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. More sites for John Ray's blogs: Greenie Watch, Dissecting Leftism, Political Correctness Watch, Education Watch, Gun Watch, Recipes, Australian Politics, Tongue Tied, Immigration Watch, Eye on Britain and Food & Health Skeptic.

Old folk at lunch

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


26 December, 2006

Christmas 2006

I always look forward to and enjoy Christmas. We actually have family get-togethers pretty often (maybe as much as once a month on average) but things are more organized and more fun at Christmas. And Christmas is one time when all the "kids" (now very much adults) are usually there together. And seeing I had a great time helping bring them up, just being once again in one-anothers' presence is always a good feeling.

For Christmas eve I invited my ex-wife Jenny and our son Joe over for a dinner. Pam, a lady-friend of Jenny's who is staying with Jenny at the moment also came along, as did "Nanna" (Jenny's mother). With Anne and me that made six at table, which is about all I can fit in on my small verandah, which is our preferred place to dine.

Part of the reason for the occasion was that I wanted Jenny and Joe to see my newly refurbished living room. There is one picture of it below that shows one part of it but I hope to add more pictures later that should give you a much better idea of it.

The picture does at least show what a good job the floor polishers did and you can see the futon plus a small corner of the Persian rug.

We had Veuve Cliquot champage for pre-dinner drinks and Kassler Rippenspeeren as the main course of the dinner. Nobody wanted to drink much so we did not have any alcohol with dinner but I did serve up some good liquer Tokay and Muscat as dessert wine. The dessert was fruitcake and Red Globe grapes. It all seemed to work well.

On Christmas day, Anne went off for a morning with her family and I joined the usual gang for brunch at Jenny's place. As usual, Jenny had cooked up a storm and there were all sorts of good things to eat. Being a bit of a sausage-freak, however, I ate mainly sausages and ham.

I had driven over in the Humber so immediately after the meal I took a few people who had not yet had a ride in it for a short drive up to the summit of Mt Gravatt -- a local eminence of no great distinction for anything but its proximity.

After that came the present opening and after that was a lucky dip of small presents with each participant taking turns to dip in. Also, however, people are allowed to seize one-another's presents rather than dip into the wrapped and unknown presents on the floor. That is always a lot of fun with much good-natured argument about the desirability of the presents concerned. I ended up with two small cotton "throw rugs" that I have not the faintest idea what to do with.

Anne came over to my place in the afternoon and cooked roast turkey for our dinner that night -- which again went down very well. So I had, in effect, two Christmas dinners that day!

That night we listened mainly to Christmas Carols on the CD player and I was rather taken with one that you do not hear very often: "God bless the master of this house". Some of the words below:

God bless the master of this house,
And all that are therein,
And to begin this Christmas tide
With mirth now let us sing.

(Refrain) For the Saviour of all people
Upon this time was born,
Who did from death deliver us,
When we were left forlorn.

Then let us all most merry be,
Since that we are come here,
And we do hope before we part
To taste some of your beer.

For the Saviour of all people...

Your beer, your beer, your Christmas beer,
That seems to be so strong,
And we do wish that Christmas tide
Was twenty times so long.

As a fairly regular drinker of Crown Lager, I was pleased to see beer honourably mentioned, among other things

Then on Boxing day, Anne and I Humbered down to the seaside at Wynnum and got some brunch goodies from a shop named (I am embarrassed to say) "Pierre's". It was good food anyway and we had it with takeway coffee in a picnic shelter right by the water.

So no complaints about Christmas 2006.

Update: I mentioned Kassler Rippenspeeren above in the belief that anybody interested in what they are could Google it. But Google has failed (or the net has failed) -- as all you get when you Google the term is previous posts by me. So: The term is a German one and means "pork rib spears (spare ribs) the way they do it in Kassel". Apparently they smoke their pork in Kassel. My Brockhaus German-English dictionary defines them as "smoked ribs of pork". What I get from our local German butcher, however, is chops rather than ribs. It's great stuff.

11 December, 2006

More Music

Another musical weekend just past. On Saturday, Ken invited us to a meeting of a group of musicians that he is part of. I gather that they meet at one-another's place and "jam" from time to time. This meeting was at Ken's own place so his friends and family were invited too. The music was what I would call "light" music -- folk songs, blues and the popular music of yesteryear. I know heaps of folksongs so was rather tempted to sing along at times. Anne and I both enjoyed the occasion. Paul and I chatted a lot as usual and I was pleased that Brian Ruffles was in attendance. Brian is a great character and, despite his name, not easily ruffled. He lives in Indonesia these days running various speculative business ventures but was back home in Brisbane for a couple of weeks.

On Sunday there was the Christmas party of our Westside Music Circle. It comprised a BBQ first followed by the usual concert. Anne had been to another function that afternoon so we skipped the BBQ and just had a light meal together by the Brisbane river at a Lebanese restaurant called "Cafe Laila's". I may be wrong but I fancy that the name of the place is taken from the character Leila in Lawrence Durrell's once-fashionable "Alexandria Quartet" of novels.

The concert was unusually good. The performers are usually amateurs and that can led to uneven quality but there were very few sour notes on Sunday. One of the performers played the usual Spanish guitar favourites quite impeccably. I was mildly surprised to see some delicate Mozart played on the piano with perfect expertise by a rather large young chap. Such delicate music from such a large person seemed faintly odd to me.

As usual, I got into the supper afterwards with gusto. There was some excellent apple and raisin strudel that I can still remember and some very fancy sandwiches. After such a big day of socializing, Anne was just about staggering by the time we got home. Even her great social capacity has its limits. And neither Anne nor I had any alcohol all evening.

9 December, 2006

Photos 2006

I thought it might be a reasonable idea to put up here a few of the photos taken during the year.

Below are Anne and myself:

Below is Joe and his girlfriend Sam

Below is my lively stepson Paul and his good-humoured wife Sue

8 December, 2006

Another year down for Joe

Last Sunday, we had a small celebration at Jenny's place to mark Joey doing well in his 2nd year university exams. He did all mathematics subjects this year so at least some of his subjects must have been pretty demanding.

Jenny (Joe's mother) cooked up a storm of mostly Korean food and I bought along a couple of bottles of champagne -- one of which was Veuve Cliquot. Present were Jenny, Joe, myself, Anne, Paul and Paul's Susan. Since there are two Susans in the family, we have to say which one.

Paul was loquacious as usual, which is good as Joe and I are both pretty quiet on family occasions. Paul (Joe's half-brother) is very family oriented and is a great support to Joe -- as he is to his other brothers. And the fact that Korean egg-rolled pork was on the menu absolutely ensured his presence!

This year was actually Joe's third at the University of Qld. as he also did a subject there during his final High School year.

28 November, 2006

Handel and the Skeptics

On Saturday night Anne and I went to St John's Cathedral to hear Handel's Messiah. It was a bit early this year. It is usually in December. As usual, it was put on by the Bach Society. The Bach choir always puts out a good sound despite most of the members being fairly elderly and the soloists were excellent this year. I enjoyed every minute of it. I go to it most years. The photo below is one internal view of St. John's -- with the current architect, Michael Kennedy, in the foreground.

Anne and I had decided to wait until after the performance to have dinner but the performance went from 7.30 to 10.30 so a lot of restaurants had closed by the time we got to Southbank -- which is probably Brisbane's busiest restaurant precinct. We eventually found a Chinese that was open, however, and their food was excellent. I had Satay chicken.

On Monday night I gave a talk on global warming to a meeting of the Brisbane Skeptics. There were about 50 in the audience. There appeared to be a few who already were skeptical about global warming so I hope I added a few more of those attending to the ranks of the global warming skeptics. I think there were quite a few who went away still true-believers, however. Skepticism has its limits. My talk seemed generally well-received. I described environmentalism as a return to mankind's original religion of nature worship and said that global-warming belief is so counterfactual as to prove that environmentalism is a religion.

I did not prepare my talk. Even when I was a university lecturer with an auditorium of 1,000 students in front of me I never prepared anything either. I have always felt that if you have to prepare a lecture you don't know your subject well enough. And speaking extempore always engages the audience more. There is nothing more boring than having a lecture read to you. To speak well extempore you have to be the type to whom public speaking gives no jitters at all, however.

On Tuesday night, I went out to Anne's place for dinner and she cooked us some good roast turkey in her recently acquired Schlemmertopf. I stopped at the big bottleshop on the way over and found some South African pinotage which I grabbed. South African pinotage can be very good. This one was a Nederburg, however, and had too much tannin in the aftertaste. KWV does a better job.

