Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Swimming? I'm Thinking of Getting a Burkini

These days when I'm finding out the damage done by spending much of my youth enjoying the sun  I'm thinking - somewhat too late I'm afraid - of sun protection. The sun spots on my hands, some solar keratoses and a couple of early stage skin cancers needing to be removed have made me realise that it's a pity I didn't think about it when I was younger. I was blessed with skin that rarely even went pink let alone burned and so, unlike others in my family, it never occurred to me that I was creating a health time bomb.

As Australians of my generations went my family was sun smart. We went swimming at the beach before 10:00 AM and after 4:00 PM long before any of the slogans had been invented. My mother insisted on us using the nearest available thing to sun screen at least on our faces - no oiling ourselves and cooking in the midday sun as almost everyone else did. We were encouraged to cover up in the hottest part of the day and large floppy hats were fashionable for women so I wore one much of the time. And even so I have all this sun damage that is increasingly becoming a worry.

When I had children I carried on doing this, especially as Virgo had inherited delicate, pale skin that easily burned from my paternal grandfather. Much to my son's annoyance - he's like me as far as sunburn is concerned so he could see no point in taking precautions - hats were insisted on as were t-shirts - the long sleeved cover ups for children having not yet come on to the market - and my kids were always slathered in sunscreen. But it really wasn't enough, was it. The sun here is getting hotter and with climate change this will only get worse.

So when I saw the burkini advertised I was interested, very interested. While it was originally created by an Australian woman with a view to allowing Muslim women to enjoy swimming - this is Australia after all so why wouldn't they want to swim - it is looking an increasingly sensible option for many of us. I'm not a fan of covering up because of religious strictures - especially if they are compulsory - but I also can't see why it's anyone's business but mine or that of any other woman if we choose a swim suit that covers more than what society regards as the norm. Until now the only option has been to cover up with a T-shirt and that's very uncomfortable when it gets wet. Ask me how I know. Alternatively you could wear a rashy - this is probably not a word anywhere but in Australia but I can't help it. We Aussies abbreviate almost everything.  Of course, I'm talking about a rash vest or rash guard. Rash guards come in a variety of different styles and fabrics - and some look not that much different from the burkini. Makes me wonder why a rashy would be acceptable and a burkini not.

The burkini range includes garments I personally wouldn't choose to wear - I don't particularly want a head covering although for someone like Virgo who invariably gets her scalp burned along the part line every summer it would be a good option and nor do I want full length leggings - but that's not a reason for others not to choose them. One of my friends pointed out that she hasn't gone swimming for years because she burns easily and hasn't been able to cover up the ravages age at least to some extent. For her a burkini is an appealing option and why shouldn't she have the right to that choice?

The kind of burkini that I'm seriously thinking about is the sun safe range where you get to wear a garment with ¾ length sleeves and slim fitting pants. They are chlorine resistant, provide UV protection of 50+ and come in a number of different colourways and would certainly provide some protection against the harsh Australian sun.

Burkinis have been around since the early 2000s but suddenly came into the news when the south of France seemed to collectively lose sight of what is and isn't appropriate beach wear by banning them because they see them as religious symbols - and, yes, they started out being designed for Muslim women but now they are defintely moving beyond that into the wider community.

In the last few weeks we have had the unedifying spectacle of armed police standing over a fully clothed woman demanding she removes some of her clothes and other times when fully clothed women have been ordered from the beach for wearing garments like burkinis. Now there have been times when I've gone to the beach fully clothed because I wasn't interested in swimming. I've worn jeans and oversize sweaters when it's been cold, I've worn short shorts and long shorts with both short and long sleeved tops - I often wear a long sleeved shirt over my swim suit, too, I've worn a dress, I've even worn a full flowing maxi dress for heaven's sake and I have to wonder exactly why a burkini would be more offensive than any of these.

Given my current experiences with skin cancers - and seeing the TV news interviews with all these bronzed French women in their tiny bikinis and knowing that they in a few years may well be like me having to have skin cancers removed - I have to wonder when common sense went out the window. If a burkini covered the face I could perhaps understand these bans - the face is, after all, how we identify each other - but these garments don't do that. Whether they are worn for modesty or for sun protection is surely no one's business but the wearer's - and, as a useful side effect, the inevitable health consequences will at least have been lessened.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ooh, Ooh, Lookie, Lookie

These are not the best photos in the world but I'm putting them up because they are of my first kangaroo paw flowers. See.

This photo shows the characteristic kangaroo paw shape better while that below picks up the rich and vivid quality of the flower's red and green against a leafy green background - the plants behind it are red poppies of the kind that we use a symbol for Remembrance Day.

These flowers are those of the Red and Green kangaroo paw ( Anigozanthus manglesii) and are the floral emblem of Western Australia. It's also sometimes called Mangles kangaroo paw and was used as a food plant by the local Noongar people who knew it as Kurulbrang.

