Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Summer of Cricket (Adventures in PND)

I've been watching a bit of test cricket lately. No one is more surprised by this than me. I've never watched cricket in my life - I'm Irish, so it never figured in our house growing up - and I still have very little idea what's going on. You don't really need to, though. What appeals to me about the cricket is the very soothing dullness of it. As Bill Bryson described it:

Imagine a form of baseball in which the pitcher, after each delivery, collects the ball from the catcher and walks slowly with it out to center field; and that there, after a minute's pause to collect himself, he turns and runs full tilt toward the pitcher's mound before hurling the ball at the ankles of a man who stands before him wearing a riding hat, heavy gloves of the sort used to handle radioactive isotopes, and a mattress strapped to each leg. Imagine moreover that if this batsman fails to hit the ball in a way that heartens him sufficiently to try to waddle forty feet with mattresses strapped to his legs, he is under no formal compunction to run; he may stand there all day, and, as a rule, does. If by some miracle he is coaxed into making a misstroke that leads to his being put out, all the fielders throw up their arms in triumph and have a hug. Then tea is called and everyone retires happily to a distant pavilion to fortify for the next siege. Now imagine all this going on for so long that by the time the match concludes autumn has crept in and all your library books are overdue. There you have cricket. (Read more here)


Watching a dull game I don't understand is all the stimulation I can take at the moment, just what I need. You see, up until a few weeks ago, I was getting a little smug about this motherhood business. BabyG slept well, was hitting his milestones early, at the top of the charts for growth. I thought I had the hang of the whole thing and was getting ready to return to work. Then, yippee-ki-yay, the dreaded four month sleep regression hit. BabyG went from sleeping twelve hours with a tiny feed he just about slept through, to screaming himself awake every ninety minutes and being almost bloody impossible to console. Once 5am came, that was it, he was up for the day. The lack of sleep was at first a novelty, then disorienting and nauseating, and finally caused me to slip into territory I smugly thought I had avoided: the land of post natal depression. I ticked several risk factors for PND, but showed no signs in the early months and thought it wasn't going to happen to me. But as I stared down the third day in a row where I'd been up with the baby for three hours by 8am, DH hadn't even left for work yet and wouldn't be home for another ten, crying over being trapped and clawed at and really freaking exhausted, I had to admit it might be time I got some help.

PND has lost a lot of stigma over the last few years, thanks to brave souls who are willing to go public with their stories. Still, very few are prepared to admit they have PND when they are in the middle of it - most will only describe what happened to them when it's all over. I think it can be hard to see the signs of depression when you're actually suffering them (both DH and I have long histories and professional training in this, so we knew what to look out for and spotted it straight away); but also, by admitting you have post natal depression right now, you leave yourself open to being judged. "Is she hurting her baby? Surely if she loved/wanted him enough she'd be happy?". I've got a heightened fear of being judged - a couple of years ago, some cruel soul who admittedly knew me best in my mid twenties, when I really wasn't a great candidate for parenthood, told me they hoped I couldn't have kids because I'd be a crappy mother. I've never quite shaken it, and I'm always worried that if BabyG isn't clean, well-dressed, well-fed, bright, plump and happy that someone will say "See? Right! Terrible mother", and take him away. I know this paranoia is a symptom of my depression, but having worked in child protection, I'm also aware of just how hard health professionals look for signs of neglect or abuse, and I'm terrified of inadvertently showing any.

We live in a nation where perhaps 40% of the population think Tony Abbott is a fit and proper person to become Prime Minister, so it's perhaps not surprising that so many misconceptions about PND remain. During the many heartbreaking years I waited for the time to be right to have a child, I thought to myself I wouldn't possibly get PND, as I had waited so long and would love my child so much. How wrong. It's got nothing to do with love - no one with post natal depression loves their child any less because of it; I absolutely adore BabyG. Why PND? I don't know. Why does anyone get depression? It's not about being tough or resourceful or needing to harden up, it's about a chemical imbalance in the brain, which I am genetically prone to. That's all.