22 November, 2006

Gruene Veltliner

I went out to Anne's place for dinner on Tuesday and stopped by at the big liquor barn near there. They have quite a few overseas wines in stock and among them I spotted some Gruene Veltliner (Domain Wachau). I knew at once that it was a well-known Austrian wine but had never tasted it so I bought a bottle.

We opened it for dinner and, much to my surprise, it was a dry wine -- much like an Australian Hunter valley Semillion or Riesling. I had expected it to be fruity -- as German wines are. The rules must be different in Germany and Austria. It was a pleasant drink, though.

20 November, 2006

The Darby and Mozart

Rather a good weekend just past. The biggest highlights: dining with Michael Darby and another Mozart concert.

Anne and I dined at the Stone's Corner Thai on Thursday evening and we were pleased to see that they have developed a good clientele. They make excellent food and people obviously come back when they discover that. I always have the Penang curry myself. When we first started going there they were pretty empty as they are in a rather out-of-the-way place but they were pretty busy there last Thursday.

On Friday morning we Humbered out to Wynnum and breakfasted at Pommes Teashop -- and heard that the Immigration Dept. is reconsidering its order for them to return to Britain -- which is hopeful news. We both had the English Breakfast, rather unoriginally.

On Saturday night Michael Darby was up from Sydney so Anne and I dined with him and a lady-friend at Ahmet's Turkish restaurant at Southbank. Michael seems to get larger every time I see him. Like me, he spends too much time sitting in front of a computer. True to form, Michael recited some Australian poetry for us -- from C.J. Dennis. He is very good at that. It was a delight to see him. He is such an original.

On Sunday Anne was singing in a choir that was doing an all-Mozart programme at a suburban church in Chermside so I went along. I was glad I did. The programme was a bit odd: The Vespers interspersed with operatic arias. That worked well though. The glorious arias from Figaro etc. brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.

12 Nov 06

In praise of Janacek

Leos Janacek is not everyone's cup of tea -- to put it mildly. He was a very innovative classical composer who has a following only among very musical people. Probably only a minority of even classical music fanciers like his work. But I and several of my friends DO like Janacek.

One of the unsung virtues of Janacek is that he has a powerful room-clearing effect. Years ago, when certain friends and I used to give parties, we would sometimes get sick of our guests and wish that they would go home. It is a not-unknown problem -- one for which many people find no easy solution. But Janacek is a solution! When we got tired of our guests, we just took the popular music off the stereo and put on Janacek. We would be alone in 5 minutes after that! People would even leave things behind in their desperation to escape Janacek!

I recently had reason to re-use the Janacek effect. Some young people moved into the house next door to me. And like most young people, they like popular music and they like it loud -- music which I do not like at all. I at first tried the polite thing and went next door asking them to keep the volume down. That did not work. So I deployed Janacek.

Now if they turn their music up I give them a few minutes of Janacek's Lachian dances. If that does not work, I bring out the heavy cannon -- the Janacek Sinfonietta -- with its very discordant-sounding opening fanfare on the brass.

The first time I did that, they went out. They could not bear it. Now they just take the hint and turn their music off.

I guess I'm a mean old guy but what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If they can play their choice of music as loudly as they like, so can I. And I do.

11 November, 2006

I get a living room

Although I live in a large old traditional Queensland house with 9 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms I don't use all of it myself. I have lived in quite limited accomodation for most of my life so, although I like large houses, I don't really know what to do with them. Filling them with kids was great fun at one stage of my life but that period is now long gone. So I normally let out my unused bedrooms to overseas students -- mostly from India.

Even so, I have for my own use 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, dining room, library, anteroom and verandah. So I thought I was treating myself fairly well. Anne has however told me often that I also need a living room so I have just converted one of the larger bedrooms that had become vacant into a new living room.

It is a largish room of about 4 meters square with a big East-facing window that gets the morning sunlight so is basically quite pleasant. It did however have an old carpet down so I bit the bullet, ripped the carpet up and had the timber floor underneath sanded and coated. The floor needed a bit of rehabilitation before the sandman came but at least no boards needed replacing. Anne and I just had to get all the staples, tacks, nails etc. out. I have done that sort of work on floors often over the years so it was not intrinsically difficult but was a bit onerous for an old guy like me.

Anyway, the sandman came on Thursday and for $440 I now have a gleamingly beautiful timber floor of slash pine. They used good timber for floors in the old days when my house was built.

I am furnishing it a bit sparingly. I have bought a brown velvet futon (sofa-bed) to sit on and also have a good single TV chair. Other than that I intend to have in the room only a TV, a coffee table and a computer desk. I am also on the lookout for an attractive traditional oriental rug ("Persian carpet") for the floor but I may get a Belgian cotton (machine-made) version rather than a hand-woven one. It will depend on what I see that I like. The Belgian ones are so cheap and wear out quickly that it is embarrassing so I think I will look first at the Asian ones.

29 October, 2006

Teashop, Wynnum and church

Anne and I made a very sad discovery on Friday morning. We Humbered out to Wynnum with a 3-tier English morning tea from the very English Pommes teashop in mind and discovered that they will be closing down soon. What a loss! They make the best sausage rolls in Brisbane as well as providing the fanciest morning tea.

Apparently, Australia's idiotic Immigration Dept. has said that the proprietors have to go back to England. The fact that they employ 7 people and provide a greatly appreciated service does not matter, apparently.

They have done nothing wrong. It is just that they do not fit into any category that the bureaucrats allow to settle here.

Queensland State parliamentarian Paul Lucas is appealing on their behalf so emails to him deploring this silly decision would be a great idea.

Australia allows lots of unemployable people from places like the Lebanon and the Sudan to settle here and live off the Australian taxpayer but hard-working English people who create jobs are sent home! Only a bureaucrat could makes sense of it.

On Saturday I was out at Wynnum again. My old sweetheart G. came over to take up my standing offer of a trip in my recently acquired 1963 Humber Super Snipe.

We had ham & salad bread rolls on the verandah first for brunch then drove out to Wynnum and got takeaway coffee there to have by the water. Both Anne and G. are very outdoorsy but the only bit of the outdoors in the Brisbane area that I like particularly is the seaside at Wynnum.

On Sunday, Anne and I went to church.

Ann St Presbyterian is our old church for both of us (some notes about it here and here) and we have a sentimental attachment to it so we do go along on rare occasions. The church was pretty full and there were quite a few young people in the congregation. I was a bit sad to see that ALL the young people were Asian, however. Ann St has a big Korean congegation with regular services in Korean but many of the young members of the Korean families have gone to school here and obviously feel more at home with the English services. I am pleased that they come but sad that the older British-based congegation is not being replaced too.

29 October, 2006

Donizetti and the 39 articles

On Saturday afternoon, Anne and I saw a performance of "Lucia di Lammermoor" by Gaetano Donizetti -- an opera about Scotland written by an Italian! It was performed at the Lyric theatre here in Brisbane -- a beautifully designed large modern theatre that gives just about everyone in the audience a good view of the stage. We had seats in the first tier up.

The scenery was pretty invariant in the modern way and the costumes were a bit mixed. I was pleased to see that the clergyman wore advocates' tabs, as Presbyterian ministers do, but there was not a kilt in sight! Very strange for something set in the Highlands. The odd Tartan cloak or sash seemed to be the only recognition of Scottishness in dress.

There were of course only the four main performers but I was amazed that the cast of chorus/extras was so large. There must have been 50 people on stage at times. I thought I could see government subsidy somewhere there. No wonder opera is so expensive to produce!

I am not much of a fan of 19th century Italian opera (opera for me stops at Mozart) and I usually have a nap of an afternoon so that combination was not good. I had trouble staying awake -- for all the drama unfolding on stage! The plot is incredibly silly by modern standards but I guess it made sense in the time it was written.

It was Anne who particularly wanted us to go along so she enjoyed it, fortunately. I gather that she particularly wanted to see the famous "mad scene" performed. That scene is a major role for a soprano and Anne herself is a singer (soprano) so I can understand her interest.

The opera had a curious aftermath. Anne cooked us some excellent sausages for dinner afterwards and a big storm with lots of thunder and lightning got underway as she was washing up. That inspired her to start singing "How great thou art", because of its allusion to thunder:

O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power through-out the universe displayed.

