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.

Old folk at lunch

As Oscar Wilde may have said: "Life is too important to be taken seriously". But the Hagakure had the idea too: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly"


28 December, 2012

Pics from NZ

In the belief that some of the many beautiful pics Von sends us from NZ might gain appreciation outside the family, I occasionally put some up on Facebook accompanied by my comments. Here are the latest:

My comments: Little lambs are cuddly. And they inspired one of the greatest poems in English -- by Blake. But in no time at all you have a large SHEEP instead

My comments: A little Dutch girl with her Dutch grandfather. She's eating peas fresh from the garden. In New Zealand. Such a kind face. No wonder she loves her "Poppy".

25 December, 2012


I got up too late to go to church. Had a leisurely breakfast of croissants and jam with Anne instead. I am rather nonplussed at how early most of the Christmas church sevices are. There is a rather nice Anglican church just one block away from where I live but their Christmas service is at 7am! Whom are they kidding? At least it is 9:30am at the cathedral. When I used to be a regular at Presbyterian services in the '60s, the morning service began at 11am! Much more civilized.

I got to the family Christmas do at Paul's place at about noon and talked mainly to Joe.

The lunch was ham plus roast lamb plus roast chicken, all of which were good.

After lunch Paul skyped Vonnie in from NZ and we all had a chat with her. I missed seeing her at the do on 23rd. Practically all the family were there except her. So it was good to catch up. I discovered that I had bought Hannah a bicycle with trainer wheels for Christmas, which she really liked. I just tell people (mainly Jenny) to buy whatever they think fit as presents from me and I just pay, which is a very satisfactory arrangement for all concerned. I have selected some great gifts that way!

The biggest excitement for the day (aside from seeing Von) was the dessert: Trifle PLUS Pavlova -- two of my favourites.

I found Timmy lying flat on the floor of the billiards room at one stage. I think he had been bending the elbow a bit much. But otherwise everybody just sat around talking. It was a relaxing and congenial party rather than an eventful one.

About 3pm Joe and I left for my place and we had chats over a cup of tea on my verandah -- discussing "secret men's business". I was pleased that he seems to have no money problems. He lives on his scholarship income without difficulty. I have always been that way too. We also discovered a few more parallels between our lives -- things that I did when I was younger and similar things that he has done recently.

Joe has taken a great interest in diet, health and fitness in recent times so he told me a bit more about that. He seems to be putting it into practice in a reasonable way. He certainly looks fit.

Hannah on her new bike

23 December, 2012

Big Christmas lunch

Suz and Russell put on a traditional Christmas lunch today that also featured what has become a family tradition: A secret Santa event plus a mystery present event. Everybody brings along a wrapped $10 present for the latter event and people draw lots to select a present one after the other. And presents can be claimed from previous lot-drawers, which is always a high-spirited event.

And after that we had the kiddy present event, where only the little ones got presents. For that I gave Sahara a "First Bible", which was a rather kiddy-proof collection of illustrated Bible stories. Susan reminded me that I had given her a book of Bible stories when we sent her to the Catholic schoool in Gordonvale -- which she had good memories of. So Saharah's "First Bible" got a good welcome.

Russ cooked some good ham and roast pork and after the present hi-jinks we had a variety of dessert offerings. I plumped for the trifle as usual.

Simon was seated across from me at the dinner table with Joe and Paul also in close proximity. Simon's British background makes him surprisingly politically correct for a military man so we had an interesting discusion when we somehow got into mention of Africans. I made some observation about the high rates of African crime and Simon asked me to what I attributed that. I replied that it was ancestral, which agitated Simon a bit. He had been told all his life that it was "poverty" that lay behind disruptive black behaviour and saw that attribution as a moral issue: To see any ancestral influence was immoral.

I replied along the D.P. Moynihan lines that you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts -- pointing out that every African population everywhere was poor and crime-ridden, regardless of the quite varied social and government arrangements under which they live. So that can be seen as a problem regardless of your opinion of its genesis.

Someone had apparently told Simon that Brazil was an example of a society without racial frictions depite its large African and mestizo population -- but I pointed out that wealth and poverty are highly correlated with skin colour there too, with blacks at the bottom, mestizos in the middle and whites running things. That seemed to wrap things up for Simon

I am quite sorry that I appear to have distressed him but "facts are chiels that winna ding", as the Scots say. And facts have the last say as far as I am concerned. Paul was quite pleased that I just presented the facts in a calm and dispassionate way as he sees no moral issues in the matter either.

21 December, 2012

Dinner with Joe

Joe mostly lives in Canberra so opportunities for us to get together for a chat are few. Last night, however, I shouted him a dinner at my usual Greek restaurant, including beer. I think it is the first time I have had a beer with my son so that is a bit of a landmark.

He arrived at my place about 5:30 pm so before we left I took the opportunity to play him my latest audio discovery: An immaculate performance of Beethoven's piano concerto no. 5 with Emil Gilels as soloist. It reduced me to tears (of joy) when first I heard it. Click here to hear it

Fortunately, Joe likes classical music too. Here is another audio treasure I must also play him some time soon. An amazing performance of Bedrich Smetana's "Vltava" by two Japanese ladies.

Amazing what you can do with a Steinway. Joe is himself a pianist so he may have a particular appreciation of both above works.

Anyway, Joe told me a lot about his life in Canberra over dinner, which I was interested to hear. I offered various words of advice at different stages but, as usual, he had already arrived at similar conclusions by himself. He and I are quite different in personality and appearance but the mental similarities are considerable.

After dinner we went back to my place and had a cup of tea with some Smetana selections playing in the background. Joe asked me quite a bit about my recollections of times past and there were a few laughs in that! I myself find it rather amazing that I wore platform heels in the 70s!

15 December 2012

A Christening

Matthew is now a Catholic. Neither Paul nor Susan are religious but Susan was brought up a Catholic so liked the idea of her son following in her footsteps. I also pointed out to Paul that religion can be helpful at giving direction to young people so, despite his own lack of background, Paul was quite happy to give Matthew that identity. Ken has always been basically anti-religious but even he came along to the ceremony. So Matthew had all four grandparents along to witness his introduction into the church.

Joe acted as godfather and a Filipina lady who is Susan's stepmother acted as godmother. Both were very pleased to do so. Joe became a Catholic by choice and religion was his best subject at school! Like a lot of Catholics he is pretty "lapsed" these days, however.

Matthew is only one-and-a-bit years old but he's more the size of an average two year old. Having a 6' tall mother is responsible for a lot of that. So when his godmother was holding him during the blessing, it was a bit amusing. Like almost all Filipinas she is a little lady of only about 5' tall and Matthew looked quite a lump for her to be carrying.

A strong likeness between Matthew and his maternal grandmother

The church at Kedron was quite nice. It was modern without being too modern -- something that only Catholics seem to be able to carry off in their church designs. Modern Protestant churches usually look horrible to me. I like some old-fashioned dignity in a church building.

The service was conducted by a young priest from Vietnam. There is such a lack of vocations in Australia that the church is now very dependent on clergy from overseas.

Matthew didn't much like getting the chrism put on his forehead but he liked the font. He managed to get his hand in and have a bit of a splash at one point. The priest poured quite a bit of water on his head (affusion), slightly to my surprise. Most Protestants just give you a sprinkling (aspersion), I think (Baptists excepted, of course).

I gave Matthew about a dozen old boy's books as a baptismal present. Paul wants him to be a reader and the old books have plenty of good yarns in them. They are the sort of books I read as a boy.

After the service, we adjourned to Susan's father's place for a BBQ, where we got plenty of good food and had lots of chats. With Joe in town we wanted to hear from him and it was a good occasion to do so. Joe has put himself on a "Paleo" diet and it seems to suit him. There is no fat on him. He also does gym, boxing, weightlifting etc so he is in very good shape physically. Unusual for a mathematician, I think.

Someone asked me today about the difference between a Christening and a baptism. And the answer is that "Christening" is the popular term for what happens when you take your kid to get baptised. But a Christening actually includes two rites (a rite is a church ceremony): The rite of Chrismation and the rite of Baptism. Chrismation is when the kid gets the holy axle-grease spread on his forehead. So most people are not aware of it but there is a difference in meaning between the two terms.

11 December 2012

A third car

At my stage in life, I don't like driving very much but I have somehow become the owner of 3 cars. I have had the Echo since 2005 and that is what I mainly drive but I also have my 1963 Humber Super Snipe for Sunday driving

Anne has however just bought a new car -- a Corolla -- and the car dealer offered her only $500 for her 1998 Toyota Starlet, which rather upset her as she has found it a very good car. So I upped the offer and bought it off her instead. Fixing minor problems, re-registering it and insuring it however cost me a bit too -- but not as much as I expected.

But in the end I think I got a good car very cheaply and have set it aside for Joe to drive whenever he is in Brisbane. By my count that is 4 cars I have given him but the first two were on their last legs. He never asks for things but he has an indulgent father. It doesn't seem to have spoilt him.

Anyway, arranging the insurance and changing the registration took Anne and me most of the morning, which I had predicted but certainly did not enjoy. There must be a simpler way! It's amazing the questions insurance companies ask and everybody knows about the long lines of people waiting to talk to government car registration agencies.

Joe, Anne and I had lunch together at my usual haunt before I handed over the car and Joe filled us in a bit about his life in the ACT.

Tonight I shouted Anne a dinner at a restaurant we like to make up for all the aggravation during the day. They have very cold beer there, which drags me in rather often now that it is summer. One of the food items I ordered was Nachos. It came with a pink topping comprised of sweet chilli sauce combined with sour cream. It tasted great!

9 December 2012

A welcome home

Anne put on a lunch for the weary travellers just returned from the USA and UK -- Paul, Susan and Matthew

Anne made some very good ham sandwiches to her own recipe which went down rapidly -- and she followed that up with some mini-Pavlovas topped with mango, cream etc.

We talked mainly about the big trip and Paul seemed to like Scotland best of all the places he visited. We also talked about British public schools and the possibility of Matthew being sent to one in due course.

Matthew had of course forgotten me completely so seemed a bit scared of me at first but he soon got over that. He had great fun with a pink balloon which entertained us all. He sure is a little livewire.

But that was not the end of the day's social activities. That night Joe rang me to say that officialdom required my birth certificate as part of his application for a passport. I think they dream up these things just to make life difficult for people. There was no such requirement for around 100 years so why now?

Anyway I scrabbled around and found a copy of the certificate and ran it over to Joe at Jenny's place. And while I was there we all had a cup of tea and discussed family trusts, real estate, divorce etc.

5 December, 2012

Dr Cotter, the local doctor during my childhood in Innisfail

Probably the greatest misfortune of my life occurred at a time when I was totally unaware of it.

I have frequently-occurring skin cancers, far more frequent than anything my parents ever had. White people growing up in the tropics do tend to suffer a lot from skin cancer -- mostly BCCs and SCCs -- as fair skin of Northern European origin (particularly Irish skin) is not at all suited to the direct sunlight of the tropics. The grey skies of England, Scotland and Ireland are its natural habitat.

But my frequency of BCCs and SCCs is extreme. I have at least half a dozen procedures a year to zap the worst of them.

So how come? How come I get them so badly? The answer is rather clear. In about the first two thirds of the 20th century lots of kids were given low doses of arsenic for various reasons. One such preparation was "Bell's compound" cough syrup. It appears to have originated in the USA but was very popular for a while in Queensland. And its legacy years later, for those who had a lot of it, is arsenic-weakened skin that frequently degenerates into cancer.