There's so much going on at the moment. I've started wonderful new work with endless opportunity; we're contemplating a major move; this week has been ripe with events for the blogger to sink their teeth into. I'm too tired for any of it. I feel like life, and my only child's infancy, is passing me by. We are lucky to live in a nation with an excellent health and welfare system, even now - I'm receiving treatment, and therapy, and sleep school are getting involved; we don't have to pay a cent for any of this. I had myself together enough, with the help of DH, to get help early, and I'll be better soon I'm sure, with no harm done to me or BabyG in the long run. But for now it's all beyond me. This summer, cricket is all I can handle.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Hell With Labor

Back when the whole Bill Henson nude child photos controversy was in the media, I felt like the only lefty art lover in Australia who thought what Henson did was really, deeply wrong. The worst thing was the company I kept; I wanted to be on the side of the arty types I admired, not - dear god - Miranda bloody Devine.

I've always derided the Julia Gillard haters. I'm not talking about the people who evaluate her entire record and have justifiable concerns with some of the decisions she's made; I'm talking about those rabid opponents of everything she does not matter what; the type who clog talkback radio, who were declaring in the comments of New Ltd websites the day she rose to the position that she was the Worst Prime Minister ever. Those people. They don't want a female Prime Minister, they don't understand how democracy works, they don't know what the government does, all they know is they're against it. Even though I stopped supporting Labor years ago, like so many deeply disappointed over their policies on everything from same sex marriage to asylum seekers, I felt compelled to defend the Gillard government in the face of the poisonous, illogical rantings of the Juliar carbon tax opponents, the turn-the-boats-around brigade and the Gillard is in bed with Bob Brown bunch.

But now, I'm angry. Now Gillard has really ticked me off. There have been noises for a few weeks that the relationship between Greens and Labor federally has broken down, and Bob Brown - who has more honour in his little finger than Julia Gillard has in her entire body - confirmed recently that he and Gillard are no longer having regular meetings, following the government's breaking of the agreements over logging of Tasmanian forests. But I held my wrath until, in line with the modern Labor tradition of selling out to Big Business and populism, Gillard reneged on the agreement to introduce mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines, instead agreeing only to a trial in the ACT for the next few years. How many lives across Australia will be ruined in those years? Those people have been sold out by a Prime Minister too cowardly to tell the Australian people that they are being lied to by Clubs Australia and the poker machine industry.

Does this government stand for anything? They stand by and allow the Australian people to be lied to - by big business on poker machine reform and the mining super profits tax; by radio shock jocks on asylum seekers, by complete lunatics on climate change - without demurring; they don't lead, they don't even follow, they just mince about helplessly, taking the populist route and losing. Who the hell do they think they are going to impress? The conservatives and bigots they seem to be trying to attract will never vote for them, convinced they are aligned with the Greens; actual Greens and leftists are disgusted by their record and want nothing to do with them anymore. It's been asked recently could the Labor party be dying. Let it. To hell with them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Stars - The New Young Talent Time

Like so many other Australian children of my generation, growing up there was pretty much nothing on Earth I wanted more than to be on Young Talent Time. To be a star on the all-signing, all-dancing, dreadful-joke telling, pineapple-costume wearing variety show that was a staple of Australian television through the 1970s and 1980s? Where do I sign up? The show sent my imagination into a spin. I sang, I danced, I begged my mother to make me a dress with a sequined bodice and bubble skirt. I wanted to be one of those kids so badly it hurt.

What child wouldn't want to dress like this? Courtesy News Mail.

Of course there were several obstacles in my way. For a start the show was filmed in Melbourne, and we lived in Sydney; I'd never received any form of singing or dancing training, despite my pleas (my father regarded spending money on children for anything that wasn't absolutely necessary as spoiling them); and most crucially, I had no talent whatsoever - my singing makes those around me cringe no matter how drunk they are, and my aspergery self has stubbornly resists all attempts at dance and physical training I've paid for as an adult in an attempt to recover the youthful dreams so cruelly snatched away.

Yet I had mixed feelings when I heard Channel Ten was reviving Young Talent Time. What would a YTT for the modern market look like - slick, soulless, constant admonitions to vote and download?  I sat down to watch the first episode last night - and was utterly transfixed. It was all there from the original - the cheesy dances running back and forth across the stage; going to the break on a refrain; the bizarre backdrops, in this case a projected band (I'm still waiting for the return of the puppets). And the kids were just terrific; I was particularly impressed by Michelle's voice and Tia's stage presence. It was a wonderful blend of the old and the new; a changing of the guard vibe that acknowledged the history of the show whilst allowing it to progress.  Of course, the show has it's detractors. Yes I know it's cheesier than a stack of ten discarded pizza boxes; I'm of a nostalgic frame of mind but if I weren't, Young Talent Time would be pretty much the last thing I'd want to watch.