That hymn is one of the most powerful evangelical hymns ever written and it is a tremendous favourite of mine so afterward we put on a CD of hymn tunes and sang along together! Anne referred to it as "Religious karaoke"! We are both unbelievers these days but share a Presbyterian background and we both love the old hymns. But following Donizetti by hymns had to be a bit eccentric! I enjoyed the hymns a lot more!

Curiously, although Anne does not appear to believe in God in any way, she still has Presbyterian beliefs. How come? She still believes that: "it was all meant to be". The Scottish churches are of course all originally Calvinist and even the 39 "Articles of Religion" of the Church of England accept predestination in a convoluted sort of way but you never hear that belief preached from any pulpit that I know of these days.

But what the preachers have forgotten, the people have not. The old belief is still passed down in families. I remember my own mother and Aunt Maude also telling me with great confidence: "It was all planned out before we were born, John". Yet neither Maude nor my mother were very religious in any obvious sense. I guess there is a religious instinct there -- and I have certainly inherited that. So I happily sing songs of praise to a God I don't believe in. I may be the only atheist in the world who keeps a Presbyterian hymn-book by the side of his bed!

14 October, 2006

Mr Brown

I thought I might put up a photo of the most frequent visitor to my place. I am holding him below. He is a beautiful Burmese cat from next-door who seems to visit everyone in the street regularly.

Why would I call him "Mr. Brown"?

9 October 2006

A musical weekend

My "weekend" started auspiciously when Anne brought over a piece of lamb on Thursday evening and made us a roast dinner. There's no roast as good as a roast straight from the oven to the table. We listened to the music of Purcell and Beethoven afterwards, including Beethoven's 6th., one of the few symphonies I put on often.

On Friday morning we had a very humble but still excellent breakfast -- meat pies. We got them from Muzza's at Coorparoo. Muzza is in my view the best pie cook in Brisbane, which is a bit ironical as he is a Kiwi. Australia is undoubtedly the world headquarters of meat pie eating so it is a bit surprising that it is a New Zealander who makes the best pies. His cakes are good too: Definitely sinful. He even has tiny mini-tarts for weight-watching ladies!

We took our pies to the Brisbane Corso (by the river) to eat, together with takeaway coffee. We found a shady nook there, overlooking the wide brown expanse of the Brisbane river. The birds that came to share our breakfast were a couple of magpies, rather unusually. We usually see either ibises or seagulls. We listened to a couple of the late symphonies of F.J. Haydn after breakfast.

On Friday evening we went to another classical music soiree at Bill's. Bill had dug out some excellent recordings for us and we started off most auspiciously with "Steppes of Central Asia" by Borodin. We also heard a Vivaldi cello concerto, which was new to me. It didn't sound much like Vivaldi but was good nonetheless. I went to sleep that night with "Steppes of Central Asia" playing in my brain -- a pretty good lullaby!

Saturday night was the night of G.F. Handel. There was a choral concert at St John's of the anthems originally played at the coronation of King George II -- with Handel's famous coronation anthems featuring prominently, of course -- though music from Purcell, Tallis and others was also heard. The grand music of Handel and the grandeur of a great stone cathedral were a good match. And, as a monarchist, I was pleased by the frequent cries of "God save the King". Being a bit of a hermit these days, I would not even have known the event was on but Anne grabs every opportunity to get me out of my hermit cave and music is the best lever for that. Anne is as social as I am reclusive. She is definitely a "lady who lunches".

On Sunday morning we Humbered down to the seaside at Wynnum and found a place that sold quite fancy takeaway food. We got takeaway chicken sandwiches, frittata and quiche which we ate in a picnic shelter by the water, followed by a walk along the esplanade. It was a good morning for a walk, being bright and sunny.

On Sunday evening we went to another meeting of our private live-music group. Hearing classical music live has a certain edge over recorded music but I have never quite figured out why. I got a clue from a Haydn cello concerto we heard, though. I was sitting only about 3 feet from the cello player and the cello sounded completely different from what one hears on recorded music -- much deeper, more resonant and dramatic. I thought I knew what cellos sounded like. I didn't!

The cello player was a young but very competent girl. Since Jacqueline du Pre, the cello seems to have become a female's instument. I will forbear from the usual jokes about that. The ladies do an excellent job and that is all that matters.

29 Sept 2006

A 3-tier brunch

Anne and I Humbered out to my favourite seaside suburb -- Wynnum -- to have brunch this morning.

We went there to go to the English tea-house. It is run by a patriotic Englishman who has filled his cafe with memorabilia and photos of England. Last time we were there we noted that he was offering a traditional English morning tea served on a 3-tier cakestand like the one in the pic below. I had never had such a morning tea before but Anne had encountered them before in her travels -- at the Raffles in Singapore, for instance.

We chose Darjeeling tea, which was served in a pot! A change from the teabags that have now become the norm in Australia.

We ordered rather a lot of food so we got a first course of pastries before the cakestand arrived. That man sure knows how to cook pastries! There were the best mini sausage rolls I have tasted plus some excellent slices of pork pie, which I had with English mustard.

When the cakestand arrived it had sandwiches on top (cheese and ham), filled sponge-cake and a lemon meringe tart on the middle tier and scones (which Americans call "biscuits!) and jam ("jelly") on the bottom tier. And it was all served up in a most polite and helpful way by the proprietor -- who was obviously modelling himself on a traditional English butler.

We could not eat it all of course so waddled out of the shop with the leftovers in a box.

26 Sept 2006

A long weekend

Anne and I had a more eventful weekend than usual last weekend.

It started out on Thursday night, when Anne and I went to the local Stones Corner Indian restaurant. I had Balti curry (my favourite) and Anne had Moglai curry. We also ordered two spinach and cheese naan, which were superb. We ordered two lots but could not finish it so we took the remainder home and polished it off later as a midnight snack.

On Friday morning we Humbered out to K& K's Austrian Konditterei at Sinnamon Park.

Anne has recently returned from a trip to Austria but finds that the food at K&Ks compares favourably with what is available in Wien ("Vienna"). I usually have the Bauern Groestl at K& Ks but I changed for once and had their big breakfast. It included some herbed sausage that was especially good. Before we left, we bought an Austrian teacake for later.

We took the teacake with us that night as a contribution to the supper at a classical music soiree we went to. This soiree was a bt humbler than some we go to in that the music was recorded rather than live but it was very good nevertheless. We heard an Italian group playing the popular Vivaldi Lute concerto that was quite inspired. Plus lots of other good stuff.

On Saturday morning we Humbered out to the seaside at Wynnum and visited an English teahouse for brunch. Anne had a ploughman's lunch and I had roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. I am something of a devotee of Yorkshire pudding but you have to get a good version of it. This version was OK. We went for a stroll along the esplanade afterward, which was pleasantly breezy.

On Sunday we attended a family gathering to celebrate Ken's birthday. It was held in a park beside the sea on the South Coast at Paradise Point. It is a very pleasant park. The gathering centred around a BBQ lunch. Anne and I brought along Cevapi for the BBQ, which went down well. I gave Ken a bottle of Tyrrell's Verdelho for a present. Ken and I of course had our usual long chat -- this time about abortion, guns and other serious stuff.

A much more active weekend than I usually have.

17 Sept 2006

Joe Green and British cars

I had an unusually interesting weekend just past.
On Saturday afternoon, Anne rang and informed me that there was to be a performance of the Requiem by Joe Green (Giuseppe Verdi) at the metropolitical cathedral of St John here in Brisbane.

St John's is a magnificent Gothic revival church with soaring stone pillars and arches inside that give a brilliant sound to music performed there and it is in fact a popular concert venue when not being used for services. There is not much faith left in Anglican churches these days (about the only thing sacred to most western Anglicans these days seems to be homosexuality) but they sure own some magnificent buildings.

St John's is only 10 minutes drive from where I live so we went along to listen. I am not much into 19th century opera (opera for me stops at Mozart) and Verdi is of course an operatic composer so all I really know of his music is the famous arias. So I had never heard his Requiem before.

It turned out that St John's was a magnificent venue for it. It is the strangest Requiem you can imagine. There was nothing religious about it at all. The music was pure opera -- with lots of crashing and thundering and drama -- all of which came across splendidly in the vast stone cavern of St John's.

I enjoyed it but the contrast with the dignity and restraint of the Mozart requiem or the Brahms Deutsches Requiem was severe. Still, the most famous piece of religious music there is was written by an operatic composer -- Handel's Messiah -- so Verdi cannot really be criticized for his approach.

