The waiting is over!

Just got the call from the surgeon to say my lovely husband is out of theatre and back in recovery. Techinically the knee replacement went well but inside was much messier than he expected! And then we compared notes as to how best to manage the post-operative period, in terms of trying to keep Michael off his feet and doing the right thing! There was no consensus on the best approach as it is probably impossible to manage him, at which point we both sighed loudly! Oh well, I shall take it one day at a time (I almost wrote one step at a time but thought that was far too terrible a pun!) and now I am off to see him! I am so relieved that the surgery is over, I think I have been holding my breath all morning.

I have missed this view!

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I have missed this view!

Such a long journey but so good to be home! In some ways it feels as if I have never been away as everything is so very familiar, and yet another part of me is feeling a bit overwhelmed by the traffic and the sheer number of people around, missing the peace of Peterborough! I must admit that wearing only a sleeveless linen top and shorts is such a luxury, it almost feels sinful! And not having to walk gingerly on ice is a blessing too! Bat poo is not quite as slippery as ice but slippery nonetheless! it is bat mating season outside our house! Not something that would happen in Peterborough!
Delicious highlights from yesterday included a beautiful lunch in a courtyard in the University of New South Wales, with my lovely husband and gorgeous daughter, seeing a very special friend on her way home from school, taking Rusty for a walk around the neighbourhood, and sitting on the balcony eating Morrocan lamb, salad and smashed potatoes, followed by mangoes – the good friends who have been staying and looking after Michael really appreciated not being the ones to cook! I think I could have made baked beans and they would have enjoyed them! And seeing Simon on facetime who was obviously happy and managing fine on his own!

Off sailing today – Michael’s last fling before his knee operation!

Saturday sorting.

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Saturday sorting.

This is Simon trudging through the snow last Saturday – if I had taken a photo of him today he would have been trudging along the road between Chapters book shop and the Mall at Lansdowne Plaza on the very ice sidewalk! A trip to Chapters to buy some Canadian books to take back to Sydney with me, as recommended by my great Canadian friend from the New Canadian Centre. I want to read them all – why are there so many books but so little time? I think I need another lifetime to read all the books I want to read! Off to the mall for more shopping, for me it is a chore to go to the mall and I simply don’t understand how people can spend hours browsing in shops – there are so many other things I want to fit into my day! We zipped in and out of the shops we wanted to go to, although we did get side-tracked by one shop full of all sorts of weird and wonderful novelty products and found some very funny presents, we think, for our family and friends – we hope you agree when you receive them!
Simon finally decided to spend some of his Christmas money and bought himself a 4000 piece puzzle! That should keep him occupied for quite some time! He is finding that his word searches are too easy and wanted something more challenging!
We cooked, sorted, packed my suitcase for me setting off to Sydney tomorrow (to look after Michael who is having a knee replacement next week). We wrote out Simon’s timetable and menu so he is all set now. We facetimed almost all of our family and chatted for some time and then Amanda came for dinner. More chatting!
We popped in next door to welcome back Sami’s mum who has arrived with her two younger children. As Simon said, one mum arrives, one mum leaves! I am sure she will keep an eye on Simon in my absence as will Amanda and several mums – the benefit of a small community!

More wise words!

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More wise words!

Matt (Mr Coppins) certainly knows how to inspire the students of the West Room! This is so true for me too, being a terrible procrastinator. It is amazing how much I can get done when I have a deadline! I have taken to wondering if I did the Arrowsmith programme I could overcome this and become more organised- Barbara Arrowsmith Young says it is never too late but I fear I am a hopeless case and I am sure that Simon (and my girls and Richard) would agree!
A coy look from Simon lets me know he has some news – he has gone up a level in Symbol rec – “not a mastery, just a level, Mum” but as far as I am concerned going up a level is another step in the right direction. Symbol rec helps overcome the difficulty in visually recognising and remembering a word or symbol that has been seen before, which will help with word recognition, reading and spelling,
Another great Friday night, Andrea and I sorting out the world with a red wine or two, nuts and dips whilst 9 current or ex-Arrowsmith students did whatever they do down in the basement! They sounded as if they were having a very good time!
Happy weekend everyone!

Another mastery!

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Another mastery!