Now, I believe I may have mentioned I have big dreams for BabyG. The return of YTT sent a fresh dream soaring. Okay, so I can never be a YTT team member - but my kid can be a YTT team member! My stars, how I would love that. The costumes, the songs, the glamour - except instead of having to stay modest about my achievements, I can boast endlessly about BabyG's achievements! Now I just need the bloody show to stay on the air for the 8 or so years it will take for BabyG to be trained, auditioned, and accepted as a team member. It needs to rate well. So watch the damn thing, or else you're destroying a little boy's dreams. (They are his dreams, even if he doesn't know it yet).

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Gamble We Must Win

I envy people who have moral certitude. DH is what I would refer to as a fundamentalist atheist. Convinced there is no god, that there couldn't possibly be a god, that in the face of the evidence it is foolish to believe otherwise. He spends hours reading and debating atheist philosophy I can't pretend to understand, but the basic principle is simple. No god. I envy that. I'm all confused. I would describe myself, depending on how I'm feeling on the day, as anything from semi-agnostic lapsed Catholic through to atheist. It's hard to escape the Irish Catholic upbringing, and I've never quite gotten over the concept of sin. I'm a lefty these days, of course, which means there aren't many things I would actually class as a sin that don't involve cruelty to small children or animals. But if there's one thing I would class as sinful, it's gambling. Everything about it is wrong. I don't think we should all go around wearing hair shirts at the state of the world - be mindful of others, but enjoy your life - but come on. Money means so little to you you can afford, in essence, to throw it away? And if you do win, it means many others have had to lose to provide you with those winnings. I understand for many though it's a disease, an addiction - they've fallen for the claims of the gambling industry, the false promises of those who profit at their expense, who are the ones to whom we should direct our ire. The whole thing just seems deeply, deeply wrong to me.

If gambling is bad, poker machines are the lowest form of the practice. Bright and colourful, playing cheerful enticing music reminiscent of the fairground attractions of old, they lure in the desperate and the lonely as well as the drunk and greedy. NSW has the shameful title of the world's poker machine capital - one in ten (!) of the world's poker machines are in my home state; Australia as a nation is home to 20% of the global total. It's a horrific figure, built off the sufferings of thousands upon thousands of people; the poker machine addicts and their families. And whilst it's true that most poker machine users aren't gambling addicts, most poker machine revenue comes from those with a gambling problem.

Something needs to be done, and I can only applaud the bravery of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who has taken on a mammoth task in attempting to pass legislation that will require gamblers to limit their bets before they make them - stemming, one would hope, the out-of-control gambling that comes as a pokies user loses what they have, then goes into debt trying desperately to win it back. Of course, the poker machine industry, enamoured of the rivers of cash that flow from the misery of problem gamblers, have no intention of going down without a fight. With their massive financial power, they're undertaking a massive campaign against the changes, claiming that they won't work to stop problem gambling (wrong), that betting limits are un-Australian (puerile) and most indefensibly, that community and charitable groups will be hobbled as registered clubs, deprived of their poker machine revenue, will no longer be able to afford to support them. I've written previously about how clubs boast of their community involvement and charitable contributions whilst in reality, they give very little of their revenue "back to the community" - every registered club is legally required to publish their annual financial statements; check out your local club and see just what percentage of revenue they give to their precious community groups. The pokies lobby portrays movements to curb problem gambling as taking the footballs out of the hands of little kids who wish to play. It's emotive bullshit, it's a lie, and it's a scandal that the media lets them get away with it.