And on Sunday morning we went along to an "All British Day" -- a gathering of British made cars -- mostly old -- held in a local park. I of course drove my 1963 Humber Super Snipe and joined fellow owners of Rootes Group cars. Anne and I did however have quite a big wander around the many wonderful old cars that had emerged out of Brisbane garages for the occasion. There was a big old Jag and a Riley that I particularly admired but there were all sorts of rarities there. Most pleasing.

Sept 3, 2006

Father's day

Today was Father's Day in Australia and I was delighted that my 19 year-old son came over in the afternoon and joined me in a drive down to Wynnum (another Brisbane seaside suburb) in the Humber. Joe (my son) has now got very high marks in all three years of his university studies (in Mathematics) so I am of course very pleased to have such an academic son. And he has never given me a moment of worry about his personal life either. There is a picture of him here with his Asian girlfriend.

We bought takeaway coffee and cakes as soon as we got to Wynnum and sat down on the grass a few feet from the sea to eat, drink and chat. We had no sooner sat down than Joe spilt his coffee. I am myself a bit clumsy so it is no mystery where he got a bit of clumsiness from. He was apologetic about the spill but I gave him half of my coffee and remarked that he would probably learn from what he did. I pointed out to him that I give him thousands of dollars every birthday and Christmas precisely so he can make mistakes on the stockmarket and learn from them. I want him to have learnt investing by the time I die and he gets my money to manage.

We talked about politics and current affairs and I pointed out to him the number of fronts on which I am doing battle at the moment. Some of the things I mentioned to him were:

On my FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC blog I am doing battle with the obesity warriors and trying to get the results of the longevity studies known -- which show that it is people of MIDDLING weight, not slim people, who live longest.

On "Dissecting Leftism" I try to demolish the great Leftist coverup of their prewar liking for Fascism and I also pointed out what a myth is the Marxist claim that Fascism was "bourgeois" by referring to a scholarly study which shows that it was WORKING class people, not middle class people, who were over-represented in the Sturm Abteilung (Brownshirts).

I also mentioned to him a couple of things that I have publicized on my Scripture blog -- in particular that Christ plainly did NOT die on a cross but on a single upright stake. The words in the Greek New Testament that are usually translated as "cross" are "Xylon" -- which is simply the ancient Greek word for "wood" -- or "stavros" -- which is simply the ancient Greek word for "stake".

I did however advise him to keep out of all politics at university as it would be bad for his career. So we in fact spent most time reading poetry together. I read him poems by Keats, Coleridge, Blake, Burns, Fitzgerald, Hopkins etc which I myself had mostly read at school but which he had never heard of. Schools these days have robbed our kids of their literary heritage but I am doing my best to see that my son is not robbed in that way.

Sept 1, 2006

Life in a backwater

Anne and I got into my 1963 Humber Super Snipe this morning and motored down to the seaside for brunch. We took sandwiches with us and got takeaway coffee from a cafe close to our destination. When we got there, the park had a few people wandering around but the picnic shelter where we sat down was uninhabited. So we sat there in perfect peace and quiet and had our brunch looking out to sea across Moreton Bay. And there were no "minorities" to trouble us.

The English used to "motor" down to salubrious places once too but from what I hear these days, all that they now do is crawl along in traffic jams. I encountered no traffic jams or holdups at all and we drove through some quite nice green countryside on the way -- so if any English person had been with us it would have seemed to them like a trip back in time.

We did stop at a liquor barn on the way to pick up some choice Tokay. The liquer Tokay that Australian vintners produce is lightyears ahead of the rough red that Hungarian vintners make out of the same grape. Australian liquer Muscat is remarkably good too -- so, if you are a drinker of fortified wines, scrap the Port and go for Australian Muscats and Tokays. It will be a definite step up.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of Anne and I meeting so we are going to celebrate by going to the smorgasbord at the Hilton. The Brisbane Hilton does an impeccable smorgasbord with lots of seafood -- of which Australians are usually very fond. They seem to do the best Sydney rock oysters in town -- large and succulent. If you have never eaten raw Sydney rock oysters, you haven't lived. I know of no other oyster remotely as good.

It is so nice not to live in a "vibrant" place.

24 August 2006

A good student

Is an academic father entitled to be pleased that he has an academic son? Well, I am. The recent doc below pleases me greatly therefore.

Aug 14th, 2006

Soiree thoughts

For all the frantic hate that the Islamists are directing at Western civilization, what they have managed so far is really no more than a fleabite on the vast body of that civilization. The number of us that they have managed to kill pales into insignificance compared with the road toll, for instance. And that is why we have so far tolerated them. We know that they do not seriously threaten us -- at least so far. So for 99% of us life goes on in its accustomed way.

I was moved to that reflection by my own experiences last night. I went to a classical music soiree in a private home here in Brisbane. Being a Sunday night, the roads had very little traffic on them so I zipped from my place to the venue in my little Toyota Echo in about 15 minutes. No Muslims were encountered on the way!

Unusually for me, I was a bit late, so as I walked up the stairs to the house I could hear the marvellously elaborate, ordered and complex music of one of Bach's Brandenburg concertos, which was a great environment to walk into. It was being played by a string quartet of young people but most of the audience were on the elderly side. After the Bach came a movement from one of Beethoven's string quartets -- which sounded quite chaotic after the ordered majesty of Bach. Then we had some songs and arias, mostly sung in the original Italian. Then there was some excellent piano and solo violin music, including more Bach.

I was pleased that the songs were in Italian. Italian was one of my matriculation languages and I have always thought it to be a particularly beautiful language. Translations of Italian songs certainly lose something. Fortunately, I know something of both main languages of music (German and Italian) so I can appreciate singing in both languages without too much trouble. Italians find Germans very alarming but, perhaps partly because I am a member of the world's dominant Volk, I happily get on with both Italians and Germans. Neither bother me and both have valuable strengths.

Although the audience at the concert was wholly Anglo, both the Han and the Ashkenazim were represented among the musicians -- as one expects at a classical concert in Australia these days. Both the Jewish violinist and the Chinese pianist were exceedingly competent -- again as one expects. Both Han people and the Ashkenazim fit effortlessly into Anglo civilization and tend to raise the level of it in so doing. If only we could replace every ten Muslims by one Chinaman, the world would be a vastly better place.

So life went on for me in its normal pleasant way, as it did for 99% of Westerners. People did of course talk about the sadly twisted Muslims but they had no impact other than that. If the Muslims ever do succeed in making a serious nuisance of themselves to large numbers of us, though, I am confident that they will be dealt with effectively. If we all felt really threatened by them, their end would be swift.

Aug 4th 2006

Two follies

Despite being midwinter, it is a beautiful day in Brisbane today: A cloudless blue sky, no wind and a temperature of something like 80 degrees in the old money. I could not stay indoors on a day like this so I got the Humber Super Snipe out of the garage and took a drive down to Wynnum -- a Brisbane bayside suburb. I went for a walk along the esplanade and bought a take-away coffee and cake to enjoy as I sat in the shade looking out to sea.

As I was sitting there, I was thinking about a report about the great difficulties that the U.S. immigration authorities put in the way of many LEGAL immigrants to the USA. It seems that the U.S. authorities go to as great length in avoiding their duties with legal immigrants as they do with illegal immigrants. They make it as hard for legal immigrants as they make it easy for illegal immigrants -- which is the exact reverse of what any sane person would want.

So the first thought that occurred to me was how heedless of all experience you have to be to think that governments can do anything well. As a libertarian, I would think that of course.

My second thought was about the people specifically highlighted in the article. They belong to the group that many people here believe runs America. If they run America, how come the American authorities give them such a hard time?

It seems to me that the influence Jews have in America is proportional to their intellectual clout -- no more and no less. And I am proud to belong to the Volk that gives them such influence. Voelker differ in wisdom as in other things and I think that the long term has shown my Volk to be unusually wise. And part of that wisdom is to tolerate the Judeophobic nonsense one often reads.

30 July, 2006

My 63rd Birthday bash at "A Night in India"

Here I am in all my faded glory -- with Anne:

Old friend George emerged from his hermit cave to help us celebrate:

My feisty stepson Paul with his accomplished and gorgeous wife:

Gorgeous stepdaughter Yvonne with husband

Gorgeous stepdaughter Susan with Nanna

Kenneth is always interesting to talk to

Ex-wife Jenny and Merlie

Son Joe with girlfriend Sam

TWO lots of Asian eyes??

