SOME MEMOIRS -- by John Ray
Some occasional personal notes from a quiet life...

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Old folk at lunch

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"


5 August, 2019

More Hyderabad

I took our Monday dining group to the "Hyderabad Flavours" restaurant in Buranda tonight. It is just a couple of doors from the Dapur Dahlia.

My recent visit there had been good so it was an opportunity to explore more of their menu. There is both an Indian Hyderabad city and a Pakistani Hyderabad city but I think our Brisbane Hyderabad restaurant is of Indian origin. The waitresses were wearing Western dress so I think that settles it

And I do get the impression that the offerings were meant to be similar to what you would get in Hyderabad, India. The specialty of the house seemed to be Mirchi Bajji (battered green chillies) so I did order some of those. I enjoyed them.

Everybody ordered something different but we all found the food to be first class. I think the chicken Korma I had was the best I have ever tasted. And I have eaten a lot of chicken Korma in my day

And all the meals were LARGE. So nobody went away with room for more. Kate was talking of going back another day with Joe to try more of their offerings.

As a memento I reproduce the docket to show what we had:

3 August, 2019

Some good dining recently

The day after the twins had departed, I took Anne to the Dosa Hut restaurant at Mt Gravatt. We had not been there before. I ordered Masala dosas and a couple of idli. Our previous dosa restaurant, the Riverwalk in Gladstone Rd., had gone out of business, much to our disappointment.

But the new restaurant was just as good and was even better in that our previous place did not do idlis, not that idlis are great. They are just a traditional thing that go with dosas.

The menu was enormous and the prices were reasonable so we were perfectly happy with our new source of dosas

On Nanna's birthday I took Anne to the Hyderabad, which is just a couple of doors from the Dapur Dahlia. It was leaping. There were brown people everywhere and lots of brown people coming and going. We were the only white faces there. And the food was good and the servings were enormous. One dinner would have done both of us. A specialty of the house seemed to be battered green chillies so we ordered some as an entree. They were really good and only a little bit "hot". I think the Hyderabad will be our regular Indian from now on.

And just yesterday, Jenny and Pam cooked Anne and me a Dhansak with all the trimmings. A genine Parsee Dhansak is a rare privilege. It took the two of them many hours to make it all. As usual it had a rich taste and was very filling. I particularly got into the kachumber (Parsee salad). It leaves all other salads for dead. I am not a big salad eater but I ate lots of the kachumber. And Jenny served up two chutneys -- the traditional green chutney plus an eggplant chutney. Both were first rate.

And today, I got a new dinner table in my dining room. It is a very fine traditional brown dinner table. I got it from Vinnies a few days ago and Joe and Aristides brought it up and put it in my dining room this morning. The old pine dining table went on the verandah and the Laminex table off the verandah is now in the garage.

25 July 2019

Why I was once fired from a State government bureaucracy

It has just occurred to me that I have never written anything about the time I was sacked from the NSW Public Service. It has never been a secret. It just didn't seem important in my scale of values. But maybe there are some small lessons to learn from it. Though it was over 50 years ago now.

When I had completed my B.A. degree with honours in psychology from the University of Qld. at the end of 1967, I decided I needed a change of scene from Brisbane so I moved South to Sydney. Being Mr Frugality, I had a comfortable level of savings, no debts and a sky blue VW beetle -- so the transition was an unproblematic one.

I did however want a job. So I went along to the Army recruiting office. From my time in the CMF in Brisbane I was a fully qualified Sergeant in the Psychology corps so thought I might get work there. They grabbed me. An extra qualified hand was very welcome. So within days of arriving I was back in the Army!

I was not however interested in an army career so I looked around for an alternative. So I took the selection test for the NSW public service. Taking tests is one of the few things I am good at so I got an immediate welcome. One of the tests I did was a test of computer aptitude. Bill Bailey was the man in charge of that so he called me in for a chat. He revealed that I had gone off the scale for the test. I had got every single item right. Bill wanted to see who this freak was! The reason I did well, however, was not very freakish. I was by that time already an experienced FORTRAN programmer. When I told Bill that he was greatly relieved. It meant that his test had given the right answer after all

I was assigned to the Dept. of Technical Education as a graduate clerk. Their graduate clerk program was however a typical bureaucratic bungle. The only work they had for me was filing, something I had done years ago as a junior clerk in the Queensland Dept. of Public Works. I was quite miffed at being given such dumb work so I refused to do it. And it was all downhill from there.

Eventually I was transferred to Head office where they gave me some slightly more interesting work. I did what was asked but there was not much of it so I had a lot of spare time on my hands. I was at the time enrolled with the M.A. program at the University of Sydney so I mostly used the spare time on academic work. The managers apparently felt unable to do anything about that.

But one morning, just after I had handed in my Master's thesis at U Syd towards the end of the year, I unintentionally slept in and arrived at work late. That was it! They had me. Lateness was something they could act on. So I was promptly fired that day. There would have been access to an appeal but I didn't bother. I knew I was going on to other things next year.

So I went and saw Harry Beanham, whom I had worked for at one time in Brisbane. Harry had been impressed with my work in Brisbane. I sold lots of diehead chasers for him, if anybody knows what they are. Few do. Anyway Harry promptly put me to work preparing his stock for sale. So in the space of less than a year I had got 3 jobs, none of which were advertised!

Lessons: Don't be late in a bureaucracy and finding a job is easy if you have usable skills and qualifications -- JR.

23 July, 2019

A natal anniversary and Timmy

What is the difference between natal and Natal?  One is  a province in South Africa and the other refers to birth. So a natal anniversary is what is normally called a b*rthday. We are advised by security people never to use the normal term because evildoers can google our writings and find out what our natal anniversary is.  And that is an important form of ID, enabling evildoers to impersonate us and perhaps steal our money.  The age of the internet has its own problems.

So on Saturday last we had an evening  party to celebrate Joe's natal anniversary.  The first thing that morning however was to bring upstairs another of my furniture purchases from Vinnies.  It was a rather magnificent sideboard that I had bought about a week before and had it delivered into my garage.  Getting it upstairs needed two strong men so Joe and the ever-helpful Aristides got it upstairs at about 9am.  Much furniture re-arrangement was needed to get it into place but it is now adorning Anne's bedroom.  Its front features some very clever veneer work.

The party  was a quiet occasion, as Joe wanted it to be.  There were only 12 people present in Jenny's backyard for the occasion -- Joe's old friends plus close family. The twins came over from NZ especially for the occasion.

There was no music, no dancing and only a tiny amount of alcohol.  I supplied one bottle of Seaview champagne for toasting purposes and that was it. It could almost have been a fundamentalist Protestant occasion.  But it wasn't.  Joe is a baptised and confirmed Roman Catholic but he doesn't believe in anything much at all these days.  So why was it such a Puritanical natal anniversary?  It's because what we like to do is talk -- and we have no difficulty talking to one-another.  For many other people, music and dancing are substitutes for conversation.

So what did we talk about?  Nothing specific.  We just covered a lot of ground.  Mr Trump got a mention, of course.  Von sat with me for a while and updated me on various family matters -- and events in the family were the main topic of conversation.  Paul's Susan once told me that was gossip, which was rather hard to refute.

I shouted us a number of pizzas for the food and Jenny provided several side dishes and canapes.  Pizzas are humble food but Jenny ordered a variety of them so they went down well. I asked Joe the next day what was his best memory of the occasion and he said that it was just seeing everybody together.  He has very good friends but the family does not normally see much of them. It was actually quite a jolly occasion and Joe had a good share of the laughs.

I left after about 2 hours there -- which is my usual socialization capacity -- so I missed the cake.  Jenny had asked me what sort of cake Joe would like and I hazarded a guess that it would be icecream cake. And that was apparently well received.  I hear that the party wound up not long after the cake ceremonies.

Then on the Sunday nothing much occurred -- though Joe and I had our usual leisurely bacon 'n eggs breakfast at the pie shop.  We talk continuously for about an hour there every Sunday -- mainly about American politics.  We both follow closely the many crazy events there.

Then on Monday, we welcomed Timmy back from his travels. Jenny put on a dinner of butter chicken and many accompaniments for the occasion.  Timmy and Rachel got married recently and did a lot of travel in Europe for their honeymoon. Timmy had some rather strange girlfriends in the past but when he met Rachel he recognized quality so he did not waste too much time before he married her. She is a pretty and sensible Kiwi dental nurse and is slowly getting used to our strange family.  Timmy these days is a bank Johnny. He has what has always been seen as one of the best jobs in Australia -- a job with the Commonwealth bank.

A significant part of our evening was a wedding present for Timmy.  I had said that I had an ideal wedding present for Timmy when he invites me to a proper wedding celebration.  His actual wedding was a minimalistic affair. He too doesn't like a lot of fuss.  The news that I had a mystery present for Timmy did get around so I suspect that Jenny put on the dinner in part to find out what the present was. 