And I had a lot of upper respiratory ailments as a kids, largely due, I think, to the fact that I have a deflected septum. I was not in fact given Bell's compound but rather Dr Cotter's own "pink mixture" which would appear to have reflected the popular wisdom of the day about the utility of arsenic in combating coughs and colds. So the fact that I had a LOT of it has come back to haunt me. The toxicity of everything is in the dose so for most people the arsenic probably did no harm. It's only when arsenic builds up that the harm occurs.

So Doctor Cotter unwittingly harmed me. He died in 1972 so it is too late to remonstrate with him now and he was in fact a distinguished medical scientist in his day. He was in fact responsible for eliminating Weil's disease from the sugarcane industry. Seeing my father was a canecutter for a while Dr Cotter may well have also done me a great favour. The biography of Timothy John Patrick Cotter is here. He was of Irish Catholic origins and an opponent of government-run healthcare. As the bio notes, he was an early adopter of sulfonamides and I do remember his prescription of "M&Bs"

4 December, 2012

Why don't all Greenies move to New Zealand?

I put this up on one of my daily blogs (Greenie Watch) but I thought perhaps it had a place here too:

New Zealand has a-plenty the sort of clean Green life that Greenies claim they want while also being a modern country where you can drink the water and speak English to everyone.  An excerpt from a private blog written by a mother who has moved to a small town in New Zealand:
"The vege garden is another place my and Simon's time disappears into -- as we plant, weed & fertilise our pretty vast garden in the hope of having a large enough crop so we always have access to fresh organic veges whenever we like.  It is an amazingly liberating feeling to have control of our food sources and we are learning more and more everyday about what it means to be a vege and fruit gardener.  Also stay tuned as my Roses have just started to flower.. They are BEAUTIFUL!!

Last Monday the Playcentre organised a trip to a farm which is owned by one of the Playcentre families.  The farm was HUGE and on arrival we all met and drove up to the cow milking shed.  We had a tour then headed to a paddock which contained some pigs and also a herd of calves.  There were great hay piles to climb and we enjoyed watching the calves being fed by a big trailer full of milk covered in teats for the calves to suckle.  We then had some morning tea near the farm houses and then fed some lambs.  Once that was done we headed to the farm owner's house and enjoyed a sausage sizzle and the kids played together in the large back yard and tennis court.  We also had a celebration for one of the boys who is turning 5 which means  he starts school.  Kids start school on their 5th birthday in New Zealand which I feel is a nice way to transition the kids into school."
And the little two-year old girl in the family loves the lambs her family has adopted (Below)

I don't think Greenies know what they want

3 December, 2012

Lunch with Joe

Joe arrived back in Brisbane yesterday so we had lunch together today. I wanted to tell him a few things that you only learn from experience about Ph.D. studies, so that he could cruise through his. I also wanted to sort out a few things about my will and was pleased that Joe looked forward to inheriting the Humber. We also talked about me selling my present house as I should be able to make a better job of that than Paul and Joe would after my death. So it was mainly a fairly serious conversation.

We lunched at my usual brunch haunt in Buranda

17 November, 2012

The first "Frank" Ray

Picture of him above. His full name was Edward Arthur Walter Francis Burnside Ray. Burnside was his (convict) mother's maiden surname so it looks like it just got in as an afterthought amid all that clutter. Family tradition is however that he was normally known as "Frank", and his grandson (my father) was named Frank after him. My father recollected him as a bit of a villain (Taking timber logs off crown land, for instance) and a press cutting has come to light which may give some substance to that. The 1884 government Gazette tells us:
"Edward Arthur Walter Francis Burnside RAY, alias Frank Ray, is charged, on warrant issued by the Cooktown Bench, with deserting his wife Elizabeth, of that place, on the 19th ultimo. Description :--A native of New South Wales, 38 years of age. 6 feet high, medium build, dark complexion, dark hair, whiskers, moustache, and beard (the latter turning grey), hazel eyes, follows the occupation of sawyer or bullock-driver; wore light tweed trousers and coat, white helmet hat with black band. He left Cooktown by the S.S. "Maranoa" or “Quiraing" on the 19th ultimo, and it is believed he will go to New Guinea.
4th August, 1884."
Of interest is that the clipping confirms that he was popularly known as Frank and that he was 6' tall. Seeing his mother, Anne Jane, was only 4'9 3/4" tall that is a surprise Her short stature must have been due to early nutritional deficiency. His father was a sawyer so that fits. And his father Joseph (Height 5 ft 6 and a half inches) had hazel eyes too. "Frank" was born at Narellan/Camden in Sydney in 1844, so his NSW origin is also correct.

Note that the Quiraing is a landslip on the eastern face of Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish Ridge on the Isle of Skye. So the ship had a Scottish Gaelic name. It's not a misprint. The Government Gazette got it right.

And in the Cairns post of 29 August, 1891 we read:
On Thursday, a bullock driver named Frank Ray, in the employ of Lyons and Downey, Myola, met with a nasty accident through a cask of cement rolling on him. Dr. Dobie was called in, who found the man's leg badly fractured and he, after doing the needful, advised the removal of the patient to Cairns hospital.
Myola is on the outskirts of Kuranda in Far North Queensland and the Warren family were also there at the time. Frank probably knew Bob Warren. His son and Bob's daughter married, from whence my father sprang.

And in the Morning Post of April 23, 1901 we read.
Mr Frank Ray

The Post is pleased to learn that Mr Frank Ray, the well-known timber getter is recovering satisfactorily after two severe operations performed by Dr. Koch.
My father was also a timber getter (lumberjack in American parlance). Timber getters were normally independent contractors rather than employees so Frank was in effect a prominent businessman in his little pond.

The above excerpts came to me by the courtesy of the inestimable Silvia, wife of Peter Fletcher, a determined explorer of "Trove", the Australian government's online record of early newspapers..

Finally, I put up below a picture of Elizabeth Ann Ray, (nee Holt), who was born at Bury in Lancashire in 1859. She was Frank's wife and hence my great grandmother. Does the picture suggest why he might have shot through on her at one stage?

16 November, 2012

More from the archives

The "horns" episode has energized me to scrabble around in my portful of photos for ones that go back a long way.

And here is one when I was about 4 and my sister Jacqueline 2. Colour photography was in its infancy then so they took the photos in B&W, developed them in sepia and then hand-coloured them. I am sorry to say that the sepia in the photo below is now coming through in spots but at least the scanned copy should stay stable

And below is a real treasure: It is my father aged 2 in 1917 They had a custom back then of dressing little boys like little girls but I can only speculate why. We had a few laughs about it at home every few years and I enquired why but my parents simply said it was the custom then. On the back is written (presumably by his mother): "My dear little Frank, Xmas, 1917"

And I suppose wedding photos are fair game here. Below is the wedding photo for my parents. My mother and father are on the Left, followed by my father's brother Hal, my mother's sister Maude and Robert Nankerville [Nankevell?]. The Nankervilles were family friends and there was a convict Nankerville in the early days.

I have another wedding photo in which my father is looking particularly spiffing. He is on the far right. It is the wedding photo of my uncle Hal and his wife Dorothy. That attractive lady beside my father would have to be his sister Lucy and the guy in the middle would be the father of the bride.

And, finally, when I was going through everything, I came across this nice photo of my second wife Joy in her bumble-bee bikini: Taken at Peregian beach on our honeymoon.

15 November, 2012

More from the old days

The photo below denotes considerable pride. Jack Ray (in the middle of photo) often used his team to "snig" (drag) out of the bush (forest) some of the huge trees they cut down in those days. He also felled trees himself and I suspect that he both cut and moved the monster in the photo. Jack was about 6' tall so that is the diameter of the tree

Imagine cutting down a huge tree with just an axe and a crosscut saw then imagine getting it to the railhead with bullocks pulling it along an unmade bush track and you will see the reason for the pride behind the photo. Those guys were not supermen so it is rather amazing what they accomplished with just brains and doggedness. They understood the challenges they took on and rose to them. And they were just ordinary men. Jack never went to school but was taught at home to read and write.

The second photo is of my grandmother's father Bob Warren. He was a dairy farmer among other things and at one stage moved his herd via ship from Kuranda to Home Hill. I have an idea he got some sort of land grant at Home Hill. The farmhouse and creamery at Kuranda is in the background, which I believe he built himself. He was also a carpenter.

The photo above appears to be from 1909 and an interesting thing is that we actually still know the names of the beasts in the picture. Their animals were like people to their owners in those days. Bob is with his bull "Sultan" and the cow in the picture is the prize-winning "Coconut". In the background is "Bluebell". I think it was Vin Warren (Bob's youngest son) who gave us those details. He knew those animals himself. I was looking at a picture of another one of Bob's cows at one stage and Vin said: "That's Buttercup". I asked how he knew which cow it was. "By the curl in her tail" he answered. The animals were all real individuals to him. He remembered them like people.

The photo was taken at Myola, near Kuranda in North Queensland.

I actually remember Bob Warren myself. We visited them at Home Hill when I was about 6 and he gave me a penny. Even at that time the amount seemed small but he was an old man then and a penny would have bought a lot in his youth.

Vin's sister, Annie, my grandmother, died young and her death was deeply felt in the family. Vin would have been in his 80's when I asked him: "And what sort of person was she, Vin? He replied: "She was a lovely person". And his eyes filled with tears. So I too now feel grief about the death of a person whom I never knew. But she was my grandmother so maybe that is allowed.

Grandfather Jack Ray and grandmother Annie nee Warren

14 November, 2012

Did my brother grow up in a drain?

In a conversation recently, my brother said he grew up in a drain. That amused me -- not least because it is true.

So what are we talking about here? Bombay, Calcutta or some Third World slum? Not at all. We both grew up in a spacious three bedroom house with all mod cons in the pleasant Australian city of Cairns.

99% of what my brother was talking about is explained by the picture below -- a photo I took myself about 50 years ago. It shows the local kids playing in a stormwater drain out the front of our house in Cairns.

Kids in the photo are: Nolene Kelso in red raincoat, Ray Kelso standing on the bank. In the water are my sister Roxanne, brother Chris and Carl Foster, from Fosters auto spares, next door. Geoff Michna wasn't there that day!

Chris says that for most of the year the drain was quite "yucky" but was a fantastic place to play after the tropical storms came and the flood waters washed it clean and filled it up .

Note also from the foreground that we grew up in a house with a white picket fence -- which is, according to our "intellectuals, an unimaginable horror -- though I have no idea why. I have subsequently put up a few white picket fences myself.

For birthdays and Christmasses these days, kids get DELUGED with plastic toys from China. I have bought a few such toys for little kids myself at times. But NO such toys are as remotely as satisfying to kids as a half-overgrown stormwater drain -- particularly if you never wear shoes and are allowed to play without adult supervision.

So my brother and I were discussing that photo and what he actually said was: "Geoffrey Michna and I grew up in that drain" -- referring to his childhood friend from a couple of doors down. He is not in the picture above but he sure was often in the drain depicted!

Perhaps these days computer games do far more for kids than a drain ever did but I wonder. There is no doubt of the endless fascination that drain offered to the neighbourhood kids.

So what my brother meant was that he spent many happy hours in that drain during his childhood. He made his remark when we mentioned that the drain has long since been sent underground and so is now lost to kids forever. It felt to Chris that an important part of his childhood had been buried.

The picture above is a bit rough but it is off a colour slide so I should be able to put up a better version of it in due course

13 November, 2012

A big trip

Being something of a hermit these days, twenty minutes is usually the maximum journey time for me. But today I excelled myself. I took a three hour trip to Kingaroy!