Below is what I wrote about the occasion on Monday 17th. July, 2006:

Unlike a lot of bloggers, I don't write routinely about my personal life but occasionally I do break out and I thought that a birthday is a reasonable occasion to do so. So here comes a very rambling account of my 63rd birthday celebrations on the weekend just past.

The first birthday-related activity was when Jill -- one of the lovely ladies in my now rather distant past -- gave Anne and me a very fine lunch at her place. I drove my recently-acquired 1963 Humber Super Snipe to the lunch and Jill loved it. She did herself live in England in the 60s and at that time drove both a Hillman and a Bentley so she has a soft spot for old English cars.

I kept the Humber out of the garage when we got back from Jill's in order for Anne and me to take it out out that night as well. That night, we drove in it down to Wynnum, which is a seaside area of Brisbane. We had fish and chips on the esplanade, overlooking Moreton Bay, which was very pleasant, despite a rather cold wind. I know a place at Wynnum that does good fish and chips -- which any Englishman or Australian will tell you is important knowledge to have about where you live.

On Sunday morning, my ex-wife Jenny gave Anne and me brunch, with many good things to eat. My son Joe and his Thai girlfriend also attended. It was only a small occasion as the big family gathering was that night.

On Sunday night I hosted a dinner at a local Indian restaurant for "family" -- with "family" being rather loosely defined. There were 18 of us. The family concerned is unusually cohesive by Anglo-Saxon standards and gets together with considerable frequency for various occasions -- particularly birthdays, "visitors from England" etc., so it was certainly my turn to host something. We have a family "Christmas in July" coming up very soon -- an idea which makes sense only to English people living in Australia who have this odd notion that Christmas should happen in midwinter.

An Australian Christmas is of course in midsummer. My earliest memories of Christmas include seeing heatwaves rise like worms off hot bitumen roads -- in the tropics where I was brought up. That must be pretty incomprehensible to most of my readers, I am sure. It is sort of amazing that people could adapt to such extreme heat but the tropical-adapted population from which I come think nothing of it. We are definitely "white niggers" -- white people who are as at ease in the tropics as any black man -- though we get a lot more skin-cancer than black men do.

Anyway, as usual, the Indian food was good and we all enjoyed the occasion. In good traditional Australian/British style, the men mostly talked to the men and the women to the women but Anne is a great communicator so she talked to the men a fair bit as well. I am a rather silent type in person so I am always happy to have a lady in my life to do the talking. The late Hans Eysenck was the same. He wrote so much that he was at one time the world's most cited living psychologist but on social occasions it was his wife Sybil who did most of the talking.

So despite what may seem like some oddities, I greatly enjoyed my two days of birthday celebrations. I even managed to fit in more blogging than I thought I would. You can't keep a keen blogger down!

25 June 2006

Cars in my life

I have always been a demon driver. People who get into my car often emerge shaking. So I buy very small cars -- which enable me to flash through traffic down lanes that are not supposed to be there. I remember one occasion when I upset some guy in a big Ford without being aware of it and he decided to chase me to remonstrate with me. I was just driving in my normal way but it still stretched him to chase me. By the time he caught up with me he was too exhausted to say much to me. If I had been aware of him chasing me, he would never have caught up.

But the cars I drive are not powerful ones. Not at all ones that rev-heads like The Good Blair would approve of. My first car was a VW and those since have always been small and humble too. Though I did at one stage have a Mini K -- which was an Australian version of the Morris Mini Minor but with an 1100cc motor in it -- and did that thing go! There is NO car that is as much fun to drive as a Mini.

At the beginning of 2005, I had two cars -- a 1991 Ford Festiva (really a Korean-made Kia) and a 1995 Daihatsu Charade.

Daihatsu Charade

The Festiva was as near as I had come to a Mini in terms of fun to drive. It was a real Go-Kart. But my son Joe was just starting university so I gave him the choice of which car he wanted to drive and he chose the Festiva. It was a VERY old car as small cars go, however, so at the beginning of this year the motor blew up and I reluctantly gave it away and gave Joe the Daihatsu instead.

I then bought a one-year-old ex-hire Toyota Echo off Hertz for myself.


I had always thought that my Daihatsu was the easiest car to drive ever made but the Echo was even easier. If you see them being driven around the place they are almost always flying and that is because they are such a Swiss-watch of a car. They feel like a single thing to drive rather than a mechanical device.

But that was not enough. I have always wanted a really old car as well, and now that age has slowed me down I thought it was time. Vintage cars are of course wonderful but you virtually need to be a mechanic to keep them going so I have compromised on a veteran car -- and not such a veteran one at that. I have just bought a 1963 Humber Super Snipe off a family who had been driving it since new. It is a big old English car and, as such, bound to need lots of work to keep it going but I have a mechanic friend living just over the road so I think I can afford it! I remember that when they were new the Humbers were being advertised as being able to cruise on the open road at 100 mph but I am not going to try that. I am sure it would blow up if I tried it at this stage in its life.

The difference in handling of the two cars is of course enormous but I used to be a cab-driver many years ago so I am not bothered by big clumsy cars. The style of the Humber makes up for all else, in my view, particularly as the car has been very well-maintained and looks immaculate.

Collecting the Humber yesterday morning was rather fun. Everybody who heard about the impending purchase was enthusiastic and none more than an old friend who was born and bred in Coventry, England, where the Humber was built. The first car he ever drove was a Humber so he couldn't wait to see my Humber and came along with me to collect it. And my stepson Paul was equally enthusiastic. He and his wife drove us out to collect it and both were delighted by the car.

When we got the car home, we all had steak pies, teacake and tea on my verandah to celebrate.

I have posted some photos of the Humber here

19 June 2006

The Queen’s birthday

Seeing I am a monarchist, I am delighted by the following

LONDON: British soldiers in bearskin hats marched before Queen Elizabeth II and military jets saluted her with a flypast over Buckingham Palace on Saturday during a second round of 80th birthday celebrations. And for the first time in the Queen’s reign, troops assembled in the palace forecourt gave the feu de joie (fire of joy), a traditional military salute consisting of a series of volleys of shots interspersed with snatches of the national anthem. Thousands of well-wishers—many waving small Union Jack flags—yelled “happy birthday” to the Queen, who waved back with a white-gloved hand.

Elizabeth, wearing a deep purple coat and hat, rode down the Mall near the palace in an ivory carriage, built for Queen Victoria in 1842, for a morning of pageantry at the Horseguards Parade ground in central London. Mounted members of the Household Cavalry wearing golden armour rode before her.

Later, 49 aircraft—led by Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster bomber commemorating the World War II Battle of Britain—flew by as she and her family watched from a balcony at the palace. The Trooping of the Colour parade marks the Queen’s official birthday every June. She was born on April 21, but the official, outdoor celebration comes two months later, when the chance of warm weather is better.”

28 May 2006

Sunday Night with "Don Giovanni"

A small memoir of a pleasant evening last Sunday (28th. May):

Even in quiet little old Brisbane, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart is a big deal -- with many concerts in celebration being put on. The latest one that I attended -- last Sunday -- was a concert performance of the famous opera "Don Giovanni".

Anne and I went with another couple, Jill and Lewis. Jill is actually an ex-girlfriend of mine but in my usual way I have kept in touch with her. We have a very similar love of music -- which is a very significant bond. Both Anne and Lewis put up with that past with good grace as they understand the nature of the bond.

Before the concert I made a simple dinner of sandwiches for us all -- thick-cut Gypsy ham with American mustard, lettuce and tomato -- on fresh grain bread. Being a sandwich-lover, I know how to make a good sandwich -- though that is about the limit of my culinary talents. We had planned to have the sandwiches in the park adjoining the concert venue but the weather looked a bit overcast so we had them on my verandah

As a concert performance, the sets for the opera were minimal but the costumes were reasonable and the singing was good. As always, I particularly liked the bass singer (Don Pedro), who was very competent.

It did however have the casting problem that plagues all opera: Singers wildly out of character but chosen for their voices -- as it has to be, of course. On this occasion, Don Giovanni was a quite insignificant guy and not at all convincing as a great lover -- but he had an excellent baritone. And in an amusing reversal, instead of large and aging ladies being cast as young girls, we had a young girl cast as an older woman!

