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

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Old folk at lunch

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


30 December, 2014

Do Presbyterian churches have campaniles?

I had never considered that important question until today.

I was at lunch with Anne and her two sisters. And we all are culturally Presbyterian.

Anne and her sisters customarily have a Christmas get-together in between Xmas and New Year. The day itself is reserved for other family committments. Anne, for instance, went to TWO different occasions organized by two of her sons. And I of course had a nice nap at Suz & Russell's place on the big day.

So we were gathered around the table at Anne's place eating some excellent coq au vin that Anne had prepared as a Xmas lunch. Because Presbyterianism is hostile to alcohol, however, Anne had subsituted for the "Vin". Instead she used stock, onions etc and the result was first class. It actually had umami in my view. Which is high praise. I haunt Japanese restaurants because of their mastery of umami. And I did in fact that very night visit the "Sunny Doll" for my fix of Chicken Teriyaki Don.

But anyway Merle noted that they do have a bell-tower at the Presbo church she goes to at Wynnum -- but she also remarked that they just play recorded stuff from it. Shameful! A bell tower should have bells in it! But then Anne remarked that our Ann St church has no campanile at all and hence no bells.

So my conclusion is that the old "Wee free" tradition (as at Ann St) is hostile to bells but maybe Church of Scotland is more flexible. Old questions of theology and exegesis still have some influence. I am delighted to know about that stuff.

I really like Wee Free (Free Church of Scotland) ways so I guess I am a born Puritan. And in some ways I still live a Puritan life. I live simply and give most of my money away, for instance. I have long ago given up teetotalling, however.

And when I used to go to the Ann St Church regularly (back in the 60s) I noted that there was a substantial British Israel sentiment in the congregation. So when I hear Parry's magnificent setting of Blake's incomparable "Jerusalem". I know what that's all about.

Has the human imagination ever produced more magnificent and more memorable words than these?

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land

And yet those wonderful words stem from a now-obscure and always way-out religious doctrine. There can be no doubt that religion can create great art -- arguably the greatest art of all.

29 December, 2014

Job lives

The book of Job (pronounced "Jobe") in the Bible tells us about a Godly man who enjoys great prosperity until the Lord strikes him down with various plagues. Why did the Lord do that? To test Job's faith. Job survives the test, never cursing God but remaining devout through all his trials and tribulations. As a reward the Lord restores Job's health and prosperity and makes him more prosperous than ever. It's an important story for Christians with many lessons in it. It tells them not to question God even when misfortune strikes, It assures us that good times will come again.

I think of Job when I think of Von. Von was born wise and has made a string of good decisions that has given her an idyllic life in NZ. So what has happened? The Lord has struck her down with a minor but disabling ailment that she has not been able to throw off yet. No doubt she will throw it off in time but, like the story of Job, it tells us not to envy anyone because no-one knows what the future holds. And Job tells Von not to despair and that good times will return. I hope that is of some comfort to her.

Von was brought up with no religion in her life but there are some important truths in religion. Although I have been an unbeliever for all of my adult life, I still get a lot out of reading my Bible. Everybody should read at least the Gospels. They are simple stories of great events that have resounded down the ages.

28 December, 2014

A banner weekend

Except that it was not a weekend. But the festive season is like that. On Christmas Eve, Anne cooked me lamb cutlets with salad. A favourite meal. Then on Boxing Day night she cooked me T-bone steaks with Diane sauce -- which is the best BBQ sauce you have ever tasted. It's a bottled sauce made by Beerenberg in South Australia so you might be able to get it from Woolworths. It's a definite gastronomic discovery.

The next day (Saturday 27th) we had big traditional breakfasts at the Phams in Buranda, followed by very rich Punjabi Doda Burfis from a local Indian grocer for lunch. The grocery is a big one so we had a walk around looking with wonder at their multitudinous but totally unfamiliar products. I bought some chutney and some South Indian pickles to try out.

We then went to the local Aldi to pick up a few things that I needed but we of course ended up coming away with a lot more than that. Aldi is like that. That evening we visited the New Sing Sing -- a nearby high quality Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant -- for supper. It was good, as usual. I had lemongrass chicken, as I usually do, and Anne had Chicken Chow Mein with added cashews

I had the pickles on my lunchtime ham sandwich today. It was not my idea of pickles so I will keep it as an accompaniment to curry. It definitely has the taste of India

Doda Burfi slices

25 December, 2014

Christmas day

Today Christians celebrate something very implausible -- the incarnation -- when the great God over all poured himself into the body of a baby and subsequently lived a life as a normal human being. It takes a lot to believe that and the whole thing was a matter of great dispute among the early Christians. Jesus himself did after all say: "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

But along came Athanasius' Egyptian doctrine of the Trinity to quell disputes and to make some sense of it all: The doctrine of three persons in the one God. It's not a doctrine mentioned anywhere in Christian scripture -- as I often point out -- but perhaps it is needed to make sense of the implausible. That we cannot hope to understand Godhead is after all a reasonable claim.

Partly at urging from Anne, I attended a service at my local branch of the Church of England yesterday evening: Holy Trinity Anglican Church Woolloongabba. It's a nice-looking church, and well-maintained

To my amazement, the church was full with a good cross-section of people . I rather liked that as I see Christianity as a civilizing influence. I thought initially that most came simply for the Xmas carols -- which were promised and delivered -- but it seems I was wrong. It was a Communion service and almost all of the congregation went forward to get the biscuit.

Rev. Paschke's sermon was pedestrian, with God "rolling up his sleeves" rather a lot -- an image I could not get with at all. But one expects an Anglican sermon to be inoffensive junk. I just went there for the carols.

Given my very fundamentalist early life, there was a lot more Popery in the service than I liked but I guess that I am a bit of a dinosaur there. "Popery" is probably condemned only in Northern Ireland these days

Anyway, after the service, which finished about 8pm, Anne made me a dinner of grilled lamb cutlets and salad, one of my favourite foods.

And for lunch today I went out to the family gathering at Suz & Russell's place. Because so many of us were interstate or abroad, there were only 9 adults and 2 littlies present but it was still a pleasant occasion. The littlies certainly made up in volume for what they lacked in numbers, with Dusty in particular giving an exhibition of perpetual motion.

I woke up earlier than usual (for me) so went straight out to the house. I was the first to arrive at around 8am. Suz had declared it an open house so that was OK, though. I was the first to arrive. It gave me the chance of a few chats with Russ. My early rising did catch up with me, however, I napped on a verandah couch for most of the time between morning tea and lunch.

We had lots of morning-tea food followed at lunchtime by a big leg of ham which was well cooked by Russell, with potato salad. For the morning-tea finger food, Davey brought along some "piggies in blankets" -- small sausages wrapped in puff pastry -- which I particularly liked. I think I had at least 6 of them. Puff pastry and sausages are both definite weaknesses of mine. And for dessert we had one of Maureen's excellent pavlovas. I talked mainly with Russell and Jenny.

Secret Santa got me 7 bottles of Clayton's, which must have involved a bit of scouting around. I drink a lot of it so it will soon go down. It's a surprisingly satisfying drink, though now very much out of fashion.

Davey helped by carrying it downstairs for me. Suz & Russell's house is built on very sloping ground and that seems to have required a rather long and steep entry staircase. The position of the house is very good, however. It has native bush on one side so we ate our food looking out at a native Australian forest of gum trees. Like most Australians, I like our gum trees.

I was the Secret Santa for Jenny but in my usual way I forgot to bring the present with me. Everyone is used to me being "Mr Forgetful", however, so no-one was surprised. Jenny will drop in to my place to pick it up when she is next over my way.

We also played our usual present-grabbing game -- out of which I got a bottle of red wine that looks good.

Some amusing bits:

We had all recently seen two very widely circulated videos which show you how to fold a shirt and how to fold a Japanese present.

Maureen is a folder from way back so said that her method was very similar to the Japanese method -- which Ken, being Ken, immediately disagreed with. Maureen was not oppressed, though. She promptly handed Ken some paper and told him to show how it should be done. Ken had a short attempt and them gave up. He declared that you can know when a thing is wrong even if you yourself do not know the right way. That produced some hilarity, though it is of course correct.

Then Davey put his foot in it. He is inclined to large claims so he claimed that he could do the shirt folding. Again Maureen put him on the spot. She found a kiddy shirt and told him to fold it. Dave did not do well initially but eventually got a result that we passed. We had a lot of laughs

A restorative nap after early rising

And there was a Christmas across the water in NZ too. And lots of us sent presents in acknowledgement. Von has a big pictorial recollection of it on her blog but I thought I might put up a pic of the presents I sent over. They arrived in a parcel on Christmas Eve so that was good timing. Jenny packed and posted it for me. There is a colourful trowel for Hannah's garden activities, plus a moneybox in the form of an old pillarbox plus a kiddy-size dustpan and brush. Hannah likes to have her own things.

24 December, 2014

The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner

In the wake of the two black deaths above, relations between American police and African-Americans have plummeted to a new low -- in part because of anti-police rhetoric from the likes of far-Leftist Bill de Blasio. De Blasio has since tried to pull his horns in but the damage has been done.

Conservatives have cautiously exonerated the police involved in the deaths above but blacks have become fired up by the Leftist pot-stirring and two NYC police have now died as a result. So I feel moved to say what little I can that might help the situation.

What I want to do here is to offer a couple of anecdotes in support of the view that civility towards the police will generally engender civility from the police. When the Ferguson and NYC police were both confronted by two huge and un-co-operative blacks, the result was always going to be perilous but could have been much ameliorated by a more civil response from the blacks concerned.

My contact with American law enforcement is very minor but I do think my contact with the California Highway Patrol -- not exactly a much praised body of men -- is instructive. My contact occurred in the 1970s, when Jimmy Carter's reviled 55 mph speed limit still applied on American highways. I was bowling along a Los Angeles freeway in my hired Ford Pinto at about the speed I would have used in Australia -- 65 mph. And I had with me my then-wife, a very fine Scottish woman aptly named "Joy"

A CHP patrol detected me and pulled me over. The trooper approached me very cautiously, sticking close to the side of the Pinto and standing behind me instead of beside me. He was obviously very tense. But when he found that I was unaggressive and perfectly civil to him, he untensed rapidly. The fact that I speak with an accent that Americans usually perceive as British may also have helped. It helped explain my unawareness of California rules. (For the phoneticans, my accent is Educated Australian). We had a perfectly genial conversation at the end of which he waved me on my way without even giving me a ticket.

White privilege? Not exactly. Because something similar happened recently to me where I live in Brisbane, Australia -- a place where blacks are too few to influence policy.

I was approached by a Queensland cop when I had unwittingly made an illegal turn. And Queensland cops are not exactly fragrant. There are many bad apples among them. Even the police Commissioner was sent to jail for corruption not long ago.

So the cop was initially brusque and supercilious with me. When I showed that I was listening to him carefully by asking him to repeat something I had not understood, however, he became much more relaxed and we had a fairly genial conversation. He saw it as his duty to give me a ticket but we ended up with him wishing me a Merry Christmas and pausing other traffic to facilitate my driving off. Once again a civil and co-operative approach from me got exactly the same back.

These are only anecdotes but I think they feed into a general perception of what might have saved the lives of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. There is an old saying that people are a mirror of ourselves. There is a lot of truth in it.

3 December, 2014

Another visit to Sunny Doll

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce Suz, Russ and kids to Sunny Doll so I shouted them a dinner there tonight. Suz, Joe and I had Teriyaki chicken Don but it is a smallish meal so I recommended the Japanese curry to Russ: A big meal for a big man. For the kids I ordered Karaage (fried) chicken. Everybody was of course impressed with the food, Russ particularly, I think. Suz told me that she mostly cooks "meat and 3 veg" for dinner so the Japanese food would be a big contrast for Russ. He tried a bit of the dinners that Suz and the kids had and liked them all.

The kids were wound up to have Joe present as he always plays with them. I even played "get that tongue" with Sahara, which I also used to play with her mother long ago.

After the dinner Russ shouted us some Italian hot chocolate that the restaurant have recently added to their menu. It was VERY thick. Von would have loved it. While we were drinking, the kids ran all around the restaurant in typical kiddy style. Lucky there were no other diners present at that stage.

Dusty looked cute in his brown overalls

2 December, 2014

A rare birthday success

I am a brilliant buyer of birthday and Christmas presents -- if I get Jenny to select and buy the presents on my behalf. I just give her a vague budget and she makes excellent choices. All I do is pay the resultant credit card bill. As Jenny enjoys shopping, that arrangement has continued for many years -- to the satisfaction of both of us -- and to the satisfaction of those who get the presents. Jenny's recent selection of a kiddy cosmetics set for Sahara is a case in point. It was a hit with Sahara.

On rare occasions, however, I do get a present idea that works well. The time I gave Ken and the kids half a ream of A4 paper for Christmas was memorable, as was the time I gave Nanna a particular computer joystick she wanted as a 70th birthday prersent. And I think a glass frog that I once gave Anne went down well. She likes frogs but doesn't like things to hop or scuttle. A glass frog therefore seems just right.

And I think that one of my recent ideas has to be in the "rare success" category. About 6 months ago I was walking through Woolworths and saw a bachelor's frypan -- a one-egg frypan -- for sale. It looked rather cute so I bought it and later gave it to Von to be kept for Hannah's birthday. The pictures below tell a graphic story, I think.

Von emailed me as follows: "Hannah loved her little frypan you gave her for her birthday. I have attached photos of her unwrapping her gift. Thanks again, it was very thoughtful as she really loves cooking"

A girl who loves cooking will go far.

I see that Hannah got a train set too. Both she and Sahara are very keen on trains -- largely because of Thomas the Tank Engine, I suspect

29 November, 2014

A hailstorm and a birthday

On Thursday (27th) evening, starting about 5pm we had the mother and father of a hailstorm with quite a lot of the hail being bigger than golfballs -- all accompanied by cyclonic winds that blew the hail in a horizontal direction a lot of the time. I was blogging at the time but was aroused to my surroundings by the loud bangs of the hail hitting my house. We lost power after a few minutes. Brisbane is a big town, however, so only a narrow corridor was affected but the Gabba was in that corridor.

Joe had his friends Eugene and Kristian over playing computer games but we were soon all watching the live spectacle of the storm. The storm was in fact the most ferocious hailstorm I have ever seen so I remarked at one point that it must all be due to global warming -- and I am pleased to say that everyone laughed at that. Global warming has become a joke.

Most houses in the area seemed to have at least some broken window glass and some cars had multiple holes in their back window glass. Joe had his windscreen hit and was left with a crack in it. As the windscreen is a laminated one, however, that did not limit operation of the car. Quite a few cars in the area had extensive hail denting in them but both Joe and I escaped that somehow.

We lost power until about 10pm and internet until about 5pm the next day. We went out in search of food at about 5.15pm in Joe's car but the traffic jams were horrendous with the traffic lights out. We ended up at the Sunny Doll restaurant in the hope that they might be able to feed us from their gas stoves but they said they needed electricity to see what they were doing. So we went into Woolworths (which has backup power) and bought a roast chicken, bread rolls etc and took it back to our place and ate it on my verandah under candlelight. I even managed to make tea using the gas stove. It was all rather fun. Part of the roof came off however so my kitchen had a waterfall in it for a long time.

Dudley came over and fixed the roof the very next day and luckily I also had Jeff booked for that day so he took care of the broken windows.

And today, Saturday, we had a lunchtime party at Suz and Russ's place for Saharah's 5th birthday. I bought her a pack of 6 toy trains with confectionery in them so that suited a train-loving girl. The big hit was however a little girl's cosmetic set that Jenny bought for her on my behalf. Saharah LOVES cosmetics: A complete girly girl.