Before I delivered the present I told the story behind the present.  I told how the 4-year-old Timmy always raided the jar of choc chip cookies the moment he arrived at our place in Queen Bess St. I gather that Ken and Maureen didn't allow many cookies at their place so I understood Timmy's practicality.  The jar holding the cookies was a rather distinctive hexagonal one and was still in good condition many years later so that was my present to Timmy -- filled with Arnott's premium choc chip cookies.  So it was a link to Timmy's 4-year-old self and Timmy greatly appreciated it.

We always adored Timmy when he was a little kid because he was so smart.  So in all the many family dinner invitations I sent out over the years, I always included a special shout-out to Timmy. And he is a really nice guy now that he is grown up.

During the rest of the dinner I periodically piped up with stories about the young Timmy. I even repeated the old story about two cents for blood -- as Kate had not heard it. And the marvellous curative powers of the "red stuff" (Mercurochrome) were also mentioned. With a two cent coin and the red stuff I could dry all tears from all of the kids. I used to plaster it on and Timmy in particular loved having big patches of red on his limbs. And the story about Timmy as a 4-year old lawyer was a classic. Von greatly enjoys the old stories even after she has heard them many times and I noted that she did this time too.

So it was a great dinner and we broke up after a couple of hours or so.  Joe drove Anne and me to the dinner and looked after me generally.  I am a bit unsteady on my feet these days so Joe walks with me on uneven ground in case I trip over.

19 July, 2019

The arrival

It was difficult to get our New Zealand families over for our birthday month because of clashes with school times for the kids. So they couldn't get here for everything. But they prioritized Joe's birthday. And on Thursday night they arrived with Jenny and me to welcome them: Von, Suz, Hannah and Dusty. Sahara got left behind in Invercargill in the care of her father for some reason.   Ken picked them up from the airport and transported them to Jenny's place.  Maureen was there too

Von was looking gorgeous as usual -- in her woolly singlet -- and even Suz had made an effort at dressing up, something she is not much inclined to do. Von was in great form  -- as happy as a lark -- and Hannah was full of beans too.  Dusty was quite serious at age 7.  Hannah has grown quite tall and quite confident at age 8 and was full of feminine mannerisms as she talked.  She is already the lady you would expect of Von's daughter. At one stage she said -- to general surprise -- that she likes flies.  Ken then said that he did too.  It's amazing what can be genetically transmitted.

Hannah is a very lucky girl in this day and age.  Because she and her mother are so alike, she has a mother who understands her readily plus she has a father at home who adores her.  You don't get much better than that and it's becoming rare these days.

A lot of the talk was about New Zealand and the trip over -- to fill in our Brisbane people about the other lives in New Zealand.  Von, Suz and their kids seem to be regular New Zealanders now.

Fortunately they do not seem to have acquired the strange New Zealand accent so far.  The Kiwis are the only English language group to have lost an entire vowel.  Cockneys have lost a consonant -- Theta -- but losing consonants is fairly common.  Only the Kiwis have lost a vowel.  They replace the short i sound with the grunt vowel.

An amusing story was about their reception by the immigration authorities when they arrived in Brisbane.  Apparently the officer asked the girls whether they were they closely related.  Dusty piped up saying they were twins.  He was ignored even though he was right.  No surprise that he was ignored though. The  girls  never did look at all alike and these days the differences seems to have grown.

I got  a few expressions of sympathy about my prostate diagnosis and they all seemed to be surprised that the treatment was so simple.

The arrival was at dinner time so Jenny put on spag bol for us all plus a big bowl of salad. Jenny timed it well as we sat down shortly after the twins arrived.

On previous visits to Brisbane by the twins, we have made a point of going to a nearby restaurant that did good dosas, a South Indian offering.  Such vists were much enjoyed.  Sadly, that restaurant went under recently and there is nobody else nearby that does dosas. 

The Dapur Dahlia has however acquired similar popularity with people I know so I wanted to get the twins to experience them as well.  So I took them there, plus Jenny and their kids on Friday night (tonight).

The first dinner to arrive was for Dusty. It was a nice wire basket full of chips plus some chicken nuggets.  As soon as I saw it, I said, "I want Dusty's dinner".  The others agreed with me. It was quite a big lot of chips so we all had a few to taste.  There were still tons left for Dusty and he did in fact polish them all off.

Suz and I had Nasi Goreng Pattaya (below) but I forget what the others had. It is basically fried rice with chicken plus an omelette on top.

We talked about various family matters and reminiscences.  Von was still upset over a memory from wayback.  This was at Gordonvale where we often took our dinners down to the Gazebo to have. One night we were having spaghetti and all took our plates of it down to the gazebo.  On the way, Von's dinner slipped off the plate onto the ground so became uneatable. Spaghetti is very slippery stuff so it was not really Von's fault but she was understandably upset at the time.  And she is still mourning that lost plate of spaghetti.

Once again, everybody spontaneously commented how good the food was so it did turn out to be a good replacement for the dosa place. Hannah got a full-size meal but ate only about half of it so Von wanted to doggy bag it.  The restaurant accommodates that but to do so sells you a nice container for a small sum.  The container has Dapur Dahlia written on it in large letters.  Knowing how Von collects mementoes I am betting that that container will be going back to New Zealand.

17 July, 2019

The celebrations continue

On Monday, Joe was off work in the morning to allow him to deal with some bureaucratic matters so we had breakfast together at our favorite coffee lounge.  Bacon and eggs for both of us.  I forget what we talked about but it would probably be about Mr Trump's latest tweets.

Then that night Anne made me a dinner with things I particularly like:  Sydney rock oysters to start followed by meatloaf and finished by fruitcake.  She made the meatloaf and cake according to her own recipes.  And both worked out very well.  We washed it down with a bottle of Henkel Trocken, a German "champagne" Anne likes.

And on Tuesday, yesterday, I hosted a big dinner for close family and friends at the Dapur Dahlia, a Malaysian restaurant I often go to these days.  They are particularly good for hosting a group.  Their tables for two are largeish and can easily be pushed together to make one long table.  There were 11 of us so we needed that.  And people always make appreciative comments about the food.

I made a special request for Geoff to come down from his perch in the near North for the dinner as it was a long time since I had seen him.  I used to see him about monthly when he was my handyman.  So I wanted to hear how he was going these days.  We had a good chat and he did seem to be in better form now that he has retired.  Some stresses have been taken off him.

George was there as he always is when I am doing the invitations.  Lewis and Jill were also there and Lewis had never met George so Lewis asked a lot of questions to figure how George fitted in to the family.  Lewis has still got a keen and enquiring mind even in his advanced years.

At one stage I was talking to a couple of people and pointing out how much of their religion the Muslims had stolen off the Jews -- even down to "Allah" being originally a Hebrew word (Eloah in Hebrew).  Lewis looked a bit uncomfortable about that but he knows I am a fanatical supporter of Israel so he was probably wondering about the attitudes of other people there.  For me Israel can do no wrong and I put my money where my mouth is by occasional donations to Israeli charities.  Israel has to spend so much on its defence that the government does not have much to spend on welfare work.

Anne spent a lot of time talking to my brother and his wife Kym. I put up some teases to Kym about Aborigines to which she responded well.  She does welfare work with Aborigines. I talked a bit with my brother about motorbikes, getting the latest on English motorbikes, an interest we share.

Joe spent a lot of time talking to Lewis which he enjoyed and when I asked him afterwards how he found the dinner he said it was "fun".

Kate was her usual social self and talked mostly to Jenny.

I had pretty well healed up after my Friday surgery so could enjoy the occasion.  I talked to George and Jill and most of the people there. Everybody liked the food as usual. It was both filling and tasty. I provided a couple of bottles of Seaview champagne to help wash it all down.  Below is the docket as a memento of what we had.  The overall cost was embarrassingly small. I actually could have paid it in cash

Figure that lot out!

16 July, 2019

Cold calls

Almost every day around mid-afternoon I get a junk phone call --   Sometimes on my mobile, sometimes on my landline;  Most are are polite, some are threatening;  Some know my name, most do not; some claim to be official from the tax office or the telephone company and others have all sorts of introductions.

I can usually decide within 5 seconds that the call is a scam and simply hang up immediately without saying a word.  I guess that is impolite of me but I have no qualms about being impolite to crooks.

The interesting thing is that -- as far I can remember -- all the callers have had a strong foreign accent. Being a bit deaf I don't understand foreign accents well at the best of times so that alerts me from the first word they say.  So they are optimistic.  For best results they should put someone who is a native speaker of Australian English on the line. That would be more likely to get attention.  So they are all evidently just small-time crooks from somewhere abroad taking their chances.

I understand foreign accents over the phone so badly that I really have little idea what they are saying.  So I am occasionally in doubt about the call.  I think it might be legit.  So in those cases I am perfectly frank.  I tell them that I cannot understand a word they are saying so get a native speaker of Australian English to call me back.

