would be back on at 3pm, at noon, at 2pm. It actually came on a short time ago - around 9am - and I have since caught up with the worst of the email.

But, prior to that I prowled out to the kitchen and had breakfast. I could make tea, as much tea as I wanted. As I was boiling water in the kettle over the gas flame I thought again of how sensible my mother was when she insisted that the house be connected to the gas as well as the electricity. Her reasoning was, "There will always be a way to heat something."

My mother did not drink tea - or even much coffee - but she knew other people did. She also knew that hot water can be used for essential first aid. You can also supply people with hot food using gas. Yes, it can be done with electricity too but if the electricity fails then the gas might well be there instead. (I am ignoring open wood fires. Most people have no such thing.)

But gas is now seen as "evil". It adds to "global warming". New houses will no longer be permitted to have connections to gas supplies. If the power goes out then the power goes out. There can be no cups of tea, no hot water to fill an old-fashioned hot water bottle to keep someone warm, no hot water to clean a wound, no way to heat food or gas for any other purpose. Eventually restaurants will not be able to use it. The local fish and chip shop will not be able to use it. We will use "renewables" for our power supply instead. 

Really? These renewables are already taking up large areas of prime agricultural land and reducing our capacity to rely on home grown food. They had to halt the wind turbines yesterday because the weather was so wild. There was daylight but it was not actually very sunny so I don't know how well the solar panels were doing. I could tell the difference in the temperature of the hot water here - which is heated by solar panels with an electrical backup.  

Do we need to think about all this some more or are we going to be reduced to food that does not need cooking and no tea? I know that's an exaggerated idea - but it is still worth thinking about.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Amish brown sugar cookies

were on the menu yesterday.

No, I did not make them and you can look up one of the many recipes for yourself. I was given some by a good friend. She also produced some ginger biscuits, a little "book" with tea bags in tiny envelopes and a handmade Christmas card - all in a lovely little bag. It was so special and I feel very privileged. 

This is all the more so because, apart from cooking Christmas cake for my cousin and his partner, I have done nothing about Christmas. No wait, I did send cards overseas but I even had to give those to someone else to actually post. I still have a few local cards to send - to those people I do not actually get to see. 

At least I had the soap ready to give L... I try to give her some for the charities she supports. I picked some up from another friend recently. She orders two hundred bars at a time for the same sort of purpose. I share the cost with her. It's good soap and they have some lovely perfumed varieties.

L... and I had a lovely time chatting and drinking tea but she had to leave much too early! I know she had to go somewhere else as well and I didn't want to detain her and then have her rushing in the appalling weather. After she had gone I was settling down to finish something off and the doorbell went. Was she back? Had she forgotten something? Who else would be out in this weather? 

It was C.... partner of my lovely Canadian friend M...  He looked damp and down. (M... is still in Canada and they are missing one another dreadfully.) He had come down the hill from the place they are renting to see if there was some timber in the shed. He was about to repair something that the strong winds had broken apart. I sent him out to the shed and I put the kettle on again.

I also put the "cookies" on a plate. (To Downunderites these are "biscuits" - not "cookies" but Canadian.) C... came in and sat at the kitchen table with the largest mug filled with tea. "Have one," I told him, "L... brought them for me to share."

He took one, took a bite. There was silence while he chewed and swallowed and then he gave me a proper smile and said, "I've had these before. They taste just like the sort I had in a place called Norwich - Canada Norwich. The Amish women make them. We stopped for a coffee and they had these. They were still warm from the oven. "

Other people make them of course. They are probably very popular over there but C... was suddenly looking more cheerful. He's off to Christmas in Canada in about ten days and I know that will help but a mug of tea and a biscuit which reminded him of something good helped yesterday. Thanks again L... !