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
What am I? I am the tiniest spark in the great conflagration that is life on earth
I have made a few mistakes in my life but it has nonetheless been a pretty happy life
Some people want to live as long as possible. I want to enjoy my life as much as possible.
MOTTO: 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"
18 February, 2024
She IS back
Z came to my place about 4.30pm yesterday and we went to Nando's for a 5pm "lunch" of salad. We discussed the issues between us and made some progress. She went home at about 6pm but we continued our discussions via text messages. We did eventually seem to resolve the issues between us and I have received some positive messages from her this morning. She wanted me to make some revisions to what I wrote on this blog and I have done that. I look forward to a calm and affectionate relationship with her from now on
14 February, 2024
She's back, I think
After a gap of around 6 weeks Z called on me this afternoon. We went to the Buranda coffee lounge for lunch. After lunch she came up and lay down beside me in bed, which is our usual custom. So that was the basics of restoring our relationship.
Both at the cafe and in bed, however, she spent almost the whole time criticizing me, which was quite unpleasant. I put up with it in the hope that she will be more civil in future. We were together for about 2 hours of the afternoon but she left wihout making any arrangements for us to meet again. But I imagine I will see her again some time soon
I deeply regret upsetting her as I do love her
A good song
One of my faourite songs is the "alternative" version of "Scotland the Brave" associated with Scottish singer John McDermott. McDermott is known for performing traditional songs to a high standard.
I wondered however where McDermott got "his" version of the song. Did he write it? He is professional singer rather than a poet so it seemed unlikely. So I did a bit of digging.
And it seems that McDermott has simply extracted the best bits of a rambling 19th century poem by James Hyslop. The result is very powerful but rather mystical. Poem are often rather mystical, however, so a clear effect is still conveyed.
I give below a video of a good performance and end with a listing of the original poem
The words being sung are given at the foot of the video
The original words, by James Hyslop (1798-1827), are as follows:
Let Italy boast of her bloom-shaded waters,
Her bowers, and her vines, and her warm sunny skies,
Her sons drinking love from the eyes of her daughters,
While Freedom expires amidst softness and sighs:—
Scotland's bleak mountains wild,
Where hoary cliffs are piled,
Towering in grandeur, are dearer to me;
Land of the misty cloud—
Land of the tempest loud-
Land of the brave and proud land of the free!
Enthroned on the peak of the dark Highland mountain,
The Spirit of Scotland reigns fearless and free;
Her tartan-folds waving o'er blue lake and fountain,
Exulting she sings, looking over the sea,—
Here 'mong my mountains wild
I have serenely smiled
When armies and empires against me were hurl'd;
Firm as my native rocks,
Calmly sustain'd the shocks
Of Denmark, and Cesar, and Rome, and the World!
When kings of the nations in council assemble,
The frown of my brow makes their proud hearts to quake,
The flash of mine eye makes the bravest to tremble,
The sound of my war-song makes armies to shake;
France long shall mind the strain
Sung on her bloody plain,
Made Europe's bold armies with terror to shiver !—
Shrouded in fire and blood,
Then sung the pibroch loud,
"Dying, but unsubdued — Scotland for ever!"
See at the war-note my proud horses prancing,
Deep groves of steel trodden down in their path;
The eyes of the brave like their bright swords are glancing
Triumphantly riding through ruin and death!
Bold hearts and nodding plumes
Dance o'er their bloody tombs—
Shining in blood is the red tartan's wave.
Dire is the horseman's wheel,
Shivering the ranks of steel
Still victor in battle-field, Scotland the brave!
The poem appeared, apparently for the first time, in "The Edinburgh Magazine" (April, 1821), pp. 360-361.
13 February, 2024
I have had trouble sleeping as far back as I can remember. My nervous system is just too active. For a long time I cured the problem by drinking. I would drink myself to sleep. Sometimes I would drink half a bottle of gin a night.
But that could not go on so in more recent times I have used sleeping pills instead. I relied for a long time on Temazepam, a common benzodiazepine
And the interesting thing is that all my heavy drinking seems to have done no harm. My liver and kidney function tests come back normal. Zero cirrhosis. So I appear to have cut out the booze in time. I would still have one drink a night but that was all
A complication has emerged recently, however. I have prostate cancer -- a pretty common occurrence for an old guy like me. I am on medication to stop the cancer but the stuff I take has the side-effect of waking me up. So my sleep difficulty has got worse recently. The Temazepam is no longer enough to get me to sleep.