They rarely go quietly.  They keep jabbering.  So I then hang up.  Occasionally, that frustrates them so much that they keep calling back -- often in angry voices. Having their pronunciation condemned seems to frustrate them more than losing the call.   Which amuses me. Once again I hang up as soon as I decide the call is a scam.  Some call back a few times.  They are determined that their English will be understood.  But it isn't.

14 July

An excision and a dinner

On Friday I visited my usual skin clinic for an excision on my left temple.  I normally go there just for biopsies and cryotherapy. So this was a first. The lady doctor -- Sandy -- who normally attends to me did the excision. Most of my excisions in recent times have been done by Russell, a brilliant plastic surgeon who gets exemplary results, so I was a bit concerned about how well Sandy would go.

She was meticulous and it went very well:  No subsequent pain and no inflammation. The result was in part because it was an easy job with enough loose skin at the site for an easy post-excision joinup.  If it had been a tricky job needing flaps etc I would have gone to the plastic surgeon.

And Sandy's post-op care was extraordinarily good.  She gave me her personal mobile no. and said I could call her at any time if I had any concerns about the excision.  And she said she would home visit me if there were any serious problems.  And the morning after the procedure she rang me personally to see how I was. 

I actually took advantage of that to ask if I could come in to have the dressings minimized as the existing ones were itchy. She agreed and within 20 minutes she was attending to me.  I had no idea that such a level of service was possible.  She says she usually does about four surgeries a day so she is just a very capable lady. And she is a great communicator too. I would recommend her to anybody with bad skin bits.  She is only a little thing but is 100% quality.

So my recovery was very rapid and by Sunday I had only steristrips on the wound.  I was already hardly aware of it.  Which was a good thing because I could enjoy my dinner that evening without distraction. 

And my dinner was a special one.  July is birthday season for Joe, me and Nanna.  So as usual, Joe and Kate cooked me a seasonal dinner to have on our verandah.  It was a dinner of devilled sausages.  As I am something of a sausage freak it was a very well-chosen offering.  It was greatly enjoyed.  I supplied Seaview champagne as usual

Most ladies have a special dinner they do for special occasions so I think Kate could well use that dinner as her special.  Now that she is a married lady she will probably be doing a bit of entertaining.

It was a good opportunity for me to have some relaxed chats with Kate.  As Kate has recently got her psych degree, we talked a lot about issues in education and the parlous state of academic research in the social sciences and medicine.  The replication crisis has shaken a lot of people -- though I personally thought it was long overdue.  The glaring holes in most research in those fields were obvious to me from wayback.  I even had a lot of critique articles published which said so. Journal editors don't like publishing critiques so I was obviously making strong points.

10 July, 2019

An interesting day

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a large table-height sideboard  from Buranda Vinnies.  It was a very attractive piece with lots of drawers etc.   Anne liked it.  About a week ago a similar one popped up in Stones Corner Vinnies.  This one was normal sideboard height but was otherwise a little smaller.  But it also looked good.  So I bought it for Anne but left it to Anne to arrange delivery.

And it arrived today. So when I turned up at Anne's place at 7pm there it was.  Anne had done some big furniture rearrangements to fit it in to her living room but it did fit in very well.  She was of course rather worn out at that stage so I took her to dinner at nearby Tingalpa.

When we arrived at Tingalpa we noticed that the Japanese restaurant had been much done up so decided to try it.  What I ordered and what we got seemed very different but it was very tasty nonetheless.  We will return.

After the meal we went for a short walk to see what else was new at Tingalpa.  A Thai restaurant had some leaflets out the front so I took one and sat down to read it. 

I sat on one of the flimsy stools that the restaurant supplies. Both the stool and I fell over. I must have sat further back on it than I should. So I ended up flat on my back on the concrete floor. As the stool was only about 18" off the floor I didn't have far to fall so did not injure myself. Old fellas like me should NOT fall over, however. We tend to break things. My fall must have been much observed because people leaped up and came from all over to help me. I needed it as at my age I have difficulty getting off the floor by myself.

So it was good to see how many kind people were there. I don't think I have sunk to the level of Blanche in "Streetcar named Desire", though.

5 July, 2019

A pre-birthday dinner with Lana and Peter H.

July is birthday month for me.  It is my birthday plus there are two other family birthdays. And there can be more than one celebration of a birthday. So this July is shaping up as busy too. So I thought I might fit in a dinner with Peter early on in the month. So I took us to the Dapur Dahlia Malaysian restaurant again tonight.

I get a feeling of real satisfaction from Dapur Dahlia dinners.  Their dinners all seem to have a lot of rice so that may be at work.  Rice is very filling.  About 2 billion people find it so anyway.

Anne and Lana spent a lot of time talking, including discussion of the role of soy sauce in cooking.  Both ladies have their own uses for it.  Peter and I talked about many things, including about his eminent father whom I knew from his writings. We both studied psych at UQ in our student days at about the same time so some reminiscences about that also cropped up.

A pleasing discovery was that Lana is a keen Chaucerian.  We joined in a recitation of some lines from the Canterbury Tales for a short while. We used the original Middle English pronunciation.  It just does not work otherwise. We both share a keen appreciation of Chaucer.  It is a pity that people are put off getting to known him by the very old form of English he used.

The food was as good as expected but a surprise was when Peter ordered a dessert. It was a sort of Malayan trifle -- only with about twice as many ingredients as a normal trifle.  It is called Ice Kacang.  There is a description of it on the menu.  Peter gave me a taste of it and it was Yum!

So it was a good dinner all round.  As a memento of it I reproduce the docket, showing what we had.

I cannot resist mentioning something very few people realize about Chaucer.  He lived during England's Plantagenet dynasty about 600 years ago.  At that time most writing was done in Latin or Norman French. So when he chose to write in the English of his day, he largely had to invent his own spelling.  So he simply wrote down the sounds he heard.  So Middle English was phonetically spelled, unlike modern English.  And, to a remarkable  extent, we still use Chaucer's spelling, even though the pronunciation has changed.  So in our English word "knight", both the K and the GH were originally sounded, not silent as they are today.  We still write English largely as it  sounded 600 years ago.  Chaucer was very largely the founder of English spelling.

30 June, 2019

An after effect

The usual treatment for prostate cancer these days is injections of a testosterone antagonist -- degarelix in my case.  You get an initial high dose followed  by much lower doses at one month intervals

I had the initial dose in the form of two injections on Wednesday 26th.  Within hours the injection sites had become very painful and I was much inhibited from getting about as most movement was painful.  It is only now on Sunday that the pain has abated to a trivial level.  I expected the healing to be almost overnight but that was not to be

Apparently some pain is normal but I suspect that the nurse who did the injections did not do it quite right. One injection was much more painful than the other. I will ask my GP to supervise it next time.

29 June, 2019

Savings (frugality) is the key to having money when you need it

I mentioned some days ago the importance of putting money aside in your youth for a rainy day in your latter years. There is a lot of medical rain in your latter years and medical rain can be particularly expensive.  So I thought I might set down some notes about what I did to put money aside.

I have been frugal from childhood.  Frugality was preached to me at my Presbyterian Sunday school and I took to it like a duck to water. So as a kid I saved my 2/- per week pocket money rather than spending it on confectionery  -- which is what most of my peers did.  Though I would always buy the latest "Phantom" comics. But every now and again, my mother would borrow the money in my money box to buy family needs.  How poor can you be when you have to borrow the money in your kid's money box in order to put dinner on the table? My mother's purchases were almost all from convenience stores so she just did not have a frugal mind.

So I have always lived simply and very economically, which has left me in a very comfortable situation in my old age.

The high point of my frugality came during my student days, when I lived on skim milk plus a few vitamins for around six months.  I bought the skim milk from the local dairy factory in the form of a 56lb paper sack of dried skim milk, which was almost a give-away product at that time but was very nutritious all the same.  So in modern terms my food bill was something like $5 per week.  It was ridiculously small.  As the recipient of a government scholarship to go to university I had a small living allowance and I saved virtually the whole of my allowance at that time -- and also remained in perfect health.

With my savings much reinforced, I gave that up after a while,  and moved back on to a more normal but still economical diet featuring a lot of cheese sandwiches.  I still like a slab of cheese on a fresh bread roll. Did you know that a dollop of plum jam on top of the cheese in your cheese sandwich really lifts it?  Plum jam has always been the cheapest jam.

There are many ways you can have a good and healthy diet for a small cost -- with anything featuring eggs being high on the list.  A 3-egg omelette makes a very good breakfast, with the eggs costing you a total of around one dollar only. And oats for making porridge are also very cheap. I still like a nice plate of porridge on occasions.  And you can often get day-old bread for a song.  It makes great toast.

These days my frugality consists of buying most of my groceries as "specials" and "markdowns" from my local supermarket.  And I buy most of my alcohol in the form of Vodka, which is generally the cheapest of spirits. And if I eat out, I eat at ethnic restaurants, which often give me amazingly good dinners for a very modest price.