The concert was in one of Brisbane's old powerhouses, converted some years ago into a performing arts centre now that Brisbane gets its electricity from vast generators situated alongside equally vast central Queensland coalfields. The conversion into an arts centre deliberately retained a fair bit of the original powerhouse interior. The idea of that was undoubtedly "arty" but it works well enough and I of course am very much in favour of retaining reminders of how we all got to where we are today.

The most surprising thing about the night was the audience. Far from being geriatric, there were people there of all ages, with a good representation of young people. I like to think that we have the universal appeal of Mozart to thank for that.

May 6, 2006

A Curate's Egg

Right Reverend Host: "I'm afraid you've got a bad Egg, Mr Jones!"; The Curate: "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!"

Anne's sister plays the flute in an amateur orchestra and various of her relatives usually go along to the concerts in support. There was a concert on tonight and Anne asked me to come along with her. I asked about the program but when I was told that it was only about 50% classical, I declined politely. Anne however hinted that she might feel unloved if I did not come so I of course at that point crumbled like a sandcastle on a beach.

The concert was in a very well-appointed auditorium attached to a large Anglican school. The concert started well with a fanfare from Carmina Burana but then the talking began. Why amateur entertainments have to be preceded by rambling speeches I do not know. When I went recently to the Mozart Requiem concert given by a professional orchestra, not a word was spoken, as was once the unvarying tradition. Even at professional concerts these days, however, conductors do sometimes burst into prose. If I wanted speeches I would go to a lecture. I go to concerts for music.

There were both pleasant and unpleasant surprises in the music. I was looking forward to a performance of the well-known Schubert/Goethe Erlkoenig. It is a famous German poem so I even know snatches of the words from it. But on this occasion, there was no singer. To play German Lieder without a singer seems incomprehensible to me but it was a purely instrumental version that we got.

A more pleasant surprise was a performance of a movement from one of Bach's Brandenburg concertos. It was done by a saxophone ensemble! Crazy as such instrumentation sounds, it worked. What I particularly liked was that the continuo was done by a bass saxophone -- which was a lot of work for the bass saxophonist. The continuo is of course normally done by the harpsichord, which gets rather swamped by the other instruments. But the bass saxophone brought it up loud and clear.

Another surprise was a work I had never heard of: "River of the Ancients" by Michael Sweeney, a 1994 composition. Sweeney accomplished what was undoubtedly the secret goal of most 20th century composers -- to emulate Stravinsky. Lacking Stravinsky's talent, all of his emulators that I know of just made a noise -- but this Sweeney piece sounded like something from the master. So if you like Stravinsky (as I do), you now have another CD to chase up.

Anyway, the orchestra was surprisingly good. You would not really know that they were amateurs. The concert was organized so that most of the non-classical stuff was in the second half so Anne had mercy on me and we left at intermission.

April 29, 2006

Hat hair

What the devil is hat hair? I am betting that 99% of the male readers here have never heard of hat hair. Yet it is a matter of grave concern to many women. But fear not! As an old guy wise in the ways of women (or so I kid myself on my good days), I can enlighten you.

So is hat hair a pesky sort of hair given off by hats? Noooo. Far from it. Let me explain: Anne and her sister are going on a walking tour of Austria later this year (Yes. Austria, not Australia) and in the evening after each day's ramble they are going to go to a concert of classical music. But there is a big problem. Anne's sister feels that she cannot possibly go to a classical concert with hat hair. Hat hair, you see, is what happens to your hair when you take your hat OFF -- and both ladies will be wearing hats during their daytime rambles. Have you got the picture yet? You see, if you have fine hair (which Anne's sister does) you can see where the hat has been during the day. There is a MARK in your hair produced by the hat! Anne has thick wiry hair that just goes "Sproinggg!" and resumes its accustomed shape when she takes her hat off. There is a picture of Anne and her sister below

So hat hair does not bother Anne one bit but a solution still has to be found to her sister's problem Suggestions welcome.

14 April 2006

Good Friday

Anne was determined that we were going to go to a church service on Good Friday. Unfortunately, I had had a rather sleepless night the night before so I woke up a bit after 8am. But when I did, there was Anne hovering over me all dressed up for an outing -- complete with red sandals. So I knew it was going to be a happening morning.

Most churches have their Good Friday services at a rather unearthly hour from my point of view but somewhere deep in the ratlike recesses of my brain was a conviction that the Prebyterians would be more humane about such things. So after a good face-washing, a hot-cross bun and a cup of tea we headed out in the direction of the Ann St Presbyterian church, which is for both of us our old church.

I had hoped for a 9.30 am service but it was unfortunately a 9 am service so we were a few minutes late in arriving. As we were walking from the car to the church however I sang the Doxology by myself -- so that got us started in proper form. I sang it in full voice so it is lucky the streets were fairly empty at that hour. Anne of course is used to my eccentricities. We arrived about half way through the opening hymn, "There is a green hill far away", so I was a bit peeved at missing the whole of such a good hymn.

Much to my surprise the old church was packed and we had to do that which all churchgoers avoid -- sit up the front. Sitting up the front meant however that I noticed a few things I had not noticed before. In particular, I was a little surprised to see a plaque beneath the pulpit bearing the legend: AMDG. I thought that to be a bit "Popish" for a Presbyterian church but I suppose Latin is the property of all humanity. It is of course an ancient ecclesiastical abbreviation for "Ad Majorem Gloriam Dei", or "To the Greater Glory of God".

The congregation was of course mostly elderly but it was pleasing to see some young people there too. There were even a few babies! And there was one lady wearing a rather impressive big black hat. It is amazing how hat-wearing seems to have gone out of style among women in congregations these days -- from Catholics to Jehovah's Witnesses. Very strange in the light of 1 Corinthians 11:13. The minister, Archie McNicol, wore his academic gown throughout of course -- though supplemented by a large and attractive royal-blue stole. Wearing an academic gown is of course an expression of the traditional Scottish reverence for education.

Mr. McNicol gave the expected long opening prayer in his delightful Edinburgh accent. There was rather a lot in it that I liked. His petition that people be saved from the "delusions of the Devil" certainly made it clear that we were not in an Anglican church. There is plenty of that sort of language in The Book of Common Prayer but it is not heard from any Anglican pulpits these days that I know of. Though perhaps you would hear it in the Sydney diocese. Mr McNicol also very traditionally prayed for blessings on the Queen and the members of the Royal family and prayed also for divine guidance for the "authorities that rule over us" -- An allusion to Romans 13: 1, of course. Particularly pleasing however was that he prayed for members of the armed forces overseas who were fighting "for freedom and liberty" -- A genuine appreciation of reality that one expects from a conservative Christian.

You will note that I refer to the minister as "Mr". That is the Presbyterian way. Presbyterianism is a very democratic form of Christianity -- with the congregation and its elders being supreme rather than the minister.

Being Easter, it was of course a Communion service and in the modern way all were invited to partake. But although I have much more appreciation of traditional Christian culture than most atheists do, I did not. I am not that much of a hypocrite. Nor did I join in the recitation of the Apostle's creed or the Lord's prayer. I certainly joined in the hymns however, and our final hymmn -- "Rugged Cross" -- was one of my favourites.

Rather oddly, throughout the service, the organ was supplemented by a solo violinist and, instead of an organ voluntary at the close of the service, the violinist played "He was despised and rejected" from Handel's Messiah -- which was great to hear.

When we got home, Anne cooked us some smoked haddock for a late breakfast, which was at least very Scottish, though not, of course, to everyone's taste. We had it with toast, Rotkohl and pickled cucumbers.

Afterwards we put on Bach's Passio secundum Mattheum, with Fischer-Dieskau singing baritone. You can't get better Easter music than that. When we got to the great aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein" ("Make my heart pure") I was moved to tears as I usually am when I hear it. The combination of supreme Bach music rendered in the incomparable voice of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is just too perfect.

And so began our day.....

12 April 2006

A New Zealander’s view of Brisbane

Where I live. New Zealanders are used to living alongside a lot of Polynesians

Is New Zealand columnist Daya Willis sure she really visited Brisbane? Last weekend she attacked the city, claiming it to be the “mono-cultural capital of Australia”, a racists’ paradise and cultural backwater, through her article in the country’s biggest-selling weekend newspaper, The Weekend Herald. Perhaps her tour bypassed Brisbane’s great melting pots for the six days she was in the River City.

West End’s Boundary Street, New Farm’s James Street, Brunswick Street Mall, the Asian influences of Sunnybank, Moorooka’s Sudanese, our numerous markets and New Farm’s Powerhouse.