So what incentive was behind that? Bullock horns. Yes: Bullock horns.

About a quarter of a century ago, I visited my father's cousin, Alex Fletcher (now deceased), at his farm in Ban Ban springs. And when I noted a set of bullock horns mounted in his living room, I asked after them. And he told me that they were actually the horns of my grandfather's favourite bullock. My grandfather and great-grandfather were both bullockies (teamsters in American parlance). They were the heavy carriers of their day, using teams of bullocks.

And I am actually rather proud to be a descendant of bullockies. Henry Lawson's poem "The Teams" tells you most of what you need to know about them. Lawson portrays the men as strong silent types and that is certainly my memory of my grandfather Jack.

So when I saw the horns I thought that I should ask for them when Alex died. I did not keep in touch, however, so was not around when Alex died. Not long ago, however, I received an email from Peter, Alex's son. Peter was seeking help with genealogy in general and the identification of old photographs in particular.

I mentioned the bullock horns to Peter and -- wonder of wonders -- Peter not only had taken them with him when he had to give up the family farm but actually offered to give the horns to me! It was good luck that I hardly deserved.

So my brother Christopher and I got into his ute today and drove up to Kingaroy for a prearranged meeting with Peter. We went to a local cafe for morning-tea/lunch and spent a lot of time looking at old family photos and trying to identify them (without much success). I was pleased that I was able to give Peter a rarity in exchange for the horns. It was a copy of a large old family photo, taken in about 1870, of his and my great-grandfather.

Handing over the horns. Christopher, myself and Peter (L to R)

Peter turned out to be a very nice man and his wife too was very pleasant so it was a good meeting. Peter rather surprised me when he told me he liked the little jokes in the genealogy I have put on line. People usually seem to miss most of my jokes. It's probably a tribute to Peter's own good nature that he got them.

On the way up and back Chris and I had lots of discussions. We rarely do that because we tend to think alike on most things so there is nothing left to say! We are both a bit fired up over the persistence of global warming nonsense, however, so we both spent a lot of time pointing out absurdities in that theory.

When we got back to Brisbane, I left the horns in my brother's keeping. He lives only 10 minutes drive from where I do and already has a small private museum of family mementoes so he is the obvious person to look after the horns.

Christopher took a big collection of family photos to Kingaroy with him and there were quite a few with me in them that I did not have copies of so he left the collection with me temporarily. And out of the collection, I have reproduced one below. It is about 60 years old and was developed in sepia. I put it up because I think that it is the last photo in which I looked reasonably good-looking. It has been a long slide downhill since then!

There is a larger copy of the photo on Facebook.

I think my little brother looks rather gorgeous in the photo and he is still as good humoured to this day. I am on the right (as ever) and my sister Jacqueline (now deceased) is in the middle.

And, last but not least, my grandfather's team

Peter, who is a cattleman, thinks that the best bullock in a team was always up the front to steady the mob. So the horns should be from one of the bullocks in the photo. And he thinks that the one on the nearside of the team at the front, looks to have the same shaped horns as the set we have. If only we knew the name of the bullock concerned. Bullocks all had names that they were known by.

9 November, 2012

I don't know if I should comment on this ...

But I note that Britain's Daily Mail has put up very derogatory coverage of the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most beloved horse race. As happens at almost any race meeting anywhere, there were some people who stayed on after the horses had finished running and partied on -- leading to some unattractive drunken behavior. The "Mail" photographed some of that behaviour and used the photos to condemn the Melbourne Cup generally and the patrons in particular. They used photos such as the ones below

But the photos above were not taken in Melbourne. They were taken at Aintree, location of Britiain's premier jump race, The Grand National. I got the pictures not by wandering the grounds with a camera and looking for the worst I could find but rather by spending 5 minutes looking at the pix returned by Google in response to the search term "Aintree".

There were many other pictures I could put up -- of tarts in short skirts, ladies showing a lot of breast and, above all, more painted FAT ladies than you would ever want to see. But I will be kinder than the "Mail".

So why are Brits in glass houses throwing stones? It's simple, really. For 200 years Brits have been migrating to Australia for a better life. And they still do. A recent survey suggests that half of them would move to Australia if they could. So that puts "The Old Dart" in a poor light, does it not? All those Brits voting with their feet don't make Britain look very attractive.

So to retain their self-respect and explain to themselves why they are still in grey and poverty-stricken Britain instead of sunny and comfortable Australia, it helps a little to find a few faults with Australia. Freud would understand.


I wonder how this fits in with British criticisms of Australian racecourse behaviour?

CCTV images have been released by police investigating a mass brawl between Swansea and Cardiff City fans which brought terror to an afternoon at the races.

Between 50 and 60 people clashed in front of families at Newbury Racecourse in Berkshire at around 4pm on July 14.

It is thought the violence erupted on the ground floor of the grandstand and then spread to the racecourse, marring what should have been an enjoyable afternoon at the Newbury Summer Festival.

Superintendent Robin Rickard said: 'This was a nasty incident involving up to 60 people fighting in the middle of the afternoon and impacted on lots of innocent people and families who had planned to spend an enjoyable day at the races.


6 November, 2012

The cup!

I am no gambler or follower of the neddies but like most Australians I do watch the Melbourne Cup on TV. It is a great occasion that generates a lot of excitement. The ladies all get into hats and fascinators and glam up generally and the men place their bets.

I didn't do too badly. I know nothing about form so I go into sweeps only. And one of the horses I got in a sweep came third. So I think I am ahead on the day.

Anne was off to a fancy ladies' day at the Sofitel (once known as the Sheraton) so I looked like viewing the race at home on my own. As it happened, however, Jenny had resigned her job a couple of days ago so was free to come over and join me. Most people I know were working or out of town.

Jenny and I had a very restrained cup party -- with watermelon and freshly squeezed orange juice instead of cakes and champagne. I guess we are getting old.

It was a very exciting race with the winner coming from well behind but ending well ahead. The cup is like that, though. I was rather pleased that it was not a photo finish this year. Last year was so close that I would have been inclined to call it a tie, or at least a draw.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were in attendance and the Duchess presented the cup to the owner. Both seemed to be in good form.

I noticed that the jockey made the sign of the cross at the end of the race. I wonder if anyone will criticize that? They would be well advised not to. Any cup winner is close to God in Australia.

I also like to have a look each year to see who won the "Fashions on the Field" prize. It's said to be Australia's richest fashion prize. Ladies as well as horses compete at the Melbourne Cup. And the fashions are always wearable, unlike the monstrosities that appear on Paris catwalks etc. The winner this year, Lauren Andrews, has been competing in such events for about 5 years so the prize this year went to a stayer. That is she in the middle below

I can't really see what's good about the outfit but what would I know? Someone who appears to know informs us: "Ms Andrews purchased her winning outfit more than a month ago, a navy-and-neon-yellow tweed pencil dress with a half peplum on the waist, from British label Erdem. Her winning pleated headpiece was by Melbourne milliner Kim Fletcher... she backed some of the day's most popular trends: neon colours, a fitted pencil silhouette and a peplum ruffle."

So there!


At great risk of political incorrectness, there is one small thing that I noted during the hour or more that I was watching the events at Flemington: I did not see one black, brown or East Asian face. So it was one of the last holdouts of the old Australia. And having the Heir to the Throne present (Australia is still a monarchy) certainly underlined that.

The absence of East Asians was a little surprising. Not only are the Chinese great gamblers but they generally fit in seamlessly with our traditions.

28 October, 2012

A youthful birthday

Yesterday was a celebration of Ralph's 80th birthday. Ralph is the husband of Anne's sister Merle. And Anne's mother was there -- aged 95. I should have felt youthful in such company but there were also lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren there so there was no chance of that. It was a great pleasure to see the littlies running around. There were two little girls who were in perpetual motion, one blue-eyed blonde and one half-Korean girl. Asia has come to Australia in a big way. All the waitresses and kitchen staff in the restaurant where we were were Asian too and did the good job you expect of Asians in hospitality. We are lucky to have them.

I seem in fact to have not only Asians in my life but also New Zealanders and Dutch people. And so it was again. One of Anne's sons is married to a Dutch girl and the other to a Kiwi. I have had Dutch people in my life ever since my teens, in fact. One or other of my friends always seems to hail from that windy place.

The do was in a big club -- an ex-football club at Sunnybank. The menu was the sort of basic food you expect in Australian clubs -- steak or seafood. The cooks knew what they were doing however. I had the seafood basket and got Barramundi for Anne. Both were expertly done.

Anne and I had our dinners with Anne's sister June and her man Colin. Colin is in his 80s and has had lots of health problems but is still fighting the good fight. He was talking with Anne about going on train trips, the Gulflander specifically. So he is not giving up yet. Anne greatly enjoyed her recent trip on it.

Anne in fact was just back that day from a week on Norfolk Island. She got off the plane and took a taxi to my place so we could go to the party together.

As we left the party I was greatly honoured to get a cuddle from Zenia, Anne's niece, once removed. Zenia is a slim and pretty blue-eyed blonde who is also over 6' tall! She is a university student.

We came out of the club at a different place to where we had originally stopped but I didn't realize that immediately so was disoriented and could not find my car in the carpark. As a big club it had lots of carparks. So we took a taxi home. On the way home however I figured out what had happened and when we took a taxi back this morning, we went straight to my car.

22 October, 2012

A strange thirst

I have long been a rather thirsty soul. I drink fizzy drinks by the gallon. And despite all the dental alarmists, my teeth are fine. I haven't had a filling since childhood.

The amount I drink has however alarmed me at times as a big thirst is a symptom of diabetes. So a couple of years ago I had a glucose tolerance test which came back dead-centre: No sign of diabetes. So I continued enjoying my soft-drinks. I put my fluid consumption down to the fact that I have a lot of salt with my food. Salt makes you thirsty.

In recent months however my thirst seemed to be greater and I started to do something I hadn't done since childhood: drink orange softdrink. I had previously been a confirmed drinker of lemon squash. So I once again had a diabetes test and came back within the normal range. So I continued to enjoy my orange softdrink.

Today, however, things got out of hand. I needed to get up and drink my orange softdrink almost every five minutes.

Now I have always believed that your body tells you what you need. If you note the strange things that pregnant women eat, you will understand. They will eat ANYTHING to get what their unborn baby needs.

So I thought that my body must be telling me that what I needed was not orange softdrink but real oranges. So I got out a mandarine (mandarin orange) from the fridge that I had bought some time before (I normally never buy fruit) and ate it -- swallowing only the juice. And my thirst vanished!

I normally have some salady things with both my breakfast and dinner so I thought it most improbable that I would have a vitamin C deficiency but it seems that I did. Despite my extensive reading in the medical literature on diet I have never heard of thirst as a symptom of vitamin C deficiency so it seems that my body was wiser than the medical journals are!

I would be pleased to see any references I might have missed, however.

21 October, 2912

Dusty's birthday

The gorgeous boy is all of one now.

I got to Suz & Russ's place about midday and found quite a crowd already there. The boy obviously has a lot of fans!

He just sat in his high chair for a couple of hours feeding himself so goodness knows how much he got down the hatch in that time. I don't think he is going to be skinny.

There were a lot of kids running around, which I was pleased to see. Simon & Tracy had their two along but they are hardly kids these days.