And I am not seized with the vice of old age:  Travel.  Travel can be very expensive but I did all I want of that when I was younger and highly paid.

So I now spend very little on myself and give about half of my income away to friends, relatives and conservative causes.

25 June, 2019

An unusually interesting two days

Over the years I have had quite a few tests to see if I have prostate cancer -- and all have come back negative.  I suspected that it had finally got me now that I am 75, however.  I am in the middle of the age range where it is most usually detected.  So Thursday last I went and saw my GP, who ordered some tests for me.  I had the blood test that day plus an ultrasound on Friday. And on Monday I had another scan, a PET scan (nuclear medicine) which lights up your insides.  Nothing to do with cats and dogs.

It was a bit pesky to have the test on Monday as that was the day I had already booked my car in with the panelbeater to get some minor dings fixed up.  And another complication was that I had dropped in to Vinnies on the Saturday and spotted a large and beautiful TV cabinet with umpteen drawers etc.  It was a very fine piece of furniture going for a song.  So I could not resist.  I bought it. So I had to organize for it to be picked up and taken to my place on Monday or Tuesday.

So on Monday I had to take my car in for two days, have a very lengthy PET scan, do all my usual activities and host my usual Monday night dinner for Jenny, Joe and Kate.  We went to the Sunny Doll, which was up to its usual high standard.

And then Tuesday was even busier.  I had to wait for the carriers to deliver my cabinet from Vinnies to start with.  When that had arrived and been put in place, I went off for a late breakfast and a trip to Woolies at Buranda.  Early that afternoon the car was ready so I had to go and pick that up.  Then at 3:30 I had my appointment with the urologist.

He seemed a rather gloomy man and I suspect I know why.  He had to tell me that I had prostate cancer which had already metastasized and was therefore beyond surgical cure.  He probably gets some bad reactions when he tells people that sort of thing.  I was however mentally prepared for that so had no emotional reaction at all -- and simply had an interesting conversation with him about the matter.  He was much warmer to me by the time I left.

Anyway, the treatment for the problem is simply a monthly injection of a testosterone antagonist, which should keep me going at least until I am 80 -- by which time I will be happy to bow out.

Anne came over in the evening to find out how I had gone and was surprised to find me in perfectly good cheer, given the diagnosis.  I have always been hard to bother. I then went and got us dinner in the form of Barramudi n chips from a nearby place which does fish n chips superbly.  We had it on my verandah.  I even got out the fish knives for it -- which I usually forget. We washed it down with German "champagne" -- Henkel Trocken,  Anne's favourite.

So in one day, I received and set up furniture, went out for a cooked breakfast, shopped at Woolworths, picked up my car from the panelbeater, had a medical consultation, did my usual blogging, and had a dinner with the lady in my life.  Busy!

The PET scan was quite expensive ($700+) so I was a little surprised that neither Medicare nor my private insurance gave me anything back from it.  I understand why, however.  Most men do get prostate cancer eventually so paying for a PET scan for them all would break the bank.  Once again there is no substitute for putting money aside in your youth for a rainy day.  Medical rain can be particularly expensive.

17 June, 2019

Mr Halloumi again

Halloumi is not his actual name. It is just a version that amuses me. I last wrote about him here on 28 December last year.  He  has a shocking driving record but does not like that to be publicly known. He is battling uphill over that one, though.  If you google his unusual surname, the first three hits that come up are all about his driving record and his troubles with officialdom resulting from that.

He is probably a bit of a poor thing.  He has given me a number of indications that he is not very bright and it seems to be part of that that he needs to drive expensive sports cars at excessive speeds.  It's his way of showing what a big man he is. He has an ego need that repeatedly puts him in conflict with the law.

Anyway, I once reproduced on one of my blogs a news report about his amazingly bad driving record.  He has been described as the worst driver in the state, due to the number of tickets he has received.  He has been disqualified for many years

Some years after I reproduced the newspaper article about him, however, he discovered my copy of it and was hellbent on getting me to take it down. He was very aggressive about it. I described the outcome of that in my previous post  Various negotiations produced a satisfactory compromise.

Just this month, however, I heard from him again.  Some other blogger who does not reveal his identity had also become amused at the antics of Mr Halloumi and had copied one of my pages about him -- a page which I had subsequently modified to be less upsetting to Mr Halloumi. 

Mr Halloumi had just come across the copied page and assumed that I was responsible for it.  That I had written it but someone else had copied and posted it without my knowledge was too difficult for him to load. It was obviously not one of my blogs but he was too dim to see that.  I never copyright anything I write so if someone copies what I write I take no notice of it.

Anyway, Mr Hallomi was in a rage about his discovery of the copied page so sent me an email as follows:

"Mate your a liar & a keyboard coward hiding behind a computer thinking your safe & insulated... This is the last warning before I jump on a plane & visit you at your redneck shack ... 24hours to remove your garbage."

An only slightly veiled threat!  He was dumb enough to threaten me over something over which I had no control!  Epic folly.

Anyway, I eventually managed to explain to him what the situation was and he has now gone off to Google in the hope that they will take it down for him.

9 June, 2019

More protection for "Old Queenslander" houses in Brisbane

I originally wrote the notes below for my "Australian Politics" blog -- as a comment on the news item below.  But I thought they had a place here as well

There can be conflicts between stability and economic efficiency and it is sometimes important to prioritize stability.  Money is not everything. People do value stability.  Change can be too much.  So a balance is needed.  And Brisbane people do value their reassuring streetscapes of old wooden houses.  They want them to stay

For many born-Queenslanders such as I am, those houses have a warm and comfortable feeling whereas a modern brick house seems cold and lifeless.  Hard to say why but there's probably more to it than familiarity.  Timber is from a living thing so that may have some influence. 

I have spent a lot of time and money restoring old Queensland houses and when I walk into an empty one of them I can feel all the families who have lived there before.  I can almost hear the children playing. Its a feeling of continuity with other people like myself in the past. It feels right.

I suppose I am a sentimental old fool but I am far from alone.  There is already in Brisbane a total ban on demolishing any pre-war house

A ban on townhouses and apartment blocks in Brisbane’s character suburbs could come into effect before the end of the financial year, after the state government gave the green light for public consultation.

In September last year, the council requested state government's approval to amend the council’s City Plan 2014, in a bid to prevent apartment blocks and townhouses from being built on blocks larger than 3000 square metres in low-density residential zoned suburbs.

On Wednesday evening, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick gave Brisbane City Council the go-ahead to progress to public consultation.

He said council was required to consult with the community on the proposed amendments for 20 business days.

“Once the council has completed the consultation they will be required to submit the proposed amendments, including feedback received during the consultation period, for my approval to proceed to adoption,” he said.

“It is now up to the council to consult with the community to test the adequacy of the proposed amendment with the broader community and industry.” The ban would last for two years, if approved.

Brisbane lord mayor Adrian Schrinner welcomed the government's tick of approval for council to progress its plans to halt "cookie-cutter townhouses".

“I am committed to building the infrastructure our city needs, while protecting the liveability of our suburbs and that is exactly what this proposed major amendment can achieve,” Cr Schrinner said.

“Brisbane is growing, but Council is committed to maintaining the character of our suburbs and ensuring any development fits in with the existing surroundings.

The opening of public consultation comes as nearly 6000 properties around Coorparoo have been rezoned to character residential under Brisbane City Council’s latest neighbourhood plan.

The rezoning means more properties will be protected to retain the typical Queensland house from being demolished or altered significantly.


8 June, 2019

I hollered for a Marshall

The battery in my Toyota Echo was sounding a bit feeble a couple of days ago so I went into Beaurepaires on Ipswich Rd -- which I drive past everyday -- and asked did they test batteries.  The clod at the desk said "Yes we do but the machine is broken".  No further comment that he would take my number and ring me when the machine was fixed.  I would have accepted that. So I turned on my heel and left without another word. The battery was definitely low so I would probably have bought a new one from him if he had shown any interest in business.

So then I went to the local Repco outlet, who are big on all things cars. The bloke said a new battery would be $209.  But I haggled him down to $160.  I then asked how much to fit it as at 75 I am getting a bit old to do that.  He said that they don't fit batteries.  So again I turned on my heel and left without another word.

The only other nearby battery place was Marshalls at Greenslopes so I drove to their depot.  The bloke there attended to me promptly and in a friendly manner and quoted me $160 plus $15 to fit the battery.  I said: "Let's do it now" and he did. I walked out of there after no more than 10 minutes a happy man with a new battery under the bonnet. And he had the $$$ that the previous businesses had seen walk out. And even the price was right.

That's about the usual score for Australian businesses.  Only about a third know and care what they're doing. See here and here for previous examples

Something I didn't know is that Marshall is actually an Australian company, not American at all. Something else I didn't know is that Marshall can help with a lot more than batteries

To quote them:

Why keep paying for traditional Roadside Assistance membership every year, when you don't need to? Marshall has revolutionised traditional roadside assistance programs with its new 'Pay to Use Roadside Rescue' service! THAT MEANS NO MEMBERSHIP OR ROADSIDE JOINING FEES!