The pokies lobby is going to fight dirty here, so it's important everyone who supports these reforms - or even those who aren't sure and would like more information - checks out Stop the Loss, a coalition dedicated to poker machine reform. We need to show that the poker machine lobby can't lie to ordinary Australians to get their way any more. And to press the Labor government to make the reforms law. I've even defended Julia Gillard over the carbon tax, but this goes beyond politics - Gillard must live up to her election promises and not be swayed by the pressure of a wealthy lobby group over the welfare of many, many good hardworking people seduced by the lure and lie of the pokies.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Under Review

Remember the old days when you had to rely on the opinions of people you knew, liked and trusted when making decisions about places to stay and eat? No more! Now thanks to internet reviews, there's the opinions of thousands of random strangers to ignore when making holiday decisions! At least, I can only assume online opinions are being ignored, otherwise why on Earth would people continue to stay here? I've walked past this place, and it looks like what you think it's going to look like. So who is staying there? I can only surmise either people who don't log on to review sites until after they've visited a place, or people who have read the reviews but think that for them, somehow, it will be different (there's a third, terrifying category - those who see this as some sort of hardcore, Ultimate Accommodation experience). Admittedly it's not all bad. At least it won't be your generic Holiday Inn experience where it doesn't matter if you're in Prague or Anchorage, you're getting the same dull sterile hotel room. As for "the manager threw a tape measure at us when we complained" - that's the sort of personalised service you just don't get in your big chain shitty hotels. Some may even see it as a sign of hope that the entire world has not yet succumbed to the sterilising effects of corporatisation. Me, well I can only goggle in horror that there are twenty hotels in Sydney with worse average reviews.

If entire nations had reviews, this guy needs to carefully read the review for Australia. He sounds fairly typical of his sort - a young(ish) British media type who has had enough with the pitiful state of his home country, what with the economy and the rioting and the weather, and has decided, without ever stepping foot here, that Australia is the answer - the sunny, peaceful, happy answer to his apathy in the UK. He seems like a nice enough young man, and we do have boundless plains to share - we'll be happy to have him here. But does he really know what he's getting himself in for? Does he realise our Prime Minister is more despised than cool, and that the price of property and nearly everything else is ridiculous, and that his dream of heading to the beach on the way home from work is a reality for only a tiny percentage - that if he lives in Sydney, it is more likely he will finish work and spend ninety minutes on a crowded, smelly, and non-air conditioned train heading home to a suburb he can afford to live in? Does he have any idea how cut off from culture he will feel compared to his life in London? Does he know that, forget the whingeing Pom, Australians are engaging in a national orgy of collective complaining, convinced life has never been so hard for the "average" of us?

Like with the the hotel patrons though, I'm sure if he did read all this, he wouldn't believe it, or think it applied to him. Well, come on down then, but don't say you weren't warned.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Piece of Cake

Motherhood to me isn't just about providing a warm nurturing environment in which BabyG can reach his full potential. It's also a vicious, blood thirsty competition that I have to win or kill everyone else and myself in the process of trying. Good is not good enough. I have to have the cutest, smartest, best dressed baby. No pressure in him though - the failure is all on my head, for I must also have the most secure and well adjusted baby. It's a lot to live up to.

The thing to do on blogs these days is make a rainbow cake and post about it; following in the steps of Whisk Kid, whose rainbow cake was so beautiful, so perfect, she appeared on Martha Stewart to illuminate its superiority. No dedicated Mommy or baking blogger can hold up their head without a post about the rainbow cake; how difficult it was, but how the spectacular results were all worth it - especially to see the looks of delight on the faces of the assembled children when the rainbow cake was produced. We're holding a small naming ceremony for BabyG soon. He's too little to care if I serve cake or cans of out-of-date imported tuna bought in a bulk lot from Go-Lo. It doesn't matter. In order to prove what a loving and competent Mummy I am, I have to make a rainbow cake.

Courtesy of Whisk Kid

The thing is, I'm not much of a baker. It's been seven years, but I don't think I'll ever really get over The Cheesecake Incident. In the intervening years, I've baked a few simple cakes, but never anything like a layered rainbow cake, and never for a crowd. The potential for disaster is enormous. It's hard to escape mental images of arriving at the ceremony with my sad attempt at a cake leaning precariously to one side, forcing DH to try to shore up the sides with makeshift rigging using chopsticks. Or worse, cutting the thing open only to realise the orange layer is back home in the freezer, completely forgotten; leading a guest's three-year-old to burst into tears and proclaim "that's not a real rainbow cake!". If I had any sense I'd be on the phone to the Cheesecake Shop right now ordering something that won't disappoint everyone, but what can I say, I believe in the triumph of hope over experience. My kid is going to get a rainbow cake, and everyone is going to enjoy it, whether they like it or not.