The reason I'm so excited is because I have tried to grow them repeatedly for many years and had no success. It seems they can be fussy about growing conditions and are susceptible to ink disease, a fungal disease which blackens the leaves and in severe cases can kill the plant (the stunning hybrids you can find in gardens all around the world now are less susceptible apparently). All my previous attempts at growing them have resulted in ink disease and death but if there's one thing certain about me and gardening it is that I don't like to be beaten so I try and try again.

Last year all but a few of the kangaroo paws I put in succumbed to ink disease so, instead of trying yet again to grow them in a garden bed, I planted the survivors in a large pot. To my surprise they thrived and now they are in bloom. It's a great thrill and reminds of my childhood visits to bushland at Red Hill on the Darling scarp where the hillside was carpeted with these spectacular flowers in Spring. Inspired, I've invested in some more plants. They're tiny at the moment but who knows, next year I may have my own carpet of these lovely flowers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Star Trekkin'

So I needed cheering up and then I came across something that used to give my kids and me great pleasure as we belted it out in the car back in the early nineties. It makes fun of Star Trek using catch phrases from the TV show at an increasingly frantic pace and we loved it. I give you Star Trekkin' by UK novelty band, The Firm.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Well, That Was Unfortunate

I injured my hip somehow about a month ago and I've been struggling to walk much and there have been days when it's been all but impossible. The constant pain has been debilitating, too, and I've been exhausted most of the time because I haven't slept well. My GP arranged for me to have an injection a couple of weeks ago which took quite some time to work but the last couple of days things seemed to be improving. I got out into the garden for a couple of hours over the weekend - nothing strenuous but I don't do well when I don't get outside so, although I was physically limited and ended up having go and put my feet up for the rest of the day, it was worth it.

That was until this morning when I was going through the family room and my foot caught on a footstool that someone had left out of place - I won't dob them in but they know who they are - and now I can barely hobble again. My plans for the day are completely wrecked and I am not a happy little camper.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Teething Troubles

Last week I had my six monthly clean and check at the dentist and they do feel lovely. Some of it went very well: the hygienist complimented me on how I take care of my teeth. This is largely thanks to my old dentist. I've followed his advice on cleaning technique religiously for years and it obviously pays off.

Unfortunately it hasn't been enough to stop many of my teeth developing fractures even to the point of several shattering. The first time this happened was when I was at Clarion South in 2007 - miraculously it didn't expose the nerve so I was able to wait until I got home to have it dealt with - but it was the beginning of a series of teeth falling apart with no-one able to say why. As a result I have rather more crowns than I would like and now two more teeth - I already knew from my last clean and check they were showing fractures - have reached the point of having to be crowned. As well another has developed some worrying fractures but it can wait a while yet. At the present rate I'll end up with a mouthful of crowns. Just as well I have good private health cover, isn't it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Crassness at the Rio Games

So far - and bear in mind we're only just over a week in - much of the media has managed to sink to appalling new lows when reporting on women athletes. Commenting on Katinka Hosszu's world record and gold medal in the women's swimming 400 metre individual medley an NBC commentator credited her husband with being responsible for her record swim but then his euphoric celebration of her win became the media focus - because husbands aren't supposed to be proud of their wives' achievements apparently. Then, when reporting on the trap shooting bronze medal won by US woman, Corey Cogdell-Unrein, the local newspaper, Chicago Tribune, initially tweeted leaving out her name but mentioning that she is married to a local footballer. You can read about these and other crass comments here and here and there's an interesting article of how sexism is rampant in sport reporting in this article by Gabrielle Moss at

It is a sad commentary on just how women athletes and, for that matter high achieving women in any sphere, are viewed because I don't believe for a minute that these are aberrations. These are reflections of a society which has yet to really come to terms with the fact that women are sentient human beings whose choices of spouse (not to mention garments or personal decoration) are not of more importance than their other achievements.

But while they are the most often insulted in this way, women aren't the only ones who are getting idiocies thrown their way. When eighteen year old Australian, Kyle Chalmers, won swimming gold in the men's 100 metre freestyle event our local newspaper - yes, I'm looking at you The West Australian - used the headline 'Golden Child'. Although Chalmers is in his final year of school he is still legally old enough to marry, vote and undertake any other adult activity but he's a 'child' in the eyes of this newspaper - and, while I know it would have been one person who created this headline, that no-one realised this was inappropriate as it went through the process of publication speaks volumes.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Today's Questions

Why does our (the Australian) government persist in the idea that marriage is only between a man and a woman. This is the legacy of previous Prime Ministers who subscribed to a 'traditional' view of marriage and the important part about this is previous. They are no longer in those positions and, however genuine their beliefs, society has moved on. We don't need a plebiscite on whether we should legislate to legalise same sex marriage - in particular a plebiscite which the government has  said will be non-binding on our Federal representatives. It's already clear from polling that the vast majority of Australians don't subscribe to these ideas. For goodness sake, an ever increasing number don't even believe that marriage is necessary and live in long term de facto relationships.