Who knows when one of those unforeseen breakdown situations may occur? Maybe you have a flat battery, locked your keys in the car or have run out of fuel? Simply 'Holler For A Marshall'

Flat or damaged tyre? We will come to you and change over your flat or damaged tyre with your vehicles spare, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself.

Locked your keys inside your vehicle? Don't worry, Marshall can access most standard vehicles to retrieve your keys.

7 June, 2019

A trip to Persia

Well, not quite but nearly.

Ann and I have always thought that the Persians are the past masters of how to grill meat.  You would think that there is no great skill to it but there is.  I have no idea of how they do it but the result the Persians get is superb.

So when I noticed that a new Persian restaurant had opened up on the main road at Stone's Corner I had to try it.  It's called the Taste of Saffron and it's in 55 Old Cleveland Rd., opposite the charcoal chicken place

Anne and I had the platter for 2, which included kebabs, salad and chips, served with a variety of rice seasoned with saffron, dill and barberries.  It was a big meal but we got through it -- just.  And it was everything we expected it to be.  You don't know how good grilled meat can be until you have tried the Persian product.

I thought initially that the restaurant might  be "dry", as befits a Muslim establishment, but there were some people there drinking. so they were definitely "bad" Muslims -- maybe refugees from the Ayatollahs.  They had some of the iconography of the ancient Persians up in places so that could well be.  Maybe if I had shouted out "Make America Great Again" I might have been cheered.  In the best Britiah style I did not want to "make a scene", however.

And there were a lot of robust-looking Iranians in the room -- about 20 of them, male and female -- who all seemed to know one-another -- all part of some club, perhaps.

3 June, 2019

Living on the dole

Yesterday, in response to calls to raise Centrelink unemployment payments by $75 a week I wrote briefly:

In my youth I lived on the dole for a time.  It was then  £2/7/6 pw., if that notation means anything to anybody these days. Equal to $70.00 these days. I lived well and even saved money on it.  But I spent nothing on beer and cigarettes and I ate exclusively at home.  I could even afford an egg or two with my breakfast porridge.  Eggs, porridge and milk are very cheap to this day and form a very solid  foundation for a day's nourishment. And you can generally get day-old bread for a song. Good for toast. I don't think it is hard at all if one is not spoilt by uncompromising expectations

My comments that in my youth I lived on an unemployment dole of $70.00 pw evoked some incredulity. The current dole in Australia is $200 more than that. Why the difference?

For a start, I initially gave the actual dole I received: £2/7/6.  I then used the Reserve Bank's online calculator to translate £2/7/6 in 1960 to current dollars.  And $70 was the answer.  The Reserve bank calculator was based on official price indices so is a very scholarly figure which makes allowances for just about anything  that might distort the answers that it gives.  So I think we might have to live with the fact that I really did live on that little.

So how?  A revealing part of the answer is that before I went on the dole I had a job as a junior clerk -- in which I was paid around £6 pw So ALL young sprouts at that time had to live on very little by modern standards.  I was 17 in 1960.

Note the age factor.  As a junior I did not get the full dole.  The full dole was the equivalent of about $100 pw in terms of current purchasing power. But it's still not much, is it?

So how come?  I am afraid the explanation is pretty simple.  We ALL were a lot poorer 60 years ago.  The vast influence of international capitalism has been incredibly enriching for us all over time.  Back in 1960 we did have a lot of the things that people now do but we had to work a lot longer for them.  We did for instance have motor cars but only the well-off had new ones. My father never had a new car in his life.

Eating out was almost unknown but most people could afford a square meal at home at dinner time.  But it was a VERY square meal. Day after day, month after month and year after year it consisted of the same thing: Meat and 3 veg.  Australia has great herds of beef cattle so even working class people could often afford steak a lot of the time but when that failed there were always sausages or minced beef. And it was amazing what you could do with mince. The 3 veg. that came with the meat ALWAYS included some form of potatoes (usually boiled) plus a selection of boiled beans, cabbage and carrots. If you were a bit fancy you might get cauliflower. 

So EVERYBODY lived very economically in those days. They had to.  But there were also people who were really poor -- people who spent half their money on beer and cigarettes mainly.  They had to live the way I did: feeding themselves mainly off milk, porridge, eggs and day-old bread with plum jam on it.  Day-old bread was generally available for half price or less and made very good toast.  And you bought plum jam in big tins to keep the price down. Most houses had a substantial backyard where you could grow most of your fruit and vegetables if you were thrifty.

Food aside, unemployment was less than 2%.  You could get on a steam train and go interstate to visit family and friends at vacation time. There was always the family car for local trips. The newspapers had lots of interesting news, particularly from overseas. You could hear all the latest songs on the radio. The ladies could buy pretty dresses occasionally and even in small towns there were several bars where one could drink cold beer after a hard day's work.  What else is there?  So it wasn't too bad, all told. And there was a lot less obesity!

What I have writen above is a very abbreviated account  of working class life in Australia in 1960 but I think it still has the lesson in it that unemployed people today have lots of scope to cut back rather than raiding the taxpayer for money that will keep them in the style that they aspire to.

And there are some unwise people for whom no dole would ever be enough.  There is a story here of a "struggling" Sydney single mother who spends two thirds of her dole on rent.  And where does she live?  On Sydney's prestigious and very expensive North Shore.  And she feels hard done by! I lived in a small Queensland farming town when I was on the dole. For people with "expectations", that would not do at all at all, of course

1 June, 2019

Portuguese custard tarts

Perhaps the second most acclaimed feature of Portugal (the first is Fado) is their custard tarts.  They make a mean custard tart and they know it.  And nobody else seems able to cook such tarts as well.

So famous are they that they have come to the attention of Australian Woolworths, the country's largest supermarket. And I am very glad of that.  They import genuine custard tarts directly from Portugal to put onto their bakery shelves.  They import pastries from nearly a world away:  A remarkable example of our global village. 

Coles do it too.  I have no idea if they import from Portugal but they got into trouble about six years ago for importing some bakery products from Belgium without declaring its origin properly. And IGA was importing most of its bread from Switzerland! Amazing!  Genuine Swiss bread from your local small supermarket!  The Common Agriculture Policy of the EU must make wheat flour very cheap over there. Switzerland isn't in the EU but the EU probably supplies them.

Anyway, what seems to happens where I am is that Woolworths imports big boxes of fully made-up tarts in a frozen state and just reheats them in one of their big ovens.  I am pretty sure that the tarts even come via airfreight.  They are made with puff pastry so are very light. Woolworths sell them in boxes of four for $7.00 so even the price is right.  I buy them most days.  Anne avoids most sweet things for the sake of her waistline (Yes. A lady in her '70s has a waist.  Most women of that age are either dumplings or skeletons) but even she succumbs to Portuguese custard tarts!  They are super Yummy.

May 31, 2019

Permissive parenting -- some recollections

I grew up in the age of Dr Spock, a widely respected American pediatrician who preached permissive parenting.  He saw permissiveness as being as much a moral issue as a practical one.  His influence was particularly strong in the '60s, which was a time to question all values, so the Biblical advice -- "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24) -- was regarded widely as impossibly obsolete.

And for Spock and other reasons I was a beneficiary of permissive  thinking. I have no recollection of my parents ever saying No to me in fact. Dr Spock later changed his mind and decided that some parental guidelines were needed but it was all too late for  generations of kids. But permissiveness suited me.  I had a very untroubled childhood.

I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday school from about age 7 -- which I greatly enjoyed --  so I accepted the rather Puritanical wisdom that was preached to me there. And those were pretty safe guidelines. I am pretty sure I am a born Puritan, in fact. I was teetotal until I was about 28. But I like my gin these days. I was 17 in 1960 but the unhealthy substances that people poured into themselves in that era had no appeal for me. I have never even smoked tobacco, in fact.

Let me give two examples of the permissiveness of my parents:

My youngest sister at age 3 was the most gorgeous little blonde-haired tot you can imagine.  And she was plenty verbal by that stage. If my parents told her to do something she did not want to do, she would reply in a loud voice:  "I don't wanna".  No-one ever seemed to have an answer to that!  So she went her own way.  She is now a happily married lady with 3 adult daughters.  I think she was born with Puritan instincts too. On some occasions in her youth, she had 3 jobs at once.

Then there is my brother.  He had a very simple trick.  If ever he wanted to do something from which he might be deflected, he would say "I gotto do this" -- where "this" was very variable.  My parents would then let him do whatever he had "got" to do.

My son had an easy time too. I am an instinctive libertarian so he got no aggravation from me, to put it in a rather Cockney way. I would even defend his wishes to his mother!  His mother was basically a "No nonsense" lady with her first three kids.  Her eldest son thought -- and still thinks -- that his mother was a bit of a tyrant.  He had a way of expressing that view on one occasion that I had better not record, in fact.  She was of course a perfectly loving mother and has four high-functioning adult children these days.  And they all love their mother!

