SOME MEMOIRS -- by John Ray
Some occasional personal notes from a quiet life...
John Ray's Home Page; Email John Ray here. The Blogroll. Photo album for this blog here. A link to memoirs from previous years can be found just above the flag at the foot of this page.
A smile not as good as the famous smile of Antonia Staats but of that ilk. In my late 50s. Not so good now
As Oscar Wilde may have said: "Life is too important to be taken seriously". But the Hagakure had the idea too: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly"
21 February, 2021
A good weekend
Saturday morning was my usual morning with Anne. As usual we breakfasted with the Phams.
After breakfast we made our usual weekly pilgrimage to Vinnies. We did unusually well there. I bought Anne a necklace featuring very fancy glass beads and I bought three things for myself: A two tier cake stand that goes with some of my other crockery, some silver rings for serving dinner napkins and two drinking glasses of a rare heavy type that I like.
Then for Sunday lunch, I invited Jill and Lewis to the Phams. It was in celebration of Jill's birthday and the Phams have lots of good things on the menu. Anne and I had omelettes and Jill and Lewis both had the calamari with chips and salad. Jill and Anne talked a lot to one-another as they usually do and Lewis piped up a lot too. It was a very relaxed and congenial dinner and I was very glad to shout.
Jill was nicely dressed in a lacy white top and white slacks while Lewis was wearing one of his colourful festive shirts.
As is often the case these days, I did not have enough appetite to finish my meal but in breach of all motherly dicta, I nonetheless decided to have a dessert, I bought a peanut and chocolate slice from the display cabinet that I took home and halved it with Anne later on. It was so rich that half of it was plenty.
Before I left Buranda, I bought Anne a big bunch of flowers from Woolworths. They were in lieu of the flowers that I would like to have given her on Valentine's day. Anne of course celebrated the day with George. Apparently he did come to the party to some extent.
As I was handing the flowers to Anne, she said: "Life is good to us, isn't it, John?" I replied. "It is, sweetheart".
Anne had recently had some pesky surgery
And to cap off the day, I weighed myself this evening and am down to 100kg. I was 105 only about 6 weeks ago. So my dietary restrictions are working
At my request, Anne gave me a picture of the Prado with George driving
18 February, 2021
A renovated nose
For a few months now I have had some nasty looking skin cancers on my nose. Which made me feel very unpresentable. But Sandy got her magic nitrogen spray gun onto them a couple of weeks ago and the resultant scabs have just come off -- leaving a perfectly respectable nose. Voila.
17 February, 2021
I have owned a laptop for some time. I bought it for the next time I go into hospital. Hospital is leadenly boring to me without computer access. And I have now got the laptop set up so that I can use it as if I were using my desktop machine.
But I find the screen a bit small for my old eyes and I greatly dislike the limited keyboard. For use at home, however, those limits are easily bypassed. You just plug in a USB keybord and a USB Monitor and use those instead of the ones inbuilt to the laptop.
Like a lot of things however, doing it is not as easy as it sounds. The keyboard was no problem. I got one from Jaycar, (who have a shop just around the corner from me), plugged it in to a port on the laptop and it worked perfectly. The monitor was the problem.
I had an old VGA monitor and wanted to plug that in. Problem: The video output from the laptop was in the modern HDMI format. No problem, I thought. I dropped into Jaycar again and bought a video converter. It didn't work. It worked using Joe's laptop but not using mine. Joe spent a lot of time messing about trying to get it going but no luck.
So we gave up the fight, put my VGA monitor back in the garage and went to JB Hi to buy a HDMI monitor. We got one for $148, which was very reasonable. It was a small one at that price but I was using it at close quarters and the HDMI was crystal clear so that was fine. I now use the laptop a lot more comfortably.
I note that Officeworks no longer advertise desktop machines. It is all laptops these days. So maybe I am in fashion to get the usability of my laptop maximized.
14 February, 2021
The fears about bleeding from my Friday surgery did not eventuate but I had to stay at home on Saturday. Anne cooked me some porridge for breakfast and we followed up with croissants. I always like a dish of porridge.
But by the time Sunday came around it was clear that there was going to be no problem from the surgery so I was able to give Jenny a good St. Valentine's day.
On the morning of the day Jenny made me bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast and I gave her a card and some nougat. I also gave her some chocolate but it turned out not to be gluten free so I was glad the nougat was OK in that department. Jenny was even pleased about the tin the nougat came in.