I have however just found a new drug combination that works. I take Ibuprofen twice a day followed by Stilnox at bed-times. That works. For three nights running I have now had a normal night's sleep. That might not seem much but it is heaven for me. I am just hoping it continues.
11 February, 2024
My days of wine and roses
Some of the things I write in this post are excerped from things I have previously written here. But with Valentine's day looming over us, I felt inclined to do a summary. Below is the famous poem behind my heading:
"They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream"
In other words, one is expected to have some happy years in one's youth which soon vanish never to return.
I have been much luckier than that. My days have been good most of the time. I have drunk much wine and given many roses. I count my good days as the ones I have been in happy relationships. And in my last 60 years that has been most of the time.
In April, 2021, when I was 76, however, I came out of a long relationship. The older one gets, the harder it becomes to form new partnerships so my prospects of more wine and roses seemed bleak. Many old people die alone.
But my luck held. At the very end of that year, I met Z, a lady of Serbian origin, also in her '70s.
It was not love at first sight but we did like one-another from the beginning and that soon deepened into a very loving relationship. The biggest surprise is that she and I are about as incompatible as it gets. I fail to understand her strong European accent a lot of the time and I am as unfit as she is super-fit. She jogs for miles every day and I walk only short distances. She is still pretty good-looking for her age while my looks break cameras these days. And that's just the start of our differences.
So compatibility is not all it's cracked up to be! You CAN fall in love without it!
So how do I analyse what worked between us? Hard to say definitively but I think it begins with us liking one-another. And we are both around top of the IQ range. She once said: "I used to go for handsome men but they are all stupid!"
I think the main influence that keeps us together is a principle I have always followed: If you find two good things in another person all the rest can be negotiated or adapted to. And the two things I particularly look for in women are a high IQ and a liking for classical music.
And my little Serb has both of those two rare qualities. She is even strongly moved by the music of J.S. Bach. That latter would mean nothing to most people but it is huge to me as I feel the same way about Bach. Mine are minority tastes but as an academic I am stuck with them.
We are also both high-functioning autistics so understand one-another's autistic behaviours when they emerge. The fellowship of the autistics is an unlikely concept but something like that does seem to work for Z and me at times. And aging does mellow one. At my age I have nothing to prove and no need to achieve. So I can just sit back and just enjoy a relationship for what it is.
On Christmas day, 2022 we just lay in bed talking for most of the time together -- with her doing most of the talking, as usual. She spent some time talking about Trajan, which is a pretty intellectual topic. I am myself interested in Roman history so I knew what she was talking about. She has a lot of intellectual interests -- principally in ancient history, European literature and clinical psychology. We have shared high culture interests and that pleases both of us. On one occasion, when Z wanted to mock me as being idle (I am) she quite appositely referred to me as being an Oblomov, which is an allusion to a classic 19th century Russian novel.
On another occasion, Z gave me an extended lecture in moral philosophy. She likes Erich Fromm's rejection of relativism. I said nothing in response but I was familiar with her topic. I have had a few academic articles on the topic published.
Z also has a good sense of humor and a liking for kisses and cuddles. She often has fallen asleep in my arms and I like that. So there was a lot of affection between us. It was a real relationship. It lasted for two years and I have many good memories of it. It still seems amazing to me that I had so many days of wine and roses so late in life.
6 February, 2024
I seem to have lost my litle Serb
I have not seen or heard from her for over a month and in her last text message to me she declared her independence of me.
There are still three other ladies who call on me and I have reorganized my social life around them so I am feeing no loneliness but I do nonetheless greatly regret the loss of an affectionate relationship that lasted two years.
I know she is actively looking for a new partner so I do hope that she finds one that suits her better than I did. She has a good heart so deserves a good relationship
Conicidentally, I have recently come across another Serb lady whom I admire. I have been watching recordings of coloratura operatic singer Radoslava Vorgi?. I think she has the most powerful soprano voice I have ever heard. She is in full voice below
The words (Excerpted by Handel from "At a Solemn Music" by John Milton)
Let the bright seraphim in burning row,
Their loud, uplifted angel trumpets blow.