But his mother could see so much of me in my son that she was pretty permissive with him when he wanted to wander off in a direction she would normally question.  He was for instance allowed to spend a lot of time playing computer games.  But a boy who has a father who was a computer programmer would do that, wouldn't he?  He is now a well-paid IT professional with good friends of long standing so he didn't come to any harm either.  What he wanted to do was right for him. That he has spent just about all his life in front of a computer screen could be a health problem but he knows that and does dieting and exercise regularly.  He is in really good shape, in fact.

So I think a lot depends on the kid.  Permissiveness won't always work but it should always be the first approach.

27 May, 2019

A template drama

Most bloggers use a ready-written piece of software called a template to do various things for them -- such as specify different colours in different places on the blog and inserting paragraph breaks when converting a piece of text into html.

I was doing a bit of updating (inserting "lost" links and graphics) on this blog last night when disaster struck.  I accidentally hit some really dastardly key combination which made about half of this blog invisible.  I don't know what the key combination was and I am not game to attempt recreating it

At any event, the problem probably lay somewhere in the template so I reloaded it.  That did not fix anything.  So I thought:  There's many thousands of templates on the net.  I will just grab and load a new one.  So I had a look at the current offering from and did find one I liked.  I loaded it and everything looked fine.  The "lost" posts all came back.

Then I noticed something:  There were no dates given for any post.  I had a blog full of  maybe a thousand undated posts.  That was of course hopeless.  So I tried another half a dozen different templates.  I was time consuming but I found in the end that they all had that fault. None of them would display any dates.  So I gave up that approach.

It did make me wonder if the dates were still anywhere there in the basic html code for the blog.  I looked at that and  the dates were still there.  So it seemed that the templates just could not read the dates for some reason.  One explanation occurred to me.  The alternative templates I had been loading were all recently constructed.  My damaged template, by contrast was quite old -- from 2004.

So it seemed likely that my old template had been storing dates in a format not now allowed.  So I would need to find another old template for the dates to appear.  But where would I find one of those?  Nobody bothers with old templates now.  All the ones available are fairly new compositions.  Fortunately, I had an ace.  The template I use on all my other blogs is also quite old.  I loaded that template into this blog and all problems disappeared.  The blog now looks different but the content is the same.

The whole problem-solving challenge did however really wind me up -- so I didn't get to sleep until 2am in the morning

25 April, 2019

Another Easter down

I started my Easter a little early this year, on the Sunday before Good Friday -- Palm Sunday, on April 14.  On that evening I hosted a family dinner -- for Joe, myself and brother Christopher.  I host such all-male dinners around 3 times a year. We also had along my friend Graham, who flew up from Victoria for the dinner.  I get him up for each of our dinners so we call him an honorary Ray.

I cooked up a big English curry (mild with sultanas in it) which seemed to go down well. And my usual Seaview Brut champagne washed it down.

After our dinners we have a show and tell.  Christopher is a gun collector and Graham is a sword collector so we always have weaponry to look at and discuss -- which suits a men's meeting.  Graham brought along two British army cavalry swords and Christopher brought along three revolvers.  The revolvers were from the period of the American Wild West (which was wild only in the movies) so were particularly interesting.  The oldest one was a pre-cartridge model. I was interested in acquiring a Gladius replica and Christopher thinks he can get me one.

Graham flies back down South on the Monday after our Sunday dinners so we seem to have developed a tradition of having an early bacon & egg breakfast that morning.  Graham does most of the cooking.  An early breakfast gets him to the airport in plenty of time.

Then on Good Friday I made Anne and myself a non-meat dinner in honor of the day.  It was not very good.  I heated up some vegetarian hamburger patties which were allegedly Moroccan. Best forgotten.

Easter Saturday made up for it, however.  Jenny made us one of her excellent BBQ lunches with beef sausages and home-made kebabs.  I rarely drink during the day so just had ginger beer with the food. Present were Joe, Anne and myself.  Kate was with her family in Canberra

On Easter Sunday, Joe and I had our usual Sunday bacon & egg breakfast at the Yeronga pie shop.  We generally spend an hour or more there discussing politics. Mr Trump is always diverting.

On Easter Monday I breakfasted at the Gold Leaf coffee shop -- which is a tiny place run by some Vietnamese ladies.  Their food is first class.  I had eggs Benedict plus a couple of spring rolls

Today was of course Anzac day and Anne's friends the Moores kindly invited us over for a lunch. Julia made a very good fish cake dinner.

18 April, 2019

The saga of the chair -- update

One would think that getting hold of a comfortable office chair would be a simple matter, but it can in fact be a problem. I sit in front of my computer for around 12 hours a day so I am rather aware of the chairs I sit in whilst doing so.

Many years ago at the Rocklea markets I bought a quite simple office chair that had apparently been sold off by some government department.  And we know that governments always buy the best. It is only the mug taxpayer who is paying.

And this chair was very good.  It was upholstered in a fetching shade of maroon and was generally referred to as "the red chair".  And I sat in that chair with the greatest of ease for around 20 years.  It did however over the years become rather grotty so when something in the steel chassis snapped and gave the chair a lean, I decided that it was time to bid the red chair goodbye.  I put it out the front and it disappeared.

That was a great mistake.  I have never since found a chair as good as the red chair.  To replace it I first went to Lifeline to inspect their offering of chairs and found one that seemed good -- costing me about $25.  But it just was not comfortable enough so I looked around suppliers of new office chairs and found that sums of around $1,000 were being asked for a lot of them.  No way!

So I eventually ended up at Officeworks.  You would think that they would have a good range of office chairs on sale and they do -- mostly for around $200 -- made in China.  So I bought one -- a "Bathurst" chair.  And it was really good, just what I wanted. But after about 9 months something came adrift inside it and it developed a distinct lean.  So I took it back.  Officeworks is one of Mr Goyder's tentacles and he seems to have drilled it into all 200,000 of his employees that they must be cheerful, pleasant and helpful at all times.  And they are.  So I had no difficulty at swapping the degraded chair for another one.  But I was not of course going to risk a second Bathurst chair.  So I chose a slightly more up-market one and paid the difference.

But within a year, its casters seized up. They ceased to cast, if that is what casters do.  So instead of the chair rolling it could only be dragged.  That did considerable damage to my polished board floor, which later cost me quite a bit to fix, so I took that chair back too -- and chose yet another one.

And the third chair wasn't bad -- though not as good as the Bathurst chair -- but it too failed eventually.  After 11 months it started refusing to stay up.  I would be sitting in front of my computer typing away and suddenly finding that I was sinking down floorwards whilst doing so.  I could only take so much of that so went back to Officeworks with that chair too.  It was quite a heavy thing so Joe came with me and carried it.  I suspect that he did more than carry the chair for me.  Being tall, taciturn and well-built with short hair, he might have been mistaken for my bodyguard or some such.  He wouldn't have looked like someone you would want to argue with!

Anyway, I was treated with good cheer and came away with another chair of the same model as the one that had sunk.

Unsurprisingly, that chair failed too.  One of its arms broke right off. But this time I had difficulty returning it.  So I wrote to Mr Richard Goyder, CEO of Wesfarmers, who own Officeworks:

24 September, 2017

Dear Mr Goyder,

As a long-term Wesfarmers shareholder, I have always taken a keen interest in the business and have written to you a couple of times before over policy matters.  I have been very impressed by your courteous responses.

I am writing this time over what seems to me to be a surprising refund policy at Officeworks.  As you will be aware, the ACCC recently levied large fines on some retailers over their illegal refund policies.  So I was surprised today when I took in a faulty armchair for a refund to be told that I could get only a credit note, not a cash refund.  My information is that a customer is always entitled to a cash refund for defective goods.

Being a cautious person I paid for an extended 2-year warranty when I bought the chair on 19/10/2015 for $190 and I still have all the relevant paperwork. So when the seat started to fall apart recently, I concluded that I was entitled to a full refund.

So I took it in today and was then told that I had to ring a number to get the return authorized and even then only a credit note would be issued.  As I needed a new chair immediately, I bought another one there and then for cash.  So a credit note would  be useless to me.

Please instruct Officeworks at Woolloongabba to give me a cash refund of $190.  They already have the chair and I have the sales receipt ready for inspection.

Yours faithfully,

Dr John Ray

I emailed that letter on the Sunday night and got a phone call Monday lunch time telling me the cash was waiting for me!

But that chair failed too.  So on 18 April, 2019, Joe and I were back at officeworks with another defective chair.  It was a very good chair but it had started to sink down with me in it.  It would not stay at the right height relative to my desk

The man we spoke to was courteous but I had to press him a little.  In the end I found another chair that seemed good, listed for $159.  He allowed me $99 credit on the returned chair and I agreed to pay the $60 gap.  Watch this space in a year's time!

It's a strange way to do business -- to make chairs that last only about a year

2 April, 2019

What does this mean?