Jenny chose her own flowers and bought a big bunch of small ones.
The photo is Jenny's composition. She has removed the smaller flowers and has managed to include in the picture both the card I gave her plus the tin of nougat
That evening we went to the Burmese restaurant at Stone's Corner, which we both knew to be good. I had roast duck and Jenny had a sizzling seafood platter. Both came with lots of good vegies.
So we both liked our dinner. The duck was good and Jenny enjoyed her sizzle.
And we rounded off the evening at home afterward when Jenny made me a NCOT (nice cup of tea).
I asked Jenny would she like me to open a bottle of champagne for the occasion but she declined
For any slight interest it may have, I have gathered together a few of my past reports of my Valentine's day celebrations
When Jenny and I were married many years ago, I always used to give her flowers on the day. I have only twice given my heart to a woman -- to Jenny and to Anne. So I am much blessed that both ladies are still very much in my life
12 February, 2021
A frightful Friday
A rather large and nasty skin cancer sprang up on the heel of my right foot -- a difficult place for surgery. It was getting sore, however, so it had to go. Dr. Sandy had a close look at it and thought it would need a graft. I tend to lose grafts however so that was no solution.
She then told me that there was only one plastic surgeon who could probably deal with the problem without a graft: Dr. D.
Unfortunately however I already knew Dr. D. well. He is undoubtedly a skilled plastic surgeon but two of his previous surgeries on me started to bleed shortly thereafter. Some bleeding was no problem but this was uncontrolled bleeding -- which is distinctly worrisome
Not long ago, he did an excision on my left ear only for me to wake up next morning with blood all over my pillow. Fortunately, Anne was staying over that night so I had some help and after a couple of false starts I got Dr Templeman onto the job. He fixed it with Anne assisting. But we had a distressing morning first.
So I was reluctant to go under the knife with Dr D. again. But Sandy gave him a big wrap as being good with my latest problem so I arranged to go to him. But, being super-freaky about bleeding, I wanted to do all I could to prevent that. And I had a lot of help. Sandy offered to assist Dr D. on the day and Jenny came into theatre to observe and assist in any way she could. So in addition to Dr D. I had two ladies with me in theatre supporting me. I guess I am at times a rather spoilt man. The surgery was an early one, starting at 7:30am.
Dr D. was happy to share his knowledge so not only explained his procedures to Sandy but also allowed Jenny to observe closely. So my procedure was well-supervised.
When the bandage was finally on, the next crucial step had arrived: putting minimal stress on the wound to prevent bleeding. I had to keep my foot up as much as possible. With Jenny's help I managed it -- staying in bed for the rest of the morning and doing only a bare minimum of walking about thereafter.
It seems to have worked. It is early Saturday morning as I write this and there has been no bleeding and no pain. So I think I am out of the woods. Jenny stayed overnight and Anne is due here at 9am so I will have backup if a problem does emerge.
TUESDAY UPDATE: I got the pathology results today: BCC fully excised. Excellent.
11 February, 2021
An eventful week
I have had a rather good week.
On Monday, Jenny and I spent half the morning looking through the African shops at Moorooka. There are a range of them with a large variety of homewares on offer. The offerings are all very colourful, with much use of gilt, and Jenny and I thought that we might be tempted to buy something. But it was all too much for us. The difference between African tastes and Nordic tastes was very evident. Things that to Africans seem attractive were to us way too garish. But de gustibus non disputandum est, as the Romans used to say
Then on Tuesday I saw Anne for dinner. I would normally have seen Jenny on a Tuesday but she had a ladies' meeting she wanted too go to then. So Anne kindly agreed to keep me company between 5pm and 8pm, which was ample time for a dinner. We had an entree of duck pate on my verandah initially, followed by a trip to the Greeks at Stones corner -- who served us a very large platter of Greek specialties. My appetite was very poor, as it often is these days, so the burden of polishing off the delicacies fell mostly on Anne -- which she did good work of.
On Wednesday Jenny joined me for breakfast at my usual haunt and that evening Joe and I had our usual Japanese curry at the Sunny Doll. Joe is on holiday so he was more relaxed than he usually is
Then on Thursday I had breakfast at Buranda with Jenny, followed by a funeral! The funeral was for Ralph, Anne's late brother in law. As I had always got on well with Ralph, I thought it appropriate for me to attend -- even though I don't cope well with funerals and avoid them when I can. I thought that Anne might need me for a partner on the occasion as George, Anne's new partner, had not known Ralph and knew very few people at the funeral. George however stepped up to the occasion and accompanied Anne to the event. I went with Jenny, who also knew almost nobody there. Now we know of George's willingness, that should let me off the hook for future funerals. But maybe not.