Let the cherubic host, in tuneful choirs,
Touch their immortal harps with golden wires
She's got blue eyes too:
Die ganze Welt ist himmelblau
Wenn ich in Deine Augen schau\'
Und ich frag dabei: Bist auch Du so treu
Wie das Blau, wie das Blau Deiner Augen
2 February, 2024
A strange day
Yesterday (Thu.) was a very strange day. The strangeness actually started the day before (Wed.). I woke up with slightly sore eyes and slightly blurred vision, which was annoying. My vision was so blurred that I could not read my Greek New Testament. I was having trouble with Zeta, in particular, which is just a squiggle in lower case. Why was I bothering with the New Testament in the original Greek? It is all here:
Anyway, I had a pleasant dinner at Annerley McDonalds with my son that night so I went to bed in a good mood. But next day (Thu.) I woke up early at 4:30am with a ragingly sore right arm. I took various things for it, including Tramadol, which is a rather powerful analgesic. The pain made it difficult to get back to sleep but I managed some sleep and woke up at about 9am with my arm still sore. My eyes had recovered and I could read my Greek New Testament again but that was slight consolation. The arm was so sore that I thought I needed to go to the hopital with it. So I rang Jenny to get her to take me.
But when she arrived, the pain had receded a bit so we thought we should wait and see if the arm got better by itself. I had my usual DoorDash breakfast from McDonalds while we were waiting. The arm did slowly get better. At around 3pm, however, I was chatting to Jenny when I sudenly got nauseous and had a big chuck. I had a chamber pot nearby as a receptacle so no great harm was done and I continued chatting for a while afterwards. But after that I went to sleep for the rest of the day and evening. I woke up at about 10pm and had a big drink of my favourite beverage: Cold water. I felt quite well after all the excitement of the day.
After that I went back to sleep until the morning and feel OK now after my usual breakfast
28 January, 2024
A new earworm
An earworm is a tune you can't get out of your head. I am rather prone to them, But my latest one is a lulu, it is a line from a cantata written by Vincent Lübeck in 1728 in North Germany. My autistic brain comes up with some weirdly intellectual stuff. The cantata is Gott Wie Dein Name.
The line that keeps coming to me is:
Und deine Fusstapfen triefen von Fett
Its a line from the Psalms but I won't translate it as it sounds absurd to modern ears
It is on YouTube:
22 January, 2024
A b*rthday lunch
Anne is having a b*rthday soon so I put on a special lunch for her today. We have a formula for special meals: I get in a dozen French cutlets and she supplies a dozen Sydney rock oysters. The oysters she brought today must have been very fresh as they tasted divine. I can never figure out why people drench oysters with sauces etc. A fresh raw oyster has a taste that cannot be improved.
The weather was hellishly hot -- 37 degrees -- so I took my big electric frypan out on to the verandah where we always get a breeze. So Anne cooked there in a lot more comfort than she would have if we stayed indoors. I have a big pine table on the verandah so we could both cook and dine there
And Anne cooked the cutlets to perfection -- both tender and tasty -- and I had fresh bread to go with them. I opened a COLD bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho, which went down really well with the cutlets. And I even got out my best crystal goblets to drink out of. I ended up having two glasses of wine instead of my usual one.
We finished up listening to music as we usually do. We listened in comfort under air-conditioning. I put on Taras Bulba by Janacek, which Anne liked.
21 January, 2024
A disappointing experience with Uber Eats
The disappointment started as soon as I logged on. They did not have an option to add in something from a nearby shop. Doordash has that service and I do use it.
I ordered from Taco Bell and that was bad too: The chips were cold, the Taco was doughy and I got the wrong drink.
In summary I will not again use Uber eats or Taco Bell. It's a pity because I quite enjoyed tacos when I was in Mexico and the Southern USA. What I got from Taco Bell was weird by comparison
20 January, 2024
Janacek and a double breakfast
The cafe "MK Bower" is in Stones corner at the far end of the restaurant strip
https://mkbowercafe.com.au/ at 433 Logan Rd.
It has a big and very tempting menu and provides outdoor seating as well as indoors. So Anne and I went there this morning. I particulary like their "Off Grid" breakfast. It is only $21 but is so big it is a challenge to eat it all. As well as the customary bacon, eggs and toast, you get two sausages, gourmet baked beans and a dish of chutney. So it is two breakfasts in one.
I failed to eat all of mine but Anne got through just about all off hers. She is a moderate eater in general but can eat up when she likes it enough. And we sat in the shade outdoors so it was a memorably good breakfast.