Joe bought Kate along to the party and she said she enjoyed it. I talked mostly with Jenny. Russ cooked some excellent sausages on his BBQ and I had 3 of them. It was my "free" day however so my diet was not compromised. Joe drove us there and back, which I was pleased about. I don't like driving these days

19 November, 2014

Weather report

Some people reading here may just possibly be aware that Brisbane had a major storm this afternoon which produced quite a lot of flooding in some parts of the city. Where I am at Buranda is fairly elevated, however, so we had no flood grief at all. My son and I simply drove to our usual local Japanese restaurant (Sunny Doll) for our supper and got marvellous food as usual. There are some brilliant Chinese, Thai and Indian cooks but Japanese cooks are the best. They know about umami.

At the Sunny Doll, Joe always orders Jasmine tea to go with his meal. You might think you know all about that but you would be TOTALLY wrong. Japanese Jamine tea is not remotely like Chinese Jasmine tea. It tastes rather odd to me but it is MILKY -- and Joe is a milk freak. He also always orders Lassi at Indian restaurants. Milk is his addiction -- for which I am profoundly grateful -- considering all the other foul things that young people get addicted to these days.

17 November, 2014

A final visit from Von & Co. before their departure

They came over at 2pm for afternoon tea. It was a pretty hot day so we met in Joe's room, as he has the best air-conditioning. Joe even tidied up his room in advance!

I had some Japanese curry products ("Golden" curry sauce and "Vermont" curry sauce) to give Von & Simon just by way of introducing them to Japanese curry. They can probably get the stuff in NZ if they know what to look for. I also gave Simon a bottle of ready-made Teriyaki sauce, which he looked at with great interest.

On her visits to my place Von has on a couple of occasions said how much she likes my tea. It is Tetley tea, an English brand. I have a big box of it so I gave her a small pile of it to take home.

Von gave me a packet of a Pakistani curry sauce which they like. Simon makes mutton curry with it. It is Achar Gosht Masala and Von says it is their favourite curry. Apparently I can just toss it into my crockpot with a few other ingredients and that is all there is to cooking it. Hopefully, I can find some mutton to try it with. Anne is very keen on mutton so she might be able to track some down.

Joe spent a lot of time playing with Hannah, which she greatly enjoyed. He plays the sort of impromptu games I played with the earlier generation and he is very popular with the littlies because of it. He really livened her up but she wore out after a while. That was a bit of a surprise as in my day I always wore out before the kids did.

An amusing thing was Von on chocolate drinks. She thinks that things like Milo are too weak. She goes for the original cocoa, which she can put in large quantities into a drink. She likes dark chocolate (as I do) so she likes her drinks dark too.

Von is an amazing sentimentalist. Paul and I are great sentimentalists but Von leaves us both in the dust. She has mementoes of almost all of her past -- starting from when she was a little girl. So it was amusing that she remembered my writing desk -- which I still have -- from way back. She was pleased to see it again.

One of the curries

14 November, 2014

Back to the Bollywood

I put on a sendoff dinner, starting at 6pm, for Von & Co. -- as they fly out early next week. There were 9 or 10 of us there plus kids. Sahara was looking very pretty in a mainly green sundress. Suz has got a real girly girl there. The dress went well with her blue eyes, blonde hair and very white skin, in my opinion. Von was wearing one of her long full skirts, which is what suits her best in my opinion.

The story of my fountain pen got a re-run to considerable hilarity. I mentioned that Simon couldn't work it out until he read the instructions and he said "I hate instructions". I agreed with him . Men don't read instructions unless they are desperate. It is against our religion.

Von was very lively and kept us interested with her various comments. She has become as good a talker as Paul -- but not as loud. She speaks in quite a soft contralto voice, like the lady she is. She spent a lot of time trying to convince George that he needed to take a holiday in NZ. But George, like me, is off holidays these days. Building things is George's holiday.

I had always been a bit concerned about Dusty's good nature, I thought people might use it to push him around. But I saw that my fears were unfounded. At one stage Russ suggested something to him that he disagreed with -- which he responded to with a loud "No" and a big frown. Russ was thrown back by it. So I was delighted to see that.

Hannah was mostly minded by Simon while Von talked to us all. Davey was there but without Anna-Marie. For once the kids didn't run around the restaurant like mad things, partly due to Matthew not being there, I think. I rather like to see them running around as it means they are having fun. And the Bollywood rarely has other customers. Their trade is mostly takeaway.

The food was good as usual. George and I had Tandoori chicken, Suz had a peanut curry and Anne had Moglai lamb.

13 November, 2014

With Von & Co at the Sunny Doll

I was keen to introduce Von to the Sunny Doll as it is by far my favourite restaurant these days. It is Japanese food cooked by very polite Japanese people and the Teriyaki Chicken Don really is magic. Von departs very soon so we had to squeeze it in whenever we could.

Hannah was in a really "High" mood, full of smiles and chatter. And she got through an entree serve of Karaage (fried) chicken with no trouble. She is a great little kid and good-looking like her mother.

As expected, we all enjoyed our dinner and went back to my place for tea and bikkies afterwards. On sorting out my desk drawers recently, I discovered that I am the owner of about 30 pencils and 7 pencil sharpeners. I have no idea how I acquired any of them but there they are.

So when Von suggested that I find Hannah something to draw with I was able to provide a selection of pencils, which Hannah enjoyed using, though she can't really draw as yet. I never use pencils myself. I think some tenant or tenants must have left them behind. Von said they are a good resource for whenever I have littlies visiting.

I drove us all to and from the restaurant in the Starlet, which I enjoyed. It really is a great little car, but a bit noisy in its old age.

Teriyaki chicken don

Karaage chicken

12 November, 2014

Morning tea with Von

Von & Co came over to my place about 11 for morning tea. Now that their house is under contract they have a lot more time to spare.

I had two puzzles for Simon: A strange gadget that seemed to have something to do with opening bottles and cans but nobody so far has been able to guess exactly what. Simon was stumped too.

A much more interesting puzzle was a Parker fountain pen that George gave me a couple of birthdays ago. It was one of those "some assembly required" gadgets and I could never figure out how to assemble it. I gave the job to Simon on the grounds that he is very clever technically. But it nearly stumped him too. He actually had to read the instructions! And even then it took him a while. I now intend to use the pen to sign cheques.

At one stage Hannah slipped off her seat and hurt herself slightly -- making her cry. We were at the time however opening the box of choc-chip cookies that I customarily provide for morning and afternoon teas. So Von said to Hannah: "Want a biscuit?" And as soon as Hannah saw the cookie, she stopped crying and gave a big smile instead. She likes her food.

It was a very pleasant morning tea.

UPDATE: I think Von does not like to be beaten. When she got home she hit Google hard until she found the source of my little mystery gadget. See the illustration she found below. The bottom part of it is obviously a bottle opener for crown-sealed bottles but the top protrusion was the mystery. The accompanying text said that the gadget is used to open bottles AND cans. So it must be to help lift up the ring on a ringpull can. I would have thought that fingernails could do that but maybe ladies with long nails might prefer to use a tool.

11 November, 2014

Another "3 sisters" lunch

November/December is of course party season as everybody gets into the mood for Christmas. And I seem to be in the middle of that. Anne and her sisters put on a lunch today in honour of their parents' wedding anniversary. Anne put out cold meats and salad and the other ladies brought along stuff too, so there was plenty of good nosh.

Ralph looked pretty glum when I arrived but, after a while, all the jolly chatter livened him up so much that he even gave us a jokey riddle to solve. None of us could do it. But the answer was amusing.

There were profiteroles for dessert and there were two left over when everybody had had one so Ralph and I declared male privilege and polished them off.

There was much talk of clocks as Anne had just that morning got the family mantelpiece clock back from the repairman. I was rather horrified that Anne has got the repairman to silence its "dong". It is an hourly chiming clock but Anne says that its "dong" is horrible. I lived happily with Westminster chimes for many years -- which mark not only the hour but also every quarter hour -- so I was unsympathetic.

There were of course various discussions about food and I mentioned that dripping is back in vogue. Leading chefs are using it again with their roasts, fish'n chips and even in cakes and lasagne. That was received with great interest and comment as we had all grown up on dripping cookery -- before the great oil takeover some decades back.

8 November, 2014

A Friday dinner at Ken's

Von is houseminding at Ken's place while he is away on another cruise. She wanted to put on a "Thank You" dinner for Jenny and me so she had it at Ken's place. It was so many years since I had been there that I was not at all sure I remembered how to get there. In the event, however, I managed. I drove Anne's car in case I needed a SatNav to help. Her new Corolla has got all the bells and whistles. Anne drove us home with a few directions from me.

Simon made us an excellent curry and there was icecream afterwards. The curry was originally intended as a mutton curry but Simon could not find any butcher here that sold mutton. The dreaded fashion again, I suppose. So Simon made it with beef, which was not as good, he said. I believe him. Mutton is quite strong-tasting so would go well in a curry.

I teased Von a bit about slaughtering Rosemary -- her original pet lamb which very rapidly turned into a large sheep. But she assured me that Rosemary was "safe". There was some conversation for a while about the characteristics of the various sheep in Von's small flock. Lambs keep popping out so Von has trouble keeping the numbers in her flock down. All very New Zealand, of course. Von and Simon sometimes get a slaughtered full sheep from locals as a thankyou for something or other, so they always have mutton on hand in their freezer. It's sheep country where they are.

When the desserts were being considered, I made the observation that even if your main tummy is full, your dessert tummy still always has room. That amused everyone but they all hastened to agree.

I took along a bottle of Alsatian wine, which everyone spoke well of. Nanna abstained so the remaining 5 adults got a small glass each. There was no other alcohol.

Hannah plowed into her curry like the Johnson she is. After the meal she brought out a "Thomas the Tank Engine" toy from Ken's toy room and played with it for a while. It was a rather clever gadget. Ken's toy room is full of toys to cope with visiting grandchildren.

Von wore her LBD ("Little Black Dress") but I would have preferred her to wear the long full skirts she usually wears. I think she looks very feminine in them.

November 4, 2014

Joe and I watched the Melbourne Cup on TV

There were two great races on at Flemington. And the horse race was a nail-biter as usual:  Another amazing finish, marred only by the fact that two of the runners had to be put down after the race.  A truly sad aftermath.  I had 4 horses in various sweeps and none of them got anywhere!

I always take an interest in the other major contest of the day:  The fashions on the field.  I know nothing about fashion and for 364 days of the year take no interest in it -- but I figure I can once a year try to inform myself about it.  And what I thought I knew was turned upside down yesterday.  I thought the winning fashions were bound to be pretty sober and wearable anywhere.  That's not what happened.  I couldn't get past the winner's aluminium hat!

Anyway, some pix from the great day:

Christine Spielman in her aluminium hat

The dress was OK but are those leather gloves?

The winner with the runners up

Megan Gale let colour do the talking

And the anti-skin rules were not always enforced


2 November, 2014

Another High Tea

I put on a high tea at 4pm today to give people another chance to chat to Von while she is over here from NZ. There were about 10 adults present plus kids. Von came over a half an hour early to make the cucumber sandwiches. I had the cucumber sliced and soaking in white vinegar and all the rest of what was needed laid out for her.

I provided some good lamingtons, some cupcakes, some chocolate mini-croissants and NZ Afghan biscuits and the ladies all brought stuff as well so there was plenty to eat and a fair bit left over. Simon made his NZ dip which was yummy.

I noticed that Von and Tracy had a good chat but Von spoke to most of us at some time. It was a pleasure to see her and twinny Suzy with their beautiful blue-eyed children. Sahara and Dusty got into the cakes and biscuits as they are given little of that at home. Suz said that they associate my place and family occasions generally with yummy food.

Jenny made the tea and organized various things, including the washing up -- which was most appreciated. Nanna also came along, which was good to see at her age. She told me I was young!

Joe brought along his friend Eugene and had his usual play with the littlies. He even played cars with them for a while. They like Joe because of that. Joe said the Tea was "fun"

An interesting thing to see resulted from Von bringing along a box of toy cars from Ken's place, where she is staying. Ken is off on another cruise. Dusty, as expected, got into playing with the cars but the two girls did likewise. Car mad girls!

If there had been any feminists present, they would have thought that Von is a feminist. In fact she took a wrong turn altogether from a feminist viewpoint. She was in a high-earning job and had that "career" that feminists idealize for some strange reason. So what did she do? She chucked it in and moved to a quiet country town in New Zealand to live as a housewife, enjoy her little daughter growing up and grow her own vegetables. She in fact lives a life that really is idyllic and she greatly enjoys it. A wise woman. She was even wise enough to get a husband who cooks!

I introduced a couple of the blokes to Clayton's ("The drink you have when you're not having a drink"). You see and hear very little of it these days and in NZ you can no longer buy it at all. I really like it however. And it is low calorie so it suits my diet. I drink heaps of it.

Tracy approved of my putting on a High Tea at the "correct" English time of 4pm. Australian afternoon teas are mostly at 3pm or thereabouts. The occasion was only partly English, however, for various reasons -- one of them being that I greeted my guests wearing not a shirt but an Australian worker's blue singlet. It was a hot day. But if I had worn that in England, everyone would have been deeply puzzled, no matter how hot it was. And while lamingtons are an essential at a good Australian afternoon tea, that is not so in England.

25 October, 2014

Dosas and an old letter

I put on a small dosa lunch mainly just for Von & Co. but I also invited Anne, Jenny and Joe. Since Von is not always here in Brisbane, I like to see a lot of her and Hannah when they are here.

We had a good dosa lunch as usual and we all admired Hannah. She speaks in intelligible sentences now and always looks beautiful, of course. Young though she is, Hannah is an old hand at eating dosas, and having a Johnson appetite, she gets through them well. At one point the proprietor was obviously a bit concrned about her eating a dosa and came over and asked her if she liked it. She turned to him with a mouth stuffed full of dosa so that was an eloquent reply.

Joe joined in the conversation very well, which he does not always do. Like me, I think he prefers small gatherings.

We talked a fair bit about old times but Von trumped all that by producing a letter I had sent her when she was a little girl. Von is a great sentimentalist and likes to hang on to her past so she has a little treasure chest of mementoes of things in her past life, including two letters from me. We have already seen one of those but she has now found another one. I reproduce it below. As you'll see, I used the pet names we had for one-another.

After lunch we repaired to my place for tea. Except that most of us did not have tea. I persuaded Von to see what she could do with my packet of Orzo -- an Italian coffee substitute. Von was the only one who liked it so I gave her the rest of the packet. I tipped my cupfull out. Again we mostly talked about old times, including Sarah Ferrett. I liked bold little Sarah but the twins have lost touch with her.

Von also presented me with a selection of NZ groceries, mostly things she knew that I liked already. I am greatly looking forward to eating them in due course

Simon was our source of wisdom on culinary matters. As well as being a computer whiz he also does most of the cooking at their place. He is thinking of making his own dosas. I wish him luck with that!

Sociology, University of NSW P.O. Box 1, Kensington, 2033, NSW

29 March '90

Dear Lady Von,

Thank you for your nice letter. By the way, there is no such word as "dubble". It is "double".

I was pleased to hear that you have been having fun with Nanna on the weekends. Nanna knows lots of good things for girls.

Are you looking forward to going up to Cairns at Easter? I seem to remember that neither you nor Suzy like very long car rides. If you do not want to go to Cairns, I am sure that Nanna would let you stay with her instead at our pink house if you wanted to.

Jenny and I have a very pretty house in Sydney. It has big rooms like our Faversham St house used to have and there are lots of trees in the street outside. I even have a very pretty fireplace in my room so I will be able to light a fire and keep warm in winter.

I now go to work every day. Do you know what I do at work? I write things. I spend nearly all the time writing. But I still have time to write to a special girl like you.

I hope to be back in Brisbane for a little while around the time of the July school holidays.

Joey can repeat almost anything that people say now and he seems to understand almost everything. He still pronounces a lot of words in funny ways, however. Jenny used to call him "honey bun" and he thought she was saying "honey bum".



The other letter Von found among her treasures is here

20 October, 2014

A dinner for our visitors

Von & Co. arrived from NZ last Friday so I put on a Bollywood dinner for them on Sunday (19th).

There were 10 people present -- a bit down owing to some people being overseas etc. I took host's privilege and sat next to Von so I could listen to her lively commentary about all sorts of things.