Today’s most important news, from my point of view, is that Simon has mastered the third level of tracing and achieved that in such a short time since he mastered the second level! Congratulations Simon – so exciting! And Amanda mastered 6 handed clocks yesterday which is amazing. So much hard work and determination in the West room – it is very impressive. I think Mr Coppins is very happy with his students!
As I write this it is raining outside. As Simon just observed, it is a long time since we have heard the sound of rain! The rain, unfortunately, means that tomorrow’s ski day is postponed as skiing in the rain is a horrible experience! The rain is washing away the snow leaving ice on the sidewalks – going anywhere tomorrow will be treacherous!
On a brighter note, we have done enough squares for our Wrapped With Love blanket and we think it looks very colourful and cheerful. The squares are not perfectly square but they fit together well enough and it will keep someone warm and cosy somewhere where they may not have much else. Our small contribution to the world in these torrid times and we have so enjoyed working together to make our blanket. We already have more squares for another blanket and will continue knitting squares as well as starting our own projects – hats, baby blankets and socks (only Elizabeth is brave enough and skilled enough to take on knitting socks!).
And continuing on on the subject of Australia and the loss of our moral compass, Hugh Mackay articulates this so well. Here is what he, as one of Australia’s most respected social commentators, has to say. It is well worth reading.
Hugh Mackay. Immoral acts – that’s one way to stop the boats.

“No boats have arrived for 36 days!” That was the recent proud claim of our immigration minister, Scott Morrison, delivered in a tone that suggested we should all cheer such a wonderful accomplishment.

In fact, given the strategies employed to achieve this result, we should hang our heads in shame. We are living through a dark period in our cultural history where politicians like Morrison are actively encouraging a dulling of our moral sense by appealing to that most dangerous moral principle of all: “The end justifies the means”.

It’s not just this government, of course: the stain on our national conscience has been spreading for years, through the life of several governments from both sides of politics. And an odd things about this situation is that our leaders – normally so timid in the face of the polls – are seriously out of step with the majority of Australians (who, according to two reputable national surveys, favour rapid, onshore processing of asylum-seekers’ claims).

We can tip-toe around this and speak of “human rights abuses”, or a lack of compassion, or a failure to honour our international treaty obligations. But why mince words in the face of the intentional brutality – psychological and physical – being inflicted on asylum-seekers imprisoned on Christmas Island, Nauru and Manus Island, by an elected Australian government? Why not call our asylum-seeker policy what it is: immoral.

It’s immoral because it treats people who have committed no crime as if they were criminals. It’s immoral because it fails to honour that most basic of all moral principles: treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated. Even if we add the caveat “in the circumstances”, the principle doesn’t go away.

There are many situations in which we are bound to treat people more harshly than we would wish to be treated ourselves: we do it with criminals; we do it with enemies; we do it with people we’re retrenching, or lovers we’re abandoning. But even in situations like those, members of a self-proclaimed civil society are obliged to treat everybody with appropriate dignity and respect – two ingredients glaringly absent from life in an Australian detention centre.

Our asylum-seeker policy is also immoral because it involves bad behaviour in the pursuit of a “good” goal. Given the vast scale of the world’s refugee crisis, it’s arguable whether stopping the boats is, in fact, a morally praiseworthy goal, but let’s accept, for the moment, that it is (and stopping rapacious people-smugglers is undeniably good). Precisely because it is a good goal, everything done in pursuit of that goal must be good. If not – if we fall for the mad idea that we can behave badly in pursuit of a good goal – then we have compromised our own integrity and tarnished the very values we are claiming to uphold.

If you embrace the idea that the end justifies the means, then you’ll be stuck with accepting torture as a legitimate way of extracting useful information. You’ll accept that bribery and corruption are justifiable ways of achieving political or commercial goals. You’ll endorse assassination as a legitimate tool of the political struggle.

Is that us? Is that the moral framework Australians want our governments to adopt when dealing with hapless souls who arrive here, by whatever means, as asylum seekers? Are we so committed to the sloganistic ideal of “stopping the boats” that we think it’s morally okay to incarcerate such people – men, women and children – in conditions deliberately designed to dehumanise them, rob them of hope and destroy their faith in the future (including their faith in Australia as an honourable, civilised, compassionate society). Do we seriously believe this strategy can be justified on the grounds that it might discourage others from trying to come here?

Do we think it’s morally acceptable to condemn authentic refugees to the crushing uncertainty of temporary protection visas, and to deny them the right to work here? (Economic stupidity, as well: fancy deciding it’s better to support them than to encourage them to support themselves and, in the process, make a useful contribution to our economy.)