Then after breakfast Anne asked me to put on the Jancek Sinfonietta, which she had seldom heard in the past. It is a very clangourous piece with lots of brass so is a bit much even for some classical music lovers. I think I introduced her to it as I have aways liked it. It is basically an exciting piece of music. It was written in in 1926 so is "modern"
Anne loved it so I went the next mile and also put on for her Janacek's Glagolithic mass, which is quite similar to the Sinfonietta. Anne liked that too. When it finished it was such an experience that we agreed we could not put on anything appropriate to follow it. I must try her out on Taras Bulba next week
Anne and I normally relax in bed while listening to music but the Janacek interested her so much that she got up several times to have a close look at what the orchestra was doing. The show was from the Czech Philharmonic via YouTube
So we had a morning together that it would be hard to beat
And Jenny is coming over this evening bringing dinner so that will really cap a good day for me
17 January, 2024
The SIT, a most remarkable institution
Would you believe a fully accredited college situated at the end of the world that charges no fees, offers degrees up to doctoral level and is headquartered in a town of only 54,000 people? And it even has a respectable score in the world university rankings
Such is the Southern Institute of Technology, headquarterd in Invercargill, New Zealand. Invercargill is about as close as you can get to Antarctica and still live a normal life. As Invercargill is close to the sea, its temperatures are moderated somewhat, nothing like low Candian extremes
I have family in town at the moment who live in Invercagill so that has sparked my interest in the SIT
The SIT has a number of campuses in addition to the one at Invercargill, notably one at Queenstown and a small tentacle at Christhurch. And all of them are "free" to NZ citizens. They also have around 2,000 overseas students who pay, but mostly not very much -- around $US15,000 per year. The overseas students come mainly from Indonesia and the Philippines, which are warm countries. Invercargil must be a shock
And the SIT has a rank of 400+ in the world university rankings. Not bad when you know that is out of about 11,000 colleges worldwide. The major NZ universities score around 200+ but none are up to the standard of its big neighbour. There are two Australian universities in the top 50 worldwide. I went to one.
The courses listed on the Invercargill campus offer a wide range of technical subjects plus some degree courses. You can become a degree-level nurse, teacher or accountant, for instance
You could certainly do worse than to take courses from SIT. They are fully recognized by the NZ accreditation authorities
6 January, 2024
Two divorces in the one week!
The new year has certainy proved new for me. The first week of the year is not gone and yet it has already featured two divorces for me. Neither Anna nor Zoe is talking to me and there is no indication of if and when communcations will resume.
So I am down from having 5 ladies in my life to only 3. Those three are however around my age, bright and highly compatible culturally. So I am still pretty pleased about my life.
Still, I saw a lot of the divorcing ladies until recently so my life is a lot quieter than it was. I would enjoy any resumption of communications
3 January, 2024
Proof that I am uncool
At age 80, food is a major satisfaction for me. I miss out on some of life's pleasures but food remains. And something that has always been part of that for me is a cooked breakfast. If there is someone at home to cook me a breakfast that is fine but if not I have always gone out to a nearby cafe and ordered bacon & eggs etc. So that is a pretty conventional breakfast
But I have excelled myself lately. I now get all my solo cooked breakfasts from McDonald's via the Doordash delivery service. It costs me about the same as a cafe breakfast and is a lot more relaxed and convenient. So below is the docket I got with my most recent breakafst.
All the cool cats spit on McDonald's from a great height but I see that as mere snobbery. The various ingredients that were once denounced by the "experts" -- fat, salt, and sugar -- have now been rehabilitated by epidemiogical research. Fat is now good for you, excess salt is excreted and if sugar is bad we are all dead. So I am very relaxed about my uncool liking for a McDonald's breakfast
1 January, 2024
A quiet New Year
I am pleased and rather surprised that I have made it into 2024. When you are as old as I am each new year seems a privilege -- even a quiet one
My New Year's eve was not very social. I had a pleasant breakfast with my son Joe but that was it. I had no visitors in the evening. But I had a lot to do with end-of-year blogging so that was no problem. I kept busy. I didn't even get up to watch the fireworks. You can see some of them from where I live.
Today I am scheduled to have lunch with Jenny but nothing else so far. So I am looking forward to lunch. I had a very good breakfast courtesy of Doordash and McDonald's
The Crepe Myrtle tree nearest my back door has responded prolifically to all the rain with a great mass of pink blossom
For posts on this blog in previous years, click
My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher in my 80th year in 2022. 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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