Ken mostly talked to George and Anne mostly talked to Jenny, Maureen and Davey. Hannah stuck pretty close to her mother for most of the evening but Joe got a cuddle as we left.

Joe is popular with the kids as he plays fairly boisterously with them -- just as I did with the previous generation. Kids love something a bit daring or risky but that does put a responsibility on the adult to make sure that they don't get hurt. I always managed that and Joe does as well.

The food was good as usual and at Joe's suggestion I had Tandoori chicken. That kept me within the guidelines for my diet, making it a fairly yummy diet. The diet is based on Joe's theories with an emphasis on low carbs and low fats and it does work for me. I've lost .3 of a kilo in just the last few days.

It was a pleasant evening with lots of lively conversation. As usual it was not a bibulous night. I always supply toasting champagne but only two bottles of it were drunk among the 10 of us. We need neither booze nor music to enjoy a social occasion. We talk.

3 October, 2014

A final sendoff

Paul and Susan have been going around saying farewell to various people individually and they came to see me late this afternoon.

I got three "Supreme" pizzas home delivered from Pizza Hut and also had a packet of New Zealand ginger nut biscuits on hand. Everything got eaten, with even little Elise tucking into pizza. I don't think she has got any teeth yet but she gummed it pretty well! I don't like Australian ginger nuts much but the NZ ones were definitely better.

We talked a lot about politics, as we usually do. Someone had been poisoning Paul's mind about Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen KCMG, who ran Queensland from 1968 to 1987. "Joh" was always controversial and all these years later he still is. Much that was and is said about him is distortion, however. As a member of Joh's party at the time, however, I am in a good position to balance the account, which I did. The half-truth about Joh holding power only because of a gerrymander is particularly pernicious. Yet in In 1974, his government gained a remarkable 59% of the popular vote -- a majority so large as to be almost unheard of in a Western democracy. Only Ronald Reagan has done as well, as far as I know. Interesting that both Ronnie and Joh were known for crushing arrogant unionists

So how come? The fact of the matter is that some rural seats in Queensland were much less populous than most urban seats. They did however cover large geographical areas so the difficulty of getting around them was put forward as the reason for their being less populous. But that gerrymander did not originate with Joh. It went back at least to the premiership of Vince Gair and may have even gone back as far as Ned Hanlon. Gair and Hanlon were Labor Party premiers.

So why did the Labor Party favour country seats? Because they used to win most of those seats. With the Country party revival first under "Honest Frank" Nicklin and then Joh, however, almost all those seats swung to the conservatives. And since the Country party and the urban-based Liberal party always governed in coalition, the end result is that Joh's government always got a majority of the popular vote. Joh himself put it well when he was addressing a meeting of students at Sydney university. He asked them: "Do you think a party that gained only 45% of the vote at the last election should rule Queensland?" Resounding "Noes" were heard in reply. Joh then said: "Well, that's what the Labor party got last time". Embarrassment! The gerrymander disadvantaged the Liberal party, not the Labor party.

Much more could and has been said about Joh -- his "inarticulateness", for instance. But I have written on that before

Paul and I talked about other things as well -- deficiencies in the school curricula, why Ken and Paul disagree, the nature of Leftism -- but nothing that we haven't gone over many times before.

Cuddling little Elise -- tummy to tummy!

UPDATE: "Joh" made me proud to be a Queenslander. And even subsequent Labor Party governments have done little to erase his legacy (though the mismanagement of his big Wivenhoe flood-control dam is a disgrace). So maybe I should say more about something else that he is known for: He crushed the electricity workers union. They really thought that they ruled the roost until Joh showed them otherwise. They were a plague on Brisbane people with their cutting off of the electricity supply in support of their egregious demands.

But it could be argued that Joh's response was neither Left nor Right but Queensland. In the 40s there was a Labor party Premier of Qld called Ned Hanlon. In his youth he was a real red-ragger. But as he got older he went "so far right that he was almost out of sight" -- as they used to say of Syngman Rhee (you don't know who Rhee was? Look him up). So Ned used his police to break up strikes. Joh was milder. He just used threats. But the unionists were just blustering cowards so the threats worked.

Queensland electricity supply is very good these days. No more do people have to throw out the contents of their fridges and freezers.

29 September, 2014


Getting your tax return done is not a minor event in anyone's life. It is a major headache. So I was most pleased to get my tax done today.

I went to a very knowledgeable lady named Janet Ortiz at my local ITP branch at Stone's Corner, 5 minutes drive from where I live. She even told me where to park my car!

I know it is completely irrelevant but she had the olive skin one would expect of a person of Spanish ancestry -- not like the awful whiteness of Poles or the Irish -- or the golden brown of the Norwegians and the Swedes.

Like most Australians, both Jenny and I have substantial Irish ancestry so it was no mystery how Joe would end up. When he was a toddler I used to call him "the white boy" as his skin was just about as white as a sheet of white paper. And now in adulthood he simply goes red if he gets much sun -- as my father did. Though my father was a redhead. But Joe has a red beard so it all fits. Because Jenny's grandfather was a redhead we had great hopes that Joe would be a redhead but a "bluebeard" is certainly a good alternative.

Anyway Janet sat me down for one and a half hours and turned my heap of paperwork into a proper return -- and even told me what refund I would get. And the cost --$200+ -- was worth its weight in gold to me.

In my youth I used to do lots of things myself -- not only tax returns but simple plumbing, electrical work and even some (rough) carpentry. But I am pleased that I can hand all those things to the experts these days. I don't even hang my own pictures now. Geoff has just put up a whole heap of them for me -- mostly family photos

28 September, 2014

A sendoff and a birthday

Paul is about to go overseas to Britain for 10 months so I will not see that little family for a while. So I put on a farewell dosa lunch for them. I also invited Paul's mother and father as they will undoubtedly miss him too. Nanna and Maureen also came along of course.

Matthew got a whole dosa to himself and ate the lot -- good eaters, the Johnsons. Elise also ate up well, as usual.

After dosas we went back to my place for tea, coffee and choc chip cookies. Between Paul and Ken the biscuits disappeared at lightning speed.

Paul is suffering from a wog at the moment and appeared very listless when he arrived at the restaurant. After a dosa and a coffee, however, he livened up and gave Ken a hard time as usual.

We talked about travel and Paul was amazed that I had been to Thailand. I seem to be the only person I know who hasn't been away on trips lately.

Elise loved Joe's piano and had a great time thumping it. As she is only one year old, however, her little hands could not have damaged it. Matthew spent a lot of time with his latest toy, a foldout city.

Maureen discovered that the mulberry tree overhanging my front verandah was in fruit and managed to get quite a few berries to eat. It's Maureen's birthday next weekend so I gave her a present of something I knew she liked -- a leather-look coffee table

One thing we spent quite a lot of time discussing was England. Paul is off to England and Ken was born there. In particular we discussed the class system and its effects. Discussing social class is a rather deplored thing to do in both England and Australia but I am a retired sociologist with a couple of published research papers on the subject in the academic journals so I can say the unsayable with some justification. It's actually within my field of professional expertise. I amused the company by quoting George Bernard Shaw's famous saying: "No Englishman can open his mouth without causing another Englishman to despise him"

Ken made the interesting point that class enmities have diminished in recent years with the large influx of uncongenial immigrants to England. The English are more likely to see themselves as one by contrast with the Africans, Muslims etc who now make up a substantial fraction of the population. Both Paul and I think that the old divisions are still influential however.

But I did comment that what Ken said was convincing in terms of what Hitler did. It was only Hitler, with the many enemies he saw, who created among Germans a sense of German identity. Up until that time Germans mostly had a mainly regional identity -- as Saxons, Rhinelanders, Bavarians etc. To quote: "Vor uns marschiert Deutschland; unter uns marschiert Deutschland; hinter uns marschiert Deutschland". That got wild applause.

We also discussed Nederland a bit as Susan is of Dutch ancestry and they plan to visit the old family stamping ground while they are abroad. Dutch and German are quite similar languages so it amused me to translate Susan's maiden name into German: "Von der Quelle". And it sounds almost the same too. All Nederlanders think they can speak German and are equally convinced that no German can speak Dutch. They think in fact that only Nederlanders can speak Dutch properly, which may be true

I know a little about Dutch pronunciation so usually try to pronounce the surname of Vincent van Gogh in the Dutch way. But if I do that no-one understands what I am talking about -- they probably think that I've got a sore throat. And a Nederlander would undoubtedly say that I get it wrong anyway. I use German gutturals (the "Ach Laut"), which are apparently a bit different from Dutch ones.

Susan is quite rightly enthused about her Dutch heritage so she even had a wooden jigsaw puzzle of the sort you usually give to toddlers wherein the pieces were all the provinces of Nederland

Susan is even thinking of having Elise Christened in the hometown of her Dutch family, which would be a great affirmation of continuity (only conservatives understand the importance of that) but it is a bit regrettable after the good family time we all had in Brisbane with Matthew's Christening.

Even anti-religious Ken came along to Matthew's Christening. In my jocular way, I asked him afterward if he had felt the power coming down as Matthew was "done" and he assured me that he had! I probably joke too much sometimes

I mentioned the Japanese custom of omiyagi (bringing back presents from a trip) but it didn't seem to get much traction.

Acknowledgements! Jenny and Susan made the teas and coffees and Maureen did the washing up. This family is a traditional one.

Waiting for the dosas to arrive. Maureen is helping Matthew with his jigsaw of Nederland

Ken reaching for the cookies -- and Elise eyeing them

Saying farewell. Note Susan's fashionable hemline and my St George flag

23 September, 2014

The immerser

It was only when I was about 9 that my mother first acquired an electric jug. Such things were not common in Innisfail at that time. The lady down the road, Mrs Young, did however from early on have an immerser ("immersion heater") -- which is basically an electric jug without the jug. It was just a heating element that you could attach to a power cord and immerse in a bowl of water. It would then heat the water in the bowl until you turned it off.

Horace Young and my father were in the same business -- timber getting -- so the families knew one-another but were certainly not close -- rivals more

In those days back doors were not usually locked (only people you didn't know came to the front door) and if a neighbourhood kid walked in your open back door you would say Hello and treat the kid more or less as one of your own. And I had been in the Young's house on a number of occasions and seen the immerser in use. I was only about 4 at the time but was fascinated by this unfamiliar gadget.

Then one day I wandered into the Young's house and found no one home. I went straight to the immerser, put it in a bowl of water and turned it on. I watched the little bubbles in the water for a while and then lost interest. I wandered off leaving the immerser ON!

It must have been a pretty sturdy piece of kit because it evaporated all the water, broke the bowl and then proceeded to burn a hole in the wooden floor.

Eventually the Youngs came home to this scene of disaster and tried to make sense of it. Eventually someone asked me if I had been in the house and in my usual honest way I said I had. So partly because of that honesty I was not punished for it but was taken to see the hole in the floor. It had burnt almost through one of the floorboards.

I was too young to know of any other repercussions.

18 September, 2014

Dosas with Ken plus a Philip Glass opera

Last Sunday, I shouted Ken and Maureen a dosa lunch. Both had been ill recently but they were in a recovered state for the lunch. It was Ken's birthday the day before so it was in part a birthday lunch. But it was mainly just to catch up with Ken. Ken has a most enquiring mind so is always interesting to talk to.

We talked a lot about both art and religion with the debate being over what drives both. Along the way I mentioned that Anne had a Picasso print on her bedroom wall at my place so when we got back to my place for tea and coffee, Anne took Ken to have a look at it. It is a line drawing of Don Quixote and is most evocatively done. Ken was greatly impressed by it - as Anne and I are too.

I suggested that ego is the key both to artists and religion. Artists tend to think that they are special and religious people want to feel special.

Then last night Anne and I went to "The perfect American" by modern composer Philip Glass. It was a good opera, with lots going on, lots of drama and lots of dramatic music. It even had a death scene. So, except for Glass's unique music, it could have been a 19th century opera. I went to it only for the music but it was a good show as well. One's attention did not wander.

The whole point of the opera was to lampoon Walt Disney. The intelligentsia will never forgive Disney for being anti-Communist but to my mind those who make excuses for Communism are the ethical cripples.

Disney was portrayed as a pathological egotist. I am in no doubt that a hugely successful entrepreneur such as Disney had to have a considerable ego but I am equally sure that a man who built up from scratch such a huge organization as the Disney organization had to be a very good people manager -- and no-one likes an egotist. So whatever ego Disney had must have at least been kept in check most of the time. So I very much doubt the accuracy of the Disney portrayal by Glass. But much in the opera was admittedly fictional so I suppose one should not take it as history

Another historical blooper was the portrayal of Abraham Lincoln as a champion of blacks and a believer in equality. That is schoolboy history. Lincoln was neither of those things. In his famous letter to Horace Greeley Lincoln said that it was only the union he cared about, not blacks. And after the war he wanted to send them all back to Africa, but was shot before he could implement that. Let's have some words from the man himself, words spoken at the White House and addressed to a group of black community leaders on August 14th, 1862:

"You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word, we suffer on each side. If this be admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. It is better for both, therefore, to be separated."

Got that?

And Glass's history is equally shaky in portraying Disney as a racist. His biographer Neal Gabler in his 2009 book 'Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination' concludes, "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive."

And in describing Disney as the perfect American, Glass was largely disparaging America as a whole -- something Leftists such as Glass generally do. The opera has yet to be performed in America. I predict a very mixed reception to it when it is performed in America.

Why the opera first went to Madrid, then to London and then to Brisbane I do not know. It was a very extravagant production in Brisbane with a far larger cast than needful and a huge (4-ton!) mechanical contraption in the roof used to change scenes etc so maybe it was that only the Brisbane arts community felt able to afford it.


Below is a picture of the front cover of the program notes for the opera. It is supposed to be a blending of Walt's face with the face of Mickey mouse. The effect, however, is to make Disney look insane, and certainly two-faced. So it is all part of the demonization of him. A most unpleasant and disturbing piece of Leftist art.

Leftists customarily envy other people's success and Disney was VERY successful, so this attempt to pull his memory down might have been expected

28 August, 2014

My diet

As soon as he moved in to my place, Joe appointed himself as my personal trainer -- for which I am very grateful. I had slid so far down the razor blade of life that my health and fitness might have been unrecoverable if he had left it for another 6 months.

One of the beneficial arrangements is that of a morning we now go for a walk around 2 neighbourhood blocks that includes 3 hills. And that has definitely improved my aerobic and general fitness. I can now get around most of the Rocklea markets on Sunday again.

But the big change is the diet that Joe has put me on. It is a semi-paleo diet that is very low in fats. The same diet has kept Joe's own weight under control so I adopted it with confidence. And I seem to be losing about a kilo a week on it. I started out at 123 kilos and am now down to 117. A long way still to go but encouraging progress.

The food Joe has prescribed for me is however mostly very dull. Bananas and small yoghurts are fine but Joe restricts the evening meal to a breast of chicken and restricts lunch to a small tin of salmon. So I had to find ways to cope with that. I now have two things I do with the chicken, a chicken curry and chicken teriaki. I am no cook but with the help of my crockpot I turn out a passable chicken curry mainly based on using a LOT of "Clive of India" curry powder. It also has in it tomato, onion, coriander and garlic. I have always liked curry so I can eat it frequently without bother.

I also use a shortcut with the Teriaki chicken. I found a bottle of ready-made Teriaki sauce down at my local Korean deli so just marinate and baste the chicken in that. Again, a passable result.

Joe's recipe for making the tinned salmon palatable is to pour low-cal mayonnaise on it. That didn't help a lot though. I found that mixing curry powder in with it helped a lot but I did not want to eat curry twice a day. So I asked Joe for an alternative to the fish. He said I could have four eggs. That suited me. I have always liked scrambled eggs and cooking them in the microwave only takes 2 minutes. Eggs are very cheap too. My 4 eggs cost me about a dollar. So I am now an experienced scrambled egg cook and look forward to my lunch once again.