I talked a bit with Simon & Tracy about the education of their kids though I don't know that we reached any conclusions. I rather naughtily remarked that Becky is a beautiful woman so will probably marry well -- which means that any educational choice she makes will be fine. Far from being being critical of such "chauvinism", Simon wisely remarked that Tracy is a beautiful woman too -- which she is. Tracy just smiled.

Timmy was there with his colourful lady plus Jenny, Maureen, Davey etc.

I spent a bit of time talking to Simon & Tracy about the hazards of renting out properties and I think I may have changed their plans in the matter. Simon has a new job in S. Aust. starting in January so they want to move down there but have to sell their house first. If they could not get a sale before then they were going to rent their very nice house out. I think instead Tracy will now stay on here until the place is sold. Being in the services, Simon is rather used to being away from his wife -- though he doesn't like it of course.

I said to Simon that it would be fine to let his house out if he was around to punch pesky tenants in the gizzard and a definite glint came into his eye at the thought of that. He has a martial arts hobby which is entirely appropriate for a member of the services.

The birthday boy got a mountain of presents, some of which Russ seemed to fancy for himself! Definitely a traditional father.

Russell has a new space-age BBQ which produced some good snags and lots of onions, which I like. The BBQ looked like a short trip to the moon would be within its capabilities.

18 October, 2012

A good night and some good reading

Yesterday was Anne's last day at work before her retirement. I tell her that she is now a pensioner but she rouses at me about that. She doesn't like the sound of her changed status. She does however have some health problems so it was high time she retired.

Anyway, to celebrate her retirement I took her to dinner at the Kafe Meze. I ordered the usual: Tarama, Haloumi, Keftdes and Fourex Gold (beer). It was all outstanding as usual and the beer went particularly well with the food. I observed many years ago that Greeks in Greek restaurants mostly drank beer with their food so decided to learn from them -- and have never regretted it

But today has been rather pesky. My cable connection to the net has been down all day. Telstra say it is some sort of local area issue.

I do have a prepaid Telstra wireless connection as well for just such occasions but it is so much slower than the cable connection that it discourages me. I have been able to get most of my usual stuff up today but my preparations for tomorrow are zilch. I just cannot be bothered accessing things at a snail's pace.

I actually kept a promise to myself and spent some time instead by re-reading Exodus (in the Bible). It is actually quite a good story, retold with some repetition rather like a cantata. Once again I was amused to note how unmodern Yahveh was. But it is our civilization that is out of step. Yahveh's values were much like those than men have had throughout history: Self-aggrandizing and vengeful. He thought it greatly to his credit to wipe out the Egyptian army, for instance: Not exactly a God of mercy.

But the one thing that stands out in Exodus is the cry of religious men throughout all time: "Why won't people BELIEVE?" Not only the Egyptians took a lot of convincing about the power of Yahveh but the Israelites were nearly as bad. Yahveh was constantly having to prove himself to them.

So I actually enjoyed my time away from the internet.

10 October, 2012

The latest pix from the shaky Isles

Hannah with tulip. That looks a cosy jumper too. I wonder who knitted it?

A real live pixie

8 October, 2012

Some recent pix

Some recent pix that I like -- also on Facebook

Amish lawnmowing -- photo by Ken

The happiness that only a baby can bring: Katie Brown's smile says it all

A Queensland blue heeler. Those eyes don't miss much. Just watch out for your heels

Two cousins


Unions. It's specifically a comment on a predatory American union, the SEIU

Hannah shows how grown-up she is

Hannah the snow bunny

Matthew in the snow -- photo by Ken

2 September, 2012

An anniversary and a sendoff

Saturday was the 7th anniversary of Anne and me meeting so by way of celebration I took her to the Kafe Meze. The last time we were there I ordered too much and I was so full I could not even finish my beer! So this time I wised up and ordered only Tarama, Haloumi and keftedes -- plus a stubby each of Fourex Gold to wash it down. It was all excellent. Keftedes can be rather basic but the keftedes at the Kafe Meze are first class food.

And today I shouted Paul and Susan a small sendoff dinner at my place in recognition of their imminent departure for a trip across the USA -- on Route 69, of course.

Susan as usual fetched our food. I just paid, as usual. This time she got it from the Riverwalk Tandoori restaurant and on my recommendation she ordered some filled naan bread. Their garlic and cheese naan has to be tasted to be believed. It is ambrosia.

Matthew was in perpetual motion during the visit but Paul is full of beans too so coped with him while Susan was away fetching the food. The restaurant was busy so Susan was away for a while so Paul was glad when she got back -- to help with Matthew as well as being "mother" to us all (serving out the food etc.). What would we do without her?

I gave them a set of binoculars as a going away present. Paul is going to watch the U.S. Open tennis match live while he is in NYC so needs the 'nocs to get the most out of the vast amount he is spending on tickets to the match.

25 August, 2012

A busy weekend

The Hamburg Philharmonic is in town at the moment so it saves a trip to Hamburg to hear a noted orchestra! And all the players are Hamburgers! Its arrival was of course announced well in advance so at the time of my birthday, Anne bought two tickets for one of their recitals as a birthday present to me. And I actually managed not to lose the tickets! I did lose them actually but Anne found them again.

So I got into my Chinese suit again and off we went to the concert hall at QPAC last night.

The recital consisted of one work only: The Mahler 2nd. It is truly a magnificent work and ideal for the concert hall. It has a large dynamic range with lots of crashing crescendoes etc. so trying to listen to it off a CD or DVD would miss a lot of the impact. The audience gave the orchestra an extended standing ovation at the end of it.

The conductor was a little Australian lady who put enormous energy into her task. She literally danced around the podium and even leapt up and down at times. I found her slightly distracting actually and looked away for most of the performance. She would be a good actor in a Bollywood movie. She obviously loved the music however and did a good job with it.

And today was a lunch in celebration of the birthday of Mr. 1. Matthew is now all of one year old, a year many of us have been delighted to share in. He was actually rather subdued by all the people around him and looked at us as if we had all gone mad when we sang Happy Birthday. Susan lit a candle on his cake and in best toddler style he immediately made a grab for the flame. Susan caught him just in time however. You have to be fast around him.

And something of an unexpected star of the day was Dusty. He is unbelievably good natured. He just sat there in his high chair when nobody was holding him and gave us lots of smiles and no complaints.

Susan as usual put on lots of good food with a large glazed ham being particularly good. I got into the cheesecake too. And there was a pirate theme for the day that Susan had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to set up. I don't know how many people were there -- perhaps 20 -- including all the old gang except for those who are out of town.

Susan had both her mother and stepmother present, which I was pleased to see. There is a strong resemblance in looks between Susan and her mother.

Paul was his usual ebullient self and ate too much again. His latest scheme is to import dubious health pills from China! Being a good salesman he is going to take them himself so I hope they don't poison him. You never know what's in stuff you get from China.

The festive table -- showing the work Susan put into the occasion

Matthew with his Gran (Susan's mother) looking a bit overwhelmed

Dusty -- Mr. Smiles

Caught enjoying a ham butty

13 August, 2012

A great milestone: Matthew walks

He took his first steps today and has been walking ever since. He is just short of 12 months old so it is within the normal age for walking but it is very exciting to see for those close to the boy

Two more recent pictures of the boy below -- with his father at the Ekka (Royal Queensland Show) and at the Mt Gravatt baby show with his mother and grandmother where he won “Junior Champion for 2012” (on Sunday the 29th July).

12 August, 2012

A Sunday lunch

A roast dinner is traditional at lunch on Sunday and Paul and Susan kindly shared theirs with Anne and me today.

The roast was a little unusual in that it was pork ribs rather than a leg or shoulder that Susan cooked up. She simmered it for 12 hours beforehand so the meat really fell off the bones. I didn't find out where she got those ideas but maybe it was an old family recipe. The result was certainly good.

Matthew was good entertainment as usual and it turns out that he is a Daddy's boy. He likes being with his father -- with poor old Mum an also-ran. A bit unfair but babies do what they want.

We talked about all sorts of things but Paul's forthcoming 4-week trip across the USA was one topic. I advised him about a few things he was unaware of -- such as the inadvisability of carrying much cash.

Anne provided a dessert of apricot trifle which was well-received.

Watching Mr Gorgeous

25th July, 2012

Nanna's 88th

To reach the grand old age of 88 is something very much worth celebrating, particularly as Nanna still seems to be in reasonable health and is still in full possession of her marbles.

So I hosted a small dinner for her at a Sunnybank Chinese buffet restaurant (her choice). Sadly, Von was ill so I got Jenny to take her home for a rest rather than make herself worse by trying to join in. Hannah and Simon stayed on, however. Hannah was very good. She just sat quietly in her high chair feeding herself with a spoon.

Matthew also seemed to be a bit ill as he was very clingy and did not want anyone but his mother to hold him. So at one stage Susan was doing her photography while also holding Matthew -- an impressive bit of juggling.

Paul as usual ate enough for about six people. It is his reward to himself for staying on a very restrictive diet normally. So he combines gluttony with slimness, which is pretty unusual.

The restaurant was packed, with roughly equal numbers of Chinese and Caucasians. Chinese are never any trouble to co-exist with. They are probably more civilized than us, if anything.

The food was good, though not spectacular, and the cooks kept up by sending out fresh trays of food as the previous ones got emptied. There was a fair bit of seafood, which always goes down well.

I have no idea what we talked about -- just everyday things, I suppose.

Nanna with co-celebrants

Hannah can make Simon smile

Any similarity in looks between the boy and his father? Maybe in the forehead

That caterpillar on my forehead comprises sutures from a recent excision -- which also explains the droopy eyelid. "Edematous swelling" is the technical term for that. It's transient

25th July, 2012

The diaspora reversed

While the family diaspora is temporarily reversed (which is a fancy way of saying: While Joe and Von are back in town) Jenny put on a small dinner party at her place to enable me to see a little more of them while they are here -- seeing I got them back here one way or another. Anne and Nanna were also in attendance, as were Simon and Hannah.

Jenny put on a real spread centred around some excellent sausages, including some exceptionally good cevapi. She has discovered a place that makes them daily.

Simon was fairly loquacious by his standards but we were discussing their life in NZ and NZ is one of the few things Simon likes to talk about. True to his Dutch ancestry he seems very well organized. He gets free wood off the farm where he works and told me he has a two-year supply in stock. They use the wood for heating so have free heating, which is a good thing when you live as close to the Antarctic as he does.

I am a bit worried about Von. She is VERY slim, slimmer than I have ever seen her, I think. In my usual blunt way, I told her she needed to put on a few pounds but she says that it is her active life that keeps her slim as she eats plenty. Since Simon does all the cooking and is by all accounts a good cook, she is a lucky lady foodwise so it is rather a wonder she is not overweight. Anyway, she seems fit and healthy so that is the main thing.

Hannah was very good. She didn't disrupt anything but played for ages with a pink plastic kiddies' chair she found. It is sad that she will grow up unable to say "fish and chips" properly, though.

20 July, 2012

Celebrating Joe's 25th

With Von, Simon and Hannah over from NZ we had a BIG turnout for the birthday dinner at our usual "Bollywood" Indian restaurant at Stone's Corner. I originally booked for a party of 18 but there must have been more than that. Even Timmy turned up, which is rare for him. He brought his tall, slim and colourful girlfriend with him.

Squadron Leader Bartlett was in attendance and his usual lively self but Tracy was missed due to a wog. There has been a lot of that around so I am glad I haven't caught it. Anne has had it and it was only last night that she was fit for socializing again.

The large numbers defeated our usual attempt for us all to be seated at one table but people moved around a lot so that was not too bad.