My efforts to win Mother of the Year don't stop there. I've left it a bit late, true - he was eligible to start two weeks ago - but it's time to enrol BabyG in swimming lessons. I thought it would be a simple matter of turning up at 11am some Tuesday and paying a fee, but no. Apparently the pool I've chosen is very popular, and to win a spot for our little precious, I had to submit to enrollment day. According to the website, enrollment day meant showing up at the pool at 6am to queue for a ticket in the lottery which is drawn later that day to allocate spaces in the lessons. You have to be there when the lottery is drawn or miss out, of course, and apparently even with a winning ticket it can be a bit dicey, as parents resort to cheating and lying in an effort to secure the best, or indeed any, spot. Hardcore, sure, but no hardship is too great to ensure BabyG does the right swimming lessons with the right sort of babies; a simple suburban pool just won't cut it for him. So I polished off my steel-capped Docs, sharpened my nails and stocked up on caffeinated drinks for the big day (I couldn't run the coffee machine at that hour, of course - it might disturb the baby's sleep). I was ready for any queue of hardened swimming mothers. I would do whatever it took to get a spot for BabyG, sure he'd thank me for all this later.

Then I learned that the pool was abandoning the ticket lottery method of enrollment. All I have to do is send off a form and someone would call about a time for the baby's lessons. I feel strangely flat and let down - I wanted to prove what a great mother I am by hurting someone. I'll have to think of something else. Is it too early to become a relentless stage mom?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Saddest Trip

Just to warn people - this post is about suicide, particularly suicide by train. Some of the details are gory and upsetting. I have included them not to be exploitative but to emphasise the horror of it all, and hopefully start people thinking. If you have an issue with what I have written, please contact me to discuss it. Thanks.

Last night it was with a heavy heart I read of a fatality on the rail line not far from where we live. As it turns out, the young man who was killed was likely spraying graffiti on the rail line before he was struck. Tragic and horrible for his family - some might say he deserved his fate for trespassing on railway property to deface it, but I really don't think spraying graffiti quite warrants the death penalty.

At first when I heard the news however, I assumed he had taken his own life. It's depressingly familiar, in every sense of the term, to the regular rail commuter -  barely a week goes by without the announcement of delays on the network due to a fatality; what with Christmas recently, it seemed to be happening nearly every day. There have been four in my local area, just whilst I've been paying attention, in the past six months, including a young woman whom I knew slightly from years ago, who died last August in almost the exact same place as the young man last night. Whilst a very few of these deaths are accidents, the vast majority are suicides. Many years ago whilst travelling through Newtown, I saw the body of what I later learned to be a train suicide, lying on the tracks under a sheet. Haunted by this for many months, I wanted to know who the victim was. Googling got me nowhere - all I was able to ascertain was the victim was male; my questions went unanswered. Who was he? How old, where did he live, what did he do? What was he like? Did he have a family that missed him? What on Earth led him to take that saddest of trips and end his life in such a public and horrible way? All was silence. The Australian media have a taboo on the reporting of suicide, in the belief that discussing the subject will encourage people to do it. But people are doing it anyway. We need to talk about this.

The shame, stigma and silence surrounding suicide remains. "Selfish way to go", seems to be the general thought about train suicides, "what about the poor driver who has to live with that forever? What about the police who have to clean it up?". It is hard to imagine the horror a train driver must feel sitting in their cabin and seeing a person on the tracks, throwing on the brakes but knowing you cannot avoid impact (apparently in the Netherlands train drivers seats swivel, so they can turn away to avoid witnessing the collision with persons who commit suicide by train. This is possibly apocryphal, but what is for sure is that a Sydney train driver can expect at least two or three train strikes over the course of a career). Nor is it fun to think of the police officer wandering the track in the rain for ninety minutes because the body collection is not deemed complete until both feet have been recovered. It's not just on the trains either. On average, one person a week in jumps off The Gap, a cliff in Sydney's east - traumatic for the nearby residents, and for the police rescue squad who have to pluck the remains from the rocks at the bottom. And when the stories hit the media - always discussing the trend generally, never specific cases unless the jumper is well known - lively debate is stirred up. The thoughtlessness of such an act and its' effect on those who have to (literally) pick up the pieces is the dominant theme. Maybe these are selfish acts, but to get caught up with this really misses the point. What of the feelings of those who have taken the jump? Up to 80% of people have apparently given suicide at least fleeting thought in their lives. If we filter that down, and bearing in mind the percentage of the population which have suffered major depression, perhaps one in ten people have given serious consideration to a suicide plan. There are many of us who have stood on the train platform in the dark, perhaps sobbing, perhaps resolute and relieved, watching the trains pass, so heavy and swift. What divides those who step off from those who step back and, eventually, head home? Those who jump must know, I guess, what is about to happen to them. What mental state have they reached to make this seem preferable to continue the slow sad shuffle of life?