I initially let Joe cook the chicken but his cookery is VERY plain. So it is no surprise that he appreciates my amateurish offerings

16 August, 2014

The last days of this trip by Von and family

Von has been with us for nearly 3 weeks this time so it is sad to see her go. She flies out to the Shaky Isles tomorrow.

On Friday she put on a dinner for me at Jenny's place with Simon cooking. She wanted to thank me for getting her over.

Unfortunately I had a really bad wog on Wednesday and Thursday so, even though I was improved by Friday, I was still clearly infective so spared them that by staying home -- with great regret. I sent Joe along to take my place and since Joe is good-humored, I gather that they had a nice evening. And no-one can beat Von's constant good cheer.

Then today, Saturday, I had already arranged, via Von, to have a last day with all the littlies together -- to be preceded by the ever-popular dosas. So it was the biggest dosa lunch I have hosted so far. There were the three sets of parents plus Anne, Joe and myself: A total of 9 adults and 5 littlies.

As usual, Hannah and Matthew conferred throughout the lunch. Both have only inchoate language skills so far but they seem to understand one-another. I gather that it was the first time Suz and Russell had attended one of my dosa lunches and I gather that Russ found that he really liked dosas.

The restaurant was a bit slow in getting the dosas out so we were obviously a bigger party than they expected. I should have booked and warned them.

I ordered masala dosas for all the adults as they are always a hit and the mothers ordered for their children. I think the kids got egg dosas and onion dosas.

I had Von sitting next to me so I had the benefit of the best conversationalist present. Even as a little girl Von was a great observer and couple that with her good native intelligence and she has lots to say that is worth saying. She is certainly a most rewarding stepdaughter. And her constant happy outlook is a tonic to us all.

I felt pretty well after my encounter with a cold so felt able to attend the lunch without too much fear of infecting anyone. The original post-lunch plan was for us all to retire to my place for tea, coffee and biscuits but I thought that was a step too far in the circumstances. So Von arranged for everyone to go over to Jenny's place instead. Regretfully, I just went home, with Anne following me shortly thereafter.

Waiting for our dosas. Amusing that Von is the only one talking. Anybody who knew her as a little girl would never have predicted it

9 August, 2014

More birthdays

Paul and Susan put on a morning tea celebration for their two children, whose birthdays are close together. Matthew's birthday cake was in the shape of a train as he is a real devotee of toy trains. Via Jenny, I got him some Noddy books as a present.

Susan invited a few mothers from her playgroup so there were lots of kids running around and having a good time. The trampoline was popular but despite having a safety fence around it there were still a couple of falls and tears. Von asked Hannah if she wanted to go on the trampoline but Hannah replied: "No. Someone might hurt me". An early display of wisdom. Von had dressed Hannah in gold sandals, which suited the little lady that Hannah is

There were many good things to eat set out but the plate of sandwiches was an early casualty. Being the perfect hostess, however, Susan promptly replaced it with another plate of sandwiches.

Susan seems to be mistress of all the domestic arts. She showed a skill with a very 21st century such art by making "hats" for the kids out of long twistable balloons. Even Susan's mother ended up wearing an elaborate such "hat".

I had a chat to Paul about his business plans but he is very much in limbo at the moment. I talked quite a bit to Von and also to Jenny.

Little Elise slept for much of the time, which was a bit of a surprise to Susan as Elise is not normally a good sleeper. Elise has however taken to her grandfather Mark as she was a little lamb while Mark was holding her.

I had a little laugh with Von over the fact that Simon does all their cooking. I mentioned to her that Simon said once to me that he couldn't cook at all until he found out that Von could cook only noodles. Simon was sitting beside me at the time so that got a rare smile from him. And Von was amused too. She said that on one occasion she cooked them one of those bottled "Chicken Tonight" offerings. And it was so bad that from that point on Simon took over. Von does a lot of work in their vegetable garden, however, so she puts food on their table that way.

Despite his dour exterior, Simon is quite a bright spark, particularly in technical matters. I gather that he is well appreciated in his NZ town as he fixes all their computer problems for a small sum. Most people need someone who can do that. And when Paul and Timmy were trying to put the tent up in the backyard today, Simon stepped in and in a few deft moves made it all happen.

Von has undergone a quite surprising change since her childhood. When she was a little girl, either her (fraternal) twin sister Suz or I would usually speak for her. I would often answer a question addressed to her and she would usually indicate in some way that she liked that reply. So one would have thought that she would have married another highly verbal person. But she did the exact opposite. She married a man silent enough to be a Karellian. So she now does all the talking for both of them and does a very good job of it. You can never tell how children will end up. You can only enjoy them while you have them.

Hannah and Matthew opening presents

The birthday cake train

3 August, 2014

A real party

Suz and Russ put on a Saturday "afternoon tea" for us all in celebration of Nanna turning 90. And at Nanna's request it was a real party with party games. We first played bingo then pass the parcel then a fantasy game of Joe's devising. And it was great fun. It kept us thoroughly livened up.

And then there was the afternoon tea. The ladies had gone to great trouble so there was an amazing array of tempting food on display. I have been rather sandwich deprived lately so I got into some excellent sandwiches. But there were all sorts of cakey things too.

Then there was the photography. Susan lined us all up and took lots of photos. She really worked hard at it. There should be some below shortly.

Paul had arrived back from England just that morning so was less active than usual. Initially he just sat there on a settee with his little daughter blinking happily on his lap, a picture of contentment. She will turn one soon. His trip to England to investigate the possibility of living there has left him very disillusioned. He encountered too many of what the English call "chavs". He thinks that England's chavs are worse than our "Yobbos".

Joe and I sat together for much of the time so we were each able to observe the other violating all principles of our diet.

The gang

The festive board

Matthew and Hannah

With the son

1 August


Von noticed that I was missing my sausages on Wednesday so arranged a BBQ sausage lunch for me today -- with Simon doing the cooking at Jenny's place. Friday is my non-diet day. Nanna joined us eating some leftover spaghetti. Neither of the Susans could join us but Matthew and Elise were dropped off so we had children to amuse us.

Von also used the occasion to give me a swag of NZ groceries she had brought over for me. You would think that Australia and NZ would have the same grocery brands but a lot of NZ groceries are quite different. One thing she gave be was a bottle of L&P -- a lemony NZ softdrink -- and it was really good. I drank half of it on the spot. Joe had some when he was over there and he liked it too. Von also got me a couple off bottles of green tomato chutney, which I particularly like.

The sausages were good and Von kept me interested with comments about food and about NZ. She is as slim as a rake and eats enough to feed two so she is a wonder. She also seems to be in very good health. She attributes her slimness to being constantly active, mainly with gardening. Their garden feeds them all the vegetables they use.

Von was a corporate high flier on a large salary who could afford anything that she wanted once but she had the wisdom to retire not long after she turned 30 and move to her idyll in NZ. Even as a little girl she was always wise.

And with a beautiful little daughter that she always has time for plus a devoted husband who does all the cooking and who has been able to set up a successful business in a small NZ town plus a garden that delivers the freshest produce without great effort plus her husband's parents who live next door who are always glad to help in all sorts of ways, she has got it made.

30 July, 2014

The visitors arrive

Von and family arrived from the shaky isles last night: A family reunion that we were all looking forward to. It was particularly good because Joe was also with us this time. Paul was in England, though. Paul does a great job of livening up our family gatherings with his constant flow of extraversion and out-loud thinking so I have sometimes wondered how we would go without Paul. But we did fine. The chats flowed constantly. There are some pretty verbal ladies among us -- including Von. Von was really quiet as a little girl but she is as talkative as her mother these days. She has interesting things to say too.

So we had a BBQ lunch today put on by Jenny, using her new bells-and-whistles BBQ. Not so long ago a BBQ was a sheet of steel over a fire but these days it is an outdoors gas stove. And Jenny cooked barramundi for us all on it. So we now know that the BBQ can cook fish too.

Big Susan was there with her two but little Susan was at work so could not join us. Anne had a class at that time so could not come. Nanna was there -- our own nonagenerian and with all her wits still about her.

We talked a lot about NZ and Von's life there but in the absence of Paul I don't think we said much about politics. I mostly listened. One great topic however was my diet and Joe's role as a hard taskmaster. That did evoke some amusement. Everybody was however impressed to hear that the weight is already coming off and that my fitness has noticeably improved. Joe has appointed himself as my personal trainer and I really need that. I had got to the point where I could only just get up my front stairs. Everybody was amused to hear that instead of my usual sausage and egg breakfasts, I now have only all-Bran.

The kids were amusing as usual. Matthew sat next to me at one stage and I gave him a heavily buttered bread roll to eat, which he really got into. The boy likes butter. Hannah just lounged around mostly, looking like a perfect languid lady. Her mother was a born lady too. I used to call her "Lady Von" and sometimes still do. Von and I always got on well so that is the main reason I shout them the occasional trip across the water. She has an ideal lifestyle in NZ but not much money.

24 July, 2014

At Jill's

As the final episode of my birthday celebrations, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place yesterday. She served a home-made egg and tomato pie which was very good -- plus a sort of cheesecake as a birthday cake,

Jill and Lewis told us a lot about their cruising adventures. They go on ocean cruises quite a lot and have become very experienced about getting good deals on such trips.

Lewis is involved with all sorts of organizations these days. He has made a remarkable recovery from his stroke. He is having a very productive retirement.

We reminisced a bit about old times and Jill updated me about some of the people we both know.

20 July, 2014

Flame guided dinners

On Tuesday Anne put on a special dinner for me in honour of my birthday -- for which I got out the candelabrum (a bit more elaborate than the one above), plus a few other candles. So we had a genuine candlelit dinner. I bought 16 lamb cutlets for the two of us so with fried onions, bread rolls etc that made a big dinner. Anne brought along some Sydney rock oysters for starters, which were, as ever, excellent. And we had a McGuigan red to wash it down.

And Saturday dinner was also flame illuminated. I have a fairly wide backyard so on rare occasions I like to do something there. And just about all I do is put on the very occasional dinner there. I have the dinners at night under party flares. So I do my bit towards consuming fossil fuels, as the party flares run on kerosene.

So I put on such a dinner last night in honour of Joe's birthday. As usual, it was a pizza and champagne dinner. That is humble fare but everybody likes pizza and I supply the champagne, a Seaview one that everybody likes.

Paul was waxing eloquent about England and how real estate is cheaper there than in Brisbane. He was talking about the Cotswolds rather than London, however. He likes a lot of things about England and, as a UK citizen by descent, he is entitled to live there. His ebullient personality is very un-English, however, so how well he would get on with the English is a bit of a question.

Paul had apparently done a Rolf Harris impersonation at a mining function recently, which was a bit close to the bone in view of Harris's recent conviction for pedophilia. When he told us about that, Jenny was very critical, saying that he should be more careful of upsetting people, but I defended Paul, pointing out that the gathering was a conservative one and as such unlikely to be politically correct. I have always defended Paul -- even from his own mother!

One thing that amused me was after the dinner when we had adjourned upstairs preparatory to everyone going home. Paul discovered my biscuit barrel. I normally set out biscuits (cookies) for him after a dinner as he has the most incredible appetite. So when he discovered on my kitchen bench a big bottle of fruit slices he really got into them. He was at one stage walking around eating one slice while he had another one in his hand. And he made a final raid on them immediately before he actually left. They are very yummy so I don't blame him.

Fruit slice packet

Russ and Suz brought their kids and both kids were greatly entertained by Joe -- playing games that consisted mostly of him tossing them about. They loved it and even came back to him with demands for "More"! It reminded me of the same demands on me by an earlier generation of kids.

We had 12 adults present, including Nanna but Timmy and Dave were missed. No doubt they had other fish to fry on a Saturday night, being both single again. George again lent his calm and sensible presence to our deliberations. Russ spent a lot of time talking to Joe.

The pizza was home delivered from Pizza Hut so I had very little to do. Joe and his friend Kristian got the tables and chairs out and Jeff set up the party flares the day before. I may be the world's laziest host but everybody must enjoy my dinners or they wouldn't keep coming.

14 July, 2014

A busy weekend

Paul came over to my place at lunchtime on Saturday to have a look at Joe's new arrangements. Joe has moved into what was my sitting room and has crammed an amazing amount of stuff into it. He must have done some steady accumulating during the years he was in Canberra. In his new quarters he has his own bathroom and toilet so he has moved a step up from living in student digs.

Shortly thereafter we all went for a dosa lunch. Anne joined us. Dosas are always greatly appreciated.

After lunch we call came back to my place and sat around a table in my garden over cups of tea and coffee. We had some pretty heavy discussions with my explaining Hitler's rise to power, the intrinsically authoritarian nature of Leftism, IQ differences and such things. They had got very little enlightenment on such things from the usual sources. The fact that Fascism was "One big happy family" socialism versus Communism's "Class war" socialism would have been completely new to them.

Then on Sunday evening we had one of our big Indian dinners at our usual place to mark my birthday. For a variety of reasons some of the family group were unable to come but there were still 12 adults at table plus kids. Since we all know one another well it was a very happy and convivial occasion. George was there making his usual sterling contribution.

Paul was in high spirits and kept us all livened up. One of the things we discussed was the poverty of a modern school education. Paul was particularly critical of how little he had learned about history, English history in particular. At one stage I recited a few verses of Cowper's "Boadicea" and Paul felt incensed that he had been taught so little about those events. He had been taught Australian history almost exclusively, when the far more important history of Britain should have been outlined to him. Anne and I assured him that it was not always so. We in the older generation had been taught plenty of British history. George commented that when he had studied history in Britain years ago, history had started at the beginning, with ziggurats and the like. Paul felt mortified that he had never heard of them.

But it was a jolly meeting nonetheless. Very little alcohol was consumed. We were able to have fun without it and the conversation never stopped.

Joe had a good time with Dusty and Sahara, his nephew and niece. He plays with them much as I used to do with the earlier generation of kids. Matthew accidentally knocked a picture off the wall at one stage which embarrassed him but no harm was done.

Anne had good chats with Ken, as she often does. They have similar interests.

I think that what I enjoyed the most about the dinner is that it was in a sense traditional. I have been hosting dinners for family at that restaurant at least since 2006 so the tradition is not a long one -- though it is the life of a large dog! And I have put on dinners for various occasions -- sometimes more than once a year. And the recent dinner felt exactly the same as all those that went before. Some people could regard that as boring but I saw it as a pleasing affirmation of continuity.

3 July, 2014


Joe and I had a very amusing expedition to Ikea. Joe needed a bookcase for his new quarters at my place so to Ikea we went. And the one at Logan in ENORMOUS. It sort of never ends. I am convinced that without staff to call on for guidance you could die there through never being able to find your way out.

Anyway, we found the bookcases but then we had to find the way out. Joe had some ideas but we walked and walked until we found someone who gave us directions. That happened about 3 times. Eventually I buttonholed one of their employees and got him to guide us all the way to the checkouts.

Then we had to find the car. Joe kindly let me sit down while he went and found it but I was ecstatic when we finally drove out of the place.

A very small thing that happened was interesting. I have never been one to sweat the small things. I in fact ignore small things by and large. And it seems Joe is the same. At one stage during our hopeless wanderings we were passing some laundry baskets and Joe picked one up and took it with him. He didn't say: "I need a laundry basket", nor did I say: "Do you need a laundry basket?" In fact neither of us said one word about it and we still haven't! I was proud of my boy! I gave my credit card to buy it at the checkout but even then neither of us mentioned anything about it! Rather mad I suppose but it made sense to me.

Perhaps I should mention that when we arrived at about 6pm, we immediately queued up for one of their excellent suppers. The Swedish meatballs plus mashed potatoes plus Lingon sylt (jam) were brilliant as usual. I normally dislike mashed potatoes but the way Ikea did them I really enjoyed. Mr Kamprad (owner of Ikea) is a clever cookie. He gives you the food you need to fortify you for your expedition around his store.

Those yummy meatballs

29 June, 2014

Carpet inspection

Despite initial reservations from some friends and relatives about laying an Axminster, when people actually see Anne's new carpet, the reaction has always been quite favourable. So I thought that Paul and Susan might like to see it too.