“Brown people are still rare enough to attract sideways glances in suburban Queensland,” she wrote. “Travellers should not opt for Brisbane if they’re after a taste of indigenous culture. They should not, in fact, opt for Brisbane if they’re after a taste of any culture besides white Australia, because they will be bitterly disappointed.”

The director of inner-city theatre and events venue the Powerhouse, Andrew Ross, said: “She did not go shop where I shop, eat where I eat or walk down the same streets. “She certainly did not venture down to the Powerhouse, where New Zealand’s greatest contemporary Polynesian band Te Vaka played recently.”

Brisbane city councillor Tim Nicholls said: “I disagree substantially with what she has said. You don’t have to go far to see great and diverse festivals. She obviously did not go very far or open her eyes very wide. “She has all the hallmarks of the chardonnay-sipping social elite, any one who spends any time in Brisbane knows of our culture diversity, it is reverse snobbery,” he said.

Willis was apparently admitted to hospital for chronic dehydration on day three of her visit, so her “not nice” aspects of Brisbane may be tainted. They include oppressive summer heat; numerous brash inhabitants; bland, mall-style shopping; hand-sized spiders; lack of footpaths and a flavourless, one-dimensional cultural mix….

Brisbane Festival director Lyndon Terracini said: “I think she needs to get a life. Brisbane is an incredibly progressive, vibrant and adventurous city, and 200 people move here a day. When the festival comes out it will show we are one of the best cities in the world. “I have never heard that view from anyone. It is the most perverse, idiotic thing.”

Not surprisingly, the article was entitled “White man’s paradise”. “Even the white people of Brisbane feel roundly similar: suburban, middle-class, conservative,” she wrote. “Having done time in the mono-cultural capital of Australia, it does strike me that hanging out with people much like oneself for all the hours that God sends might get a bit limiting.”,20797,18801882-3102,00.html

9 April, 2006

An expedition into Volkskultur Intellectually, I have been an utter atheist for over 40 years but emotionally I am still the Bible-bashing Protestant fundamentalist I was in my teens. And one consequence of that is that I have a great love of Christian music, including popular hymns. So I feel very much at home with ALL the sacred music of my Volk. I would scarcely be a lover of Bach otherwise as his inspiration was very much in German Protestantism and its great music.

So when Anne suggested that we attend a "Festival of Praise" last night at the Logan Entertainment Centre (a municipal facility in a working-class part of the Brisbane area), I was perfectly happy to go along. Since she came into my life Anne has done a fair bit towards demolishing my previous reclusive lifestyle!

When we arrived, I noticed that the audience was 100% "Caucasian" (which seems to be the American euphemism for "white" -- a term one uses at some risk these days. Though the connection most "Caucasians" have with the Caucasus is very distant indeed). And I would guess that most of the audience were Anglo-Celtic too. Some people don't like that term "Anglo-Celtic" but seeing I am myself Anglo-Celtic in ancestry, I see no problem with it.

It was a little troubling, however, that only about 5% of the audience were younger than 40. The average age might well have been as high as 60. So perhaps I am writing about something that may vanish rather soon.

The music was provided by "The Brisbane Festival Male Voice Choir", with an average age similar to the audience but who were nonetheless in very good voice. The only accompaniment was a white Yamaha baby grand piano but there were a couple of microphones under the lid so it was completely adequate to its task. The pianist played in a very confident and emphatic style so that helped to give the occasion an evangelical "revival" feel. And a revival meeting it was. The emphasis was on the choral singing (with 15 songs/hymns in all) but there was preaching at every break in the music from the preacher-man MC --preaching in a very familiar evangelical style, with short sentences, lot of pregnant pauses etc. I was there for the music but I didn't mind the preaching. I was pleased that their old-time religion could still give many of our Volk hope and comfort.

And the music was not disappointing. We started out with a rendition of the national anthem, including the "apocryphal" third verse. I reproduce the whole thing below:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We've golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

With Christ our head and cornerstone,
We'll build our Nation's might.
Whose way and truth and light alone
Can guide our path aright.
Our lives, a sacrifice of love,
Reflect our Master's care.
With faces turned to heaven above
Advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia fair.

It's pretty good stuff in my opinion and it was sung with great gusto by both audience and choir.

The next thing I found memorable was a barbershop quartet, who did four songs in all. They were excellent. If you don't know barbershop singing, you are really missing something. They got huge applause of course.

The audience got to sing a few more times too. Our next opportunity was a rendition of "Old Rugged Cross", one of my favourite hymns, so I did my best to belt it out. Later on we had some simple evangelical-style chorus music which I did not know but they were undoubtedly good tunes for their purpose.

Another highlight was a quite remarkable soloist -- a good basso profundo. Very rare to hear a solo in such a low key. I am sure half the females in the audience fell in love with him.

So I greatly enjoyed all the music but one sad reflection I had at the end was that it probably could not have happened in America. After unremitting legal onslaughts from the Left, I gather that Christian preaching in a local government facility would just not be allowed. How sad for Americans!

So that was my Saturday night. Tonight we are off to a classical music soiree. I guess I am not much of a hermit any more!

(In case anybody has not worked it out yet, Volkskultur literally means "People's culture", but Volk has much greater depth of meaning than "people" -- as I have mentioned previously)

1 April 06

Another high culture expedition: Mozart

Seeing it is the weekend, I thought I might be forgiven for an even more discursive post than usual

Having become something of a recluse in my old age, I rarely go out these days. Only my addiction to classical music occasionally gets me moving. As Mozart is my second favourite to Bach and as this year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Mozart, however, I decided (or Anne decided) that it would be a good time for me to go to a Mozart concert. So we went this evening to a performance of the famous Requiem (in the Beyer realization).

To help get us in the mood for some of the greatest of German music, we had some good German peasant food for tea before going to the concert. For starters we had some excellent Zwiebelfisch (raw herring pickled with onions, peppercorns etc) followed simply by ham and mustard on Roggenbrot (black bread). The ham was the strong-tasting Gypsy ham, which I got from our local Croatian delicatessen.

When we arrived at Brisbane's newish and first class concert hall, I was amazed at the crush of people. Every seat was booked. I was of course delighted to see such a robust following for Kunst und Kultur so far from its homeland. The Requiem is rather sombre by Mozart's standards, so had I thought it might not attract a big audience.

The audience was of course overwhelmingly of Northern European appearance, though there was also a good scattering of North Asians -- mostly Han, I think.

We had the overture from Zauberfloete for starters followed by piano concerto 27 (his last). While I was listening to the concerto I kept thinking that it sounded more like Kammermusik than something for a full orchestra so I was rather pleased to note later that the program notes also decribed it as having "a chamber-music mood".

When we got to the Requiem after intermission, the forces available were excellent. There was a huge choir and a strong string section -- including 4 double basses and six celli. Other than that however there was only a few brass players. The big traditional pipe organ (much acclaimed when it was built) supplied the wind sounds.

Slightly suprisingly, the conductor was European -- Estonian in fact. Half a world away from Europe we still needed European talent. Since by far the greatest part of classical music is of Northern European origin, however, I suppose it stands to reason that Northern Europeans should have the best feel for it.

The Requiem itself was so absorbing that it seemed to me to take only 15 minutes, though I believe it took more like an hour. I greatly enjoyed the complex music of my Volk (using that term somewhat broadly) and I was nearly as pleased to see that many others of the Volk still do too

21 March 06

A birthday concert: Bach

Today is of course the birthday of J.S. Bach -- of whom I am a great afficianado. So Anne and I went to an organ concert at a nearby Lutheran church to celebrate the occasion. Both the organ and the organist were excellent and Bach's ringingly self-confident music grabbed me from the very first notes.

The thing that inspired this post however was the prominence of East Asians on the occasion. The man selling tickets at the door was Chinese in fact. It reminded me that I have often read that the great Western classical music has a proportionately much bigger following in China and Japan than it does in the West.

I am very grateful for that. It could well be that Western culture is now decadent and much of our glorious cultural heritage stands in danger of being largely lost. I was for instance horrified to find out that, at the end of his high school years, my son had never heard of such great English poets as Wordsworth and Coleridge. I promptly sat down and read him some of course. The only introduction to poetry that his school gave him was to a very minor black poet! I happen to have known the black poet concerned (Kath Walker) and can tell you that she was essentially a whiner and little more.

So our kids are being de-educated and de-acculturated and it seems possible that there will one day be very few of our Volk left who will know enough to carry on the knowledge and appreciation of past wonders and attainments. That Asians may keep alive what we do not is therefore some comfort to me. While there is life there is hope.