The truth is that marriage is a legal creation largely to deal with issues like children - and who has what responsibilities in rearing them - and property with divorce a way of ensuring that those responsibilities are met and jointly acquired property is equitably divided when a relationship ends. There's a lot of other stuff that has adhered to the concept of marriage over time or has remained attached to it from history - and some of it remains in legislation like the Marriage Act 1961 (Australia)  and the subsequent Marriage Amendment Act 2004 (Australia) which defined marriage as 'a union of a man and a woman' and specifically excluded same sex marriage.

To me this is simply codifying certain religious beliefs that many may not agree with. Personally, I have no problem with people making a religious commitment - Pisces and I married in a church many years ago and that was a deliberate choice we made - but I can see no reason why that is required of everyone else. Our children married in civil ceremonies and that's fine, too.

Actually the more I think about it the more convinced I am that all the legal aspects of marriage should be covered by having civil partnerships - a secular ceremony of commitment conducted by an secular official - as the legally binding contract. By all means have the union confirmed by a religious ceremony after the civil ceremony if you wish to but make the law so that this has no legal status.

Once you institute civil partnerships you can sweep away the idea that marriage is only a union of a man and a woman - and, in my opinion, we should have done that long ago. A more humane and honest definition would mean those who don't fit into the box of heterosexual pairs could make the same commitment to lifelong partnership and receive the legal protections presently denied them.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Emirates EK521 Aircraft Crash

I've just been watching passenger video of the evacuation of Emirates EK521after it crash landed in Dubai. It's horrifying - not only because of the fact that an aircraft with 300 passengers and crew has crashed though that is bad enough - but because of the idiots who are collecting their baggage out of overhead lockers as the cabin fills with smoke and the cabin crew desperately try to get them to drop everything and get out as quickly as possible.

How anyone can be so stupid I do not know. The gold standard for evacuating an aircraft is ninety seconds because - unless you're lucky - that's how much time you're likely have before the plane catches fire or explodes - and when the cabin is already filling with smoke it's a fairly reasonable assumption that either or both of these things might happen as in fact they did within minutes of this plane crashing.

Obviously these idiots are special little flowers who don't bother to watch the safety briefing or read the safety information because it won't happen to them. But it can and in this case they and the others they obstructed were close to losing their lives.

There are reasons for not wasting time getting your baggage. First is the obvious time constraint but then there are the equally obvious dangers that hauling bags with you can cause. You could hit someone as you pull it down knocking them unconscious and blocking the passage way - and if you don't think this could happen, I've seen enough near misses when people are rushing to get off without it being an emergency to know this is a real possibility. But once you have your luggage what can happen next is even more disturbing. Bags can catch on seats even during an orderly standard disembarkation - aircraft aisles are narrow after all - and when people are panicking in an emergency it's even more likely that it will obstruct the aisle blocking others from getting out.  Then there is the danger that bags can catch on the evacuation slides, tearing them and rendering them useless. As well, how do you use the slide appropriately if you are clutching a piece of baggage. You risk broken limbs or worse for yourself and harm to others using the slides.

I understand why it's hard to leave your valuables behind but surely your life and the lives of those you are blocking are more important than material things. If you're worried about losing important documents why not keep them on you in a waterproof pouch (planes do sometimes come down over water). Then you'll have them with you at all times - and keep a USB stick with irreplaceable information with them as well. That's simply common sense and it won't matter if your laptop gets left behind and destroyed.

And just one other point - cabin crew are not just glorified wait staff and ticket checkers. They are highly trained to keep you safe both in the air and in any emergency. It's their job to get you off a plane as quickly as possible in an emergency and they know what they are doing. They have to learn to cope with all possible crash scenarios and their training is rigorous and on-going. You ignore their instructions at your peril in a disaster situation.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Feeling Low

I hope you're not. I certainly am.

In my case it's because I've had to accept the reality that for the next few months at least it's out of the question for me to take on a dog. I've acquired a couple of injuries that make walking extremely painful and limited and one of these may need to be addressed by a very new and still somewhat controversial form of surgery. I'm trying not to think about that at the moment at least until I've seen the very popular surgeon who is the only one in Perth doing this procedure (and consequently that looks like it will take some months) and know for sure.

The reason I've come to this doggie decision is because we've have just had a sweet little rescue pup for a fortnight with a view to adopting her. There were a couple of issues that would have taken some work - there always are with rescues so that didn't faze me - but the clincher was the realisation that I wouldn't be able to walk her sufficiently to keep her socialised. It would have had to have been me because she had some issues with interacting with other dogs and while Pisces loves dogs I am the one who has more experience in with dealing with problem behaviours. It was a difficult decision but it was in her best interests to send her back so she could find a forever home with someone can help her grow into the dog she can be. She was a truly sweet little dog, though, and in only a fortnight she had already made her way into our hearts.

So there were tears and and there is sadness and something is missing from our lives. We will get another dog but we need to get over these hurdles first. In the meantime are we blue? Yes, we are.