So I arranged for Anne to give them lunch today.

But what a shock when they arrived! Matthew had just has his first barber-haircut! And he looked almost unrecognizable. From a kid who was a bit wild and woolly, we had a perfect little gentleman, dressed in a crisp blue-checked shirt, albeit a gentleman not quite 3 yet. Apparently Matthew liked his old hair better so they have decided to grow it back.

Anne did us proud for lunch with an excellent meatloaf clad in prosciutto. Plus vegies and strawberries after. Paul and I reminisced about a certain meatloaf we used to get in the past but which is no longer available.

And Susan in particular was enthusiastic about the carpet. I think an Axminster does convey that it is quality.

Paul and I mostly talked about business matters.

I was pleased to see that Elise crawls well now. She made a beeline for my big toe at one point. Matthew used to do that too. Elise gave us some very good smiles at times too

Matthew played by himself quite well for a while and I was amused to hear that when he plays cars he doesn't stop for petrol. He charges up when his car gets home. His father has an electric car so that is what he knows.

I asked Susan at one stage what sort of food she had grown up on and was rather sad to hear that it was extremely simple. We old timers grew up on plain food but Susan's was even plainer by the sound of it. We all used to get fried meat plus 3 boiled veg for dinner nearly every day but sometimes it seems, Susan wouldn't even get the veg! Anyway, she is 6' tall and as healthy and good looking as you can ask so it obviously did her no harm.

She would have initially been amazed by Paul's diet. His mother fed him food from all over the world so he was as well fed as you can imagine. Susan said that Jenny had been a great help to her in developing cooking skills. I can believe that as Jenny is a very keen cook. I can imagine Paul asking for some food that was normal to him but quite exotic and Susan ringing up Jenny to find out what it was all about. She is a most accomplished cook nowadays, though.

Mr Shorthair

27 June, 2014


I stopped wearing a watch as soon as I got my first mobile phone. Why wear a watch when I could just look at my phone to get the time? A few years ago, however, I got a phone that made you press two buttons to get the time. That was a little bit pesky but I put up with it.

About a month or two ago I saw a story in the papers about a Swiss guy who had set up in Australia making "Australian" watches. They looked like the fancy Swiss ones that cost you thousands. So I looked into it and found that they cost $800. I thought that sounded like fun and was about to buy one when Ann pointed out to me that they had the "12" on the dial where "2" should normally be. Something to do with yachting, I gather. So I scrapped that idea and looked at what else was on the web.

I found, rather to my surprise, that there were tens of thousands of watches that you could buy. I did actually find a couple that I liked but both were out of stock. So trash that idea. Anne was a bit disappointed as she wanted to buy me a watch as a thank-you for buying the Axminster in her sitting room.

So a couple of weeks ago, were were ambling past the Indian jewellers in the Buranda shopping centre when we noticed a large display of watches. I saw one I liked so Ann bought it for me. It cost $35. It had a good expandable band on it, was very plain looking and seemed to keep good time so I was rather pleased with it. I was told it had a Japanese movement in it. Since Switzerland and Japan are the two big makers of watches that sounded good.

But after a week it stopped! So I took it back and the proprietor -- a tall dignified Indian man -- put a new battery in it. That only lasted a couple of days when it stopped again. So I took it back for a refund. The lady behind the counter would not give me one. She said her policy was to send it for repair. That suited me not at all as the thing was obviously junk. So I persisted but she would not budge. I even tried my stentorian voice on her but she still would not budge -- though it made her cringe. I have a very loud voice when I want to... not up to Michael Darby's standard but getting there.

Anyway, when I got home I sat down and emailed the shopping centre management about her -- pointing out that the jeweller was breaking the Trade Practices Act by not giving me a refund for defective goods. And I suspect that broke the logjam. They would have advised her that her lease agreement with them obliged her to stay within the law.

So a couple of days later I went in again at a time when the bloke was due to be there. He was a lamb and agreed to give me the money back. So I took Ann and her credit card back a few days ago and the debit was reversed with no fuss.

But I had got a bit energized about watches by this stage so got out an old watch that Joe had given me years ago when I asked if he had any spare watches. It is rather fancy looking but all it does is tell the time. So I got a battery put in it and it works fine so far. It is an "Eternity" brand, which I had never heard of.

I had become rather interested in watch brands by that time, however, so I looked up "Eternity" watches on the net. I was surprised that there was no web page for that brand. The only place that seemed to have a big range of them was a NZ supermarket called "The Warehouse". They were selling them for around $NZ12.00 each! So I eventually looked at the back of the watch and it tells me that it is from China with a Japanese movement in it.

So I am rather amused and pleased after all that. My watch accords with my usual policy of getting value for money. It's also one of a number of occasions over the years when I have walked into a shop with money to spend in my pocket but have walked out again with my money still in my pocket because the retailer was not on the ball. This time there were LOTS of retailers who were not on the ball. Anne will have to find something else to buy me.

14 June, 2014

A great photo of Sahara and Dusty

12 June, 2014

June's birthday party

Anne's sister June has had a birthday recently so Anne put on a "3 sisters" Wednesday lunch in honour of that. The third sister, Merle, was also present, as were the associated male persons.

Anne started us with a type of French onion soup that actually had lots of onions in it! Plus pre-postioned garlic bread in it. All very tasty. For the main course she made a type of Moussaka. Both courses were Jamie Oliver recipes, I gather. And we had a cream-filled sponge cake with passionfruit icing for dessert. Definitely a lady's cake.

The main topic of conversation was Anne's new carpet and the tyranny of fashion. The only way I could get Anne a pretty carpet was to go to an Axminster so I was vocal in condemning the pressure of a fashion that dictated that only brown carpet could be on general sale. The Axminster (below) did however seem to meet with general approval.

Other than that, I cannot think what we talked about as it was neither religion nor politics. We do sometimes talk about church matters but not this time. Ralph was clearly feeling poorly when we arrived but he soon livened up with company and even told some jokes.

I brought along to the party a mini-play that I had written -- as I sometimes do these days. People seemed keen to do it -- June particularly -- and it worked well. It was my "Unselling" play. June took the part of the customer and Colin was the shopkeeper.

Anne had gone to some trouble with her hair so I pointed out to all and sundry that she had done it in a currently fashionable way. Brownie points gained there I think.

9 June, 2014

Dosas again

I thought that Paul was probably getting pretty frazzled with all the reorganization of his life that he is doing lately so I offered to shout the family a Sunday lunch just to give him a break. And I know of NO lunch that is more attractive than dosas.

So it was agreed and we turned up at our usual venue. The adults all had Masala dosas but Matthew now has his own dosa -- an egg dosa. Elise also got some of the egg dosa and chewed away in her usual serious manner for most of the lunch.

Paul and I talked about our usual things -- politics and investment -- while Anne mostly talked to Susan about lady things.

After lunch we adjourned to my place where Paul got his usual dessert -- a box of choc-chip cookies. On this occasion, we spent a little time talking about the mini-play that I wrote for Jenny's birthday party. Paul, Susan and Anne gave high praise to its free-flowing and colloquial wording and Paul assured me that I had wasted my talent by not being a playwright. They even seemed to think I could make money out of writing plays. That was of course pleasing and I decided to write another mini-play for Nanna's birthday party.

My new childproof front gates were appreciated as Matthew ran around like a mad thing -- in his usual way. My old Queenslander house is well adapted to kids and it was pleasing to hear the thunder of little feet in it. It was also pleasing to see that Elise can now crawl -- albeit only commando-style so far. She escaped most of the way down my long hallway at one stage.

Paul seemed very devoted to little Elise so she is a lucky girl. Daughters with a father who adores them get from that a psychological strength and balance that lasts for the rest of their lives.

In total we spent over 3 hours together so that must have been a bit of a slice out of Paul's busy life but he seemed totally relaxed so it seems he did not miss his chores.

8 June, 2014

No names

I was for much of my life a great reader of fiction. And the very English Somerset Maugham was one of the authors concerned. And I think it is in his stories that I encountered the phenomenon of the old lady who had a good friend in a young "bachelor" of unstated sexuality. The old lady was culturally inclined so liked to go to plays, operas etc. But either the lady was an old maid or old muggins the husband had shuffled off some years back. So the lady was alone.

And the lady could not happily go to all her cultural occasions alone. So this bachelor (maybe a friend of her son, a nephew etc.) could be called on for such occasions. The friend was also culturally inclined and was usually ready to accompany the old lady to something and discuss it with her afterwards with proper interest and enthusiasm. And that arrangement continued for years. So it was an excellent arrangement that the old lady had with the young "bachelor".

But as Oscar Wilde often said, nature imitates art. And I know of two real-life people who have a very similar arrangement to what I remember from Somerset Maugham. Good luck to them!

4 June, 2014

BBQ and carpets

Jenny put on a BBQ lunch for close family on Sunday. I had recently bought her a new space-age gas BBQ for her birthday so this was a first social use of it. The days when a BBQ was just a piece of metal are long past. It is now up there with dishwashers and fridges and stoves and such things.

We sat in Jenny's back yard while the kids ran around there -- and run they did. Dusty, Sahara and Matthew were all more or less perpetual motion. Elise was her usual inscrutable self.

Jenny tried once again to make her own cevapi. We are all rather keen on cevapi but the only place you can get them in Brisbane at the moment is out at woop woop so the idea of making your own is attractive. But although they are simple peasant food, getting them just right is difficult. And, as on previous occasions, Jenny failed again. Her attempt at them made perfectly nice rissoles but cevapi they were not. Since Jenny had gone to considerable trouble over them, it was a real disappointment to her. I am convinced that there is a secret ingredient in real cevapi that none of us knows about. Trip to woop woop coming up.

Towards the end of the festivities, I got the assembled company to take part in a small play I had written. Creating your own entertainments at parties seems to have largely died out these days but I like to revive it. The play I put on was "The King's trip" -- about Edward VII -- and it seemed to be much enjoyed. Russell got to play the part of the King and he really loved it. People were a bit dubious when I proposed that we do a play and I am sure they only agreed to it as a favour to me but in the end they certainly saw the point of it. The play is online here. Susan was very good minding the kids while the rest of us got into the play.

And yesterday, Anne got her sitting room re-carpeted. Her old carpet was getting difficult to maintain so I offered to shout her a new one.

But buying a new carpet turned out to be easier said than done. In its inscrutable way, fashion seems to have decreed that the only new carpet you can buy is in various shades of poop. Different patterns and shades other than brown are just not for sale. So the only way we could find of getting something attractive was to buy an Axminster -- which is not cheap. But the one we got was very pretty indeed so it was worth it. There it is below. "Summer Bouquet" is the name of the pattern. Anne's son said: "But that's an old lady's carpet". But then he twigged: "But I suppose you are an old lady".

I think I see in the matter a business opportunity for Ken or Paul. There must be other people who want an affordable carpet in something other than poo colours so a shop devoted to that should do a good trade. Getting the stock would be a problem but a friendly carpet miller could perhaps be persuaded to re-run some of his old patterns.

Matthew and Dusty doing what boys do

Jenny's birthday cake -- a Tiramisu pavlova

18 May, 2014

I am a bad churchman

And you will see why shortly.

Although my visits there are infrequent, I have always enjoyed going to a service at Ann St. Presbyterian church. Just the smell of old varnished wood as I walk in pleases me. And I like the feeling of continuity with both my own and my ancestral past that it gives me.

So I was interested to see what the new minister there was like. The elders and congregation took 3 years to call a replacement of their old minister (Archie McNicol) who passed away. I liked Archie McNicol and thought he left big shoes to fill -- and the congregation generally obviously thought similarly.

So Anne and I went along there this morning. We knew that the new minister was a Welshman named David Jones (how Welsh a name can you get?) so we were keen to see him.

And I can see why he was called (Via their Elders, Presbyterian congregations "call" their own ministers. They don't have one imposed on them, which is the deplorable Anglican practice). He has all the passion of the traditional Welsh chapel and preaches very skillfully and confidently.

I had a few initial niggles. He preached in a grey suit. Scots Presbyterian ministers in my experience always wear an academic gown over their other clothes. But I guess that is not the practice in Wales. And I know I am a bit silly here but church announcements at Ann St have always been "intimations". Today they were just "announcements". There were a few other departures from Ann St. practice but nothing grave enough to mention.

What really bothered me however was the length of the sermon. It was a perfectly good sermon but could have been preached without loss in many fewer words. But when somebody bothers me, I don't just whine about it to my friends. I go to the bothersome person himself. So, being as polite as I could, I emailed the minister the following after lunch:
Dear Mr Jones,

Although I joined Ann St church back in 1964, I have been only a sporadic attender over the years. But I have always regarded Ann St as my "Home" church. I was married there in November, 1985. Today was my first visit during your ministry.

I was pleased to see how large the congregation was. You must be outstanding at outreach. And you are clearly a sincere and skilled preacher. Your sermon made some good points but was wearisomely long-winded. I expected the service to end roughly on the hour but due to your sermon, it went on to 20 minutes past the hour.

Were you especially enthusiastic today and are normally more succinct? I hope so.

Because of car-parking problems, I have popped into St John's Presbyterian at Annerley a couple of times in the past year and I am beginning to wonder if they might not be a better "Home" church for me.


(Dr) John Ray
Mr Jones was on the ball. I got the following reply from him in a matter of minutes:
Dear Dr Ray,
Thanks for your constructive criticism. I need reminding to be more succinct. Sorry I was not able to speak with you as we had our congregational meeting immediately after the service. Please make yourself known to me when you are next in the congregation. If Annerley is more convenient for you I am sure that would be an excellent choice.
David Jones
So what makes me a bad churchman? This blog post. I think it is rather bad form for me to publicize this correspondence. So why have I done it? I have done it because I really do want to put pressure on the excellent Mr Jones. I like to be comfortable when I go to Ann St. and a service that greatly over-runs makes me uncomfortable. I can hear people saying "Boo, Hiss" to that and I am sure I deserve it.

UPDATE: I guess that the above sounds rather negative so I thought I should note some positives too.

The big positive was the large congregation. Under previous ministers such as Percy Pearson and Archie McNicol there were always plenty of empty pews but the church was already pretty full when Anne and I arrived and there were a lot who streamed in after us. It may have been standing room only eventually.

And there were about 20 kids present, who were called forward shortly after the beginning of the service to receive their own talk. After that they trooped off to their own Sunday school elsewhere in the church. I remember being such a Sunday school kid myself.

So was the big congregation Mr Jones's work? Probably. He seems much more dynamic than his elderly predecessors. But I cannot help wondering if some of those present were following the money. After selling off their centrally-located church hall to help build a big office block, the church is now a very rich one and some people might like the idea of helping to manage such money.

And another thing I liked was that the congregation used the original King James version of the Lord's prayer, complete with "trespasses" etc. It's the version I grew up with.

I also liked the provision of tea and biscuits outside after the service. There used to be such an evening provision but not a morning provision. It enables congregants to mix.

I also liked the fact that Allan Morton was given hand-shaking duties after the service. The minister would normally do that but had to attend the congregation meeting after the service. Allan is a stalwart of the church but has some health problems so has to put in a big effort to get to the services these days. That he was chosen to stand in for the minister is a fitting acknowledgment of his steadfastness.

17 May, 2014

3 stories

I was just lying in bed when 3 little episodes from my past came into mind so I thought I might write them down. I think they have some entertainment value and two of them I doubt that I have written down before.

In the first I was in an office with some others when one of the guys there, Andrew, started to tell me off about something. As soon as I got a word in, I said "mea culpa, mea maxima culpa". That immediately turned his mood around -- from cross to gay, which amazed all the others around. What was this gibberish spell that I had cast on Andrew? "What did he say? What did he say? -- the others said to one another.

When you know it was Latin that still doesn't help much, does it? You have to know that Andrew was about my age and a Catholic. And what I said was from the Latin Mass, with which he was perfectly familiar. It means "I am to blame, I am maximally to blame".