The suicides on the train lines and at The Gap are the ones we see, at least to the small extent that the protectionist media will allow. There are the silent majority we don't - the overdoses and hangings, the car over the guardrail on a straight stretch of road in good weather which the police class as an accident to spare the family. It is all swept aside, not discussed. The media taboo is in place, along with an agreement that any news article discussing suicide will feature the phone number for Lifeline. Lifeline do a valuable service to be sure, but as unpaid volunteers without professional qualification, should they be the ones on society's frontline between the suicidal and the edge? For whatever we are doing as a society to prevent suicide right now, it's not working, or it isn't working well enough. "Get help" becomes the advice to those contemplating desperate acts, as if the torments and tragedies of life could be managed by an hour's counselling a week; as if those planning to take their last, saddest trip have not already in many cases been down that path already, and found it indifferent, or damaging. Advising professional help allows the rest of us to sweep the problems of the suicidal aside, we've done our bit, it's all too nasty and upsetting, best to walk away, to leave the problems to someone else. Is our society fundamentally failing people? Or should we accept that life's not for everyone, suicide is a freedom to which we are all entitled and we should afford people better than the indignity of suicide by train? I don't know what the answer is, but we need to talk about these things.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

A Chat About Vaccination

There seems to be the beginnings of a whooping cough epidemic underway in Western Australia, and it has brought the issue of vaccination into discussion - not that it ever really goes away. Whooping cough is a horrible illness. When I was expecting BabyG, I asked all our extended family to get boosters; I had a booster myself before leaving hospital, and was wary of taking him out until he hit the six week mark when he could have his first vaccination, which we took him for straight away.

There's a lot of anger directed at those deemed the cause of this outbreak - the anti-vaccinators, and chief target of their ire is Meryl Dorey, head of the Australian Vaccination Network, who appears regularly in the media to discuss the risks of vaccinations. Some of her views are extremely dangerous - she believes in the efficacy of homeopathic vaccinations, for example, and has spoken on Indigenous Radio linking vaccinations with a doubling in infant death rates - which, given the health status of indigenous children, in grossly irresponsible (and that's being generous). The possible outcomes of outbreaks of some of these communicable diseases in remote indigenous communities are horrifying. Don't mistake me - I think that most of what Ms Dorey says is inaccurate and dangerous. I am not anti-vaccination; as I said above, BabyG was vaccinated as soon as he was old enough for his first dose.

However, there is another group with extremist views on vaccination who may be doing just as much harm. The extremist pro-vaccinators. They do not reflect the views of all who choose to vaccinate, or all in the medical profession, but they are so vociferous and shrill they are controlling and stifling debate about vaccination in this country. They hold that vaccination should be compulsory and all who don't vaccinate are harmful selfish idiots. Well, they are entitled to their opinions, but where they become dangerous is where they refuse to admit that there could possibly be problems with vaccination we don't know about. According to them, there are no undocumented reactions, no errors in the testing processes, and in this instance alone, pharmaceutical companies and government are working together without thought of financial gain for the good of all. Anyone who ventures an alternative opinion is deemed a nutcase, a whacko, asked if they wear a tinfoil hat.