Anne had a lot of family present but did not sit with any of them during the service. She sat with me on one side and George on the other. Some of her family must have thought that Anne was quite a gal to have her two blokes sitting on either side of her. But she is definitely a man's woman, like her mother before ther.
Anne spent a lot of time talking to people she knew after the service so George got a bit neglected. Seeing that, I spent a bit of time talking to him and vaguely looking after him. Jenny stayed with me throughout.
Today was my second day off the grog, something I hope to make permanent. I drink very little these days so thought I might as well go the whole hog. As I also eat less these days I think I might even end up healthy! I am not ruling out a glass of champagne on special occasions, however.
2 February, 2021
A rescued candle-lit dinner
Anne and I had arranged to have dinner together tonight. I was going to make it a candle-lit dinner so I had got in some good things to have as part of it.
The whole reason why Anne and I were scheduled to dine together tonight was that Jenny had a ladies' meeting she wanted to go to that night instead of her usual dinner with me.
But this morning, we had a huge rain downpour which made it not very inviting to go out. So Anne was rightly dubious of coming over to my place this evening in case she got caught in a downpour. She is not the most confident driver at the best of times and driving in the rain at night would have been a stressful experience for her.
As it happened, both Jenny's ladies and Anne were put off by all the rain and cancelled out. I kept Jenny posted during the day, as I usually do, so she was aware of all the rain problems. She is however a very confident driver and can handle a bit of rain if required. So we agreed that she would come over and have the candle-lit dinner I had arranged for Anne! So we turned two canceled dinners into one revived dinner.
It went well. I opened a bottle of champagne to start. Our entree of Tasmanian salmon pate had a very rich taste and for the main course I had some chicken breast steaks with garlic and rosemary. Jenny cooked them up with her usual expertise. I provided one of my usual salads with lots of things in it. We ended up very replete
Jenny told me that I had never before given her a candle-lit dinner so that was a bit embarrassing.
1 February, 2021
Anne and I now share ownership of a very nice vehicle
Today was the day for Anne and me to take delivery at long last of a Toyota Prado.
That morning I put Anne on the phone to organize the insurance for it, which took about an hour. We got a quote of a bit over $900 from AAMI so we accepted that. I footed the bill.
My final payment from the bank to the dealer had not come through that morning but was expected at about 2pm so Anne and George went over to the dealer to get a full briefing on the features of the vehicle while we were waiting. She also at that time gave them her bank cheque
The bank finally came good just after 2pm so all 3 of us went over to the dealer in Anne's Corolla at that time to complete the paperwork etc. I am not aiming to drive the vehicle but I did get a short lesson on how to use it. I gave George the privilege of driving it off the lot and taking it to Tingalpa, where both he and Anne have units.
I got Anne to drive me home from the dealer to my place at Woolloongabba in her Corolla. We had a few chats during the drive. She did not stay but I will be seeing her tomorrow night.
A recent picture of Anne
28 January, 2021
I woke up at about 2am this morning to find no lights on in my room. I wondered for a few minutes how come I had left no lights on. I always leave something on. Then I realized that the power was out. I was surprised however that I could still see a fair bit of my room about me. Light was coming through my curtains
I surmised that the street lights must be going so went to my front door to check. They were out too. But there was a great bright searchlight right above me in the sky that enabled me to see the street and what was in it fairly clearly. It was the moon on a cloudless night. As a creature of civilization I was amazed at how bright it was.
The ambient temperature on my old fashioned glass thermometer was 27 degrees Celsius so neither heating nor cooling was needed
But since I was awake I wanted to do a few things, electricity or not. So I lit up my two kerosene lamps and my three candles.
That gave me enough light to cut out a few things from a newspaper that I had been meaning to cut out.
That was the limit of what I could do however so I went back to bed and dozed off into a light sleep. But at 3:40am the electric lights came back on. So I got up and blew out my candles and lamps
Ever since childhood I have always had a low-level light source in my room at night. It started out with a small kerosene lamp beside my bed from when I was about 6. It saves me tripping over things if I get up. So I was pleased that I could continue that during a blackout.