The second story is when I gave one of my tenants a student discount. A common thing and something to be pleased about one would think. At first the young student was pleased but after I explained why I did it by saying that he was one of the university tribe and I am also of that tribe, it apparently preyed on his mind. He eventually moved out over it.

He was a young idealist who thought that the United Nations was a great thing, for instance. That the United Nations could teach the Sicilian Mafia a thing or two about corruption he apparently did not know. Just the constant U.N. resolutions against Israel should have told him something but he may not have known of that either.

And that brings me to my third story. The Israeli ambassador to the U.N. for a couple of years was American-born Dore Gold (Dore pronounced as "dory" and Gold being one of the most emphatically Ashkenazi names I have come across -- up there with "Finkelstein"). And Dore was a master diplomat. I saw him being given a hostile interview on (where else?) ABC TV. Despite the hostility, Gold was as cool as a cucumber. But the callow interviewer (Dempster?) did all he could to trip Gold up.

But Gold was a master of facts and figures and appeared to know every U.N. resolution about Israel both by heart and by number. So every time the interviewer displayed his ignorance, Gold would reply along the lines: "As U.N. resolution no. 248 said ....". Gold just cruised while the interviewer fumbled. He had clearly heard it all a thousand times before and had a comprehensive answer ready for every point. It was a stellar performance and I have always wanted to shake Gold's hand over it. The interview seemed to be as easy for Gold as if he had been reciting nursery rhymes -- which in a way I suppose he was. He is still an eminent man in Israel.

Dore Gold

11 May, 2014

Mothers' day

Mothers' day seems to be celebrated in all sorts of different days around the world but today was the day in Australia.

Susan and Paul put on a small lunch at their place to honour Jenny and Nanna -- to which I was also invited. So I was among three mothers!

Susan cooked up some excellent roast pork with roast vegies and a potato bake. And followed it up with a rolled pavlova that included banana. I thought the banana went particularly well. I probably disgraced myself a bit by having a big second helping. As he sometimes does on these occasions Paul over-ate and was groaning from a too-full tummy at one point. But with such good food, you could hardly blame him.

We had some very animated conversations -- mostly about England.

A large part of our conversation was an attempt by me to explain England to Paul -- a rather optimistic enterprise considering the oddities of the English. The pesky thing about England is that there are important things that everybody knows but nobody mentions. You almost have to be born there to be "in the know". I was trying to fill Paul in on such things.

I was particularly keen to get Paul familiarized with the shibboleths of the Home Counties. Paul has been to Britain in the past but mostly visiting relatives in regional England. And, as even the English admit, North and South of Watford are rather different places.

"Rather different places" is a Home Counties way of putting it. If I were an American I would most likely have written "worlds apart"! They even pronounce "butter" in the German way North of Watford. Such pronunciation would always be greeted with silence South of Watford but it will be silent contempt! I was, inter alia, trying to help Paul hear such silences.

And as for the Northern pronunciation of "bubble gum" (booble goom where "oo" is as in "look") subsequent washing out of ears is almost required. And "Home Counties" has become a somewhat unmentionable expression these days too! Complications!

Paul was naive enough to expect that hard work would be respected in the upper echelons of English society. I had to disillusion him and tell him that it is in fact effortless ease which is the desideratum there.

And use of Latin expressions always earns cautious respect there! Latin is redolent of public schools and Classics at Oxbridge. No Englishman will ever ask you for a translation of a Latin expression, however. He would feel crushed to admit he needed one! See here.

And the English are right not to challenge Latinists. For instance, I sometimes use in my writings the phrase Sui generis so it is possible that I might use it in speech one day. If I did, I would pronounce "generis" with a hard "g", which is not the most common pronunciation. If some poor soul challenged me on that, with the claim that the G should be pronounced as a "j", I would say: "Ah! You are using the church pronunciation. I prefer the Augustan, myself". It seems a small point but in England the humiliation of my interlocutor would be massive.

Even if the person knew nothing about issues in Latin pronunciation, the steady gaze of my bright blue eyes upon him accompanied by a small smile would tell him all he needed to know. The English are very sensitive to manner and a quietly confident manner is a hallmark of the upper class. And arguing with the upper class will generally earn nothing but scorn

8 May, 2014

An old friend and a cure for asthma

I was waiting for my brunch in my usual haunt yesterday when in walked someone I had not seem since last century  -- Jason the Amiga guru.

I saw quite a lot of him in the 80s and 90s when Amiga computers were big.  He was my fixit man for faulty hardware.  And whenever we got together at his little shop over some faulty component we would always enjoy a chat.

Later he introduced me to options trading on the stockmarket.  I got out of that just about square but Jason blew a lot of money before he gave it away.

Anyway, back in the 90s he got whooping cough, despite having been immunized as a child. And he told me a bit about it yesterday.  It took him months to beat it and really knocked him around.  Listening to his account of what he went through I am glad we got Joe a booster shot for it in his late teens.

But there was a bonus.  One of the reasons whooping cough hit Jason so hard was that he was also an asthmatic.  So he sometimes felt he could breathe neither in nor out!  Nasty.  But when the whooping cough went so did the asthma!  It's not a cure anybody would recommend, however.

A lot of my old friends have died by now so I am glad that Jason is a fair bit younger than I am.  I think we will see a bit more of one-another from now on.  We have a shared history!

2 May, 2014

A dinner and a train

Both Anne and I have had a lot of illness and disability in recent months. Sometimes both of us were crocked at the same time. But just lately we seem both to be more or less back to normal so in my pessimistic way I decided to a have a small celebration of our "temporary" return to good health. Getting from 60 to 70 is so problematical that many people don't survive it so 70+ can not be expected to be a bed of roses.

So I got Anne to come over and cook us one of our favourite foods: Lamb cutlets. Lamb cutlets are fiendishly expensive in Brisbane these days but I bought us 16 good ones for the occasion. We combined that with a good red wine plus fresh bread rolls and real butter -- and I even bought flowers for the table. Beat that! Anne contributed a salad with chick-peas in it -- somewhat to my puzzlement.

It was a great success. Anne cooked the cutlets just a bit short of well-done and with plenty of salt on them to bring out the flavour it was a great meal.

And for some reason a small episode from long ago popped into my mind. Children can sometimes upset parents unwittingly and this concerns a small instance of that:

When Joey was about 3, Jenny and I spent some time in Sydney -- living in a beautiful old Federation house in the Inner West that would now be worth about $2 million, I think.

Once a week we used to visit Miroma -- a huge second-hand shop run by the Salvation Army. And we would always buy Joe a new toy while we were there. One day we bought him a toy train which he really seemed to like. Afterwards we went off somewhere else to visit a market. The market was very crowded and Jenny was wheeling Joey around in his stroller while he was carrying his train. After a while however Joey started to cry. Jenny stopped and asked him what was wrong. "My beautiful train", he replied. He had dropped his train. Jenny of course immediately went into reverse to find the train but had no success. Some other kid had picked it up.

Jenny was however very upset that she had not noticed Joey losing his "beautiful train". She may have been upset for only a day but it did get to her. We went and bought him some other train but it was not the same.

25 April, 2004


My only ANZAC observance was to put up an article about it on my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog.

My main activity was to attend the lunchtime birthday party of little Suz. Her birthday was in fact earlier but she felt that having the party on a holiday would make it easier for everyone.

So Anne came over on Thursday night to be ready for the party. We dined at one of our favourite restaurants but found it had changed hands, so was pretty empty. With Anne's assistance I ordered something not on the menu. I ordered spaghetti "with the works" -- all the spaghetti additives they had. They did of course charge a bit extra but it was delicious.

When I came to pay, I found that their EFTPOS machine had not yet arrived. I normally walk around with a pocketful of cash so that would not normally have bothered me but, just for once, I had only a few dollars in my pockets and intended to pay with a card. So it was quite vexing. I had to go to an ATM a few doors down to get money -- and that machine was a bit bomby. I had to put my card in 6 times to get it accepted.

Anyway, Anne made me hot porridge for my breakfast next morning, which I always enjoy.

At Suz's party, I talked to Susan, Simon and Paul mainly. I also had a chat with Ken about the monarchy. I am quite surprised that he is so vehemently against it. He seemed quite passionate in his views. Apparently views such as his were rather common in his childhood in the Northern milieu from whence he springs. Had he been simply indifferent to the monarchy I would have understood it better. There is huge support in Britain for the monarchy, generally reckoned to be in the 90% range. Simon's view of the monarchy is one I understand. He stands for the national anthem out of courtesy but doesn't really believe in any of it.

I also talked a lot with the admirable Susan -- but mainly about kiddy things. Little Elise was amusing. She just sat there eating the whole time. She definitely has Johnson genes. She even managed to get some spaghetti down. She's got no teeth so presumably just gums her food. Dusty's blond curls were curlier than ever and Sahara was dressed as a princess. Russ told me that when he said to her that she was a princess today she replied that she is a princess every day! Lucky girl!

Suz made us spaghetti for lunch followed by a cheesecake with caramel topping. Very nice.

Ken was at one stage saying that you need government to ensure that Australia's vastness is settled. I had just asked why when Simon sat down near us. So Simon too pelted Ken with whys while I just looked on. I felt a bit sorry for Ken as he was clearly outgunned. Simon is a military man and the main argument for more decentralized settlement in Australia is that it helps to defend the country. That is however a very dubious argument, which Simon pointed out at length.

I am buying Jenny a new BBQ for her birthday so she has been making enquiries to find out what would suit her best. As Russ has a BBQ that doubles as a spaceship, she talked to him about BBQs. After that she came over to me with a clearer idea of what she wants. She said: "I have just been talking with the BBQ King who lives here ..." I am sure she got good advice.

Anne drove us to the place and also on the way back. Suz & Russ have just moved and their new place was quite outside my ken. Anne knows that area fairly well and also used the TomTom (SatNav) in her new Corolla. Those things are fairly impressive. It amused me by frequently telling Anne that she was exceeding the speed limit.

When we got back home I made up a lemon mocktail for each of us and we had them on my verandah. Like a cocktail, they are slow-drinking but are also very tangy and refreshing. I only give the secret recipe for them out to people I know.

Then for supper we had steak sandwiches and chips from our local hot food place washed down with Alsatian wine. Both were excellent.

23 April, 2004

St. George's day

I had a rather full day today, with plastic surgery at 2pm and a small party I hosted at 5:30pm.

The party was a celebration of St George's day, a celebration of Englishness, as St George is patron saint of England. St George was a Roman soldier in the early days of Christianity and is venerated as a Christian martyr. The legend of him slaying a dragon in Libya and thus saving the King's daughter is a medieval accretion. Devotion to him in England goes back at least as far as the venerable Bede in Anglo-Saxon times.

Two of the party were English-born but glad to be no longer living there. They did however have some attachment to their old English ways so brought along pork pies and ordered cod n' chips for their dinner. I shouted whatever people wanted but half of us ordered Indian on the ground that Indian food has become thoroughly English these days. The fish shop and the Indian restaurant are side-by-side so having a choice was convenient.

Susan as usual did us the signal honour of fetching the food -- which we had on my verandah. She also provided us with a magnificent bread 'n butter pudding with icecream. She also washed up, so when she was leaving I told her she was my hero. She also managed two little kids amid it all. In Longfellow's words, she is “A noble type of good. Heroic womanhood. ”

A small thing I noted: When Susan arrived carrying Elise, Jenny immediately got up and held out her arms. Nothing was said but Elise was immediately given to her. Grandma was of course the most trusted custodian of the precious bundle.

The men talked a lot about English food and the stockmarket.

When it was time to go, I suggested that we sing "God Save the Queen". Our two expats jibbed at that however, saying that they came to Australia to get way from all that. The rest of us rose and sang the anthem but they remained seated. All very amusing.

I told them that Australia is a monarchy too but they were unmoved. The fact that three members of the Royal House are in Australia at the moment and getting front page coverage in the papers day after day only made the disgruntlement of our expats all the more poignant.

It was a pleasant party anyway. I forgive them for disrespecting the Royal anthem so I hope they will forgive me for singing it.

I think that people who don't like the monarchy have got no romance in them.

St. George's day is a big deal in England these days

20 April, 2014

Easter Sunday

Anne is away at the moment so I did not go to church on Good Friday as I most usually do.

But today Jenny put on an Easter lunch for a few of us. It was first class. The main course was roast pork with GOOD CRACKLING. Jenny seems to be one of the few cooks who can do crackling. I was actually suffering from a mild case of diverticulitis so should really have been eating mushy food but I was not going to miss out on roast pork! And we had apple and rhubarb crumble for dessert. What more could one ask?

Elise was surprisingly lively. She vocalized quite a lot and even smiled occasionally. Matthew played trains most of the time. Very boyish!

We discussed our celebration next Wednesday of St George's day quite a bit and everybody was looking forward to it. We are all appreciative of our varying degrees of Englishness. We also discussed the varying speech patterns you encounter in England.

The future of Paul's business is still in flux but Paul has good hopes that he can rescue it.

Nanna kept us on the ball at various points. Being nearly 90 seems to have given her extra confidence

Susan arrived wearing a rather ragged denim skirt which I commented on. Everybody assured me however that it was just fashion. Nanna assured us all that she still keeps her hems straight.

23 March, 2014

A Sunday breakfast

This was the second celebration this year of Paul's birthday. I put it in the format of my jammy breakfasts. The last such breakfast rid me of some of my large stock of jams but I needed to move even more. And on this occasion also I think everybody found a jam they were happy to take home with them.

Anne brought along a loaf of the excellent bread that she gets from her local Chinese baker and also some croissants. So bread 'n jam is humble food but with good bread and a big variety of good jams, I think everybody ate well.

Anne made us all cups of tea

Susan brought along a bombe Alaska cake for a birthday cake which went down well. I was impressed by her culinary blowtorch. I had no idea such a thing existed.

Matthew and Ava Marie played together well, tearing around my house with great energy. Ava Marie seems to be quite a bright little girl. She was very interested in the baby -- Elise. Elise was her usual solemn self

Jenny, Ken and Davey were the others in attendance (plus kids) so it was a small gathering but perfectly pleasant. It went on from 9am to about 11am. I had some sort of wog but I don't think that disrupted anything.

At one stage I took Paul aside to discuss men's business

A small point: Susan is very fussy about what she will drink. She is not even keen on tea. I gather that she mostly drinks milk at home. Joe would agree with that!

But I have found a way to get her something. I have a big filter jug that filters tap water for purity. So I run a jugful of that the night before she is due over and put it in the fridge. I call that "Susan's freshly squeezed water" and she is happy to use it.

And today she knew to look in the fridge for "her" water. And between herself and her son she drank most of it. Later that afternoon however she came back via my place and asked to get a drink of water -- whereupon she drank the last of "her" water. So I was most pleased that my place was seen as an oasis where one could get "Good" water!

The cake

An interesting conversation?

Ava marie


18 March, 2014


I have now received from Amazon my copy of Falvetti's interpretation of Il diluvio universale (Noah's flood)

It is amazing. The music could be by Monteverdi

And as a CD, it is shorn of graphics. But that seems to be good. Just as music it is superb

It is one of the most marvellous pieces from the Baroque era to be rediscovered recently. It was written in 1682 in Messina, Sicily by Sicilian priest Michelangelo Falvetti.

The video is here:

The first aria is particularly worth watching as the contralto has the most expressive face. I see that her name is Evelyn Ramirez Munoz, which sounds Spanish. In expressiveness however she could be Sicilian. The conductor is from Argentina so maybe she is too. Argentinians are about 50/50 Spanish and Italian.

The feminist claim that the RC church is "patriarchal" has always been amusing -- considering the devotion that the church devotes to the Blessed Virgin. Catholics very often direct their prayers to the Virgin Mary. And the rosary has a lot more Hail Marys than Paternosters.

So I was amused to see that the contralto in Falvetti's oratorio was in fact speaking for God! How patriarchal! A Sicilian priest obviously saw no problem with giving a woman the top job.