Anne and Ken had a very lively chat as they are both big on going out, travel etc.

And with four littlies in attendance it felt right -- making it a proper family occasion. The youngest two were imprisoned in their high chairs so that simplified things a bit. Sahara paid a visit to the kitchen at one stage, though. She is nearly 3 now.

The food was good as always and the kitchen did a pretty good job of getting it all out for such a large party, plus various takeaway orders from their other customers.

We forgot to organize a cake but I supplied my usual toasting champagne so a toast and a song had to do. Joe got around the room quite a lot, however, and clearly enjoyed the occasion

18 July, 2012

A most pleasant day

I put on a "Welcome Home" lunch for Von today. She arrived from the Shaky Isles last night. Present were Von, Simon, myself, Paul & Susan and Joe and his friend from Canberra. Plus the littlies, of course: Hannah and Matthew.

We were intending to go to my usual Indian restsaurant for lunch as they are supposed to be open for Wednesday lunch but they were closed, to my surprise. I had rung to check that they would be open.

Anyway, it was no problem. We just went to the Thai over the road and, as Chaucer would say: "And wel we weren esed atte beste" (And we were well looked after). The food was good as was the service. We rearranged their tables to suit us but they didn't seem to mind. We were there at 12 so we were their first guests. We talked a bit about blogging, as Von blogs too.

After the lunch, we all came back to my place for tea and coffee, with Susan again doing the honours. Anne is still off sick. And we just sat there for maybe a couple of hours, not doing anything but watching the little ones and chatting desultorily. We just enjoyed being in one-another's company again.

Joe did not join us for tea as he has inherited my insomnia so was behind on his sleep. So he went off to a bedroom for a nap while we all chatted in the sitting room.

The small bathroom off my sitting room was again something of a hit -- with both Hannah and Matthew exploring it. It also functioned as a changing room for nappies.

I have got a pulldown blind in the sitting room and when Hannah started fiddling with it, I was waiting for her reaction when she pulled the cord enough for it to shoot up. I thought it would give her a fright and it did! The fright was only momentary, however.

We discovered something that was very good for drying tears. Matthew is very active and bumps his head etc from time to time but on THREE occasions his tears were dried by picking him up and showing him the big chrome coat-hook I have on the bathroom door. It was like magic! Instant tear-drying. Curiosity deleted all other emotions, apparently. And Hannah once again enjoyed the big shiny rimlock keys I have in the sitting room.

Both Paul and Susan had cameras in operation from time to time so we should have a good photographic record in due course.

Helping Hannah across the road after the lunch

That big shiny key in the sitting rooom sure was interesting

Matthew exploring the bathroom

15 July, 2012

More birthday observances

My birthday celebrations generally stretch over a period of days and today I took the initiative of inviting family over for one of my pizza and champagne nights. It's simple fare but always goes down well

Anne was due to contribute to the celebrations by cooking me a haggis last night but she has the flu so could not. For the same reason she could not come tonight.

Nanna was also not feeling well and other people could not come for various reasons so there were only 9 of us tonight -- but we were a jolly company, including Joe, just up from Canberra.

We were going to have it downstairs in my backyard under party flares but the cold weather plus the smaller numbers meant that it made more sense to have it upstairs, so we did.

It all went well with lots of chat. George kept Ken and Paul engaged in conversation for a while -- with George reminiscing about it being REALLY cold in his native Yorkshire. Both Ken and George were glad to have escaped to Brisbane instead.

Paul's Susan was an absolute tower of strength to me. In Anne's absence, I had to take care of various hospitality duties but my bumbling efforts were not getting far so Susan took over. She even opened one of the champagne bottles! She is surprisingly good at that. And to top it off she bought over a PERFECT Schwarzwalderkirschentorte as my birthday cake. What a woman!

Matthew entertained us all by trying to get his little fingers into everything he shouldn't and Dusty was also crawling around with great energy. It's always a pleasure to have the little ones present. It was amusing how Matthew kept heading for the kitchen tidy bin. We all had to take turns keeping him out of it. It was like a magnet to him.

At the start of proceedings I had a 3 question quiz with a prize for the first person to get the third question right. The first two questions were who lives at no. 10 and no. 11 Downing St, which were easy, but when I asked who lived at no. 12 Downing St., there was a great hush. I gave a few clues and Paul eventually guessed it: The Chief Whip of the majority party in the House of Commons.

We also have a Whip system in Australia so Paul's interest in Australian politics paid off. So Paul got a bottle of champagne as his prize. As Paul remarked, with Australia's current fragile majority in the Federal Lower House, the Whips must be pretty busy.

Nobody knew what a three-line whip was, however, so I explained that and pointed out that there had been a mass rebellion against one in Britain very recently. A great shock!

I have never heard of a whip system in the USA and it probably would not make much sense there, given the "broad tent" that both major parties constitute there. There is plenty of (metaphorical) arm-twisting in in the corridors and offices of Congress, nonetheless.

The cake

Sahara was very good at handing out kisses & cuddles to the other littlies

A video of the cake-cutting below with Matthew in attendance

A reflection

It's interesting that a quiz about a small street in London should not only be seen as entirely legitimate by people on the opposite side of the world but was in fact answered correctly. Admittedly, two of the people present were England-born but they too are Australian citizens (whether de facto or de jure I am not entirely sure) and the answer to the hardest question was in fact given by someone Australian-born.

I think it underlines how small is the PSYCHOLOGICAL distance between England and Australia -- one of the more amazing events in human history. Normally psychological distance and geographical distance are closely allied.

12 July, 2012

"The City of Truro"

After I had finished blogging at about midnight last night, I spent about an hour and a half looking at videos of "The City of Truro". Many men are entranced by steam trains and I am afraid I am one of them. And "The City of Truro" is very special of course. I almost wept when I saw how well the Brits had looked after that century-old machine in their National Railway Museum.

For those who are unaware of it "The City of Truro" was the first manmade thing to exceed 100 mph

In later decades, the Brits built even more formidable steam locomotives -- such as the magnificent "Bittern" (below)

9 July, 2012

Lunch with Jill

Yesterday was the beginning of my birthday celebrations -- which generally stretch over a few days. As she usually does, Jill put on a lunch for me at her place. Anne came along too and Jill invited Jenny as well. So there I was with my birthday being feted by one ex-wife, one ex-girlfriend and one current girlfriend. It's obvious that I don't have any secrets!

Lewis was also there and we all mostly talked about travel, as everyone except me has been travelling recently. My travel is all well in the past.

At one stage I amused myself in a typically academic way -- when someone mentioned the Canary Isles. I promptly asked: "What where they named after"? Lewis gave the sensible reply and I imagine everyone agreed with him: Canaries. I pointed out however that they were actually named after dogs. How come? Hint: Latin helps.

Jill put on an excellent lunch to her own recipe as usual and we greatly enjoyed the setting of lunch on her patio, backing onto bushland as it does and with frequent visits and occasional warbles from the "feathered friends".

Jill had J.S. Bach's Brandenburgische Konzerte playing in the background for all the time we were there -- which was greatly appreciated.

1 July, 2012


I wanted to introduce Paul and Susan to the sort of poetry that normally gets discussed only at university level so I organized a dosa lunch followed by a discussion at my place.

While we were at the dosa restaurant I also offered some thoughts about the way forward for Matthew, including a recommendation that he get a good background in some sports: Rowing, cricket, tennis and horseriding in particular. Sports are a very good way of relating to other people. We also later discussed getting him into a school army cadet unit and getting him taught German from an early age.

I then went on to read T.S. Eliot's "Prufrock" and pointed out some of the reasons why it is so highly esteemed despite its dismal tone. As a stream of consciousness poem it is of course open to a variety of interpretations but I offered my interpretation that it is the young and frustrated T.S. Eliot bemoaning his inability to understand and get on with women.

Matthew was his usual lively self and developed at one stage a determination to bite my big toe. I successfully avoided that for a while but he got me eventually.

24 June, 2012

Jenny's 60th

I had promised Jenny a slap-up dinner or lunch to help her cope with turning 60 but was unfortunately hospitalized when the big day came around. Though George did the honours for her. Thanks, George!

So we had the lunch today instead. We went to the smorgasbord lunch at the Sofitel -- which included unlimited champagne.

That was Paul's undoing. He always on principle eats everything in sight at a smorgasbord but he was unwise enough to extend that to the champagne. He ended up a rather ill lad when he got home later on. Knowing Paul, however, I think we all had a bit of a laugh about that. He might learn that free wine and free food have to be handled differently.

Susan didn't drink at all and acted as our chauffeur so we had not only a glamorous driver to take us all home in the Tarago but a sober one! Thanks, Susan!

Present were Jenny, Nanna, Paul, Susan, Anne, myself and Matthew. Matthew was very good -- he just sat there in his high chair for the full 2 hours. I had envisaged chasing him all around the Sofitel but it didn't happen.

The Sofitel clearly has the best smorgasbord in Brisbane so we were all happy with the food. I had a lot of smoked salmon and Paul had an enormous plate of natural oysters. So many oysters plus lots of champagne were a definite warning of doom but Paul heeded no warnings, as usual.

We talked a bit about getting Matthew into Eton and I had some advice about handling the interview -- which amounted to letting Susan do the talking. Knowing Paul's verbosity, we all found that amusing but even Paul agreed that that would be the best policy.

17 June, 2012

Another dosa lunch

Paul, Susan and their little caveman came over for lunch today. We managed to get dosas as takeaways this time so we could have them in a more peaceful environment at home -- though Matthew kept us all on the hop.

Susan did the honours of fetching our takeaways as she usually does and we were quite pleased that we could get dosas as takeaways as we are all very fond of them at the moment.

While Susan was away I talked to Paul a bit about self-presentation -- how it is fine to be ambitious and have high standards but admit that only to the closest people in your life. It's rather mad but people think much more highly of you if you talk about your failures rather than your successes. So we went over all that sort of thing in some detail and Paul seemed to get something out of it.

And when Susan arived back with the dosas we mainly talked about the latest developments with my will. The laws keep changing so I have had to make various changes to keep up with that. But there are lots of details to consider so the more I discuss it with the people involved the better understanding everyone should have of what is intended.

So we had some interesting chats to go with our dosas.

3 May, 2012

A blast from the past

I was going through some old papers when I found the photo below -- showing me in rather unusual company. I am the guy in the back row with the black glasses. I had more hair then. As you can see, the photo was taken in 1970.

Despite appearances, it is not a religious occasion. I was teaching economics at a Catholic regional High School for girls in Merrylands (Sydney) -- called Cerdon college. The photo is of all the school staff. In those days Catholic schools still had religious staff, at least in part.

Sister Aquinas, the Head, was a very smart lady. I liked her. I wonder if her vocation endured. I see that she was still in the Marist Sisters order in 1980 so perhaps it did. I believe her birth name was Joan McBride.

2 May, 2012

"Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest" -- Exodus 34:21

(I put the following note up on my other blogs so I thought it might be of some interest here too. I do not update this blog regularly but I have been updating my other blogs every day)

My recent very unpleasant medical problems have made me ask what is the best way forward in my life. To answer that question I turned to the wisest book I know: The Bible. And I found the quotation above. Following Bible advice has always worked wonderfully for me so I now intend to follow that piece of advice too. I intend from now on the keep the Sabbath and will blog only six days of the week instead of seven.

