On The Existence Or Otherwise Of Miracles

Oh ghod I’m so frustrated! Yes, I know, there’s a spare ‘h’ in a word back there. That’s because I don’t want any ghod botherers bothering me about ghod. I don’t actually believe in ghod, thirteen years of catholic education and drudgery in church did not make me believe in ghod so, ghod botherers beware, your ghod bothering ways will not convince me.

Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about the existence or otherwise of ghod, it was just an expression, you know, like ‘holy pistachios Batman’, but less corny and more direct, and, I think, more forceful. I am frustrated because, being a poor person (not destitute but certainly living on the edge of the abyss), I am currently using the public health system to try to address my sciatica and pain issues and my recovery. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good public health system. Citizens of the USA take note, in Australia even poor people can get healthcare, they can see a doctor and their visit is subsidised, they can receive treatments, surgery, medications and their pockets may only be emptied a small amount. They will not have to sell a kidney to afford a treatment regime of chemotherapy. Here we do, actually, have a pretty good system BUT allied healthcare is often left off the list.

What do I mean by allied healthcare, oh you know, physiotherapy, osteopathy, speech pathology, ophthalmology, dentistry and the like. Admittedly there are usually public hospital provided services for these allied professions but they are so few and far between, so stretched, that getting in to see one of them in a timely fashion is almost impossible.

So, what am I moaning about? Well, it seems I was damn lucky to get in to see a physiotherapist last week to help treat my back and sciatica. Now the same physiotherapist has cancelled my appointment this week (no reason given, her life and right) and I cannot get in to see her for another two weeks. So it will be three weeks between visits and I’ve seen only mild improvement in my condition. I can’t afford to go to a physiotherapist outside of the hospital system because NONE OF THE BILL THAT THEY CHARGE YOU IS RECLAIMABLE VIA MEDICARE. NONE! And, being poor, I can’t afford to pay.

So now I am in limbo. I’m about to go and see my doctor again and we will discuss whether I can go back to work. I want to work but not if it means my health suffers. I may not have much sick leave left, on a part-time job your sick leave is pro rata, so I may be quickly diminishing my reserves and we haven’t even hit the flu season yet (I’m not into flu vaccines but it might be useful this year). This means that I’ll either have to start using my time off in lieu (TOIL) or my annual leave, neither of which is a joyous prospect. I much prefer to use holiday leave to have a holiday. I haven’t had a holiday (one where you actually go away) since December 2012 and my mental health is feeling the strain. Using my holiday leave to be sick is not going to improve things. I already did that in Dec/Jan just gone, it sucked then and it will suck now.

If I had broader access to allied treatment services at affordable prices then I might be better now, instead I’m at its mercy, dulling my nerves with a cocktail of pills and hoping that I’ll get better by myself or doing those painful exercises the physio gave me. I need a miracle, I bemoan, but then I remember that I am alive and that my ailment is not a death sentence.

I received news earlier this week that a friend of mine has been moved off active treatment and into a palliative care regime. She’s 42. She has two young children and a loving partner and no amount of love or hope is going to change the fact that she will die one day in the not too distant future from a cancer that the doctors cannot treat nor can they explain. Now, if there is a ghod, that’s where the miracle needs to happen. So, any ghod botherers out there reading this – pray for a miracle for her and leave me alone.


I Think Of The Terrible Cruelties We Are Heaping Upon Asylum Seekers

Tonight people around Australia are attending candlelight vigils for a slain asylum seeker, Reza Barati. He was killed in circumstances that we still really don’t know a lot about, in another country, Manus Is, PNG, because successive Australian governments have played the “I can be crueler than you” policy game and determined that vulnerable people seeking safety in our country will instead be turned away and sent to places that can only be for one thing – to heap more cruelty upon them.

I didn’t participate in an organised vigil. Having chickens means we are bound to be home within a time that we can lock them away, keep them safe from foxes and other predators. That’s before dark and candlelight vigils work best after dark. Instead my partner and I held our own. We considered what we could do to change the way our government is treating asylum seekers, doing it in our name, painting us as selfish and craven across the world.

We’ve not come to any firm conclusions. We will keep supporting political actions, protests, petitions, and the social justice focused not-for-profit organisations that do this work and much more. Organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Sanctuary and others work with asylum seekers to assist them to survive in a policy landscape that has been set against them. Most have no income, no work rights, no access to Medicare, little capacity to support secure housing and not even access to schooling for their children.

These organisations work with everyone who is placed in our community while their asylum claim is determined; access to those in the detention centres on Nauru, Manus Is. and Christmas Is. is restricted and fraught with legal and policy barriers. They also advocate and support asylum seekers and refugees through the legal minefield that is the Australian refugee processing system.

The ASRC has around 900 volunteers and they achieve amazing things. I want to be part of that too. When my health settles, and my finances, I think that’s the next thing for me. I am not silent and soon I will be an active contributor to this important social justice cause.

I cannot change what has happened. I am only one voice (among many) who abhor our current government’s policies and secrecy around the off-shore detention centres. Our voices are not being headed but our actions can let those asylum seekers amongst us know that they are welcome here.

Remembering Reza Barati, I blow out this candle and hope that his senseless loss of life can help galvanise us all to fight for others like him. I hope we can all find a way to stand up and say “Not in my Name” to our leaders. I hope.

I Become Curmudgeonly and Introspective Simultaneously.

What is so bloody special about digital TV? Honestly. Tell me! I live in country Victoria and our digital signal is constantly interrupted by whatever vagaries are happening that day, or not, because there’s no rhyme nor reason for good or bad signal.