Feminists sometimes appear to think that they have done something clever by referring to God as "she" but that in fact poses no theological difficulties for any Christian (not sure about Muslims). God is conceived as neither male nor female, with "he" being merely a linguistic convention.

17 March, 2014

Henry Thomas Schäfer

Some years ago I was given a framed print of a famous painting by Schäfer. I like it and have it on my wall to this day. And I am not alone in liking it. Thousands of such prints seem to have been made. Schafer has been a very popular artist.

So I was surprised that when I Googled his name, I could find out virtually nothing about his life. I gather that his art is seen as "chocolate boxy" and hence below the notice of anybody seriously interested in art. I of course deplore such elitism so would like to put a decent biography of him online if I can get more information on him. I reproduce below the only two biographical notes I could find and hope that there might be a reader of this blog who can tell me more.

"Henry Thomas Schafer was born in the Lake District in England during the mid 19th-century. His exact birth date is unknown; however, his work was most well known from 1873 - 1915. Both a painter and an accomplished sculptor, Schafer exhibited his figurative studies at the Royal Academy in London in 1875, receiving the prestigious Academia award for excellence. Schafer's signature style was his study of women dressed in "goddess-like" classical vestments. It is for these portraits that he is best remembered."

"Henry Thomas Schäfer (British, 1854?-1915). Henry Thomas Schäfer is a British Victorian-era genre painter and sculptor, elected in 1889 to the Royal Society of British Artists. He exhibited at the Royal Society, the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, and other galleries starting in 1873. Several of his paintings have been widely reproduced and distributed in the form of posters."

Below is the picture that hangs on my wall

A Time of Roses

15 March, 2014

Paul and Russell's birthday dinner

An occasion best forgotten in general. Alcohol certainly makes problems worse rather than solving them. The occasion ended with both Maureen and Susan in tears and everybody else rushing to get out of the place. I felt particularly sorry for Susan who looked gorgeous wearing the new dress her mother had bought her for the occasion.

George was his usual invaluable self, pouring oil on troubled waters. I have long ago declared George essential for any celebration I organize so that is reinforced. I will shout George a dinner any time.

Timmy showed he is just as smart as an adult as he was when he was a gorgeous little boy. When put on the spot he refused to go on that spot. Bravo Timmy! See what I wrote here on Jan. 1st to read more about the toddler Timmy.

The food was good anyway, as Indian food usually is.

As is my wont, I arrived at the restaurant in Mt Gravatt punctually -- at 5:30pm. And when I walked in I announced that I was after a strong young man to help carry the champagne in. The strong young men had not arrived at that stage, however, so George volunteered. I said: "Are you a strong young man, George?". He said he was and everyone agreed. So he did the honours, even though he is about my age and only about 5'2" tall. Bravo George!

After the restaurant, a remnant of us went over to Jenny's place for coffee and birthday cake. Susan had made an excellent chocolate cake. Jenny's friend Pam was also there -- from the Shaky Isles.

Anyway, to explain the next bit I need to give a bit of background: Susan's mother Ami is a very glamorous lady. You can see where Susan gets her looks from. But Ami is also a champion cleaner. Whenever I can get her over to my bachelor abode to do cleaning, I end up with parts shining that never shone before! I have a theory that spots just see her coming and run away.

Anyway she apparently helps out a lot with the cleaning at Paul's place too -- lucky them! So at one stage while we were at Jenny's place, Master Matthew (aged 2) dropped something that made a mess on the floor. So he came to where we were all sitting and said: "Nanna clean". So appreciation of Ami's cleaning extends across a wide age range!

7 March, 2014

Navies: A small point

I caught Anne recently referring to the "British Navy". I immediately corrected her: You mean the "Royal Navy". Anne disagrees with me about half the time so she didn't go down on that one without a fight. She said: "What about the Dutch navy?"

And in mentioning the Dutch navy she does of course refer to a most distinguished navy.

I replied: In that case it would be the "Koninklijke Marine". I am sure I made a hash out of pronouncing that but you get the idea.

But the real differentiation comes in how your ships are abbreviated. The very simple "HMS" becomes in the Dutch case "HNLMS" (His Netherlands Majesty’s Ship). There is only one Royal Navy.

6 March, 2014

Barbers: A small reflection

Men very commonly go to the same barber for a long time. I knew a man who had been going to the same barber for 20 years -- or it may have been 30 years. Since he had very little hair on his head when I met him, I hope his barber gave him a discount.

The fact that you let a barber much closer to your head and face than you normally would probably exerts some pressure towards a more friendly relationship. I gather that women tend to get a bit close to their hairdressers too.

And barbers do customarily chat with their customers when they are in the chair. The football and current events are the usual topics. And enough common ground is usually found for the conversation to be congenial.

I remember an occasion when Anne and I had gone to Stone's Corner to visit the shops. Anne went off to visit ladies' clothing shops and I took a place at the barber's. But after a while a huge storm broke out which more or less stopped everyone in their tracks. And that seemed to prevent any new customers turning up for the barber. So the barber and I were standing in the doorway of his shop chatting and gazing at the weather. And that went on for a little while until Anne turned up.

She was a bit apologetic for turning up rather late but I told her it was no problem as I had been talking to the barber. She seemed rather amazed by that. The fact that your barber is your friend seemed new to her. I think she was particularly impressed by the fact that the barber was quite a bit younger than I was. But if your barber is a good barber age does not matter much

25 February, 2014

An amusing memory

When I was teaching sociology at the University of NSW many moons ago, I was located in the Morven Brown building, which formed one side of a grassy quadrangle in front of the library.

And the students' union would from time to time arrange pop music concerts on the library steps so people could sit on the grass of the quadrangle and enjoy the music concerned. The music would be a lunchtime concert scheduled from 1 to 2 pm.

There were however some occasions when I was scheduled to take a tutorial at 2pm in the Morven Brown building. And there were also some occasions when the musicians got so enthused with their music that they carried on beyond 2pm

Rock music was however not the background I wanted for my tutorials so when such enthusiasm occurred, I used to take a stroll over to the library, trace the power cord to the band's amplifiers and then pull the plug out at the wall. So the music suddenly went from amplified to acoustic.

The band members always looked sheepish when that occurred and promptly wrapped up. They probably thought it was some sort of official censure but it was in fact my sole deed. Why should I waste time going through some bureaucratic process when direct action would do?

23 February, 2014

A traditional Sunday Lunch

Paul & Susan very kindly put on a roast pork lunch for me today.

The pork was well-cooked and there was even some crackling. Plus gravy, plus fresh apple sauce etc. And with rhubarb crumble to follow, who could ask for more?

Paul and I talked a little about family matters but not much. I think Paul has had enough of that lately.

Over dessert I offered something of a history lesson about England -- which Paul is of course much interested in. I talked about how they used to entertain themselves in English country houses in the 19th century before the advent of computers and TV etc. Susan knew something of that because she had read Jane Austen novels etc.

Matthew was a constant generator of noise and movement and even little Elise had a shout or two for a while. But my history lesson survived all that.

A very pleasant Sunday afternoon.

When one is invited to a dinner or some other social occasion, it is of course customary to bring along something by way of appreciation -- flowers, a bottle of wine or something for desert etc.

In 19th century country houses, the pattern was however slightly different. One might bring along the latest novel from Mr Disraeli or some other favoured author and would be ready to do some sort of entertainment for the house, some sort of an entertaining performance, a new game etc.

So whilst discussing such things I also exemplified them. History lessons are not everyone's cup of tea but Paul and Susan were very interested in my topic so I was rather 19th century in my way of expressing my appreciation of the occasion.

15 February, 2014

St Valentine

How did an obscure Catholic saint get such a following? It's a bit like the Japanese celebrating Christmas I guess: It's fun, not saintly.

I participated. When Anne arrived at my place yesterday evening she got: Roses, card, chocolates, a dinner and a present. It was a present I knew she would like: A lava lamp. I have one and she often admires it. They were fashionable in the '70s but seem to be coming back. Just two or three years ago I could not buy one but they have popped up in a couple of shops lately.

We dined at a very good Chinese restaurant not far from my place -- the New Sing Sing. Both the food and service is always good there. We had dim sims and chicken satay skewers as starters. I had BBQ roast duck as the main course and Anne had salt and pepper fish. I have long been of the view that only the Chinese know how to do duck. And they did! I ordered Fourex Gold for a drink and greatly enjoyed it. They serve their beer very cold there and it was a hot night.

And when we got home we had clootie dumpling with cold custard for dessert and a cup of tea to wash it down. So we turned to both China and Scotland for our food.

And Anne made porridge for my breakfast this morning -- which is always appreciated.

12 February, 2014

Woolworths frustrations

About 50% of all Australians shop at Woolworths. And don't knock it. I have shares in them.

But one of the big problems is that as soon as you find something you like there, they discontinue stocking it. Some of us get quite paranoid about that.

Anyway, I have been spoilt in the cracker biscuit dept by some crackers Von brought over for me from NZ -- Griffin's Meal Mate crackers. When Von brings some over they last only days.

So I thought that there has got to be something similar in Woolworths. And, rather crazily, I found that one of their home-brand cracker offerings was pretty good. So as soon as I tried them, I went out and stocked up on another packet. They were called "sea salt" crackers.

And you can guess the rest. When I went in there today, no "sea salt" crackers were to be found. They did however have some garlic crackers and I bought those. And they are quite good too. If only I had some of that NZ green tomato chutney to have on them ....

9 February, 2014

More dosas

Every day is a good day for dosas so I shouted Paul and Susan dosas for lunch today. Matthew even has his own dosa now and got right through an egg dosa. The Dosas we get from "Riverwalk Tandoori" (which is nowhere near a river) are certainly inspiring, even though they are completely vegetarian. We arrived at the restaurant at 11:30, at the same time that the owner did. So we were served promptly.

We repaired to my sitting room for tea and afters with the afters consisting of some good choc-chip cookies provided by me and some fresh strawberries provided by Susan. Every bit of both went down.

Paul brought along his Oxford Book of English Verse and I read and explained a few poems out of it -- mostly patriotic poems which both Paul and I like. We read "Mariners of England" and "He fell among Thieves" but also Shelley's "To a Skylark" and Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale". They all required a bit of explanation to people who know only the language of today.

Paul at one stage asked me what Jenny and I had been talking about at our "Ronald Reagan" dinner and I replied that we had just been talking about what family members had been doing lately. With a big smile, Susan greeted that news with "Aha! GOSSIP"! I think she had a win there.

Gossip however (defined as talking about people you know) is as far as I can tell universal where people relax together or have time on their hands. Today we had our usual discussions about politics. I mentioned to Paul that Ken had once asked me how I classified him politically. I replied that I categorized him as a "recovering Leftist". From what I can gather Ken has done the usual political journey from Left to Right that most people do over their lifetime

We also had a discussion about my recent blog posts on feminism. We talked about what it means to be “sexist”. For example when I refer to a woman adopting traditional female roles as being “the perfect wife”, I am from a feminist viewpoint revealing myself as an awful bigot and am disrespecting the woman concerned. Feminists think that all women should have "careers".

Towards the end of our get-together, I introduced Paul and Susan to Bushell's coffee and chicory essence. It is almost forgotten now but in some parts of the world it WAS coffee for many decades. I introduced it to them as a sort of history lesson. I still drink it myself -- as my father did.

Matthew was at his noisy best running around my house. It is amazing the amount of noise a small boy can create. He had a great time anyway. Elise was her usual silent and serious self.

Paul wanted me to announce that he had recently been from his place to Ipswich and back in his electric car without needing to stop for recharging. It is a cute little car.

8 February, 2014

Lumen Fidei

"Lumen Fidei" (light of faith) is the first encyclical of Pope Francis, though Francis admits that it was mostly written by Benedict, his predecessor. And in my usual eccentric way I used part of my secular Sabbath to read it.

There is no doubt we encounter the mind of a real scholar in it. He actually mentions the name of God (YHWH) as given in the Hebrew Bible -- which is bordering on the eccentric in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. It would appear however to be what YHWH himself wanted according to Psalms 83:18 ("That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth" KJV) and other OT passages. That the commandment to respect YHWH's name is taken to require suppression of it is incredibly perverse and would certainly make YHWH throw up his hands if he had any hands.

And Benedict's attempt to reconcile a Septuagint rendering of Isaiah with the Masoretic version is surely heroic, given the obvious divergence. But the fact that he refers to the Septuagint at all is impressive. There is a view that the Septuagint -- or at least part of it -- is based on a text older than the Masoretic version and may hence be closer to the original.

But despite such flashes of unusual scholarship, the encyclical as a whole is quite unoriginal. Perhaps an encyclical has to be that way. The encyclical is a very thorough survey of past and present enthusiasm about faith and that is about it. But that may enthuse others more than it does this hard-hearted old atheist.

6 February, 2014

Ronald Wilson Reagan RIP

6th Feb. is President Reagan's birthday and I usually like to acknowledge it in some way. Jenny and I had some family matters to discuss so I persuaded Jenny to cook us a dinner on 6th so it would be a celebration as well as a discussion.

I got to Jenny's place at 7pm and Jenny had a family favourite ready: Egg-rolled pork. Plus Kim Chee plus Japanese ginger. So it was a Korean dinner with all the trimmings. Japanese ginger is exceptional.

We discussed how all the "kids" had gone and reviewed recent family events. It was basically a knowledge-sharing exercise. Jenny knew some things and I knew others. So now we both know more things.

So it was a very pleasant evening and an exceptional dinner.

1 February, 2014

In memoriam

As army men tend to do, I have kept in touch with someone from my old army unit. In my case it is our former sergeant major, a fellow classical music devotee.

He rang me today with some sad news. Two former members have died recently: Doug Tucker and John French -- former Captain and former Staff Sergeant. So this is my little memorial to them. I have vivid memories of both of them and it is hard to accept that they no longer exist.

Now that I am 70 I get that rather often. People whom I remember as lively and fun people are just dead. My imagination can not really cope with it.

One consolation today was that I heard there is one very senior member of our corps who is still going. He must be in his 90s these days. There are still some things that I want to ask him so it is very good of him to survive for so long!

I have put online all the academic journal articles I had published in the 70s and 80s -- and in consequence I do at times get people writing to me about them. They obviously expect that I still exist and am as compos mentis as I was when I wrote the articles concerned. Fortunately I am. But what if I was dead -- as many of my contemporaries are? What would they do then? I have no idea.

Feminists will always be a disgruntled minority of harpies huddled in a corner moaning to one-another

Most women will acknowledge some feminist sympathies -- equal pay for equal work etc. But I am not talking about those women. I am talking about the feminists you encounter at universities and writing in the papers. They are often quite good at changing official policies (generally set by men) but their influence on the behaviour of other women is minimal.

The big and unsurmountable problem for feminists is that young women are intensely interested in young men. They are more interested in young men than young men are interested in them. As a result, young women tend to PANDER to young men. There! I've said it. The word that sends feminists molten. A women pandering to a man deserves the lowest depths of hell and damnation from a feminist perspective.

I am moved to those thoughts by something I saw this morning as I was having a cup of tea with Anne at the seaside (Wynnum). It was a classical example of the pandering I just mentioned.

What was happening was that two young men -- perhaps around age 20 -- were fishing without much success. But fishing they were and they stuck at it despite catching only the occasional tiddler. And they had a girl with them, a rather aspirational girl of about 18, about 5'5" tall with fair skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. And she was in great shape wearing tight short denim shorts.

So what was she doing? She was just there for the company. She did have her own fishing rod and cast it in a few times but mostly she just pottered around or sat in a nearby shelter watching. She was there because the men were there and for no other reason. They paid their fishing much more attention than they paid her but she was nonetheless in great good humor, full of smiles. She was happy just to be there with the men.

And that is how it goes in the teenage years. And as the years progress it gets even worse from a feminist perspective. Young women enter into intimate relationships with men -- not even requiring a wedding ring first these days. But a wedding is still the vision for most women.