But it will be the real Sabbath I will keep, not the pagan abomination of the Sun's day. It was precisely because the pagans had set aside the first say of the week as a day to worship the sun that the ancient Hebrews defiantly made the seventh day of the week their holy say and I will follow their example. I will no longer blog on Saturday but will do other things.

But I will not be surrounding what I do with rules. As Jesus said, the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Bible simply says to do no work and that does not exclude doing all sorts of other things.

One of the things I would like to do today is to learn the words of the Stabat Mater in full. It is the most famous Medieval Latin poem and has been set by many composers -- with the glorious rendition by Pergolesi being best known. I already sort of know the poem but would like to be able to recite the whole thing right through without interruption. To be able to do that will be pleasure, not work. Latin poetry is wonderful even in a work of Marian devotion.

Stabat mater dolorosa
Juxta crucem lacrimosa
Dum pendebat filius

Cuius animam gementem
contristatam et dolentem
Pertransivit gladius ... etc

My favorite video of it is Here. Can those ladies sing!

If it's a techno beat you like, you will hate it. This is a work of profound contemplation about the central event of the Christian faith. Even I as an atheist can feel the power of it.


Anne and I had a leisurely trip to Wynnum in the Humber for morning tea and I spent most of the afternoon studying the Stabat Mater. My old brain was not up to memorizing everything I wanted but I made some progress. I have had the devil of a job remembering:

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa bendicta
Mater unigeniti

But I think I have now got it. I only want to learn the first 8 verses anyway. The Marian devotion in the later verses is a bit much for me

I also spent some time studying "Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot in the afternoon and read it to Anne after dinner. I think she could see why such a dismal piece of work was nonetheless important and famous. It does have some good lines in it (e.g. "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons") and it seems clear to me what it is all about -- though there are various versions of that. A stream of consciousness poem does lend itself to various interpretations.

27 May, 2012

Home at last

I had my final procedure on 25th and my urologist, Dr. Boon Kua said it all went well. It must have as I now feel nearly back to normal -- no pain and just some minor residual symptoms which seem to be steadily diminishing. So I am optimistic for the near future. But I did go though three pretty grim weeks to get to that point. A couple of complications cropped after the initial procedure which left me in a fair bit of episodic pain and discomfort.

Anne and I celebrated tonight with an Indian takeaway from one of our usual suppliers of Indian food and it went down exceptionally well after hospital food. Not that the food was bad at the Wesley. It was just a bit Australian for someone who long ago converted to ethnic food. Though they did quite a reasonable Thai curry on a couple of occasions. And their bread rolls were always excellent. And quite good porridge for breakfast was also appreciated. I am stiill Australian when it comes to porridge.

Anne visited me fairly regularly while I was in hospital and Paul came up a couple of times too -- accompanied by Susan and Matthew. Matthew was undoubltedly the one who enjoyed himself most on both occasions. Exploring my motel-type room was great entertainment for a 9-month-old.

I have top private insurance so even the costs of a high class outfit like the Wesley were fully covered. I had to pay only admission fees and anaesthetists.

The mostly female staff were invariably pleasant and using my call button always elicited a prompt response. I was amused that even the Wesley had a contingent of Filipina nurses -- but they were perfectly competent and spoke reasonable English. Filipina nurses seem to pervade the world these days. Maids, wives and nurses seem to be the main exports of the Republic of the Philippines. But a good work environment at the Wesley means that they can pick the best ones.

The key to the Wesley is plenty of staff. So when I fronted up to the Emergency Dept. on three occasions, I did not have to wait 4 to 8 hours to be seen by anyone -- as I would have to wait at a public hospital. I in fact waited on all three occasions about 2 minutes. It shows the difference that adequate staffing can make. Anybody who relies on the public hospital system gets what they pay for: Third class service. Good private insurance costs no more than what the average smoker spends on his habit so you pays your money and you makes your choice. And over 40% of Australians take out private health insurance.

20 May, 2012

Another hospital visit

A serious complication to my treatment arose on Thursday morning (17th) so I took myself off the the Wesley again and was readmitted. I had corrective surgery first thing on Friday which seemed to go well. I was discharged early on Saturday.

14 May, 2012

A visit from a caveman

Because of complications I was readmitted to the Wesley for a few days. While I was there Paul and Susan paid me a visit -- on the night of 13th. They brought their little caveman with them: Matthew.

Civilization goes back only about 5,000 years so it is too recent to have had much effect on our genetics. So little boys grow up as trainee cavemen. It is the caveman life that their genetics prepare them for. And cavemen of course largely feed themselves by chasing and killing animals. So they have to be very lively for that. So little boys are programmed to run and jump and climb and generally rush around like mad things.

People who want them to sit quietly are asking something unnatural

All that is particularly true of people of Northern European origin. People who have been civilized for a long time -- such as the Chinese -- are more passive. But our ancestors were living by hunting as little as 2,000 years ago. And hunting is still a popular sport.

So Matthew was the perfect little caveman. He could not sit still and was crawling and climbing wherever he could. Such behaviour can annoy some people but it is just his innate programming and if you realize that it is a little caveman you are seeing, that should make you indulgent.

Understanding cavemen as I do, it was a delight to see such a lively child as Matthew.


Scientists test their theories by making predictions from their theories and then seeing if the predictions are confirmed by events. So I decided to test my theory that little boys are apprentice cavemen -- i.e. that their characteristics trace back to a hunter/gather lifestyle from which we have emerged only recently -- recently in an evolutionary sense.

So I asked Anne about Aborigines. Anne knows Aborigines very well from her many years of working among them and they have emerged VERY recently from a hunter/gatherer lifestyle. So from my theory one would predict that Aborigine children would be very active and would tend from an early age towards hunter/gatherer activities.

And Anne tells me that that is exactly what happens. The children are very active doing things like stalking birds and go fishing from a very early age. So my theory is confirmed.

And a story about a great little Aboriginal kid might help make the point. This happened in November 2007:

A four-year-old boy has been found playing in a croc-infested Territory creek after sneaking off pig hunting alone with four dogs and a puppy. The toddler was found five-and-a-half hours after he set off from his parents' house playing in a creek with the puppy. Amazingly, Daniel Woditj also swam two creeks known to be inhabited by crocs during his adventurous romp. Mr Knight said that after walking for several kilometres, Daniel came to a creek and swam across it. Four of his dogs "bailed up" at the creek but the youngster continued on undaunted with his puppy to a second creek. Mr Knight said Daniel swam the second croc-infested creek and walked on for several more kilometres. "Captain is a hard bushman and Daniel is following in his footsteps. They breed them tough out bush."

8 May, 2012

Back home

Still convalescing but I might as well do that at home. It is just a matter of time now (I hope)

6 May, 2012

A Serious illness

I am not up to writing much at the moment but I thought I should put up how I am situated at the moment

At about 11am last Wednesday (2nd.), I was suddenly struck with a severe pain in my lower right abdomen -- roughly where the appendix is. So I was fortunate to get a 12.40pm appointment with GP Rangiah at the Annerley Medical center -- where I normally go. He poked and prodded and then said: "You have to go to hospital"

I took a taxi to the Wesley and was given morphine shortly after arriving. I was then given a CT Scan and a kidney stone was detected. I was on the operating table at about 6pm that night under urologist Boon Kua -- an Australian Chinese who speaks good Australian and did his studies at UQ. He impressed me favourably.

He inserted a stent to fix the connection between my kidney and my bladder and that fixed the pain, with actual laser destruction of the stone scheduled for 2 weeks further on

So all went well initially but just before I was due to go home, I started to pee lots of blood -- so had to stay in. Dr Hua theorized that I have a urinary tract infection but the medication he has prescribed has had no effect and I am still doing lots of painful bloody pees.

I have had UTIs in the past and found that Bactrim gave me relief in hours so I will suggest that to him next time I see him. He probably will say more modern drugs are better but Bactrim works for me if it really is a UTI..

But at the moment nobody knows what the problem is so I may be heading for serious trouble.

23 April, 2012

The Tweede Kamer

For the whole of my adult life I have had Dutch people around me in some way and without exception I have thought highly of them. A Dutchman once told me that I would make a good Dutchman and I regarded that as a high compliment

But I must admit that for no good reason I find the name of the Dutch parliament amusing. "Tweede Kamer" sounds like "the tweedy chamber". "Tweedy" is most often used in a derisory way in English (with apologies to the good people of Harris and Lewis).

But it is of course just a routine example of low German: "Zweite Kammer " (second chamber) would be the Hoch Deutsch version of it

It just means the "lower house" of the Dutch parliament. And bicameral parliaments are after all common in the Anglosphere too (though we don't have one in Queensland, where I happily reside)

We hardly ever hear anything about the "Eerste Kamerlid" (the Dutch Senate or "first chamber") and I don't know enough Dutch to read easily what information about it that is available online. I gather, however, that a member of that august body is called a "volksvertegenwoordiger", which would blow anybody's mind. I think it means something like "Worthy people's representative".

22 April, 2012

A Dosa lunch

I put on a "welcome home" lunch for Simon today after his recent deployment to Afghastiland. We went to the "Riverwalk Tandoori" at Highgate hill -- run by Sikhs.

Being in the military during wartime is a hard life even if you are not being shot at. You are away from your family for months on end in some rather unpleasant places so you not only miss your family but are aware that you are not there to support and protect them. So the difficulties of war affect not only the serviceman himself but his family as well

Although I did volunteer for service in Vietnam during my time in the army many years ago I never got there so I speak not from experience but rather from having seen a lot. And what I have seen makes me very appreciative of the men in our military. So putting on a welcome home lunch for Simon was the least I could do from my viewpoint. It was my way of saying "thank you" for his service and an expression of appreciation for him personally.

Due to illness and other things there were a few people who had to cancel at the last minute but there were still about 10 of us there and the dosas made their usual good impression. Simon rapidly cleaned his plate so there is no doubt he enjoyed his. Dosas were new to most people there so I was pleased to have been able to introduce a few more people to the dosa experience.

The restaurant was packed and there was even a small queue outside at one point so we were where it was at. And many of the diners were Indian so that is a strong testimonial for any Indian restaurant. There was such a big demand placed on the kitchen that it was dosas only. The normal Indian menu was not available. Our dosas came reasonably promptly.

Simon and I talked about Afghastiland and agreed that the Western withdrawal from there will be not a moment too soon. The Afghans will have to fight it all out between themselves from now on but at least the whole population now know that there is an alternative to a 7th century theocracy so hopefully we will have left a legacy of awareness in Afghan minds that there are options about how to live their lives and run their country.

17 April, 2012

A letter to a little girl

One of the reasons I put this blog up is as an aide memoire to myself. I have an atrocious memory for events in my own life but have an excellent memory for factual things like the date and purpose of the Peace of Westphalia (1648, ending Europe's religious wars). I have forgotten something like 99% of the events in my own life. So this blog is a sort of substitute for the memory I don't have.

I was therefore greatly pleased that one of my twin stepdaughters recently found in her things a letter I had written to her many years ago when she was 12. I had forgotten just about everything in it. I was in Sydney at the time while she was in Brisbane. And her mother and I had our toddler son with us in Sydney: Joey. Below is the letter. You will note that we had pet names for one another. We always got on well.:


Lady Von,

Thank you for the letter that you wrote to Mummy and me.

I am pleased that you enjoyed your trip to Cairns. I thought that you might get car sick. Maybe you are growing out of that.

You will like my place in Sydney when you see it. It is quite a pretty house. In my room there is a marble fireplace. It has very pretty green and brown tiles around it. When it gets cold I may light a fire in it to keep warm. It is not very cold at the moment but when we do have cold days I normally just put the electric heater on. It is a lot easier than lighting a fire.