"Its musculoskeletal system was originally adapted for terrestrial bipedal saltation but over its evolution its system has been built for arboreal locomotion"

If you can tell me what it means without googling it I will shout you a curry.

It's an example of scientific text.  Sometimes such text is needed for precision but the above text means something really simple

With my background in Latin I understood it immediately but such a background is rare these days

Words and names from Latin and Greek are very common in scientific text

Here's one name that was a common spelling test when I was a kid.  Very few could remember the spelling of it or even the pronunciation.  It is "ornithorhynchus".  It simply means "bird nose".  Can you guess what it is?

30 March, 2019

Breuer chairs and I

It all began with bentwood. Around a century ago, people discovered that when you put wood in a steamer, you could bend it into all sorts of shapes without it splintering.  A practical use of that was to make lightweight chairs.  And bentwood chairs were very fashionable in the early 20th century

But what should you use for the seat? To keep the chair light rattan was a popular option. British colonialists came across it in Malaya where the rattan plant grows prolifically -- and it is light but strong -- so woven rattan was well known at the time, as you see above. So rattan was also favoured for the seat of Breuer chairs when they arrived

Breuer is the German word for brewer so the chairs are also called brewer chairs.  They come from the Bauhaus architectual movement of Germany in the 1920s and 30s -- self-consciously innovative.  And they are in fact a bit mad.  Innovativeness that leads to no back support!

Aside from looking rather stylish, they are very light: Strong  steel tubing plus Rattan seats and backrest.  So they have some practicality.  They looked very fragile however so the vogue for them did not last long.

Anyhow they had some revival in Australia about 30 years ago.  And I bought 8 of them!

As with bentwood chairs before them, however, the seat of the Breuer chairs tended to fail, with a big hole left in the middle.  And that is the reason why if you see any bentwood chairs around these days you will see that the seat has been covered with a layer of 3-ply -- not elegant any more but at least usable

I did not pay a lot for my Breuer chairs however -- they came in a flatpack -- so when they failed I did not bother to save them but just threw them out.  And I was down to 3 of them left when a tenant moved out of one of my properties and left another 3 behind.  They too had obviously concluded that they were not much good. So I now had 6 Breuer chairs again.

They continued to fail however and I continued to throw them out. But I also found a couple at charity shops so restocked a little there. 

When I was down to 5 chairs however, I had a rethink.  As lightweight chairs they were rather handy and they looked rather interesting so I decided to do what the earlier generation had done with their bentwood chairs.  When I was growing up, ALL the bentwood chairs I saw had had their seats repaired with plywood. So I stopped throwing my Breuer chairs out and repaired their seats with plywood.  And I even have two with the original seats.

And when the council had one of their rubbish disposal weeks recently, I spied a complete set of them put out by the side of the road.  So I took them in.  That lot however has upholstered seats so that may be why they lasted better.  So why did the owners chuck them out?  Maybe they thought the upholstered seats were looking a bit fragile.  I guess I will find out.

But, anyway, after about 30 years, I once again have 8 Breuer chairs.

6 March, 2019

A controversial hat

Above is an image of a hat that Kate bought for me in NYC.  She even bought it from Trump Tower.  It is not actually a true Trump hat. A Trump hat says: "Make America great again".  The one above says something slightly different.  But very few people would notice the difference.

I wore it on my morning shopping trip a couple of days ago in suburban Brisbane.  Brisbane is a long way from the USA so I wondered if it would get a reaction.  Consistent with their aggressive nature, American Leftists do sometimes attack the wearers of such hats.  Would that hatred spread to Brisbane?

It did, sort of.  When I had finished my shopping around about 10am, I stopped off where I usually do for a morning cup of coffee.  The girl on the counter took my money for it but then went out the back.  She came back and told me they had run out of coffee! 

I didn't argue. I just left for another place a few doors down that had plenty of coffee!  What do you think?  Do you think a coffee joint would really run out of coffee?

There's a famous Australian Country and Western song called "The pub with no beer".  So I did one better. I encountered a coffee joint with no coffee!  I am not going to name the shop concerned as the people there are usually pleasant and I like their coffee.  They served me as usual yesterday.

3 March 2019

A very pleasant occasion

Jenny is an exceptionally kind and generous person.  And one manifestation of that is that she frequently shouts excellent dinners for friends and family -- dinners "with all the trimmings".   I was talking to Joe about that and we agreed that of all the dinners we have the ones we get from Jenny are our favourites.

I have always been a bit conscious of a lack of reciprocity in that regard.  Who shouts dinners for Jenny?  I have done a little in that connection.  I do give Jenny bits of money at times to defray her expenses and I do shout her a Nandos dinner every Monday.  But that is a very slight recognition. 

So I put it to Joe that we should do a joint dinner for Jenny -- "with all the trimmings".  So I invited Jenny to one of my verandah dinners tonight.  My verandah is by common consent a very pleasant dining venue.  My curries have been turning out well lately so I put one of those on.  Joe cut up the onions for it and got in the yoghurt as an accompaniment for it

Anne made a big dish of Liptauer for the canapes.  Liptauer is ubiquitous in South Central Europe but seems unknown here.  The only place where you can get it in Brisbane is from Anne.  It always goes down well with cracker biscuits

Kate made mini-Pavlovas for the dessert.  With strawberries and blueberries they went down well

I always invite George for any family do I arrange so he was invited too.  He brought along two bottles of Porphyry wine for the occasion.  That was a real blast from the past.  I think I last had it about 50 years ago. It is a type of Sauternes.

Anyway it all came together well so although that was only a very small thank you to Jenny it was one from us all.

20 February, 2019

The host

It's an unlikely change but in my old age I have become something of a host.  In the past I have always relied on the lady in my life to organize that sort of thing.  I even cook simple meals for people on occasions these days.

One of Anne's oldest friends is a lady I will call Mrs M. -- who is married to Mr M., funnily enough.  I get on particularly well with Mr M., who is a genuine original. I have lots of fun discussions with him.  So I insisted that Anne invite them both to dinner at my place. I even had the house cleaned for the occasion.

So on Tuesday I cooked up a curry using a very safe procedure -- which consisted of tippng a bottle of Sharwoods curry sauce into a frying pan of mince. As my guests both hailed from the Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I intended it to be a mild English curry.  So I added sultanas to the mince.  I am a bit slack on reading labels, however, so I failed to notice that the sauce bottle had "Medium" written on it. The end result tasted very good to me but I noticed that my guests drank a lot of water with theirs.  They were very brave.

I served my usual Seaview Brut champagne. I have become rather fond of fizzy drinks these days.  I also tip Bundaberg Lemon Lime and Bitters into my late night Vodka these days.

We talked mostly about our families but also ventured a little into global warming and such topics.

14 February, 2019

The Saint was honoured once again

Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest and bishop in the Roman Empire who ministered to Christians who were persecuted there. He was martyred on February 14, which has been observed as the Feast of Saint Valentine (Saint Valentine's Day) since 496 AD. So he was a definite good guy.

I did most of the customary things.  I put a vase with a mass of yellow flowers and some pink ones in Anne's room with one added red rose plus one lily.  Lilies have bad connotations but Anne likes them.  So that was my version of Ikebana.  I guess I failed the class but Anne liked it

Anne presented herself with her hair long, blonde and out, wearing a floral dark blue frock which proved she had both a waist and a bosom and she wore shoes with slight heels on them.  We are both pretty unsteady on our feet so the heels were a definite concession to the occasion. She looked pretty good.

For presents I gave Anne a big box of Maltesers, a packet of Aspro Clear, a packet of Quickeze, a bottle of Apricot jam, a bottle of Cumquat jam, three shopper dockets for petrol discounts and a bright green bedsheet.  Life is different among the oldies.  Anne appreciated the offerings anyway.  We both gave one-another jocular cards.

For dinner I took us to the Indian Brothers near where I live.  It is a bit fancier than most Indian restaurants.  I took along my last bottle of Barossa Pearl to drink.  We had Onion Pakora, Punjabi chicken (which was very good), cheese & Spinach Naan, eggplant sabji, and some other chicken curry which we didn't finish.

After dinner we listened to Ottorino Respighi on YouTube and at bed time Anne put my pressure sock on my Left leg for me.  Isn't that Romantic?

27 January, 2019

A small army reunion

Once a year I like to host a dinner for people I remember from my army days. There were only three of us this year, plus significant others, but it was a jolly dinner anyway.

I am not much of a cook so, rather than have something at home, I took us all to a restaurant and let them do the clever bits. We went to the Dapur Dahlia, a Malay restaurant in Buranda.  I really enjoyed my dinner and I think we all did.  I started out with a couple of Samosas followed by Nasi Goreng Penang -- which was fried rice with chicken topped by an omelette. 

The ladies -- Anne, Linda and Michelle -- spent most of the dinner talking to one-another while we men mostly talked to one another: very Australian but also very normal.  I tried to break that up initially but I was not in the race

Peter M. brought along some old original Army documents he had saved from when we did our basic training together.  The notation against my name was "Seems slow to learn military skills".  I am naturally a bit clumsy so that was spot-on.