We have become participants in a tragedy that will attract as much opprobrium in the future as the “stolen generations” and White Australia do now. Having chosen to behave immorally, we are setting ourselves up not only for international condemnation, but also for massive compensation claims in the future and, no doubt, yet another hollow apology to the thousands of people we have abused because we adopted that tacky mantra “whatever it takes”.

If we really want to stop the boats, we should demand that our politicians, diplomats and aid agencies find morally acceptable ways of doing so. To pursue such a difficult goal in a state of moral blindness is hazardous in the extreme.

There’s an ironic little twist to this tale. Many Australians who support the present brutal policy seem to think they are defending “Christian values” against an invasion of infidels. But isn’t the very essence of those values that we should show kindness to strangers, offer support to the weak and disadvantaged, and succour to the poor, the hungry, the dispossessed who come knocking at our door?

Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and author.

The Peterborough Art Gallery

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We had another interesting Parents Social Outing today, this time to the Peterborough Art Gallery. On the basis of my outing there with the New Canadian Centre in November which was, for me, so very interesting, I thought we Arrowsmith parents might enjoy a visit. I am pleased to say that everyone enjoyed it – being guided through the paintings gives such an insight into the artist and their intention. I found going through the 2014 Calendar project as interesting this time as it was last time. Once again I was struck by the huge unfinished re-working of “The Girl with a Pearl Earring” by David Bierk, based on the original by Vermeer – as was the book by Tracey Chevalier which was then made into a film with Scarlett Johannsen and Colin Firth – both of which I recommend.
We also visited the other exhibition in the Art Gallery in which six artists were commissioned to respond to the theme “Artists’ Walk”. There were some quite quirky responses – a collection of walking sticks fashioned in response to the emotions felt by the artist, Barbara Lounders, after she had walked in different areas – I especially liked the pair of walking sticks with little red shoes carved on the end of the sticks and the one covered with words from the Neil Young song, Walk With Me. The video, by Lisa Myers, of blueberries being crushed would have made no sense to me at all if we hadn’t been told about the artists grandfather escaping from his boarding school and walking 300 miles along a railway track, with only blueberries to eat along the way. Still somewhat abstract for me! My taste in art is pretty pedestrian I fear!
A lovely lunch at Carpe Diem followed, the house salad is fabulous and it is worth going just for that!
And whilst I remember, I have to say that I love, love, love Canadian banks, mine in particular. The customer service is as every customer service should be – everyone is remarkably friendly and cheerful, nothing is too much trouble and you feel as if you are the most important customer ever! I went to get a bank cheque to pay the deposit for Arrowsmith for Simon for next year (yes, he’d like to come back for another year!)- done, in about two minutes! On Friday last week we went in to get a bank account for Simon – no 100 points of ID and being made to feel as if you don’t deserve to use the bank’s facilities as happens in Australia, where you are also made to feel like a money-laundering criminal. No, none of that, a few minutes after we arrived, we left with Simon having a student bank account (no fees!) and a debit card which he and Matt (the extremely nice man in the bank) had set up with a pin number! So impressive, and I am still impressed that they raised my credit limit when I was in panic on the phone at Toronto airport, instantly, so that I could buy my ticket to Prague! Australian banks could learn a great deal from them.

Snow, snow and yet more snow!

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Snow, snow and yet more snow!

So how was it that yesterday I was thinking maybe spring is sprung and we wake up this morning to another 10cms or so of snow? We keep being told that this is a particularly brutal Canadian winter, as if that is of consolation! Here we are going for our parent’s walking group walk in the lovely Jackson park, soon to be not so lovely if the Peterborough council, with their vested interests, have their way.
It seems the same the world over, our lives being run by those with vested interests. Reading about the goings-on of the current Australian government is chilling; media censorship, seemingly no accountability and no care as to how Australia is regarded by the rest of the world. Many Canadians would say the same about their current government. I believe this Australian government and the opposition have lost their moral compass and I shall be Marching in March as it doesn’t seem there is much else I can do to express my outrage and shame at the way in which they are behaving – their treatment of asylum seekers, repealing the carbon tax, dumping coal sludge in the Great Barrier Reef and there is so much more.
Sorry for the lecture but I have to rant somewhere and here seems as good a place as anywhere else.
Disclaimer from Simon – this is Mum’s rant, nothing to do with me!