Did you have lots of rain in Brisbane? In Sydney it has been raining almost every day except for the last week. For the last week there has not been even a cloud around so it has been a nice time to go for trips. Yesterday we went for a ferry ride on Sydney harbour. Everything looked very beautiful. Joey loved looking at the water as it went by. He always likes looking at water. He loves fountains.

We also went to the beach yesterday. Sydney has lots of beaches so we go to one every weekend. Joey always plays ‘sandcastles”. He has his own little plastic bucket and spade to help him build them. One day last weekend we went to places that did not have beaches. When we went to go home, Joey cried and shouted out ‘sandcastles”. He didn’t want us to go home until he had been to the beach. He has never had enough of the beach.

Whenever we want to go home from the beach he always complains. He would stay there all day if we let him. We never stay long, however. Neither Joey nor I can take a lot of sun. We would get burned. So instead of going to the beach once for a long time we go to the beach often for short times. It only takes a short drive to get to the beach in Sydney so it is not as hard to go to the beach as it is in Brisbane. I am sure your mother will take you to the beach when you are in Sydney.



8 March, 2012

Sunday lunch

Paul and Susan very kindly invited Jenny, Anne and me to lunch today. Susan put on another one of her usual masterful spreads with the curried prawns being particularly good.

I took over a donation to Paul: My complete library of books about Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen. "Joh" was a very influential and hence controversial figure in recent Queensland history and Paul had expressed regret that it was all before his time and he hence knew nothing about Joh. My collection comprised about 7 books so that is a lot to be written about a non-national politician.

We talked a lot about politics with the other major topic being the future education of young Matthew. Paul wants to get him taught German from Primary school on but is finding that not many schools offer it. It is certainly easiest to learn a language when you are young.

At one stage we were lamenting that Susan knew not one word of Dutch despite her Dutch ancestry. So I told her how to pronounce Gouda cheese in the correct Dutch way -- complete with the initial guttural. I can't remember her exact response but it was something like "Good Heavens"! Dutch pronunciation does sometimes have that effect!

The party below:

7 March, 2012

A very busy day -- Easter Saturday

Suzy and Russell decided to bring their two little ones over to visit Jenny for lunch today. Jenny promptly rang me and we all met at her place for a 1pm lunch.

Being resourceful, Jenny whipped up an excellent lunch at short notice featuring a range of foods -- including sausages. Being a sausage enthusiast that's the only detail I really remember as I really got into them -- with bread rolls and salad accompaniments, of course.

Saharah seems finally to have lost her fear of me and allowed me to hold her for the first time today -- at age two and a half. Little Dusty had grown a lot since I last saw him and seemed a very placid and contented child.

We spent almost the whole time talking about baby and toddler matters of course but I take a great interest in the little ones so that was fine by me.

About 3pm I went home and had a nap

Then at about 5:30 pm I rolled up at Anne's place for the annual dinner that she gives for her two sisters. Ralph was also there. We had roast lamb with lots of good accompaniments.

It might seem a bit much having a big lunch followed by a big dinner but I normally miss breakfast and have an early lunch between 11am and 12noon anyway so it was only a minor variation of my usual routine

Since we were all getting on in years and all of a Presbyterian background we had a rather jolly time discussing old times and also spent a fair bit of the time discussing church matters.

An unexpected event was that Anne had just bought a "radio turntable" -- something on which to play the collection of old LPs that most of us oldies have about the place. Anne unpacked it and I set it up and we played a record of Bing Crosby singing old favourites. Can you get more geriatric than that? It probably sounded like a nursing home! We enjoyed it anyway. It is is a small machine but it produced quite good sound.

I weaved my way home at about 9pm and caught up with the remaining blogging I had to do.

6 March, 2012


Easter is going to be a busy time for me -- by my standards anyway.

I DID get to church this morning. I grumble every year about the Good Friday service being at 9am. It is apparently so people can get away a bit earlier on their vacations. So as a late riser I have to make a special effort.

Anyway, Anne woke me up at 8am so I was able to get ready and arrive at Ann St Presbyterian in good time. Fortunatelly it is only about 5 mins drive from where I live. I even got a parking spot just over the road! I was still pretty bleary walking into the church however so it was fortunate that Anne was with me to do most of my talking for me. We were greeted at the door by a very chatty and good-natured lady, which was nice.

Because my appearances there are so rare, someone always asks me if I have been to the church before -- whereupon I inform them that I was was a member there way back in 1964 -- which always seems to get a respectful response.

Anyway the sermon was quite good. Our interim minister (Ron Clark, a former moderator) put the events of Christ's final days into the context of his times. Clark seems a very learned man even though his academic qualifications are modest. We had him last year too so a whole year has gone by without a new minister being called. I suppose our retired minister (Archie McNicol) would be a hard man to replace

The Good Friday service is of course a communion service and I decided to take the tokens today. Although I am not now a believer, doing so does celebrate a momentous event and expresses solidarity with the other people there -- people of the sort I grew up among.

It was good to go back to my metaphorical roots. And Anne likes going back there too, as it is her old church too.

And for my being a good boy, Anne made me some porridge for breakfast when we got home -- followed by hot cross buns that were actually hot.

26 March, 2012

The Parramatta female factory

It seems likely that my great-great grandmother passed through this place after her arrival in a convict ship. Some comments on it below by His Eminence Archbishop Pell:

Last week I visited the Parramatta convict "Female Factory", built by the ex-convict architect Francis Greenway in 1818.

Five thousand women passed through its door until it closed in 1847, and an action group is working hard now to persuade the government to preserve this historic site.

We need to be reminded how tough the early situation was, how far we have travelled and that we must never return to such a level of cruelty.

Life was difficult beyond our understanding. The women were divided into three classes, with the worst class breaking stones.

For some years unruly women could be flogged, and when money ran out for the ablutions block the women had to wash in the open with water from a few taps.

The punishment cells where women were incarcerated in isolation and fed only bread and water can still be seen, with their small windows high in the walls.

However, not everything was grim and inhumane.

Men outnumbered women four to one and would visit the factory to select a wife _ if she consented.

Orphans and the destitute lived there too and many youngsters were born in the small maternity hospital. Infant mortality worsened when the factory closed.

Some women reoffended in order to return, as conditions were even tougher outside.


25 March, 2012

Paul's birthday

Jenny put on a small birthday do for Paul tonight. Paul, Susan, Anne, myself and Nanna were in attendance -- plus a young bruiser named Matthew. Matthew is only 6 months or so old but is already amazingly big and solid. He'll have a footballer's physique when he grows up and is projected to be 6'3" tall. He is also happy natured and enjoys a good toe!

Jenny put on a feast with several main courses and the conversation really rattled along, with the recent electoral triumph of the conservatives in the State parliament a major topic. There was much speculation about what Campbell Newman would actually do now that he is in power. Just having him in charge will encourage business and thus create jobs.

We also talked about the Katter party and I pointed out that he is no Pauline Hanson in that he is very supportive to Aborigines.

I regaled the party with an unusual story: The story of the origin and evolution of the Oxford Book of English verse. You won't find it written down anywhere as I have put it together myself from the known facts. It is a surprisingly good story. I have got Paul enthused about poetry so I am going to get him a copy of the book if I can, though it will have to be secondhand at this stage. We talked a lot about poetry generally.

11 March, 2012

A small high tea

I hadn't had any "Devonshire" teas for a while so I got Anne to organize a high tea for me at 4pm today. We had pumpkin scones with jam and cream, tea out of a teapot kept warm in a tea cosy, cucumber sandwiches and jam doughnuts.

Anne's sister June came over and joined us so it was a congenial occasion with just the 3 of us. My 3-tier cakestand was deployed but not the silver tea strainers as Anne used teabags in the pot.

While Anne was making the tea, the electic jug blew the circuit breakers for some reason so Anne had to boil the water in a pot on the gas stove. So even a high tea can have its minor dramas.

We were pretty full after all the goodies so just had cheese sandwiches as supper later on. But it was Gouda cheese and Danish butter on the sandwiches!

I don't normally eat Gouda cheese. I normally stick to the good old Australian "Tasty". But a Gouda cheese (Vermeer) has just been voted the best cheese in the world at a big cheese expo so I thought I should look into it. It did make a very nice cheese sandwich.

4 March, 2012

A picnic

Last Friday Anne and I went for a picnic brunch at Wynnum. I love Wynnum. It gives me a feeling of calm. We found a shelter overlooking the sea near Sallyanne's beach.

Anne had prepared chicken and mayonnaise sandwiches which were very good and we Humbered out there. The Humber gives me a feeling of being on an expedition

And the only euphoriant we took was mineral water!

So after the picnic did we drop into Anne's Tingalpa home for a cup of tea? Not on your Nellie! We Humbered back to my place (with a stop at Aldi for bargains) where Anne shortly thereafter departed to view a performance of the final part of Wagner's Ring Cycle. I am myself approving of opera -- within some limits -- but Annne knows no limits in that department.

26 February, 2012

A busy weekend

After dining with Paul and Susan on Saturday, Anne and I dined with Jill and Lewis on Sunday. The occasion was a slightly belated celebration of Jill's birthday. I am gallant enough not to say which one of course.

Lewis however announced that he turns 80 soon so that will be quite a milestone. He is getting over a minor medical problem so looked a little more gaunt than usual but was nonetheless still wearing well.

He and Jill are going on a cruise shortly so he looks like he will be fit for it. They will be starting out from Buenos Aires so it is lucky they will be there for only one day. The English are very unpopular there at the moment and both Jill and Lewis could be mistaken for English. I suggested that they take a small Australian flag to wave but that might add fuel to the fire -- as the Australian flag has the Union Jack quartered in it.

We went to the Kafe Meze. As usual, I ordered an array of appetizers for us all and they all hit the spot. The keftedes were much admired as usual.

The kitchen there is an open one and it was quite an inspring sight as we walked past -- four chefs preparing a whole range of delicious looking food. The owner was there in the kitchen as we were watching and looked pleased about our obvious admiration so I gave him a hail and a smile which he returned.

25 February, 2012

A Bible study

Paul knows practically nothing about the Bible to I offered to introduce him to my favourite book of the Bible: Ecclesiastes. He and Susan were both keen to learn more and Anne also seemed in need of a proper introduction to it so the four of us got together on my verandah over a curry as usual.

I pointed out Solomon's relevance to modern times and explained that his blase attitude was a consequence of his "having it all" as King of Israel.

I went through only Chapters 1 and 9 explaining everything as I went and Paul and Susan were both rather amazed at what they heard. Ecclesiastes is a VERY different book. It is literally a personal message from 3,000 years ago. And everyone present could see the wisdom there.

I did only two chapters as there is probably only so much wisdom one can absorb in one night.

14 February, 2012

St Valentine is remembered again

I did all the right things. Anne got a card, a big bunch of red flowers and an enormous sample box of Whitman's chocolates

And I took her to dinner at a nice Greek restaurant: The Kafe Meze in West End. I think I took her there last year too.

As usual I ordered a series of appetizers rather than any main course: Tarama, Haloumi, Keftedes etc. And all washed down with a stubby each of Fourex Gold, a Brisbane mid-strength beer. Most non-Greeks seem to be unaware of it but cold beer goes very well with Greek food and on a warm Summer night it went down exceptionally well

From what I saw the men of Brisbane seemed to have bombed out big time. The restaurant was very busy but most of the customers were glammed-up groups of women. Sad.