I talked to Peter about David South, with whom I had got on well in my Army days.  I remember that he was very keen on Gustav Mahler (the composer).  Peter had kept in touch with him for a while but had eventually lost touch.  Peter said he would see what he could do to restore contact.

As it was a Sunday dinner I made it an early one so we sat down at 6pm and finished up about 8pm.

26 January, 2019

An Australia Day BBQ

Jenny put on a late afternoon BBQ in her very pleasant back yard for a few of us.  She had found some excellent beef sausages which went down well.  There were also some good dips and Pavlova for dessert.  I brought along a bottle of Australian champagne.

We noted the Leftist attempts to destroy the day because some Aborigines don't like it. But I gave short shrift to that. Why should I do otherwise?  In Matthew 8:22 Jesus said, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead”, meaning that there are more important things to do than worrying about those who cannot be helped and who are therefore as good as dead. 

I did raise a champagne toast to what we were celebrating however -- the First Fleet -- as two of my ancestors came out to Australia as convicts on such ships.  Why should my culture and history be dishonoured in order to promote Aboriginal beliefs?  It is my ancestors and their ilk who made Australia the advanced and peaceful civilization that it is today

Something that rather annoyed me today is that I saw no cars driving about with Australian flags on them.  There were probably some but I saw none. In past years there has been a lot of that but the media barrage attacking the day appears to have led people to keep their thoughts to themselves -- as people are often pressured into doing these days in the name of political correctness

I think it is precisely because Australia day had become such a popular patriotic celebration that it has now come under such heavy Leftist attack.  Leftists want everybody to be as unhappy as they are.

24 January, 2019

A procedure and a play

I went in on afternoon of 23rd to the Wesley with a 3:30 appointment for a colonoscopy.  There was a fear that I might have bowel cancer. My father died of that at age 65.

The preliminary literature that the hospital sent out  was mostly of little interest but I liked one piece of advice they gave.  It said "There may be delays so take a book".  And I did.  I had for years been meaning to read "The cocktail party" by T.S. Eliot and I did own a copy so took it along.  It was good that I did as it was in fact 3 hours late -- 6:30 -- that I was wheeled into theatre.  I had in fact just finished reading the play shortly before that so it fitted in well.

It is a good play.  It is about people coming to terms with the ordinariness of their lives.  It is an English drawing room play much like Agatha Christie's novels and there is in fact a substantial "who dun it" element in it.  But the over-riding theme is the actors talking about their feelings.  So it is a sort of psychological "who dun it".  There is a famous quote in it that I have known for some time:

"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

Eliot wrote that as a comment on interpersonal relations, highlighting how that thinking distorts and destroys relationships.  I also see it as a comment on Leftism.  The Leftist too is always trying to puff himself up as better than he is. "Virtue signalling" is the modern term for it.  "I am better than you" is the basic message.  Toxic!

It's possible that Eliot did mean it politically too, as he was a conservative

Eliot's famous poem "Prufrock" also portrays  the ordinariness of English life and reflects on what to do about it. As such it is rather dismal piece of work but is nonetheless important and famous. It does have some good lines in it (e.g. "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons") and it seems clear to me what it is all about -- though there are various versions of that. A stream of consciousness poem does lend itself to various interpretations. My interpretation is that it is the young and frustrated T.S. Eliot bemoaning his inability to understand and get on with women. The epigraph in the poem is from Dante so Prufrock is apparently speaking from Hell, metaphorically

Anyway, the colonoscopy was a great success.  There was no cancer and only two polyps were found and zapped.  Only two polyps in a man of 75 is very much at the upper end of desirability. So I was allowed to go immediately back on to a normal diet, which I did.

So I have actually got a rather heroic bowel, considering that I drink like a fish and eat lots of "wrong" foods -- such as bacon and eggs -- and eat very little "right" foods such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.  I do like cabbage, however, so maybe that helps

20 January, 2019

A delightful photo from Scotland

Matthew and Elise looking very brotherly and sisterly

I note that they are wearing the same school tie

14 January, 2019

Moscow nights

Moscow nights is a simple romantic song in which the singer relives the magic summer days of his youth when the world seemed fresh and love was in the air.  I think most people are able to identify with it.  I can.  It reminds me of summer nights in 1968 when I was doing my M.A. at the University of Sydney and eating chicken Maryland at the Forest Lodge hotel -- in company with Michael Crowley, the wonderful Lesley Johnson and various "Sydney Push" types like David Ivison.  And not to mention taking out the daughter of the West German consul, Isabella Schmidt-Harms. For some reason, Shostakovich's "Second Waltz" also reminds me of those times.

Lesley Johnson was from a Communist family, though she was more into philosophy than politics. When I was dating Lesley, she had a beauteous sister who was being dated by Mark Aarons, son of Laurie Aarons, boss of the Communist Party of Australia.  So I have had Moscow nights in more ways than one

Moscow nights has been much sung and recorded in the West so I think I am right about its popular appeal.  It is a great favourite of mine so I think I will not be controverted if I say that the best performance of it was the famous performance in Red Square with Netrebko and Hvorostovsky singing.  Anna Netrebko is a supreme soprano and Dmitry Hvorostovsky is a famous Russian baritone from (of all places) the industrial city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia.

Hvorostovsky (sadly now prematurely deceased) was a very handsome and manly man so presented his songs in a very strong, confident and dignified way while Netrebko is a rather shy person who is easily embarrassed -- which leads to her being able to throw herself into her parts. She does not have to present her own personality so can be wholly devoted to expressing in every way what she is singing.  And she does that very well.

I have come across a version of the Red Square performance that has both English subtitles and fairly good sound. 

The beginning of the performance is very Russian, with Hvorostovsky dragging a submissive Netrebko onto the stage but then pledging undying love to her. In her reactions you will see how easily embarrassed she is but will also see how much she enjoys Hvorostovsky and his declarations. Most Russian ladies would envy her as Hvorostovsky is a very attractive man. Feminists will hate the whole thing.

There is a version with better resolution and better sound here:
but it is wholly in Russian

And look at the audience.  They are our people.  They are just like us.  They could be an American audience. We MUST not have a war with Russia -- despite what Congress would seem to want. I have friends of Russian origin.  If there were a war between Russia and the West I think I would kill myself to get out of a crazy world.

And here's an interesting footnote.  Even the brilliant young Alma Deutscher has got into the act:  In June 2018, the English teenage composer Alma Deutscher adapted the song for piano to entertain Russian President Vladimir Putin during a State Visit to Austria, at the request of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Given three days to arrange it, Deutscher started with a sad lament that transformed itself into a Viennese waltz. Kurz explained that the melding of the two musical styles illustrated well the bond of friendship between Austria and Russia.

10 January, 2019

Another early morning trip to the hospital on Monday 7th

But I was out again the next day.  Various tests and consultations have led to a diagnosis of a problem that needs fixing.  But I am booked for a procedure next week that may fix it.  I am feeling quite well and I think things are under control

For posts on this blog in 2017, see here


What would I like to be remembered about me long after I am dead and gone?

I would like it to be remembered that I too often experienced one of life's greatest pleasures: The first mouthful of cold beer on a warm day.

That pleasure will last as long as human beings are human beings, I believe

I am less certain about Bach. The last thing that people will remember about me long after I have gone will probably be: "He liked Bach". Will J.S. Bach continue to inspire people for a thousand years more? I think so. But beyond that I am not sure.


As Oscar Wilde might have said: Life is too important to be taken seriously

Brief bio

My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 74 at the time of writing in early 2018. 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.

Dramatis Personae

Jenny is the first wife of Ken and the third wife of John

Maureen is the second wife of Ken

Paul and the twins (Vonnie and Suzy) are the children of Jenny and Ken

Joe is the child of Jenny and John

Timmy and Davey are the children of Ken and Maureen

Paul is married to Susan

Matthew is the son of Paul and Susan

Twinny Suzy is married to Russell

Von is married to Simon

Tracy is Ken's sister

Tracy is married to Simon (another Simon)

Hannah is the daughter of Von and Simon

Sahara and Dusty are the children of Twinny Suzy and Russell

George came out on the boat to Australia with Ken

George has a son named Simon (The 3rd. Simon)

Jill and Lewis are old friends of John

Anne is the lady in John's life these days

Anne has sisters named Merle and June. Merle is married to Ralph

Anne's sons are Byron, Nigel and Warren

Byron has two sons named Koen and Ethan and a wife named Bonnie

My brother is Christopher (married to Kim) and my surviving sister is Roxanne (married to Stefan)

Quite simple really!


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism"
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"A Western Heart" (A summary blog)

Selected pix

Doggie patience

Happiness is a hat


A real live pixie

A lady who loves her hat

Two redheads

My brother Chris, looking quietly amused

A real dilemma

Photo album for this blog HERE