One day ABC works fine and channel 7 is awful, full of hicks and trips and fading in and out and lines across the screen. This only happens when there is something I want to watch on said channel (like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), next the ABC is foul and all the turgid commercial channels are crisp and clear.

Even good signal days have bad moments. Just at the crucial denouement the crackle starts, the picture jumps, the dialogue fades out. Luckily I don’t want to watch much telly, I don’t have time, but bloody hell when I do it’s annoying.

I’m trying to prepare for the new uni year. You know, doing the reading beforehand, hassling the lecturer for the full course guide, talking to other students online and setting up a study group. I know, I know, I’m behaving like a mature-age student. I barely recognise myself. This maturing business is quite astounding. I take responsibility for my own actions and prepare for a number of eventualities. I try to follow through with my commitments and I write my essays before the due date.

It’s a long way from my first foray into university. I went there as a ‘mature-age’ student then as well. I was all of 21. I look at the pup now and, although I’m convinced I was more mature than she is (the illusion of age, I’m sure) I certainly did not reach any of my potentials during my time there. In fact, I excelled only in making friends and drinking beer. I loved the study but I neglected to write the essays or hand them in (on time or at all).

The difference is 25 years and a sense of purpose. I really know what I want to be doing and this Masters will advance me in my work and life journey. I used to defensively announce that I didn’t need a piece of paper to prove I could do my job. Now I know the value of a piece of paper.

When I asked my lovely wife to marry me I did it because I wanted to declare to her that I thought our love could be eternal. It’s still not legal here but nonetheless we hired a celebrant and invited friends and did the whole marriage thing.

We have a piece of paper.

It states that we made a commitment to each other, the date and the signatures of us, our witnesses and the celebrant.

I promised this woman my love and support and compassion and strength for all of our lives together and that we would be together for all our lives. If things get a little hard the reminder of that piece if paper isn’t that I must do this; it is that it imbues my existence within this relationship with a solemnity that might not be replicable without it. It enlivens my relationship. It puts it on the same footing as my parents’ marriage and her parents’ marriage. Sure, calling it marriage would be better, making it legal would be great, but I have declared before the world my commitment and that gives it a greater value proposition.

With that other piece of paper (that degree) I will declare my knowledge of and commitment to working with people in a way that gives them power and skills and purpose and autonomy. It’s a similar thing.


It’s too raw. I can’t write tonight. The news of the death of a young boy at the hand of his father is too hard to take in. The compassion and forgiveness of his mother is both humbling and confusing.

I have my own story. I have my own hurts. They are different to these events. The similarity is that men have perpetrated violence against children they profess to love.

That’s all you get. Goodnight. I’ll try again tomorrow.

No, You’re Dog Is Not Cute When It Runs At Me Barking And Baring Its Teeth

Country life is complicated when it comes to animals. Issues of animal welfare abound and not just the obvious ones around livestock for meat or other animal products (milk, eggs etc). Domestic animal welfare is also really important, as is native animal welfare.

I’ve just watched the neighbour’s dog chase a cow that was in the back paddock of their place; a place I’ve seen cows in before. The cow panicked and ran through a fence, I don’t know what the cow’s injuries might be but the fence had barbed wire, though they don’t say ‘as tough as cow hide’ for nothing. The dog that chased it is aggressive and territorial. It’s a real worry for us regarding our chickens, dogs, cats and us, as the aggression doesn’t abate and when we try to walk out of our front gate (pop to the shop, go for a bike ride, walk our dogs on leads) we are often confronted by it barking and snarling and baring its teeth.

So the welfare issue for this dog is that it is poorly trained, aggressive and territorial, no impulse control at all and liable to end up at the end of some farmers’ gun (not mine, I don’t own any firearms, nor am I a farmer). A well trained dog, with clear boundaries (metaphysical and physical), responsiveness to command and owners that behave responsibly are required no matter where you live. This dog is a danger to all the other animals and humans around it because the people it lives with have not bothered to train and condition it.

If it wasn’t so aggressive I’d love to pat it, become a friend It looks like it’s part ridgeback, a breed of which I’m familiar. Usually they’re big softies but this one is scary. I know everyone loves their dogs and thinks they are great, it’s the blindness delivered by engaging with dogs as family. I’m sure its family think it’s charming but I can tell you now, I worry about my safety when it is near me, which is too often for comfort these days.

I spoke about native animals too. Cats are some of the biggest predators around. Our cats are inside at night and now (given their age) inside mostly during the day. The tortoiseshell has never caught anything in her life and the tuxedo cat, while once a good hunter for rabbits and mice, has stopped all that malarkey now.

This doesn’t mean we don’t have cats around though. At least two big cats think that our land is their personal hunting area and we often hear them at night. We also hear possums, koalas, boobooks and barking owls. Heavens knows what else is out there (probably not much now) but this area was renowned for antechinus and quoll, to name a couple of less common native animals in this area. I’m not sure what the figures are for hunting perimeters for cats, I know it’s bloody huge sometimes though as is the number of small animals a cat can kill in one night.

Not all damage is done by feral cats. Domestic cats that aren’t kept in at night can and do have similar hunting instincts. It’s true that hunting does occur during the day but night time hunting is much more damaging to the Australian small marsupial populations which are mostly nocturnal.

Health issues for cats out at night are also a concern. Even in the country there are untreatable cat illnesses that are passed on by fighting, and fighting for hunting territory abounds. I think I’ve been a little ranty tonight. Look after your animals people. One more ranty thing. Get your domestic animals de-sexed – it’s better for them, it’s better for all the animals currently in shelters (waiting for new homes or dying from lack of them) and it’s better for the planet.