For some reason incomprehensible to both Anne and me, the waitress gave us a 20% discount. I didn't argue, however, but just said: "Thank you very much". It could have been a Senior's discount but I don't think we are quite wrinkly enough for 20% yet.

5 February, 2012

Another poetry night

For both Joe and Paul, I try to make up for the way the school system today deprives people of their inherited culture. And some of the most prominent cultural elements are the great heritage of poems in English. When I have read classic poems to both Joe and Paul in the past, they have greatly enjoyed it and Paul in particular is quite outraged at how he was nearly robbed of some great cultural experiences

So over our usual curry we had a selection of poems out of an old 1961 Grade 6 reading book! Primary school kids once got a better cultural education than High School kids do today!

We read Lord Ullin's daughter, The Song of Cape Leeuwin, Sea Fever, The Pioneers, Boadicea, Love of Country and a few others

Both Paul and Susan really enjoyed their contact with eloquent expressions of our thought-provoking past.

Matthew was also present and in good spirits. Susan, Paul and Anne all helped look after him until he eventually went to sleep.

I gave Susan a crazy gift: A tin of Heinz Spotted Dick made in England. It wasn't as crazy as it sounds, however. She was delighted to get it. Cooking is one of her main interests so she was pleased to get a mainstream version of a classic British dessert. She had never heard of it until I mentioned it.

2 February, 2012

A birthday lunch

On Monday there was a lunch in celebration of the birthday of Anne's sister Merle. I won't be so ungallant as to say WHICH birthday.

Suffice it to say that the three sisters, Anne, Merle and June had one of their relatively rare times together, which they all appreciated.

We met for lunch at a restaurant at Manly called the Cuttlefish. It had a very promising menu but the promise was poorly realized. The food was very mediocre. Anne described her Paella as "not unpleasant" and my "Barramundi" was tasteless. Even the salt-shaker did not work -- which led to my doing a somewhat messy dissection of it!

I was amused to see on their menu that they had a "Greek plate" that included neither Haloumi, Tarama nor Souvlakia -- Let alone Keftedes! They left out most of the essentials of a Greek meal, in other words. And their Paella was as about as authentic as their Greek plate!

Maybe they should have called their Greek plate a Mediterranean plate -- but then one would have expected Tabouli, Hummus, Falafel etc. -- which did not seem to be in evidence. I am not even sure that they had Feta! But they did have Dolmades!

But each lady brought along the man in her life so it was a fun party for 6. Colin and Ralph are smart men.

I shouted (in the Australian sense).

26 January, 2011

A time for traditions

The Left have done their best to destroy all that is traditional in our society but people like traditions. They like connections with their past and with other people past and present. A couple of billion people in the Far East actually worship their ancestors!

So the traditions that have survived the Leftist onslaught are much celebrated. A great Australian tradition is ANZAC day in which we remember our war dead. And far from it being a celebration for old fogies, it goes from strength to strength, with young people joining in the ceremonies in droves. Precisely because they have so little left in the way of traditions, many young people seize on ANZAC day eagerly as a way of helping them understand and relate to their past.

And yesterday and today were days of other traditions that are growing rather than dying out. The first was on Wednesday: Burns night. It is of course a celebration of the life and work of Scotland's greatest poet, always held on his birthday, 25th January -- and there now more Burns Night suppers in England than in Scotland, which is another indication of how people grab onto those traditions that have not been snatched away from them. And Burns Night is in fact a cluster of traditions. There are quite a lot of things that one traditionally does on Burns night and I usually do a fair few of them, varying from year to year.

We had all the traditional food yesterday -- led of course by the haggis -- but also including tatties and neeps, oatcakes, Dunlop cheese, clootie dumpling, tablet etc. We played pipe music, welcomed in the haggis with a recitation of the Burns poem to that effect and then toasted it in Scotch whisky.

Present were Anne and myself, Jill and Lewis and Paul and Susan. And we also had Vonnie with us for a while via Skype from New Zealand. She seemed very pleased to see me in the kilt.

I am normally pretty quiet on social occasions but I got into the Scotch rather a lot so that loosened my tongue and I may in fact have talked as much as Paul, which takes some doing. I probably made admissions that I shouldn't! Anyway, we all enjoyed the food and the poems and I even ventured a solo rendition of "Scotland the brave". It was probably pretty brave of people to listen to me as I am not much of a singer.

Matthew wearing a Scottish cap -- with proud mother

5-month-old Matthew was of course the star of the occasion and in good sentimental style we talked at some length about his education. We decided to send him to a Catholic primary school, followed possibly by a secondary education at Eton. He should be smart enough and robust enough to do well at the latter. But Paul and I would have to find the large fees involved to give him that advantage, of course.

It was quite late when we wound up after all that.

At table eating our Burns supper

And today was Australia Day. Australia Day commemorates the landing in Australia of the first settlers from England and there are always grumbles from the miseries on the Left that it should really be called "invasion day" or the like. For many years it was little celebrated but again the very fact that it is a tradition and commemoration that has survived makes it popular these days. Lots of people now fly the Australian flag on their cars on that day.

My family on my mother's side have celebrated it for many years with a lunchtime BBQ and it was good to see today quite a rollup, with people we hadn't seen for a while. I brought along some leftovers from Burns night and talked mostly to Peter and my brother as I usually do.

Peter is very au fait with all things Chinese and I know a fair bit about German so we agreed that the expression that the Chinese use to describe their country can adequately be translated into German ("Mittelreich") but not into English. Many are the woes of translators!

And, as usual, it was a great pleasure to see and hear Peter's vivacious Eurasian daughter, Michelle.

Peter is my cousin once removed and we are the "brains" of the family. It's a very bright family but Peter and I are the only academics.

23 January, 2012

Anne's birthday

January is usually a pretty quiet time for most people, I think, but it is not so for me -- not by my standards anyway. Burns night will be on in a couple of days and tonight I took Anne out for a birthday dinner.

Anne got all glammed up and I even put on long trousers and wore shoes! Shorts and thongs are my usual attire.

We went to George's Paragon fish restaurant in the city. I used to go to the one in Sydney and have also been to the one at Sanctuary Cove (about an hour's drive South of Brisbane). And all of them really are paragons! Tonight we had great views across the river from the big windows, a good ambience generally and first class service. I don't mind expensive restaurants if everything is just right. In some of them the service is snooty and the portions small.

We started with Sydney rock oysters and both then went on to whole Sole for the main course. The whole Sole used to be their specialty at Sanctuary Cove and Anne has also had it there so it was an obvious thing to order -- and it was as good as ever: A very tasty fish -- fried in butter, I think.

I had to ask for a salt shaker, though. They obviously think their food is perfect without added salt. I in fact added nothing to the fish: Neither salt, Tartare sauce nor lemon juice. But I did need salt for the chips. I like my chips very salty and you can't have fish without chips, of course.

I am getting a bit shaky in my old age so the Sole was rather difficult to eat (being slippery and very flaky) but I managed. And I DID eat both sides!

14 January, 2012

An expedition and a sendoff

A busy day yesterday. In the morning, Anne and I got into the Humber for our annual expedition to Syd's pie shop down Beenleigh way -- to pick up Scottish supplies. Burns night is soon so I stocked up on haggis, tablet etc. Syd makes an excellent haggis.

As soon as we arrived, however, I ordered a pie and chips for both Anne and myself. Anne first discovered the delights of pie and chips there and it seems to have become an annual treat for her. The pie, gravy and chips are all first class.

I did quite a big shop-up of British foods, including an apple and rhubarb pie, which is a great favourite of mine but is very hard to find in Brisbane.

And in the evening I put on a big sendoff dinner (15 people) for Joe at our usual Indian restaurant. He flies back to Canberra tomorrow for the academic year. Joe invited 5 of his Brisbane friends along to the dinner and I was rather impressed by Kim, a young woman who seems to act as his chauffeur when he is in Brisbane. She seems a real lady. I hope he makes sure to keep in touch with her.

Young Dan, son of Simon and Tracy seems to have grown up fast. He kept Joe engrossed in conversation for most of the night. I could hear a lot of Simon in him. I mostly talked to Ken, as I usually do.

We tried to Skype our NZ family in but there was something wrong with the Skype software so we failed. I have now reloaded it and hope for better luck next time.

2 January, 2012


In the aftermath of Christmas, I thought I might reflect on a few events about presents.

I am a very BAD present buyer and Jenny is good at that so I have for many many years given Jenny the job of buying presents on my behalf. If the present envisaged is a bit expensive she sometimes seeks my OK for it but I always say Yes to it anyway. These days the presents come from "Anne and John" but everybody knows who has selected them

But there have been a lamentably few occasions when I myself successfully chose presents. I thought I might mention those occasions

On one occasion when we were at Queen Bess St., I bought two reams of A4 typing paper, divided each ream into appprox. 10 quires, wrapped it and left the 4 packages under the tree before Christmas: Marked for Ken, Paul, Von and Suzy.

Now as everybody knows, kids feel presents left under a tree to try and figure out what they are getting. But my 4 packages stumped everybody. Even Ken was drawn into it. But when they finally got to open their presents, they were a great success. As Ken said: "It has got so much potential".

And on her 70th birthday I gave Nanna a much wanted present. Like most other people in the family, Nanna is a keen player of computer games. And computer gamers are very fussy about their joystick. A joystick that is not just right can cause them to lose a game. And Nanna had found one joystick that really suited her. So she had tried to buy another example of it for when her existing one died -- as they all do eventually. But she had failed. It was out of production.

But I had one. I had got it with an Atari computer that I had bought. So I kept it and gave it to her on Christmas day. It was obviously a big hit. Giving a 70 year old lady a computer joystick must seem odd but it was just right on that occasion.

And for the Christmas just gone I bought Anne a big glass frog. Being a nature-lover Anne likes frogs but being a woman she doesn't like thing hopping or scuttling. So a frog figurine is an ideal compromise. I just happened to see it in the window of an Indian shop. So when I went into the shop I sang: "How much is that froggy in the window?" to the tune of the old doggy song. Such good humour pleased the proprietor so much that she gave me a substantial discount on it!

1 January, 2012

A very quiet new year

In the early afternoon on new year's eve Joe rolled up accompanied by TWO young female persons, Kim and Cianne. So which was the Korean? If you know anything about Korea you would plump for Kim -- but it wasn't. Cianne is Korean and this Kim is a blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon. They gave me a very colourful Nepalese bedspread. I used it as a tablecloth that evening, where it did very well.

Anne was up in Nambour visiting her mother for most of new year's eve but she arrived at my place at about 7pm bearing a dozen Sydney rock oysters for each of us. I had put a small piece of pork into the oven at 6pm and with the addition of vegetables by Anne it made a good roast pork dinner with an excellent oyster appetizer. Sydney rock oysters are not the largest but they are the tastiest in my view.

We washed it all down with Australian "champagne". I have in the past bought Moet or Veuve Cliquot for such occasions but although they are nice wines my favourite Seaview brut from South Australia seems just as good to me. Seaview have always made good wines.

We drank only about half the bottle with dinner and kept the rest for a toast to the new year at midnight.

After dinner I put on some music, as I usually do when Anne is here. I had intended to put on Scottish music but forgot and put on Vivaldi and Mozart instead. A forgiveable forgetting, I think.

Anne stayed overnight so for lunch today I took her to the South Indian restaurant for dosas. To both Anne and I they are celebratory food. They are that good.

Then for dinner today Anne cooked up some mint and rosemary lamb sausages which were excellent.

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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!


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