My bedside lamp
26 January, 2021
I celebrated Australia day in the traditional manner -- with a family BBQ. My brother joined us. We had lamb chops, sausages, salad, various cheeses and Tasnmanian Pate. So the food was good.
We had most of the lunch under shade in the garden at Lindwall St. but adjourned to air conditioning for our Pavlova dessert
We discussed the ever-growing "Invasion Day" movement and wondered why they cannot have their day while we had ours. Each to his own, we said
But the motivation for the protests is actually clear. They smell money in it. It's an ever louder call for "reparations". They seem to think that can get yet more money from the government for people with any Aboriginal ancestry.
The fact that the government already gives them various types of support that are not available to other Australians is ignored. Gratitude? You'd be joking. The existing payments have simply made them greedy for more.
They think that more noise will produce more money. But that is unlikely to happen. Whatever they got they would want more and that should be obvious to anyone. One of the reports below asked for a million dollars for each aborigine. The whole thing is just contemptible money grubbing -- JR
25 January, 2021
A perceptive comment
Since the death of Chris Brand, my mental "other half", I have had occasional contact with Dr. Natalia Brand, Chris' widow. She is a highly qualified Taiwanese art historian and gets a huge amount out of art. A painting that I would not look at twice she gets lots out of.
She has made Chris's old apartment into an art gallery and has a male artist friend who helps her with that. I am delighted that she has good company now. I had not realized that Chris was something of an art collector. That would have drawn Chris and Natalia together. Though they were pretty good partners generally.
In a recent email from her she commented on my personal blog and its heading. She wrote:
"I have read your notes from a 'quiet' life. Instead, you have had a turbulent and emotional life. But, I am glad you enjoy your food and drinks"
She is right. The fact is that the recent revolution in my 15 year relationship with Anne has overturned my quiet life. But it shows that what exists between us is actually a great romance, improbable as that may seem. That Anne still wants to see me regularly despite now being shacked up with someone else is surprising enough but equally surprising is that I now see Jenny six nights a week but still want to see Anne. Is that not a great romance?
A very affectionate relationship that survives our circumstances is surely an exceptional one at least. It may even be more exceptional than the arrangements of Antonia Staats
So my weekly meetings with Anne do make me very happy but I would much like to see her more often. That may happen
22 January, 2021
A special dinner with Anne
Anne has a b*rthday soon so we organized a special Friday night dinner to mark the occasion. I gave Anne a pretty blue and silver bracelet as a present and also got in for the dinner a bottle of 2017 St. Henri Shiraz, a premium Penfolds product. I noticed that a wine guru said it goes well with lamb. So I was amused that that was the main course I bought it for.
Below is the bracelet against the background of a dress that Anne thinks it goes with. She definitely likes it
Anne brought with her some very tasty Tasmanian oysters for the entree and I provided some duck pate. We had a French stick for the bread.
We had very leisurely entrees sitting on my verandah, which is always a very pleasant location. We sat there through twilight. I opened the St. Henri as soon as we sat down.
Then for the main course we moved indoors to my dining table. It was a candle-lit dinner from that point on. I normally just have a set of three candle holders for that purpose but on this occasion we supplemented them with the fancy kerosene lamp that Anne had given me for Christmas. So we had plenty of light. I turned off all the electric lights as soon as we sat down.
I also got out my best dishes and my best goblets
For the main course I got in some French cutlets, as I usually do for special dinners with Anne. They are our favourite dinner.
They were large and juicy and Anne cooked them to perfection. I provided a good salad including avocado, Feta cheese, asparagus etc. So we ate well.
After dinner we adjourned to my room to lie down and listen to music, mostly Mozart. It made a very relaxed finale to the night. And we did have some good birthday kisses.
I was a bit down in the dumps when Anne came over at about 5:30pm but I was in good cheer by the time she left -- at about 9pm. I had hoped she would stay the night but she had family matters to attend to on Saturday morning.
18 January, 2021
Dinner with George P.
Last night, Sunday, George came to my place bearing dinner. It was a goat stew. (actually Caldereta a Philippine dish comprised of goat pieces in a stew). His wife is a Filipina but George cooked it himself. The stew had the bones left in, as that boosts the flavour, so I had to be careful when I ate it. It was very tasty.