So feminists are up against human nature just as much as other Leftists before them. Leftists once thought that they could mould a "new Soviet man" but were thwarted by human nature. They simply drove Soviet man to drink. A new feminist man is just as remote. Feminized men tend in fact to be rather despised by most women. Most women like men to be men. Look at all the women who "wait" for husbands and boyfriends in the armed forces who are "away" on deployment. Such a relationship looks a very bad deal from a certain point of view. But men in the forces tend to be real men -- and women will put up with a lot to have such a man. Where it matters, feminism is an abject failure.

26 January, 2014

A busy few days

Last Thursday (23rd) was Anne's birthday so I took her to the New Sing Sing for Peking duck. Peking duck is both an elaborate and expensive meal so goes well as a birthday offering. We have eaten often at the New Sing Sing and the food has always been good. And so it was on Thursday. The proprietor himself expertly carved our duck and we got very attentive service throughout the meal.

Anne had a glass of wine with it and I had a stubby of Fourex Gold. As it was a hot day, I really enjoyed that beer. The Chinese are big beer drinkers so beer and Chinese food partner well.

And it was a big duck. We did not quite get through it all.

I also gave Anne a present -- a tin of sweets such as I mentioned in my previous post about caketins. So I am hoping for a fruitcake to find its way into that tin in due course.

Then yesterday (25th) was the anniversary of the birth of a wonderful poet. I invited Paul and Susan over to share some haggis but I did not attempt to do all the Burns night customs. I did not even get into Highland dress. I did however read part of the Ode to a Haggis before I carved it and we sang Auld Lang Syne at the end. Anne as usual did a great job cooking the haggis, neeps and tatties.

One thing we did was try to remember the time when I first met Paul -- when he was 7. He is now 37 so I have known him for 30 years. It was shortly after Jenny and I had begun seeing one-another. Jenny said that I had better meet her kids and I agreed. So we drove to Camlet St and I waited in the Gemini while she went in to collect them. Shortly, she came out with 3 little kids bobbing along behind her. They piled into the back seat and were totally silent for the drive to my place. It was the first and last time that they have ever been silent.

I don't really remember what we did at my place but I would have played with the kids -- as I regularly did subsequently. Anyway the kids were favourably impressed and told Ken and Maureen so that evening when they were back at home. Paul remembers all 3 of them waxing enthusiastic about me -- with Ken and Maureen greeting that enthusiasm with some caution. I guess stepfathers are not supposed to be popular!

Taking orders for beer and Scotch immediately after carving the haggis

And today was Australia day so my rellies on my mother's side got together at my brother's place for our usual BBQ. We talked a bit about Aborigines as Kym is in the Aboriginal industry. I talked a bit to my nephew James to see how he is going. He didn't do very well at High School but has a great interest in philosophy. Anne did not come along as she was doing a short bushwalk as part of her rehab after her recent knee surgery.

23 January, 2014

Bill Glasson meets Leftist hate

I am enrolled in the electorate of Griffith, Kevin Rudd's old seat. I used to get a nice Christmas card from Kevvy every year while he was there. So I will be voting in the by-election caused by Kevvy's retirement.

The LNP candidate for the by-election is Dr. Bill Glasson, a most energetic campaigner and an ophthalmologist by trade. His father, also Bill Glasson, was a minister in the long-running Bjelke-Petersen government of Queensland. So the present Bill has name recognition.

I was sitting in my usual Buranda brunch destination about mid-morning yesterday when Bill and a campaign assistant walked in -- also seeking brunch. The assistant was a nice-looking young lady who might have been his daughter. She had "Vote Bill Glasson" written all over her t-shirt so she was at any event a helper.

Bill & Co. sat down beside a lady in a green dress. The restaurant was busy so some tables were right up against one another. Bill chose one such table. As the lady beside him got up to leave, she launched a furious verbal assault on Bill: Quite egregious behaviour in a restaurant.

I was too far away to hear what she was saying and I am pretty deaf anyway but a professional actor could not have done a better job of portraying rage and hate than this woman did -- finger pointing, tensed-up body and all other conceivable hostile body language. Bill just sat there. She gave up after a few minutes and walked out. She must have thought of more things to say, however, as she shortly thereafter came back into the restaurant and resumed her angry tirade at Bill.

It was a most remarkable assault on a man the woman did not know personally and who has never been a member of any government. She appeared to have been blaming Bill for something some government had done but why she blamed Bill for it was obscure.

When I had finished eating, I went over, shook Bill's hand, introduced myself as a Griffith voter and said I would be voting for him. I then asked him what the lady had been on about. He said it was confused but it was something about hospitals. All Australian public hospitals are in a mess so that might be understandable. The government that got Qld. hospitals into a mess was however the recently departed Leftist government. So again, why blame Bill?

I then said to Bill: "She was full of hate, wasn't she?". He agreed. Just his conservative political identity was enough to fire her up.

18 January, 2014

Tingalpa is where it's at!

Tingalpa has long been one of Brisbane's lowliest suburbs -- notable only as a place you pass through on your way to the seaside at Wynnum.

But a miracle has happened. Tingalpa now hath all that the heart desires, as Dr Johnson might have said.

It started with the IGA. The IGA is a small supermaket that is much more convenient to get around than the huge Coles and Woolworths stores. And it seems to have lots of good things and a friendly staff.

And it all took off from there. It now even has a Sushi train. And that, I think, is a prime marker of being in tune with modern international civilization. Japan has lessons for us all.

And the Chinese bakery there is marvellous -- with bread like you had forgotten was possible -- and the Indian there does a Lahori curry that beats any other curry I have tasted. And I have eaten curries in India (plus Sydney and London).

And the latest thing is that they now have a Mexican there ("Chidos"). Anne and I went there last night and it was very good Mexican. And, at the risk of being boring, I have tasted Mexican in Mexico.

Plus they have a Thai etc etc.

But they do have a very strange Australian bottleshop there. If you knock on his door a few minutes after he has closed (at 7pm!)in order to buy liquor from him, he won't open his door. Indians and Chinese would regard him as a very strange creature. I do too.

I suspect that he may be Scottish. Scots can get very rigid about their customs. And I speak as someone who wears the kilt on occasions! And I have been to Scotland three times. I have even done research there. See here.

16 January, 2014


I am probably being repetitious here but I wonder if the young people know what we oldies went through by way of diet.

For CENTURIES the British diet consided of "meat + 3 veg". The veg were potatoes plus cabbage and carrots or beans of you were lucky

And the meat was somethinhg hacked off a dead animal -- such as steak or if you were unlucky sausages. And if you were REALLY unlucky it was liver.

The vegetables had s**t out of boiled out of them and the meat was fried to death

For my hospital admissions, I always go to the Wesley -- Brisbane's top private hospital. But even there it helps to be one of the people. You get to choose your dinner if you are there in the morning but if you are an afternoon or evening admission you get the default dinner! And it is very ethnic: Australian ethnic. Something might be done with the smashed potatoes to make them more edible but that is about the limit.

But somehow we survived. Rather Paleo, I guess. And I must confess that that I can still eat such a presentation -- though not without amusement. I recognize that it it is good if boring food. If you ever go into an Australian/British hospital, you had better get used to it.

14 January, 2014

Cake tins and poverty

I have always been aware that my parents were poor. My father was a hard worker so they always managed to put sufficient food on the table and kept a good roof over our heads -- but that was about their limit. They rarely saved anything and doctor's bills were stressful for them.

And one of the indexes of that is that my mother would occasionally borrow money from me even when I was a child. I got pocket-money of a florin a week (which bought about what $2 would buy today) and usually saved it in my moneybox. Even when I was a kid I was not big on spending money on myself. So sometimes I would have the equivalent of about $50 in my moneybox. And that was enough for my mother to do her essential shopping. I always got the money back so didn't mind.

Jenny remembers her father borrowing money off her too when she was a kid. So maybe it was a generational thing. But he used to pay her interest on his borrowings -- which was fun for both of them.

But I have just remembered another poverty episode that I thought strange even at the time. My mother did not have a cake-tin to keep her boiled fruitcakes in (You boil the fruit, not the cake). Boiled fruitcakes are something of a tradition in Australia, particularly around Christmas time. They are often kept for a month or more and eaten only gradually. So you needed a tin with a lid that sealed fairly well.

A popular source of caketins were tins of toffees and other candies that were often bought as gifts at Christmas times. They were tins of about 8" in diameter so were a good size for keeping fruitcakes in after all the contents had been eaten. But my mother could not afford one. So when I was about 6 or 7 she went down to our genial Chinese grocer in Innisfail ("Joe Charles") and asked if she could buy just the tin. I was with her at the time and to my amazement he agreed. He tipped the toffees into a big candy jar -- for sale as individual sweets -- and sold my mother the tin for some small sum. Amazing. Times were different then. I remember wondering what the original contents of our caketin would have been like.

11 January, 2014

3 sisters again

Anne has 2 sisters and the 3 of them get together once or twice a year for a sisterly lunch or dinner, with an early January gathering being particularly customary -- with customary male companions also being invited.

So last night the 6 of us met at Oliver's restaurant at Manly. It's a rather fancy place so I expected bad service but it was not too slow.

My hearing was a bit of a problem as the place had a tiled floor and was very busy with lots of chatty people. I find it very difficult to hear people under those circumstances. But I gathered with the men down one end of the table while the ladies were at the other end so the louder male voices got through to me fairly well in the end. Colin had to lean over and shout in my ear, however, which he very kindly did.

Colin is 90, It must be a sign of my own antiquity that I find myself dining with 90-year-olds. We discussed various environmentalist issues and agreed that the Greenies and animal lib people go too far. Why birds such as Galahs are protected while they are a real pest -- with great flocks of them -- in Western Queensland really is hard to understand, for instance. Surely trapping them for export should be allowed. They're worth big money overseas. And we all agreed that the Northern Territory should be opened up for buffalo hunting.

The food was good. I had the lamb fillet, which was very tasty, but there was a rather small serve of it, which I had expected of such a restaurant. The others had grilled fish.

We adjourned to Anne's place afterward for tea and coffee. We could all hear one-another perfectly there so we chatted on for quite a while.

A small meditation: It has always amazed me that there seems to be an inverse relationship between restaurant prices and restaurant service. One would think that dearer restaurants would excel on service -- but it is the other way around. Service in expensive restaurants is almost always dilatory and snooty. You can wait a long time even to get a menu put in front of you. That happened at Olivers. I had to get up, find the menus, and distribute them to my table.

The food however arrived in a reasonable time but then there came the "issue" of paying for it. You would think that paying would be the last thing to be an issue but it was. I requested the bill but after it was not forthcoming I had to walk out into the kitchen to stir things up there. That did work. I got a bill. But then there was nobody to pay the money to! Nobody seemed to want it! I left it on the desk hoping that it would go to its proper place in due course! Amazing.

9 January, 2014

Have I gone over the top?

Yes. I have gone over the top. In my view there is nothing more beautiful than a child with golden curls and brilliant blue eyes. And gorgeous Dusty is just such a child at the moment. But my son Joe was such a child too. And even I was. Though I think my hair was more white than golden -- as I can still remember my father's friends addressing me as "Snowy".

So when I encountered a young mother outside Bunnings today who had THREE little blondies with her, I of course turned to water.

I was there to buy a bolt cutter (Don't ask) but Bunnings have a charity sausage sizzle outside their front door and I am a sausage tragic. I can't go past them. So I was stopped eating a sausage in bread there (with mustard) when a young mother rolled up with her 3 littlies. One of them was about 4 and said: "Mummy, Can we have a sausage?": Obviously well-brought-up Australian kids.

The mother said: "I don't know,. I don't think I have got enough money for that. And she opened her change purse and was scrabbling around in it to see what she had. I had finished my sausage by then so immediately got up, put my hand in my pocket and pulled out all my change and dropped it into the lady's purse. She was a bit startled but looked up and saw me smiling at her so said "Thank You". I just walked on.

After I had brought my bolt cutter and left the shop I did however note that all the kids had a sausage. I was most pleased.

I was wearing my blue singlet at the time so the lady would probably have seen what I did as just normal Ocker kindness.

I own a Tardis

A Tardis car to be precise. As everybody knows, a Tardis is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. It sounds impossible but Toyota achieved it years ago.

I am referring to my Toyota Starlet. As everybody knows it is a very small, light car. It was the smallest Toyota available for a while in the '90s and today even my Toyota Echo seems big and heavy alongside it. Yet it can carry four people and has a big boot for luggage as well.

I bought the car off Anne mainly for Joe's use while he is in Brisbane. She was upgrading to an automatic Corolla for the sake of her bones. And she used to carry around in it a big bootful of all sorts of equipment needed for her work as a school nurse: Audiology machines etc. So she can tell you about the ample boot.

And when Jenny was driving Von & Co to the airport on 5th, she had to take the Starlet as it was the only way to fit in both them and their luggage. I gather that they had acquired more possessions whilst here. So 3 people plus Hannah in a kiddy seat got to the airport with all their luggage courtesy of the Starlet.

How does such a little car manage to be so big? I suspect that only Toyota and Dr Who could tell you.

4 January, 2014

A jammy sendoff

For some reason, I have accumulated a great range of jams ("Jelly" in U.S. usage). If I see what looks like an interesting jar of jam I buy it -- and people make jam out of all sorts of things these days. The big problem however is that there is one sort of Jam I REALLY like: cumquat jam. I even have my own cumquat tree which provides me with the fruit for it. So whenever I want to put jam on my breakfast toast or croissant, I reach for the cumquat and the other jams never get touched. So when I found I had about 20 jams in my cupboard, I decided that I had to do something about it. I put on a special jammy breakfast at my place this morning.

Cumquats ready for jam-making

Both Joe and Von were due to return to their present homes this weekend so I made it a breakfast sendoff. I had some especially good fresh white bread sourced from a small local baker to go with the jam plus small croissants and raisin bread. The fresh bread lived up to its expectations and both it and the croissants soon ran out. And if people found a jam that they particularly liked they were given it to take home. I greatly reduced my collection that way.

Present were Paul, Joe, Ken, Von, Simon, Davey, myself and Anne -- plus littlies. Suz and Russ were late arrivals but there was still raisin bread left so they did not miss out. The kids had great fun with my Sao biscuits (cookies) -- laying them as a row of tiles here and there on the floor and elsewhere, breaking them up into pieces and occasionally eating them. Large cracker biscuits clearly have a lot to be said for them.

It was very hot, as it usually is at this time of the year but everybody seemed to think the breakfast was a fun thing anyway. The temp at my place rose to 37 degrees C later that day -- 98 degrees in the old money. It was humid too.

1 January, 2014

Another recovered memory

Timmy was such a great little kid when he was a toddler that I often tell fun stories about the things he did. One story that I don't think I have told before has just come to mind.

It was just after we had moved to Faversham St and all the gang were there. Jenny was in the kitchen busy cooking and Timmy was talking to her -- about what I do not know. But he was distracting her from her cooking so she told him to get out of the kitchen -- which he did, standing in the doorway about one inch from the kitchen. And he resumed talking to her. So she said: "I told you to get out of the kitchen". He replied: "But I am out of the kitchen". A little 4-year-old lawyer. Jenny was much amused.

For posts on this blog in 2013, see here


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

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

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

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


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

Brief bio

My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 68 at the time of writing in late 2011. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. I am Australian born of working class origins and British ancestry. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools.

Dramatis Personae

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

Maureen is the second wife of Ken

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

Joe is the child of Jenny and John

Timmy and Davey are the children of Ken and Maureen

Paul is married to Susan

Matthew is the son of Paul and Susan

Twinny Suzy is married to Russell

Von is married to Simon

Tracy is Ken's sister

Tracy is married to Simon (another Simon)

Hannah is the daughter of Von and Simon

Sahara and Dusty are the children of Twinny Suzy and Russell

George came out on the boat to Australia with Ken

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

Jill and Lewis are old friends of John

Anne is the lady in John's life these days

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

Anne's sons are Byron, Nigel and Warren

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

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

Quite simple really!


"Tongue Tied"
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Australian Politics"
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"
"Greenie Watch"
"Food & Health Skeptic"
"Immigration Watch International" blog.