Why do extremist pro-vaccinators have these views? Why can they not support a position that holds vaccination is the best defence we have against communicable diseases, and that our goal should be the safest vaccinations for all, and in order to obtain this we need to document reactions and hold the pharmaceutical companies to account? I'm guessing that the reason they do this is that any mention of a reason not to vaccinate will provide fodder for the anti-vaccination group, so they need to shut down all dissent immediately. Their reasons may be good, but the results are disastrous. First of all, problems with vaccines not apparent in initial testing may not be reported when the vaccine goes into general use. Second, if people do develop health problems as a result of receiving vaccines, they are isolated, unable to identify or treat their conditions. Pro-vaccinators warp all logic - where is the evidence, they say, of undocumented reactions; a logical fallacy. Busy, overworked suburban GPs, on the frontline of vaccination provision, may not report vaccination reactions - because of the extra documentation and work required in doing so, because reactions can easily be dismissed as due to other causes, and most worryingly because they themselves fear the backlash from the extremist pro-vaccinators. If there is one thing I agree with the AVN about, is that there should be a mandatory national register of vaccination reactions. If reactions are rare and mild, as the pro-vaccination lobby claims, great! We'll know for sure. But if not, we will be able to pinpoint errors in the vaccines and fix them, and more importantly, scared, isolated parents who can see real changes in their children following vaccinations, will be able to access the support they need.

One of the central tenets of the extremist pro-vaccinators beliefs is that it is insane to think that governments across the world are in league with government and the medical profession to make money pumping kids full of poison. Well, sure. But are we to believe that the system never breaks down? That despite the extensive testing, something couldn't slip through the system? Not according to the extremist pro-vaccinators. Vaccines, uniquely among the extensive history of medical errors and pharmaceutical product recalls, are completely safe. It's nonsense, of course, but more worrying is evidence form this article in the Buenos Aires Herald that pharmaceutical companies are illegally testing vaccines in third-world nations to bypass safety protocols in the U.S. and Europe. It is extremely concerning that companies such as GlaxoSmithKline would do this - and tragic that the recent illegal trials, in which parental notifications were falsified, led to the deaths of 14 babies. Some very serious questions need to be asked of the pharmaceutical companies. They won't be if the extremists have their way.

The extremist views are so strong I've been hesitant even to write this post, fearing I'll be labelled a whackjob myself. As I've said, my son has received his vaccinations and will continue to do so; all I'm saying is that the extremist pro-vaccination types should stop trying to stifle all debate on the issue, so that problems with vaccines are detected, problems in the testing and approval process are rectified, and we achieve a goal of the safest vaccines for all. I don't think that is so insane.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Why Retail Is Dying, Part Two

We live in a dormitory suburb. Everyone heads off to the city on the train in the morning and returns at night. There are a lot of pretty little local shops and cafes, but not many people around during the weekdays to patronise them. Being the summer holidays right now though, there are lots of people around during the day. You'd think the local small retailers - independent shops mostly selling $30 candles, artistic greeting cards, and wrought iron chairs - would be revelling in the increased trade.

But they are all closed, off on their long summer vacation. Most of the local retailers are shut for the next week, some until well into January. Of course small business owners need to go on holiday just as much as the rest of us but - considering we're always hearing that retail is dying, especially independent suburban businesses as people abandon their local shops for the lure of the mega mall - shouldn't they at least try to be around when their customers are?

It stretches the bounds of credibility. Following months on the lounge with BabyG and extreme indulgence over Christmas, I need to take drastic action. I'd say I need to lose my baby weight, but then people would ask how many babies I've actually had. Anyway, I've decided to kick things off this week by doing a detox. DH helped me research, even if he remained a bit cynical about the whole thing. "Chia seeds? Nut butters? The people who wrote this diet must run a health food store", he said as he reviewed a menu plan. "I know, aren't they awful", I replied, "trying to make a living helping people feel better". (DH is actually a vegetarian himself, but before you have visions of quinoa and kelp, he is actually a proudly unhealthy eater. He just doesn't eat meat. An Oporto vegie burger, chips and Lift is his kind of thing. A detox diet is not). Anyway I put together a lengthy list of detox foods and, grateful for the fact we live near one of Sydney's best organic food marts, called to check what time they opened today.

They're closed, of course, for another week and a half. Good grief. Not only is everyone on holidays, but also still making a pretence of sticking to their new year's resolutions to shape up and eat right, and the local organic and health food store is closed. I ended up getting what I needed from the supermarket, which had a surprisingly good range. Small retailers - I want to support you, but help me out here. If you want business - if you are dying, as you claim - try being open when your customers are around and want to do business with you, okay?