I have known George for around 30 years and have always liked him. I used to invite him to all dinners I was putting on. Lately, however, I have had to cut back on all group dinners due to the deterioration in my hearing. I can hear others well enough in a 1 to 1 situation in a quiet place but if there is a group of us and noise in the background I miss most of what is being said. George is the same. So to keep in touch we arranged for him to bring over a dinner to have on the verandah at my place. Those who know it know what a pleasant place for a dinner my verandah makes. Best of all it is quiet there.
So George and I had lots of chats. George has been to the Philippines a couple of times so knows a bit about it. He regaled me with stories about how violent life over there is. Life is cheap there. It sounds a lot like Chicago. No wonder so many young Filipinas emigrate.
The Republic of the Philippines supplies wealthy English-speaking countries with large numbers of nurses, maids and wives to older men. In addition to their native Tagalog, most Filipinas know a fair bit of English. They learn it at school and English is widely used there. So that helps the transition to places like Australia and the USA. Pity the many who go to Saudi Arabia, though. Devout Catholics and bigoted Muslims make a very unhappy combination: "Every year, an unknown number of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia are victims of sexual abuses, maltreatment, unpaid salaries, and other labor malpractices"
In a fortnight's time George and I will have another dinner with me cooking. I cook a few things that usually turn out well
11 January, 2021
A busy day. I went to my local Indian doctor to finish off getting my right ear cleaned out. I had been putting drops in it to prepare the way. And this time she managed to clear the ear right out, which was a relief. It certainly helps my hearing
And then I got her to do my first injection of Zoladex. It is an anti-androgen medication to control my prostate cancer. One injection lasts 3 months. I was previously on monthly injections so I am glad to be past that
One effect of anti-androgens is that it saps your energy -- and my energies are very low. I experienced that same day. I had arranged that I would cook dinner that night for Jenny and me. I cooked spag bol, something I have cooked many times over the years. And I did manage to cook it this time. But it was a struggle. For someone who can barely stand up, cooking was a challenge. But when Jenny arrived at 6:15 both the pasta and the meat were cooked and ready. Jenny however offered to do a few finishing touches and serve the dinner up -- an offer I gladly accepted
And the dinner turned out quite well. The $2 bottle of sauce from Woolworths that I used must have been a good one.
We would normally have spent Monday evening at Nandos -- with Ken and George -- but I have cancelled those meetings on account of my poor hearing. I just could not follow the conversations at those dinners. So it has a sort of fitness that I did instead cook a dinner at home on the first day of the revised arrangements. Jenny has a loud clear voice so I can usually understand her.
7 January, 2021
Mostly good news
I got two lots of findings today -- from a PET scan and a blood test. The best finding was no more cancers in my head and neck area. That is where the big problems were previously. So the 12 exposures of radiation therapy that I had would seem to have wiped out any stray cancerous cells left over from previous treatments there.
My other cancers had not advanced but a small new cancer was detected in my chest.
So that sets me up well for the Lumina treatment, where they inject stuff into you that kills all cancers in your body. It's hugely expensive but will be great if it works.
I also got some blood test results which found that most of my functions were ok. The exception was iron levels and vitamin b12. So I will be going onto supplements to bring up levels of those.
But the best news of all is that the PET scan people at one stage weighed me. And I am down to 105 KG. At my heaviest I was 123 KG. I am not sure what I have to thank for this miracle but I have lost a lot of my appetite in recent times. Dinners that I once would have scoffed down, I now cannot finish
And my waistline has of course also reduced. So I got out some of my old shirts that I had grown out of and I can now wear them again. Fun!
1 January, 2021
A new year
I am sort of surprised to find myself in a new year. 2020 had an air of finality to it but it ended surprisingly quickly. It was an eventful year for me with lots of interesting experiences but I am hoping for a less interesting life this year.
Jenny and I ushered in the year with minimal fuss. We had some excellent takeaway Indian curries from Spice Avenue at Stones Corner for dinner -- chicken Jalfrezi plus a really excellent Lamb Korma. We finished the dinner with plum pudding and cream. So we ate well.
About 11:30 I made Jenny and myself Bloody Marys. And they really did look bloody. The tomato juice must have been a bit concentrated. We had them on my verandah, where there is always the touch of a breeze, so it was a pleasant place to welcome the new year in.
There was not much to welcome the year in, no fireworks and only a bit of distant cheering. But we toasted it anyway.
Jenny stayed overnight.
For posts on this blog in 2020, see here
My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 77 at the time of writing in early 2021. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. I am Australian born of working class origins and British ancestry. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools.
See here for more of the notes and pix occurring in the side column of the original memoirs blog
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