When I first heard the music of Bach at age 13 it was an electrifying experience for me. It would be sad indeed if the generations to come never got the exposure that would introduce them also to our crowning musical achievements. But I think that lack of exposure is probably already happening in far too many cases. So if Asians keep alive our great cultural traditions it will all be to the good.

19 Feb 06

The precentor and the dragon

What is a precentor? You haven't a clue have you? Shame! A precentor is a senior official of a cathedral or other large ecclesiastical establishment. It is all part of your European Christian background and culture. To defend your culture you first have to know about it. So try harder. The precentor originally led the singing and he is still usually in charge of a cathedral's musical affairs -- though he also is a senior administrator generally -- often the next down in seniority to the Dean.

I met a precentor today. Anne and were were in town for a stroll and noticed a service in progress at the metropolitical cathedral of St John (Anglican) so we popped in for a biscuit and a sip of wine. (Just joking! Atheists don't take communion). Anyway the music was good, the service was delightfully mediaeval and we had a quick chat with the precentor afterwards. In the absence of the Dean (who was over at the CATHOLIC cathedral in some good cause!) the Precentor celebrated the Eucharist so also had hand-shaking duties afterwards.

I must admit that I was a bit fuzzy about what precentors actually did -- partly because the duties of precentors do vary -- so I was pleased to meet a live one and find out what he did. He was indeed 2IC to the Dean.

After church we strolled down to the Botanical Gardens for another sit-down and had a very fat dragon (an 18" long lizard) come up to us in an apparent quest for food. A very pleasant Sunday morning!

9 February, 2005

On apathy

I was at university during the Vietnam war and the University of Queensland was as frantically antiwar as most universities were at that time. Like the USA, Australia both had conscription and had troops in Vietnam -- and the young treasures at university definitely did not want to get shot at. In such a climate, to be vocally pro-war was almost impossible (though I was) but one group of dissenters got around that by forming what they called "The Student Apathy Group" (SAG). Apathy was almost the only respectable way of dissenting from the prevalent Leftist line. Also studying at the time was a very good humoured Australian Army Major named Imre George Apathy -- of Hungarian origin and universally known as "Bob". When SAG heard that there was a real-life student Apathy on campus, they promptly made him their patron!

So I think it is clear that apathy can be useful at times. And it is in fact very prevalent. I was at a birthday BBQ recently with a small group of perfectly decent ordinary Australians where I supplied the sausages. At one point I said: "And you will be pleased to know that the sausages are halal" I got exactly the response I expected -- total incomprehension. I might as well have said that the sausages were "haram" (forbidden). It was just another indication that those of us who blog, read blogs or just keep up with current events are in fact well out of the mainstream. The average person is interested only in events that affect him or her directly and personally.

And I think that is a good thing. Australia has benefited greatly from economically rational economic policies introduced by both major political parties so Australians can afford to be apathetic. Whichever party gains power will almost certainly do a better job of managing the economy than do most of the world's governments. But apathy has its price. The U.S. economy is not as well managed as the Australian one -- witness the vast U.S. agricultural subsidies -- but Americans have a somewhat higher standard of living than Australians because they are so highly motivated and therefore work harder. By contrast, Australians would rather go to the beach most of the time. And they often do.


Yes. I did join the Australian Army (I became a sergeant) and I did volunteer for service in Vietnam. Incomprehensible, I know. Definitely not apathetic.

In my army days

30 January, 2006

An aboriginal Sunday

This post will encourage Leftists to shriek "racist" and "Nazi" at me but they regularly shriek that at GWB and heaps of other conservatives so I am going to disregard such shrieks as devalued currency.

I grew up with Aborigines (Australian native blacks) in my class at school and I have seen plenty of them since -- particularly as a landlord (Yes. I HAVE let rooms and houses to them. Racists do that, you know) -- so I think I know a bit about them. And if you are looking for "cultural" differences, Aborigines must be as different from people of Northern European ancestry as you can get. And the reason why is that they were isolated in Australia from other populations for up to 60,000 years (on some estimates). So they evolved separately. And they evolved to suit Australia as it originally was. And the abilities they evolved -- particularly a remarkable capacity for observing and remembering minute details of the landscape -- do in some ways leave the rest of us for dead. In other ways, however, they are badly lacking in what is needed to fit into modern Western society -- a strikingly poor ability to plan ahead being their most obvious handicap. They very much "live for the day".

One thing I have always envied them is their ability to relax. They can sit around under a tree all day happily doing exactly nothing. I, however, am one of those instinctively hard-driving people who is genetically from the far North of the world. And the fact that, in my retirement, I post daily to seven blogs of my own and contribute frequently to four group blogs is, I think, some testimony to that. It is as hard for me to sit back and do nothing as it is easy for Aborigines. But yesterday I managed it. Just as Aborigines often do, I spent the whole day sitting around and doing practically nothing other than some intermittent chatting. Anne accompanied me in this experience, of course. She is probably more full of beans than I am these days, however, so she caved in first and shot off to do something at about 7pm. She spent many years as a remote-area nurse working with (and getting on with) Aborigines so knows them even better than I do. So she knew all about the model I had in mind when I said we were having an Aborigine day. She enjoyed it but she couldn't keep it up! Genetics will out.

26 January, 2006

Australia day today

Australia day is a national holiday. It commemorates the arrival in Australia of the first white settlers on 26 Jan., 1788. So I guess it is terribly politically incorrect these days. There is minimal criticism of it, however. My many relatives on my mother's side have for many years been celebrating it with a get-together over a BBQ. It is normally the one time of the year that we see one-another so it is nice to have that opportunity to keep in touch. There are usually about 20 of us. The children who were brought along by their parents many years ago still come -- now bringing their own children with them. And that of course is a great delight to us all.

My Burns Night last night was a great (if lowkey) success. The cockaleekie soup, haggis, tatties, neeps and clootie dumpling were all first class. Pipe music was played, the haggis was properly addressed and favourite Burns poems were read. We were all a bit too old to hit the Scotch whisky too heavily, though.

25 January, 2006

Burns night

Monday was Anne's birthday and preparations also had to be made for Burns night on Wednesday (TODAY!) so I was busier than usual. At 9am I set out to track down and capture a haggis for Wednesday dinner. And it was in fact more of an expedition than I had expected. Being a lazy sod, I don't make my own haggis but get it off a very talented man who is both a master butcher and a brilliant pastrycook. Visiting his shop is always a great pleasure. His website is here. I usually get to his shop by taking an exit off the freeway that leads straight to the shop but on Monday I discovered that the bureaucrats who know better what is good for us than we do ourselves had closed that exit off. So I spent half a nerve-frazzling hour trying to find an alternative route to the shop. I eventually succeeded more from luck than good management. And, Yes, I DID stop and ask for directions at a nearby service station but the young girl on duty there did not have a clue, not too surprisingly.

Anyway, I did finally get my haggis plus some clootie dumpling for dessert. I am marking the birthday of the poet in a very low-key way this year. No speeches etc. There will be just four of us at my place to share some haggis and probably read some of the poems. For those unfortunate souls who have never been to a proper Burns night, you can at least read about it here. My own previous post on it is here.

Anyway, on Monday night I took Anne to the Hilton for the smorgasbord. The Hilton smorgasbord is probably the dearest in town but the food is probably also the best -- including a big bucket of the incomparable Sydney rock-oysters in prime condition. I had bought Anne some white slacks (of a very un-slack kind) plus an embroidered white top for the occasion and she got into high heels for what she said was the first time in 40 years so she looked pretty good to me. For some inscrutable reason she seemed to think that I looked good in a blue shirt and grey slacks but there is no accounting for taste. Anyway, we people in our 60s can still have a lot of fun, surprising though that news might be to much younger people.

1 January, 2006

A new year begins

I am writing this in the wee small hours of 2006, my New Year's Eve celebrations having just concluded. Ann and I went to a social occasion earlier in the evening but we spent the last couple of hours of the old year in one-another's company only. As midnight approached we put on a tape of "Andy Stewart's Hogmanay". Even an ersatz Scottish New Year is better than no Scottish New Year! We greatly enjoyed it anyway. I have always loved the great old Scottish sentimental songs and Andy gave us a great selection of them. The Scots know who they are and what they are.

For most recent posts on this blog, see here. Memoirs for 2005 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 68 at the time of writing in late 2011. 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!